Queens of Animation

Queens of Animation
Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt

Divorce is Murder

Divorce is Murder
Divorce is Murder by Elka Ray

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Escape Manual for Introverts by Katie Vaz- Feature and Review


Feeling cornered at a wedding reception by gossipy guests? Stuck at a holiday party that lasts forever? This beautifully illustrated book is the ultimate funny, sometimes absurd guide to escaping those painfully awkward situations. 

Trapped in an airplane seated next to a chatterbox? Are you hosting a dinner party with people who just won't leave? Katie Vaz has the key to your escape. The Escape Manual for Introverts guides readers through different scenarios with themed chapters ("Friends," "Relatives," "Strangers," etc.). Each chapter covers a range of situations, from an invitation to karaoke night to group lunchtime. And she offers a number of escapes for each scenario: bringing odoriferous foods to lunch for a while, having a pet (real or imagined) that "requires" frequent check-ins, and even investing in a jet pack. This book features Vaz's full-page illustrated spreads, hand-lettering, and spot illustrations. From the silly to the sincere, Vaz's clever, hilarious escape plans and bizarre excuses speak to the introvert in all of us.



The Escape Manual for IntrovertsThe Escape Manual for Introverts by Katie Vaz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Escape Manual for Introverts by Katie Vaz is a 2019 Andrews McMeel Publishing release.

A constructive, comical, and applicable guide for all introverts!

Anyone following my reviews has probably heard me allude to my being an introvert. I’m not just an introvert- but an extreme introvert- I also LIKE being an introvert. Extroverts tend not to understand that, so I’ve read several books on how to bridge the gap or cope in an extroverted world.

This book does a fine job of giving those who find themselves in overwhelming social situations a way out without looking anti-social or rude. Some of these suggestions are a bit outlandish, but most are quite plausible.

My one complaint, though, is that the book is listed as a graphic novel. I’ll have to agree to disagree on that point, since I’d call it a self -help book with graphics included, since it is mostly written in black and white text. The 'graphic novel' description is used fast and loose and I think it's misleading.

Although I was a bit irritated that the graphics weren’t quite as advertised, the artwork is a nice addition, even though it is a bit simplistic.

While some folks might look at the antics suggested in the book as over the top, truth be told, I’ve actually done many of the things the author suggested. The great thing is these suggestions help one plan and execute the escape with grace and aplomb.

Naturally, the book is also funny, and very relatable for the introvert- but It might also help extroverts gain a better understanding of how we think and how the stress of ‘peopling’ makes us feel.

I think these tips will be especially useful at this time of year when the holidays present a slew of social invitations and family gatherings, which are very stressful, and invade one’s quiet alone time.

The book is short, easy to read, and while some of it is a bit exaggerated at times. it is also very entertaining- and most of the tips are quite useful and I will certainly make use of them.

Overall, this is a fun, little book all introverts will find helpful and enjoyable!





Katie Vaz is an illustrator and hand-letterer based in Binghamton, New York. She designs her own line of greeting cards, prints, and other stationery products, which are sold both online on her Etsy Shop (www.katievaz.etsy.com) and in brick and mortar shops across North America. Katie also works as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer on a variety of branding, illustration, web design, print, and packaging projects. She studied graphic design (BFA) at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY and integrated design (MA) at Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Dessau, Germany. Katie is particularly bad at talking about her feelings, so she creates art that can do it for her.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt- Feature and Review


In The Queens of Animation, bestselling author Nathalia Holt recounts the dramatic stories of an incredibly influential group of women who have slipped under the radar for decades but have touched all our lives. These women infiltrated the all-male domain of Disney Studios and used early technologies to create the rich artwork and iconic storylines that would reach millions of viewers across generations. Over the decades–while battling sexism, domestic abuse, and workplace harassment–these women also fought to influence the way female characters are depicted to young audiences.

Based on extensive interviews and exclusive access to archival and personal documents, The Queens of Animation tells the story of their vital contribution to Disney’s golden age and their continued impact on animated filmmaking, culminating in the record-shattering Frozen, Disney’s first female-directed full-length feature film.



