Howloween Murder

Howloween Murder
Howloween Murder by Laurien Berenson

Where Light Comes and Goes

Where Light Comes and Goes
Where Light Comes and Goes by Sandra Cavallo Miller

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Elizabeth The Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith- Feature and Review


From the moment of her ascension to the throne in 1952 at the age of twenty-five, Queen Elizabeth II has been the object of unparalleled scrutiny. But through the fog of glamour and gossip, how well do we really know the world’s most famous monarch? Drawing on numerous interviews and never-before-revealed documents, acclaimed biographer Sally Bedell Smith pulls back the curtain to show in intimate detail the public and private lives of Queen Elizabeth II, who has led her country and Commonwealth through the wars and upheavals of the last sixty years with unparalleled composure, intelligence, and grace. 

In Elizabeth the Queen, we meet the young girl who suddenly becomes “heiress presumptive” when her uncle abdicates the throne. We meet the thirteen-year-old Lilibet as she falls in love with a young navy cadet named Philip and becomes determined to marry him, even though her parents prefer wealthier English aristocrats. We see the teenage Lilibet repairing army trucks during World War II and standing with Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on V-E Day. We see the young Queen struggling to balance the demands of her job with her role as the mother of two young children. Sally Bedell Smith brings us inside the palace doors and into the Queen’s daily routines—the “red boxes” of documents she reviews each day, the weekly meetings she has had with twelve prime ministers, her physically demanding tours abroad, and the constant scrutiny of the press—as well as her personal relationships: with Prince Philip, her husband of sixty-four years and the love of her life; her children and their often-disastrous marriages; her grandchildren and friends.



Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern MonarchElizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith is a 2012 Random House publication.

Well written, very interesting, and detailed accounting Queen Elizabeth’s life-

I will be completely honest – I’m not really a ‘royal watcher’. Before Diana married Price Charles and the media circus surrounding the wedding, I couldn’t have cared less about the royal family. I never gave Queen Elizabeth a second thought.

But, like many other American girls my age, Diana captured my teenage imagination and like nearly everyone else, I hauled myself out of bed at an ungodly time of the morning to watch their nuptials, completely enthralled by the fairy tale romance.

Of course, when the fairy tale ended in divorce, then the fatal car accident and all the rest, I reverted back to a feeling of apathy towards the Royals.

But even during the peak of royal coverage, Queen Elizabeth was of no interest to me, and I don’t think I could have told you one basic thing about her, until I saw the movie- ‘The Queen’ starring Helen Mirren, which I watched only because I wanted to see Helen’s acting performance.

But, I found myself caught up in the story and from that time forward I had a completely different opinion of Elizabeth, and found myself wishing to know more about her.

However, I never got around to reading a biography over life, until now. The new Netflix drama- ‘The Crown’- which I have yet to see, has sparked renewed interest in Queen Elizabeth, which has, of course, renewed interest in books written about her, as well. Random House has taken advantage of all that buzz and has been promoting this book while the topic is hot.

Naturally, with all this chatter, I was reminded of my intent to learn more about the queen, so after looking over several other choices, I decided on this book, as it seemed like a great place to start, and it had mostly favorable reviews, plus it won a Goodreads Choice Award in 2012.

The book is a bit lengthy, and covers Elizabeth’s life from birth all the up to the days just prior to the publication of this book.

Now, I must say, it is apparent, to me at least, that Ms. Bedell is in awe of her subject. I can’t recall, even when addressing the few times Elizabeth showed some human failings, that the author didn’t come to her defense, placing blame on others, or glossing over the queen’s mistakes or foibles in such a way it didn’t feel like a criticism.

Usually, this type of open, unapologetic hero worship by a biographer is a turn off. I think the author should do everything humanly possible to keep a neutral frame of mind, and should be willing to ask the hard questions from their subjects- even the Queen of England.

