Wednesday, July 31, 2013


July was the first time since we moved where I took some time off from house repair to just enjoy all my new reading spots!  I am so glad I did and am definitely still trying to find the balance between house projects and enjoying the house, maybe August will be even better!

1. The Rockin Chair by Steve Manchester
2. Mandatory Release by Jess Riley
3. Love and Other Subjects by Kathleen Shoop
4. The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
5. The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey
6. The Mirrored World by Debra Dean
7. The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller
8. Not Your Average Joe by Nell Carson
9. The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman
10. Reality Ends Here by Alison Gaylin
11.  Drift by Jon McGoran
12. Mocha, Moonlight and Murder by MaryAnn Kempher
13. The Never List by Koethi Zan
14. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
15. Triumphs and Tragedies by Bill Hayes

Total pages read, clicked, and flipped: 4,785

Where Have I Been Reading?:
Laurel, MD
New York City, NY (2)
Denver, CO
Chicago, IL
Pasadena, CA
Reno, NV
Portland, OR
Hermosa Beach, California

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Author Interview: Jess McConkey

Thank you so much to Jess McConkey for allowing me the opportunity to ask a few questions and also the opportunity to read and review The Widows of Braxton County.  Check out my review that went up yesterday.

1.  What do you find yourself rambling about? adult children would probably be better at answering that question!!  I can tell when they think ol' Mom's off on a tangent when their eyes kind of glaze over and they give each other "The Look!"

2.  Who was the first character that launched the story in this book when you were writing?

The first character was Hannah.  Several years ago I attended a book signing for Midnight Assassin by Patricia Bryan and Thomas Wolf.  The book deals with an unsolved murder case that happened here in Iowa in 1900 and is a fascinating story.  The book also touches on what life was like for women at the beginning of the twentieth century, and needless to say, I was appalled by what some women had to face back then.  It made me start thinking "What If?", which was basically how all my stories start, and Hannah popped into my head.  Her chapters were very easy to write . . . in fact, I wrote those first then went back and wrote Kate's story, which wasn't easy for me.  To this day, I'm not exactly sure why maybe my answer to Question 3 had something to do with it.  I didn't want to revisit those times when I had acted like Kate.  It wasn't until my friend and fellow author, Tamara Siler Jones, got tired of listening to all my angst and told me to "put your big girl panties on and just do it" that I finally got those chapters finished!!

3.  With your main character, Kate, was there ever a part of you in her?

Definitely!!  I've often thought that most writers, myself included, are at heart "people pleasers."  And in the beginning, Kate is trying to please everyone.  It takes her awhile to learn that with some people, you can't run fast enough or jump high enough to suit them.  It's a lesson that I've repeatedly learned throughout my life.

I've also been guilty of deluding myself when it comes to relationships.  Instead of picking up on the red flags at the beginning of a relationship, I've convinced myself that it's me, not them.  Wrong!!  There are times when two people just aren't a good fit.  They want different things out of life; they have different goals and expectations.  It's better to walk away from a situation like that at the start than to try and shove yourself into someone else's mold, or try and make them fit yours!

4.  If you could put your book into one person's hands, who would that be?

That's easy . . . Oprah!!  Her endorsement has driven a lot of books to the top of the lists!  And although trying to land a best seller isn't why I write . . . I write to entertain others as my well-loved books have always entertained me (back to that "people pleasing" stuff!) . . . I'd be lying if I didn't admit that part of the dream is hitting "The New York Times" best seller list!

5.  What part of the writing process do you love the most?

I love, love, love doing research!!  I've always been an information junkie and writing gives me a good excuse to indulge my habit!!  (I go through withdrawal if my Internet isn't working!)  There is a down side . . . when researching a particular topic, I can find myself jumping from link to link, and before I know it, I find I've spent HOURS reading about things I really didn't need to know about in order to complete the manuscript!  And it's not like these tidbits of knowledge will ever come up in a conversation!  Does anyone, other than me, really care about Victorian mourning customs??  (When researching The Widows of Braxton County, I spent days reading about that fascinating subject!)

6.  What is next on your plate?

Right now I'm doing a lot of marketing to get The Widows of Braxton County off to a good start.  We've organized street teams which has been fun and given me a chance to get to know the readers who've volunteered better.  And I have a trip to Boucheron coming up in September.  Funny thing - it seems my brain is only capable of one thing at a time - so it's either work on a manuscript or work on promotions!

