Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cowboys, Cowgirls and B.J. McDaniels

The Cowgirl in Question: A Western Romance Novel (McCalls' Montana)
by B.J. Daniels

An excellent read if you want to shut out the world, visit a small town in Montana, solve a few mysteries and watch romances bloom.

Print Length: 256 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Special Releases (February 1, 2017)
Publication Date: February 27, 2017
Sold by: Harlequin Digital Sales Corp.
Cowboy Accomplice (McCalls' Montana)
by B.J. Daniels (Author)

A B.J. Daniels novel is the perfect escape hatch. As with all of her books, this story and its mystery kept me glued to it until the end.

Print Length: 256 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Special Releases (April 1, 2017)
Publication Date: April 10, 2017
Sold by: Harlequin Digital Sales Corp.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Radio Girls, by Sarah-Jane Stratford

There are some novels that you never want to end. "Radio Girls," a great novel of historical fiction, is one of them. Author Sarah-Jane Stratford takes us to mid-1920s' London, a time when the BBC was inventing itself, and most of parliament considered radio an experiment that would not last. The novel's protagonist, Maisie Musgrave, is a young Canadian women with a cold, distant actress mother and a British father she has never met. She is hired by Sir John Reith, the BBC Director General, as a secretary, but is soon working for Hilda Matheson, the director of the new BBC "Talks." (Reith is known as one of the few employers of this time to hire women for substantive positions--as long as they remained unmarried.)

Surrounded by Cambridge and Oxford graduates, Maisie feels the lack of her formal education. She has never gone to any school, and is mostly self-taught by reading everything she could find in the libraries in the many cities she traveled to, dragged along by her mother. She also doesn't know if her parents ever married, a serious mark against her in the 1920s, if true. Notwithstanding, Matheson recognizes that Maisie's solid, investigative mind is that of a potential producer and takes her under her wing. Vivacious, exciting Matheson, a member of the Bloomsbury Group (and romantic partner of Vita Sackville-West), is used by Stratford to convey the thrill of creating a media that, for the first time, connected people as live radio broadcasts entered their sitting rooms. Stratford writes:

"Hilda had written in her notes on broadcasting, that it was 'a capturing of sounds and voices all over the world to which hitherto we have been deaf. It is a means of enlarging the frontiers of human interest and consciousness, of widening personal experience, of shrinking the earth’s surface.' Such a lovely way to describe this curious creature they were continually inventing. The stranger inviting itself into a silent home, asking to become a friend."

(How intriguing and moving that Matheson's words could also be used to describe that 21st century "creature," the internet.)

It was an exciting time for any young person with a lively, curious mind. The world was changing quickly: in London automobiles were everywhere, hemlines were rising, women were entering the business world and universal suffrage was about to become law. Maisie absorbed all of this. In addition, as part of her duties, Maisie was required to contact famous authors and artists to see if they would agree to be part of the daily "Talks." Imagine her excitement, or the excitement of any young person of the time, when she is given the responsibility of telephoning Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, H.G. Wells, and P.G. Wodehouse, to name just a few.

"Radio Girls" is one of best novels I have read this year; it definitely is a book that lovers of historical fiction will want to read.

Print Length: 381 pages
Publisher: Berkley (June 14, 2016)
Publication Date: June 14, 2016
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The End of Normal: A Wife's Anguish, A Widow's New Life, by Stephanie Madoff Mack

Stephanie Madoff Mack (she changed her name to Mack after Bernie Madoff went to jail) writes 272 pages about how she refuses to be a victim of Bernie Madoff, her father-in-all. That would be something to be proud of if she didn't spend much of her book writing about how much she has been victimized by Madoff, his wife, Ruth, and every other adult member of the Madoff family.

Mack's husband committed suicide, devastated at the constant attacks on his family and him. It was a tragedy, but Mack's narrative about closure is shockingly tone deaf. After having him cremated, Mack, who is not Jewish, divided up his ashes into little boxes which she offers to his Jewish ex-wife for their children to dispose of, and to his Jewish brother. When they tell her they want none of it, she makes zero effort to understand why not. She seems to have forgotten, or never bothered to learn, that Jewish people, even non-observant ones, do not like cremation, and certainly don't like the idea of little packages of ashes being doled out like candy.

