A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Someone to Hold by Mary Balogh- Feature and Review


Humphrey Wescott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune and a scandalous secret that will forever alter the lives of his family—sending one daughter on a journey of self-discovery...

With her parents’ marriage declared bigamous, Camille Westcott is now illegitimate and without a title. Looking to eschew the trappings of her old life, she leaves London to teach at the Bath orphanage where her newly discovered half-sister lived. But even as she settles in, she must sit for a portrait commissioned by her grandmother and endure an artist who riles her every nerve.

An art teacher at the orphanage that was once his home, Joel Cunningham has been hired to paint the portrait of the haughty new teacher. But as Camille poses for Joel, their mutual contempt soon turns to desire. And it is only the bond between them that will allow them to weather the rough storm that lies ahead...



Someone to Hold (Westcott, #2)Someone to Hold by Mary Balogh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Someone to Hold by Mary Balogh is a 2017 Jove publication.

This second installment in the Westcott series centers around Camille Westcott, Anna’s half-sister. When Anna inherited her fortune and social status, it came at the expense of Camille and her family.

Now Camille, whose very identity was wrapped up in her father’s title, her place in society, the fortune she has never lived without, and the life she had expected to forge with her former fiancĂ©, is struggling to find herself, to discover who she is and what she wants to do with her life.

Deciding to channel Anna’s previous life, Camille begins teaching at the orphanage where Anna came from. This puts her in direct contact with Anna’s old friend, Joel.

Joel is still nursing a broken heart, when Camille barges into his life. The fact she is Anna’s half-sister and has caused Anna great distress by refusing to accept her overtures, Joel is initially resentful of Camille.

But as time goes by, the two begin to form a grudging respect for one another as they gain a better understanding of themselves and each other.

But, can this newfound relationship lead to something more?

What I love the most about Mary Balogh’s writing is the depth she gives her stories, by drawing realistic characters who are flawed in some ways, but who always learn life lessons that leads to self improvement which enriches theirs and the lives of others.

This book explores the way one might handle a stunning reversal of fortune like Camille experienced. Sometimes, believe it or not, the worst thing that ever happened to us can turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to us. Camille took her time coming to that conclusion and it was a hard fought battle, but I think Joel was very instrumental in showing her what she had missed out on in life and how that is far more important than anything she may have lost.

But, Joel also takes life lessons from Camille, as he finds himself drawn to her and her courage and determination as he watches her slowly begin to blossom. At first, I thought he was a little hard on Camille, even though I did concede his points at times. I liked the way Joel uses his art to reflect the inner depth of his subjects and how his own identity crisis seemed to parallel Camille's, which gave them something in common after all.

On its own, these intersections give the reader a lot to chew on, and the character growth is quite satisfying. However, the romance angle was a little wobbly.

The banter and dialogue between Camille and Joel was sharp and well written, and the friendship development works quite well, but as far as romantic chemistry or sexual tension goes, I wasn’t as moved by it as I normally am when reading Bologh’s novels. The intimacy felt forced, was ill timed, and lacked real passion.

The way family dynamics worked themselves out and the comeuppance of some villainous characters, and the underlying Karma, makes up for the underwhelming romantic elements though.

Overall, this was a satisfying addition to the series. This installment reminds me of some older classic novels set in this era of time that are ageless and timeless.

Mary Balogh always delivers in one way or another and she continues to be one of the very few historical romance authors I go out of my way to read.




Mary Balogh is the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Slightly novels: Slightly Married, Slightly Wicked, Slightly Scandalous, Slightly Tempted, Slightly Sinful, and Slightly Dangerous, as well as the romances No Man’s Mistress, More than a Mistress, and One Night for Love. She is also the author of Simply Love, Simply Unforgettable, Simply Magic, and Simply Perfect, her dazzling quartet of novels set at Miss Martin’s School for Girls. A former teacher herself, she grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Juliet's Answer: One Man's Search for Love and the Elusive Cure For Heartbreak by Glenn Dixon- Feature and Review


Eat, Pray, Love meets The Rosie Project in this fresh, heartwarming memoir by a man who travels to Verona and volunteers to answer letters addressed to Shakespeare’s Juliet, all in an attempt to heal his own heartbreak.