But next up after Widows is launched, will be able to finish a new "Ophelia and Abby."  There isn't a contract for it at this time - I want it completed before handing it over to my agent.  Once it is done, we'll go from there and see what happens.  In addition to that, I'm mulling over ideas for a new "Jess McConkey" book, which at this time is only a glimmer.  Also, I've become quite a fan of "Steampunk" and I have a rough plot thought up for that genre as well.  Then there's a new "witch" series . . . four chapters completed on that manuscript . . . so there's plenty to do!!  I simply need to follow the advice that Tammy's already given me . . . "put your big girl panties on and just do it!"

Review: The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman

The Life List 
by Lori Nelson Spielman

Publisher: Bantam
Pages: 368
Format: book
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Brett Bohlinger has forgotten all about the list of life goals she’d written as a na├»ve teenager. In fact, at thirty-four, Brett seems to have it all—a plum job at her family’s multimillion-dollar company and a spacious loft with her irresistibly handsome boyfriend. But when her beloved mother, Elizabeth, passes away, Brett’s world is turned upside down. Rather than simply naming her daughter the new CEO of Bohlinger Cosmetics, Elizabeth’s will comes with one big stipulation: Brett must fulfill the list of childhood dreams she made so long ago. 

Grief-stricken, Brett can barely make sense of her mother’s decision. Some of her old hopes seem impossible. How can she possibly have a relationship with a father who died seven years ago? Other dreams (Be an awesome teacher!) would require her to reinvent her entire future. For each goal attempted, her mother has left behind a bittersweet letter, offering words of wisdom, warmth, and—just when Brett needs it—tough love. 

As Brett struggles to complete her abandoned life list, one thing becomes clear: Sometimes life’s sweetest gifts can be found in the most unexpected places.

Kritters Thoughts:  Have you ever lost someone and still wanted to be able to call them up for advice?  Brett Bohlinger has lost her mother to cancer and through fate and some expert planning, her mom is able to guide her through the first year that Brett must live without her mom there to guide her.  

Brett was a character that from the beginning I knew I would love her and want to root for her to the end.  She wasn’t perfect and that is just the way I like characters.  She had as many ups as she had downs and even at times was falling completely apart.  The way this author handled the love interest part of the story was fantastic.  I was ready for her to fall in love with one of them and kind of enjoyed having the carpet ripped out from under me!  I wish Brett had confronted her brothers a little more and put them in their place, but maybe because I was a little defense for her!

Flawless, this book was just perfect from beginning to end.  I would say this a perfect book for any season of your life, with my mom still here with me, it made me appreciate the moments where I can call her and get advice or just share what is going on.  This is a piece of "women's fiction" that I think each and every women should read.  I am excited to see my mom at Ope's Opinions read it and share how it impacted her and maybe in a different way.

Rating: absolutely loved it and want a sequel

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from the author.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Review: The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey

The Widows of Braxton County
by Jess McConkey

Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 384 
Format: eARC 
Buy the Book: Amazon  

Goodreads:  Family secrets can bind and destroy

Kate is ready to put her nomadic, city-dwelling past behind her when she marries Joe Krause and moves with him to the Iowa farm that has been in his family for more than 140 years. But life on the farm isn't quite as idyllic as she'd hoped. It's filled with chores, judgmental neighbors, and her mother-in-law, who—unbeknownst to Kate until after the wedding—will be living with them.

As Kate struggles to find her place in the small farming community, she begins to realize that her husband and his family are not who she thought they were. According to town gossip, the Krause family harbors a long-kept secret about a mysterious death that haunts Kate as a dangerous, unexplainable chain of events begins.

Kritters Thoughts:  A long and winding book about feuding families who are surrounded by secrets from the past that still live on in the present and this new outsider comes in and shakes things up.  Poor Kate meets a man online and moves to the middle of nowhere into his family's farm and is thrust into the small town life where there are always eyes watching you and willing to report your going ons to everyone.  I was immediately drawn to her and wanted to know how she would react in the situations that she was put through.

There were definitely some twists and turns and a few I predicted, but I wasn't disappointed when I guessed it right because it was still in the details.  The tid bits from the past that told of Hannah's story and the beginnings of the feuding were sparse and I kind of wished that there was more, but only because I loved how it unraveled.  The way Hannah's story connected to Kate was seamless and it showed how much has changed in the freedoms that women know have and as cheesy as it may seem, it made me so thankful in the freedoms that I have as a woman in our current times.

Although it could be qualified as historical fiction, I would recommend this to readers who don't tend to read the genre because the historical parts were few and far between and completely added to the present day story.

Rating: absolutely loved it and want a sequel

Ebook 2013 Challenge: 50 out of 50

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from TLC Book Tours.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

It's Monday, What are you Reading?

Spent quite a few hours this week painting trim and doors in the house, but did take some time this weekend to curl up with a book or two - was especially fun to read during a few rain storms!