The Queens of AnimationThe Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt is a 2019 Little Brown publication.

Although it is long overdue, it is still nice to see the women who worked on many of the classic Disney films we all know, and love, finally receiving public acknowledgement for their contributions.

Grace Huntington, Retta Scott, Sylvia Holland, Bianca Majolie, and Mary Blair are the women profiled in this book, which also follows a timeline, beginning in 1936 and ending in 2013.

The movies these ladies helped to develop, the influence they had on the process of creating these classic films, and the myriad of challenges they faced professionally and personally, are woven into the climate and history of the Disney studio.

The book is interesting, especially the creative process, which is perhaps the most enlightening aspect of the book, for me. That doesn't mean I missed the author's message, or that I didn't find it important, just that I found the art and the talent these ladies were blessed with fascinating. I also enjoyed the trip down memory lane, remembering the films that brought me such joy as a child.

The author chose these women to write about because they did a lot of important work on these films and their involvement was invaluable to their success, but unlike today, when even the smallest contribution can earn an accreditation, these ladies were ignored. Not only that, their ideas were stolen by their male colleagues, and they often worked under hostile conditions, and were sexually harassed.

This slight, is a wrong the author is trying to draw our attention to, so yes, this book has a specific intent and the author is attempting to make a direct point.

However, at times she underlined the issue too forcefully, and was a little too heavy handed, which, unfortunately, gave the book an impersonal tone. The book is also a bit disorganized and all over the place at times, and feels rushed through in places, as well.

That said, I enjoyed learning more about this hidden history of Disney. The process of change for women, and even for non-white males, was a slow one. It took years before women were acknowledged and given more freedom and control at the studio. But the conclusion is an upbeat, inspirational one, showing the great strides women have taken, the impact they had in shaping Disney, which eventually culminated with the first female directed Disney Film- Frozen.

Despite some warbles here and there, I thought this was an interesting book. I admire the creativity of these animators and am very happy to see them finally getting the recognition they richly deserve.






Nathalia Holt, Ph.D. is the New York Times bestselling author of The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History, Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us from Missiles to the Moon to Mars and Cured: The People who Defeated HIV. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Slate, Popular Science, and Time. She is a former fellow at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard University. She lives with her husband and their two daughters in Pacific Grove, CA.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Divorce is Murder by Elka Ray- Feature and Review


Toby Wong visits her quiet hometown in British Columbia, where nothing ever happens--until her old high school rival is found murdered. Shortly after returning to her sleepy hometown on Vancouver Island, Chinese-Canadian divorce lawyer Toby Wong runs into Josh Barton, who broke her heart as a teen at summer camp. Now a wealthy entrepreneur, Josh wants to divorce Tonya, the mean girl who made Toby's life hell all those years ago. Not long after Toby takes Josh's case, Tonya is found murdered. Josh is the prime suspect. Together with her fortune-teller mom and her pregnant best friend, Toby sets out to clear Josh, whom she still has a guilty crush on. While he seems equally smitten, can Toby trust him? The handsome cop charged with finding Tonya's killer doesn't think so. Since Tonya stayed in touch with everyone from that lousy summer camp, Toby keeps running into ex-campers she'd rather forget. Could one of Tonya's catty friends be her killer? Are Toby's old insecurities making her paranoid? Only too late does she realize that she really is in danger.



Divorce Is Murder: A Toby Wong NovelDivorce Is Murder: A Toby Wong Novel by Elka Ray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Divorce is Murder by Elka Ray is a 2019 Seventh Street Books publication.

Great start to a new mystery series!

Family law attorney, Toby Wong, is stunned to learn that her newest client is none other than Josh Barton, a guy she had a massive crush on as a teen. Josh and Toby met while attending a summer camp together, but Toby’s experience at the camp was marred by bullying, mainly from a group of girls whose ringleader, Tonya, ended up marrying Josh. Now Josh wants to divorce Tonya and needs a good attorney.