When Glenn Dixon is spurned by love, he packs his bags for Verona, Italy. Once there, he volunteers to answer the thousands of letters that arrive addressed to Juliet—letters sent from lovelorn people all over the world to Juliet’s hometown; people who long to understand the mysteries of the human heart.

Glenn’s journey takes him deep into the charming community of Verona, where he becomes involved in unraveling the truth behind Romeo and Juliet. Did these star-crossed lovers actually exist? Why have they remained at the forefront of hearts and minds for centuries? And what can they teach us about love?

When Glenn returns home to Canada and resumes his duties as an English teacher, he undertakes a lively reading of Romeo and Juliet with his students, engaging them in passions past and present. But in an intriguing reversal of fate and fortune, his students—along with an old friend—instruct the teacher on the true meaning of love, loss, and moving on.

An enthralling tale of modern-day love steeped in the romantic traditions of eras past, this is a memoir that will warm your heart.




Juliet's Answer: One Man's Search for Love and the Elusive Cure for HeartbreakJuliet's Answer: One Man's Search for Love and the Elusive Cure for Heartbreak by Glenn Dixon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Juliet’s Answer by Glenn Dixon is a 2017 Gallery Books Publication

This memoir tells the amazing journey taken by Glenn Dixon, a school teacher, from Canada, who volunteers to read and respond to letters written to Shakespeare’s Juliet while visiting Verona, Italy.

These letters are filled with vulnerability, suffering, loneliness, and sometimes despair, of those who have lost love, are broken hearted, or simply unsure if what they are feeling is the real deal or a passing attraction.

At first Glenn struggles with his responses to these letters, but soon finds himself pouring his heart into his careful and thoughtful answers on behalf of Juliet. But, he also finds the work cathartic as he struggles through his own unrequited love situation.

‘A glooming peace this morning with it brings; The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head. For never was a story of more woe Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”

The Dixon’s narrative switches back and forth between this time in Verona and the time he spends with his students, teaching them the finer points of Romeo and Juliet.

Romance and love is messy, it’s complicated, painful, filled with angst and uncertainty, but it’s also the one thing we wish for above all others.

Glenn’s story is filled with such raw and poignant emotion, while touching on the human condition and mysterious ways love manages to find us when we are least expecting it.

I loved Dixon's teaching style, his connection with his students, his love of literature, and his openness as he recalls the pain of lost love, the lessons life teaches when we are at our lowest points, and how to rebound from that by applying the wisdom we acquire along with way and letting life work things out the way they are intended to be even if it’s exactly how you thought things would end up.


I loved the history of Verona and the virtual tour Glenn took me on, highlighting locations and monuments closely tied to Romeo and Juliet. The setting created the perfect backdrop for this story.
The letters were reminders of the various ways love touches us, the insecurities it draws out, the fear love will pass us by, but the story also offers a resolution, offers hope, exuberance and peace, and the assurance that love will find you in its own time.

While the book is very light and easy, it also left me pondering the miracle that is love. Watching Glenn find the happiness he felt was so elusive is inspirational, charming, and heartwarming.
I was delighted by his story and I’m glad he chose to share it with us.

4 stars.

I received a copy of this book as an XOXOpert, the official street team of XOXO After Dark




Glenn Dixon's latest book is "Juliet's Answer" (Simon and Schuster, January 2017). As the lone male secretary at the Club di Giulietta in Verona, he answered the real letters to Juliet and he learned something of love, of Shakespeare and of the sun splashed hills of this ancient Italian city.

Publishers Weekly gave his second book, "Tripping the World Fantastic", a starred rating, saying it "succeeds by connecting readers intimately with the souls of music-makers all over the world." From a trip to Bob Marley's grave in Jamaica to sitar lessons on the banks of the Ganges, Dixon tells the story of music and just why it has such a powerful effect on us all. www.tripping-the-world.com

Like a cross between Bill Bryson and Malcolm Gladwell, Dixon has written travel articles and cultural pieces for National Geographic, the New York Post, the Globe and Mail and Psychology Today.