However, in this instance, it was an annoyance I was willing to endure, in exchange for the captivating details of Elizabeth’s life, not only as the queen, but also as a wife and mother. I found the daily rituals the queen performs, the duties and responsibilities, and the demand on her time absolutely riveting and exhausting! Sometimes it seemed mundane and tedious, and at others it seems like a such an interesting and glamorous life.

Her long life and reign has seen the passage of several prime ministers, some of whom Elizabeth had a warm relationship with, and some - maybe not. She met many US presidents and other world leaders and celebrities, displayed plenty of pomp and circumstance, traveled the world over, and participated in or witnessed so many important changes and world events, it is mind boggling.

The royal family doesn’t just sit around living in opulent luxury. The queen’s job is far more important than I had ever imagined. I do understand that British citizens have balked over their taxes being used for various restorations and question the purpose or need of a monarchy, and are often understandably resentful, but this book does give those of us who are not British, a chance to absorb a broader and perhaps more realistic picture of the queen, explaining what she has the power to control or change, while outlining her limitations.

If for no other reason, read this book for a look at the way the monarchy works, what the job is really like, what the responsibilities and expectations are of the Queen, and experience the way Elizabeth rose to and met the challenges of being the queen, and at such a young age, too. See the trials she endured, and watch as she handles it all with grace- both the good and the bad.

Queen Elizabeth has led a most extraordinary life and for someone like myself who has never really paid all that much attention to the royal family, I found her to be an incredibly interesting person and this book only deepened my respect for her.

She occasionally missed queues that damaged her in the eyes of her countrymen, rode out a few politically incorrect utterances from her husband, and while her children were often a source of frustration and embarrassment, for the most part, she’s represented the monarchy with grace and dignity.

This is a very in depth look at Queen Elizabeth’s life, giving readers a rare glimpse of how fragile the line is between the desire for openness and the need for retaining a certain air of mystery between the citizens and the monarchy. The historical aspects are equally fascinating, and it was nice to see events unfold from a different perspective than I am accustomed.

Despite the author’s occasional digs at those who dared to challenge or criticize the queen, blatantly taking sides against any and all enemies, real or perceived, I have to say, the more I learn about her, the more I admire Queen Elizabeth.

Overall, I’m impressed with the author’s layout of the book, the accuracy, the research and the smooth presentation of facts, and found it to be very informative, and deeply absorbing.



Sally Bedell Smith's seven biographies, including New York Times bestsellers "Diana in Search of Herself," "Grace and Power," and "Elizabeth the Queen," have all been about significant figures on the world stage. Her latest book, "Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life," published on April 4, 2017, was an immediate New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post bestseller. The first major biography of Prince Charles in more than two decades, it brings to life the real man, with all of his contradictions, complexities, and ambitions--a man with a fiercely independent spirit, yet who has spent more than six decades waiting for his destined role. Smith's biography of Queen Elizabeth II won the 2012 Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence, and the 2012 Goodreads Choice Award for best book in history and biography. That year, Smith was also the consultant to playwright Peter Morgan on "The Audience," his award-winning drama about Queen Elizabeth II starring Helen Mirren that led to his hit Netflix series, "The Crown." She is the mother of three children and lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, Stephen Smith.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

About that Kiss by Jill Shalvis- Feature and Review

                                                              ABOUT THE BOOK:

When love drives you crazy . . .

When sexy Joe Malone never calls after their explosive kiss, Kylie shoves him out of her mind. Until she needs a favor, and it’s a doozy. Something precious to her has been stolen and there’s only one person with unique finder-and-fixer skills that can help—Joe. It means swallowing her pride and somehow trying to avoid the temptation to throttle him—or seduce him.

the best thing to do . . .

No, Joe didn’t call after the kiss. He’s the fun time guy, not the forever guy. And Kylie, after all she’s been through, deserves a good man who will stay. But everything about Kylie makes it damned hard to focus, and though his brain knows what he has to do, his heart isn’t getting the memo.

