Friday, February 05, 2016

Review & Guest Post: In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson

Title: In Another Life
Author: Julie Christine Johnson
Published: February 2016, Sourcebooks Landmark
Format: ARC E-copy, 368 pages
Source: Netgalley via publicist


Historian Lia Carrer has finally returned to southern France, determined to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. But instead of finding solace in the region's quiet hills and medieval ruins, she falls in love with Raoul, a man whose very existence challenges everything she knows about life--and about her husband's death. As Raoul reveals the story of his past to Lia, she becomes entangled in the echoes of an ancient murder, resulting in a haunting and suspenseful journey that reminds Lia that the dead may not be as far from us as we think.

Steeped in the rich history and romantic landscape of rural France, In Another Life is a story of love that conquers time and the lost loves that haunt us all.

My thoughts: This is Julie Christine Johnson's debut novel and I really enjoyed it. I will say I typically shy away from any books that have to do with time travel, but something called to me when reading the description of this book and I'm so glad I gave it a chance - I was mesmerized by it and really found myself immersed in Lia's story and wanting to know more.

What I loved about this book is that there was such a good balance between the past and present and I never once felt that the past was too bogged down with historical details. She gives us just enough to keep us intrigued and interested without being overbearing. I knew nothing of Cathar history, yet now I kind of want to find out a little more...

I also felt she created richly drawn characters, characters you just wanted to know more about, both in the present and the past. It was so hard to know who was good and who was up to no good - these characters were crafted so well. And even the setting was so vividly drawn that it became a character. 

The suspense that this book had kept me glued to the pages, wanting - no needing, to know how everything would play out. It starts out with Lia dealing with her grief and becomes so much more than that. It is definitely one of those of books that I won't be forgetting any time soon and I will certainly be keeping an eye out for what comes next from Julie Christine Johnson!



About the author: Julie Christine Johnson is the author of the novels In Another Life (February 2016, Sourcebooks Landmark) and The Crows of Beara (September 2017, Ashland Creek Press). Her short stories and essays have appeared in several journals, including Emerge Literary Journal; Mud Season Review; Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim; Cobalt; River Poets Journal, in the print anthologies Stories for Sendai; Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers; and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss, and featured on the flash fiction podcast No Extra Words. She holds undergraduate degrees in French and Psychology and a Master’s in International Affairs. Julie leads writing workshops and seminars and offers story/developmental editing and writer coaching services.

A runner, yogi, and wine geek, Julie makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington state with her husband. In Another Life is her first novel. 



Authors Links: 
Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook 
|   Goodreads



**********************************************************************************

True Story
by Julie Christine Johnson

In October 2013, a year and four months after beginning the first draft of In Another Life, I turned to my husband and said, "I will finish writing this novel because finishing is the right thing to do. I will finish it because I need to know I can. Once it is finished, it will go the way of most first novels: buried at the bottom of a drawer. It will be a learning experience. But it will never see the light of day."

I did indeed finish what I'd started, but I fudged a bit on the bottom-of-the-drawer part. I couldn't extinguish the light on a story that had brought me so much joy and hair-yanking aggravation to write. I asked others to give me honest feedback on its potential, and in their critiques I found the courage to rewrite. The same spirit that compelled me to finish the novel pushed me to see if I could find someone to champion its publication. 

Early summer 2014, I assembled a spreadsheet of literary agents to query. Narrowing a thousand possible agents who represented upmarket commercial fiction to a first-tier group of 105 was agonizing, tedious work.

But I knew the true agony would be in the trickling out of my query letter, wondering with each rejection, is it really worth it? Everyone says first novels are learning curves, but mostly they're crap and should be buried. Was I setting myself up for certain heartbreak?

Still, I wrote in my day planner on the fourth Monday of October 2014: Send first 5 query letters. As if I would forget. Really, I just wanted to satisfaction of effacing the command with a black Sharpie. 

First though, I set sail from my peninsula to a writers' conference on a nearby island. The week preceding the conference had been...challenging. Within a twenty-four hour period my husband's job was upended, my hard-drive curled up in a corner to die, and a bout with the flu had me wanting to do the same.

As the ferry chugged through the bay, I thought, "Only car trouble is left." The ferry docked, I turned on the ignition, and--I kid you not--a fire-engine red service indicator illuminated.

Just get me to the conference. Please. On the car seat beside me was paper proof I'd reserved a pitch spot with an agent months ago.

I arrived at the conference, but the agent I was scheduled to meet did not. I crashed the pitch sessions anyway, determined to tell someone my story. I pitched to four literary agents and two editors. 

Six pitches. Six manuscript requests. Come Monday morning--that fourth Monday of October--I e-mailed six copies of my novel. And then I drew a thick black line through that to-do item in my calendar. My lovely agent-query spreadsheet, over which I'd so labored, would just have to wait.

Between breakfast and lunch two weeks to the day I pitched my heart, two voices on the telephone--one belonging to my now-agent, the other to the eventual editor of In Another Life said--"We love your story. Let us share it with the world."

My novel found its way into the hands of those who believed in its potential. And now, three years, seven months and ten days after I wrote the first words, it is in readers' hands.

True Story.




***Thank you Julie for sharing this with us...and congratulations on the publication of your debut novel!!! 

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Book Spotlight: The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young (w/ link to Review)

Last Spring, at BEA, I was fortunate to pick up an advanced copy of The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young, a book the publisher and publicists were praising. So of course, I was ecstatic when I heard it was one of the She Reads 'Books of Winter' selections. I read it over the summer and devoured it, and cannot wait until the next book comes out in the series. I've since recommended it to everyone I know! You can read my thoughts of the book here.



Title: The Gates of Evangeline
Author: Hester Young
Series: Charlie Cates Trilogy, #1
Published: September 2015, G.P. Putnam's Sons


From a unique new talent comes a fast-paced debut, introducing a heroine whose dark visions bring to light secrets that will heal or destroy those around her . . .

When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent, she soon realizes. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees, if only she can make sense of them.

After a little boy in a boat appears in Charlie’s dreams asking for her help, Charlie finds herself entangled in a thirty-year-old missing-child case that has never ceased to haunt Louisiana’s prestigious Deveau family. Armed with an invitation to Evangeline, the family’s sprawling estate, Charlie heads south, where new friendships and an unlikely romance bring healing. But as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust—and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could’ve imagined.A Southern Gothic mystery debut that combines literary suspense and romance with a mystical twist, The Gates of Evangeline is a story that readers of Gillian Flynn, Kate Atkinson, and Alice Sebold won't be able to put down.




The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young is one of the She Reads "Books of Winter" reading selection picks. 
 

Head over to the She Reads website to read reviews and related posts of this book, as well as posts related to the other "Books of Winter" selections. 
 


Monday, February 01, 2016

Month in Review: January 2016


Here are my reading stats for January!
  • Books read: 11
Books I read:
  1. Me Before You -- Jojo Moyes
  2. Lost & Found in Cedar Cove -- Debbie Macomber (e-book)
  3. The Forgotten Room -- Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig (e-book)
  4. After the Crash -- Michel Bussi
  5. Bones Are Forever -- Kathy Reichs (audio)
  6. The Things We Keep -- Sally Hepworth (e-book)
  7. Avenged -- Elizabeth Heiter (e-book)
  8. The Storm Sister -- Lucinda Riley (audio)
  9. In Another Life -- Julie Christine Johnson (e-book)
  10. Paris for One -- Jojo Moyes (e-book)
  11. Bones in Her Pocket -- Kathy Reichs (e-book)

Favorite Books of January:
  • The Forgotten Room -- Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig
  • The Storm Sister -- Lucinda Riley

Bookish news:
  • I was able to go to a book signing for The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams & Lauren Willig - it was a wonderful evening, hearing about how the book came to be and how the three authors wrote the book. If you haven't picked this book up yet, I highly recommend it!!! 
  • The She Reads 'Books of Winter' selections have been announced...and they are great selections! I did a post spotlighting them which you can find here and will be reading and reviewing 2 of them soon - 1 I've already read and will be re-posting that review soon.

2016 Challenge Update:
  • You Read How Many Books? Reading Challenge -- Books Read: 11/150
  • Library Reading Challenge -- Books Read: 3/18
  • #ReadMyOwnDanmBooks Reading Challenge -- Books Read: 2/18
  • Netgalley Reading Challenge -- Books Read: 5/21
  • New Authors Reading Challenge -- Books Read: 3/45
  • E-books Reading Challenge -- Books Read: 6/25
  • Audio Books Reading Challenge -- Books Listened to: 3/50


* Kathryn over at The Book Date has created a Month in Review meme for those who put together these monthly posts. From now on, I'll be linking my posts up each month...Thanks Kathryn for putting this meme together!!!


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Short & Sweet Review: Bones Are Forever by Kathy Reichs (audio)

Title: Bones Are Forever
Author: Kathy Reichs
Series: Temperance Brennan, #15
Narrator: Linda Emond 
Published: August 2012, Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: 9 hours 30 minutes 
Source: Library


#1 New York Times bestselling author Kathy Reichs, a producer of the Fox hit show Bones, is back with her fifteenth “pulse-pounding” (Publishers Weekly) novel featuring North America’s favorite forensic anthropologist, Tempe Brennan—a story of infanticide and murder set in the high stakes, high danger world of diamond mining.

Beneath a diamond’s perfect surface lies a story of violence and greed. Just like bones...

In a run-down Montreal apartment, Tempe finds heartbreaking evidence of three innocent lives ended. The landlord says Alma Rogers lives there—is she the same woman who checked into a city hospital as Amy Roberts, then fled before doctors could treat her uncontrolled bleeding? Is she Alva Rodriguez, sought by a man who appeared at the crime scene? Heading up an investigation crackling with the sexual tension of past intimacies, Tempe leads homicide detective Andrew Ryan and police sergeant Ollie Hasty along the woman’s trail and into the farthest reaches of mining country—where the grim industry of unearthing diamonds exacts a price in blood. And where the truths the unlikely trio uncovers are more sinister than they could have imagined.
***Short & Sweet Reviews are short, quick reviews. These will mainly be used for series books where I have already done full reviews on some of the earlier books or for books that I feel will suffice with a quick review. These will not be used for review requests or blog tours.

My thoughts: This was quite an interesting installment in the Temperance Brennan series...I never know just where the case is going to take us and boy oh boy this one was quite a compelling, yet tough ride. It was a little hard to get through at times, due to the sensitive nature of the babies that kept turning up dead, but then when the diamond connection turned up, it just became really interesting. I really do love the facts that Kathy Reichs is able to impart throughout her books - I always feel like I walk away from her books with little tidbits of knowledge about a wide array of topics.


There was an interesting dynamic going on for Tempe in this book - not only was Ryan involved in this case, but so was an old fling of Tempe's and that sure did make for some tense moments. It definitely put Tempe on guard, trying not to stir the pot by making either jealous as both happen to be exes as of this case. It was comical to watch, though I'm sure Tempe didn't think so! 


Audio thoughts:
Yay...another book narrated by Linda Emond! While I know it's only a matter of time before the narrator switches, I am enjoying this long spree of books with a consistent narrator while it lasts. I think Linda does a great job with the voices and pacing in this series.


Books in this series:

  1. Deja Dead                                14.  Flash & Bones
  2. Death du Jour                       15.  Bones are Forever
  3. Deadly Decisions                 15.5  Bones in Her Pocket
  4. Fatal Voyage                         16.  Bones of the Lost
  5. Grave Secrets                        17.  Bones Never Lie
  6. Bare Bones                              17.5  Bones on Ice
  7. Monday Mourning              18.  Speaking in Bones
  8. Cross Bones                            
  9. Break No Bones                    
  10. Bones to Ashes                    
  11. Devil Bones 
  12. 206 Bones
  13. Spider Bones

#FitReaders: Weekly Check-in January 29

 
    
It was an ok week. I was really tired all week for some reason, so getting up to go to the gym didn't really happen after Monday...not sure what's going on there. I still have my head cold, though it is much better. I think fighting that is really taking a lot out of me. Hopefully, now that it seems to be mostly gone, next week I can get back to my regular routine - I seem to sleep much better on the days I get to the gym!
 
Here's how my week of went: 
   
Jan 23:  6,954 steps
Jan 24:  6,422 steps
Jan 25:  10,045 steps (Gym, 35 minutes on treadmill)

Jan 26:  11,327 steps
Jan 27:  11,024 steps

Jan 28: 
7,290 steps 
Jan 29: 
10,927 steps
 
 
Audiobooks listened to this week: 

  • Finished The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley, narrated by Noreen Leighton, Rachel Lincoln
  • Started White Gardenia by Belinda Alexandra, narrated by Deidre Rubenstein

How did your week go? You can find this week's link-up here.


Virtual 5K /10K Tally:
     January:  
           5K  -  3
         10K -  0

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Short & Sweet Review: Flash & Bones by Kathy Reichs (audio)

Title: Flash & Bones
Author: Kathy Reichs
Series: Temperance Brennan, #14
Narrator: Linda Emond
Published: August 2011, Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: 8 hours 33 minutes 
Source: Library


Just as 200,000 fans are pouring into town for Race Week, a body is found in a barrel of asphalt next to the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The next day, a NASCAR crew member comes to Temperance Brennan's office at the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner to share a devastating story. Twelve years earlier, Wayne Gamble's sister, Cindi, then a high school senior and aspiring racer, disappeared along with her boyfriend, Cale Lovette. Lovette kept company with a group of right-wing extremists known as the Patriot Posse. Could the body be Cindi's? Or Cale's?