His first book was Pilgrim in the Palace of Words: a journey through the 6000 languages of Earth.

He lives and works in Calgary, Canada.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Dead Hope by Nicky Wells- Feature and Review + Author Q&A


Cat Hope doesn’t want to go to prison. She needs a job, and she needs it fast: judge’s orders.

Kay Mahon, office worker by day and hacker by night, is on the run from a past life that he’d rather not remember.

When their paths cross, they discover that the night that derailed Cat’s future nineteen long years ago also changed the path of Kay’s life. Confused and intrigued, they begin to investigate the truth behind the deaths of the successful rock star couple Jackie and Adam Hope. Little do they know that their quest is putting Cat in grave danger.

Dead HopeDead Hope by Nicky Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dead Hope by Nicky Wells is a 2017 publication.

Nicky Wells’ first foray into the mystery thriller genre is an ideal combination of mystery and romance.

In order to keep herself from going to jail, Cat Hope followed the orders of the judge by completing rehab, starting community service and getting a job, which is where she meets Kay Mahon.

Kay lives the double life of a mild mannered office worker by day, and hacker by night. When he takes Cat under his wing, the two discover they have a few things in common. After hearing Cat’s true story, Kay vows to help her find out what really happened the night her rock star parents died.

This is one of those books that will appeal to a wide audience, ranging from traditional mystery, cozy mystery, romantic suspense and maybe even contemporary romance lovers.

Nicky is a big fan of rock music, and has written several novels with rock music backdrop, so it was only fitting she kept that theme running in the background. But, the story is centered clearly around Cat, who need to find out what actually happened to her parents so that she can find peace and move on with her life.

Kay turns out to be the perfect person to help her investigate. He has real skills with a computer, although he does crossover a few blurry lines with the law on occasion.

As the couple begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together, the simmering chemistry between them begins to burn hotter and hotter.

There are a few laugh out loud moments along the way, and some quick witted banter and dialogue, as well as a few jaw -dropping twists I never saw coming!

Overall, this novel mostly comes down on the light side, with little graphic violence, and is infused with humor and romance to round things out, making this a very easy to read, entertaining mystery.
Question: You’ve been a bit quiet this past year or so. What’s been happening? Where have you been?

Nicky: After the release of my last novel, the romantic comedy “Seven Years Bad Sex,” I decided to take a little breather and to allow myself some time to think about where I was going to go next, writing-wise. I took a whole six months off, and I spent that time with family and decorating a part of our house. Wouldn’t you know it, six months flew by, and I found myself brimming with ideas for not one but several books, and I got busy writing and planning and writing again.\





 Tell us about DEAD HOPE. How did you come up with the idea?

Nicky: DEAD HOPE was born with the working title of “Deep Cover”.  When the idea came to me, I was still planning to write a romance featuring rock stars, and the key nugget is: what would happen if you transplanted a world-famous rock star into an office job like you and me might hold down? Moreover, what would happen if you removed that rock star from their natural habitat, the glittering metropolis, and placed them into a sleepy rural town? Romantic and comedy ideas flowed galore.

 So, DEAD HOPE was going to be a romantic comedy?

Nicky: A romantic comedy-slash-suspense, yes. That was the plan.

 How did you get from romantic comedy-slash-suspense to thriller? That’s quite a leap.

Nicky: It might look that way, but it was actually a gradual progression. I’m an OCD planner. I can’t write if I haven’t got the book planned out in minute detail, so I sat down and started weaving all my wonderful ideas together. But there was one central question I couldn’t answer: Why. Why would this whole thing happen? What would bring the rock star to the office job in the middle of nowhere?


Nicky: I did a spider map of all the possible scenarios that could have got the rock star into his unusual circumstances, and I got a bit carried away. I allowed myself to really think out of the box, and suddenly one scenario jumped out at me that turned the plot entirely on its head. Funny how a small idea can prompt a cataclysmic change! My hero turned into a heroine, and while she’s the daughter of a famous rock star couple, she isn’t a celebrity in her own right. But at that point, the romance theme was still dominant.

