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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 3, 2018

Review: Video Dungeon by Kim Neuman

by MK French

This is a collection of Kim Newman's reviews of various horror movies for Empire magazine, so it's a little meta to be writing a review of a bunch of reviews.

February 2, 2018

Getting Stuck with Punxsutawney Phil

by C. M. North
English: Groundhog sculpture in Punxsutawney, ...
English: Groundhog sculpture in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If the weather forecast is anything to go by, spring should be here soon. Poor Punxsutawney Phil; I imagine it’s hard enough to be two hundred years old, and a groundhog; having the pressure of the world on you to predict the weather must be spirit-crushing. If it were me, I’d probably spend the day curled up in my burrow and let the rest of the world sort itself out.

Amusingly, Moscow’s equivalent, Archi, spent last year hungover and made no prediction at all.
It seems somewhat backwards to me, that if the weather is good on Groundhog Day, we get more winter; if it’s bad, we get spring. But then, the best stories are sometimes a little backwards; or, in the case of Groundhog Day, somewhat circular.

It seems odd to consider that Harold Ramis’ cult comedy came out twenty-five years ago because sometimes 1993 doesn’t seem that long ago. Day after day, year after year, time goes by, and certain things seem to just repeat themselves over and over and over. We’ve had four presidents, six leap years, eight Harry Potter films and countless interchangeable celebrities coming and going, and sometimes dying. And the world goes on. It makes you wonder whether, in each day that Bill Murray repeated, a different version of the world carried on past February 2, slightly altered for his actions in the previous loop.

This is a concept that is played within the 2011 film Source Code with Jake Gyllenhaal. In it, Gyllenhaal’s character is forced to relive the last eight minutes of someone else’s life repeatedly under the guise of finding a terrorist who blows up a train. Each time he revisits the past, however, his actions change the outcome slightly until, eventually, he’s able to stop the train from exploding entirely. The philosophical question posed here is whether his actions actually make a difference or not, and which reality is true—to the outsiders, the train has already been destroyed; in the Source Code, a whole new world is born.

Time travel stories are some of my favorites, and time loop stories are, for me, the cream of the crop. I remember the first time I was exposed to such a concept, in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode entitled Cause and Effect. Here, the Enterprise gets stuck repeating the same day over and over again, each time resulting in its total destruction in the collision with another ship coming out of a space portal (or something). As the repetitions progress, small changes begin to give the crew senses of déjà-vu, and certain patterns become evident. Rather cleverly, it turns out that the patterns were programmed to be sent back in time by Data as a warning to the next repetition, and when the solution is finally discovered the Enterprise escapes destruction.

Sometimes time loop tales are evident from the outset, as the reader or viewer can see what’s happening from an outside perspective. Sometimes, however, we get thrown for a loop (so to speak). In Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, the story starts out seemingly as a typical (by King’s standards, anyway) post-apocalyptic fantasy. Things start to get a little weird when Stephen King appears as himself in the novel, as the author of the novel in which he’s appearing (yes, you read that correctly), but the final line of the final book takes us full circle to the first line of the first book, and you realize that essentially the message is: read my books again.

I’ve always wanted to write a time travel/time loop story. It’s been done quite a few times (Before I Fall really is almost an homage to Groundhog Day), and it becomes difficult to think of an original way to present the issue. After all, from multiple realities to becoming your own father, film and literature have taken this concept and ran with it for decades. But at the end of the day, each story is unique at least from the storyteller’s point of view, and who knows? As we settle into the next few weeks and months of whatever rain, snow or shine is due to us, I might just find myself working on a new project—and what if I just so happen to sneak some wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey stuff into it?

After all, if the weather forecast is anything to go by, spring should be here soon. Poor Punxsutawney Phil.

C.M. North is a trained musician, coffee addict and author of 22 Scars, a young adult novel about teenage depression and growing up with tragedy and trauma. He lives in northern New Jersey with his wife, son and cat Pia, who insists she take precedence over writing.

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February 1, 2018

New Releases: February 2018

Winter might be hanging on a bit longer so there will be plenty of time to snuggle up with a good book. I have my fingers crossed for at least one more snow day before winter turns to spring. There are plenty of books coming out this month that would great for curling up on the couch for the day.

