Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mailbox Monday (May 30, 2011)

 Mailbox Monday's host for May is Mari at Mari Reads. In My Mailbox is hosted Sundays at The Story Siren. Please visit these posts and take a look at what packages everybody else got this week! 

I won this first one from Wendy at Minding Spot.

Ten Beach Road
by Wendy Wax

On the brink of ruin, three very different women discover themselves where they least expect. . . at Ten Beach Road.

Madeline, Avery, and Nikki are strangers to one another, but they have one thing in common.  They each wake up one morning to discover that their life savings have vanished, along with their trusted financial manager. . . leaving them with nothing but co-ownership of a ramshackle beachfront house.

Madeline Singer is a homemaker coping with empty-nest syndrome and an unemployed husband.  Avery Lawford is an architect -- or was, until she somehow became the sidekick on her ex-husband's TV show.  And professional matchmaker Nikki Grant is trying to recover from her biggest mistake. . .

No one is going to save them but themselves.  Determined to fight back, they throw their lots in together and take on the challenge of restoring the historic beach house to its former glory.  But just as they begin to reinvent themselves and discover the power of friendship, their secrets threaten to tear down their trust, and destroy their lives a second time. . .

Double Take
by Melody Carlson

What do you do when your life is not all it's cracked up to be?  Get a new one.

It's spring break of her senior year and Madison Van Buren is fed up.  Stressed over decisions on colleges, her parents' bickering, and pressures from her boyfriend, Madison gets in her car and just drives away.

Meanwhile, seventeen-year-old Anna Fisher wants to escape the so-called simple life of the Amish -- which for her consists of caring for younger children, sewing, cooking, and gardening -- and she's well aware that her future will simply be more of the same with a man she doesn't love.

Worlds collide when Madison and Anna meet for the first time in a small town, realize they look uncannily alike, and decide the grass is greener on the other side.  Neither of them will ever be the same.

Stray Dogs, Saints, and Saviors
by Alexander Russo

A high school campus marred by disorder, teacher turnover, and hopelessness.  A secret plan to break free from faraway district administrators and powerful union leaders.  A hardcharging outsider who wants to revolutionize public education.  A group of tireless educators banding together to rescue the school and redeem the community.

Located in the Watts section of South Central Los Angeles, Locke High School was once known for its pride and excellence.  Decades of neglect and indifference turned it in to a low-scoring "dropout factory" avoided by teachers and students alike.  Then, working in secrecy, a handful of teachers and administrators plotted to give their school to an upstart nonprofit charter school organization called Green Dot, led by charismatic and controversial founder Steve Barr.  The move turned Locke into the poster child for a national effort to "turn around" broken schools that now includes nearly 1,000 schools.

What's it like to try and turn around a broken school without stripping it beyond all recognition?  It's the hardest work in education -- deceptively simple at the beginning and increasingly difficult the deeper you get into it.  It's a trickle of halting, incremental successes totally incompatible with the familiar Hollywood portrayal of instant results and individual heroes.  And at times it can seem like everyone -- not just the district and the union -- wants it to fail.

Stray dogs still sometimes sneak onto the campus despite all efforts to keep them out.  The "saints" -- Locke parents, students, and alumni -- watch carefully.  And Green Dot, Steve Barr, and the staff of Locke valiantly try to make good on the promises they've made to the students and to each other.

The Art of Saying Goodbye
by Ellyn Bache

She was the thread with which their tapestry was woven.

With a group of women as diverse as the ladies from Brightwood Trace, you might not think they were close.  There's Julianne, a nurse with an unsettling psychic ability that allows her to literally feel what her patients feel; Andrea, a strong fortress sheltering a faltering core; Ginger, a mother torn between being a stay-at-home mom and following her career aspirations; and Iona, the oldest, whose feisty, no-nonsense attitude disarms even the toughest of the tough.  Not exactly the ingredients for the most cohesive cocktail. . . until you add Paisley, the liveliest and friendliest of the clan, who breathed life into them all.

But when their glowing leader falls ill with cancer, it's up to these women to do what Paisley has done for them since the beginning: lift her up.  Overcoming and accepting the inevitability of loss, they draw closer together than ever, finding the strength to embrace and cherish their lives with acceptance, gratitude, and, most important, love.  Finally living with the vigor that Paisley has shown them from the start, they are able to see their lives in a new light, while learning to say goodbye to the brightest star they've ever known.  Over the course of just three months, these four women will undergo a magnificent transformation that leaves nobody unchanged.

