A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid- Feature and Review


Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.


The Groupie
Daisy Jones
Daisy Jones was born in 1951 and grew up in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles, California. The daughter of Frank Jones, the well­-known British painter, and Jeanne LeFevre, a French model, Daisy started to make a name for herself in the late sixties as a young teenager on the Sunset Strip.

Elaine Chang (biographer, author of Daisy Jones: Wild Flower): Here is what is so captivating about Daisy Jones even before she was “Daisy Jones.”

You’ve got a rich white girl, growing up in L.A. She’s gorgeous — ­even as a child. She has these stunning big blue eyes — ­dark, cobalt blue. One of my favorite anecdotes about her is that in the eighties a colored-­contact company actually created a shade called Daisy Blue. She’s got copper-­red hair that is thick and wavy and… takes up so much space. And then her cheekbones almost seem swollen, that’s how defined they are. And she’s got an incredible voice that she doesn’t cultivate, never takes a lesson. She’s born with all the money in the world, access to whatever she wants— ­artists, drugs, clubs — anything and everything at her disposal.

But she has no one. No siblings, no extended family in Los Angeles. Two parents who are so into their own world that they are all but indifferent to her existence. Although, they never shy away from making her pose for their artist friends. That’s why there are so many paintings and photos of Daisy as a child — ­the artists that came into that home saw Daisy Jones, saw how gorgeous she was, and wanted to capture her. It’s telling that there is no Frank Jones piece of Daisy. Her father is too busy with his male nudes to pay much attention to his daughter. And in general, Daisy spends her childhood rather alone.

But she’s actually a very gregarious, outgoing kid— ­ Daisy would often ask to get her hair cut just because she loved her hairdresser, she would ask neighbors if she could walk their dogs, there was even a family joke about the time Daisy tried to bake a birthday cake for the mailman. So this is a girl that desperately wants to connect. But there’s no one in her life who is truly interested in who she is, especially not her parents. And it really breaks her. But it is also how she grows up to become an icon.

We love broken, beautiful people. And it doesn’t get much more obviously broken and more classically beautiful than Daisy Jones.

So it makes sense that Daisy starts to find herself on the Sunset Strip. This glamorous, seedy place.

Daisy Jones (singer, Daisy Jones & The Six): I could walk down to the Strip from my house. I was about fourteen, sick of being stuck in the house, just looking for something to do. I wasn’t old enough to get into any of the bars and clubs but I went anyway.

I remember bumming a cigarette off of a roadie for the Byrds when I was pretty young. I learned quickly that people thought you were older if you didn’t wear your bra. And sometimes I’d wear a bandanna headband like the cool girls had on. I wanted to fit in with the groupies on the sidewalk, with their joints and their flasks and all of that.

So I bummed a cigarette from this roadie outside the Whisky a Go Go one night — ­the first time I’d ever had one and I tried to pretend I did it all the time. I held the cough in my throat and what have you — ­and I was flirting with him the best I could. I’m embarrassed to think about it now, how clumsy I probably was.

But eventually, some guy comes up to the roadie and says, “We gotta get inside and set up the amps.” And he turns to me and says, “You coming?” And that’s how I snuck into the Whisky for the first time.

I stayed out that night until three or four in the morning. I’d never done anything like that before. But suddenly it was like I existed. I was a part of something. I went from zero to sixty that night. I was drinking and smoking anything anybody would give me.

When I got home, I walked in through the front door, drunk and stoned, and crashed in my bed. I’m pretty sure my parents never even noticed I was gone.

I got up, went out the next night, did the same thing.

Eventually, the bouncers on the Strip recognized me and let me in wherever I was going. The Whisky, London Fog, the Riot House. No one cared how young I was.

Greg McGuinness (former concierge, the Continental Hyatt House): Ah, man, I don’t know how long Daisy was hanging around the Hyatt House before I noticed her. But I remember the first time I saw her. I was on the phone and in walks this crazy tall, crazy skinny girl with these bangs. And the biggest, roundest blue eyes you ever saw in your life, man. She also had this smile. Huge smile. She came in on the arm of some guy. I don’t remember who.

A lot of the girls around the Strip back then, I mean, they were young, but they tried to seem older. Daisy just was, though. Didn’t seem like she was trying to be anything. Except herself.

After that, I noticed she was at the hotel a lot. She was always laughing. There was nothing jaded about her, ’least when I knew her. It was like watching Bambi learn how to walk. She was real naïve and real vulnerable but you could tell there was something about her.

I was nervous for her, tell you the truth. There were so many men in the scene that were… into young girls. Thirty-­something rock stars sleeping with teenagers. Not saying it was okay, just saying that’s how it was. How old was Lori Mattix when she was with Jimmy Page? Fourteen? And Iggy Pop and Sable Starr? He sang about it, man. He was bragging about it.

When it came to Daisy — ­I mean, the singers, the guitarists, the roadies — ­everybody was looking at her. Whenever I saw her, though, I’d try to make sure she was doing all right. I kept tabs on her here and there. I really liked her. She was just cooler than anything else happening around her.