 What happened next?

Nicky: I finished planning and started writing. And as soon as I started writing, the thriller and crime ideas just took off. This baby wanted to be something completely different from what I had envisaged, so I had to abandon writing and re-plan. I went deep on the logistics of my core crime, my mystery, and I learned quite a bit about court and police procedures and forensics, more so than is evident in the story but lots of stuff that’ll come in handy in my next stories. In this way, DEAD HOPE turned from a romantic suspense into a crime thriller with a strong romance subplot.

 But there is still some romance?

Nicky: There is still some romance. 

 What about blood and gore?

Nicky: That, not so much. I don’t like blood and gore and while there is some—it is a crime story, after all—the novel is all about solving the mystery. I guess I’m trying to follow in the tradition of Agatha Christie and Sue Grafton, not that I could ever hope to aspire to match their genius.

 Go on then, sell it to me. What’s DEAD HOPE all about?

Nicky: All right… here goes the elevator pitch!

A unique and delicious cocktail of crime, suspense and romance, “DEAD HOPE” is a compulsive page turner.

Cat Hope doesn’t want to go to prison. Kay Mahon is on the run from a past life that he’d rather not remember. When their paths cross, they begin to investigate the truth behind the deaths of Cat’s parents, the successful rock star couple Jackie and Adam Hope. Little do they know that their quest is putting Cat in grave danger...




About Nicky Wells: Love & Thrills

Nicky Wells writes captivating romance and breathtaking thrillers featuring famous (or infamous!) feisty heroes and extraordinary villains. DEAD HOPE is her eighth book and the first published novel in her “Wake Up Dead” themed thriller series, with the next two books scheduled for release through the course of 2017 and 2018. Nicky has previously published seven works of romantic fiction both with US publishing house, Sapphire Star Publishing, and independently.

Born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993 and currently lives in Lincoln with her husband and their two boys. She loves listening to rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters. When she’s not writing, she’s hopelessly addicted to reading crime novels by the truck load.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle- Feature and Review


"Perfectly paced, highly suspenseful, and heart-rending...enthralling right up to the shocking final twist." -A. J. Banner, Amazon #1 bestselling author of The Good Neighbor 

Everyone has secrets... 
Iris and Will have been married for seven years, and life is as close to perfect as it can be. But on the morning Will flies out for a business trip to Florida, Iris's happy world comes to an abrupt halt: another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board and, according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers. 

Grief stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. Why did Will lie about where he was going? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to uncover what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she finds shock her to her very core.



The Marriage LieThe Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle is a 2017 MIRA publication.

Wow! The Marriage Lie is an outstanding domestic thriller that captured my attention from page one and never let go.

Iris and Will are happily married, blissful, even, until Will leaves town on a business trip. As word trickles back to her that Will may have been on an ill-fated flight, Iris discovers her husband may not be the man she thought he was. As she peels away the layers of the foundation her marriage was built upon, one shocking revelation after another is unearthed, until Iris finds herself in deep trouble, unsure what or whom to believe or trust.

Was Will on the plane that crashed? Could he still be alive? If so, why did he lie to her? Did Will place Iris in danger?

The stories centered around double lives or big secrets revealed after the sudden death of a spouse has always drawn me into their web. This story, however, did not employ that slow, steady, atmospheric pacing some domestic or psychological thrillers use in these instances. This book charges from the gate and maintains a breakneck speed, but still captures that atmospheric tone that makes your spine tingle with the anticipation, knowing something truly sinister is afoot.

The characters really stand out in this one. Iris’s emotional turmoil is palpable and felt truly genuine. The secondary characters are also well drawn and made a terrific supporting cast.

I had heard good things about this book, but, I never imagined it would be this good.

I highly recommend this one to fans of psychological thrillers/ domestic thrillers, or to anyone who enjoys a taut novel of suspense.





