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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

February 27, 2016

Love and Life in an Irish Setting

review by Alison DeLuca

Dancing to an Irish Reel is a lovely novel by Claire Fullerton. It’s set near Galway in Inverin, a small village inside the Gaeltacht (the area of Ireland when Irish is spoken exclusively.) Fullerton’s heroine, Hailey, has moved there to work in The Galway Music Centre for traditional music. This leads to her meeting Liam, a good-looking musician who is dedicated to his craft and afraid of love.

The title refers not only to traditional music but also to the dance Claire and Liam go through in their relationship. They are obviously attracted to each other, and Fullerton weaves their partnership nicely. I found I was fully invested in their shared evenings at the pub and nights at Hailey’s little rented house.

However, Dancing to an Irish Reel isn’t a romance novel but contemporary fiction. There’s a lot of friendship in the book, between Hailey and Shannon from the centre, as well as her neighbor Mick and his girlfriend. Fullerton brings the Galway area to life with gorgeous descriptions of long walks, including a sinister exploration into a graveyard at Mick’s behest, and old pubs where Irish music is performed.

The writing is clear and deceptively simple, as in this passage:
The two sand-colored boulders at the tip of the ledge overlooking the sea gleamed spectrally in the moon’s misty reflection. The drop to the sand below was only about eight feet, and I stood at the edge, looking down at the otherworldly moss-covered rocks that made a promenade into the sea. Turning around, I looked at Liam, who leaned against a boulder, watching me.

I also loved the way Fullerton evoked the friendly fun between Hailey and Shannon:
“Mrs. Donoghue, I’m Hailey, I’ve come to see Shannon,” I said.
“Shannon, is it?” she responded, not moving out of the doorway.
“Could you please tell her I’m here?”
“Does Shannon know you’re coming to see her?” she interrogated.
“She does. We have plans today.”
Mrs. Donoghue closed the door and left me standing on the sidewalk. I walked out to the street, looked up at Shannon’s bedroom window, put my index fingers together and whistled sharply. Shannon’s head appeared through her window’s lace curtains. “Will you call off the guard?” I called up.
“Just a minute.” Shannon disappeared, and a moment later, she opened the front door.
“What’s wrong with that woman?” I stepped inside. “Maybe you ought to give her your daily itinerary or something. What’s she think I’m going to do? You’d think there was a threat of kidnap.”

There were a few minor details that jarred me as I read. Some storylines seemed to fade away with no reason. I would have liked to see the graveyard walk explored to live up to its promise, since it’s mentioned in the first chapter. Also, the Centre itself ... (spoiler alert, highlight to read) dies a natural death. It would have been nice to discover what happened with the music and all the workers at the centre.

I always approach a book set in Ireland and written by an America author with caution – are there going to be loads of shamrocks and leprechauns? Will the characters say ‘Begorrah?’ (In a lifetime of visiting Ireland, I’ve never heard anyone use that word.)

In this case, there was no need for fear. Fullerton caught the flavor of Irish life perfectly, and her characters leap off the page with their speech. She has an excellent ear for language. My one caveat was the use of ‘yah’ – it appeared in Chapter 6 and showed up often enough to bug me. Writing colloquial speech is very tricky, and while Fullerton captured the essential Irish prose (cheeky and lyrical at the same time) the overuse of ‘yah’ dragged down her prose.

However, these minor points didn’t spoil my enjoyment of Dancing to an Irish Reel. The book is intelligent and entertaining, and I recommend it as an absorbing read. If you like character development and thoughtful romance in a musical setting, this novel is a great choice.

Buy Dancing to an Irish Reel at Amazon

book info
available formats:  Kindle, print  (237 pages), Audible 
published: March 2015 by Vinspire
ISBN13:&nbsp 978-0990304258
genres: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
target audience: 18+
source: author

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February 26, 2016

I Haven't Read a Horror this Good in Ages

review by Claire Rees

Sketches of the Wigwam

Sketches of the Wigwam by Mack Moyer is written as if it is a letter by William, Billy, to his friends.