To her credit, Mack does write a competent book about her family and its reaction to the Madoff scandal as it unfolds. Unfortunately, she devotes way too much of the book to discussing her own anger, and her own need for revenge, including devoting many pages to discussing the multiple letters she sent to Ruth and Bernie Madoff scolding them, blaming them, and informing them that she was cutting them out of her life and her children's lives. It's all too much drama and venom for this reader.

* Print Length: 272 pages
* Publisher: Plume; 1 edition (October 20, 2011)
* Publication Date: October 20, 2011
* Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Buzz Books 2017 Young Adult Spring/ Summer

Buzz Books is used by publishing insiders to decide which books to purchase ahead of publication. Their 2017 sampler of recently published or soon-to-be published Young Adult books offers some fascinating choices that young adults and their parents or older sibs will enjoy. Moreover, some of the covers are fabulous!

Don't take my word on this, this edition of Buzz Books is available for downloading free at

Here are just a few of the books that jumped out me.

FUTURE THREAT, by Albert Whitman & Elizabeth Briggs (Publisher: Albert Whitman Teen)

"Six months ago Aether Corporation sent Elena, Adam, and three other recruits on a trip to the future where they brought back secret information—but not everyone made it back to the present alive. Now Elena’s dealing with her survivor’s guilt and trying to make her relationship with Adam work. All she knows for sure is that she’s done with time travel and Aether Corporation."

* Print Length: 276 pages
* Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0807526843
* Publisher: AW Teen; 1 edition (March 1, 2017)
* Publication Date: March 1, 2017
* Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

DREAM ME, by Kathryn Berla (Publisher: Amberjack)

"Babe’s dreams of the perfect guy, Zat, seem so real that she willingly suffers extreme migraines for the chance to spend another night touring her memories and meeting her acquaintances with him. Zat, a dreamer from a time in the distant future when humans no longer dream, risks it all to travel back in time and live in Babe’s dreams."

* Paperback: 275 pages
* Publisher: Amberjack Publishing (July 11, 2017)

SPIRIT QUEST, by Jennifer Frick-Ruppert (Publisher: Amberjack)

"Skyco, an Algonquin boy, is heir to the great chief Menatonon, but he has much to learn before he can take his place within the tribe. He studies with the shaman Roncommock, who teaches him how to enter the spirit world and communicate with spirits and other animals, while he also learns practical skills of hunting, fishing, and starting a fire from other men in his village."

* Print Length: 271 pages
* Publisher: Amberjack Publishing (April 18, 2017)
* Publication Date: April 18, 2017
* Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

PIPER PERISH, by Kayla Cagan (Publisher: Chronicle Books)

"Piper Perish inhales air and exhales art. The sooner she and her best friends can get out of Houston and get to New York City, the better. Art school has been Piper’s dream her whole life, and now that senior year is halfway over, she’s never felt more ready. But in the final months before graduation, things are weird with her friends and stressful with three different guys, and Piper’s sister’s tyrannical mental state seems to thwart every attempt at happiness for the close-knit Perish family. Piper’s art just might be enough to get her out."

* Print Length: 416 pages
* Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC (March 7, 2017)
* Publication Date: March 7, 2017
* Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

HOW TO BE A SUPERVILLAIN, by Michael Fry (Publisher: JIMMY Patterson, an imprint of Hachette)

"Victor Spoil comes from a long line of famous supervillains and he’s fully expected to join their ranks one day. But to his family’s utter disappointment, Victor doesn’t have a single bad-guy bone in his body. He won’t run with scissors, he always finishes his peas, and he can’t stand to be messy. Hopeless!"

* Print Length: 320 pages
* Publisher: jimmy patterson (May 2, 2017)
* Publication Date: May 2, 2017
* Sold by: Hachette Book Group

LAUGH OUT LOUD, by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein (Publisher: JIMMY Patterson, an imprint of Hachette)

"Jimmy loves reading so much that he’s inspired to start his own book company—as marvelous and fun as Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. It’s a big dream for a twelve-year-old boy—some would even say it’s laugh-out-loud ridiculous! But Jimmy’s doubters soon learn that he’s not the kind of kid who gives up easily."