The Summer Garden
by Paullina Simons

Through years of war and deprivation, Tatiana and Alexander have suffered the worst the twentieth century had to offer.  Miraculously reunited in America, they now have a beautiful son, Anthony, the gift of a love strong enough to survive the most terrible upheavals.  Though they are still young, the ordeals they endured have changed them --and after living apart in a world laid waste, they must now find a way to live together in postwar America.

With the Cold War rising, dark forces at work in their adopted country threaten their lives, their family, and their hard-won peace.  To regain the happiness they once knew, to wash away the lingering pain of the past, two lovers grown distant must somehow forge a new life. . . or watch the ghosts of their yesterdays destroy their firstborn son.

Epic in scope, masterfully told, moving across three continents, and spanning more than half a century, The Summer Garden is a novel of unique and devastating emotional power and a wondrous conclusion to a thrilling, timeless story that celebrates the power of love and the resilience of the human spirit.

The Upright Piano Player
by David Abbott

Henry Cage seems to have it all:  a successful career, money, a beautiful home, and a reputation for being a just and principled man.  But public virtues can conceal private failings, and as Henry faces retirement, his well-ordered life begins to unravel.  His ex-wife is ill, his relationship with his son is strained to the point of estrangement, and on the eve of the new millennium he is the victim of a random violent act that soon escalates into a prolonged harassment.

As his ex-wife's illness becomes grave, it is apparent that there is little time to redress the mistakes of the past.  But the man stalking Henry remains at large.  Who is doing this?  And why?  David Abbott brilliantly pulls this thread of tension ever tighter until the surprising and emotionally impactful conclusion.  The Upright Piano Player is a wise and acutely observed novel about the myriad ways in which life tests us -- no matter how carefully we have constructed our own little fortresses.

Very Bad Men
by Harry Dolan

Anthony Lark has a list of names:  Kormoran. Bell. Dawtrey.  To his eyes, the names glow red on the page.  They move.  They breathe.  The men on the list have little in common except that seventeen years ago they were involved in a notorious robbery.  And now Lark is hunting them, and he won't stop until every one of them is dead.

David Loogan is living a quiet life in Ann Arbor with Detective Elizabeth Waishkey and her daughter, Sarah.  But soon both David and Elizabeth are drawn into Lark's violent world.  As Elizabeth works to track down Lark and uncover his motives, David befriends Lucy Navarro, a reporter whose theories about the case threaten to implicate some very powerful people.  And when Lucy disappears without a trace, David vows to find her, whatever it takes.

Don't Kill the Birthday Girl
by Sandra Beasley

Sandra Beasley has had severe allergies to certain foods her entire life.  When butter is deadly and eggs can make your throat swell shut, cupcakes and other joys of childhood are out of the question -- and so Sandra's mother used to warn guests against a toxic, frosting-tinged kiss with "Don't kill the birthday girl!"

Now an award-winning poet, essayist, and editor, Sandra has written an accessible narrative about a subject that has only been addressed in either medical guides or recipe books:  a cultural history and sociological study of food allergies, melded with her own humorous and sometimes heartbreaking experiences.  From her short-lived gig as a restaurant reviewer to the dates that ended with trips to the emergency room, Sandra writes with verve and style about the struggle of a modern young woman to come to terms with a potentially deadly disorder.

Air Mail
by Naomi Bulger

Reclusive old Mr. G.L. Solomon's favorite things are single malt whiskey, Steve McQueen movies, and gingersnap cookies.  He hates processed cheese, washing detergent commercials, and the way the teacup rattles in the saucer when he picks it up.  Solomon has become accustomed to his lonely routine in Sydney, Australia -- until the day he begins receiving letters in his mailbox from a complete stranger.

On the other side of the world, Anouk is a mentally delicate young woman living in New York who insists she is being stalked by a fat woman in a pink tracksuit.  When Anouk declares to Solomon that she is writing "from the Other Side," the old man breaks away from his daily grind of watching soap operas and reading Fishing World and travels to New York to find her.  As he is drawn into Anouk's surreal world of stalkers and storytelling, marbles and cats, purgatory and Plato, Solomon has but one goal -- to unravel the mystery before it is too late.

Beg for Mercy
by Jami Alden

Megan Flynn thought she was falling in love.  Cole Williams wasn't just handsome and passionate, he was one of the good guys.  Or so she thought, until he arrested her brother -- the only family she has left -- for a murder she knows he couldn't have possibly committed.  Now, with her heart broken and her brother's life hanging in the balance, Megan will risk everything to prove his innocence.  Even if that means throwing herself into the path of a sadistic killer with a hauntingly familiar MO.

Seattle Detective Cole Williams had given up on making Megan see reson where her brother is concerned.  But when she insinuates herself into the most shockingly brutal case Cole has ever worked, he can't stand idly by.  Plunged into a secret world where the city's elite indulge their darkest desires, Cole will do whatever it takes to bring down a madman who has made Megan his most coveted prey.

Lady of Seduction
by Laurel McKee

It's a mad, ill-advised journey that leads the usually sensible Lady Caroline Blacknall to the legendary isle of Muirin Inish, off the windswept coast of Ireland.  Even so, she doesn't expect to find herself shipwrecked and then rescued by a man she believed she would never see again.  A man who, long ago, held her life in his hands. . . and with it, her heart.

Reformed rake Sir Grant Dunmore knew he could never forget the beautiful woman he once endangered, nor will he ever forgive himself for placing her in harm's way.  But history seems doomed to repeat itself, for as long as Caroline stays on the island, she is trapped in a secret plot that could forever free Ireland -- or turn deadly for all.  And yet, now that she is in his arms again, how can he ever let her go?

Make Mine a Bad Boy
by Katie Lane

There's a new bride in town!

Hope Scroggs is finally ready to get hitched.  After years of sowing her wild oats, the former head cheerleader and homecoming queen has returned to Bramble, Texas, to marry her high school flame.  But her perfect wedding plans are stomped to smithereens when her adoring cowboy two-steps down the aisle with someone else.  Now Hope is stuck with the one man from her past she can't shake:  Colt Lomax, an irresistible bad boy whose sultry kisses are hottter than the Panhandle in August. . .

Colt lives for freedom and the open road; he never gets attached, never looks back.  Still, he can't forget the night of passion he once shared with Bramble's sweetheart -- a night he wouldn't mind repeating.  So, he piles on the Texas charm to tease the feisty beauty back into his bed, while she tries her darnedest to resist.  But something unexpected is about to tie their fates together. . . and oh, baby, will it ever!

My Dangerous Pleasure
by Carolyn Jewel

Temp the Darkness

Strong-willed and independent, Paisley Nichols is used to taking care of herself.  But when an insane mage begins tracking her every move and threatening her at every turn, she has no choice but to put her life in the hands of a demon.

Risk the Passion

Burned by betrayal, demon assassin Iskander won't get too close to anyone.  He spends his days serving his warlord and his nights indulging in carnal pleasures. . . and that's exactly how he likes it.  But when a mage wages a wrenching psychic assault on his beautiful tenant Paisley, Iskander must defend her.  Under his protection, she will be drawn irresistibly into his life and learn about her own mysterious powers.  And not a moment too soon.  The mage haunting her isn't acting alone -- and he won't rest until he destroys both Paisley and Iskander.

What books came home to you last week?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso (Book Review)

Title: Darkness Follows
Author: Mike Dellosso
Publisher: Realms

Sam Travis is a man on the brink of despair. . .

Out of a job and feeling worthless, Sam Travis is awakened one night to the sounds of a Civil War battle raging outside his Gettysburg home.  But it's the middle of the night and the summer's reenactments are long over.  A search for the source brings him to an old journal by a Union soldier. . . written in his own handwriting.

When more of the mysterious writings appear and begin to mimic Sam's own life, his search for the truth puts him on a downward spiral that eventually drives him from his wife, his daughter, and his home -- and into an evil plot that could cost many lives, including his own.

My thoughts:  Sam lives in Gettysburg, PA with his wife, Molly and daughter, Eva. He hasn't worked in a while as he is recuperating from a head injury that he sustained from falling off a roof at his job.  His wife has had to take over the running of basically everything, and it has left their relationship strained.    When Sam begins seeing and hearing his dead brother, and discovers writings about history (of which he has no knowledge) in his own hand, the tension between them increases.

He doesn't feel that he can share these things with her as he thinks he is slowly going crazy and doesn't want her to confirm it.  He has also not shared what happened between him and his brother growing up, and is trying desperately to keep it closed off in his mind.

I loved the way that the author flipped back and forth from the past to the present and showed many similarities in people despite the era they were in.  Eva, Sam's daughter, continues to tell her parents about a glittery friend, Jacob, who tells her to keep telling her daddy that she loves him.  Her faith and love are tremendous and this is very apparent in the story.  Even after she is kidnapped and thinks she has lost her daddy as he has gone off to do a "bad thing", she continues to have hope.

The book rushes along and I found myself not wanting to put it down as there were so many things that could happen, both good and bad, and I had no idea which way the author was going to go.  As it is Christian fiction, I assumed there would be a good outcome, but had no idea how Mr. Dellosso was going to get there and how he was going to tie everything together.  I was not disappointed.  Love plays a big part in the story as does faith (especially the faith of a child).

I have had the opportunity to read Scream and enjoyed it as well.  The author has a new book, Frantic, coming out in 2012 and it is already on my reading list!

~I received a complimentary copy of this book from Anna Coelho Silva, Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House, Charisma Media in exchange for my review. ~

About the author: Mike Dellosso is the author of The Hunted, Darlington Woods, and Scream and an adjunct professor of writing at Lancaster Bible College.  Mike earned his BA degree from Messiah College and his MBS from Master's International School of Divinity.  He lives in Hanover, PA, with his wife and daughters.

You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and his web page.

Darkness Follows
Publisher/Publication Date: Realms, May 2011
ISBN: 978-1-61638-274-2
281 pages

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark (Book Review)

Title: The Sandalwood Tree
Author: Elle Newmark
Publisher: Atria Books

From incredible storyteller and nationally bestselling author Elle Newmark comes a rich, sweeping novel that brings to life two love stories, ninety years apart, set against the backdrop of war-torn India.

In 1947, an American anthropologist named Martin Mitchell wins a Fulbright Fellowship to study in India. He travels there with his wife, Evie, and his son, determined to start a new chapter in their lives. Upon the family’s arrival, though, they are forced to stay in a small village due to violence surrounding Britain’s imminent departure from India. It is there, hidden behind a brick wall in their colonial bungalow, that Evie discovers a packet of old letters that tell a strange and compelling story of love and war involving two young Englishwomen who lived in the very same house in 1857.

Drawn to their story, Evie embarks on a mission to uncover what the letters didn’t explain. Her search leads her through the bazaars and temples of India as well as the dying society of the British Raj. Along the way, a dark secret is exposed, and this new and disturbing knowledge creates a wedge between Evie and her husband. Bursting with lavish detail and vivid imagery of Bombay and beyond, The Sandalwood Tree is a powerful story about betrayal, forgiveness, fate, and love.

My thoughts: This book grabbed me from the very beginning.  I loved the way that it wove together the events Evie was experiencing (in 1947)  with the letters, lives and loves of Adela and Felicity, the two Englishwomen from the 1850's. Evie was unhappy in her marriage currently, and escaped into the world from the 1850's.  After discovering the packet of letters, she started searching the house for more information as well as the local church for any written history that might have been left behind.  She is amazed by what she finds.  As a reader, you get more of the story than Evie does through the letters, as sometimes it changes to a first person account from Felicity and Adela.  This was not confusing in any way and the story seemed to move effortlessly between the two eras. 

There are a few different love stories that evolve throughout the book - and I don't think I expected any of them to transpire the way that they did.  There was a lot of mystery surrounding these love stories as well. Early on in the story, Evie mentions her son's love for his stuffed dog and alludes to trouble this dog brings later.  Everytime the dog came up in the story, I was holding my breath waiting for something to happen!  I loved that suspense.

I enjoyed this book tremendously  and hope to get a chance to read the author's first book, The Book of Unholy Mischief!

~I received a copy of this book from Pump Up Your Book tours in exchange for my review. ~

About the author:  Elle Newmark is an award-winning writer whose books ar einspired by her travels.  She and her husband, a retired physician, have two grown children and five grandchildren.  They live in the hills north of San Diego. 

You can find her at her website: http://ellenewmark.com/ (where you can also read the first chapter), and on Facebook.

The Sandalwood Tree: A Novel
Publisher/Publication Date:  Atria Books, April 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4165-9059-0
357 pages

Kid's Korner: Little Star by Anthony DeStefano (Book Review)

Title: Little Star
Author: Anthony DeStefano
Illustrator: Mark Elliott
Publisher: WaterBrook Press

A king is about to be born! The stars in the heavens are competing to shine the brightest to celebrate his birth.  But when they see the poor family, the donkey, the shabby stable, the stars all think, That can't possibly be a king.  We've been fooled.

All except one.  The smallest, loneliest star in the sky, Little Star, is the only one to understand what the king is about to bring to the world.  But what can Little Star do for him?

Certain to become a Christmas classic, this delightful tale connects the star atop our Christmas trees to the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, in the hearts and minds of young children.

My thoughts: I love this version of the Christmas story told from the viewpoint of Little Star.  All the stars are excited and getting ready for the birth of Jesus, but are disappointed when he is born small and poor in a stable.  Little Star is the only one who truly realizes that he was born humble to show that he loved everyone, even the small and poor.  Because of this, he gives all he has to shine brightly through the night and keep the baby Jesus warm.  By morning, his light has burned out and he is gone, but because of his wonderful gift to Baby Jesus, he is remembered by many as they top their Christmas trees with stars.

Written and illustrated in easy language for a child to understand, don't save this book for Christmas time.  Share it all year long.

About the author: Anthony DeStefano is the best-selling author of A Travel Guide to Heaven, Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To, and This Little Prayer of Mine.  He has received prestigious awards from religious organizations worldwide for his efforts to advance Christian beliefs in modern culture.

You can find him on Facebook or his website.

About the illlustrator: Mark Elliott's brilliant illustrations have appeared in many picture books and novels for young readers, including Gail Carson Levine's ever-popular Princess Tales series.  His acclaimed artwork delivers inspiration, wonder, and timelss beauty on every page.

~I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.~

Little Star
Publisher/Publication Date: WaterBrook Press, Aug 2010
ISBN: 978-0-307-45805-6
40 pages
Ages: 4-8 yrs

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mailbox Monday (May 23, 2011)

 Mailbox Monday's host for May is Mari at Mari Reads. In My Mailbox is hosted Sundays at The Story Siren. Please visit these posts and take a look at what packages everybody else got this week! 

The Little Women Letters
by Gabrielle Donnelly
With her older sister, Emma, planning a wedding and her younger sister, Sophie, preparing to launch a career on the London stage, Lulu can’t help but feel like the failure of the Atwater family. Lulu loves her sisters dearly and wants nothing but the best for them, but she finds herself stuck in a rut, working dead-end jobs with no romantic prospects in sight. When her mother asks her to find a cache of old family recipes in the attic of her childhood home, Lulu stumbles across a collection of letters written by her great-great-grandmother Josephine March. In her letters, Jo writes in detail about every aspect of her life: her older sister, Meg’s, new home and family; her younger sister Amy’s many admirers; Beth’s illness and the family’s shared grief over losing her too soon; and the butterflies she feels when she meets a handsome young German. As Lulu delves deeper into the lives and secrets of the March sisters, she finds solace and guidance, but can the words of her great-great-grandmother help Lulu find a place for herself in a world so different from the one Jo knew? Vibrant, fresh, and intelligent, The Little Women Letters explores the imagined lives of Jo March’s descendants—three sisters who are both thoroughly modern and thoroughly March. As uplifting and essential as Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Gabrielle Donnelly’s novel will speak to anyone who’s ever fought with a sister, fallen in love with a fabulous pair of shoes, or wondered what on earth life had in store for her.

Some things, of course, remain unchanged: the stories and jokes that form a family’s history, the laughter over tea in the afternoon, the desire to do the right thing in spite of obstacles. And above all, of course, the fierce, undying, and often infuriating bond of sisterhood that links the Atwater women every bit as firmly as it did the March sisters all those years ago. Both a loving tribute to Little Women and a wonderful contemporary family story, The Little Women Letters is a heartwarming, funny, and wise novel for today.

Threading the Needle
by Marie Bostwick

The economic downturn has hit New Bern, Connecticut, and Tessa Woodruff's herbal apothecary shop, For the Love of Lavender, is suffering. So is her once-happy thirty-four-year marriage to Lee. They'd given up everything to come back to New Bern from Boston and start their business, but now they're wondering if they made the right decision. To relieve the strain, Tessa signs up for a quilting class at the Cobbled Court Quilt Shop, and to her surprise, rediscovers the power of sisterhood - along with the childhood friend she thought she'd lost forever...

Madelyn Beecher left New Bern twenty years ago and never looked back. But when her husband is convicted of running a Ponzi scheme and she's left with nothing but her late grandmother's cottage, she is forced to return to the town she fled. Unfortunately, the cottage is in terrible shape. Madelyn's only hope is to transform it into an inn. But to succeed, she'll need the help of her fellow quilters, including the one friend she never thought she'd see again - or forgive. Now Madelyn and Tessa will have to relive old memories, forge new ones, and realize it's possible to start over, one stitch at a time - as long as you're surrounded by friends...

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice
by Andrea Kane


If she'd only turned her head, she would have seen the car containing her daughter, struggling to get out. Struggling to escape her kidnapper.

Despite all her years determining the fates of families, veteran family court judge Hope Willis couldn't save her own. Now she's frantically grasping at any hope for Krissy's rescue. Her husband dead-set against it, she calls Casey Woods and her team of renegade investigators, Forensic Instincts.

A behaviorist. A techno-wizard. An intuitive. A former Navy SEAL. Unconventional operatives. All with unique talents and personal reasons for being part of Casey's group, they'll do whatever it takes.

Able to accurately read people after the briefest of encounters, Casey leads her crew to Krissy's home. There, she picks up the signs of a nervous spouse, a guilty conscience, a nanny that hides on her cell. She watches as secrets beg to creep into the open.

Forensic Instincts will dig through each tiny clue and eliminate the clutter. But time is running out, and even working around the clock, the authorities are bound by the legal system. Not so Casey's team. For they know that the difference between Krissy coming back alive and disappearing forever could be as small as a suspect's rapid breathing, or as deep as Hope's dark family history.

French Lessons
by Ellen Sussman
A single day in Paris changes the lives of three Americans as they each set off to explore the city with a French tutor, learning about language, love, and loss as their lives intersect in surprising ways.

Josie, Riley, and Jeremy have come to the City of Light for different reasons: Josie, a young high school teacher, arrives in hopes of healing a broken heart. Riley, a spirited but lonely expat housewife, struggles to feel connected to her husband and her new country. And Jeremy, the reserved husband of a renowned actress, is accompanying his wife on a film shoot, yet he feels distant from her world.

As they meet with their tutors—Josie with Nico, a sensitive poet; Riley with Phillippe, a shameless flirt; and Jeremy with the consummately beautiful Chantal—each succumbs to unexpected passion and unpredictable adventures. Yet as they traverse Paris’s grand boulevards and intimate, winding streets, they uncover surprising secrets about one another—and come to understand long-buried truths about themselves.

Summer in the South
by Cathy Holton

Cathy Holton, author of the popular Beach Trip, returns with an intriguing and mysterious tale of dark deeds and family secrets in a small Southern town.

After a personal tragedy, Chicago writer Ava Dabrowski quits her job to spend the summer in Woodburn, Tennessee, at the invitation of her old college friend Will Fraser and his two great-aunts, Josephine and Fanny Woodburn.  Her charming hosts offer Ava a chance to relax at their idyllic ancestral estate, Woodburn Hall, while working on her first novel.

But Woodburn is anything but Quiet: Ancient feuds lurk just beneath its placid surface, and modern-day rivalries emerge as Ava finds herself caught between the competing attentions of Will and his black-sheep cousin Jake.  Fascinated by the family's impressive history -- their imposing house filled with treasures, and their mingling with literary lions Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner -- Ava stumbles onto rumors about the darker side of the Woodburns' lore.  Putting aside her planned novel, she turns her creative attentions to the eccentric and tragic clan, a family with more skeletons (and ghosts) in thier closets than anyone could possibly imagine.  As Ava struggles to write the true story of the Woodburns, she finds herself tangled in the tragic history of a mysterious Southern family whose secrets mirror her own.

The Arrivals
by Meg Mitchell Moore

It's early summer when Ginny and William's peaceful life in Vermont comes to an abrupt halt.

First, their daughter Lillian arrives, with her two children in tow, to escape her crumbling marriage. Next, their son Stephen and his pregnant wife Jane show up for a weekend visit, which extends indefinitely when Jane ends up on bed rest. When their youngest daughter Rachel appears, fleeing her difficult life in New York, Ginny and William find themselves consumed again by the chaos of parenthood - only this time around, their children are facing adult problems.

By summer's end, the family gains new ideas of loyalty and responsibility, exposing the challenges of surviving the modern family - and the old adage, once a parent, always a parent, has never rung so true.

Trader of Secrets
by Steve Martini
Defense attorney Paul Madriani is embroiled in a case as perilous as any he has ever faced: one that involves an angry killer who will stop at nothing short of vengeance, and two missing NASA scientists who are holding secrets that a hostile government desperately wants to purchase—in blood if they must.

Madriani's daughter, Sarah, has evaded the man known as Liquida, who has stalked her all the way across the country. For her own safety, she is being kept under armed guard on a farm in Ohio.

But one morning, itching for a predawn run to shake off the tension that has grown in the hours she's spent waiting for word from her father, Sarah slips from her ring of protection. What she doesn't know is that at the same moment her assailant is outside, waiting patiently in the dark.

Meanwhile in California, two men in a parked car argue over millions in cash that could be slipping through their fingers and a scheme involving government technology for sale that could rock the world.

Paul Madriani, his companion Joselyn Cole, and his longtime law partner, Harry Hinds, track Liquida, not knowing that their quest will carry them deep into the vortex of international terror.It is a journey that will lead them toward a bizarre and cruel twist of nature—and the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. From the nation's capital to California, from Bangkok to Paris and the jungles of Mexico, Madriani and his party race against time to find Liquida and the scientist who is the "trader of secrets" before he can unleash the weapon that could set the world ablaze.

The Laughing Dog
by D.C. Burns

Struck down in the prime of her youth and strength, Lauren McKintock finds the road to recovery populated by a ghost, a god, and a mystical little dog who helps her discover the healing power of love.

Bluebird Finds a Home
by Ryan Jacobson
Illustrated by Joel Seibert
From the creative minds of a successful children's book author and the Emmy-winning animator of ''Pinky and the Brain,'' ''Scooby-Doo'' and ''Smurfs'' comes a team of forest animals dedicated to saving the planet. Each entertaining story is mixed with humor, lovable characters and an ''I can make a difference'' conservation message. In this book, the Nature Squad battles deforestation to find a home for Bluebird.

 What Books Came Home to You Last Week?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

WWW Wednesday (May 18, 2011)

WWW Wednesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.  To play along just answer the following three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you'll read next?

Currently Reading:

Recently Finished:

Reading Next:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Kid's Korner: Good Night, Little Sea Otter by Janet Halfmann (Book Review)

Title: Good Night, Little Sea Otter
Author: Janet Halfmann
Illustrator: Wish Williams
Publisher: Star Bright Books

Children will want to settle down for bedtime with Little Sea Otter as he snuggles onto Mama's chest in a cozy bed of sea kelp and bids good night to all his ocean friends.  From sea lions to sea snails, seagulls to seals and sea urchins, it seems he'll never close his eyes.  But gently rocking seas, twinkling stars, and Mama's loving arms lull Little Sea Otter -- and children everywhere -- to dreamland.

My thoughts: This is a great book to read to children at bedtime.  I know my son tries every trick in the book to keep from going to sleep, but eventually, just like Little Sea Otter, he is unable to keep his eyes open.  Sea otters are a favorite of my son's, as we saw them on vacation last year.  We even came home with a stuffed sea otter, so this story was especially fun for him.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention the pictures, as children's books need engaging pictures as well!  The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, filled with vibrant colors and engaging animals. Where else can you find such a kaleidoscope of colors than beneath the sea?

~I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review from Star Bright Books.~

Publisher/Publication Date: Star Bright Books, Sept 2010
ISBN: 978-1-59572-254-6
24 pages
Ages 4-8 yrs

Dead of Wynter by Spencer Seidel (Book Review and Giveaway!)

Title: Dead of Wynter
Author: Spencer Seidel
Publisher: Publishing Works

"Dolly, it's your mother."

