Saturday, January 31, 2015

Review: Power and Passion by Kay Tejani

A must read for all ages! 

Sara, an events coordinator, is working in the dazzling city of Dubai for the Middle East section of an international organization. When her fiancé, an executive, suggests she runs a grand event, she realizes she lacks the experience to launch such a daunting project. Through a series of events, she gains the help of a diverse group of friends, colleagues and family to pull- off the event of a lifetime. Together they make a powerful team with a passion to make a difference. Then a devastating lie changes the course of Sara's life and jeopardizes everything she has worked so hard to achieve. Determined to succeed, Sara finds the strength and confidence she needs to take on a world of men, money, power, and opulence. 

Passion, adventure, romance, money and making a difference are blended in this story which gives unique insights into diversity and empowerment.

Received for review.

This clearly feminist fiction was a decided disappointment not helped along by the fact that it was very slow moving in parts with lots and lots of extraneous details.

The story was okay but there was an obvious feminist bent to it that the author felt compelled to keep hitting you over the head with.  The author's attempts to make everything politically correct actually took away from the story and made is less enjoyable as it progressed.  Yes, the characters are women with goals but do you have to mention it at least once a page?  

The treatment of the men in the novel was actually quite unfortunate as well.  At one point Sara is thrilled by a man's manners when he asks to make a call on his cellphone while they are meeting.  So, according to the author men have no common decency in general and when that one gem does ask you if he can make a call you're supposed to fall all over him in thankfulness that he actually has common decency.  It's really ridiculous.

Overall I was not impressed by this.  The author's political and social views completely took over what could have been an interesting story and made reading it uncomfortable at best.  I really cannot recommend this at all.

★★☆☆☆ = Just Okay

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Review: The Paleo Chef by Pete Evans

Acclaimed international chef and television personality Pete Evans takes a whole new approach to making gluten-free, grain-free, and dairy-free meals that are worthy of a restaurant but effortless to prepare.

More and more people are discovering the health benefits of the Paleo lifestyle by cutting out processed, sugary foods and instead eating quality proteins and fats, fresh vegetables and fruits, and nuts and seeds. However, following this way of eating doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor or spending a long time in the kitchen. In The Paleo Chef, Evans provides more than 100 recipes for gorgeous food that is satisfying, distinctive, and good for you, including Kale Hummus, Vietnamese Chicken Wings, and Key Lime Tart.

Each and every one of Evans’s innovative recipes pops with flavor and is brought to life with stunning, full-color photography. Living—and eating—the Paleo lifestyle has never been so effortless and so delicious.

Received for review.

I have to admit that I don’t follow the Paleo lifestyle for various reasons, but I’m never one to pass up a cookbook so I had to read this.

What I enjoyed most about this was that it was well organized and visually appealing. Each recipe has its own page and accompanying photograph of what it is supposed to look like which is incredibly helpful for home cooks.

The recipes themselves were interesting, and I really would like to try the Chocolate Brownies, but many of them called for hard to find ingredients. Sure, if you live in a big city they may be easier to find, but if you don’t you’d probably need to order them online.

Overall, if you enjoy the Paleo lifestyle you will probably find this incredibly informative and will enjoy the recipes but if you don’t do Paleo you may find it a bit overwhelming.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

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Featured Book: Saphora Volume 1: Retention by Jaz Johnson

About the book:

Launched from an escape pod by the hands of her desperate mother and queen of the Kiran kingdom in attempts to save her only child from an approaching war, our protagonist Saphora finds herself on Earth, plagued with amnesia.

Taken in by an ordinary woman, Saphora attends therapy in attempts to regain her memory. All while constantly discovering new abilities. But she wasn’t the only one to visit Earth. 

A man has been sent from the enemy lines to assassinate Saphora while she is vulnerable. But handicapped as she is, she fights back, learning that she is the only thing standing in the way of the kingdom falling.

With the costs mounting, can Saphora find a way to save the planet that fostered her and her kingdom?

About the author:

Jaz Johnson was born in the land of make believe. Mothered by fantasy, and fathered by science fiction. And now, she's bringing them to you, with everything you love, and love to hate.

Visit her at

Review: The Art of Not Having It All by Melissa Kite

Melissa Kite’s hilarious and honest memoir draws readers in to her exploits in not having it all in the world of leaning in—complete with dating misadventures, heroic plumbers, and clinically obese fish. 

Does a great weekend for you mean scrubbing all the grouting in your bathroom with a toothbrush? Do you fantasize about the handyman who in three days brought you more happiness than your useless ex-boyfriend did in three years? Do you write to-do lists that need paginating, and include items such as "re-mortgage house, get pregnant, climb Kilimanjaro"? 

Welcome to Melissa Kite's life and her uproarious, no-holds-barred memoir, The Art of Not Having it All, about the adventures of not having it all as a single lady in your prime. For a long time, Melissa had no idea there was anyone else out there remotely like her. Nearly every other woman she knew seemed to be valiantly juggling work and family life. By contrast, Melissa felt as though, in the fluttering mass of yellow Post-it notes on her fridge there was one that read, “Don’t forget to get married and have kids,” which had got covered in shopping lists, dry-cleaner receipts and trash collection schedules. 

If not having it all (the white picket fence, the kid, the job, the Mr. Right who helps you free your chubby angelfish who has wedged himself into a plastic log) means having just enough for you, then get ready to fall in love with your new best friend...

Received for review.

When I saw this compared to Bridget Jones I couldn't help myself and leapt for this since I did love Bridget (well, except for the movies - but I did love Hugh Grant and Colin Firth).  Well, this was similar but surprisingly more enjoyable.  

The author is frank and funny and presents the stories about her life and dating mishaps in an incredibly nice way so you feel like you're sitting chatting with a close fried.

The writing is brilliant and the author is genuinely likable, both of which combine to make for a very pleasant read.  This is the perfect read for fans of Bridget Jones who are sure to appreciate the humor and truthfulness.  

★★★★ = Really Liked It

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Review: Tani's Search for the Heart by Keith Egawa and Chenoa Egawa

Heartbroken over the loss of her beloved grandmother, Tani, a Native American girl of the Coast Salish people, remembers her grandmother's parting advice to journey into the forest to search for "the heart of all things." Not knowing if she will recognize the answers she seeks, but certain she must abide by her grandmother's wishes, Tani embarks on a quest through the wilds of the Pacific Northwest; unexpectedly finding her way into a world of Coast Salish legend, tradition and self-discovery. 

Struggling with self-doubt, Tani is helped through the challenging terrain of her homeland by the wise animals of the forest, such as Bear, Otter and Salamander, the guiding spirit of her departed grandmother, and the magical Stick Indian, whose presence on the shadowy fringes once inspired fear in Tani. Through each new encounter with the animals along the way, Tani moves closer to reaching her goal and revealing the answers she has always carried within. 

With each step toward discovering her special place and purpose in the world, Tani's courage grows in the face of uncertainty; awakening her unique gifts and the collective wisdom shared by her people through generations. As her journey finds her standing on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, Tani comes to learn that the heart of all things can be found in the most unexpected places, from her front doorstep to the distant ocean, with very little space between the questions and the answers. 

Told in the style of traditional Native American storytelling, this richly illustrated novella shares a subtle environmental conservation message with the reader while exploring the connections between self-confidence, self-reliance and the strength that is found in trusting friendships. Tani's Search for the Heart reminds us of our valuable connection to our ancestors and the natural world; fostering a growing respect for the people, lands and waters that sustain us all.

Received for review.

Very rarely do I come across a book that truly touches my heart and this was one of them.  Although a children's story it is a lovely read for adults as well.  The tale of Tani and her journey is so beautifully told and you can just feel the love and care that has gone into every page that it is a true pleasure to read.

I also loved the illustrations.  They are wonderfully done and really help the reader to visualize the characters Tani encounters along her journey.  Although I do have to admit that I may be looking over my shoulder for a creepy Stick Indian the next time I'm in the woods!

Overall this was a delightful, touching read that I highly recommend.  It would also make a lovely gift for a young reader.

★★★★★ = Loved It

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: If You Needed Me by Lee Lowry

When Jenny Longworth offers aid and comfort to David Perry, a long-ago college sweetheart who recently lost his French wife, Sandrine, to cancer, their old passion is revived, creating a gauntlet of social and moral conflicts. 

Against cautionary counsel, Jenny disrupts her life in Boston and moves to Europe to be at David's side as he attempts to put his world back together. While some of David's friends welcome Jenny, others view her with hostility. Struggling with their own grief, David's children, Marc and Delphine, react to Jenny's presence with confusion and ambivalence, leaving David and Jenny in a quandary as to the future of their relationship.

A compelling story of loss, loyalty, and love spanning two continents and four decades, If You Needed Me reminds us that passion is not the sole province of the young and that love is not for the faint of heart. Author Lee Lowry weaves a tale that confronts the challenges of late love and second marriage with honesty and accuracy, and the characters provide a rich, multi-layered examination of the nature of love with all its pain and beauty.

Received for review.

This sounded interesting, but sadly fell a bit short of expectations.  Neither Jenny nor David did much for me.  David struck me as a complete ass for hooking up with Jenny so shortly after his "beloved" wife's death.  And Jenny was ridiculous and selfish to expect David's children to welcome this interloper with open arms right after their mother died.  I was not impressed with either character's behavior.  The author seems to believe that any sort of inconsiderate behavior is acceptable as long as the characters are in love.  So, if you're in love then you hurt whoever you want because you're more important than anyone else.  It's ridiculous.

Disregarding my intense dislike for the characters this was well written.  I was not overly fond of the dozens of e-mails sprinkled throughout the text.  The disrupted the flow and were more distracting than anything.

Overall, between the disagreeable characters and and the lack of flow this was not a particularly enjoyable read for me.  It was interesting but not enjoyable.  However if you enjoy reading about selfish people who act like spoiled children then you may find this entertaining.

★★☆☆☆ = Just Okay

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: The Secret Place by Tana French

The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption saysI KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. “The Secret Place,” a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why. 

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined. 

The Secret Place is a powerful, haunting exploration of friendship and loyalty, and a gripping addition to the Dublin Murder Squad series.

Received for review.

I have yet to read a book by Tana French that is not thoroughly satisfying and this was no exception.  The combination of excellent writing and a fascinating story combine to make the four hundred plus pages simply fly by.  As each new clue was revealed and the culprit's identity discovered I could not turn the pages fast enough and I don't think I blinked for pages on end.  The sheer desire to know what really happened and why kept me awake long past my bedtime several nights on end.

The characters are beautifully written, if not particularly likable.  Stephen and Antoinette make such a unique team with so many layers to their partnership that it's a joy to read about them.  The author did a brilliant job of really bringing you inside the world of St. Kilda's and into the heads of the girls who spend their lives there as well.

If you have yet to read a Tana French novel you are truly missing out on a wonderful talent and this would be an excellent place to start.  If you are already a fan you will be delighted by this latest addition.  I definitely recommend this.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review: The Resurrection of Tess Blessing by Lesley Kagen

After she's diagnosed with breast cancer, forty-nine-year old Tess sets forth on a mission to complete her TO-DO List before, what she's sure is, her impending death. She needs to make peace with her estranged sister, Birdie, scatter her mother's long-kept ashes, rescue her daughter, Haddie, from the grip of an eating disorder, guide her teenage son, Henry, through a bumpy adolescence, and reignite the spark in her almost thirty-year marriage to her husband, Will.

Tess is aided on her quest by narrator, Grace, who lends the story its most brilliant elements: subtle magical realism and deep psychological complexity. Is Grace an imaginary friend, guardian angel, or a part of Tess that knows better than she? The Resurrection of Tess Blessing is by turns poignant, gritty, spiritually uplifting, and hilarious as hell.

Lesley Kagen has created an unforgettable, redemptive story about a middle-aged woman with the odds stacked against her, who discovers that in the end, love really does conquer all.

Received for review.

I was sure that this would be a depressing read since it's supposed to be about a woman dying of cancer but it actually turned out to be annoying and quite disappointing.

Tess had a horrible childhood and she whines about it at every available moment whether it is relevant to the current situation or not.  The woman is nearly fifty and still complaining about her mother's actions when she was twelve.  I frankly just wanted to smack her half the time.

Continuing on the "poor me" theme is her list of things to do before she dies.  None of them actually involve her life and evolution as a person, but are about changing other people.  She wants to make her husband love her again, "save" her daughter from an eating disorder, blah, blah, blah.  Even her list has a whiny victim mentality.  Her list should include minding her own damn business and not being such a meddling bitch.  Unfortunately, it doesn't.

This was not inspiring or endearing or even enjoyable.  Every time I picked it up it irritated me and I had to put it down again.