… is enjoy the ride.

As Kylie and Joe go on the scavenger hunt of their lives, they discover surprising things about each other. Now, the best way for them to get over “that kiss” might just be to replace it with a hundred more.



About That Kiss (Heartbreaker Bay, #5)About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About that Kiss by Jill Shalvis is a 2018 Avon publication.

Sweet, sexy and suspenseful!

A mind blowing, toe curling kiss-

It was just a one off- Joe never called Kylie after they shared that kiss, so Kylie tries to put it out of her mind.

But, a special heirloom her grandfather made for her is stolen, and held for ransom- yes, you read that right, and she needs Joe’s expertise in getting it back.

Kylie insists on helping with the investigation, which means spending time with Joe, who is having a very hard time keeping his lips away from hers.

Joe and Kylie have an almost feverish chemistry between them. They can’t seem to stop kissing each other! As deeper feelings begin to develop, they both try to hide or deny their emotions.

In the meantime, the case of the missing penguin remains an enigma as one lead after another, turns into a dead end. But, there is also an underlying sense of dread, as the thief becomes more insistent. Could Kylie be in danger?

I really enjoyed this installment in the ‘Heartbreaker Bay’ series. The magic fountain is still bringing couples together, but his story has a bit of a suspenseful edge to it, without becoming too dark, and even has a little screwball action tossed in, which I really enjoyed.

The characters are well drawn, and of course a bit quirky, but I loved their unique occupations, and backstories, involving the secondary characters, which was a nice touch.

Both Kylie and Joe had a hard time in life, but neither of them used it as an excuse. If anything, they were both a little too hard on themselves.

What I really, really, really liked was Kylie’s sense of self-worth. I loved the way she refused to accept crumbs and insisted on the full buffet. You go girl! This is a such a positive message, not just for young ladies, but for guys too, especially those who are afraid they might not be good with relationships. When it’s right, you gotta step up and show a girl what you’re made of.

As always, Shalvis weaves an emotional and sentimental story, but is offset by a lighter tone, brisk pacing, and humor.

This is a delightful contemporary romance with a very light, action and romantic suspense element included, making this one a real pleasure.



New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill's bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.
or email her at

Monday, January 29, 2018

MONDAY'S MUSICAL MOMENT SPOTLIGHT: Kill 'em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul by James McBride- Feature and Review


National Book Award winner James McBride goes in search of the “real” James Brown after receiving a tip that promises to uncover the man behind the myth. His surprising journey illuminates not only our understanding of this immensely troubled, misunderstood, and complicated soul genius but the ways in which our cultural heritage has been shaped by Brown’s legacy. 
Kill ’Em and Leave is more than a book about James Brown. Brown’s rough-and-tumble life, through McBride’s lens, is an unsettling metaphor for American life: the tension between North and South, black and white, rich and poor. McBride’s travels take him to forgotten corners of Brown’s never-before-revealed history: the country town where Brown’s family and thousands of others were displaced by America’s largest nuclear power bomb-making facility; a South Carolina field where a long-forgotten cousin recounts, in the dead of night, a fuller history of Brown’s sharecropping childhood, which until now has been a mystery. McBride seeks out the American expatriate in England who co-created the James Brown sound, visits the trusted right-hand manager who worked with Brown for forty-one years, and interviews Brown’s most influential nonmusical creation, his “adopted son,” the Reverend Al Sharpton. He describes the stirring visit of Michael Jackson to the Augusta, Georgia, funeral home where the King of Pop sat up all night with the body of his musical godfather, spends hours talking with Brown’s first wife, and lays bare the Dickensian legal contest over James Brown’s estate, a fight that has consumed careers; prevented any money from reaching the poor schoolchildren in Georgia and South Carolina, as instructed in his will; cost Brown’s estate millions in legal fees; and left James Brown’s body to lie for more than eight years in a gilded coffin in his daughter’s yard in South Carolina.

