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Showing posts from June, 2013

Interview with author Ann Whitely-Gillen

Today I'd like to welcome Ann Whitely-Gillen, debut author of Last Train to Omaha.

Q. Welcome to My Book Retreat. You mentioned in your email to me that you decided to write a book after undergoing surgery for breast cancer. What led you to that decision? Had you always wanted to be an author or did something about your experience with cancer lead you down that path?

A. I was so caught up in grief and fear that I was desperate to do something that would allow me to express myself to the fullest. I had a dream one night after reading a poem entitled “Limited” by American poet, Carl Sandburg, and when I woke up, I reiterated the dream to my husband. He said “Ann, you need to write a book.” So I did, and it made me soar through my treatment and into full recovery. I created a safe haven for myself through my characters and their environment. Their journeys inspired me and as they have others who have read the book. For me, this is an incredible accomplishment – to be able to reach out…

Book Review: Parallax View by Allan Leverone

When CIA operative Tracie Tanner is entrusted with a Top Secret communique from Mikhail Gorbachev to Ronald Reagan, she is confident in her ability to successfully transport it from Russia to Washington, D.C. But things don't go as planned, and soon she finds herself in Maine with no official support at all. The only one there to help is an air traffic controller with a brain tumor!

Parallax View by Allan Leverone brings us back to 1987, when the world was on the verge of massive change. It's a fast-paced thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. What I love about Leverone's writing is that he develops characters that seem so real and easy to care about. Shane Rowley, the air traffic controller who joins Tracie on her journey, is such a character. He's just an average guy who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He may end up doing extraordinary things, but in the end, he really is just an average guy.

I love thrillers and Paral…

Week in Review

I'm a few days late, but I'm here! Life is crazy in the summer with the kids going to different camps each week, and work has been busy as well. Plus, C is doing golf lessons and piano lessons every week. I'm having a hard time figuring out which way I'm going most days! I have managed to get some reading in though.

Recent Reviews and Other Posts
Last week, I wrote a review for The Rockin' Chair by Steven Manchester. That's about it. Another slow week!

What I'm Reading
I managed to finish Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah about an hour before my book club meeting last night. I enjoyed it. It's definitely a summer read, and it wasn't perfect. But I found it entertaining and it reminded me that I really need to get in touch with a friend I haven't talked to in a long time!

I'm now reading Parallax View by Allan Leverone. I'm supposed to review this one tomorrow, so either I will finish it tonight and review it, or I will write up a book spo…

Book Review: The Rockin' Chair by Steven Manchester

After a full, happy life together, John has lost the love of his life, Alice. It's hard for him to imagine going on without her. But when his three grandchildren return home to say goodbye to their grandmother, and to comfort Grandpa John, he realizes that they need him to stick around a bit longer to help them remember who they are and what's important in life.

The Rockin' Chair by Steven Manchester is Grandpa John's story, but it is also the story of his son, Hank, daughter-in-law, Elle, and his grandchildren George, Evan and Tara. We hear all of their voices and perspectives throughout the story, so we get to know their thoughts and feelings as well. Each individual in this family is facing his or her own demons, and Grandpa John is the only one who can help them. As the family gathers on the farm where they all grew up, he spends time with each one, helping them to see the truth and overcome their unique challenges. He offers the wisdom and faith they need to heal.

Week in Review

Good morning. It's been a couple weeks since I posted a recap. I'm not really sure what happened last week, but I never got around to writing up my Monday recap. I did get some things up on the blog, though.

Recent Reviews and Other Posts
I'm participating in the 2013 Big Book Challenge hosted by Sue at Book by Book.
I highlighted a new book in the Dominic Grey series: The Diabolist by Layton Green.
And I wrote two reviews: All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg and  Tom T's Hat Rack by Michele Spry

What I'm Reading
I am still halfway through The Diabolist. I had to put it down to read another book I have for review, The Rockin' Chair by Steven Manchester. I'm almost done with that one.

Up Next for Me
I have to read my June book club selection, Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, next. I'm running out of time! Then I need to move on to one more review book: Parallax View by Allan Leverone. I think I took on too many review books this month!!!