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Spirits, Diamonds, and a Drive-thru Daiquiri Stand
Spirits, Diamonds, and a Drive-thru Daiquiri Stand by Deanne Chase
Pyper and Julius are getting married. There’s a wedding to plan, dresses to order, and daiquiris to consume. But when Pyper’s younger brother starts dating a young woman who looks remarkably like the new ghost haunting her café, suddenly the plans are on hold until Pyper can unravel a curse that threatens to not only ruin her big day, but her brother, too.

Available February 4
Buy Spirits, Diamonds, and a Drive-thru Daiquiri Stand at Amazon

Speak The Graphic Novel
Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, Emily Carroll (Illustrator)

The critically acclaimed, award-winning, modern classic Speak is now a stunning graphic novel.

"Speak up for yourself-we want to know what you have to say." From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless--an outcast--because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. Through her work on an art project, she is finally able to face what really happened that night: She was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. With powerful illustrations by Emily Carroll Speak: The Graphic Novel comes alive for new audiences and fans of the classic novel.

Available February 6
Buy Speak: The Graphic Novel at Amazon

The Book of Boy
The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
oy has always been relegated to the outskirts of his small village. With a large hump on his back, a mysterious past, and a tendency to talk to animals, he is often mocked and abused by the other kids in his town. Until the arrival of a shadowy pilgrim named Secondus. Impressed with Boy’s climbing and jumping abilities, Secondus engages Boy as his servant, pulling him into an expedition across Europe to gather the seven precious relics of Saint Peter. Boy quickly realizes this journey is not an innocent one. They are stealing the relics, and gaining dangerous enemies in the process. But Boy is determined to see this pilgrimage through until the end—for what if St. Peter can make Boy’s hump go away?

This compelling, action-packed tale is full of bravery and daring, stars a terrific cast of secondary characters, and features an unlikely multigenerational friendship at its heart. Memorable and haunting, Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s epic medieval adventure is just right for readers of Sara Pennypacker’s Pax, Adam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale, and Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Echo.

Features a map and black-and-white art throughout.

Available February 6
Buy The Book of Boy at Amazon

Surprise Me
Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other's sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected "until death do us part" to mean seven decades.

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.

Available February 13
Buy Surprise Me at Amazon

Fallen Five
Fallen Five by Erica Spindler
Descended from an ancient race, Earth’s few remaining Lightkeepers battle the forces of darkness that threaten humanity...

Detectives Micki Dare and Zach Harris are called in to investigate when a millionaire developer leaps from atop his luxury hotel on the night of its grand opening.

After Micki receives a mysterious package from her long-dead mentor, and Zach suspects something supernatural working against them, they realize this is no ordinary case. A dark force is once again threatening the Big Easy.

Aspects of this case prove eerily similar to an unsolved murder from years before, making the stakes dangerously personal for Micki. This time it’s her life on the line.

It will take the ingenuity and special skills of their misfit band of light beings and humans to bring this perpetrator down...but can they do it before they lose one of their own?

Available February 13
Buy Fallen Five at Amazon

Sunburn by Laura Lippman
One is playing a long game. But which one?

They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through.

Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets that begin to accumulate as autumn approaches, feeding the growing doubts they conceal.

Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away—or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them?

Something—or someone—has to give.

Which one will it be?

Available February 20
Buy Sunburn at Amazon

Agent in Place
Agent in Place (Gray Man #7) by Mark Greaney
Court Gentry is back in action. This time he's working on behalf of a well-connected group of Syrian expats to secure the Syrian president's mistress so they can use her to bring down the president's regime. But the expats' plan goes awry when it's discovered the mistress has a baby--the Syrian president's only male heir--hidden away in a Damascus safe house.

Court goes after the baby, a decision that comes at the price of the mistress's life. The expat organization deems the boy now useless to their cause and refuses to protect him against the Syrian first lady and the notorious Swiss assassin in her employ. With no support on the way, Court realizes he'll have to take down the Syrian president himself if he and the boy are going to make it out alive.

Available February 20
Buy Agent in Place at Amazon

The Tuscan Child
The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen
From New York Times bestselling author Rhys Bowen comes a haunting novel about a woman who braves her father’s hidden past to discover his secrets…

In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.

Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.

Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history—and maybe come to understand herself as well. Joanna soon discovers that some would prefer the past be left undisturbed, but she has come too far to let go of her father’s secrets now.

Available February 20
Buy The Tuscan Child at Amazon

The Tangled Lands
The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi, Tobias S. Buckell
From award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell comes a fantasy novel told in four parts about a land crippled by the use of magic, and a tyrant who is trying to rebuild an empire—unless the people find a way to resist.

Khaim, The Blue City, is the last remaining city in a crumbled empire that overly relied upon magic until it became toxic. It is run by a tyrant known as The Jolly Mayor and his devious right hand, the last archmage in the world. Together they try to collect all the magic for themselves so they can control the citizens of the city. But when their decadence reaches new heights and begins to destroy the environment, the people stage an uprising to stop them.

In four interrelated parts, The Tangled Lands is an evocative and epic story of resistance and heroic sacrifice in the twisted remains surrounding the last great city of Khaim. Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell have created a fantasy for our times about a decadent and rotting empire facing environmental collapse from within—and yet hope emerges from unlikely places with women warriors and alchemical solutions.

Available February 27
Buy The Tangled Lands at Amazon

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January 31, 2018

Review: In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist

by Susan Roberts

In Every Moment We Are Still Alive is an intense fictionalized autobiographical novel that will pull you in from page 1.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.
In Every Moment We Are Still Alive
January 2018; Melville House; 978-1612197111
audio, ebook, print (240 pages); women's fiction 

At times it reads like a hospital drama but with added feeling and humanity. The book provides a gamut of emotions - at times the main character is confused, grief-stricken, selfish and full of love. It is written in a style that takes a bit of getting used to - the author is a poet and it is apparent in his beautiful use of language but he moves back and forth from past to present often and the reader needs to really pay attention to his words.

Karin is 8 months pregnant when she passes out and Tom takes her to the hospital. After tests, the doctors determine that she has an acute type of leukemia and they need to deliver the baby as soon as possible. Tom spends his days overwhelmed with grief over Karin's illness and hoping for recovery and overwhelmed by the needs of his newborn baby. He never really has a chance to properly grieve because he has to be mother and father to the baby.

This is an interesting well-written story of life and death.

Buy In Every Moment We Are Still Alive at Amazon

Also available at Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads,  or Twitter.
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January 30, 2018

Review: Enchanted by the Highlander by Lecia Cornwall

by MK French

Gillian MacLeod is one of twelve daughters in her family and is known as the shy one. Her sisters and father tend to talk over her and offer their opinions in place of her own, and she wants adventure and to marry for love. Because of this, at a masked ball, she decides to kiss John Erly, a disowned Englishman that serves as the captain of her brother-in-law's guard. He has to fight off his own attraction for her as well, believing himself unworthy of a laird's daughter, even if she chooses him as her husband.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Enchanted by the Highlander
November 2017; Swerve; fairy tale, historical
Gillian is a fun kind of heroine because she is the overprotected girl that still manages to get skilled in various tasks that wouldn't be expected of her. She hunts small game and walks in the woods as a way to be alone and limit her stress when her sisters are too overbearing because she is withdrawn enough not to voice her own opinions. When she starts to, however, she's still talked over. It comes as a shock to others when she shouts and gives directions, which is amusing to the reader because we knew it was there all along.

John similarly isn't the heartless rogue that people gossip about, and his story makes you like him even more.

They're a great match in this, and both are stubborn in similar ways. Instead of a misunderstanding between the two of them that provides the wedge, it's the misunderstanding of others and their own principles. The happily ever after is sweetened up in an almost over the top way, but it fits Gillian and John well.

Buy Enchanted by the Highlander at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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January 29, 2018

Donna's January Book Round Up

by Donna Huber

My January snow day - fuzzy socks, good books, hot tea
I'm still shocked that I read 115 books last year. I credit audiobooks for the win, and if my list of books read this month is an indication, audiobooks are going to play a big part in reaching my 2018 reading goals. Do you listen to audiobooks? I prefer to read books, but it is a nice way to fit in books when I have other things that need doing - cleaning the house or at work.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Covers and descriptions are from


Saving the Sherriff
Saving the Sheriff by Roxanne Snopek
Over Christmas, I discovered the Marrietta, MT universe. I went looking for other books in that universe and came across this free short story (it's now 99 cents). While Snopek does write in the Marrietta universe, this book is not. As far as clean romances go, I really liked it.

