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1. Writer Wednesday: What 2016 Taught Me


Maybe I should have titled this post, "What I Learned in 2016." It was a tough year, but I did learn a few very important things. Here they are in no particular order:
  • Cover design  ~  I've been designing covers (in secret) for years, but this year I learned a lot about cover design and even did my own cover for Fading Into the Shadows, which I love.
  • ebook formatting  ~  I've been doing paperback formatting for a while, but this year, I learned fancy ebook formatting thanks to some awesome programs.
  • Self-Publishing is the way to go for me  ~  I've been traditionally published, but I'm not interested in that route anymore. I've worked on both sides of publishing for years now, and I'm ready to take my future in my own hands and self-publish from here on out. (I'm very excited about this!)
  • I love writing adult mysteries  ~  For years I swore I wouldn't write adult books, but look at me now. I don't know why I didn't think I'd like it, but I find the 25-30 age group really fun to write about.
  • Balance  ~  I'm particularly proud of this one because I've had the goal of finding balance between editing for clients and working on my own books for the longest time. I just couldn't figure out how to pull it off until I participated in NaNoWriMo this year. Now, I know I can balance the two and get all my work done on time.
Those are my top five writing lessons learned in 2016. What did you learn this year?


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2. Monday Mishmash 12/26/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:

  1. Christmas I had a great Christmas and I hope you did too if you celebrate it.
  2. Proofing  I finished proofing Lies We Tell. I'm very excited to venture into adult mystery/suspense. The book will release in April.
  3. Winter Break  My daughter is home for Christmas break this week, so I'll be spending most of my time with her, which is why this Mishmash is shorter than usual.

That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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3. Friday Feature: Flightpath by Amber Addison



From New York Times best-selling author Cristin Harber and Amber Addison comes an exciting collaboration...

Being married young isn't a thing of the past in Louisiana. And for Madelyn and Seth, it's a way of life. Except, no one prepared them for the road ahead. 

Moving to new places more times than either of them could count with new battles to fight at every stop, their road to happiness is bumpy.

Between Air Force Pararescue school, deployments, a baby, and the strain that military life can put on a family, they've discovered life has to fall apart in order to fall back together again. 

When a terrorist attack puts Maddie's life in grave danger, their lives definitely fall apart, and Seth knows saving her might be the only thing that saves them.

There will be an early release on iBooks on 1/16 - and it will release everywhere else 1/24!

You can preorder now: 
➵#Amazon: http://amzn.to/2hGDv1j
➵#BarnesandNoble: http://bit.ly/FlightpathBN
➵#Kobo: http://bit.ly/FlightpathKobo
➵#iBooks: http://apple.co/2hDmwzN
➵#Newsletter: http://bit.ly/2h1QTMH(Sign up and you could win ARCs of ALL the ebooks!)
Amber Addison is a southern mama who writes about real life love in small town USA. She enjoys writing contemporary romance that has it's ups and downs just like the trials that we face in our day to day. Love isn't perfect and she doesn't pretend that it is. 

Amber writes anything from swoon worthy military guys to sexy soccer players. When she's not writing about hot guys and strong women, she's reading or cleaning up an endless trail of toys left behind by her dogs and daughter or getting tattoos. 



*Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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4. Monday Mishmash 12/19/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Sunday is Christmas! It's Practically Here!  Can you tell I'm a fan of the Grinch? I love the original cartoon movie. I'm all ready for Sunday.
  2. Editing  I'll be doing a client edit this week before the holidays.
  3. Publishing  Since Fading Into the Shadows is ready to go for it's January 16, 2017 release, I'm busy getting my April release ready. The digital proof of Lies We Tell has been proofed, and the paperback proof has been ordered!
  4. Taxes  It's getting to be that time again where I need to update my expense and earning logs for taxes. Ick!
  5. Snow  I'm done with snow and winter hasn't even officially begun yet. :(
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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5. Monday Mishmash 11/28/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Nursing Hadley Back To Health  After my dog collided with a rock wall, she needed stitches and has wounds on her mouth, cheek, and shoulder. She wants to scratch all the time, which opens those wounds again. We can't cone her because the cone would lay on the wounds, so we have to watch her every second. Needless to say I'm not sleeping or able to leave the house.
  2. Editing  I have a small break in edits (off until Thursday), which is good considering Hadley is taking most of my time and attention these days.
  3. Cover Design  This weekend I designed the cover for Lies We Tell, my first adult book! It's a suspense and will release in April 2017.
  4. Drafting  With the death of my grandfather and Hadley's injury, I had to stop drafting. I just couldn't. I'm taking a break from writing to get my thoughts together and come to terms with things.
  5. Book Signing  On Saturday, my daughter and I will be signing together at Middle Smithfield Elementary school for their local vendor event.