Kimberly Belle is the international bestselling author of three novels: The Last Breath, The Ones We Trust, and The Marriage Lie. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Kimberly worked in marketing and nonprofit fundraising before turning to writing fiction. She lived for over a decade in the Netherlands and currently divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam. 

Keep up with Kimberly on Facebook (www.facebook.com/KimberlyBelleBooks), Twitter (@KimberlySBelle), Instagram (@KimberlySBelle) or via her website at www.kimberlybellebooks.com.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough- Feature and Review


A new killer is stalking the streets of London’s East End. Though newspapers have dubbed him ‘the Torso Killer’, this murderer’s work is overshadowed by the hysteria surrounding Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel crimes.

The victims are women too, but their dismembered bodies, wrapped in rags and tied up with string, are pulled out of the Thames – and the heads are missing. The murderer likes to keep them.

Mayhem is a masterwork of narrative suspense: a supernatural thriller set in a shadowy, gaslit London, where monsters stalk the cobbled streets and hide in plain sight.



MayhemMayhem by Sarah Pinborough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough is a 2014 Jo Fletcher Books publication.

The Torso murders seemed to coincide with the infamous Jack the Ripper case in 1887-1889. But, due to the media sensation the Ripper murders caused, the Thames River case seemed to go mostly unnoticed.

This book is loosely based on those real- life crimes, but offers a paranormal tint to the story that heightens the already heavy sense of evil, which was an element I wasn’t expecting.

So, while this is a historical mystery, it could also be considered a horror novel. The author did a wonderful job of capturing the time period, creating the atmosphere of a city on edge, terrified of the horrific, and graphic murders plaguing London.

The main character is Doctor Bond, a man battling an opium addiction and the visions the drug brings about. When he is called to the scene of these horrific crimes, he recognizes a man he has seen in some of the opium dens he frequents. Coincidence? Apparently not. Bond discovers the man is a priest who is not only hunting the torso killer, but something far more evil. As the two join forces, Bond will discover that evil lurks much closer to him than ever could have imagined.

When I checked this book out of the library I didn’t realize the book had a supernatural tone, thinking it was a straightforward historical mystery and crime novel. Horror novels are not really a favorite of mine these days, but this one was very, very absorbing.

It’s creepy and suspenseful, with well drawn characters, who are each haunted in one way or another, but determined to contain the evil in their midst. In the end, I had to admit, this was a chillingly spooky novel that I appreciated more than I would have thought.





Sarah Pinborough is a critically acclaimed adult and YA author based in London.

Sarah was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story and also the 2010 and 2014 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Novella, and she has four times been short-listed for Best Novel. She is also a screenwriter who has written for the BBC and has several original television projects in development.

Her next novel, Behind Her Eyes, coming for HarperFiction in the UK and Flatiron in the US (January 2017) has sold in nearly 20 territories worldwide and is a dark thriller about relationships with a kicker of a twist.

You can follow her on Twitter @sarahpinborough

Monday, February 20, 2017

Black Wings has my Angel by Elliot Chaze- Feature and Review


Chaze's long-lost noir classic, a legend among noir buffs, is back in print for the first time in nearly half a century. The one book Black Lizard never published, it's the dream-like tale of a man after a jailbreak, who meets up with the woman of his dreams... and his nightmares. Phenomenal work of the period, ranking with the best efforts of Thompson, Woolrich, Goodis et al.



Black Wings Has My AngelBlack Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Black Wings has my Angel by Elliot Chaze is a NYRB Classics publication.

I ran across a post on PEN America about this book a few weeks back. It was originally published back in 1953 and is considered to be a ‘lost classic’, a book that is not necessarily well known to mainstream noir audiences, but is now considered to be one of the best crime novels written in the prime of pulp fiction. Its reputation has become almost mythic, apparently, but I had never heard of it, so as a collector and lover of noir crime novels I began to search for a copy.

So, did the book live up to its reputation?

I have to say the book is definitely a winner, even though there are some problems with the plot.

‘Tim’, after his stint in prison, plans to pull off a caper that will leave him set for life financially.
But, of course, things do not exactly work out quite the way he planned, due in part, to his having made the acquaintance of Virginia, a woman with a troubled past, who gets under his skin and quickly turns into an obsession.