Daisy: I learned about sex and love the hard way. That men will take what they want and feel no debt, that some people only want one piece of you.

I do think there were girls — ­the Plaster Casters, some of the GTOs — ­maybe they weren’t being taken advantage of, I don’t know. But it was a bad scene for me, at first.

I lost my virginity to somebody that… it doesn’t matter who it was. He was older, he was a drummer. We were in the lobby of the Riot House and he invited me upstairs to do some lines. He said I was the girl of his dreams.

I was drawn to him mainly because he was drawn to me. I wanted someone to single me out as something special. I was just so desperate to hold someone’s interest.

Before I knew it, we were on his bed. And he asked me if I knew what I was doing and I said yes even though the answer was no. But everyone always talked about free love and how sex was a good thing. If you were cool, if you were hip, you liked sex.

I stared at the ceiling the whole time, waiting for him to be done. I knew I was supposed to be moving around but I stayed perfectly still, scared to move. All you could hear in the room was the sound of our clothes rubbing up against the bedspread.

I had no idea what I was doing or why I was doing things I knew I didn’t want to be doing. But I’ve had a lot of therapy in my life now. And I mean a lot of therapy. And I see it now. I see myself clearly now. I wanted to be around these men — ­these stars — ­because I didn’t know how else to be important. And I figured I had to please them if I wanted to stay.

When he was done, he got up. And I pulled my dress down. And he said, “If you want to go back down to your friends, that’s all right.” I didn’t really have any friends. But I knew he meant I needed to leave. So I did.

He never talked to me again.

Simone Jackson (disco star): I remember seeing Daisy on the dance floor one night at the Whisky. Everybody saw her. Your eye went right to her. If the rest of the world was silver, Daisy was gold.

Daisy: Simone became my best friend.

Simone: I brought Daisy out with me everywhere. I never had a sister.

I remember… It was the Sunset Strip riot, when all of us went down to Pandora’s and protested the curfew and the cops. Daisy and I went out, protested, met up with some actors and went over to Barney’s Beanery to keep partying. After that, we went back to somebody’s place. Daisy passed out on this guy’s patio. We didn’t go home until the next afternoon. She was maybe fifteen. I was probably nineteen. I just kept thinking, Doesn’t anybody care about this girl but me?

And, by the way, we were all on speed back then, even Daisy as young as she was. But if you wanted to stay skinny and be up all night, you were taking something. Mostly bennies or black beauties.

Daisy: Diet pills were an easy choice. It didn’t even feel like a choice. It didn’t even feel like we were getting high, at first. Coke, too. If it was around, you took a bump. People didn’t even consider it an addiction. It wasn’t like that.

Simone: My producer bought me a place in Laurel Canyon. He wanted to sleep with me. I told him no and he bought it for me anyway. I had Daisy move in.

We ended up sharing a bed for six months. So I can tell you firsthand that that girl never slept. I’d be trying to fall asleep at four in the morning and Daisy would want the light on so she could read.

Daisy: I had pretty bad insomnia for a long time, even when I was a kid. I’d be up at eleven o’clock, saying I wasn’t tired, and my parents would always yell at me to “just go to sleep.” So in the middle of the night I was always looking for quiet things to do. My mom had these romance novels hanging around so I would read those. It would be two in the morning and my parents would be having a party downstairs and I’d be sitting on my bed with my lamp on, reading Doctor Zhivago or Peyton Place.

And then it just became habit. I would read anything that was around. I wasn’t picky. Thrillers, detective novels, sci-­fi.

Around the time I moved in with Simone, I found a box of history biographies on the side of the road one day, up in Beachwood Canyon. I tore through those in no time.

Simone: I’ll tell you, she’s the entire reason I started wearing a sleeping mask. [Laughs] But then I kept doing it because I looked chic.

Daisy: I was living with Simone for two weeks before I went home to get more clothes.

My dad said, “Did you break the coffeemaker this morning?”

I said, “Dad, I don’t even live here.”

Simone: I told her the one condition of living with me was that she had to go to school.

Daisy: High school was not easy for me. I knew that to get an A, you had to do what you were told. But I also knew that a lot of what we were being told was bullshit. I remember one time I was assigned an essay on how Columbus discovered America and so I wrote a paper about how Columbus did not discover America. Because he didn’t. But then I got an F.

I said to my teacher, “But I’m right.”

And she said, “But you didn’t follow the assignment.”

Simone: She was so bright and her teachers didn’t seem to really recognize that.

Daisy: People always say I didn’t graduate high school but I did. When I walked across the stage to get my diploma, Simone was cheering for me. She was so proud of me. And I started to feel proud of myself, too. That night, I took the diploma out of its case and I folded it up and I used it, like a bookmark, in my copy of Valley of the Dolls.

Simone: When my first album flopped, my record label dropped me. My producer kicked us out of that place. I got a job waiting tables and moved in with my cousin in Leimert Park. Daisy had to move back in with her parents.

Daisy: I just packed up my stuff from Simone’s and drove it right back to my parents’ place. When I walked in the front door, my mom was on the phone, smoking a cigarette.

I said, “Hey, I’m back.”

She said, “We got a new couch,” and then just kept on talking on the phone.

Simone: Daisy got all of her beauty from her mother. Jeanne was gorgeous. I remember I met her a few times back then. Big eyes, very full lips. There was a sensuality to her. People used to always tell Daisy she looked just like her mother. They did look similar but I knew better than to tell Daisy that.

I think one time I said to Daisy, “Your mom is beautiful.”

Daisy said to me, “Yeah, beautiful and nothing else.”

Daisy: When we got kicked out of Simone’s house, that was the first time I realized that I couldn’t just float around living off other people.

I think I was seventeen, maybe. And it was the first time I wondered if I had a purpose.

Simone: Sometimes, Daisy would be over at my place, taking a shower or doing the dishes. I’d hear her sing Janis Joplin or Johnny Cash. She loved singing “Mercedes Benz.” She sounded better than anybody else. Here I was trying to get another record deal — taking voice lessons all the time, really working at it — and Daisy, it was so easy for her. I wanted to hate her for it. But Daisy’s not very easy to hate.

Daisy: One of my favorite memories was… Simone and I were driving down La Cienega together, probably in my BMW I had back then. They’ve got that huge shopping center there now but back then it was still the Record Plant. I don’t know where we were headed, probably to Jan’s to get a sandwich. But we were listening to Tapestry. And “You’ve Got a Friend” came on. Simone and I were singing so loud, along with Carole King. But I was really listening to the lyrics, too. I was really feeling it. That song always made me thankful for her, for Simone.

There’s this peace that comes with knowing you have a person in the world who would do anything for you, that you would do anything for. She was the first time I ever had that. I got a little bit teary, in the car listening to that song. I turned to Simone and I opened my mouth to talk but she just nodded and said, “Me too.”

Simone: It was my mission to make Daisy do something with her voice. But Daisy wasn’t gonna do a single thing she didn’t want to do.

She’d really come into herself by then. When I met her, she was still a bit naïve but [laughs] let’s just say she’d gotten tougher.

Daisy: I was seeing a couple guys back then, including Wyatt Stone of the Breeze. And I didn’t feel the same way about him that he felt about me.

This one night we were smoking a joint up on the roof of this apartment over on Santa Monica and Wyatt said, “I love you so much and I don’t understand why you don’t love me.”

I said, “I love you as much as I’m willing to love anybody.” Which was true. I wasn’t really willing to be vulnerable with anybody at that point. I had felt too much vulnerability too young. I didn’t want to do it anymore.

So that night after Wyatt goes to bed, I can’t sleep. And I see this piece of paper with this song he’s writing and it’s clearly about me. It says something about a redhead and mentioned the hoop earrings that I was wearing all the time.

And then he had this chorus about me having a big heart but no love in it. I kept looking at the words, thinking, This isn’t right. He didn’t understand me at all. So I thought about it for a little while and got out a pen and paper. I wrote some things down.

When he woke up, I said, “Your chorus should be more like ‘Big eyes, big soul/big heart, no control/but all she got to give is tiny love.’ ”

Wyatt grabbed a pen and paper and he said, “Say that again?”

I said, “It was just an example. Write your own goddamn song.”

Simone: “Tiny Love” was the Breeze’s biggest hit. And Wyatt pretended he wrote the whole thing.

Wyatt Stone (lead singer, the Breeze): Why are you asking me about this? This is water under the bridge. Who even remembers?

Daisy: It was starting to be a pattern. Once, I was having breakfast at Barney’s Beanery with a guy — this writer-director. Now, back then I always ordered champagne with breakfast. But I was also always tired in the morning because I wasn’t sleeping enough. So I needed coffee. Of course, I couldn’t order just coffee because I’d be too amped from the pills I was taking. And I couldn’t just have the champagne because it would put me to sleep. You understand the problem. So I used to order champagne and coffee together. And at the places where servers knew me, I used to call it an Up and Down. Something to keep me up, something to keep me down. And this guy thought it was hilarious. He said, “I’m going to use that in something one day.” And he wrote it down on a napkin and put it in his back pocket. I thought to myself, What the hell makes you think I’m not going to use it in something one day? But, of course, there it was in his next movie.

That’s how it was back then. I was just supposed to be the inspiration for some man’s great idea.

Well, fuck that.

That’s why I started writing my own stuff.

Simone: I was the only one encouraging her to make something of herself with her talent. Everybody else just tried to make something of themselves with what she had.

Daisy: I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else’s muse.

I am not a muse.

I am the somebody.

End of fucking story.


Daisy Jones & The SixDaisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a 2019 Ballantine Books publication.

Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll! I mean, that’s what the seventies were all about, man!! Right?

Taylor Jenkins Reid has done an admirable job of creating the atmosphere and mindset of the seventies and the rock bands that were catapulted to success beyond their wildest dreams.

From their humble incarnation to their mega-stardom, to their slide down into relative obscurity, the author takes us on a journey back to the days when the music meant everything, the bands were serious about their art, and the rock and roll lifestyle either made you or it broke you.

To tell the band’s storied history, the author employs a documentary style format, which is an interesting approach. It works in some ways, but it falls flat in others. As other reviewers have pointed out, the fictional band featured in this story is a thinly veiled Fleetwood Mac prototype.

Again, this works to some extent because many people are familiar with the outrageous dramas within the band and it feels a bit familiar, and therefore plausible. But, at the same time, I did wish this fictional band had not borne such a close resemblance to an actual group. I thought it took something away from the story, as it was less imaginative than it could have been. However, this might be what made the book appealing to some readers.

That said, as the story progresses, and the band follows an all too familiar and cliched path, riddled with pitfalls, drugs, relationship woes, and all manner of inner turmoil and temptation, the story makes an ever so subtle shift into something a little more substantial than the typical ‘Behind the Music’ ‘Rockumentary’ type of story.

Although the characters’ personas are very recognizable, they are also very well constructed and unique in their own way. They do prompt emotions, but are still enigmas, in the same way the rock stars of the seventies often were, adding to, and maintaining their mystique. The downside to that gamble is that one may not feel a deep connection with them.

While those thoughts were whirling around in my head, the realization that I'd finally become invested in the welfare of the band snuck up on me. I did, finally, find myself wrapped up in the drama, and was torn by the difficult choices that the characters made, questioning some, understanding others, but ultimately making peace with the way everything came together in the end.

I will confess I was very much looking forward to this book and with all the rave reviews I was confident this one would blow me away. But, as much as I love this author and wanted to love this book, it didn't rock my world- so to speak.

Don't get me wrong, I did like the book, but it didn’t come close to packing the emotional punch of Evelyn Hugo, and I thought it had the potential to do so. However, the big reveal in this case, which was centered around the group's final performance, was anticlimactic, in my opinion.

Still, this is one many will find compulsively readable, and some will enjoy the feelings of nostalgia the story evokes. In some ways the story feels like an alternate reality for the real rock band the story is so obviously based on, which is also a thought provoking and interesting concept.

Overall, although this one didn't have the impact on me, I'd hoped, I still enjoyed it. Due to the style and format, it is a very easy read, and many will be able to finish it off in one day or even in one sitting.

A little Fleetwood Mac playing in the background will make some nice mood music to go along with the saga of Daisy Jones and the Six.





Taylor Jenkins Reid is the author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, One True Loves, Maybe in Another Life, and two other novels. She lives in Los Angeles. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @tjenkinsreid.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Hippie Food by Jonathan Kauffman- Feature and Review


An enlightening narrative history—an entertaining fusion of Tom Wolfe and Michael Pollan—that traces the colorful origins of once unconventional foods and the diverse fringe movements, charismatic gurus, and counterculture elements that brought them to the mainstream and created a distinctly American cuisine.

Food writer Jonathan Kauffman journeys back more than half a century—to the 1960s and 1970s—to tell the story of how a coterie of unusual men and women embraced an alternative lifestyle that would ultimately change how modern Americans eat. Impeccably researched, Hippie Food chronicles how the longhairs, revolutionaries, and back-to-the-landers rejected the square establishment of President Richard Nixon’s America and turned to a more idealistic and wholesome communal way of life and food.

From the mystical rock-and-roll cult known as the Source Family and its legendary vegetarian restaurant in Hollywood to the Diggers’ brown bread in the Summer of Love to the rise of the co-op and the origins of the organic food craze, Kauffman reveals how today’s quotidian whole-foods staples—including sprouts, tofu, yogurt, brown rice, and whole-grain bread—were introduced and eventually became part of our diets. From coast to coast, through Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Vermont, Kauffman tracks hippie food’s journey from niche oddity to a cuisine that hit every corner of this country.

A slick mix of gonzo playfulness, evocative detail, skillful pacing, and elegant writing, Hippie Food is a lively, engaging, and informative read that deepens our understanding of our culture and our lives today.



Hippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We EatHippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat by Jonathan Kauffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hippie Food by Jonathan Kauffman is a 2018 William Morrow publication.

Informative and educational!!

This well- researched book delves into the way the sixties counterculture raised awareness and concerns about preservatives and other food additives, and changed our eating habits, incorporating brown rice, wheat bread, tofu, and organics into mainstream consciousness, and into supermarkets. These foods now grace our tables as everyday staples, a far cry from the white rice, white flour, and packaged white bread frequently used in households up to that point.

“Health in America is controlled by the refined food industrialists who support a multi-million- dollar business.” Adelle Davis

Why did the counterculture start eating foods like brown rice, tofu, granola, and whole-wheat bread in the 1960’s and 1970’s?

Tracing just how these fringe ideas and ingredients spread to so many communities felt like an impossible task, fifty years later. When I would ask former hippies why they thought natural foods had taken off all over the country at the same time, swear to God, half a dozen of them answered, “Magic”. Then I would start talking to them about what they themselves were during those years and the real answer emerged: travel.

As a child, I remember my parents buying that brick style block of Sunbeam white bread. It really wasn’t until much later- in the 1980’s that wheat bread became more commonplace, at least in my neck of the woods. Now, I simply can’t imagine ever buying white bread again. I haven’t eaten white bread in decades. I never gave much thought as to how or when these changes began to take hold, but once I started reading this book, I was surprised by the humble beginnings of organic and brown rice farming, and the history of wheat bread.

‘Gypsy Boots feel so fine, I feel so great. So, let me go open that gate. I just have a had tremendous date with a glass of milk and a soy bean cake. All my muscles are strong and loose, because I drink lots of mango juice. For scorns and frowns I have no use, cause I feel wild as a goose. Life is a game of take and give. The world is my brother and I love to live. So, what’s this living really worth if there isn’t any peace on earth.’

For the foodie, this is a fun and fascinating journey, written with a little wit and humor, and loaded with interesting trivia. Be aware, though, that if you are looking for a recipe book, this is not one. However, if you are into organics and healthy foods you will find this book to be very interesting.
I really enjoyed this book tremendously. It was a learning experience and I discovered so many things about whole foods, and the fun history behind the trends and how they eventually became our ‘new normal’.





Jonathan Kauffman grew up in a lentil-loving Mennonite family in Northern Indiana in the 1970s. He went to college in the Twin Cities and then moved to San Francisco. After working as a line cook for a number of years, he left the kitchen for what seemed at the time like the more lucrative world of journalism. 

Jonathan was a restaurant critic for 11 years in the Bay Area and Seattle (East Bay Express, Seattle Weekly, SF Weekly), where his criticism and reporting won awards from the James Beard Foundation, the International Association of Culinary Professionals and the Association of Food Journalists, among others. 

He joined the staff of the San Francisco Chronicle in 2014. There, he covers the intersection of food and culture, whether that means the rise of cookie Instagrammers or the effects of gentrification on small, family-run restaurants.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Someone to Trust by Mary Balogh- Feature and Review


During a rare white Christmas at Brambledean Court, the widow Elizabeth, Lady Overfield, defies convention by falling in love with a younger man in the latest novel in the Westcott series.

After her husband's passing, Elizabeth Overfield decides that she must enter into another suitable marriage. That, however, is the last thing on her mind when she meets Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, at the Westcott Christmas house party. She simply enjoys his company as they listen to carolers on Christmas Eve, walk home from church together on Christmas morning, and engage in a spirited snowball fight in the afternoon. Both are surprised when their sled topples them into a snowbank and they end up sharing an unexpected kiss. They know there is no question of any relationship between them, for she is nine years older than he.

They return to London the following Season, both committed to finding other, more suitable matches. Still they agree to share one waltz at each ball they attend. This innocuous agreement proves to be one that will topple their worlds, as each dance steadily ensnares them in a romance that forces the two to question what they are willing to sacrifice for love. . . .



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

Someone to Trust by Mary Balogh is a 2018 Berkley publication.

A winter romance that will warm your heart!

While attending a Christmas Party at the Wescott’s which also doubled as a wedding, the widow Elizabeth Overton and Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, spend some easy going and friendly time together. However, they are both aware of a little something extra simmering just below the surface. Although they are both convinced it is time for them to marry, it most certainly would not be to one another. For starters, Elizabeth is nine years older that Colin! What a scandal that would be!!

As the London season approaches, Elizabeth and Colin plan to join in, albeit, solo… but, they have promised to share at least one set of dances together at each ball they attend… and not just any dance- a waltz!

This one got off to a very sluggish start unfortunately. In fact, I had intended to read this one around the holidays but put it aside because it just wasn’t working for me right then.
But, because Mary Balogh is one of my favorite historical romance authors, I was determined to give it another try. I am glad I stuck with the book, as it turned out to be a beautiful and heartwarming love story.

As the title suggests, there are some trust issues involved, especially for Elizabeth, who is determined not to give in to romantic love as she had with her first husband, which ended in disaster.

“ I want my own home. I want to be a part of a couple so that I do not have to feel lonely at events like family Christmases. I want- I hope for- children.”
Your need is emotional, he said, yet you look for safety and dependability. My need is practical, yet I dream of love. I would like to be in love with the woman I marry. But there are so many other considerations that I suppose are more important. I dream of perfection, Elizabeth. You do not dream at all.”

Can Colin convince Elizabeth she can have trust, stability and romantic love or will she break his heart?

Once this story finally got moving, I was glued to the pages, loving every conflicted and emotional moment.

Overall, this one isn’t the strongest book in the series, but despite the slow start, I ended up thoroughly enjoying Elizabeth and Colin’s story. I’m happy they defied convention, despite the odds, and fulfilled their dreams of a happily ever after.

*If you haven’t read the previous installments in the series, I wouldn’t suggest starting out with this one. While reading the series in order is always ideal, at the very least read the fourth book before starting this one.