It tells of Billy and his girlfriend Mates journey up into the mountains to a small village of Weatherly to his cousin's house. A place where Billy spent a lot of his early childhood, not a happy place for Billy. His uncle was cruel to him and his cousin tortured him by leaving him alone in the woods and telling him stories about the old Indians coming for city boys like Billy because he didn't belong in the woods.

Returning now as an adult, Billy doesn't feel any less scared of the wigwam, in fact he can almost sense it watching him. He realizes too late that the wigwam is real and he is after the one child that got away from him all of those years ago - Billy - and nobody will stand in his way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story; it had me on the edge of my seat all of the way through it. It chilled
me to the bone and terrified me with its creepy paranormal stalker, who is seemingly invincible.

The characters were well thought out and it was easy to like them and feel for them. I recommend Sketches of the Wigwam to those who love a good thrilling, horror story.

Buy Sketches of the Wigwam at Amazon

Book info:
available formats: ebook (215 pages)
published: June 2015 by Permuted Press
genres: horror

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February 25, 2016

A Captivating Story ~ Bury Me by Tara Sivec

review by Donna Huber

Bury Me

There were a few reasons I was excited to "read" Bury Me by Tara Sivec. One, I'm always looking for a great thriller and this one was definitely a captivating story. Two, it is set in a prison turned museum. When I visited San Francisco in 2009, I went to Alcatraz and it was really cool. I didn't realize that the families of the workers lived on the island. There was whole little neighborhood there. And third, I've been wanting to try out an audio book produced by ListenUp. They are a Georgia-based audio book and I like supporting local companies.

What if all you knew was your name and where you lived? One can be verified. What if the other is a lie?

Told in first person with a very unreliable narrator, Bury Me is in turn intriguing, heartwarming, and a bit creepy.

Donna in a cell at Alcatraz
Between the cover and the opening scene where the main character awakes in a cell, after a nightmare of running through the woods, with only fleeting snatches of memories, memories that make little sense based on what she has been told, I worried this story would quickly turn into one of horror. While some horrific events did take place, the story stays on this side of thriller with its intrigue.

And intriguing it is. Sivec did a wonderful job of laying out this story. By revealing the plot in bits and pieces, often back tracking with the "story" changing as the main character's memories become more clear or conflicting information is revealed. The reader feels as off-kilter as the main character feels. What is reality...what is the truth?

I figured out what was going on only moments before it was revealed. Which is definitely a mark of an excellent thriller. Yet, the story doesn't end there. We move years into the future and it is a bit shocking how it all ended up. I'm still undecided if one aspect of the plot was too predictable or an interesting point of continuity.

My only "complaint" is that it was difficult in the beginning to determine when the story was taking place. With all the other weirdness surrounding the main character, I wasn't sure if the references to the dresses in her closet, the braids she always wore, the hat in the hat box that mother wore to town, was suppose to clue me into the time or that her family was a bit crazy. Apparently it was meant for the former (not saying that the latter isn't true) a year is later referenced that has the story taking place in the late 1950s.

ListenUp did a great job with the production of Bury Me. I loved the narrator, Stephanie Willis.

This was a gem of a story and I will be on the lookout for more books by Tara Sivec.

Buy Bury Me at Amazon

Book info:
available formats: ebook, audio, print (284 pages)
published: November 2015 by ListenUp Production
ISBN13: 978-1515370680
genres: thriller
source: publisher via Audible

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: A free Audible audio book was provided for this review. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

February 24, 2016

Mature Marvel

by Ross M. Kitson

My friends and colleagues have learned now not to ask if I’ve seen any film with a certificate greater than PG. The downside of three children with a wide age spectrum (five to thirteen) is that when it comes to the flicks, the lowest age wins out. So it is with a touch of chagrin that I write a blog about Fox’s latest blockbuster, the Marvel character, Deadpool.

I’ve never been a massive Deadpool fan. The humour in the comic is rather hit and miss, and the use of the fourth wall in the writing irritates me: I like my characters in comic to remain in the imaginary world, not wittily enter mine. Nonetheless, he has become an amazingly popular character, and Fox were staking a lot on this film.