After a bumpy start to their relationship, the two end up as partners in crime. The couple’s relationship is volatile, but the two flawed characters play well against each other in class noir fashion.

For fans of pulp fiction or noir this book is almost a textbook example of those genres, and may put you in mind of Jim Thompson, in some ways. It's gritty and dark, juxtaposed against a vivid scenic backdrop and occasional sprinkles of humor. It’s harsh, but has style, and despite its brevity, really packs a punch.

I was amazed by the storytelling and am so glad I stumbled across it!





Elliott Chaze ( 1915-1990) was an old-school newspaperman who began his journalism career with the New Orleans Bureau of the Associated Press shortly before Pearl Harbor,  worked for a time for AP's Devnver office after paratrooper service in world war two, and then migrated south to Mississippi, where he spent twenty years as reporter and award-winning columnist and ten years as city editor with the Harriesburg American.


Friday, February 17, 2017

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie- Feature and Review


What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed TEDx talk of the same name—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun

With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. 

Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a bestselling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.



We Should All Be FeministsWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a 2014 Random House publication. I was provided a copy of this book by Quarterly Literary fiction box. (https://quarterly.co/products/literar...)

A thousand times I have intended to get a copy of this essay, but always got distracted before following through.

Recently, I discovered this book was both influential and inspirational to Britt Bennett, author of ‘The Mothers.’ So, with her stamp of approval added to the overwhelmingly favorable reviews posted, I finally sat down and read through this award winning essay.


This published essay is adapted from the author’s TED talk by the same name, which I haven’t seen. But the work is obviously written from the heart and although the author and I are from entirely different worlds, our thought process is exactly the same.

So, often I have lamented the lack of instruction our young men have in regards to proper behavior and treatment of women. Boys will be boys, is still so common and accepted, and yes, we must do better!!

I loved the message here, which is inspirational, but also eloquently pleads the case for feminism, dispelling that common stereotype the word conjures up for many people.

I assure you, I am not loud, shrill, or preachy, and definitely do not hate men. But, I have had to fight the same battles for equality and fair treatment over the years and can relate to the author’s arguments and personal experiences.

“If we do something over and over again, it becomes normal. If only boys are made class monitor, then at some point we will all think, at least unconsciously, that the class monitor has to be a boy.”

This is true, and can be applied to many situations in life, requiring diligence on our part to avoid becoming complacent or accepting of certain behaviors.

I could go on and on about the wisdom and insight of this essay, but I want you to read it for yourself and pass it along, not only to your daughters, but to your sons as well.





Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian author. Her best known novels are Purple Hibiscus (2003)Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and Americanah (2013).

She was born in Enugu, Nigeria, the fifth of six children to Igbo parents. She studied medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half. At nineteen, Chimamanda left for the U.S. to study communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia for two years, then went on to pursue a degree in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University. Chimamanda graduated summa cum laude from Eastern in 2001, and then completed a master's degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

It was during her senior year at Eastern that she started working on her first novel, Purple Hibiscus , which was published in October 2003. 

Chimamanda was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University during the 2005-2006 academic year, and earned an MA in African Studies from Yale University in 2008.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Mothers - A Novel by Brit Bennett- Feature and Review


A dazzling debut novel from an exciting new voice, The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community—and the things that ultimately haunt us most. Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.

“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a “what if” can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.



The MothersThe Mothers by Brit Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Mothers by Brit Bennett is a 2016 Riverhead publication.

This is another one of those ‘buzz’ books I wouldn’t ordinarily read, but my curiosity got the better of me, but I just had to see for myself why the book garnered such high praise.

The ‘Mothers’ are the women of Upper Room Chapel who basically gossip about the members of the church and keep track of the families who attend.

They narrate the story of Nadia, Luke, and Audrey, three young black people living in Southern California. Their lives interconnect during pivotal points in their young lives, forging strong emotional bonds, in the process, but the decisions made in their youth, the secrets they keep, will haunt them all through their adult lives.