James McBride is one of the most distinctive and electric literary voices in America today, and part of the pleasure of his narrative is being in his presence, coming to understand Brown through McBride’s own insights as a black musician with Southern roots. Kill ’Em and Leave is a song unearthing and celebrating James Brown’s great legacy: the cultural landscape of America today.




Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American SoulKill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul by James McBride
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kill ‘Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul by James McBride is a 2016 Spiegel & Grau publication.

I always liked James Brown. His music, his showmanship, and the way he often found himself stepping in to keep the peace, and his promotion of education.

While I know the same facts about James that anyone else knows, I’ve never read any books or watched any movies based on his life.

So, when this book was recommended to me, I was very eager to learn something more comprehensive about ‘The Godfather of Soul’

Musical biographies often walk on a fine line with too much of one thing, but not enough of another. It depends on the author as to which approach to take and while I was in the mood for a very detailed portrait of James Brown, the author took a different tack, but, after some thought, I realized it was kind of refreshing.

The author didn’t attempt to gloss over, sugarcoat, or make excuses for James’ darker side, revealing the performers crimes, his penchant for being difficult, his mistreatment of women, his numerous marriages, his drug use, and various other ways he was unpredictable or contradictory.

Yet, the author’s goal seemed to be focused on how James was remembered, the battles he won, the ones he lost, and the incredible mess his estate turned into once his will was discovered. We learn who James really trusted, who were the people closest to him and who stuck by him all his life, and this is as much their story as it is Brown's or McBride’s, in many ways.

The author also takes a look at the racial climate and atmosphere James was raised up in and the way this environment influenced him. This part of the book, I think, is supposed to help explain why James felt like he did, what shaped his attitude, and prompted him to act or react the way he did during his adult life.

But, the author’s spirit also penetrates the book, which under any other circumstance might be considered a biography faux pas, but in this case, it actually creates a dual look at James Brown. Not only do we get personal reflections from the people McBride interviewed, but we see  how the information seeps into the author’s soul, and the obvious effect writing this book must have had on him.

I wouldn’t say this approach is one everyone will appreciate and I don’t know if would work with any other subject or author, but I thought it was a nice touch and made the journey appear more personal.

If you are an aficionado and already know all the facts about the man, his music, songs, and all the rest, then this is a book you will want to add, in order to get a deeper understanding of James’ roots.

Although this was not the traditional biography I had been seeking, I think this book, with its personal assessment takes the reader beyond the basic information about James' life, and gives it a deeper meaning.

Overall, this is a fresh approach to examining James Brown’s life and is an enjoyable journey, which has increased my my curiosity about the private performer. Thanks to McBride, I know which places I should perhaps avoid in my search for accurate information, which will be very helpful.



James McBride is the author of the award-winning New York Times bestseller, The Color of Water. A former reporter for The Washington Post and People magazine, McBride holds a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. from Oberlin College.

Friday, January 26, 2018

FLASHBACK FRIDAY-Highlander Most Wanted by Maya Banks- Feature and Review


In Highlander Most Wanted, a reclusive woman content to live in the shadows shows a Highland warrior the true meaning of love.
Genevieve McInnes is locked behind the fortified walls of McHugh Keep, captive of a cruel laird who takes great pleasure in ruining her for any other man. Yet when Bowen Montgomery storms the gates on a mission of clan warfare, Genevieve finds that her spirit is bent but not broken. Still, her path toward freedom remains uncertain. Unable to bear the shame of returning to a family that believes her dead or to abandon others at the keep to an imposing new laird, Genevieve opts for the peaceful life of an abbess. But Bowen’s rugged sensuality stirs something deep inside her that longs to be awakened by his patient, gentle caress—something warm, wicked, and tempting.