    That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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6. Monday Mishmash 10/31/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Happy Halloween!  I hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween. 
  2. NaNoWriMo Starts Tomorrow!  If you're taking part in NaNo, buddy me. My name is khashway on the site. And good luck! 
  3. Editing  Even though I'm drafting a new book, I have client edits to tackle this month. Eek! NaNo is pretty much my way of showing myself I can find balance between doing work for others and doing work for myself.
  4. Field Trip  I'm chaperoning my daughter's field trip on Friday. Um, when am I supposed to write for NaNo? I'm not panicking. Nope. Not at all. Okay, maybe a little. I guess I'll be writing in the evening on Friday. Send coffee please.
  5. Fading Into the Shadows  Fading Into the Shadows is fully edited, proofed, and ready to go over two months early! I'm so excited for this book. E-ARCs are in, so if you have time to read the book before January 16, 2017 and would like an ARC in exchange for an honest review, sign up here. The cover reveal will take place November 16th-18th. If you're interested in sharing the cover on any social media site, you can sign up for that here.  
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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7. Monday Mishmash 10/17/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Fading Into the Shadows  I've set some dates for my upcoming mythology-based YA, Fading Into the Shadows. The book will release on January 16, 2017 and the cover reveal will be November 16-18. More info soon. :)
  2. Editing  I have two edits on my plate this week. I'm finishing round three on one and starting another.
  3. Book Events  I really need a master list of every book convention and expo (Do they make one of those?) so I can plan which ones I want to attend in 2017. So far, I'm doing YA Fest in March and my local book expo, which is usually in April.
  4. Revisions  I'm hoping to have some time to work on revising my adult suspense this week.
  5. Proud Mom  Last week, my daughter got to read the morning announcements at school because she was chosen Student of the Month. I got to hear her do the announcements, and I was blown away by how much feeling she puts into reading aloud. She reads aloud at home all the time, and I feel like it's really help her learn tone and inflection. So proud of her. :)
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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8. Friday Feature: If It Walks Like a Killer


A perfect family living a perfect lie...


IF IT WALKS LIKE A KILLER 
by Kiersten Modglin
Series: The Caroline Killer Files #1
Genres: Thriller | Crime | Suspense 
Release Date: August 16, 2016
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Cover Designer: Deranged Doctor Designs

SYNOPSIS :
What Caide and Rachael Abbott want you to believe…

They are happily married college sweethearts, parents to two beautiful children, and they lead a perfect, quiet little life.

What you should believe…

Nothing.

Nothing they tell you.

Nothing you hear.

In fact, nothing in the Abbotts’ picture-perfect world is what it seems.

But when their small town of La Rue, North Carolina is rocked by the brutal murder of a beloved member of the community, a manhunt begins, and neither Caide nor Rachael thought they would become prime suspects.

Every belief Caide and Rachael have about their lives is thrown out the window…

With mounting evidence and lives on the line, the Abbotts are forced to uncover what mysteries are hiding behind closed doors. When old wounds are torn open, secrets are revealed, and their sanity is put to the ultimate test, even memories can’t be trusted in their quest to find the truth. And when the community rallies for justice, suspicions of one another rise, leaving one question begging to be answered...

If it walks like a killer, will the small town of La Rue ever know who the real murderer is?

Watch the BOOK TRAILER!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kiersten Modglin lives in Nashville, TN with her husband and their two Boston Terriers, Cedric and Chloe. A psychology fanatic, lover of Netflix, coffee and all things Harry Potter, Kiersten can almost always be found curled up in her favorite writing chair with a good book. Kiersten writes psychological suspense novels that explore the darkest parts of human nature and the inner workings of twisted minds. Writing has always been an important part of Kiersten’s life; for her, this is just the beginning.


*Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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9. Monday Mishmash 5/23/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Book Signing at Blairstown Elementary  I'm returning to Blairstown Elementary today. You may remember I had a school visit there in March. Well, the students had the opportunity to order my books and I'm returning today to sign them. I was amazed at how many ordered books. I'm doing hand exercises to get ready for all the signing. ;) 
  2. Drafting  Drafting at half my usual pace is going well. It's hard for me to not fully jump in and let the manuscript consume me, but I'm forcing myself to only write half the day to keep balance between editing and drafting. So far so good. Or so I keep telling myself.
  3. Editing  I'm managing to stay on pace with edits even though I'm cutting my day's in half. The key is I'm staying sane and healthy. No stress. I'm calling it a win.
  4. Summer Schedule  This is my daughter's last full week of school, which means my summer schedule will be in full effect beginning June 1. My work hours will be early mornings and late evenings so I can spend the bulk of my day being Mom (my favorite job of all).
  5. Visions of Mockingbird Point  I should be getting edits back on the third book in the Curse of the Granville Fortune series in early June. This is the final installment and while I'm sad to see the characters go, I'm happy with how the series ends. Expect the book sometime in July.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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10. Monday Mishmash 5/9/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Mother's Day  I hope all the moms enjoyed their day yesterday. I had a great weekend complete with a shopping day with my daughter while my husband cleaned the entire house. Now that's a great Mother's Day!
  2. Drafting  I'm working on an Ashelyn Drake adult contemporary romance. I wasn't planning to draft right now, but the idea just hit me and I had to write.
  3. Scaling Back  I've been really stressed lately and overworked. I'm making an effort to scale back for the sake of my sanity and health.
  4. PTO Luncheon  This week I'm going to the PTO luncheon at my daughter's school. It's so nice of the teachers to do this for the PTO volunteers.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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11. Monday Mishmash 5/2/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. It's the Little Things  Sometimes little things make me smile. Like my metallic green pen I just bought. Writing in my day planner in that sparkly green makes me happy. Yay for the little things. :)
  2. Editing  My editing schedule has been CRAZY! I'm not sure how I got through the number of edits I did in April. It's made me realize I need to scale back a bit because I'm seeing physical effects of the stress now and that's not good.
  3. Recovering  So far this year, I've had 5 books come out. The entire Into the Fire trilogy and the first two books in the Curse of the Granville Fortune series. In a word, I'm exhausted!
  4. Shift to Adult  My focus recently has shifted to adult. I still have several YA manuscripts in different stages, but I'm also working on several adult and new adult manuscripts. Maybe I'm finally growing up, but I really like writing for adults. Remember when I said I never would? Never say never!
  5. Writing Time  I'm hoping to sneak in some writing time. Last month was all about editing, and I need to write.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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12. By the Stars by Lindsay B. Ferguson




By the Stars by Lindsay B. Ferguson

Over the years, I have been asked to review many, many, many books. Because I haven't blogged often in the last couple years, I have mostly ignored email requests for reviews. When Lindsay B. Ferguson emailed me, I had to chuckle. She is my neighbor, and I was aware of her upcoming debut novel, but she didn't realize who I was. :) I told her that I'm a blogging slacker, and we decided not to have my blog be part of her big blog tour. You see...It gets sticky reviewing books for people you know. What if you hate it?

But...I bought the book on my Kindle the day it was released, and I wasn't just pleasantly surprised, I LOVED IT. I love that it is based on a true story, and I can't wait to talk to Lindsay about what exactly is history and what she created. I love the characters. I love the romance. I love it all. And you know what it really made me want to do? Like big time? Go dancing! Can we resurrect dance halls, please?

I know that among my friends, Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson, was extremely well-liked. Edenbrooke was the first in a collection of "Proper Romances". For friends who love Edenbrooke and other clean romance novels, By the Stars should be your next read!

From Amazon: "When Cal finally gets a chance with Kate, the girl he's loved since grade school, their easy friendship quickly blossoms into a meaningful romance. Spirited and independent, Kate keeps a guarded heart due to a painful past, and Cal wants nothing more than to gain her trust. But World War II soon cuts their time far too short, and Cal prepares to part from her - possibly for good. After he's gone, what Kate does next changes everything. 

In the suffocating jungles of the Philippines Cal encounters the chilling life of a soldier and deadly battles of war. With Kate's memory willing him on, Cal must put his trust in God to survive if he hopes to ever return to her. Inspired by a true story, By the Stars is a love story that stands the test of time and the most intense obstacles."

0 Comments on By the Stars by Lindsay B. Ferguson as of 4/16/2016 5:47:00 PM
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13. THE PASSION OF DOLSSA by Julie Berry // Slow but Gooooood

Review by Andye THE PASSION OF DOLSSAby Julie BerryAge Range: 12 - 17 yearsGrade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 496 pagesPublisher: Viking Books for Young Readers (April 12, 2016)Audible Audio EditionListening Length: 11 hours and 42 minutesProgram Type: AudiobookVersion: UnabridgedPublisher: Listening LibraryGoodreads | Amazon | Audible I must write this account, and when I have finished, I will

0 Comments on THE PASSION OF DOLSSA by Julie Berry // Slow but Gooooood as of 4/14/2016 11:54:00 PM
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14. Writer Wednesday: Choices of a Hybrid Author

Let's face it. The publishing world is changing. I've been a hybrid author for a while now, releasing books both through self-publishing and through traditional publishing houses. Honestly, there are pros and cons to both, and I feel you have to do what is best for you and your book.

I decided to branch out into writing adult, because I'm not writing enough age groups already, right? ;) Well, when I sat down to do my taxes (Eek!) I realized my self-published Ashelyn Drake books tend to sell better than my traditionally published Ashelyn Drake books. Hmm… It could be the age levels affecting this. It could be a lot of things, actually. Oddly enough, Ashelyn Drake sells better on Barnes and Noble than Amazon, too. (Don't ask me how I feel about B&N doing away with the Nook. I'm still crying over that.) But I've decided that my first Ashelyn Drake adult titles will be self-published. 