Deadpool image from 

The reason for the high stakes is that the only way to do Deadpool properly was as a mature film, and for months fans had been peering through virtual fingers on virtual eyes awaiting confirmation that the release would be ‘R’ which equates to ‘15’ in the UK. And they were rewarded, as was Fox as Deadpool has this week reached the $500 million mark, which coupled with the biggest opening of an R-rated film, and the second biggest for Fox studios. The film continues the successful X-men franchise owned by Fox (the next instalment being Age of Apocalypse), and indeed Ryan Reynolds had played Deadpool in the movie, X-men Origins: Wolverine. Reynolds seems pretty clear that the two versions are separate—the one in Wolverine was created by Stryker and collected mutant abilities and this new one has an origin related to a cancer-cure, with no Stryker in sight. Given the appalling continuity of the X-men films and its jarring re-set in Days of Future Past (which is a great film regardless) I suppose we could just forget we’ve seen Deadpool before this.

What interests me more is the shift in the tone of superhero media. In the comic medium, mature reader comics are nothing new. DC got the ball rolling with Camelot 3000, which really had only moderate violence and some intimate scenes,  and then began running more mature storylines in its mainstream comics (Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol, Shade, The Shadow) as well as series that were distinctly mature from the outset, such as Gaiman’s Sandman and Moore’s Watchmen. DC then produced the imprint, Vertigo comics, from which we saw Preacher, Y-the last man, Fables, Enigma, Hellblazer, and Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles. Yet TV and film adaptations remained embedded in the lighter end of the superhero market, and it’s only recently we’ve seen a shift in this.

Sandman. Image from 

The movies took the plunge first, with the gloomier style of DC’s heroes Batman (in his Nolan incarnation) and Superman (in his Man of Steel re-re-boot). Marvel in film have gone for the blockbuster big action style, and with Iron Man, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, Cap America and Avengers, they’ve hit the nail on the head. Of the current selection of superhero TV shows, there are two distinct flavours. DC’s The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, and Peggy Carter, are all family orientated slickly produced offerings. In contrast, DC's Gotham, and Marvel’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones are geared more towards the older teen. All three are superb—well written, well acted, and no holds barred. Personally I like the Netflix Marvel series more, but I’m a Marvel boy through and through, and the violence in Gotham (mainly head-splatting gun stuff) seems put in there for shock not plot. Marvel-Netflix look to consolidate their success with Daredevil season 2, starring the Punisher and Elektra.

Jessica Jones (Netflix). Image from 

It’s a good move in my opinion, providing the quality of the production is maintained, and the integrity of the source material is respected. On the film horizon this year we have the incredible looking Suicide Squad. It’s a tester for DC/Warner Bros to see if they’ll release it as a toned down ‘12’ (PG-13) or a gored-sweared up ‘15’ (R). I suspect the former, as it’s designed to follow the Superman v Batman movie, but I think they’ll push the limit on the content to the fringe of what would be accepted as a PG-13….

And to leave you with Deadpool:
‘Crime’s the disease, meet the cure. Okay, not the cure, but more like a topical ointment to reduce the swelling and itch.’

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February 23, 2016

WOW - An Ending that Will Surprise You!!

review by Susan Roberts

She Not There

She's Not There is the first book that I have read by Joy Fielding and after enjoying this book so much, I think its time to read some of her older books.

This is a story very similar to the Madeline McCann abduction in England several years ago. Caroline and her husband go to a Mexican resort for their anniversary with their two children - a five year old daughter and a two year old daughter. Some of their friends and family are also there to celebrate with them. When the babysitter doesn't show up for their anniversary dinner and all of their friends are waiting, they decide to go to dinner and check on the kids every 30 minutes - after all the restaurant is so close to their room! At the end of the evening, they find that their youngest daughter, Samantha has been abducted.