If you enjoy reading about whiny, annoying women who revel in their supposed victimhood then this is an excellent read for you.  Otherwise, I'd recommend giving it a wide berth.  It's just not worth it.

★★☆☆☆ = Just Okay

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Giveaway: Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

"When Love cast me out, it was Cruelty who took pity on me."

In a kingdom born of angels, Phedre is an anguisette, cursed or blessed to find pleasure in pain. Sold to the Court of Night Blooming Flowers, her fate as a beautiful but anonymous courtesan was sealed. Her bond was purchased by the nobleman Anafiel Delauney, who recognized the scarlet mote in Phedre's eye as the rare mark of one touched by a powerful deity. Under Delauney's patronage she is trained in history, politics, language, and the use of body and mind as the ultimate weapon of subterfuge in a dangerous game of courtly intrigue.

Guided into the bed chambers of Terre D'Ange's most influential nobles, Phedre uncovers a conspiracy against the throne so vast that even her teacher cannot see the whole of it. As her nation is besieged by invading hordes from the north, the most unthinkable threat to her beloved home comes from traitors within. Betrayed and blindsided by her own longings, only Phedre and her trusted bodyguard Josselin are left to cross borders and warring armies in a race to stop the final blow from falling.

Enter a lush world of pleasure houses, ambitious warlords, scheming courtiers, and the harsh justice of blessed deities through the eyes of a heroine like no other. Sprawling and darkly sensual, Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart is the start of a truly original fantasy series.

Thanks to the publisher I have three copies to give away!

US/Canada only. No PO Boxes.
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Review: Changing the Conversation by Dana Caspersen

The seventeen key principles for transforming conflict—in a beautiful package from the creator of The 48 Laws of Power 

From Joost Elffers, the packaging genius behind the huge New York Times bestsellers The 48 Laws of Power, The 33 Strategies of War, and The Art of Seduction, comes this invaluable manual that teaches seventeen fundamentals for turning any conflict into an opportunity for growth. Beautifully packaged in a graphic, two-color format, Changing the Conversation is written by conflict expert Dana Caspersen and is filled with real-life examples, spot-on advice, and easy-to-grasp exercises that demonstrate transformative ways to break out of destructive patterns, to create useful dialogue in difficult situations, and to find long-lasting solutions for conflicts. Sure to claim its place next to Getting to Yes, this guide will be a go-to resource for resolving conflicts.

Received for review.

I was frankly expecting this to be a boring, dry book that would put me to sleep immediately but to my very pleasant surprise it turned out to be a bright, dare I say cheerful, and visually stunning book that was a very good read!

I have to say that while all the strategies are useful and should certainly be considered and applied, my favorite was "If you are making it worse, stop.".  Everyone should adopt this as a regular part of daily life no matter what the issue is.

The most powerful words in the book were the last ones of the entire book "Conflict is a place of possibility.  Change the conversation.".  it's an important reminder to us all.

Overall, this was an enjoyable and educational read and I certainly recommend it.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: Jack Templar Monster Hunter by Jeff Gunhus

Orphan Jack Templar has no memory of his parents and only the smallest details from his Aunt Sophie about how they died. The day before Jack's fourteenth birthday, things start to change for him. At first it's great: A sudden new strength helps him defend his nose-picking friend "T-Rex" from the school bully, and even his crush, Cindy Adams, takes notice. But then a mysterious girl named Eva arrives and tells him two facts that will change his life forever. First, that he's the descendent of a long line of monster hunters and he's destined to be in the family business. Second, that there's a truce between man and monster that children are off-limits...until their fourteenth birthday! Jack has only one day before hundreds of monsters will descend on his little town of Sunnyvale and try to kill him. 

As if that weren't enough, things get even more complicated when Jack discovers that the Lord of the Creach (as the monsters are collectively known) holds a personal grudge against him and will do anything to see that Jack has a slow and painful death. To stay alive and save his friends, Jack will have to battle werewolves, vampires, harpies, trolls, zombies and more. But perhaps the most dangerous thing he must face is the truth about his past. Why do the other hunters call him the last Templar? Why do they whisper that he may be the "One?" Why do the monsters want him dead so badly? Even as these questions plague him, he quickly discovers survival is his new full-time job and that in the world of monster hunters, nothing is really what it seems. 

The added fun of Jack Templar is that readers are warned that reading the book will attract the attention of monsters in their area. They are told to read on only if they are ready to enter the dangerous world of monsters and hunters as an active participant. After all, the best way to get a young reader to do warn them not to do it! 

For Middle Grade readers and higher Fans of: Percy Jackson, Harry Potter and The Goosebumps Series by R.L. Stine

Received for review.

Continuing the tradition of Percy Jackson is this entertaining read about Jack Templar.  This isn’t a happy, peaceful story, but rather a darker, grittier one which makes for quite engrossing reading.  Jack’s life is not easy and his story has elements of Grimm in it in that he is descended from a long line of monster hunters.

I was drawn into the story from the very first page.  It’s an entertaining, fast paced read full of adventure and friendship with an excellent message for younger readers.

I certainly recommend this and look forward to the next volume in what I hope is a long series.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Library Loot: January

I haven't done a Library Loot post in ages so I figured I'd recap some of my latest borrows!

#1 New York Times bestselling maestro of macabre suspense Dean Koontz plunges everyone’s favorite spirit-spotting fry cook into his most frightening encounter yet, in the thrill-packed third Odd Thomas graphic novel.

Transforming a ramshackle mansion into a dream house has become a nightmare for onetime Hollywood producer Nedra Nolan, whose newly purchased fixer-upper in Pico Mundo has sent a string of spooked contractors scurrying off the job, claiming the place is haunted. Who’s she gonna call? Her friend recommends Odd Thomas, the mild-mannered young man with a gift for communing with ghosts who won’t rest in peace. With his soul mate and sidekick, Stormy Llewellyn, in tow, Odd agrees to investigate the eerie incidents. But his spirit-seeking style is cramped by the obnoxious TV ghost hunters Nedra hires to flush out the troublesome phantoms with elaborate gadgets.

As night falls and a raging storm traps them all in the mazelike manse, Odd tries in vain to scare up some lost souls. But instead, something more terrifying than any apparition—something with flesh, blood, and teeth—makes its sinister presence known. And with nowhere to hide, Odd and his fellow hunters suddenly become the prey.


Five young girls are thrust into the Deerfield Ballet's holiday production of The Nutcracker with only one thing in common: they don't want to be there! 