You can ask my agent how I feel about self-publishing. It makes me crazy nervous. Even though I've done it before, I panic. Why? It's a LOT of work to self-publish. A LOT. But if sales are better, I think that work is worth it. Does this mean I'll self-publish all my adult titles? Nope. I'm a hybrid author and I don't see that changing, because like I said, there are pros and cons to self-publishing and traditional publishing. 

But I feel really good about self-publishing Lies We Tell. Did I just title drop? ;) Scared? Yes. But good at the same time. I'm weird like that. And since Lies We Tell is with my editor now, it might be coming your way sooner than anticipated.

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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15. Monday Mishmash 3/7/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Happy Release Day to Rick Starkey!  Blues Bones is officially out in the world today. I can't tell you how much I love this book. If you read middle grade or know any middle grade readers, check this one out.
  2. Girls' Day!  My daughter is off from school today, so I'm spending the day with her. I love our girls' days.
  3. Editing  I'm editing for clients again this week. I'm really lucky to have such amazing authors for clients. It makes my job so much fun.
  4. Romantic Suspense  I started working on the sequel to my Ashelyn Drake romantic suspense. I have to say, I really like writing for adults.
  5. Class Pictures  It's class picture day at my daughter's school tomorrow. I'll be helping out for part of the day. It's always fun to see the kids all dressed up.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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16. 8 Reasons You Should Never Read V. E. (Victoria) Schwab's Shades of Magic Series \\ A Darker Shade of Magic - A Gathering Of Shadows

I I know you've probably been hearing a lot about this series, and how amazing it is, and how the world-building is incredible and the characters are awesome and blah, blah, blah. But I'm here to tell you to think twice before starting these books. Here are 8 reasons you may want to steer clear. 1. You're going to want a magic coat that changes every time you flip it around and you can't

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17. Most Dangerous - a review

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (2015) Roaring Brook Press

As he did with the spy, Harry Gold, in Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, Steven Sheinkin uses one man to tell a much larger story in Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War.  That man is the infamous leaker of the so-called Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg.   A veteran himself, and a former Pentagon employee, Ellsberg initially believed that the war in Vietnam was a noble cause.  However, the more he learned, the less he believed so.  Eventually, based on the information to which he was privy and the US populace was not, he changed his mind completely.

Whether you believe Edward Snowden to be a patriotic whistleblower or a traitorous leaker, and whether you believe that Apple's refusal to hack into the phone of the San Bernardino murderers is reprehensible or ethical, it cannot be denied that these are weighty matters worthy of national discussion.  In the time of Daniel Ellsberg, people read newspapers and watched a generally unbiased nightly newscast.  In contrast, many people today derive their news from "sound bites," political analysts, and partisan news stations. These issues deserve more thoughtful consideration.

While Most Dangerous is an excellently researched biographical and historical account, and can be  appreciated for that aspect alone, Steve Sheinkin's book also will also promote reflection on the nature of national security, personal privacy, democracy, freedom of the press, and foreign intervention.  We have been on very similar ground before. 

Selected quotes:

page 149
"They all drove to the Capitol for the traditional outdoor inauguration ceremony.  Johnson watched Nixon take the oath of office, wondering what lay ahead.  "I reflected on how inadequate any man is for the office of the American Presidency," he later recalled.  "The magnitude of the job dwarfs every man who aspires to it.""

page 160
"He had often heard antiwar protesters shouting that Americans were fighting on the wrong side of the Vietnam War. They were missing the point. "It wasn't that we were on the wrong side," Ellsberg concluded, "We were the wrong side.""

FBI agents began questioning the Ellsbergs friends and relatives.  They even attempted to obtain Patricia Ellsberg's dental records, but her dentist refused to cooperate.  Nixon's operatives broke into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's doctor in a failed attempt to steal his medical records.  They were searching for anything to use in a campaign to discredit Ellsberg. 

page 263
 "Psychologically, it's not so bothersome, because we believe in what we're doing," Patricia Ellsberg said about the feeling of being watched by one's own government.  "But I think it's troublesome for the country that there is surveillance of citizens, and that the right of privacy is being threatened."

Read an excerpt from Most Dangerous here.
Awards and accolades:
Other Steve Sheinkin books reviewed on Shelf-employed

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18. Review: The Lake House

The Lake House: A Novel by Kate Morton. Atria. 2015. Library Copy.


The-lake-house-9781451649321_hr
The Plot: 1933 Cornwall. A eleven month old baby disappears from his crib during a house party at an estate. He's never found.

2003. A police detective is visiting her grandfather in Cornwall. She stumbles upon an abandoned house and hears the local story: how decades ago, a child disappeared and the family left and never came back.

A lost child, deep family secrets, the ties between mother and child, the choices made. And a mystery that was waiting to be solved, by the person willing to ask the right questions.

The Good: I loved this book so much. It had everything I love in a book.

Their are three main narrators, and two main time periods.

Alice Edevane was sixteen the summer her brother Theo was taken. The summer on the Cornish estate was as magical as any Alice had ever had at the beloved family estate, Loeanneth, and even more wonderful because its the year she falls in love for the first time and the year she decides to embrace a life as a writer, and writes her first mystery.

In 2003, Sadie Sparrow's visit to her grandfather isn't entirely voluntary. There were problems for a recent case involving a young mother who disappeared, and Sadie refused to believe the woman left her small child behind. When faced with the truth of the woman abandoning her child, Sadie made foolish mistakes and now is waiting in the country for things to get resolved in the city.

When she starts to investigate the mystery of Theo Edevane, she finds out that the home is now owned by Alice Edevane, also known as A. C. Edevane, a famous mystery writer. After the reader encounters the young, brilliant, hopeful Alice on the brink of life, they next encounter her as woman pushing ninety, succesful, but wiser about people than she was as a child.

Then there is Eleanor Edevane, mother of Alice and Theo, and her voice joins the story.

The book jumps from time to time and narrator to narrator, and this flow of story is brilliant. Morton is careful about what and when she tells the reader, but part of the reason is because each person knows only their own story and is limited to their own impressions, their own memories, their own knowledge. As a mystery, Morton deftly guided me so that I was guessing "who" or "what" or "why" just pages ahead of Sadie, so that I felt as clever or more so than Sadie. And then, with Sadie, realized when I was wrong, because I learned something new.

The Lake House is a mystery, but it's also a story of family. Of the brilliant Edevanes who at first seem like something out of a PBS Miniseries. The family had once had a grand house, and Loeanneth, grand as it seems, is the small house that is all that is left of that manor. The house is important to Eleanor and her husband, Anthony; to their children, Deborah and Alice and Clemmie and Theo; and part of the punch in the gut tragedy of the present is how the house was abandoned after Theo's disappearance.

Pull back, and it's more than a handsome couple and their beautiful children and the fairy tale estate. Fairy tale in part because the child Eleanor inspired a beloved children's book.

But no fairy tale is all sun and sunshine. As Sadie delves further into the past, as Alice reexamines her own memories and impressions, and as Eleanor steps forward and shares her story, secrets are uncovered. Because as anyone who does the math can figure, the Great War had ended just 15 years before. And what was the far away past to a sixteen year old Alice was very much part of the lives of her parents.

I don't want to give too much away, because as I said part of the joy of this book is the structure of what is revealed when and why and how. I will say this about those reveals. They aren't "aha" moments of crimes and terrible deeds. Rather, they are about perspective and knowledge. Eleanor's children see her as a certain type of mother, and their father as certain type of man, and yes -- the father is the favorite. As the story unwinds, it becomes clear that part of this is because Eleanor did what was necessary to give her children a safe, happy, childhood, at any cost. And she was so good that Alice, decades later, still didn't quite realize what her mother had done -- how her memory of a wonderful, carefree day was, to her mother, a day fraught with danger.

One of my Favorite Books of 2016. I now want to read all of Morton's books.












Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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19. What I've Read Lately: Harlequin Presents




This week, I'm super excited to be on The Worst Bestsellers talking about The Greek Tycoon's Blackmailed Mistress by Lynne Graham. (Spoiler Alert: I didn't like it.) In preparation for the episode, I read a lot of Harlequin Presents titles, and a I really did like most of them (heightening my dismay with a certain Greek Tycoon.) I will definitely be reading more and also highly recommend this Pictorial Jezebel article on the history of Harlequin.

Ruthless Billionaire, Forbidden Baby Emma Darcy

This was great. Tamalyn is a midwife and meets Fletcher at a college friend's wedding (he's her brother). They're both in the wedding party and have to walk together. They then meet up again at another wedding and hook up. Fletcher is a young hot tech billionaire and when he's in town, he and Tamalyn get together. And then she gets pregnant. He insists they marry, because if their kid is a child prodigy like him, he wants what he never had--someone around who understands how alienating it can be. She rolls with it and they get along but they aren't in love. Until they are.

I liked this one because the conflict wasn't avoidable--it was more just learning how to mesh personalities and be a team. The marriage of convenience didn't come with any stipulations and Fletcher was an alpha, but not an asshat.

Pretender to the Throne Maisey Yates

Loved this one. (And I realized it was in a series, and bought the rest of the series so I could read it because I wanted mooooooooooooooooooore.) It's time for Xander, the playboy prince, to return home and lead his country. He really doesn't want to for REASONS. (I'm not sure if they're spoilery reasons, of if it was a bit of a mystery because I was coming in at book 3 of a series. Anyway, they're legit reasons.) But he does, and the first thing he does is find Layna, his ex-fiance. He needs her help if he's going to make this work. However, she's been living at a convent, because after he left, she was horribly disfigured in an acid attack and has hidden away ever since, and other REASONS.

So, I loved this one because they treated their engagement and relationship very much like a partnership for the good of the country, with the hopes of maybe turning into something real. They both knew what they were getting into and there weren't illusions. I also really liked them as characters--they both have a lot of heavy stuff in their past that's weighing them down (there are a lot of repercussions to the acid attack, and the event that made Xander leave in the first place had a lot of lasting impact on the kingdom in general). I really like that they both need each other in order to work through they're issues--it's a very equal relationship in that they're both healing each other, which was nice. I also love the fact that Xander's self-aware enough to know when he's being an ass. Sometimes he doesn't care, but he still realizes he's doing it. Really excited to read the others in the series.

Secrets of a Bollywood Marriage Susanna Carr.

Tina and Dev's marriage was a big deal in Bollywood, but Tina's been away for several months and now she's back, asking for divorce. Dev needs to present a stable home life, so if she acts like they're still an item for 2 months (which, because the servants will talk, involves sharing a bed, but nothing has to happen in the bed) he'll give her the divorce and minimize the scandal.

Overall, I loved this one. I loved that it looks at the pain of miscarriage and how it really hurt their relationship. I love how Tina wasn't ashamed of seeking the mental health help she needed. I liked the look at the workings of Bollywood film industry and how Tina wasn't afraid to demand what she wanted and needed. Dev makes a few missteps (including a big lie I'm not keen on, even if the plot hinges on it) but overall, yes, I really liked this one a lot.

A Prize Beyond Jewels Carole Mortimer.

This one I didn't like as much. Rafe is a gallery owner playboy who never has any problems with the ladies, so why is Nina always resisting him? Nina's father is super over-protective so what little she does give Rafe is a major rebellion.

Part of the reason I didn't like this as much is writing quality-- it's really repetitive, so I kept thinking I was reading the same page over and over, even though I wasn't. Rafe often crosses into asshat territory and while Nina had some real meat to her character, Rafe just didn't. Also, so much of Nina's reluctance stems on THE GREAT FAMILY MYSTERY (instead of Rafe's asshattyness) and then it's all revealed in this big rush and eh. It just didn't work for me.



All Books Provided by... my local library

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20. Meg Cabot's Royalty



Royal Wedding: A Princess Diaries Novel

From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess

Wahoo! Princess Mia is back! It's a few years post-college and she's trying to juggle the antics of her grandmother and father, her charity work, and her royal commitments. Sadness though! Mr. Gianni (the math teacher her mom started dating in the first book) died a little bit before this book takes place. :(

The big press speculation is why hasn't Michael proposed yet, but hey! as you can probably guess by the title, he does! And then they have to deal with the headache of letting Grandmere anywhere near the wedding plans.

More complicating factors:

1. Her dad was arrested for driving his new race car (at race car speeds) down the highway
2. Her dad is going to lose the election for Prime Minister
3. Her dad has another child, who's been living out in Jersey that no one knew about.

Plus, Mia's usual insanity.

Honestly, if you like the Cabot, especially The Princess Diaries this is a good one to pick up. I love seeing Mia as an adult--she has really grown and matured while still being Mia and I'm excited that the new middle grade series will let us see where her life goes!

Speaking of the Middle Grade series, even if you don't read the rest of the series, I recommend reading From the Notebooks along with this book. There is MAJOR plot overlap, but it's from two different sides. I love the scenes where Mia is thinking "OMG, I've ruined this girl's life" and Olivia is thinking "OMG! THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!"

Olivia's track is also going to be very different than Mia's (how/why is a major spoiler so just trust me on this one) so I'm excited for the series in general.

Books Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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21. The Boys Who Challenged Hitler - an audiobook review

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose. Narrated by Phillip Hoose and Michael Braun.  (2015, Recorded Books)

This is the heretofore little-known story of schoolboys who challenged the Nazi army even as their country's leaders collaborated with the Germans. Alternating first-person accounts of young saboteur, Knud Pedersen, with carefully researched narrative, Phillip Hoose tells the compelling story of these daring young boys who were willing to risk their lives to free Denmark from German occupation. Without their parents' knowledge, the boys raided, stole, and destroyed German property with nothing more than bicycles for transportation! Their heroic actions sparked the Danish resistance.

Michael Braun narrates the chapters containing Knud Pedersen's first-hand recollections of the events. While his delivery is weighty, it lacks personality. It is through the actions of Knud that the listener learns to like and admire him, rather than through his speech. Because the book is targeted at a young audience (ages 12-18) and Knud himself was only a teen at the time, a younger narrator may have been more appropriate. Author Phillip Hoose does an excellent job with the alternating chapters. He reads precisely and takes great care in the pronunciation of Danish names and places.

This is a well-researched, captivating story that proves the ability of individuals to effect change against overwhelming odds.

4 CDs

Review copy supplied by LibraryThing.



Today is Nonfiction Monday


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22. 84, Charing Cross Road

84, Charing Cross Road Helene Hanff

This is one of those books that always shows up on 1000 Books to Read Before You Die lists. It's been on my radar in that capacity for a long time, but at the same time, it's a series of letters between a writer and New York and a used bookstore in London. And it's not fiction. Really, 1000 Great Books?

But, I finally picked it up and read it.

Oh my God you guys... GO READ THIS BOOK.

First off, it's short. I mean, it's 112 pages long and the letters are short, so there's lots of white space. I read it in under two hours, and that was with a crazy 4-year-old running around me.

Second off, it's HILARIOUS. I mean, check out of how the letter from November 18, 1949 starts. There is no salutation, just the date and:

WHAT KIND OF A BLACK PROTESTANT BIBLE IS THIS?

Kindly inform the Church of England they have loused up the most beautiful prose ever written, whoever told them to tinker with the Vulgate Latin? They'll bur for it, you mark my workds.

It's nothing to me, I'm Jewish myself....

I enclose $4 to cover the #3.88 due you, buy yourself a cup of coffee with the $.12


Eventually through her book orders and resulting criticism, she becomes friends with everyone in the shop and starts sending regular holiday care packages with eggs and meat and other things that are still scarce due to post-war rationing.

I love the October 15, 1951 letter

WHAT KIND OF A PEPYS' DIARY TO YOU CALL THIS?

this is not pepys' diary, this is some busybody editor's miserable collection of EXCERPTS from pepys' diary may he rot.

...

PS. Fresh eggs or powdered for Xmas?


The letters keep original capitalization and punctuation. It's a great love letter to bookstores and books and a wonderful friendship and story that evolves. It's funny and heart-warming and utterly charming in a non-twee way.

GO READ IT.



Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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23. This summer, I read comics

I've been reading a lot of comics this summer, and it's the greatest.

I just finished Ms. Marvel Vol. 3: Crushed and the series continues to be fun, as was Rat Queens Volume 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'Rygoth. I love to read about girls kicking ass! (See also, Nimona) One thing I really appreciate about Rat Queens and Nimona is that it's fantasy kick-ass fun, but there's underlying basis of pain. It's not always there or the focus of the narrative, but it bubbles up to color the story in a way that's really compelling. (Plus, now I have an excuse to yell I'M A SHARK! and see who laughs--new bestie test)

Oh, and I also read Lumberjanes which I loved for it's kick-ass girls and silliness, but also its friendship and their long-suffering camp counselor. I love these girls as an ensemble and their relationships. FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX for reals.


Also in ongoing series... Fables Vol. 22: Farewell happened. The final Fairest, Fairest Vol. 5: The Clamour for Glamour comes out on Tuesday, but Fables is done. This is the series that turned me onto comics and my feelings about it ending are so bittersweet. I'm going to miss these characters and their stories and their lives and how Willingham played with meta-fiction and what happens when you put fictional characters in the real world. At the same time, the final volume was wonderful. I think it was a fitting tribute and end to the series and, in many ways, it was a farewell. It wrapped up the narrative arc nicely, left some loose ends, but not ones that will drive me batty, and let the characters say goodbye (sometimes very literally). I have been nervous lately because the last few volumes have been a bit of a blood bath, and there is some of that here, too, but... it's good. It's really, really good. My only complaint is that it's done and I very selfishly want more, more, more, more. (Also, I asked my friends at Secret Stacks what I should read to fill the Fables void, and they got Bill Willingham himself to answer and zomg.)

But also, I've been reading some new series!

I read the entirety of Y: The Last Man because Bellwether Friends did an episode about it. I am in love with Saga (which was also a Bellwether recommendation) which is also by Brian K Vaughn, so I thought I'd pick up all the Y before listening to their episode, so I'd be able to better understand. Y is the story of what happens when suddenly, all males (human and animal) drop dead. Except for Yorick and his monkey Ampersand. Science and governments want Yorick, but he just wants to get from New York to Australia where his girlfriend-maybe-fiance was when the gender-cide hit, but it also explores what happens when a gender dies. You get radical feminist movement burning sperm banks, countries that had higher gender equality do better than those who had more men in charge, and also a lot of people in deep morning. Plus little things-- it hit at rush hour so a lot of the highways are clogged with cars and what do you do with that many dead bodies? It was really interesting and good. I like the way it explored the different aspects of this new world as well as all the different theories people had for what caused it. (People have feelings about the ending. It wasn't the ending I necessarily wanted, but I think it was good for the story, if that makes sense. Fangirl Jennie was "eh" but literary critic Jennie was "oh, yes.") Also, let's talk Saga. I've read the four volumes that are out now and so good. It's about love and family and survival against the backdrop of intergalactic war! And their nanny is a ghost. (Basically, star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of this inter-galactic war have a kid and everyone wants them dead because there can't be proof that the two sides can get along and all they want to do is live and survive as a family, but always running puts strain on a relationship!) Also, let's just talk about how the romance novels are also political tracts wrapped in love story, because a romance reader, YES. There is meaning and metaphor and all the other trappings of HIGH LITERATURE in romance (and really, all genre) but it gets written off so often, but not here. That warms my heart.

I've also picked up the first four volumes of East of West. It's this story of a futuristic alternate history US where the country's fractured into several other countries and there's a religious cult and Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are reborn, except for Death, because he's left them for love and it all ties back to this religious cult and a prophesy and it's weird and not quite my usual thing, but really good at the same time.

Also for something amazing, but a little different than my usual fare, Secret Stacks also recommended I check out Pretty Deadly which is also about Death falling in love with a person. But this time it's Death's Daughter who's riding for revenge. And there's a girl in a feather cape and old man who travel from town to town to tell her story. It's hauntingly surreal and I cannot wait for more. (Please tell me there's more!)

What comics are you reading?


Books Provided by... my local library, except for Fables, which I bought.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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24. My favorite books of 2015

It's the end of the year and I had great plans of writing about all my favorite books of the year - there were so many!  But there was also ALSC committee work, my fledgling freelance writing career, that five days a week thing they call work, and my family.  As I write this, I'm waiting for the last of my children to arrive home for the holidays (one's flight was canceled, the other one's delayed).

So, for now, the best that I can do is this:

In middle grade fiction, I loved Echo: A Novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Here's a link to my review: http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2015/02/echo-novel-review.html  




In picture books, If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson is simply perfect. My review is here: http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2015/03/picture-book-roundup-new-or-coming-soon.html



I listened to lots of great audiobooks, but I think Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was tops. I reviewed it for AudioFile Magazine.  Here's the link: http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/101740/  (Diary of a Mad Brownie is a very close second!)



For the best in dealing with sad news, I was taken by Anastasia Higginbotham's, Divorce is the Worst (for school-aged kids), and Todd Parr's, The Goodbye Book for little ones dealing with loss.


In adult books, it was Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah VowellIt's no surprise.  I love everything she writes. I love my well-researched history with a humorous dose of irony and sarcasm.

Whether I review a book or not, if I've read it, I log it and star it in LibraryThing.  Yes, I know that Goodreads is more popular, but LibraryThing's aesthetic matches mine.  I'm comfortable there.  You can see my virtual library of over 1600  searchable books and 800 reviews on LibraryThing.

I may take the next week off, perhaps not, but just in case - best wishes for a safe and happy holidays.

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25. Review: Slightly Sinful

Slightly Sinful (Bedwyn Saga, # 5) by Mary BaloghBedwyn (6 Book Series). Dell. 2004. Library copy.

Slightly SinfulThe Plot: Lord Alleyne Bedwyn was left for dead after the Battle of Waterloo, injured. His head injury has taken his memories.

Rachel York trusted the wrong people, and now she's broke -- but not alone. She's with the only four people in the world she truly trusts, so she is temporarily staying with them.

When Rachel finds Alleyne on the battlefield, he's been stripped of everything of value, even his clothes. She has no clue who he is, but she knows he lives so can be saved. She takes him back to where she is staying -- a brothel.

Broke, injured, no resources -- but themselves and each other.

The Good: I've been binge reading Mary Balogh books, so fast I barely have time to write down the name of the book I've read. No time for reviews!

Balogh has done some wonderful writing around the Peninsular Wars and the Battle of Waterloo, and the impact of those battles on the men and women who fought, and who stayed home. (Or what I sometimes think to myself as "the true story of what happened next to Wickham and Denny.") I particularly liked Web of Love for it's depiction of the lives of the women who "follow the drum" and the roles they have in the aftermath of battles.

Slightly Sinful sounds like it should be serious -- battles! war! destitution! But it wasn't. Yes, all that is there, but it's also so funny and a pure joy to read. While Alleyne is recovering physically, he falls for Rachel but he doesn't even know if he's married. Also, he thinks that because she lives in a house of prostitution she must be one herself. She loves and respects the women who have befriended her, so she doesn't want to insult them by denying that sisterhood. (And there are other books by Balogh where current or past prostitutes, courtesans, and paid mistresses are the main characters and supporting character.)

Here, Gerry, Bridget, Flossy and Phyl are working and saving to retire. Their current lives are presented matter of factly, and there present situation is treated with respect. Rachel has an inheritance she cannot collect for another three years, when she is 25; or when she marries.

Do you see where this is going?

The caper of deciding to fake Rachel's marriage to Alleyne was terrific. It was funny, yet at the same time it wasn't mean or silly. It was a madcap adventure and while this is the fifth / seventh book in the Bedwyn saga it definitely stands alone, maybe more so than the other books, because Alleyne's lack of memories of his family mean they have minimal presence.

The only disappointment I have is that there's only one book left in this series! And that I have to wait for my library copy to become available!

The good news is that Balogh is only new to me; she's been writing for ages so I have a long list of backtitles to keep working my way through. And one more thing: a big thank you to my local public library for having an ebook collection and including a large number of romance books in that collection. It's made my binge reading so easy!

And yes -- a Favorite Book Read in 2015.







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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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