The power might be out…but the heat is on.

Every year, free-spirited Frankie Sylva banishes her holiday loneliness with good deeds. This time, she's rescuing a truckload of neglected reindeer—until a blizzard sidetracks her scheme, and now she's stuck…literally.

Local sheriff Red LeClair is shocked to find a very cute, half-frozen woman trespassing on Three River Ranch in a ditched rig, with a suspiciously empty trailer. Is she a horse thief? Is she on the run? Is she out of her mind? He has no choice but to take her back to the ranch and keep an eye on her.

But when the power goes out, Red and Frankie are forced to depend on each other in a way that both have avoided for years. The sheriff's quiet holiday is suddenly festive: a crackling fire, candles, carols, and an irresistible stranger…who might be a felon.

Buy Saving the Sheriff at Amazon

A Rancher's Surrender
A Rancher's Surrender by Michelle Beattie
This is another Marietta, MT story. It is set in the 1880 and features Jillian whom I briefly see in Away in Montana. This book is more steamy than the other titles I've read in this universe. It reminded me a bit of the television show Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.

Denied entrance into vet school because of her gender, fiery and determined Jillian Matthews trained at her father's side and then headed west to Montana Territory after answering an ad using only her father's initials and last name. She is convinced that her skills will override local ranchers prejudice. She's wrong and handsome Wade Parker, the one who hired her, is the first to make his displeasure public. But Jillian refuses to back down and sets out to win Wade's approval. Soon that's not all she hopes to win.

Widower Wade Parker is furious the new vet he helped hire is a woman. The fact that she's beautiful, smart and wakes parts of him that he thought dead burns even more. Feeling tricked, Wade is determined to send her back east but when the town turns on Jillian and her enemies become dangerous, he steps up to be her protector. And that's not the only role Jillian has him contemplating.

Buy A Rancher's Surrender at Amazon
(the ebook was still free when I prepared this post this weekend)

Betrayed by Lisa Scottoline
I discovered this series last year when looking for audiobooks. I really enjoyed the story. I liked the main character Judy. I'm undecided on how I feel about the family twist at the end.

The women of Rosato & Associates return, after the relaunch of the series that started with Accused. This second entry, Betrayed, stars Judy Carrier, who has had the starring role in only one previous Rosato book. When Betrayed opens, Judy Carrier finds herself at a crossroads in her life. Her best friend, Mary DiNunzio, has just become partner and is about to become a bride, leaving Judy vaguely out of sorts. She's not jealous, but she's not happy either and she's wondering where her own career and love life are going. To make matters worse, she is rocked to her emotional foundations when she learns that her beloved Aunt Barb has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She races to her aunt's side, and so does Judy's mother, only to find that her aunt is dealing with the sudden death of a friend who had been helping her through chemo. The friend, Iris Juarez, was an undocumented worker at a local farm, but her death doesn't look natural at all, to Judy. Judy begins to investigate, following a path that leads her into an underground world far more dangerous than she ever imagined. Judy has to dig to uncover what happened to Iris, and at the same time unearth the secrets in her own family.

Buy Betrayed at Amazon

This Could Hurt
This Could Hurt by Jillian Medoff
My first review book of 2018. At the start of the book, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. I thought is might be too depressing for the start of a new year. But after getting to know the characters, I really started to like the book and it didn't feel quite as depressing. By the end, I felt that it was a bittersweet story and one I'm glad I read. Read my full review.

A funny and deeply felt novel that illuminates the pivotal role of work in our lives—a riveting fusion of The Nest, Up in the Air, and Then We Came to the End that captures the emotional complexities of five HR colleagues trying to balance ambition, hope, and fear as their small company is buffeted by economic forces that threaten to upend them.

Rosa Guerrero beat the odds as she rose to the top of the corporate world. An attractive woman of a certain age, the longtime chief of human resources at Ellery Consumer Research is still a formidable presence, even if her most vital days are behind her. A leader who wields power with grace and discretion, she has earned the devotion and loyalty of her staff. No one admires Rosa more than her doting lieutenant Leo Smalls, a benefits vice president whose whole world is Ellery.