McGee's busy with her ice hockey team. 

Zan would rather be reading a good mystery. 

Mary Bubnik is a total klutz. 

Gwen prefers Twinkies to plies. 

And Rocky is just too cool for pink tights. 

How could their mothers possibly think ballet is good for them? 

Cast as the Rats and labeled losers by the more serious ballerinas (the Bunheads), in desperation the girls turn to each other, especially after the Bunheads lock the Rats out of the theater. 

Can they triumph over all the odds and pull off a real ballet in front of an expectant audience?


Gloria French was a jolly widow with dyed blonde hair, a raucous laugh, and rosy cheeks. When she first moved from London to the charming Cotswold hills, she was heartily welcomed. She seemed a do-gooder par excellence, raising funds for the church and caring for the elderly. But she had a nasty habit of borrowing things and not giving them back. They're just small things -- a teapot here, a set of silverware there -- so it's quite the shock when she is found dead, murdered with a poisoned bottle of elderberry wine.

Afraid the murder will be a blight on the small town, Parish councilor Jerry Tarrant hires private detective Agatha Raisin to track down the murderer, but the village is secretive, and the residents resent Agatha's investigation. Of course, that doesn't stop the ever-persistent Agatha from investigating and sticking her nose where no one wants it -- especially as the suspect list grows. And, as if it isn't enough that Agatha's ex has reentered the picture, the murderer is now targeting Agatha!


And, of course, I put myself on the waiting list for Neil Gaiman's latest book:

Multiple award winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman returns to dazzle, captivate, haunt, and entertain with this third collection of short fiction following Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things—which includes a never-before published American Gods story, “Black Dog,” written exclusively for this volume.

In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction—stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013—as well “Black Dog,” a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story—a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane—Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year—stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness.

A sophisticated writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements, Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day.

Review: The Hidden Ones by Nancy Madore


As CEO of her own thriving company, Nadia Adeire is flush with success, but a secret society dating back to the Essenes believes her to be one of the ancient djinn-the notorious demoness of Hebrew legend: Lilith. What's more, they have reason to believe that she's plotting a catastrophic attack on the world. 

Nadia is snatched from her perfect life and caught in a maze between a present day disaster and the ancient legends of the djinn. Her only way out is to retrace the steps of her deceased grandmother, Helene. The deeper Nadia delves into the past, the harder it will be for her to emerge unscathed. But it is the only way to stop the impending disaster that was set in motion five thousand years ago. 

ABOUT THE LEGACY OF THE WATCHERS SERIES: Thousands of years ago, something happened that changed the course of human history. Testimonies abound of these otherworldly visitors they called angels, and their hybrid offspring, the Nephilim giants. These mighty gods quickly rose to power, and the ancient world came alive with industry and culture. The species that existed for hundreds of thousands of years as hunters and gatherers suddenly began settling in one place, cultivating the land and governing themselves. They created irrigation, the wheel and algebra. Yet amidst all this progress, an undercurrent of terror was spreading like wildfire, carrying whispers of djinn, daeva and demons... 

The Watchers were supposed to do just that; watch. But humankind proved far too tempting and they fell to earth, taking wives and even producing children. But their children grew into unruly giants whose souls did not ascend like human souls when they died, but remained here on earth. These errant souls haunt the earth to this day. They are the djinn, the hidden ones, also known as daeva and demon. They have one purpose-to live. But to live they need bodies. 

This chain of events has reached the point where the djinn need more than just our bodies to survive. They must take back control of the earth, just as in the days when they ruled as gods. 

Book 2: Power of Gods 
Book 3: Masquerade 
Book 4: The Fourth Trumpet (available in the spring of 2015)

Received for review.

I'm not normally a big fan of religion based fantasy novels so this was not a favorite for me.  It drew on the legend of Lilith and the Nephilim, as well as other religion based characters, and they were used in such a way that their stories contained rather overpowering religious overtones.  

The stories of the three women were unnecessarily tangled and decidedly difficult to navigate since the author felt the need to keep switching from one to another (and, as such, one time period to another) and you really lost the flow of each narrative.  

The women themselves felt rather flat and blah.  None of them were particularly likable and their stories were so confusing and intertwined that you lost any sort of connection that you may have formed with them which detracted significantly from any reading enjoyment.

This was supposed to be science fiction but it's really religious fantasy which is not attractive to most readers, whether believers or non-believers.  Overall, between the complicated story and the bland characters I really cannot recommend this.

★★☆☆☆ = Just Okay

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Review: The Sea Garden by Marcia Willett

Marcia Willett delivers another powerful and touching tale of the importance of friendship and family in The Sea Garden. 

Jess Penhaligon is on her way to Devon to receive an award for her botanical painting. Hosting her will be Kate, who gladly welcomes her into her home. Jess's own family fell apart several years ago, so she is grateful for Kate's friendliness —and her close unit of extended family and friends, who embrace Jess just as warmly. 

As this group begins reminiscing on their pasts and sharing their stories with Jess, it becomes apparent that her family history may be linked with theirs. Long-buried secrets from past generations begin to be uncovered —but at what cost have they been kept hidden?

Received for review.

Marcia Willett's novels always leave me with a warm, fuzzy feeling at the end despite their rather complicated and emotional storylines.  She has a wonderful ability to weave everything together so it comes out just as you'd hoped it would and you close the book feeling satisfied.  This latest novel is no different.

This is a lovely story of family and friends set in lovely surroundings.  The author transports you to their world and makes you truly feel as if you know these characters and, more importantly, want to know and like them.

Overall, the story is light yet touching and would make for a lovely beach read.  I certainly recommend it.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: If Hemingway Wrote Javascript by Angus Croll

What if William Shakespeare were asked to generate the Fibonacci series or Jane Austen had to write a factorial program? In If Hemingway Wrote JavaScript, author Angus Croll imagines short JavaScript programs as written by famous wordsmiths. The result is a peculiar and charming combination of prose, poetry, and programming. 

The best authors are those who obsess about language—and the same goes for JavaScript developers. To master either craft, you must experiment with language to develop your own style, your own idioms, and your own expressions. To that end, If Hemingway Wrote JavaScript playfully bridges the worlds of programming and literature for the literary geek in all of us. 

Featuring original artwork by Miran Lipovaca.

Received for review.

Admittedly I am no expert in JavaScript, but with a title this fun I simply had to try this book and I was quite pleasantly surprised.