Mary Jenkins was born in 1944 in Swansea, Wales, UK. After graduating from university, moved to Saskatchewan, Canada, to teach high school English, on a two-year teaching contract in 1967. She married her Canadian husband, Robert Balogh, and had three children, Jacqueline, Christopher and Sian. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, music and knitting. She also enjoys watching tennis and curling.

Mary Balogh started writing in the evenings as a hobby. Her first book, a Regency love story, was published in 1985 as A Masked Deception under her married name. In 1988, she retired from teaching after 20 years to pursue her dream to write full-time. She has written more than seventy novels and almost thirty novellas since then, including the New York Times bestselling 'Slightly' sextet and 'Simply' quartet. She has won numerous awards, including Bestselling Historical of the Year from the Borders Group, and her novel Simply Magic was a finalist in the Quill Awards. She has won seven Waldenbooks Awards and two B. Dalton Awards for her bestselling novels, as well as a Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Watching You by Lisa Jewell- Feature and Review


Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you.

As the headmaster credited with turning around the local school, Tom Fitzwilliam is beloved by one and all—including Joey Mullen, his new neighbor, who quickly develops an intense infatuation with this thoroughly charming yet unavailable man. Joey thinks her crush is a secret, but Tom’s teenaged son Freddie—a prodigy with aspirations of becoming a spy for MI5—excels in observing people and has witnessed Joey behaving strangely around his father.

One of Tom’s students, Jenna Tripp, also lives on the same street, and she’s not convinced her teacher is as squeaky clean as he seems. For one thing, he has taken a particular liking to her best friend and fellow classmate, and Jenna’s mother—whose mental health has admittedly been deteriorating in recent years—is convinced that Mr. Fitzwilliam is stalking her.

Meanwhile, twenty years earlier, a schoolgirl writes in her diary, charting her doomed obsession with a handsome young English teacher named Mr. Fitzwilliam…



Watching YouWatching You by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Watching You by Lisa Jewell is a 2018 Atria Books publication.

Remember to pull your shades and lock your doors- you never know who might be watching!

Lisa Jewell’s latest thriller examines the secrets and obsessions of a seemingly idyllic neighborhood. Melville Heights, an upscale neighborhood, home to professionals like doctors and lawyers, might be one of the last places you’d expect a brutal murder to occur.

However, while the neighborhood’s exterior is charming and enviable, if you pay close attention, you will see another side to Melville Heights. You may notice some residents have strange habits, some behave badly, are masking dark obsessions, or hiding painful secrets, and some like to watch…

After Joey’s mother dies, she has a knee-jerk reaction, quickly tying the knot with an affable, but not overly ambitious man. Joey and her new husband move in with her overachieving, but sweet, brother and his pregnant wife, who happen to live in Melville Heights, in one of the ‘painted houses’ she was always so fascinated by.

Joey soon develops a crush on her neighbor, the headmaster of the local school, named Tom Fitzwilliam. Tom appears to be happily married, with a teenaged son, named Freddie. The community heaps high praise on Tom and the great job he is doing as headmaster. However, Freddie, unbeknownst to his parents, and most everyone else, is an accomplished little neighborhood spy. His observations reveal a host of little intricate insights into the lives of his neighbors- and about his own father. But he may not be the only one keeping an eye on things. The question is whether or not these ‘watchers’ are drawing the right conclusions based on what they have witnessed.

It seems that no two Lisa Jewell novels are exactly the same, but that’s a good thing, in my opinion. This one was not exactly what I was expecting after " Then She Was Gone".

The atmosphere in here is dark, but mildly quirky, as well. It’s creepy, and some of the implications about the characters made me squirm a little. While the cast is moderately large, the author did a great job of minimizing the chore of keeping up with all of them individually. Jewell, adeptly withholds key information from readers, keeping them completely in the dark, until just the right moment.

Then Jewell lowers the hammer….

Boom! Very clever!

Looking back on it now, I can see the trap, but as I was reading the book, I blindly stepped right into it. So, the author managed to pull one over on me, which endears me to her all the more.

I’m glad to see Lisa Jewell exercising her writing prowess, as her novels always surprise me. Smart move on her part, too, since it keeps readers on their toes and will hopefully prevent preconceived notions or expectations regarding format, formula or style. But no matter what, her books always manage to draw me in. I can’t wait to see what she pulls out of the hat next!!





Lisa Jewell was born and raised in north London, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA TODAY bestselling author of over twenty novels, including The Girls in the Garden, The House We Grew Up In, and The Third Wife. To find out more, visit Facebook.com/LisaJewellOfficial, or follow her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK

Friday, February 22, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones- Feature and Review


A jumble of entries, written in different hands, different languages, and different times. They tell of a rumour. A shadow. A killer.

The only interest that Oxford Professor Charles Meredith has in the diaries is as a record of Hungarian folklore ... until he comes face to face with a myth.

For Hannah Wilde, the diaries are a survival guide that taught her the three rules she lives by: verify everyone, trust no one, and if in any doubt, run.

But Hannah knows that if her daughter is ever going to be safe, she will have to stop running and face the terror that has hunted her family for five generations.