The novel is told by Caroline and each chapter alternates between present day and 15 years previous when the abduction occurred. Fifteen years after the abduction, Carolina gets a phone call from a girl who says that she may be Samantha - is she really or is it someone playing a cruel trick?

She's Not There was a fast read because I wanted to find out what really happened in Mexico and I was totally unprepared for the ending of the story. It was a great book and I really enjoyed it.

Buy She's Not There at Amazon

Book Info
available formats: ebook, audio, print (368 pages)
published: February 2016 by Ballanine Books
ISBN13: 9781101966877
genres: mystery, suspense, women's fiction
source: LibraryThing

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February 22, 2016

You'll Experience the Full Gamut of Emotions #MondayBlogs

review by Elisa Hordon

One Little Wish

We met Mack Montgomery in Seasoned book 7 in the Lacey Luzzi mysteries and, seriously, if you didn't fall for that hunk of a man then you need to go back and read Seasoned again.

I was really excited when Gina Lamanna announced Mack would be getting his own book - One Little Wish. The fact we now know it's book 1 in a new series is even more exciting for me.

Mack is seriously swoon worthy, charismatic and just plain HOT. He is heading back to his home town of Luck, Texas. Mack has not been home in 10 years and he is excited and a tad nervous to be heading home. Excited he gets to catch up with old school mates but nervous to see her again: Scarlett. The one woman Mack has always loved, the one he let get away, or more to the point, the one woman he left behind when he ran away. Seeing Scarlett again makes Mack really nervous but he hides it well. Mack knows he doesn't deserve another chance with Scarlett but he hopes she will give him one.

Scarlett Powers a small town girl with beauty and sass all rolled up with a lifetime of insecurity that she tries to hide. Scarlett is not worried about reunion weekend; as she never graduated she won’t be attending. Once she finds out Mack is coming home for reunion weekend Scarlett hopes she can avoid him for the weekend. She doesn't want to see Mack. She doesn't want to open those old wounds up again. She is over him. She never wants to see him again and she will never admit that he is her one little wish, nope never going to happen.

When Scarlett stumbles over the dead body of Fred the local mechanic and it turns out she was the last person to see him alive Scarlett starts her own investigation to clear her name because, for one, she is innocent, and two, she has had enough of being a Powers girl and everyone in town automatically jumping to the wrong conclusions.

Scarlett knows Mack is hiding a big secret. She also knows Mack will leave town again in a couple of days and her heart will be broken all over again. Why couldn't he just have stayed away?

Scarlett is a strong woman but I'm not sure she is strong enough to withstand everything Mack is throwing at her. It’s hard enough for Scarlett to live in a town she loves but with people who spread rumours  as quickly and inaccurate as they spread peanut butter on toast. Scarlett is used to being the centre of the town's attention for nothing good because of her family's reputation but what the people of Luck should be doing instead of gossip mongering, is actually taking the time to get to know people. Then they would truly know Scarlett is nothing like her family and she doesn't deserve to be treated the way she has been by the townspeople of Luck.

As I'm reading this story I really wonder why Scarlett has stayed in Luck, but I really think she is scared to leave, thinking better the devil you know. I also find it hard to understand why Scarlett keeps her nanny job when that woman is just so horrible to her. But the thing is Scarlett loves with her whole heart and little Grey might not be her son but he is her heart, I'm still not convinced he is enough of a reason to keep living in a town that constantly looks down its nose at you but then Scarlett would not be the amazing person she is if she just up and ran away like Mack did, Scarlett shows her courage by staying in the town she loves and holding her head high.

After Scarlett finds out Mack's secret I understand why he left but I'm struggling with why he didn't take Scarlett with him. If he truly loved her, she was worth fighting for. If they really wanted him, he would have made Scarlett part of the deal. The way he did things was just cruel and even though I love Mack as a character, Mack from 10 years ago was an absolute bastard to get Scarlett's hopes up and then crush her by leaving the way he did.