While the actual JavaScript bits were a bit over my head the accompanying profile of each author was incredibly enjoyable.  I particularly liked the sections on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Douglas Adams since they are two of my favorite authors.  

This is best read one or two sections at a time or it can become overwhelming for amateurs and thus lose some of its enjoyment.  When rationed, like an expensive box of chocolates, it provides a surprisingly enjoyable experience and for those who love to read.

Of course this is best for those with knowledge of JavaScripts it can be fully enjoyed but even those readers with a passing acquaintance with it should find this a light, fun experience.  I certainly recommend this.  

★★★★ = Really Liked It

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Featured Book: Purified by Elizabeth S. Sullivan

About the book:

When a mutilated body of an African American girl is found in a park sandbox, the media shows no interest. Instead, their attention is riveted on the disappearance of Olivia Safra, a college student and only child of the powerful and dangerous Richard Safra. Suspended ADA, Beck Oldman, demoted to a rookie PI is assigned her first cases to find a missing teenager and Olivia Safra.

Leads connect the murders to the Safra case. The investigation into her client's private life reveals a dark side in the relationship between a father and daughter and exacts his wrath against Beck. More girls are found murdered, putting Beck in a race to stop a serial killer and stop her own client from destroying her

PURIFIED is a thrilling story that explores many dark subjects, including what it does to those who have to live in the world of killers in order to stop them.

About the author:

After Elizabeth S. Sullivan earned her JD while working full-time teaching English she decided to follow the advice she gave to students: follow your passion. She has written five screenplays, one short, and has worked as a script doctor. Elizabeth has won screenplay competitions and has been a semifinalist twice, in the prestigious Nicholl competition, which garnered Elizabeth a manager, LITTLE STUDIO FILMS in Beverly Hills. Her passions in life are books, films, the environment, and her family.

Review: Lost in London by Cindy Callaghan

A tween’s foreign exchange experience lands her in London luxury—and some hot water as well! Twelve-year-old Jordan isn’t unhappy, but she’s definitely bored. So when she gets the chance to take part in a London exchange program, she’s thrilled to ditch her small town in Delaware and see the world across the pond. Unfortunately, Jordan’s host sister in London, Caroline, isn’t exactly enthusiastic about entertaining an American girl. Despite the chilly welcome, Jordan finds herself loving the city and Caroline’s group of friends, who are much nicer than Caroline herself. And then a major misstep leaves Jordan and Caroline trapped together overnight—inside Daphne’s, the world’s largest department store. Given they have complete access to all the fancy shoes, designer dresses, and coolest makeup around, there are worse places to be stuck. But when the girls’ fun has not-so-fun consequences, Jordan’s wish for excitement abroad turns into a lot more than she ever bargained for...

Received for review.

From the moment I saw this cover I knew I would love this book and I did!  It was an absolutely adorable read for all ages.  Jordan was just such a sweet, normal girl and it was nice to read about her adventures in London.

Caroline, while not the nicest person in the world, was also not an out and out mean girl and, while rich, didn't flaunt her money or behave badly a la Gossip Girl.  

This was a light, fun, upbeat read and I highly recommend it.  I also look forward to the author's future releases!

★★★★ = Really Liked It

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Featured Book: Power of Gods by Nancy Madore

About the book:


As the Legacy of the Watchers continues, Nadia finds herself inextricably tied to the Raphaelians. Her former life--and everything she believed in--has been shattered, and she needs their help to pick up the pieces and start again.

But there are still unanswered questions, so Nadia is once again drawn into the mysterious underworld of the hidden ones. But now there may be even more at stake. Threats of Armageddon loom in the distance as they attempt to decipher a formula that may hold the key to unconscionable power. Their quest takes them back to the ancient world--this time to King Solomon and his legendary djinn. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, Lilith is already attempting to finish what Asmodeous started.

About the author:

Nancy Madore achieved enormous critical acclaim with her "ENCHANTED" erotic series by Harlequin, which includes ENCHANTED, ENCHANTED AGAIN and ENCHANTED DREAMS.

Madore is currently writing a historical / speculative fiction / mystery series entitled "LEGACY OF THE WATCHERS," which was inspired by her life-long interest in ancient history and mythology. So far, there are three installments in the series: THE HIDDEN ONES, POWER OF GODS and MASQUERADE. The fourth book in the series, entitled THE FOURTH TRUMPET, will be out in February of 2015.

THE ETHICS OF JUDGE NADEAU represents a diversion for Madore that was brought about by true life events. In her first work of non-fiction, Nancy Madore teams up with Lynnann Frydrych to relate a drama far stranger than any fiction she could have dreamed up. This true life account of sex and betrayal within the legal system is sure to shock, provoke and amuse.

You can read more about Nancy Madore and her books by visiting her website at

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Review: A Second Bite at the Apple by Dana Bate

From the acclaimed author of The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs comes a witty, honest novel, perfectly seasoned with both humor and heart, about daring to bite into the life you really want...

Sydney Strauss is obsessed with food. Not with eating it--though she does that too--but with writing about the wonders of the gastronomic world, from obscure fruit hybrids to organic farming techniques. Since food journalism jobs are more coveted than Cronuts®, Sydney pays her bills working for one of TV's biggest egomaniacs--until she's left scrambling for shifts at a local farmers' market.

Stacking muffins for the Wild Yeast Bakery isn't going to win her any James Beard awards. But soon Sydney is writing the market's weekly newsletter, and her quirky stories gain attention from a prominent food columnist. After years of putting her love life into deep freeze, she's even dating again. And then Sydney gets a shot at the story, one that could either make her career or burn it to a crisp--along with her relationship and her reputation...

Received for review.

I was actually quite surprised by this since I'm not normally big on the whole Chick Lit thing.  The characters were well formed and believable and the entire story had a nice pace to it.

I have to admit that I didn't like Sydney though.  At all.  She was, frankly, a bit of a bitch.  Her career was more important to her than her loved ones and she didn't care who else she hurt on her way up the ladder.  Her attempts are reparations were just too little too late in my mind.

Overall this was a good quality read and reminiscent of The Mindy Project - if Mindy had a Grinch sized heart.  If you enjoy reading about female characters with serious personality flaws then I definitely recommend this.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Review: The Slanted Door by Charles Phan

The long-awaited cookbook from The Slanted Door, James Beard award-winning chef Charles Phan’s beloved San Francisco Vietnamese restaurant.