And nothing in the diaries can prepare her for that.



The String DiariesThe String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones by a 2014 Mulholland publication.

The String Diaries is a complex supernatural thriller that spans several time periods starting in the 1800s, with a stop over in the 1970s, and ending in current times.

Hannah, her husband, and young daughter are on the run and in terrible danger. They are hiding out in a farm house, borrowing a little time before Jakab finds them.

Steeped in mythology and folklore, Hannah's family has done battle with Jakab for ages but can't shake him. Hannah is determined to stop him because she is desperate to save her daughter. But, Jakab is a wily nemesis because he is able to change shapes and embody the people close to you.

Whew! This is not the usual shape shifter story by any means. Jakab's abilities are the stuff that legends are made of. It's hard to believe this is even possible, which is why diaries have been passed down through generations and closely studied.

An angry Jakab curses Hannah's family because he feels betrayed by a woman that didn't wait long enough for him and married another man. Equal parts thriller, horror, suspense, and mystery make this a solid and unique novel.

The author did a fine job of taking us through the past all the way to the present for the ultimate good versus evil showdown. The character of Jakab was already a sociopath, and bitter, before he decided to make Hannah's family miserable for all eternity.

The suspense leading up to the climax was supercharged because we know Jakab is coming, we just don't know how he will make his grand entrance or what form he will use, and it will take a miracle for Hannah to survive, much less save her daughter.

Will she be able to break the curse or will Jakab emerge triumphant once again?





Stephen Lloyd Jones grew up in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, and studied at Royal Holloway College, University of London. He now lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and far too many books. He's the author of The String Diaries, Written in the Blood and The Disciple.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller- Feature and Review


From the attic of Lyntons, a dilapidated English country mansion, Frances Jellico sees them—Cara first: dark and beautiful, then Peter: striking and serious. The couple is spending the summer of 1969 in the rooms below hers while Frances is researching the architecture in the surrounding gardens. But she's distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she finds a peephole that gives her access to her neighbors’ private lives.

To Frances' surprise, Cara and Peter are keen to get to know her. It is the first occasion she has had anybody to call a friend, and before long they are spending every day together: eating lavish dinners, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, and smoking cigarettes until the ash piles up on the crumbling furniture. Frances is dazzled.

But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up, and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur. Amid the decadence, a small crime brings on a bigger one: a crime so terrible that it will brand their lives forever.



Bitter OrangeBitter Orange by Claire Fuller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller is a 2018 Tin House Books publication.

This one may be an acquired taste for some, but I felt this one all the way down to my toes.

During 2018, I found myself reaching, more than ever before, for more comforting, light and easy, 'feel good' books to soothe my troubled soul. But I do still have a huge tendency to gravitate towards darker, troubling, moody or heavily laden novels, and especially love it when I pick up on a Gothic tone intertwined in there, as well.

This novel has all these elements, but also asks the reader to work a few things out on their own. So, while this book certainly stimulates the senses, it also gives the brain a little exercise, too.

As Frances lay on her death bed, she is often visited by an old friend, a vicar, who gently, but urgently, coaxes her into relaying back to him what really happened in the year 1969. This is the year Frances was hired to do research at Lyntons, a once grand estate in Hampshire, which now lies in ruins. Frances is staying on the estate with a couple named Peter and Cara, who are also doing research work.

I am obdurate and uncooperative, drifting on a sea of memory between islands of lucidity.

As the three of them settle in together, Frances, who has spent the bulk of her adult life caring for her mother, is suddenly overwhelmed by the prospect of being friends with the Cara and Peter. Cara is usually quite willing to regale Frances with stories of how she and Peter met, and the complicated route they took which eventually landed them at the dilapidated estate. She also shares with Frances the tragic events in her life which have left her feeling fragile and unstable. But her tales are often fantastical, and Peter tries to downplay her outlandish claims, leaving Frances unsure of who or what to believe.

But the world is a nicer place when you think everyone is telling the truth. There are no agendas, no hidden motives; no one lies for dramatic effect.

Right away I was drawn in by the beautiful prose, which sucked me right into the pages and held me there, as I listened to Frances’ tale unfold, tingling with both anticipation and dread. However, the story initially unfolds in frustratingly slow pace, and the book's structuring is occasionally jarring. Other than that, this atmospheric and thought- provoking novel held me completely spellbound.

I loved the metaphors and allegory, the history, the mild supernatural suggestions, and that shocking conclusion caps it all off, beautifully. The author did such an amazing job with creating vivid characterizations and that deliciously thick, but tantalizing atmosphere. Frances' clever narrative and detailed storytelling adeptly and successfully lured me willingly along to a wickedly stunning and unforeseeable outcome.





Claire Fuller is the author of Bitter Orange (2018), Swimming Lessons (2017), which was shortlisted for the Encore Prize for second novels, and Our Endless Numbered Days (2015) which won the Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction. www.clairefuller.co.uk

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Boy by Tami Hoag- Feature and Review

                                                           ABOUT THE BOOK:

An unfathomable loss or an unthinkable crime? Number one New York Times bestselling author Tami Hoag keeps you guessing in her most harrowing thriller yet.