Dolly.  Jackie Ruth Wynter had called Alice that for years.  Alice hated it.  Almost as much as she hated her old life as Alice Wynter when she lived with her torn up family in the small town of Redding, Maine.  Her twin brother Chris had been fading fast, transforming into a mirror image of their drunken, violent father.  Now Jackie Ruth was telling her that Papa was dead and Chris was missing.

Alice resigns herself to return, helping her mother and the local police with the mystery surrounding the crime.  But there are some family secrets her mother would sooner take to the grave than reveal.  As the authorities come closer to solving the mystery of the men in her family, she begins to realize her past life as Alice Wynter is the missing part of the puzzle.  But who is searching out the former Alice?

Wynter family secrets run deep, and they all have something to hide in the bone-chilling cold of Maine lake country. The mystery of her father's murder and brother's disappearance will capture your attention well past when the fire has gone out.

My thoughts: I loved this book.  I read it quicker than I have read any book in quite awhile.  I literally did not want to put it down.  The story jumps back and forth between the present time, when Alice goes back to Redding to be with her family and 1984, which is where the circumstances that drive the present day events started.  You get just little bits of the story at a time, some I was able to guess, some not so much.  Just when you thought you were going to get some juicy morsel the author would turn the story to make you wait a little longer.

The present day story wraps up in just a couple of days, but lots of family secrets are unearthed.  Alice thinks she is the only one with anything to hide, but learns that everyone in her family had a secret - some old, some new. She reconnects with an old boyfriend from highschool while she is back in town and is able to eventually heal some wounds that had happened with him. 

I liked the way the author used the Maine weather to play a role in the story.  As the weather intensified, so did the story.  The more the snow fell and covered the landscape, the more secrets were unburied.  I felt satisfied by the ending and felt like all the loose ends had been wrapped up.  Highly recommend this book for anyone who loves mysteries, thrillers, and are fans of good fiction!

About the author: Spencer Seidel lives and works in suburban New Jersey.  This is his first book.  Follow his musings of music, books and other things at http://www.spencerseidel.com/ or on Twitter @SpencerSeidel.

~I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange from my review from Media Muscle.~

 Thanks goes out to Erin from Media Muscle in providing a giveaway for one of my readers!

To enter:  Just leave a comment below with your email address.  This contest will end on June 6th and is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada.

For additional entries:  Follow my blog - just tell me how you do it (up to two ways, good for two entries)
Twitter - leave me the link
Blog post - leave me the link

A total of five entries are available - please leave each one in a separate comment.  You only need to leave your email address once.

Winners of all giveaways on Books and Needlepoint are chosen using random.org.

Publisher/Publication Date: Publishing Works, May 24, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-935557-69-2
281 pages

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (May 16, 2011)

What are you reading on Mondays is hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey - You can hook up with the Mr. Linky there with your own post - but be sure and let me know what you are reading too!

Currently Reading:
The Fitting Room: Putting on the Character of Christ by Kelly Minter
The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

Next Up:
Graveminder by Melissa MarrE-Book:
Sudden Moves: A Young Adult Mystery by Kelli Sue Landon
Katrina, The Beginning (Royal Blood Chronicles) by Elizabeth Loraine

Next E-Books up:
The Witches Lottery (Enchanted Island Series) by Krystal McLaughlin
Life From Scratch by Melissa Ford
Deadly Errors by Allen Wyler

Bathroom Book:
Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show by Frank Delaney

Reviewed Last Week:
Flavors by Emily Sue Harvey
Reading Lips: A Memoir of Kisses by Claudia Sternbach

Waiting for Reviews:
Wither (The Chemical Garden Trilogy)by Lauren DeStefano
The Midwife's Confession by Diane Chamberlain
Surrender the Dark by L.A. Banks
Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso
Dead of Wynter by Spencer Seidel

Children's Books waiting for review:
Little Star by Anthony DeStefano
Pearl's Wisdom by Auntie LuLu
Bug Meets His Friend (Bug's Adventure Series) by K.M. Groshek
Good Night, Little Sea Otter by Janet Halfmann

Upcoming giveaways:
Dead of Wynter by Spencer Seidel
Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman
Redeemer by Jeffrey S. Williams
Daddy's Little Squirrel by Kayla Shurley Davidson



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