Award-winning chef and restaurateur Charles Phan opened The Slanted Door in San Francisco in 1995, inspired by the food of his native Vietnam. 
Since then, The Slanted Door has grown into a world-class dining destination, and its accessible, modern take on classic Vietnamese dishes is beloved by diners, chefs, and critics alike. 

The Slanted Door is a love letter to the restaurant, its people, and its food. Featuring stories in addition to its most iconic recipes, The Slanted Door both celebrates a culinary institution and allows home cooks to recreate its excellence.

Received for review.

I’d frankly never heard of the author until I saw this book, but I simply could not pass up a beautiful cookbook so I snapped this up.

This is a gorgeous volume with beautifully photographed representations of most recipes. The recipes are easy to understand and, in most circumstances, reasonably easy to make for most home cooks. I haven’t had much access to “real” Vietnamese cooking so I can’t speak to how authentic these recipes are but they sound good and there are several I’d like to try, including his Spring Rolls.

Overall I was quite impressed and inspired to try out the world of Vietnamese cooking - which is exactly what any good cookbook should do. I certainly recommend this to cookbook fans.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

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Featured Book: The Hangman by Dee Rose

About the book:

When Kente Cromwell is murdered, he is given demonic powers and escapes purgatory to go back to earth and avenge his death as The Hangman. 

However, unbeknown to him, a war has broken out between good and evil. 

He must choose a side. 

To either join the demon who gave him his powers and the legions of vampires and demons that follow the underworld leader, or join the angel he embarrassed when escaped purgatory, a vampire slayer, and a demon hunter in their quest to win the war. 

Which side will he choose?

About the author:

Dee Rose was born on July 5th and resides in Denver, CO. He is the father of two daughters. “They are my life.” He says. He attended Metro State University of Denver, where he majored in Political Science. The Hangman is his third published novel and he plans to make it into a series. “Novels like the Hangman are the reason I started writing in the eleventh grade. I love taking readers on an incredible journey.”

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Review: The Mathematician's Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer

When the greatest female mathematician in history passes away, her son, Alexander “Sasha” Karnokovitch, just wants to mourn his mother in peace. But rumor has it the notoriously eccentric Polish émigré has solved one of the most difficult problems in all of mathematics, and has spitefully taken the solution to her grave. As a ragtag group of mathematicians from around the world descends upon Rachela’s shiva, determined to find the proof or solve it for themselves—even if it means prying up the floorboards for notes or desperately scrutinizing the mutterings of her African Grey parrot—Sasha must come to terms with his mother’s outsized influence on his life. 

Spanning decades and continents, from a crowded living room in Madison, Wisconsin, to the windswept beach on the Barents Sea where a young Rachela had her first mathematical breakthrough, The Mathematician’s Shiva is an unexpectedly moving and uproariously funny novel that captures humanity’s drive not just to survive, but to achieve the impossible.

Received for review.

The idea of a group of obsessed intellectuals descending upon someone's home while they are in mourning just sounded too fun to pass up and this was a fun book.  It's incredibly well written.  It's smart and funny and touching all at once and makes you want to keep reading... and reading.  In fact, this is among the very few books that I actually wish was a bit longer.  It would have been nice to visit with the characters for a little while longer, but all good things must come to an end.

I certainly recommend this beautifully written novel and I am looking forward to the author's future releases.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

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Review: Silent Impact by Joe Schmit

We make our biggest impressions when we are not trying to be impressive. 

The words we say or don't say, the things we do or don't do, and the ways we react or don't react can have a tremendous influence on those around us. 

In Silent Impact, award-winning broadcaster Joe Schmit tells stories of real people and the ways in which they had profound influence on others in daily life. 

He points to simple, powerful lessons in the stories, and will inspire you to recognize your daily opportunities to make an intentional impact on others.

Received for review.

While quite slim this is an interesting compilation of stories of successful people, each of which teaches you a lesson that you can apply in your own life to make it better.  

I liked the idea of the book but some of the stories were a bit simplistic and not really applicable to everyone.  The author seems to believe that if you just try hard enough you can have everything you want in life.  That's a great idea, but sometimes it just doesn't happen.  The author would probably say that I just have the wrong attitude and haven't grasped the truths of the book.

Overall this was a good read and some of the stories were inspirational, but I really did not find it life changing.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Virtual Book Tour: The Conversation: Your Guide to Transcendence by Jeff Cannon

The Conversation is less a dialogue as it is a transference. 

It answers so many of the questions anyone seeking has asked about life, death and the human experience.

Purchase The Conversation: Your Guide to Transcendence
Amazon | Barnes and Noble

About the Author:

Jeff Cannon is a Modern American Monk. He is the author of numerous books on meditation, spirituality and wellness. He is a member of NYU Medical Center's Patient Advisory Council as well as a contributor to Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen and countless other websites.

Jeff completed his third book while recovering from his 8th brain surgery. Collectively his surgeries removed more than 20 brain tumors in as many years. His first surgery, in 1992, used a hand-drill. His most devastating surgery removed six brain tumors in 2009. His latest surgery lasted 14 hours, after which he could not see, speak or walk.

Jeff has watched his brain reboot itself again and again, giving Jeff a first-hand view into the evolution of neuroscience. It also stirred him to dedicate his life to develop Modern Meditation by integrating Western Science and Eastern Philosophy in a way that makes sense for the modern world.

Follow Author Jeff Cannon:
Facebook | Blog | Website | Google+ | Twitter  | Trailer | Huffington Post

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FYI: If You Don't Like My Blog Stop Reading It!

I am so sick of being told that my blog and I are wrong.  If you don't like what I write then stop reading it.  Don't be mean to me because you don't like what I have to say.

Let's just cover the latest nasty comments so we can move on knowing what a horrible person I am.

1)  I'm stupid.  I've had several comments about my stupidity lately.  I'm either stupid for not understanding an author's book properly (thank you to that gem of an author) or I'm just plain all around stupid.  Either way I'm apparently too stupid to be writing a blog.  Because clearly only those with advanced degrees in literature can write a book blog and oh gee darn, I don't have a degree in literature.