Although Josh threw Toby under the bus way back at summer camp, she still finds him attractive. Against her better judgment, she agrees to take his case. However, it seems Tonya has pulled a disappearing act. Their worst fears are finally confirmed when Tonya is found murdered. Now Josh is suspect number one and the evidence against him just keeps piling up. Toby joins forces with Josh’s criminal attorney hoping to clear him.

As Toby’s memories of that long -ago summer resurface, her feelings for Josh remain conflicted. However, Colin Destin, the detective working the case, might be the distraction she needs to get over her teenage crush. Meanwhile, Toby’s best friend and her fortune-telling mother offer help and advice, whether Toby wants it or not.

The further Toby digs into Tonya’s life, the murkier the case becomes, as shocking revelations come to light about Tonya, her friends, and possible lovers. Is Josh innocent or is Toby’s judgement clouded by her feelings for him? Could she be putting herself in danger?

This is a fun romantic mystery, packed with humor, zany characters, with just a small amount of poignancy, and a dollop of romance on top. While this is a solid whodunit, there is a gentle message about the lasting effects of bullying.

The story moves at a quick pace, with several interesting twists and curve balls tossed in, keeping me on my toes.

I think I’m going to really like Toby. I love the diversity in the book, and feel the series has a lot of potential. This book falls within the perimeters of the cozy mystery genre, but any fan of pure mysteries will enjoy this one. I’m interested in seeing how the series develops from here and what adventures Toby will encounter next!





Elka's next novel, the romantic mystery DIVORCE IS MURDER, is out from Seventh Street Books on August 20th, 2019. Elka's previous books are the thriller SAIGON DARK, a romantic mystery HANOI JANE, and a book of short crime stories, WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW - TALES OF OBSESSION, MYSTERY & MURDER IN SOUTHEAST ASIA.

Elka is Canadian and lives with her family in Central Vietnam.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street by Karen White- Feature and Review


The Christmas spirit is overtaking Tradd Street with a vengeance in this festive new novel in the New York Times bestselling series by Karen White.

Melanie Trenholm should be anticipating Christmas with nothing but joy--after all, it's only the second Christmas she and her husband, Jack, will celebrate with their twin babies. But the ongoing excavation of the centuries-old cistern in the garden of her historic Tradd Street home has been a huge millstone, both financially and aesthetically. Local students are thrilled by the possibility of unearthing more Colonial-era artifacts at the cistern, but Melanie is concerned by the ghosts connected to the cistern that have suddenly invaded her life and her house--and at least one of them is definitely not filled with holiday cheer....

And these relics aren't the only precious artifacts for which people are searching. A past adversary is convinced that there is a long-lost Revolutionary War treasure buried somewhere on the property that Melanie inherited--untold riches rumored to be brought over from France by the Marquis de Lafayette himself and intended to help the Colonial war effort. It's a treasure literally fit for a king, and there have been whispers throughout history that many have already killed--and died--for it. And now someone will stop at nothing to possess it--even if it means destroying everything Melanie and Jack hold dear.



The Christmas Spirits on Tradd StreetThe Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street by Karen White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street by Karen White is a 2019 Berkley publication.

A Christmas present for Tradd Street fans!!

Melanie is not exactly in the holiday spirit- so to speak- mainly because she’s harboring a secret from Jack, which is a big no-no, and she knows it, despite all of her rationalizations.

She’s also dealing with renovations, an ongoing mystery, a bit of sibling rivalry, Jack’s publishing woes, and her constant craving for sugar.

But, when it comes to her attention that there is the possibility of lucrative treasure buried somewhere on her property, and that her arch enemy is trying to locate it, she plunges herself into a revolutionary aged mystery full of intrigue and heartbreak, as she desperately tries to hold on to everything she holds dear.

I just love this series! Melanie is such a human character- she’s realistically flawed, conflicted and maybe a bit damaged, but I still root for her even when I know she's headed for trouble. While I understand all this about Melanie, sometimes I think people are too hard on her, dismiss her, or take her for granted- which is why I suppose I still feel sympathetic towards her despite her self- sabotage.