While Rosa is consumed with trying to address the needs of her staff within the ever-constricting limits of the company’s bottom line, her associate director, Rob Hirsch, a middle-aged, happily married father of two, finds himself drawing closer to his "work wife," Lucy Bender, an enterprising single woman searching for something—a romance, a promotion—to fill the vacuum in her personal life. For Kenny Verville, a senior manager with an MBA, Ellery is a temporary stepping-stone to bigger and better places—that is, if his high-powered wife has her way.

Compelling, flawed, and heartbreakingly human, these men and women scheme, fall in and out of love, and nurture dreams big and small. As their individual circumstances shift, one thing remains constant—Rosa, the sun around whom they all orbit. When her world begins to crumble, the implications for everyone are profound, and Leo, Rob, Lucy, and Kenny find themselves changed in ways beyond their reckoning.

Jillian Medoff explores the inner workings of an American company in all its brilliant, insane, comforting, and terrifying glory. Authentic, razor-sharp, and achingly funny, This Could Hurt is a novel about work, loneliness, love, and loyalty; about sudden reversals and unexpected windfalls; a novel about life.

Buy This Could Hurt at Amazon

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
I enjoyed this audiobook. It was a sweet coming-of-age type story. The book was made into a movie, but I haven't seen it. I'll probably look for it. Have you read it or seen the movie?

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the years following World War Two. Though skilled at bookkeeping, she cannot find a job in the miserable Irish economy. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America--to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood "just like Ireland"--she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.

Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, a blond Italian from a big family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. He takes Eilis to Coney Island and Ebbets Field, and home to dinner in the two-room apartment he shares with his brothers and parents. He talks of having children who are Dodgers fans. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.

By far Tóibín's most instantly engaging and emotionally resonant novel, Brooklyn will make readers fall in love with his gorgeous writing and spellbinding characters.

Buy Brooklyn at Amazon

Winter Storms
Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand
When I listened to the 4th book over Christmas, I realized I had somehow missed book 3. It filled in some of the missing gaps I had when I listened to the last book in the series. When I started this series I wasn't sure if I would stick with it, but I grew to love these characters. From the description, this was supposed to be the end of the series. I'm glad there was a 4th and I wonder if the series will spin off with some of the children.

Gather under the mistletoe for one last round of caroling with the Quinn family in this heartwarming conclusion to Elin Hilderbrand's bestselling Winter Street Trilogy. Some of the stormy weather of the past few seasons seems to have finally lifted for the Quinns. After a year apart, and an ill-fated affair with the Winter Street Inn's old Santa Claus, Mitzi has returned to rule the roost; Patrick is about to be released from prison; Kevin has a successful new business and is finally ready to tie the knot with Isabelle; and best of all, there's hopeful news about Bart, who has been captured by enemy forces in Afghanistan. That doesn't mean there aren't a few dark clouds on the horizon. Kelley has recently survived a health scare; Jennifer can't quite shake her addiction to the drugs she used as a crutch while Patrick was in jail; and Ava still can't decide between the two lovers that she's been juggling with limited success. However, if there's one holiday that brings the Quinn family together to give thanks for the good times, it's Christmas. And this year promises to be a celebration unlike any other as the Quinns prepare to host Kevin and Isabelle's wedding at the inn. But as the special day approaches, a historic once-in-a-century blizzard bears down on Nantucket, threatening to keep the Quinns away from the place--and the people--they love most. Before the snow clears, the Quinns will have to survive enough upheavals to send anyone running for the spiked eggnog, in this touching novel that proves that when the holidays roll around, you can always go home again.

Buy Winter Storms at Amazon

22 Scars
22 Scars by C.M. North
It is kind of like an edgy indie film that either people hate or love. I liked the chapters with Beth as the narrator as they flowed more like a story. Read my full review.

Raised with apathy and spite, Amy’s life is a monotonous drone of deep despair, broken only by coffee and nights out with her best—and only—friend. She battles depression daily, fighting to keep her sanity in a world that, to her, is set on destroying her soul.