2)  I'm racist/homophobic/classist.  I've also been told recently that my reading is too narrow and that I'm any number of horrible things because of it.  Apparently I can no longer read what I want to in my own home because the literary snobs in the book blogging world think I'm bad person.  You'd think I was sitting here doing something genuinely evil.  All I want to do is read books that I enjoy.  That shouldn't be a crime but apparently it is in the book blogging world.  How dare I want to read something that I like?  I should clearly only be reading books that are good for me.  And, those written by authors who are a different race than me, homosexual, and a different class.  I'm not sure how the class thing works since I'm white and should have some sort of "white guilt".  That's interesting since the authors are making a hell of a lot more money than I am but I'm the one who is being classist.  So, according to the other nasty bloggers out there I should only be reading books by black (or some other race that isn't white) gay people.  But, I'm also not being properly feminist if I don't read lots of books by women.  So, regardless of whether it's a book that I want to read or if it's any damn good I should read the latest book by whoever "they" deem appropriate because it's the "right" thing to do.  I don't understand why as a human being I can't just read what I want.  Apparently I can't though.  Perhaps it's a result of my stupidity (see #1).

Well, newsflash here.  I am an adult.  I am no longer in school.  I can choose what I want to read.  If I want to read nothing but Beatrix Potter books then that's my prerogative.  I genuinely don't even know what the race or sexual orientation is of 99.9% of the authors I read.  I don't care.  If they're a good author I don't give a crap if they are black or white or orange with purple spots, if they prefer men or women or both or none.  I don't care if they're freaking aliens or a hamster with a typewriter.  I shouldn't have to check the back of a book and put back something I want to read because it's "wrong".   Oops!  I have to put back that James Dashner book because he's white and an man but that Deepak Chopra book might acceptable because he's not white, but he's not a woman so it's not really okay either.  The Sara Shepard book is borderline as well since she is a woman (points there) but she's white and not gay.   To expect me to run an Internet search on every single author to see if they are "acceptable" is unreasonable.  I read to enjoy myself or to learn something.  I shouldn't have to be criticized because what I read isn't what you deem acceptable.  If you have a problem with what I read then that's your problem, not mine.

Well, now that we have that cleared up, feel free to unsubscribe/unfollow/block me/whatever but do not make mean comments about me or my blog in the future.  It's unacceptable behavior that will not be tolerated.

Review: The Old Rush by Peter Hubbell

The age of aging will begin in 2014 as the last of the baby boomers turn 50. No other global trend will do more to impact the way we live, think, act, and interact with brands for the next twenty years. The Old Rush: Marketing for Gold in the Age of Aging is an invaluable primer for marketers who want to seize the next big fast-growth opportunity—a chance to propel their brands and businesses forward rapidly and on a global scale. In this book, Peter Hubbell makes a strong case for why the nearly 80 million baby boomers are marketing’s most valuable generation and then outlines the basic rules of marketing engagement with this cohort along with practical ideas that brands and businesses can use to create their own success. The lessons from the Gold Rush are particularly apt to the modern-day Old Rush: decisiveness, agility, creativity, and perseverance will be the skills needed to thrive with the aging consumer.

Received for review.

While I normally enjoy reading business books this one grated on me a bit.  The author has a decided rah-rah Tony Robbins feel to him which quickly becomes annoying.

Also, this is a marketing book, but it comes across as basically just method after method of changing your beliefs so you can market to Baby Boomers better.  It's not really about how to market, but how to change yourself so you market your products better.

Some of the stories the author includes to support his methods are interesting, but many are just boring and borderline unrelated and his parallels to the California Gold Rush seem forced at best.

Overall, unless you are a hardcore marketing person this will probably not be an informative or enjoyable read for you.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Giveaway: West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan

Viking Books has generously provided one copy of West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan for a giveaway!

Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
US only.  No PO Boxes.

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Check out the book's Book Club Kit:

About the book:

In 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a troubled, uncertain man whose literary success was long over. In poor health, with his wife consigned to a mental asylum and his finances in ruins, he struggled to make a new start as a screenwriter in Hollywood. By December 1940, he would be dead of a heart attack.

Those last three years of Fitzgerald’s life, often obscured by the legend of his earlier Jazz Age glamour, are the focus of Stewart O’Nan’s gorgeously and gracefully written novel. With flashbacks to key moments from Fitzgerald’s past, the story follows him as he arrives on the MGM lot, falls in love with brassy gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, begins work on The Last Tycoon, and tries to maintain a semblance of family life with the absent Zelda and daughter, Scottie.

Fitzgerald’s orbit of literary fame and the Golden Age of Hollywood is brought vividly to life through the novel’s romantic cast of characters, from Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway to Humphrey Bogart. A sympathetic and deeply personal portrait of a flawed man who never gave up in the end, even as his every wish and hope seemed thwarted, West of Sunset confirms O’Nan as “possibly our best working novelist” (Salon).

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Featured Book: 190 Days by A. E. Walker

About the book:

Emily Dow is a conscientious high school English teacher who cares deeply about her students’ futures—both academic and personal. This year Emily has another problem over and above her life as a teacher. Bob Hughes is a nasty piece of goods and manages to get himself murdered. Emily finds that she must find the real murderer in order to save an innocent person. The police feel that they have an ironclad case. Can she find the necessary information to convince them that they have the wrong person?? So on top of coping with her students, their parents and the educational bureaucracy of the school, Emily attempts to solve a murder in a small New Hampshire town. 190 Days presents an examination of contemporary American education that employs humor, satire and pathos to leave the reader with much to think about.

About the author:

Andrea E. Walker (Brown), 1967-2012, was a high school English teacher. A graduate of the University of New Hampshire with a Masters Degree in English, Andrea had taught English in rural New England for over 15 years. Known to friends and family for her rapier wit and enchanting stories, her parents and her sister proudly present “190 Days” which she had completed before her death. In keeping with her kindness to others, all proceeds from this book will be donated to research on the early detection and prevention of birth defects.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Author Interview: Stewart O'Nan author of West of Sunset

Stewart O’Nan, author of West of Sunset, stopped by for an interview.

A Conversation with Stewart O’Nan

What drew you to tell the story of the last years of F. Scott Fitzgerald?

I’d read biographers’ versions of Fitzgerald’s time in Hollywood, but they all seemed skimpy for such a rich era; simplistic, bloodless overviews. Sheilah Graham’s memoirs vary wildly, as do the views of Fitzgerald in other contemporary accounts (Lillian Hellman’s is utterly fictitious, for instance). So, having his and Zelda’s and Scottie’s letters, knowing at least a piece of his emotional world, I decided to try to inhabit it.

Why write a novel instead of a strictly factual biography?

I didn’t have enough facts to write a biography of just that moment, and I was more interested in using the novelist’s tool of point of view to delve into his character. How does it feel to be you? For me, the novel answers this question better and more deeply than any other genre.