Bowen seizes his enemy’s keep, unprepared for the brooding and reclusive woman who captures his heart. He’s enchanted by her fierce determination, her unusual beauty, and her quiet, unfailing strength. But wooing her will take more than a seasoned seducer’s skill. For loving Genevieve, he discovers, means giving her back the freedom that was stolen from her—even if it means losing her forever.



Highlander Most Wanted (The Montgomerys and Armstrongs, #2)Highlander Most Wanted by Maya Banks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Highlander Most Wanted is the second of the Montgomery/Armstrong trilogy. This is a 2013 Random House/Ballantine publication.

The Montgomery and Armstrong clan, once bitter enemies, unite to avenge one of their own. Once the battle is over, Bowen Montgomery finds a handful of people belonging to the McHugh clan still there. Among them a disfigured woman the others claim was Ian McHugh's whore. But, Bowen is told the truth about Genevieve and puts her under the protection of his clan.

Genevieve, was kidnapped a year ago by Ian McHugh and disfigured and used by him whenever he wished. Her shame is so great that even though Ian is dead, she refuses to let anyone tell her family she is still alive. Her only request is to be taken to an Abbey so she can live out her life in peace.
But, then Bowen gets wind of some terrible rumors about Genevieve, he believes she may have to answer for her crimes.

This is a fantastic addition to the trilogy!  There are  some difficult passages to read, as Genevieve is subjected to cruelty beyond comprehension, which has completely broken her spirt.

Bowen is a strong Alpha-Male Highlander, but is very sensitive, loyal, and tenderhearted. He is strong enough and selfless enough to make a stand for what is right and put others happiness before his own.

This novel has elements of forgiveness, redemption, friendship, and true love sprinkled with steamy romance that leaves you wanting more.

There are some action scenes, but most of the story's focus is on Genevieve and Bowen, which I think worked best for this type of story.

                                                         GET YOUR COPY HERE:

                                                          ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Maya Banks lives in Texas with her husband, three children and assortment of pets. When she's not writing, she can be found hunting, fishing or playing poker.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz- Feature and Review

A painter of fiery, nightmarish visions throws herself into the sea—but she leaves her secrets behind . . . 

Seattle gallery owner Virginia Troy has spent years battling the demons that stem from her childhood time in a cult and the night a fire burned through the compound, killing her mother. And now one of her artists has taken her own life, but not before sending Virginia a last picture: a painting that makes Virginia doubt everything about the so-called suicide—and her own past.

Like Virginia, private investigator Cabot Sutter was one of the children in the cult who survived that fire... and only he can help her now. As they struggle to unravel the clues in the painting, it becomes clear that someone thinks Virginia knows more than she does and that she must be stopped. Thrown into an inferno of desire and deception, Virginia and Cabot draw ever closer to the mystery of their shared memories—and the shocking fate of the one man who still wields the power to destroy everything they hold dear.




Promise Not to TellPromise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz is a 2018 Berkley publication.

I'm sensing  a little excitement with this series!!

The first book in this new series by veteran author, Jayne Ann Krentz, was okay, but I thought the series was off to a rocky start, or at least it least it felt that way for me.

I was hoping fervently that this second installment would show some improvement, and so I am happy to say I really enjoyed this one, and felt it was a much stronger effort.

Seattle comes to life in this story, adding the right touch to set the stage for a darker, more in depth look at cults, the psychological damages of trauma, amid a fast- paced race to find a killer, before he strikes again.

Virginia is convinced her friend was murdered or at the very least driven to commit suicide, and the killer could be the cult leader Virginia escaped from as a child. Knowing Cabot Sutter will understand the gravity of the situation, she hires him to flush out their arch enemy.

But, when Virginia and Cabot come face to face there is an immediate and undeniable current between them. Their relationship development is quirky, but awesome, and I quickly grew to like them both.

The subject of cults is timely, in my opinion, mainly because of the psychology behind them and how ‘leaders’ are able to convince people to join them and remain committed to them, no matter how outlandish things become.