This installment has some truly interesting history, which was right up my alley. In fact, the mystery is one of the best in the series, in my humble opinion.

However, the conclusion left me breathless and heartbroken!! AARRGH! I hope we won't have to wait too long for book seven!!

Overall, I’m thankful for this holiday edition of one of my favorite series!!






I grew up being a voracious reader and it was a natural step to turn my interest to writing. I have published 24 award-winning and bestselling novels including my latest release DREAMS OF FALLING published by Penguin Random House in June, 2018. Set in the South Carolina Lowcountry in the 1950s and contemporary time, this is a book about lifelong friendships and family, and the sacrifices we're willing to make for those we love.

I write what others have termed "grit-lit"--southern women's fiction, as well as a contemporary paranormal mystery series (The House on Tradd Street is the 1st book in the series) set in Charleston, South Carolina. All of my books are set in the US South, and feature a female protagonist at a crossroads in her life.

I have two grown children (one of whom appears in several of my books under the alias of Meghan Black), and live near Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and two of the cutest Havanese dogs, Quincy and Sophie Belle. Readers may recognize Quincy as General Lee in the Tradd Street series.

Happy reading!

For more about me and my books, please visit my website at www.karen-white.com or connect on social media: Facebook: Facebook.com/karenwhiteauthor, Twitter: @KarenWhiteWrite, Instagram: @KarenWhiteWrite and Pinterest: KarenWhiteBooks.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Vanity Fair's Women on Women - Edited by Radhika Jones and David Friend - Feature and Review


Looking back at the last thirty-five years of Vanity Fair stories on women, by women, with an introduction by the magazine's editor in chief, Radhika Jones

Gail Sheehy on Hillary Clinton. Ingrid Sischy on Nicole Kidman. Jacqueline Woodson on Lena Waithe. Leslie Bennetts on Michelle Obama. And two Maureens (Orth and Dowd) on two Tinas (Turner and Fey). Vanity Fair's Women on Women features a selection of the best profiles, essays, and columns on female subjects written by female contributors to the magazine over the past thirty-five years.

From the viewpoint of the female gaze come penetrating profiles on everyone from Gloria Steinem to Princess Diana to Whoopi Goldberg to essays on workplace sexual harassment (by Bethany McLean) to a post-#MeToo reassessment of the Clinton scandal (by Monica Lewinsky). Many of these pieces constitute the first draft of a larger cultural narrative. They tell a singular story about female icons and identity over the last four decades--and about the magazine as it has evolved under the editorial direction of Tina Brown, Graydon Carter, and now Radhika Jones, who has written a compelling introduction.

When Vanity Fair's inaugural editor, Frank Crowninshield, took the helm of the magazine in 1914, his mission statement declared, "We hereby announce ourselves as determined and bigoted feminists." Under Jones's leadership, Vanity Fair continues the publication's proud tradition of highlighting women's voices--and all the many ways they define our culture.



Vanity Fair's Women on WomenVanity Fair's Women on Women by Radhika Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vanity Fair’s Women on Women is a 2019 Penguin Press publication.

Fascinating women, fascinating lives!

This is a strong collection of profiles of the women who appeared in Vanity Fair Magazine over the years. All were influential in their way, some were controversial, all are interesting and unique!

I’ve been a long-time subscriber to Vanity Fair and today it is the only magazine I still take. While I may have read some of these profiles over the years, there were many that were before my time- such as Emily Post. I was most surprised by the profile on Barbara Bush. Matronly grandmother? I think not!!

Others profiled included several other first ladies, including Michelle Obama, and the royals- Grace Kelly, Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth. Actresses and musicians from Tina Turner to Meryl Streep and important feminist icons like Gloria Steinem. From Cher to Lady Gaga, the book covers roughly four decades.

The book also includes articles examining two of the most prominent feminist issues of today- The #MeToo movement and the Silicon Valley Boy’s Club.

