Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

Five Days LeftFive Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

“A beautifully drawn study of what is at risk when you lose control of your own life.  Unique, gripping, and viscerally moving — this impressive debut novel heralds the arrival of an extremely talented writer.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of The Storyteller and Lone Wolf

Destined to be a book club favorite, a heart-wrenching debut about two people who must decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice for love.
Mara Nichols, a successful lawyer, and devoted wife and adoptive mother, has recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most. Through their stories, Julie Lawson Timmer explores the individual limits of human endurance, the power of relationships, and that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not one of those books that I want to run around yelling to everyone that they should read. It isn’t a bad book, but rather an emotional one where the characters spend a lot of time reflecting on their own lives, the choices they have and will make and ultimately, it is kind of sad.

Still, the author put a lot of effort into creating characters that anyone could identify with and feel something for, and I was glad I read this book. I learned a lot about a disease that I formerly knew little if anything about. I came away with a sense of being better informed, even though this novel is fictional.

I had mixed emotions about this book. For the most part it was clean writing, other than some repeat phrases, and the story made perfect sense. Watching the world of the characters crumble was difficult to handle, wishing the entire time that life was not so cruel. The author achieved her goal of making the reader feel something, and yet I wasn’t sure I “enjoyed” reading this book. At times it made me feel rather hopeless.

This is a book that I think some people will love and others (those who enjoy more lighthearted fiction) will not like as much. I’d recommend it if you enjoy stories that come from the heart, but are not all sunshine and daisies.

I think Julie Lawson Timmer has a lot to offer the writing world and look forward to seeing what else she comes up with.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and was provided through Netgalley.

Hamlet’s Ghost by Jane Tara

* If you haven’t read any of Jane’s books yet, then you have been missing out. Jane Tara is an author that is well on her way to becoming a household name. I love her works and strongly encourage you to check them out. This latest book is one of my favourites of the year and I am so happy I had the chance to read it.

 

Hamlet's Ghost (Shakespeare Sisters, #3)Hamlet’s Ghost by Jane Tara

Rhiannon Dee, a gorgeous witch, moves to a country town to reopen a theater and finds herself torn between the man who owns it, and his father who haunts it.

Kip Daniels has been haunting the Hamlet Majestic for thirty dull years, ever since the stage roof collapsed on him during what was meant to be his piece de resistance: his performance of Hamlet. All he really wants is to get to the end of the play, but that won’t happen while the theater stands abandoned and boarded up. He’s resigned himself to an endless limbo … until Rhiannon Dee moves to town to bring the theater back to life.

Rhi has fled a failed life in New York. She can’t find work as an actress. She’s overshadowed by her mother who has a hit TV show about witchcraft. Rhi is sick of being seen as a witch and intends to turn her back on the craft. But she quickly discovers she can’t escape her gifts, especially when she needs to use them to help one very sexy but sad ghost cross over. Surrounded by new friends and supportive townsfolk, Rhi breathes new life into the Hamlet Majestic, and helps Kip accept his death.

Hamlet’s Ghost is a story about those moments in life that define us, and how to truly move forward we must find peace with the past

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Much like Jane Tara’s other books, this is filled with magic, outstanding characters that are easily loved and quirky, fun writing. I love Jane’s stories for their ability to take you away from daily life and make you feel as if you are somewhere else. I also love her sassy writing full of quips that make you giggle.

What made me love Hamlet’s Ghost was not just the cast of unique and varied characters, but the setting. The connections between the name of the town and the goings on inside the theatre were brilliant and kept me turning pages. I loved the way she tied the past and familiar characters into this novel but still managed to make it feel new. This could easily be read as a standalone novel even without the primer of the previous books.

My favourite character was Crystal. She’s strong and independent and full of life and it affects the characters around her. I’d love to know even more about her story. This was a book that I was sorry to see go and it will be difficult to find something else to read after this–but this is the price you pay for reading Jane’s work.

If you are tired of reading books where the female characters are all perfect down to the last fake nail, then this is for you. This author values differences between her characters and they are not all cookie cutter shapes that have been done before. She uses real women of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds to fill her pages. I love that.

The love story(ies) are charming and the romance scenes mild enough for those who don’t want to jump into the deep end too soon. You get a sense of each character’s personality and that of their match before they end up together and things don’t always go exactly as one would expect. Overall I thought this was one of the most delightful reads of the year.

If you like romantic stories with lots of twists and plenty of magic, you can’t go wrong here. Definitely a book that deserves recommendation.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Romancing September #RomancingSeptember – Day 11

ioniamartin:

My good friend Pamela making an appearance on Rosie’s blog!

Originally posted on Rosie Amber:

Romance September 2014 cover (1)

Welcome to Day 11 of Romancing September Across The World Tour. Today our guest is Pamela Beckford. Catch up with more from Pamela in a few hours with the second part of our tour when Stephanie chats to her.

Love Lost and Found Bookcover

1. Where is your home town?
I was born and raised in a small town in northeast Indiana. I’m still here but dream of going somewhere much warmer someday.
 
2. How long have you been writing romance?
I’ve only been writing poetry for about 14 months. I have tried other types of poetry, but always find my way back to poems centered around love.
 
3. What is your favourite sub-genre of romance?
I don’t really have an answer for this.
 
4. How many poems are in your book?
There are over 90 poems in this collection. They represent over a dozen different poetry forms.
 
5. What poetry styles…

View original 429 more words

Mirror Interview: Graeme Cumming

Graeme Cumming is the author of Ravens Gathering, a dark fantasy thriller that twists and… Well, you get the idea.

Graeme CummingRavens Gathering is listed on Amazon as Dark Fantasy. Is that how you’d describe it?

If it has to be pigeon-holed, then yes, but that’s how booksellers and publishers categorise things. In a sense, it actually crosses several genres, which was the best way to tell the story.

What gave you the idea?

I was driving and spotted a group of birds at the side of the road. More flew down to join them and I commented on the ravens gathering. As soon as I said it I thought, “That’d be a great title for a book.” So the title came first and it lent itself to the creepy stuff followed naturally.

Do you normally come up with titles first?

No, though it’s not unheard of. I remember challenging school friends to give me any title and I’d create a story line. Someone said “Solid Gold”, and within 24 hours I had a plot involving the simultaneous hijacking of two gold bullion shipments and the shady dealings of a US President. (The arrogance of youth…) Thirty-five years later, it’s still waiting to be written, but now the bit’s between my teeth I’m confident it will – though the title needs changing!

Thirty-five years? Why did it take so long to write your first novel?

I’ve written stories since I was a child. One of my English teachers was once heard to say that she’d eat her hat if I wasn’t a published writer by the time I was 25. She’s had time to work her way through the stock of a large milliners since then, so I hope she likes a high fibre diet. The bottom line, though, is that I’ve not been sufficiently driven. It’s what I always wanted to do, but there were always other more pressing things that distracted me. In the early days it was rock concerts, girls and alcohol, but later it became about having to support my family.

So what changed?

I realised time was running out. In my mind I’d developed a fixed idea that I had to write “properly”, which meant doing it consistently every day, which I found difficult with young children, work and an inclination for idleness. So for long stretches of time I didn’t bother because, if I couldn’t do it properly, there was no point in doing it at all. But, as I hit my early forties, I realised I was depriving myself of the pleasure of writing – creating characters, places and situations I found entertaining. So I decided to just write when I could – and, after around six years, I finished the first draft of a novel.

Ravens Gathering?

Good God, no! After five years and long gaps between writing, I had the makings of a novel, but it needed a lot doing to it. And having lived with that one for so long, I needed a change.

So…?

So, yes, then I wrote Ravens Gathering. But I’d learnt a lot from the first novel, and I’d steadily become more focused. The first draft took about eight months. A year later it was ready to publish.

And you self-published.

In part it was about wanting to retain control, but it was also to speed the process up. I was fast approaching 50, so I had an increased sense of time passing. I know I probably should have more patience, but didn’t want to waste any more time than I already had.

So presumably you’ve been writing constantly since and must have another book due out?

Ah… Okay, I walked into that one, didn’t I? No, there’s no second book imminent. I went back to the first one – Carrion – and spent a long time editing that, but still wasn’t happy with it. In the mean time, my business began to take over my life and I haven’t written much at all in the last year. But that’s been a wake-up call, and I’ve spent a lot of the last 6 months re-structuring the business to give myself more time. In the next month or so the writing can begin again.

Completion of Carrion?

I’m hesitating over that at the moment, but probably. It’s about time it was given a wider audience than the limited number who’ve read a version of it so far. On the other hand, there are a number of others I’m just desperate to get out of my head and on to paper (or a screen).

It sounds like you could be busy, then. Will it be more Dark Fantasy?

Some of it will, but I just want to entertain. So, whatever I write, you can expect suspense, action, a little humour in places and a few twists along the way. It’s been gratifying that readers have said: “I didn’t see that coming” about aspects of Ravens Gathering.

You’re just trying to tempt us in now, aren’t you?

Of course I am. It’s not often I get the chance to make people aware of the book, so I need to take every opportunity to get them to read it – or at least try the sample on Amazon.

Do you want to provide the link, then?

Thought you’d never ask…

Ravens Gathering Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For my home market, it’s:

www.amazon.co.uk/Ravens-Gathering-Graeme-Cumming-ebook/dp/B00AGIDQA2/

Otherwise, the best starting point is:

www.amazon.com/Ravens-Gathering-Graeme-Cumming-ebook/dp/B00AGIDQA2/

You can also find my website at: www.graemecumming.net. Keep an eye on it. There will be changes soon.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Like most things, books are mainly sold on personal recommendations. So if you enjoy any book you read, take a few minutes to write a review on Amazon – and then tell all your friends.

Thanks for reading.

 

Thank you Graeme! This interview had such a great flow and was so much fun! If you’d like to do an interview of your own for the Wednesday Mirror Interview feature, feel free to email me from the contact page. :) Keep writing–it’s the thing to do.

Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

Of Monsters and MadnessOf Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

A romantic, historical retelling of classic Gothic horror featuring Edgar Allan Poe and his character Annabel Lee, from a New York Times best-selling author.

Summoned to her father’s home in 1820’s Philadelphia, a girl finds herself in the midst of a rash of gruesome murders in which he might be implicated. She is torn romantically between her father’s assistants-one kind and proper, one mysterious and brooding-who share a dark secret and may have more to do with the violent events than they’re letting on.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

Right away, if you love Edgar Allan Poe, you may find yourself doing a bit of a head-scratcher at this novel. The basis of this book is interesting. There is a bit of Jekyll and Hyde, a feeling of Frankenstein in the sections that deal with reanimation, and a love story of sorts in between. The unusual main character which has a very mixed cultural background brought a lot to this story, in my opinion, making in unique in yet another way.

Impressive descriptions of the city and the especially the shops led the way to interesting connections with the family at the centre of this novel. I particularly liked the good vs. evil feeling of a character more or less struggling to gain control over their own demons.

I did feel that this book had steep drop offs where the every day actions of the characters took over the story for pages at a time. The novel redeemed itself whenever something exciting would happen, but there are some rather long stretches where nothing much is going on.

The author does a good job of painting a background for her characters that is both believable and enticing. She raises questions about them throughout this novel, never answering them all at the end. There is definitely room for another book, if one has not been written already.

Some liberties were certainly taken with the rearranging of facts and dates to accommodate the needs of the writer, but I think for the most part it worked pretty well.

Overall, I thought this was an intriguing story and a book that fans of Gothic literature will be happy to check out for themselves.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from Netgalley and the publisher.

Guest post and review: Maggie Anton’s Enchantress, A Novel of Rav Hisda’s Daughter

Today, I am so pleased to welcome Maggie Anton to Readful Things for a guest post. The topic is an interesting one for authors and audiences alike. The border between fiction and non-fiction–how real is too real? The check below the guest post for a review of Enchantress. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the guest post topic, so feel free to drop a line with your opinion.

How real is too real?

Because the heroines in my Rashi’s Daughters trilogy [11th-century France] and Rav Hisda’s Daughter duo [4th-century Babylonia] are historical figures, I tried to write so they behave like real women in their times. This entailed months of research to ensure that I described them and their world as accurately as possible. And because I am a stickler about not closing the doors on my characters, it meant that they use the privy, menstruate, suffer in childbirth, and see children die young.

 

I admit that I seem to be a rarity among historical novelists in this regard, as only rarely does one even mention when a girl starts her period. Yet this is a significant point in any woman’s life, and if she is a Jewish woman, it will be a central part of her marital relationship for years to come. I’ve also read plenty of historical romances that take place centuries before modern medicine, when average life expectancy was less than forty years and 40% of children didn’t reach their tenth birthday, yet none of the characters, even minor ones, catch so much as a cold, let alone suffer a serious illness or injury.

 

Still I drew the line at too much reality. Rashi, the great Jewish scholar from whose commentaries I learned a great deal, describes six kinds of fleas and lice, but I decided to leave that out. Apparently nearly everyone lost teeth as they aged, so a large portion of adults had none or only a few. I left that out too.