A panic-stricken woman runs in the dead of night, battered and bloodied, desperate to find help. . . . 

When Detective Nick Fourcade enters the home of Genevieve Gauthier outside the sleepy town of Bayou Breaux, Louisiana, the bloody crime scene that awaits him is both the most brutal and the most confusing he's ever seen. Genevieve's seven-year-old son, P.J., has been murdered by an alleged intruder, yet Genevieve is alive and well, a witness inexplicably left behind to tell the tale. There is no evidence of forced entry, not a clue that points to a motive. Meanwhile, Nick's wife, Detective Annie Broussard, sits in the emergency room with the grieving Genevieve. A mother herself, Annie understands the emotional devastation this woman is going through, but as a detective she's troubled by a story that makes little sense. Who would murder a child and leave the only witness behind?

When the very next day P.J.'s sometimes babysitter, thirteen-year-old Nora Florette, is reported missing, the town is up in arms, fearing a maniac is preying on their children. With pressure mounting from a tough, no-nonsense new sheriff, the media, and the parents of Bayou Breaux, Nick and Annie dig deep into the dual mysteries. But sifting through Genevieve Gauthier's tangled web of lovers and sorting through a cast of local lowlifes brings more questions than answers. Is someone from Genevieve's past or present responsible for the death of her son? Is the missing teenager, Nora, a victim, or something worse? Then fingerprints at the scene change everything when they come back to a convicted criminal: Genevieve herself.

The spotlight falls heavily on the grieving mother who is both victim and accused. Could she have killed her own child to free herself of the burden of motherhood, or is the loss of her beloved boy pushing her to the edge of insanity? Could she have something to do with the disappearance of Nora Florette, or is the troubled teenager the key to the murder? How far will Nick and Annie have to go to uncover the dark truth of the boy?




The Boy (Broussard and Fourcade, #2)The Boy by Tami Hoag
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Boy by Tami Hoag is a 2018 Dutton publication.

Wow! This is one of Hoag’s best and I’ve read many of her books over the years!!

When a young single mother is the victim of a late night home invasion which leaves her hospitalized, and her young son dead, Broussard and Fourcade must tiptoe through the murky waters of law enforcement politics and worrisome circumstantial evidence to find the truth.

The hot and steamy Louisiana humidity is almost palpable as the restless tension between the married detectives, Annie Broussard and Nick Fourcade, ebbs and flows. But it is nothing like the tension between Nick and his new boss, who is keeping Nick on a tight leash, threatening to cut him loose at any moment.

However, it is this puzzling case that keeps the reader on the edge of their seats. The murder of a child sets the emotional tone right from the start. The child’s mother, Genevieve Gauthier, seems to have a sordid past, and has made a few questionable parenting decisions, including the selection of an unreliable teenage girl to babysit her son.

Seeking answers from the babysitter, the detectives become concerned when the girl hasn’t been seen in a few days. The investigation is also stymied by a lot of political wrangling and jockeying for position within the law enforcement arena. This combination of events kept me riveted to the pages, watching in horror as events spiraled completely out of control.

I love this detective team. Annie is more even tempered, but she’s also more emotional. However, her powers of observation are amazing. Nick, on the other hand, with his French vernacular and Cajun slang has a bit of a temper and he has a very hard time keeping it under control.

Although the couple is experiencing some tension in their relationship, they are a sexy couple, and I enjoy watching them interact. They also make a good detective team, even though they often clash and have a vastly different approach to their jobs.

There is another storyline in the book which is very heart wrenching, making this not only a great crime thriller, but also a very thought- provoking piece of fiction. The shades of gray, and the high pitch emotions had my heart up in my throat.

I’ve been a fan of this author for many years. Hoag writes very solid, atmospheric stories and really knows how to ramp up the suspense. She outdid herself with this one, I must say. I’d been waiting to read this one for a long time as the publication date kept getting pushed back and my review schedule prevented me from getting to it as quickly as I’d hoped. However, the wait was well worth it.

If you like tense, atmospheric thrillers, with complex characters and personalities, and mysteries that will keep you guessing to the bitter end, this one is for you. Plus, despite being ‘Team Annie’ for most of this story, that audacious, but very principled, Frenchman- Nick Fourcade, really grows on you.





Tami Hoag is the #1 internationally bestselling author of more than thirty books published in more than thirty languages worldwide, including her latest thrillers—BITTER SEASONCOLD COLD HEART and THE 9TH GIRL. Renowned for combining thrilling plots with character-driven suspense, Hoag first hit the New York Times Bestseller list with NIGHT SINS, and each of her books since has been a bestseller. 

She leads a double life in Palm Beach County, Florida, where she is also known as a top competitive equestrian in the Olympic discipline of dressage. Other interests include the study of psychology, and mixed martial arts fighting. 

Visit her at www.tamihoag.comFacebook.com/TamiHoag and on Twitter @TamiHoag