Of course, like in most crimes, this one boils down to the basic greed and the love of money, but, there are some unexpected twists along the way, with some crazy, jarring revelations, as well.

The book also touches on the complexities of family and the importance of forgiveness, which gives the story more depth.

There was some repetitive dialogue, here and there, but the banter and chemistry between Virginia and Cabot sizzles, and the author deftly adds a very realistic look at PTSD and anxiety attacks. The plotting is tight, fast-paced, and creepy, which is a big improvement over the first installment.

One word of caution, though- while the immediate story line is wrapped up, there is a ‘to be continued’ element at the very end- so you will definitely want to be on board for the third installment, which promises to be to a real humdinger.

If you missed the first installment, it’s no biggie. It might provide a little background, but you can start with this one and be just fine.

I'm to see this new series find a it's groove!



The author of over 50 New York Times bestsellers, JAYNE ANN KRENTZ writes romantic-suspense in three different worlds: Contemporary (as Jayne Ann Krentz), historical (as Amanda Quick) and futuristic (as Jayne Castle). There are over 35 million copies of her books in print.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman- Feature and Review


Find your magic

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.



The Rules of MagicThe Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman is a 2017 is a Simon & Schuster publication.

Those eccentric aunts from “Practical Magic”? Just what is their backstory anyway? I was so excited when I heard this book was going to be a prequel to ‘Practical Magic’. Finally, we learn the history behind the infamous curse that plagues the Owens women and discover the legacy behind the love potions and herbs, and the complicated emotions swirling around Frances and Jet.

I usually try to reserve my enthusiasm when a sequel or prequel is released for a popular book or movie, especially with such a lengthy time gap in between, but when one stellar review after another began pouring in for this book, I threw caution to the wind and allowed myself some giddiness.

Still, I was surprised by exactly how much I enjoyed this book. I don’t read much magic realism these days, so from that perspective, this was a nice departure from the psych thrillers, and nonfiction that has somehow begun to dominate my TBR pile recently.

But, it was more than just that. I think I enjoyed the era the story was set in and the historical details surrounding the family drama. Of course, the one word that is impossible to escape while reading this book is that it is ‘magical’- and it truly is!

The dark family saga, the events that lead us to Gillian and Sally’s story and explains the personalities of the Franny and Jet, makes so much sense now.

Is it possible to quell natural magical skills? Is it possible for magic to work without doing harm? Can you really fight love?

This is also a ‘coming of age’ story, filled with angst, nobleness, honor, triumphs and tragedy. But- and this is going to really upset some people, because they wouldn’t be caught dead reading a love story- But, true love is at the center of the book, its very life force, and is at the very heart of everything that transpires. So, those who view romance novels with high disdain- guess what? If you read this book and loved it- you just read a romantic love story, and not just that, but an EPIC love story, with all its conflicts, all its angst, all its heartbreak, its tenderness, anger, and frustration. You loved all the darkness, magic, and all the power- but love is the most potent and powerful magic of all! HA!

Before reading this book, I felt I should touch base with PM, take a quick refresher course, if you will, to try and purge the movie version from my mind, just a little.

I’m glad I did that because this book’s familiarity was like touching base with characters I had grown to care for. However, at times, the tone was so different, I sometimes felt the author had taken liberties with her own book, as strange as that may seem, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Of course, the images from the movie version could have been playing havoc with my impressions, as well. But, sometimes I wondered, ‘Are these the same aunts I read about in PM?”

Either way, this book will completely turn everything you thought you knew on its ear, while casting a spell of enchantment over you, completely sucking you into the Owens family saga, leaving you bewitched and absolutely spellbound.

So, remember- ‘Fall in love whenever you can” and “Know that the only remedy for love is to love more.”



Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York. 

The Deal of a Lifetime- by Fredrik Backman- Feature and Review


The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and Beartown delivers an insightful and poignant holiday novella about a man who sacrificed his family in the single-minded pursuit of success and the courageous little girl fighting for her life who crosses his path.

