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Showing posts from November, 2012

Book Review: Father Night by Eric Van Lustbader

In Moscow, Jack McClure and Annika Dementieva are charged with getting Annika's grandfather, Dyadya Gourdjiev's out of the country to evade those who are trying to seize his powerful secrets. In the meantime, Secretary of Defense Dennis Paull is in Washington, DC, working with two detectives to uncover the secret activities of their chief of detectives. And in another part of the capital, Alli Carson and her friend Vera are trying to expose a cyberstalker who has targeted Alli.

Father Night is Eric Van Lustbader's fourth novel in the Jack McClure series. You can read my reviews of the other three below. It continues the story of Jack, a special agent with an innate ability to see things others miss, and Alli, the former president's daughter who has grown much stronger since her abduction in the first novel of the series. Both experience many changes in their lives in Father Night, particularly in their relationships with others. Several of the other characters who have…

Weekly Reading Recap

It was a quiet week at My Book Retreat. We went to Myrtle Beach for Thanksgiving and had a great time. We went to Medieval Times for the first time, and loved it. We had Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant, but the food was pretty good. It didn't quite feel like Thanksgiving, but it was fun and relaxing!



I obviously didn't publish any reviews, and I didn't have an author interview scheduled for this holiday weekend. I do plan to get back on track with my Sunday author interviews starting next week. As far as reading goes, I'm very close to finishing Father Night by Eric Van Lustbader. Can't say I've technically finished it yet though. That's it.

Currently Reading
Once I finish Father Night (tonight), I'll have to read Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Wall very quickly since my book club meeting is on Thursday night!!!

Up Next
After that, I really want to read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I've been wanting to read it and found it on NetGalley…

Weekly Reading Recap

I didn't manage to write a recap last week! I think that's one of the only times I've completely missed the It's Monday! meme this year. Yikes! I did consider posting later in the week, but I had a lot of other things going on here. So, here's my recap of the last two weeks. You'll also notice I'm linking up to the Children's Bookshelf as well. I'll start sharing what both of my kids are reading right here every Monday.

As far as reading goes, I finished The Mongol Objective by David Sakmyster, Thirty Days with My Father: Finding Peace with Wartime PTSD by Christal Presley., and Heroes and Lovers by Wayne Zurl. Yes, three books!! I haven't reviewed The Mongol Objective yet, but if you click on the others, you can see my reviews.

I also published a guest post by author Ethan Cross, and interviews with author Karen Pokras Toz and Wayne Zurl. I've started up a weekly author interview on Sundays, so if you're an author who's interested …

Interview with author Wayne Zurl

Today, I'd like to welcome Wayne Zurl, author of the Sam Jenkins Mystery series. You can read my review of the latest book in that series, Heroes & Lovershere.

Q. You and your character Sam Jenkins share much of the same background - you both worked as police officers in NY, spent time in Vietnam, and moved to the mountains of Tennessee. How much of you is in the character Sam?

No one would believe me if I said Sam was a totally autonomous character—and he’s not. Sometimes I tell people we grew up in the same neighborhood, joined the Army together, and sat in the same class at the police academy. Coincidentally, my wife Barbara and Kate Jenkins volunteer at the public library, entertain the residents of local nursing homes, and play mahjongg, too.

I use Sam to fulfill the old author’s maxim of write what you know. All the back-story references I use to develop Sam’s character require no research to make them believable if I know them to be true. If Sam speaks as I do, writing h…

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

It's Nick and Amy's fifth anniversary, when Amy suddenly disappears. At their home, there are signs of a struggle. What happened and where is Amy? Through Nick's thoughts and actions, and Amy's diary pages, we learn about how they met, the state of their marriage, and many other details about these two people who have many sides to explore.

And that's about all I want to say about the plot of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I read this book two months ago, but have struggled with writing the review. The problem is that this is a psychological thriller; if you haven't read it yet, you really don't want to know anything else about the plot. Flynn does an amazing job of revealing bits and pieces about each character and their actions throughout the novel, from the first page to the last. Telling you any more would ruin that experience.

I will say that this is a page turner. I had a hard time putting it down, wanting to know what was going to happen next all the w…

Book Review: Heroes & Lovers by Wayne Zurl

When Police Chief Sam Jenkins invites reporter and friend Rachel Williamson to cover a fraud investigation at a local auto repair shop, he figures he's doing her a favor. But when she is kidnapped and her cameraman assaulted, he is determined to find her and make up for putting her in harm's way.

Heroes & Lovers by Wayne Zurl is the third Sam Jenkins mystery I've read. It was fun getting back together with the lively characters that are part of this series, but I have to say I didn't enjoy this one as much as the last two. I think part of the issue was the relationship that was explored between Sam and Rachel. In the other books, the two flirt and Sam makes some rather inappropriate comments; but that's what makes Sam endearing. In Heroes & Lovers, they cross the line slightly, and that honestly turned me off. I had a hard time getting into the storyline because of that, although I was happy with the way things were resolved in the end.