What C is …

Book Review: All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg

Rick Bragg grew up dirt-poor in rural Alabama. His father, when he was around, was not exactly nice. But he had a house over his head - thanks to relatives - and an amazingly dedicated mother. And he somehow grew up to become a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.

All Over but the Shoutin' is Rick Bragg's memoir, which details his childhood and the events that led to his role as a respected journalist. The first half of the book is focused on his family and his early life living in Alabama ~ a life that started hanging on his mother's back in the fields while she picked cotton to feed her family. Then he shares his early days as a journalist, his drive to cover the darker areas of society. His trips to Haiti were particularly poignant.

While this is a memoir, it reads more like a literary novel for the most part. The stories of his childhood are raw and gripping. He truly paints a picture his life, his town, his mother. I could feel his emotions, the struggles and the pain. …

Book Spotlight: The Diabolist by Layton Green

The Diabolist, the third book in the Dominic Grey series by Layton Green, came out on Tuesday. I've read the first two books, The Summoner and The Egyptian, which are now available as both ebooks and paperbacks. I was very excited to get my hands on this new one as well. Here's a synopsis:
In this gripping thriller, the bizarre murder of a Satanic priest in San Francisco draws Dominic Grey and Viktor Radek, private investigators of cults, to the scene. Witnesses claim a robed figure, seemingly able to appear and disappear at will, set fire to the priest. When the leader of another Satanic cult in Paris dies under similar circumstances, the case only grows stranger… and more dangerous.

Convinced that a charismatic New Age prophet is behind the murders, the investigators undergo a perilous journey into the world of the occult as they try to penetrate the prophet’s inner circle. From the catacombs of Paris to London’s nefarious East End, from the haunted walls of York to a monas…

Book Review: Tom T's Hat Rack: A Story About Paying it Forward by Michele Spry

When Shelby gets out of school for the summer, she's excited to spend time with her neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Tucker. As her parents are both very busy doctors, Mr. and Mrs. T have "adopted" her as their grandchild and watch her when her parents are both working. Shelby feels that each moment with Mr. T is extra special since he went through cancer treatments the previous year.

Tom T's Hat Rack by Michele Spry is a story that teaches the importance of paying it forward. Mr. T enlists Shelby's help at the beginning of the summer on a project, but he won't tell her what it is. She commits, and soon they are cutting and sanding and painting various pieces of wood. They work for several weeks, but Shelby doesn't realize until the end just how special the project really is.

This is a sweet story that shows children how they can give back to their communities. I haven't read it with my kids yet, because I was concerned there would be too much sadness. There i…

2013 Big Book Summer Challenge

I'm joining another challenge. But this one is an easy one because I already know for sure I'll complete it!! Sue at Book by Book is hosting the Big Book Summer Challenge. It's pretty simple really. You just have to read at least one book that's over 400 pages by Labor Day (first weekend in September). That's it!

And the reason I know I'll complete this challenge is that my book club's June selection is Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, which is 513 pages!! I also have Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens on my list for another challenge, so I may try to read that one before the end of summer as well, since it looks like it's over 400 pages as well.

I doubt I'll fit in more long books, but you never know!

If you're looking to read some big books this summer, sign up for the Big Book Summer Challenge!

Week in Review

Hello. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you had a great week. Mine was quite eventful as I participated in the Armchair BEA last week, so did a lot of blog writing! Here's a recap of what happened here last week.

Recent Reviews and Other Posts
I posted several times for the Armchair BEA event:
Introductions - Get to know me a little better
Genre Fiction - See some of my recommendations for thrillers/mysteries and historical fiction.
Literary Fiction - See some of my recommendations for literary fiction, many of which would be great for book clubs!
Non-Fiction - See my recommendations for nonfiction, including memoirs

What I'm Reading
I didn't do much reading at all last week. I did read Tom T's Hat Rack by Michele Spry, and Ferdinand Fox's Big Sleep and The Secret Lake by Karen Inglis. These are all children's books I have for review, so I'll be writing up my reviews this week.

Up Next for Me
I'm going to spend time writing reviews this week, but then I'm …