It all begins with a father telling a story to his son on Christmas Eve. But this isn’t your typical Christmas story. The father admits to his son that he’s taken a life but he won’t say whose—not yet.

One week earlier, in a hospital late at night, the man met a five-year-old girl with cancer. She’s a smart kid—smart enough to know that she won’t beat cancer by drawing with crayons all day, but it seems to make the adults happy, so she keeps doing it.

As the man tells his son about this plucky little girl, he slowly reveals more about himself: while he may be a successful businessman, idolized by the media and his peers, he knows he failed as a parent. Overwhelmed by the responsibility of fatherhood, he took the easy way out and left his wife and little boy twenty years ago to pursue professional success. Now he is left wondering if it’s too late to forge a relationship with his son, who seems to be his opposite in every way—prizing happiness over money, surrounded by loving friends in a cozy town where he feels right at home.

Face to face with the idea that something is missing, the man is given the unexpected chance to do something selfless that could change the destiny of the little girl in the hospital bed. But before he can make the deal of a lifetime, he needs to find out what his own life has actually been worth in the eyes of his son. And so, he seeks him out and tells him this story…

Written with Fredrik Backman’s signature humor, compassion, and “knack for weaving tales that are believable and fanciful” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), The Deal of a Lifetime reminds us that life is a fleeting gift, and our only legacy is how we share that gift with those we love.



The Deal of a Lifetime

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman is a 2017 Atria Books publication.

Backman continues to amaze-

Every year there are a handful of holiday themed novels I never managed to read before the season was over, and this one falls into that category.

If I had been able to get my hands on a copy before Christmas, I wouldn't have had any problems working it into my schedule. In fact, I would have pushed it to the top of the pile, no matter how short or long it was. But, I missed any and all ad campaigns for this book, somehow, so by the time it cropped up on my radar the wait time at the library was so long I thought it might be NEXT Christmas before I got a copy.

Well, I obviously didn’t have to wait quite long- but the story was worth waiting for-

This is a very, very short story, and the plot line is written in such a way that to expound upon it, even briefly, would give too much away.

So, let me just say, this is a very thought- provoking story that prompts the reader to take stock, to cherish the small moments, to live life to its fullest, and to keep your priorities straight, and remember what is truly important in this life.

Although the story is a fantasy, it is very emotional, a little dark, and very atmospheric. As the holidays are often a time of reflection, Christmas was a perfect backdrop for this story to unfold.

But, despite the big Christmas tree on the cover, which clearly suggests this is a Christmas-themed story- it is one that can, and should be read and reflected upon all year round.



Fredrik Backman, a blogger and columnist, is the New York Times bestselling author of A MAN CALLED OVE and MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY. Both were number one bestsellers in his native Sweden and around the world, and are being published in more than thirty five territories. His latest novel is BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE. He lives in Stockholm with his wife and two children. Visit him online at his blog:, on twitter @backmanland, or on instagram @backmansk.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman- Feature and Review


New York Times comedy critic Jason Zinoman delivers the definitive story of the life and artistic legacy of David Letterman, the greatest television talk show host of all time and the signature comedic voice of a generation.

In a career spanning more than thirty years, David Letterman redefined the modern talk show with an ironic comic style that transcended traditional television. While he remains one of the most famous stars in America, he is a remote, even reclusive, figure whose career is widely misunderstood. In Letterman, Jason Zinoman, the first comedy critic in the history of the New York Times, mixes groundbreaking reporting with unprecedented access and probing critical analysis to explain the unique entertainer’s titanic legacy. Moving from his early days in Indiana to his retirement, Zinoman goes behind the scenes of Letterman’s television career to illuminate the origins of his revolutionary comedy, its overlooked influences, and how his work intersects with and reveals his famously eccentric personality.