* Print Length: 304 pages
* Publisher: jimmy patterson (August 28, 2017)
* Publication Date: August 28, 2017
* Sold by: Hachette Book Group

THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS, by Emily Barr (Publisher: Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House)

"Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town."

* Print Length: 304 pages
* Publisher: Philomel Books (May 2, 2017)
* Publication Date: May 2, 2017
* Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Gem & Dixie, by Sara Zarr (Publisher: Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books)

"Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie, the sister she’s taken care of when no one else could. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other. When their dad returns home for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie—on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep."

* Print Length: 288 pages
* Publisher: Balzer + Bray (April 4, 2017)
* Publication Date: April 4, 2017
* Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

Buzz Books 2017: Young Adult Spring/ Summer from Publishers Lunch. Copyright © 2017 by Cader Company Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Timeless Moments, by Michelle Kidd

In her debut novel, Michelle Kidd has written a time travel novel with a very clever plot. Jewel, a young, 19 year old woman, is married to a doctor who is well regarded in their city, Lynchburg, Virginia. Unfortunately, her husband is a crazed, abuser who believes that she is a witch and that he has to beat the "evil" out of her in the same way he beat his mother and sister. (We later learn that he killed both ladies.) It is 1917, a time when battered wives were expected to endure the abuse behind closed doors.

Help for Jewel comes from an unexpected place, the future. In 2014, Jack is restoring the same victorian house in which Jewel and her husband reside in 1917. He tries to help Jewel after he hears her crying in the garden. Afterwards, for several months, they are able to communicate with each other through letters, and because of what Jack tells her, she decides to leave her husband.

Jewel's story does not end here. Kidd introduces us to the work of a detective looking for a missing Jewel in 1917, and to his detective son who resumes the search in the 1950s, and she takes us to the battlefields of World War I, to 1967, and finally back to 2014. Notwithstanding this very complex plot, Kidd manages to keep us enthralled.

The plot is truly excellent for a first novel, but the writing style is not as sophisticated as the plot. I give this book four stars, and I look forward to Ms. Kidd's future work.

* Print Length: 423 pages
* Publisher: Kindle Press (November 29, 2016)
* Publication Date: November 29, 2016
* Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
* Language: English

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Silent Child, by Sarah A. Denzil

Sarah Denzil has written a fast-paced thriller that challenges what we believe about English village life. Using crisp, focused writing that avoids unnecessary verbiage and tiresome cliches, Denzil takes us on a rollercoaster ride that is impossible to stop until it reaches the end. The protagonist, Emma, is a 24 year old mother with a happy life. Her beloved son, six year old, Aiden, is a lively, bright little boy, and, his father, her high school boyfriend Rob, lives nearby. Emma thinks she knows everyone in her tiny, northern English village and she feels safe.

When a storm hits the area, the local Ouse River overflows. Aiden, for some unknown reason, leaves the safety of his school and drowns. To lose any child is a parent's worst fear, and Emma's life becomes an almost unbearable nightmare. Moreover, she has no closure because her boy's body has never been found. When Emma's parents are killed in an auto crash four years later, Emma cannot bear to live. Rob has left, and she has no family. During a suicide attempt, Emma is saved by Jake Hewitt, an art teacher ten years her senior. Fast forward six years, Emma is married to Jake and eight months pregnant. On her last day of work, she receives a call from the police detective who had investigated Aiden's death. He tells her that Aiden has been found alive and is in a local hospital, but he is mute and cannot tell them where he has been.

Although this book was a page turner that was hard to put down, Denzil opens several plot lines that seem to appear at random and are not closed. Nonetheless, Denzil successfully rips the masks off Emma's idyllic village and its inhabitants, exposing such evil and viciousness it is almost impossible to believe. I give this book four stars, and I recommend that any lover of absorbing, non-cozy English village mysteries read this book.

* Print Length: 417 pages
* Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
* Publication Date: January 22, 2017
* Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC