Readers' Favorite

June 10, 2011

Murder in a small town: The First Victim

by Donna Huber

The First Victim
The First Victim by J. B. Lynn
Published June 2011 by Carina Press
Read June 2011

I am pretty sure a few co-workers thought my Nook was permanently attached to me this week. Why? Because I was reading the best murder mystery of the year. It is a good thing the sun is shining brightly, because this dark thriller tested my limits by bordering on horror. Yet, I couldn't put it down after reading the first few lines.

Emily may have distanced and distracted herself, but it is obvious she has never dealt with her traumatic past. A single phone call from her high school crush requesting she comes home practical sends her spinning into a panic attack. Her reluctance to return to her hometown is understandable and when she wrecks her car a few miles outside of town you can't help but empathize with her. With flashes to her abductor throughout the story it is not a question of if, but when will the shoe drop.

Lynn spins a tale that keeps you on your toes and suspicious of every male character in the story. You'll be turning the pages as fast as you can read them. The plot is so engaging that I was able to overlook a few weaknesses in the story. I thought Bailey's character was a little naive and borderline stereotypical of a small town cop. However, he has been with the FBI and quickly surmised the serial killer they were dealing with when the first victim shows up on Emily's doorstep. Maybe he is too close to the situation or blinded by his desire to reconnect with his childhood best friend and the stress of burying his father. But there just seems to be something inconsistent with his character. It is a minor issue; it did not detract from the story and I really didn't think about it until I finished the book.

I was certain I would be giving The First Victim a 5 star rating. I was consumed by the mystery, wrapped up in the momentum (J. B. Lynn did an excellent job with pacing) until it all came to a halt with a sex scene. If this had been a movie, it would have been when I would have gone to the bathroom or gotten a refill of soda. It ruined the momentum of the story for me and it was not needed. I think it would have been better to have the scene fade to black and kept the story moving forward instead of breaking for an intermission. I had trouble getting back into the story after it. For this reason, I can only give it 4 stars.

Do you like murder mysteries where you can figure out whodunit by piecing together the clues? The First Victim is littered with clues for the observant reader, yet there are enough twist and red herrings to keep the reader from guessing too early (I figured it out partially about 2 sentences before the reveal). It's a great read and you should be lined up to purchase your copy when it is released on Monday.

I received a free copy of The First Victim from Carina Press via The opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced by the method in which I received the book.

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June 9, 2011

Author Event - Tayari Jones

by Donna Huber

About a week or so ago I decided I needed to get more involved in my local book scene. I am thoroughly enjoying the community I am forming online, but it would be nice to know some local book people. Lo and behold if I didn't see in our local arts paper a reading taking place next week at a local club. Not only that, but it was being hosted by a new local indie bookstore. Color me excited! I live in an artsy college town, but we are better known for our music scene. I contacted the bookstore owner to introduce myself as a local blogger (and to mention that my publishing house has a local author). She mentioned that there was an event tonight at the library. I hadn't heard of the author or the book, but decided to go anyways. Here my take on the night....

Silver SparrowThe first thing I noticed about Tayari Jones was how personable and funny she was, also she has a great voice for reading aloud. I'm always a little envious of people who can read out loud so well. Even her stumble over words didn't break her cadence. She read the first chapter of her new book Silver Sparrow. And just as Janet Geddis, owner of Avid Book Shop, said, the story grabs you from the start. I knew before she finished the chapter that I would be walking out with my own copy.

Typically southern fiction does not hold my interest (I was hard pressed in high school to find a book to do my southern fiction term paper on). Silver Sparrow is set in Atlanta, but it is not the aristocratic south that is portrayed in the book. The plot intrigued me enough to overlook the setting. It is the story of the other family and secret sisters, you know my panache for family drama.

During the Q&A time, I thought Tayari shared a poignant thought, "No one should be born into shame." As a society we know adultery occurs, but we seem shocked when the children of these affairs are discovered. We act horrified at the thought of man having a second family, but how often do we hear these stories on the nightly news?

Another reason she writes her stories is to capture the real history of Atlanta and her generation's perspective. It might not make it into a history book, but the Atlanta life as Tayari Jones experienced it will be forever immortalized in her works of fiction. Her other novel, Leaving Atlanta, captures the dark days of the Atlanta child murders.

Tayari also had many words of wisdom for writers (one, if you write you are a writer so don't call yourself an aspiring writer). I was quickly jotting down notes, because I knew the authors I work with would appreciate the advice. Two, a writer must be able to manage disappointment and be able to move on from rejection. Even if you have sold your first book it doesn't mean the rest of your journey will be all roses and sunshine. The third piece of advice she had for writers: commit to writing the book, not because you can get it published, but because it is a story you have to tell. And the last bits of wisdom dealt with writer's block. She compared it not being able to fall asleep. The more you worry about it, the more wound up you become which makes it more impossible to accomplish the task. Just relax.