The mystery aspect …

Guest Post: Consumed by Dark Thoughts by Ethan Cross

According to legend, Bret Easton Ellis became so consumed by dark thoughts when writing American Psycho that he began to lose his sense of compassion. Considering the dark subject matter and ruthless nature of certain characters within my novels, people often ask me how I can come up with such things and if it affects me.

The answer is...no, it doesn't affect me. It's a lot of fun to get into the head of a killer and imagine the world through a different set of eyes, but it's like an actor playing a role. I don't become a killer or let dark thoughts consume me. I think that we all have a darker side (myself apparently more than others), and I just tap into that part of my brain. But that's the cool (and therapeutic) thing about writing…I get to be all of the characters, good and bad, hero and villain.

In fact, I'd go as far as to say that my sense of compassion for both the killers and victims has grown since writing this type of book. A lot of situation…

Interview with author Karen Pokras Toz

Today, I'd like to welcome Karen Pokras Toz, author of the Nate Rocks series and Millicent Marie is Not My Name. You can read my review of Nate Rocks the World here.

Q. Welcome to My Book Retreat. So, who or what inspired you to become an author?

I wish I knew the answer to this one! I was never really interested in writing, although I’ve always loved to read. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I caught the writing bug. It sounds crazy, but one day, I just opened my laptop and started writing. I haven’t stopped since.

Q. Can you tell me a little about the Nate Rocks series? How did you come up with the idea for that series?

Nate Rocks is about 10 year old Nathan Rockledge. Nathan is your typical 10 year old with an huge imagination. He loves to draw, and every time he starts to doodle, he winds up drawing himself into adventures where he becomes Nate Rocks – hero, rock star, astronaut, and the list goes on. The book is geared toward reluctant readers in the 7-12 age group and h…

What My Children Are Reading

I've been sharing C's books in my general Weekly Reading Recap. But it's been a while since I've shared what M is reading. So I thought I'd join in What My Child Is Reading this week.

Now that the second quarter has officially started, M has been placed in a reading group in school. Her group is reading at a level "17" which is the equivalent of 2.0 grade level. Last week, they worked on a book called Monkey Tricks by Annette Smith. It's a cute book about a family that goes to a zoo and a monkey escapes from the cage. The zookeepers have to capture the monkey. I wasn't thrilled with the fact that they had to shoot him with a dart gun, but overall it was a cute story. M had to write down five -ing words from the book, and write and illustrate a different way they could have caught the monkey (she wrote: "They can keth [catch] him in a bag.").

We got two books by Tomie dePaola from the library: Strega Nona's Harvest and Pancakes for Bre…

Book Review: Thirty Days with My Father by Christal Presley

Christal Presley can't remember much of her childhood, mostly because she has blocked it out. Her father, a Vietnam veteran, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), often locking himself in his room for days or telling Christal and her mother that he was going to the river to kill himself. She spent her childhood afraid of setting him off into a rage. As an adult, she has avoided him as much as possible.

Thirty Days with My Father: Finding Peace from Wartime PTSD is Christal's memoir of a project she took on with great fear. She decided to spend 30 days talking to her father each day about his experience in Vietnam. This is a topic she had never broached with her father; a forbidden topic during her childhood. But she was challenged to write about the thing that she most fears, and this is it.

I found Presley's memoir inspiring. At the beginning, she can't even bring herself to ask her father a question. But then he starts to open up and it was just so won…

Weekly Reading Recap

I hope you've all had a good week. Ours has been busy with Halloween, school conference and field trip, and various other family activities. I have had very little time for reading, and once again, didn't finish much.

I did finish reading Election! A Kid's Guide to Picking Our President by Dan Gutman, and I posted the review for that one.

That's about it.

My son finished the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage. He was home sick on Thursday and spent most of the day reading, so that helped! I stopped at the library and got him The Maze of Bones, the first book in the 39 Clues series, and he started that last night. I'm hoping he enjoys that series. I didn't realize that each book is written by a different author.

Currently Reading
I'm still reading The Mongol Objective by David Sakmyster. But I put it aside so I can read a book I have for a book tour this week: Thirty Days with My Father: Finding Peace with Wartime PTSD by Christal Presley.

Up Next
When I fini…

Book Review: Election! by Dan Gutman

As the US presidential election gets closer, I thought it would be interesting to read a book designed to explain the whole election process to kids. Election! A Kid's Guide to Picking Our President by Dan Gutman is a great, comprehensive resource for kids ~ but I think it's more geared toward kids in middle school and high school than younger kids like mine.

The book is set up as a series of questions and answers, and it's done in a very approachable, conversational style. Here's an example:
So is the president the boss of the United States?
Not really. The first words of the Preamble to the Constitution are "We, the people..." The people of the United States are the boss of the president, not the other way around. The president, as well as all our representatives, are selected by the people they will lead. There are chapters about the presidency, government, campaigning, candidates, voting and elections. Gutman answers questions about who can be president, …