Her future is bleak, overcast with shadow and doubt; her past harbors terrible secrets that even those closest to her couldn’t begin to guess. When tragedy strikes someone she holds dear, will she succumb to the crushing weight of despair, or will she find the strength to fight—to live?

22 Scars is a story of what it takes to live daily with depression - and how the scars of a lifetime can pass through generations and beyond.

Can the past ever truly be forgotten?

Can depression ever be beat?

Buy 22 Scars at Amazon

Busy Body
Busy Body by M.C. Beaton
If you haven't tried audiobooks, and you like cozy mysteries, then I recommend picking up one in the Agatha Raisin. They are fun and easy to follow.

Agatha Raisin has always been ambivalent about holiday cheer, but her cozy little village of Carsely has long prided itself on its Christmas festivities.

But this year Mr. John Sunday, a self important officer with the Health and Safety Board, has ruled that the traditional tree on top of the church is a public menace; that lampposts are unsafe for hanging illuminations; that May Dimwoody's homemade toys are dangerous for children. Things have reached such a desperate pass that the Carsely Ladies' Society joins forces with the ladies in the neighboring village of Odley Cruesis to try to put a stop to Mr. Sunday's meddling - only to find that someone has literally put a stop to him with a kitchen knife.

Agatha's detective agency is on the case, but when a man has made as many enemies as John Sunday, it's hard to know where to start.

Buy Busy Body at Amazon

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
The first book in this trilogy was a book club read and since I listened to it on audio, I decided to listen to the whole trilogy. I got it from the digital library in December, but with the holidays I kept running out of time and then would have to go back on the holds list. I don't know if it was the wait or because this one had a lot of recapping in it as the story was wrapped, but I found myself growing bored with it.

Months after the Waterless Flood pandemic has wiped out most of humanity, Toby and Ren have rescued their friend Amanda from the vicious Painballers. They return to the MaddAddamite cob house, newly fortified against man and giant pigoon alike. Accompanying them are the Crakers, the gentle, quasi-human species engineered by the brilliant but deceased Crake. Their reluctant prophet, Snowman-the-Jimmy, is recovering from a debilitating fever, so it's left to Toby to preach the Craker theology, with Crake as Creator. She must also deal with cultural misunderstandings, terrible coffee, and her jealousy over her lover, Zeb.

Zeb has been searching for Adam One, founder of the God's Gardeners, the pacifist green religion from which Zeb broke years ago to lead the MaddAddamites in active resistance against the destructive CorpSeCorps. But now, under threat of a Painballer attack, the MaddAddamites must fight back with the aid of their newfound allies, some of whom have four trotters. At the center of MaddAddam is the story of Zeb's dark and twisted past, which contains a lost brother, a hidden murder, a bear, and a bizarre act of revenge.

Combining adventure, humor, romance, superb storytelling, and an imagination at once dazzlingly inventive and grounded in a recognizable world, MaddAddam is vintage Margaret Atwood—a moving and dramatic conclusion to her internationally celebrated dystopian trilogy.

Buy MaddAddam at Amazon

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
Susan reviewed this book back in the fall of 2016 and I've wanted to read it ever since. So I got the audiobook. It caused it me a lot of anxiety to the point I went looking for spoilers (since I couldn't just flip to the last page and find out what happens). It is an excellent psychological thriller, even knowing how it ends.

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You'd like to get to know Grace better. But it's difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace's friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn't Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

Buy Behind Closed Doors at Amazon

Currently Reading:

Women Float
Women Float by Maureen Foley
I've felt much like reading in the evenings so even though it is a novella I haven't made much progress.

Lonely California pastry chef Win never learned how to swim, despite growing up just miles from the Pacific Ocean. Even Janie, her flaky pro-surfer single mother, couldn't convince her to brave the water, solidifying Win's fear when she leaves her at the tender age of 9. But when Win turns 29 and decides to take swimming lessons for the first time -- finally confronting her hydrophobia and trying to make sense of why her mer-mother suddenly swam off all those years ago -- she must also deal with a desperate crush she's developed on her New Age neighbor, mysterious postcards that keep arriving in the mail, and her bad habit of pathological lying. This touching and humorous look at female relationships and the dramas that come for contemporary women turning thirty also doubles as a loving ode to the small coastal town of Carpinteria and the laid-back SoCal lifestyle that guides it. Poetic and moving, Maureen Foley's fiction debut is both a perfect beach read and an insightful look at love, accidental families and the power of friendships.