At the time of their disappearance, the FBI joined the investigation, only to terminate it weeks later. Was there a cover-up? As Tempe juggles multiple theories, the discovery of a strange, deadly substance in the barrel alongside the body throws everything into question. Then an employee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention goes missing during Race Week. Tempe can't overlook the coincidence. Was this man using his lab chemicals for murder? Or is the explanation even more sinister? What other secrets lurk behind the festive veneer of Race Week?

A turbocharged story of secrets and murder unfolds in this, the fourteenth thrilling novel in Reichs's "cleverly plotted and expertly maintained series" ("The New York Times Book Review"). With the smash hit "Bones "about to enter its seventh season and in full syndication--and her most recent novel, "Spider Bones, "an instant "New York Times "bestseller--Kathy Reichs is at the top of her game.
***Short & Sweet Reviews are short, quick reviews. These will mainly be used for series books where I have already done full reviews on some of the earlier books or for books that I feel will suffice with a quick review. These will not be used for review requests or blog tours. 

My thoughts: Being a Nascar fan, I really enjoyed this installment!!! I loved all the references to racing and the bits of history that Kathy Reichs included about the history of how racing came to be. For instance, she mentioned that 40% of Nascar fans are female, and I'm proud to say, I'm definitely part of this statistic! Of course, having Tempe based in Charlotte, N.C.,  it was only a matter of time that a storyline involved Nascar, and I thought it was a great case.

I also loved that Slidell was back...oh how I just love him!!! He's so quirky and it's always fun hearing about his interactions with Tempe. He hasn't been around in a while and I do hope this isn't the last of him!

Then there's Summer, Tempe's ex-husband, Pete's new wife-to-be. What a trip she is! I love that Summer has found an ally in Tempe much to Tempe's dismay, so much that she goes as far as asking Tempe to help her get Pete to see reason with the wedding plans...these scenes were so comical!!! 

This has definitely been one of my favorite installments in the series but only because I am a Nascar fan. I could definitely see where if you don't like Nascar, this one might not be up your alley.  


Audio thoughts: I've been lucky to have found a set of audios that Linda Emond has narrated. It's so strange that there are different versions with different narrators. But anyway - I am really enjoying listening to the same narrator narrate this series, especially as I catch up on this series. 

My only complaint remains the same with this production - the tracks are really long so it's hard to go back or switch from one place to another in the middle of a track - like move from car to house. I guess that's the drawback when using CD's as opposed to using audible or another program on my phone. Oh well, I manage, but I do prefer when the tracks are shorter, because there are times when I do want to re-listen to something, just because I've gotten distracted or I want to rehear something and with the longer tracks, I tend not to. 


Books in this series:
  1. Deja Dead                                14.  Flash & Bones
  2. Death du Jour                       15.  Bones are Forever
  3. Deadly Decisions                 15.5  Bones in Her Pocket
  4. Fatal Voyage                         16.  Bones of the Lost
  5. Grave Secrets                        17.  Bones Never Lie
  6. Bare Bones                              17.5  Bones on Ice
  7. Monday Mourning              18.  Speaking in Bones
  8. Cross Bones                            
  9. Break No Bones                    
  10. Bones to Ashes                    
  11. Devil Bones 
  12. 206 Bones
  13. Spider Bones

Friday, January 29, 2016

Review: The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

Title: The Things We Keep
Author: Sally Hepworth
Published: January 2016, St. Martin's Press 
Format: ARC E-copy, 352 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher


Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease at only thirty-eight years old, knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. She also knows there's just one another resident her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life at Rosalind House. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.

When Eve Bennett is suddenly thrust into the role of single mother she finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna's and Luke's families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them.

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Sally Hepworth and it is an absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful, yet thought provoking book. It's a hard book to put down once you get involved in it, yet one that you will not be able to stop thinking about once you finish reading.

I loved the way this story was told, alternating between Anna, diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease in her late thirties; Eve, suddenly a single mother, who begins working at the assisted living facility where Anna lives; and Clementine, Eve's 7 year-old daughter. This allowed for a different perspective on what was going on, as well as different story lines. The main story is Anna's, though Eve does have her own story to tell as well. But, what's equally interesting is that Anna's part is told in reverse order, while Eve and Clementine's is told straight forward. How clever and when you think about it, makes total sense!

This story is definitely about loss, no doubt about that, though, not all loss is tangible. Anna is trying desperately to hold on to the person she was before her diagnosis and maintain some sort of dignity. She learns quite a bit when she befriends Luke, the other young person at the care facility with a similar diagnosis. Their relationship blossoms into something that no one expected and it's sweet, though not everyone agrees. But that begs the question - what drives a relationship - your mind or your heart?

There is a lot of food for thought when reading this book. It's a compelling read that will leave you with many questions. But, isn't that the point when you read a book of this type? Isn't it supposed to get you thinking? I always think so.

 
 

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