The book also serves as a profile of the magazine itself, showing the various ways the publication as evolved and changed and the influence it has had on society from a feminine standpoint.

Overall, this a very interesting compilation of profiles and articles. It is a short book, an easy read, and is a book one can put down and pick back up easily, read between other books, or while sitting in waiting rooms, or on your lunch break. But, once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down!!

Great history, strong women, thoughtful, eye-opening articles-all reminding me of why I continue to support this publication! Thank you, Vanity Fair!






David Friend is an editor for Vanity Fair Magazine, and an Emmy-winnning documentary producer. He is also the author of Watching the World Change: The Stories Behind the Images of 9/11.


Radhika Jones is an American magazine editor and the fifth editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair Magazine.


Why Stuff Matters - by Jen Waldo- Feature + Guest Post

  Sub-genre: Literary Fiction / Humor
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Date of Publication: June 4, 2019 (US)
Number of Pages: 212

When Jessica, a grieving widow, inherits an antique mall from her mother she also inherits the stallholders, an elderly, amoral, acquisitive, and paranoid collection. 
When one of the vendors, a wily ex-con named Roxy, shoots her ex-husband, she calls on Jessica to help bury the body and soon Jessica is embroiled in cover-ups, lies, and misdirection. Into this mix comes Lizzie, Jessica’s late husband’s twelve-year-old daughter by his first marriage, who’s been dumped on Jessica’s doorstep by the child’s self-absorbed mother and it soon becomes apparent that Lizzie is as obsessed with material possessions as Jessica’s elderly tenants. 
Why Stuff Matters is a compelling ode to possession, why people like things and the curious lengths they will go to keep them. Returning to her fictional Caprock, Waldo turns her wry wit on the lives of those afraid to let go.


Three Belongings
Guest Post by Jen Waldo

If I had to evacuate because of a fire, what three things would I save? Considering that my new novel, Why Stuff Matters, addresses a small community’s obsession with material possessions, this is a relevant question. Also, fires do occasionally sweep through this portion of Texas, so the possibility of this scenario coming true is a literal concern as well as a figurative one.
The first thing I’d grab would be my laptop, which goes with me every time I spend a night away from home. Over this one item, I’ll admit to obsession. I write every morning. It is invariably what I do. Even if I were evacuated to some stale hotel while my home burned down, I’d write.
The next thing I’d take with me is woefully unoriginal. I’d take the photo albums. Not that I ever spend time browsing through them, but as a family we’ve had adventures. I think our sons would want me to rescue pictures of them as children riding camels, hiking through the Scottish highlands, scrambling around the ruins of Petra, or strolling through the tulips at Keukenhof.
Lastly, I’d dump the little dishes that hold my jewelry into my leather jewelry box that’s meant for traveling. Necklaces, earrings, rings—the usual stuff, but it’s nice stuff and I wouldn’t want to lose it.
Now keep in mind that for us, a fire might become a reality. We live amongst a lot of splintery cedar trees and undergrowth, and when there’s been no rain for a couple of months, the area becomes frighteningly dry. But there would be warning. An evacuation notice would be given; we’d have ample time to gather some clothes, pack up, and get out.
It’s not like my husband and I haven’t discussed the likelihood and made a plan. The first thing in the truck will be the laptop. Then, while I gather the photo albums and jewelry, David would be freeing the art from the walls. We’ve collected some nice oils and batiks over the years, and each piece holds a memory—where we got it, how we haggled to get the price down, the endless discussion of where we’d hang it. In many cases, we know the artist.
After all this stuff is in the truck, we’d walk through and see what else we could save—probably a few small pieces of furniture. Together, we’d lift and carry the rosewood chest that reigns from the end of the hallway, purchased in Sorrento. And another chest; we bought it in Vietnam when we lived in Singapore and ended up paying the price again in duty to get it into the country. Live and learn. We’d slide both of these chests into the bed of the truck.
And that’s it. That’s all the truck will hold. 
While I’ve written about the items I hold most dear, I’m also aware that it’s just stuff. However, having said that, a few months ago David and I loaded up the truck and went on a road trip. Four hours into it, we stopped for lunch. I walked around the back of the truck and saw that we’d driven that whole way with the tailgate open. Our luggage and David’s golf clubs were still there, but we lost a box of items that I’d put in at the last minute. The box held two new beach towels, laundry detergent, sunscreen, a bottle of Grey Goose, and two bottles of a really nice Malbec. I didn’t spare a thought about how this box, falling on the highway, could have caused an accident. I was upset over the loss of the stuff. I felt befuddled and incomplete until every one of those items had been replaced. It seems I have more in common with the acquisitive folk in Why Stuff Matters than I thought.