Well, there you have it - my review of the event. It was a great event; I'm glad I got out on this rainy Thursday evening for it. Thank you Avid Book Shop, The Center for the Book, and Athens Public Library for sponsoring the event. And thank you Tayari Jones for making my little town a stop on your tour. I'm hoping to find a few friends to go next week with me, but if not I'll still probably go. I forgot my camera otherwise there might have been a few more pictures to share. But like I said I did walk out with an autographed copy (I'm amassing quite a collection of signed books). I will eventually have a review of the book (my TBR pile is growing quite tall).

Do you enjoy book signings and author readings? Share with me a favorite memory of meeting an author.

Tips on Thursday - Review Policy

Tips on Thursday is a weekly series that I started to help bloggers share tips and tricks about book blogging. I conceived the idea after having several chats with fellow bloggers and forming #bookbloghelp on Twitter. Please take the time to look at the other blogs linked here and share your own tips (doesn't have to have to be on Thursday).

Today's topic for Tips on Thursday is REVIEW POLICY. I probably have a little different perspective on book bloggers' review policy than the average book blogger as one of my duties at my job for the publishing house is to contact bloggers about reviewing our books and participating in blog tours. I find concise, well written reviews to be extremely helpful in matching our books to bloggers. You might not think you need one (the author/publisher/etc. can just look at my reviews and tell, right?), but it will increase the number of requests you receive. Authors, marketers, etc. do not have the time to sift through hundreds of blogs looking at reviews. Have a clear (and easily found) review policy will aid them in finding the right match. It will also keep you from having to deal with as many mismatched review requests.

So what should be included in a Review Policy?

  • The genres you read and any you will not read. For most of us, we will read in a variety of genres, but have a few we prefer and perhaps a few we detest. 
  • Age specifics: Children, Middle Grades, Young Adult, Adult, Mature Adult. This criteria is especially important if you solely review non-adult books.
  • The format you will accept. Due to the cost of publishing, postage, etc. many publishers and authors are turning to ebooks for their review copies stating whether or not you accept ebooks (and which format) will keep everyone involved from wasting time.
  • How to contact you. Even if you have your contact information listed somewhere else on your blog make sure it is in your Review Policy as well. I have also seen a few people use Google docs forms to set up a request submission form. Note: to cut down on spam don't list your email as instead write it out you at email dot com. Bots can't pick up the email address when written in this form.
  • Any requests particulars. How do you want publishers/authors/etc. requesting reviews from you? Do you want them to send the ebook file with their initial email or just a summary? Do you want them to include other information links (where to buy, website, etc.)? Do you allow author interviews and guest posts on your blog?
  • Timing. Roughly how quickly you turn around reviews or what is your back log. If you give a time frame it will also help decrease the number of follow-up emails asking "when will you get to my book?"

Make sure you post your review policy in a conspicuous place on your blog. If authors/markerters/etc. have to scroll have way down your page or click through a dozen pages to find it. they are likely to move on to the next blogger on their list. I have a page tab for my review policy, but others will post it in the header or at the top of a column.

I hope you found this post helpful. Do you have a review policy? Anything I left off the list of should haves? Please leave a comment and if you have a blogging tip or trick you would like share link your post below. I'm off to see if my own policy follows my advice.

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June 8, 2011

Sensitive Subject Handled Well: Lies Inside

Lies InsideLies Inside by Lindsey Gray
Published December 2011 by The Writer's Coffee Shop
ISBN 9781612130095
Read June 2011

Lies Inside was published by the publishing house I work for and I tried not to let that influence my review.

When I was working on the catalog last year for the publishing house, I saw the summary for Lies Inside. I was excited about it, it sounded just like my kind of book. It has taken me a while to get around to reading it. After reading several dark stories, I needed a break and was reading a bit more chick-lit type novels. Well, the sun is shining brightly and I'm ready to dive back into my favorite genre (you'll notice from my Monday reading post that I have several darker type stories on my plate).

Lies Inside started off a bit rocky for me. I felt the pace of the story was a little off. I like when an author takes time to set up the story and provide a backdrop for where the story is going. But as you know I also sometimes complain that an author has drawn it out too much (you know, when I said I struggled with the first 100 pages). So I recognize that finding a balance is hard to do. Also I know from reading other reviews of books I have also read that many readers just want to jump right into the action.

And Lindsey does a great job of building momentum to the climax and keeping the readers engaged in the story. I hated having to put the book down. I actually was glad that my lunch buddy wasn't available two days last week for lunch (I might have even secretly wished she had other plans), because I couldn't wait to pick up the book again. I often have several books going at the same time and part of the way I keep them straight is when I read them. Books on my Nook are read when I'm out and about - lunch, walking to & from work, standing in line, waiting for the pool to open, etc. I was so disappointed on Thursday when I glance at the clock and noticed my lunch break was over. Finn and Lucy had just been abducted and I had to know what was going to happen.