Buy Women Float at Amazon

Peregrine Island
Peregrine Island by Diane B. Saxon
I'm not really sure where this story is going but it is interesting so far. It's won a bunch of awards.

Part “who-done-it” and part family drama, this award-winning novel reveals that neither people nor paintings are always what they appear to be

Contradictory relationships within troubled families are nothing new, but the award-winning psychological novel written by well-known journalist Diane B. Saxton elevates these relationships and the mysterious heirloom painting that both exposes and unites them to an art form.

Peregrine Island interweaves the stories of three generations of women, one valuable painting, the artist who created it, and those who would do anything to possess it – including kill.

Lush with sensory details, this psychologically complex mystery novel is set on a private island in the middle of Long Island Sound. It begins when the family’s lives are turned upside-down one summer by so-called art experts, who appear on the doorstep of their isolated home to appraise a favorite heirloom painting. When incriminating papers along with two other paintings are discovered behind the painting in question, the appraisal turns into a full-fledged investigation and detectives are called into the case— but not by the family whose members grow increasingly antagonistic toward one another.

During the course of the inquiry and as the summer progresses, the family members discover new secrets about one another and new facts about their past. Above all, they learn that neither people nor paintings can be taken at face value.

Buy Peregrine Island at Amazon

The Three-Body Problem
The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
This is the book club read for February. I've just started it and my book club meets on Thursday! It took forever to get a copy from the library.

The Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple award winning phenomenon from China's most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin.

Set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

Buy The Three-Body Problem at Amazon

Up Next:

I have two reviews coming up in February so they will be my next reads.

Prancing Around with Sleeping Beauty
Prancing Around with Sleeping Beauty by Stacy Juba
This Sleeping Beauty isn’t sure she wants to wake up…

Dance instructor Rory Callahan likes to play it safe. When she meets Kyle, he’s impulsive, persistent, and her exact opposite. He’s pushing her to tango way past her comfort zone and keeping Rory on her toes more than twenty years of dance teachers ever had.

Unfortunately, he’s the grandson of her family’s archrival and she doesn’t want to disappoint them. After all, her parents imagine her as a proper princess - hence her namesake Aurora, AKA Sleeping Beauty. Complicating matters, Rory’s also dealing with a surgeon boyfriend who’s perfect for her (sort of), an obnoxious boss, and desperate dance moms. Kyle wants to change her whole life, but Rory doesn’t like the stakes. After all, princesses are the ones who get the happy endings. . .aren’t they?

This sweet romantic comedy is a standalone and can be read on its own. All books in the series can be read in any order so jump in at any time.

Buy Prancing Around with Sleeping Beauty at Amazon

Birds of Wonder
Birds of Wonder by Cynthia Robinson
Fiction. One August morning while walking her dog, high-school English teacher Beatrice Ousterhout stumbles over the dead body of a student, Amber Inglin, who was to play the lead in Beatrice's production of John Webster's Jacobean tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi. Barely able to speak, Beatrice calls the police. That is to say, she calls her daughter. Jes is a detective with two years of experience under her belt and a personal life composed primarily of a string of one-night-stands, including the owner of the field in which Beatrice has found Amber. In addition to a house and a field, Child Services lawyer Liam Walsh owns a vineyard, where Amber Inglin, along with a handful of other teens who've had difficulty negotiating the foster system, was an intern. Set among the hills and lakes of upstate New York and told in six vibrantly distinct voices, this complex and original narrative chronicles the rippling effects of a young girl's death through a densely intertwined community. By turns funny, fierce, lyrical and horrifying, BIRDS OF WONDER probes family ties, the stresses that break them, and the pasts that never really let us go.

Buy Birds of Wonder at Amazon

What great books have you discovered this first month of 2018?

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour

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January 28, 2018

Deleted Scene Fom THE CONTINUUM by Wendy Nikel

THE CONTINUUM was written during my first attempt at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), an online event in which writers challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in one month. Although this story started out longer, I later realized that it would work better at the shorter novella length, which meant cutting out a large number of words -- oftentimes, whole scenes.