Jen Waldo lived in seven countries over a thirty-year period and has now settled, along with her husband, in Marble Falls, Texas. She first started writing over twenty years ago when, while living in Cairo, she had difficulty locating reading material and realized she’d have to make her own fun. She has since earned an MFA and written a number of novels. Her work has been published in The European and was shortlisted in a competition by Traveler magazine. Old Buildings in North Texas and Why Stuff Matters have been published in the UK by Arcadia Books. Jen’s fiction is set in Northwest Texas and she’s grateful to her hometown of Amarillo for providing colorful characters and a background of relentless whistling wind. 



Guest Post
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Author Interview
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Monday, December 9, 2019

Christmas in Little Penhaven


Have yourself a little Cornish Christmas

Wannabe author Jane Solomon is expecting an uneventful Christmas in her Cornish village of Little Penhaven.
But then super fit American gym owner Hal Muir comes to town, and suddenly the holiday season looks set to be far more interesting. Hal is keen on embracing every British tradition on offer, from mince pies to Christmas pub quizzes – and perhaps some festive romance too



Christmas in Little PenhavenChristmas in Little Penhaven by Angela Britnell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Christmas in Little Penhaven by Angela Britnell is a 2019 Choc Lit publication.

Both Poignant and Festive- A real holiday treat!!

I Absolutely loved “One Summer in Little Penhaven”, so of course, I was very excited to read this follow up Christmas novella!!

A shocking event has left Hal Muir feeling unsure of everything in his life. He sells his part of a lucrative and mega-popular gym, and to avoid constant hovering from his family, decides a change of scenery is in order.

Claiming he’s now an aspiring author, looking for a quiet place to concentrate on his writing, Hal calls on his cousin Sam, who lives in the small Cornish village of Little Penhaven with her husband, Caden, asking if he can come for a visit.

Upon arrival, Hal meets Jane Solomon, who really is an aspiring author. As he finds himself caught up in all the holiday preparations in the village, he learns of the sacrifices Jane has made for her family and begins to realize he must put his own demons to rest before he can move forward with his life in a meaningful way. For starters, he is going to have to tell Jane his most painful secrets.

Meanwhile, Jane is coping with an unwanted suitor and her troubled brother, while falling hopelessly in love with Hal, despite knowing his stay in Little Penhaven will soon come to an end.

The beauty of the story is in seeing two people from completely different backgrounds, with virtually nothing in common, help each other come to terms with their personal problems, and bring out parts of themselves they had buried underneath their burdens.

Britnell’s stories have real depth, as the characters grapple with genuine problems, while growing into stronger and better people as the story progresses. The holiday atmosphere and British traditions, adds that special touch to this wonderful romance. I must now give into my extreme curiosity and try a mincemeat pie!!

Overall, this a touching novella, packed with emotion and holiday passion!






Angela grew up in Cornwall and returns frequently from her new home in Nashville, Tennessee to visit family and friends, drink tea and eat far too many Cornish pasties! 

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, the Romance Writers of America and the Music City Romance Writers. 

If you'd like to find out more of what Angela gets up to (warning this may include references to wine, chocolate and the hunky Aidan Turner) check out:

        OR FOLLOW HER ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER AT:                                                       www.facebook.com/angelabritnell