New York Times Bestselling Author

Posts made in July, 2017

Book Review: Fiction

Posted by on Jul 26, 2017 |

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman



This prequel to the novel Practical Magic is about three siblings, Franny, Jet (Bridget), and Vincent, who, when the novel begins, are three teenagers ostracized by their peers and the neighbors because they are witches. Worse to them, they battle under the constraints of a curse started hundreds of years earlier.

What I found fun about this book are all the life adages shared, often by their Aunt Isabelle. Also, viewing history through the lens of a witch. For example, the drop in sales of a certain herb once the birth control pill is legalized. The Stonewall Riots, the Viet Nam war, etc.

I did not love the writing style, though. I felt like parts of it were being reported to me instead of feeling like I was seeing things from the various character’s point of view. Also, it took me a while to feel like the story was really starting.

But who doesn’t want to believe in a little magic sometimes? This is available for sale on October 10.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy


Fiction > Southern Fiction

This is the second time I’ve listened to the audiobook of this wonderful novel. The narrator does a phenomenal job. The first time I listened to it was several years ago when I was commuting to work, and there is one scene that had me bawling my guts out, which is super embarrassing when you’re in heavy traffic on the highway.
In the story, poet Savanah has attempted suicide again. While she is in a mental hospital recovering, her brother Tom comes up to New York from South Carolina to check on her. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Lowenstein, wants to talk to him to find out about Savanah’s past to see if that can help her help Savanah. So Tom recounts their difficult childhood as the children of an abusive shrimper father and a beauty queen mother who was discontent with motherhood and their poverty. There are several scenes that recount the differences between the poor and the privileged.
Through this narrative device of Tom meeting several times with Dr. Lowenstein, Tom tells sprawling stories of their youth. Sometimes it’s almost like you’re reading interconnected short stories, but the writing is masterful, so you don’t mind going on what can seem like tangents. Plus, there is humor, and the siblings (there is also another brother, who is dead by the time we start the novel, but we learn about him as Tom recounts their upbringing) are likeable, complex characters. All the characters are well drawn. The South and history are also characters in the book.
Tom himself is in a crumbling marriage, and he screwed up his career as a high school football coach.
I love this novel and highly recommend it. It’s my favorite Pat Conroy book.
Read More

Book Review: Suspense

Posted by on Jul 15, 2017 |

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf


Suspense > Mystery

“It wasn’t just losing my hearing, it was the loneliness that came with the it, the sense of always being separate, apart from everyone I loved. What I wouldn’t do to go back in time and make different choices.”

Once a nurse, Amelia Winn is left deaf after a car plows into her and a domestic violence victim she’s escorting to the car. She turns to alcohol and estranges herself from her husband, her stepdaughter, and her friends, losing her job as well.

Now trying to put her shattered life back together, she’s out paddle boarding with her service dog when she finds the dead body of a nurse she’s once worked with.

I liked reading from a deaf person’s perspective. Also, Amelia is always out jogging or kayaking, but she does it to relieve stress and enjoy nature. We’re not constantly being told how strong and attractive she is, which I appreciated.

Unfortunately, I figured out the killer early on, although not all the specifics, and it didn’t take away from how intense the tension was once Amelia figures it out and realizes she’s in fatal danger.


Read More

Book Review: Legal Thriller

Posted by on Jul 15, 2017 |

Undue Influence by Steve Martini


Legal Thriller

I enjoyed this legal suspense novel. It’s the first book I’ve read featuring Defense Attorney Paul Madriani, but I think it stood fine on its own, without having read the first two books in the series.

There were plenty of twists and turns as Madriani attempts to prove that his former sister-in-law did not murder the new wife of her ex-husband. When Madriani’s wife was dying, she made him promise that he would look out for Laurel, but Laurel’s making it difficult for him because she refuses to tell him the whole story. (A plot device for the reader’s benefit.)

As he and his partner chase down witnesses who can exonerate his client, its evident that his life may be at risk as well. A couple things I guessed and a couple things seemed a little convenient, but mostly I thought the plot twists were fun. That feeling of: Uh-oh, how’s he going to recover from that blistering attack from the prosecution?

There were some odd storytelling choices and I hate when an author switches from sometimes calling a person by his/her first name and other times refers to the person by his/her last name, but mostly, the writing was entertaining and well done.


Read More

Book Review: Women’s Fiction

Posted by on Jul 12, 2017 |

Girls Who Travel by Nicole Trilivas


Women’s Fiction

This is exactly the kind of novel I love and the world needs more of: well-written, funny, poignant.

Twenty-three-year-old Kika spent a year traveling the world and falling in love with an Irish man who loves travel as much as she does. After a year back in New York City working at an unfulfilling job that doesn’t cover all her expenses, she’s itching to get back on the road.

I loved the foul-mouthed Kika and her adventures moving forward in life and in love. The supporting characters of the posh of America and Britain, the Italian waiter, and the Irish scoundrel, all seemed believably fleshed out.

Highly recommend.


Read More

Book Review: Humor

Posted by on Jul 10, 2017 |

Handcuffs, Truncheons and a Polyester Thong by Gina Kirkham



This is sort of a novel. It’s written episodically, with interconnected chapters. If it were a blog or a series of teleplays for a sitcom, it would work, but its attempts to be a novel, or at least novel-like, don’t.

There are definitely some laughs throughout. The first chapter is strong–hilarious. The story of single mother, thirty-something Mavis Upton has potential. Mavis is likeable in that she doesn’t spend her days fretting about her ex-husband or how she’ll get a man. Her concerns are her mom and seven-year-old daughter, Ella, and being the best police officer she can be.

Unfortunately, there are a LOT of snot/booger/fart jokes. More significantly, this book desperately needed a professional editor. Had the author hired one, the editor would have cut out every single use of the word “rather.” The word is abused horribly. The phrase “rather fetching” comes up dozens of times. On one page, there might be “rather fetching,” “rather plump,” and “rather attractive.”

The editor would have also deleted cliches like “avoided like the plague” and “eyes as big as saucers.” This author can write light humor–she has some fun turns of phrase like “Ella gave him a glacial stare that would have frozen the testicles off a polar bear.”

The other problem is that in most cases, you can figure out the gist of the misunderstanding or dilemma Mavis will find herself in at the beginning of the chapter–you can see the joke coming, which makes it not as funny because part of humor is the unexpected. I think Kirkham would have been better served to focus on the story rather than trying to be hilarious. Then, she’d have a better book that sometimes had some humor in it.

Read More