On my way to lunch on Friday, the radio station I was listening to had a guest on from a local group that works with families and victims of sexual child abuse. She was talking about how parents should react when their child tells them they have been abused. Also statistics show that most child sexual abuse is done by someone the child and/or family knows. It was apt timing for me to hear this report as Lies Inside deals with this very topic. Lindsey Gray does an excellent job of handling this sensitive subject in a realistic way. I hope readers of Lies Inside will find encouragement to speak up if they have found themselves in this situation.

Though the topic is dark, there is a lightness to the story line to balance it out. The building romance between Lucy and Finn is probably what all childhood sweathearts hope for. The tender moments between them give you a moment to catch your breath, but also quickly turn the page to see how it all turns out. I'm anxious to read Lindsey Gray's second novel, Redemption, though it isn't in a genre I typically like to read.
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June 6, 2011

5 Best Books

5 Best Books is hosted by Indie Reader Houston blog. This week's 5 Best Books is a category I love reading so I thought I would play. Here is my list of 5 Best Books ... that take place during war.

My All Time Favorite:

A Tale of Two Cities A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Set during the French Revolution, this is probably the first classic I truly fell in love with when we read an excerpt in my 9th grade English class. It is such a lovely love story. Full of heart and compassion, yet also deceit and angst. I shed a few tears with this novel, which I made a point of reading at least once a year through high school and college. I own a cloth bound copy of this book and it is one I truly treasure.

Recent Reads:

I picked up this book at a charity book sale. I liked the cover, but it was the fact it was set in a zoo during World War II that I chose to read it. I once worked as a zookeeper and often wonder what happens to zoos during war time. After reading a bit about the book, I learned that a lot of research had been done and much of the story is fact based. When I visited eastern Europe last year I so wanted to go to Warsaw Zoo, but Warsaw was too far from our other stops. My next trip to Europe has Poland on the agenda.

Another wonderful read set during World War II (it is my favorite war to read about). I started blogging just so I could share this book with other readers, so go back to the beginning of my blog to see my full review. I enjoyed this story because it wasn't told from the Allies point of view (which most WWII books I read are), but a German plantation owner. Again this book is based on real life accounts. The authenticity of the story is what puts it high on my list of books you should read.

A Series:

Really this whole Cold War era series could be on my list, but since that is too many and I have other great war set books I'll just list the one that got me hooked on the series. I love the Jack Ryan series. I think this might have been the first real adult books I really read. It is this series that hooked me on espionage/thriller novels. (I had always loved that kind of movies, but I guess there weren't a lot of YA titles in this genre). I never got tired of reading one of Clancy's Ryan series novel no matter how many he wrote. I kind of wish he would write another just so I can experience the thrill once more.

One From Childhood:

Another classic tale set during World War II. I think this book really made World War II come alive for me, you know, go beyond just words in a history textbook. It is probably also the book that peeked my interest in tragedies and dark fiction. I am always amazed at what the human spirit can endure and overcome.

What I'm Reading

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly meme started by Book Journey to share the books we are reading each week.

On my Nook:

The First VictimThe First Victim by J. B. Lynn
Published June 13, 2011 by Carina Press
An ARC from
Fifteen years ago, Emily Wright barely escaped from a serial killer dubbed the Baby Doll Strangler. She wants nothing to do with the small town where she was abducted, but when her father is hospitalized she reluctantly returns home to care for her teenage sister.
When her sister's friend is killed and left in front of Emily's house, Emily begins to relive the nightmare she endured long ago. Soon she realizes that her sister, too, is in danger from the killer—and the only person who can help is the man Emily left behind: Deputy Bailey O'Neil. Together, Emily and Bailey must discover the killer's identity before he claims his next victim... From

Traditional Books:

Sebastian and the AfterlifeSebastian and the Afterlife by William j. Barry 
Published February 2011 by The Writer's Coffee Shop

I have about 100 pages left and should finish it up tonight or tomorrow unless regular life gets in the way. It has been a really good read so far; I just haven't been home enough to read it. It's a signed first edition so I don't want to be carrying it with me.

Vaccine-nation: Poisoning the Population, One Shot at a TimeVaccine-nation: Poisoning the Population, One Shot at a Time by Andreas Moritz
Published March 2011

I've finally made it past the first 100 pages. Now the book is moving into an area where I more agree with the author, but still thinks he is using too much propaganda to get his point across.

Listening to:

I'm still on the waiting list at the digital download library to get this book in audio format. But I moved up to the #1 spot at the end of last week so I am hopeful I will be listening to it this week.

The Peach Keeper: A NovelThe Peach Keeper: A Novel by Sarah Addison Allen

It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living. From