What is the most unbelievable thing in your novel that actually happened?

Fitzgerald pulling all-nighters with the pill-popping David O. Selznick, working on the script of Gone with the Wind. Also, that script’s original writer, Sidney Howard, being run over and killed by his own tractor.

Conversely, what detail of your invention in West of Sunset do you look upon with the most satisfaction?

Not invention but re-creation: the private moments between him and Zelda.

Ernest Hemingway accused Fitzgerald of betraying his gift. Do you agree?

No. Of course we wish we had more novels from him, but many of the stories are fine, and without his collapse, we wouldn’t have his brilliant confessional essays, “The Crack-Up” or “My Lost City.” And Hemingway’s got a lot of nerve saying that. Tender Is the Night is a far better novel than either To Have and Have Not or For Whom the Bell Tolls.

We tend to associate Fitzgerald with the glamor of Gatsby and the high life of Lost Generation of Paris. But in West of Sunset, that’s not your Fitzgerald. Who is he?

The high life is mostly over for him at this point. Since ’29, Zelda’s been in and out of asylums, and now Scottie’s away at boarding school. So he’s lonely and broke and his life isn’t stable, which makes it harder to write (which is hard enough to begin with). He’s a man who doubts his powers, a romantic who’s lost his optimism.

The book’s dialogue, especially the passages that include Dorothy Parker, generate marvelous pop and sizzle. How did you develop your ear for Algonquin-style repartee?

Dottie and her husband Alan are so deliciously catty. It was great to work with characters who’ll say anything for effect. I went back to the movies of the ’30s and ’40s like The Thin Man series, also a series of husband-and-wife detectives starring the young Rosalind Russell. So clever and sharp.

We tend to think of alcoholics as weak people. However, West of Sunset makes us acutely aware of his inner strength and determination. How did you go about developing this paradox?

Being a functioning junkie of any kind is a hustle. It takes an incredible amount of energy and guile to support and hide a habit. Writing’s the same way. It takes a ton of determination to get to the desk and stay there, especially when things aren’t going well, and things have been going wrong for Fitzgerald for a long time when he arrives in Hollywood.

With its romantic overtones and elegiac undertones, West of Sunset reads a bit like a Fitzgerald novel. As you were writing it, did you find yourself hearing Fitzgerald’s voice? Were you working more with or against whatever inspiration Fitzgerald’s work gave you?

Fitzgerald’s view of the world, his emotional sensibility, was more important for me than his voice. Trying to mimic his style is a trap. The idea was to get close to him so the reader can understand how he’s feeling. Taking on his style would be distracting when what I’m trying for is clarity and depth.

You observe that what a writer most wants from this world is “the makings of another truer to his heart” (pg. 53). Does that statement describe your own personal longing?

I think it’s true of all writers (and readers). We build these deeply felt imaginary worlds we want to live in—at least for a time.

Was there a particular character in West of Sunset that was most challenging to bring to life? If so, how did you finally crack the puzzle?

All of them. I had tons of material for my historical characters, but bringing any character to life on the page is hard. But—and this is typical—the more time I spent with them, the more alive they seemed, and after a while they were as solid and complicated as real people to me, maybe more so. That’s the trick of fiction—spending so much time with them that you feel you know them better than you know anyone in real life.

People argue over the true meaning of a Fitzgerald line that you use as an epigraph: “There are no second acts in American lives.” What do those words mean to you, and do you think they ring true?

He wrote them about Monroe Stahr, the hero of The Last Tycoon, whose wife is dead and who feels he’s lost his taste for life, but then falls in love with a beautiful and mysterious young Englishwoman—just as Scott falls for Sheilah Graham. So with the events of the book he’s testing that line. Is it true, or is Stahr’s new love a second chance? Because Fitzgerald cares for Stahr, so do we, so we hope the line’s not true. Who doesn’t need a second chance?

Both on screen and in fiction, Los Angeles can come across as a uniquely terrifying city. Why might this be so?

The scale of it, I think. The mountains and the sea and the desert all make humans seem puny and vulnerable. In ’37, the population hasn’t boomed yet, and the freeways haven’t taken over, but it’s still a strange place—the glamour of Hollywood against the motor courts filled with Dust Bowl refugees from Oklahoma.

You write that, in Hollywood, no one is who he or she claims to be (pg. 122). Is it especially challenging to write fiction about characters who are perpetually making fictions of themselves?

A character in a false position, as Chekhov puts it, is a good character to write about. Eventually the truth will out, so there’s all this built-in potential. Plus, the self-dramatizing are never dull. Annoying, maybe, but never dull.

Scott tries and fails to make it as a screenwriter. Would you ever write for the screen? Why or why not?

I haven’t, but I’ve written a number of screenplays, mostly adaptations of novels I love, like Denis Johnson’s Angels, and Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away. It’s another way of inhabiting the books, of getting close to the characters, working with the scenes and dialogue.

What are you working on now?

A novel set in Jerusalem in 1946.

In 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a troubled, uncertain man whose literary success was long over. In poor health, with his wife consigned to a mental asylum and his finances in ruins, he struggled to make a new start as a screenwriter in Hollywood. By December 1940, he would be dead of a heart attack.

Those last three years of Fitzgerald’s life, often obscured by the legend of his earlier Jazz Age glamour, are the focus of Stewart O’Nan’s gorgeously and gracefully written novel. With flashbacks to key moments from Fitzgerald’s past, the story follows him as he arrives on the MGM lot, falls in love with brassy gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, begins work on The Last Tycoon, and tries to maintain a semblance of family life with the absent Zelda and daughter, Scottie.

Fitzgerald’s orbit of literary fame and the Golden Age of Hollywood is brought vividly to life through the novel’s romantic cast of characters, from Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway to Humphrey Bogart. A sympathetic and deeply personal portrait of a flawed man who never gave up in the end, even as his every wish and hope seemed thwarted, West of Sunset confirms O’Nan as “possibly our best working novelist” (Salon).

About the author:

Stewart O’Nan grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A graduate of Boston University, he began his professional life as a test engineer for Grumman Aerospace before leaving the corporate world to earn an MFA at Cornell. In 1996, Granta named him one of America’s Best Young Novelists. His novels, including The Odds; Emily, Alone; and Last Night at the Lobster, have won wide critical acclaim. Mr. O’Nan lives in Pittsburgh with his family.

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