The story is very emotional, the characters filled with a deep longing, regret, and desire. The reader is like a spectator as the characters live through life’s ups and downs, make life altering choices, experience love, friendship, betrayal, and cope with the consequences. Life is not a fairy tale and this story demonstrates how, despite our best efforts, life throws us curve balls that upend all our good intentions, sending us off in directions we never envisioned.

This is not a resolvable, wrapped up in a nice neat little bow, happily ever after type novel. It's a sad story, but one that describes life and the repercussions of our decisions. The writing is sharp, but, deep character analysis is minimal. I felt like, instead of reading, I was watching all this on television or something, or like I was on the outside looking in. The inner thoughts of the characters are not prevalent, which is something I wished for.

Still, I do appreciate that this is a debut novel, and the author certainly has some writing chops, and I do see why the story, with its contemporary setting, its boldness, the contrasts of religion with difficult topics, like abortion, resonates with readers.

Overall, this is an impressive debut, and I am glad I gave the book a try. Brit Bennett is definitely an author to keep an eye on.

* I received a copy of this book from https://quarterly.co/products/literar....

What makes our box extra special is that the author will write 15-20 annotations on post-its throughout their novel, so the reader will get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look, if you will, at their creative writing process.

Here's the link more information as well: https://quarterly.co/products/literar...





Born and raised in Southern California, Brit Bennett graduated from Stanford University and earned her MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan, where she won a Hopwood Award in Graduate Short Fiction as well as the 2014 Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers. She is a National Book Foundation "5 under 35" honoree, and her essays are featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and Jezebel.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Dry by Jane Harper- Feature and Review


Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well...

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret... A secret Falk thought long-buried... A secret which Luke's death starts to bring to the surface...



The DryThe Dry by Jane Harper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Dry by Jane Harper is a 2017 Flatiron Books publication.

This is my kind of mystery/thriller!

When Aaron returns to his hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke, he intends to make a retreat back to his life as a federal agent, as quickly as possible.

But, Luke’s grieving parents ask him to use his talents to look into Luke’s financial affairs, in hopes of finding answers as to why their son killed his wife and son and then shot himself. The chances are slim to none that Aaron will find anything to ease their pain, but he feels he owes them a favor, so he agrees to stick around a few more days.

Before long, Aaron finds himself partnered up with a local investigator in an all-out search for clues that would shed light on the events leading up to the murder/ suicide. In the process, they uncover startling evidence that will change everything they thought they knew.

The Australian location, in a town suffering through a severe drought, where the heat is nearly unbearable, has the entire town unusually edgy, which paints a combustible atmosphere riddled with irritable tension from start to finish.

The shocking murder/ suicide is a compelling mystery full of unexpected revelations and surprising twists, but the secondary thread that takes up equal space in the novel, is a haunting cold case story centered around the death of a friend of Luke’s and Aaron’s back in their youth. Aaron and his father were both suspects in the girl’s death, and left town under a cloud of suspicion. Can Aaron find out what really happened after all this time?

Dual storylines can be tricky, but both stories weave between the past and present with amazing fluidity. The story is bleak, almost gloomy at times, with little or no relief along the way, but the characterizations are so vivid and the story so taut, the heaviness became an asset and is part of what made the story so absorbing and moody, along with all the hidden small town motives, suspicions and secrets that came roiling to surface.

While the subject matter may not be for the faint of heart, with such dark and emotional themes at play, the story has practically everything fans of this genre could ask for. It’s a police procedural in some ways, a twisty psychological thriller in others, with strong suspense and thriller elements added into the mix for good measure.

The exceptional writing provides a wealth of depth, which sets this one apart from the typical mystery thriller. I am tingling with anticipation for the next book in this series! I think Aaron Falk is going to be big hit.





Jane Harper's debut novel The Dry is an atmospheric thriller set in regional Australia.
The novel won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2015 and rights have since been sold in more than 20 territories.
The Dry was a No.1 bestseller in Australia and has been optioned for a film by Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea's production company, Pacific Standard.
Jane worked as a print journalist for 13 years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne with her family.