What I loved most about this book is the twists and turns. Just when you think you're close to solving Fred's murder another body turns up, then you factor in Mack's secret and it gets more interesting.So much so you just can't put the book down because you might miss something and you just have to find out if Scarlett's one little wish will come true. What I didn't like about this book is the ending. I was truly disappointed. I thought Scarlett had waited long enough for her happily ever after or her one little wish but she only got part of it that made me both sad and angry even if though I know there will be future books I'm still disappointed this first one didn't finish with a happier ending.

There is a lot of mystery, thrills, spills, drama and a love story that brings just a few tears to your eyes (ok maybe more than a few tears).

Buy One Little Wish  at Amazon

Book info:
available formats: ebook (225 pages)
published: January 2016 by Lamanna Books
genres: cozy mystery

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February 21, 2016

Susan's Reading Round Up

reviews by Susan Roberts

Want romance with depth? Want to experience life with the characters? Then women's fiction is for you. 

A Jingle Valley Wedding
A Jingle Valley Wedding by Martha Reynolds

Julie and her brother are co-owners of Jingle Valley Farm in western Massachusetts. Julie has a high powered job in NYC and her brother manages the farm. As the novel begins, her brother has decided that he wants a new life and he leaves the farm to move to Arizona, hoping that Julie will agree with him to sell the farm. Julie and her best friend Freddie, decide to renovate the house and barn to make it a bread and breakfast and a party and wedding venue. With the cost of renovations rising and their income starting to fall, Julie and Freddie begin to wonder if they've made a mistake.

This was a quick, fun book to read. Julie and Freddie were very likable characters and I enjoyed their friendship. They met a lot of quirky people when they moved to the farm but had a lot of problem finding people to date. Even though the book had an ending, there were enough characters that I think there could and should be a sequel. I would definitely like to read about them again. I plan to go back and read some of this author's earlier books.

Buy A Jingle Valley Wedding at Amazon

The Wiregrass
The Wiregrass by Pam Weber

This was an excellent coming of age novel about a young girl in the South in the summer of 1968. Life in the summers in the wiregrass (an area of Alabama) had always been exciting for Nettie and her cousins. They spent the summers away from their parents and stayed with their grandparents and extended family. They had lots more freedom and up until this summer, their summers had been carefree and fun. Oh sure, they had pulled some harmless pranks during previous summers but nothing against the law. This summer was different. The town seemed to be on edge and the cousins were warned to be careful - not because of their past pranks but because of the sinister people who were hanging around town. Nettie has to deal with growing up and her changing body as well as meeting Mitchell, a young man who lives in town who she really likes and, at the same time to try to learn, along with her cousins what is going on in town.

This is a great read and I really enjoyed it.

Buy The Wiregrass at Amazon

Come Away with Me
Come Away with Me by Karma Brown

This book is about journeys - not just about the journey that Tegan and Gabe take after the accident that causes her to lose their baby but also the emotional journey from loss to anger and to eventual healing. Tegan and Gabe travel to Thailand, Italy and Hawaii on their journey to try to put their lives back to normal but its a struggle because Tegan has had an emotional breakdown and is still blaming Gabe for the accident that killed their unborn son.

The scenery and adventures in each country are so well described that you almost feel like you are traveling with them on their journey. This is a wonderful heart wrenching book but one warning for the reader - have a box of Kleenex close by because you're going to need it!

Buy Come Away with Me at Amazon

Did you ever have a family
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

Did You Ever Have a Family is an emotional novel that tells a heartbreaking story of loss and grief and ultimately forgiveness.

On the day of her daughter's wedding, an explosion kills June's daughter, the soon to be groom, June's ex-husband and her boyfriend. June is the only survivor and after the funeral, she gets in her car and drives across the country to be alone in her grief.

The story is told by many different people, some have a very minor part in the ultimate story but the sum total of all the people tells the final story of overcoming a tragedy like this and learning to live again.  This is not a book that is packed with action but the feelings and emotions are so real and so raw that there were times that I just had to put the book down to rest from it.

It's a fantastic book and I find myself thinking about June and the other main characters days after the book was finished.

Buy Did You Ever Have a Family at Amazon

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