 

On a positive note, real married women have sex, mostly with their husbands. Since I only write kosher sex scenes, my heroines only sleep with their husbands, and that is after they get married. To keep things real, not all my heroes are good in bed, at least not at the beginning, and sometimes my heroines are sexually frustrated. As may be surmised, I don’t like to close the door on my characters, and that included the bedroom door. In other words, I left little to the reader’s imagination.

 

I make an effort to describe my characters’ meals, clothes, and dwellings in detail. This not only makes my historical novels come to life, but readers are usually more fascinated than bored by this glimpse into the past.

 

But sometimes the author shouldn’t make things too real. If characters in a novel spoke like people really do, with all the “uh’s,” pauses, and “you know’s,” readers would close the book in a minute, if not sooner. Real everyday speech often includes blather about neighbors, relatives, and coworkers. But dialogue in a novel must set the scene, elucidate character, or advance the plot – and if it does more than one of these at a time, even better. Which means no inconsequential conversations like real people have.

 

Another difference between a fiction and reality is that in real life we meet all sorts of people who pass though our lives without making an impact. Indeed these are the majority of individuals we interact with each day. But every character in a book, even minor nameless ones, should serve a purpose. In early drafts of my first novel I created a horde of secondary characters for my hero and heroine to encounter in the course of their daily activities. My editor made me either delete them or at least leave them nameless, for otherwise my readers would expect them to turn up again or have some important role, and be sorely annoyed when they didn’t.

 

Thomas Hobbes penned a well-known saying, “Life is poor, nasty, brutish and short.” True as that may be, if historical novelists focused on characters whose lives fit that description, we would have few readers. Readers want a happy, or at least satisfying ending. When characters die, other than of old age or in their lover’s arms, it should be a redeeming sacrifice or to show the antagonist’s malevolence. In the third volume of Rashi’s Daughters, I created a scene detailing the massacre of Rhineland Jews during the First Crusade. I used a description from a primary source, an “eye witness” account, but the carnage was too strong for my editors, who had me tone it down. Reality was indeed too real to put in my novel.

 

The well-written historical novel includes just enough reality to take readers on a mental vacation to a time and place they could never experience otherwise, all from the comfort of their climate-controlled homes equipped with indoor plumbing and well-stocked medicine chests.

 

Enchantress: A Novel of Rav Hisda's Daughter

Enchantress: A Novel of Rav Hisda’s Daughter by Maggie Anton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Initially I was afraid that taking this book under my review wing would be a little scary. The amount of knowledge I had prior to reading this novel when it came to Jewish history could have been held in a shot glass. Even so, through Maggie Anton’s magical abilities as a storyteller, I found myself immediately immersed in a world of long ago with characters so rich and vibrant that they dance off the pages.

The way this author interweaves her story with historical threads and uses such beautiful imagery and wonderful word choices kept me up late at night turning pages. She not only has a gift for making you see the world of her characters through words, but also has a real talent for making her characters vulnerable and human at the core level. Reading her writing is a journey, and one that you will want to repeat again.

I loved that the story took unexpected turns and that there was no way to know what was coming next. What I thought at first, would be a rather difficult book to read, instead turned out to be exciting, compelling and a fine example of literary genius.

My only stumbling block along the way was the difficulty of keeping certain characters straight. There is a guide in the beginning to help with that, so the troubles were really more my fault than that of the author (difficult to keep checking back on a Kindle ereader.)

Overall this is a beautifully crafted novel with plenty of reasons to make me recommend it. A great book from a very talented author.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and distributed through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

The Fourteenth GoldfishThe Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.
Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?

Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What if someone truly discovered the fountain of youth? What if you could go backward in age and live life over again? It is these questions and many more that this book focuses on. That and fuzzy slippers. Can’t forget those.

I enjoyed this. There are a lot of unique and interesting concepts in the middle grade fiction genre, and this book explores them well. I liked the voice of the narrator and her views on life. I also appreciated the way the author approached the situation with the grandfather. This is written in such a way that it is almost believable that these things could really happen.

Jennifer L. Holm did a good job finding and pointing out the things that make us young and giving a direct comparison to those things which show our age. The way she explored the differences between the two was fascinating and often times laugh out loud funny.

The story flow was relaxed but the pace wasn’t slow. I enjoyed the humour throughout this title and think kids would have a lot of fun with it. There are few times when I read a book and then burn with curiosity about what happens to the characters after, but I hope, in this case we get to find out.

I’d definitely recommend this book and not just to kids.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.