Zinoman argues that Letterman had three great artistic periods, each distinct and part of his evolution. As he examines key broadcasting moments—"Stupid Pet Tricks" and other captivating segments that defined Late Night with David Letterman—he illuminates Letterman’s relationship to his writers, and in particular, the show’s co-creator, Merrill Markoe, with whom Letterman shared a long professional and personal connection.

To understand popular culture today, it’s necessary to understand David Letterman. With this revealing biography, Zinoman offers a perceptive analysis of the man and the artist whose ironic voice and caustic meta-humor was critical to an entire generation of comedians and viewers—and whose singular style ushered in new tropes that have become clich├ęs in comedy today.



Letterman: The Last Giant of Late NightLetterman: The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman is a 2017 Harper publication.

It has been nearly three years since ‘The Late Show with David Letterman’ went off the air. For some reason, it seems a lot longer than that.

When I saw this book, it struck me that, I really didn't know all that much about him personally, save for the big sex and blackmail scandal he admitted to on the air, and his infamous stalker.

I hoped this book would give me a little insight into Letterman’s life, but I would have been happy just to read about his upbringing, and how he climbed his way up the chain to become a major late night phenomenon, because I realized I didn't even know the basics.

I was only able to tune in to ‘The Late Show’ on occasion, not because I didn’t like the show, but because I had to be up too early in the morning. When I had a DVR, I watched it more frequently, but my kids were always wanting me to watch ‘Conan’, so I was not exactly a loyal viewer. In fact, it got to the point where I only looked up the ‘The Top Ten List’ and skipped the rest.

Still, I always found Letterman to be somewhat of an enigma. He was different, offbeat, and of course the king of irony, but he also had a few rough edges and sometimes I just wasn’t quite sure how to take him. I doubt I'm the only one who was ever taken aback by his approach to his female guests, in particular.

This book explores Letterman’s various moods, his brand of comedy, as well as giving the reader insights into his personal relationships, while taking us through his career highlights- his successes and failures, all the way up to his final show.

I’m not sure if anyone can ever truly penetrate Letterman’s veneer, but it is obvious he is complex, plagued by demons and insecurities, and could be very difficult to deal with, but, if nothing else- he is original.

I didn’t come away from reading this book feeling all that much differently about Dave, one way or another. I didn’t like him more or less, after having taken this journey, but I did feel as though I might understand him better.

What I did enjoy about this book was the history of late night talk shows, watching the way Letterman was able to carve out his own niche, and the way his show evolved over the years. There are some fond memories, some great sketches, as well as some awkward moments and of course a few controversies along the way.

It was an amazing journey and Dave is certainly an interesting person, much more intense than even appears on the surface. I did enjoy reading this book, and found that, while it stuck with a chronological format for the most part, various avenues were explored as deeply as they needed to be, even if it meant going backwards or forwards in time.

The layout is organized, is easy to read and follow, and is thankfully and refreshingly unbiased, in my opinion. The author has no problem pointing out Dave’s less than flattering moments or aspects of his personality that made him seem difficult or even vulnerable at times. I loathe biographies with too much hero worship or show signs of sycophancy. This book seems like a fair assessment of Dave’s life and career, which is something I really appreciated, along with a special attention to detail and of course the obvious amount of research he put into this book.

I have recently discovered Dave has a new show coming to Netflix. I'm not sure if I'll watch, but the guest list sounds intriguing, so I may give it a try.

Overall, this an in depth look at Letterman’s life and career, is well written, fair and very insightful.



Zinoman began his career at Time Out New York, where he became the theater editor in 2001. After writing freelance stories for The New York Times, he was hired to become the On Stage and Off theater columnist in 2003.

In 2011, he published the non-fiction book Shock Value, which describes how horror films changed in the late 1960s to become more brutal, realistic, and auteur-driven, as opposed to the older, campier films based on Gothic melodrama.  In 2017, he co-hosted the television show "Theater Talk."