A meme hosted by Sheila at BookJourney. 

Finished this past week:
Mocha Moonlight and Murder by MaryAnn Kempher
The Never List by Koethi Zan
Triumphs and Tragedies by Bill Hayes
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Currently Reading:
Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel

Next on the TBR pile:
The Outcast by Jolina Petersheim

Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: Drift by Jon McGoran

Drift by Jon McGoran

Publisher: Forge Books
Pages: 384
Format: book 
Buy the Book: Amazon  

Goodreads:  When Philadelphia narcotics detective Doyle Carrick loses his mother and step-father within weeks of each other, he gains a twenty-day suspension for unprofessional behavior and instructions to lay low at the unfamiliar house he’s inherited in rural Pennsylvania.

Feeling restless and out of place, Doyle is surprised to find himself falling for his new neighbor, Nola Watkins, who’s under pressure to sell her organic farm to a large and mysterious development company. He’s more surprised to see high-powered drug dealers driving the small-town roads—dealers his bosses don’t want to hear about.

But when the drug bust Doyle’s been pushing for goes bad and the threats against Nola turn violent, Doyle begins to discover that what’s growing in the farmland around Philadelphia is much deadlier than anything he could have imagined . . .

Kritters Thoughts:  A high energy ride that from beginning to end had me flipping pages so quickly!  Doyle is a detective that from an incident is put on suspension and he heads home to his parents' former home as they have both recently passed away.  Upon arriving in the farmland of Pennsylvania, he is immediately swept into some drama that wouldn't normally be seen in this rural, small town.  

From drug busts to car chases, I loved that this off duty police officer/detective couldn't keep himself away from the happenings.  There were times when he would react to a situation and it reminded me of the police officer I live with (my husband), I may have laughed at a few moments that others may not!  I loved the mix of police drama mixed with the drama in the food industry that I was a little naive to.  I felt educated and entertained all in the same book!

I don't always read books that I could suggest to a male audience, but this one would definitely be one that I think men readers would enjoy, even those reluctant male readers.  

Rating: absolutely loved it and want a sequel

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from TLC Book Tours.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Went to the J. Courtney Sullivan signing at Politics and Prose 
for her latest book - Engagements

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: The Mirrored World by Debra Dean

The Mirrored World by Debra Dean

Publisher: Harper Collins 
Pages: 256 
Format: book 
Buy the Book: Amazon Amazon 

Goodreads:  Born to a Russian family of lower nobility, Xenia, an eccentric dreamer who cares little for social conventions, falls in love with Andrei, a charismatic soldier and singer in the Empress's Imperial choir. Though husband and wife adore each other, their happiness is overshadowed by the absurd demands of life at the royal court and by Xenia's growing obsession with having a child—a desperate need that is at last fulfilled with the birth of her daughter. But then a tragic vision comes true, and a shattered Xenia descends into grief, undergoing a profound transformation that alters the course of her life. Turning away from family and friends, she begins giving all her money and possessions to the poor. Then, one day, she mysteriously vanishes.

Years later, dressed in the tatters of her husband's military uniform and answering only to his name, Xenia is discovered tending the paupers of St. Petersburg's slums. Revered as a soothsayer and a blessed healer to the downtrodden, she is feared by the royal court and its new Empress, Catherine, who perceives her deeds as a rebuke to their lavish excesses. In this evocative and elegantly written tale, Dean reimagines the intriguing life of Xenia of St. Petersburg, a patron saint of her city and one of Russia's most mysterious and beloved holy figures. This is an exploration of the blessings of loyal friendship, the limits of reason, and the true costs of loving deeply.

Kritters Thoughts:  A book that is narrated by Dasha, but centers around Xenia who in the middle of her life makes a drastic change and Dasha is there with a front row view.  Starting from the very beginning, this short book took a quick trip through Xenia and Dasha's entire lives from a very young age through tragedy to older age.

There were a few things that just made this book one of those that I didn't enjoy so much.  I felt like there were big missing pieces that I would have rather had more detail.  I thought it was weird that Dasha was narrating the story, I think Xenia should have narrated a part of it as she was a very central character, I would have liked to see the world through her eyes a little.

When I decided to review this, I had just finished a book based in Russia and was excited to read another, but this one just didn't hit the right notes with me like the previous one.  For those who have a passion for fiction based in Russia, this book would be right up your alley.

Rating: not such a good read

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from TLC Book Tours.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Baltimore Book Weekend!

The weekend of July 13th, mom and I went to Baltimore to do a book weekend.  We went to 6 different book places and just spent a whole weekend enjoying the world of books.  We even took a few moments to sit outside and read a book, minus getting caught in a little rain running back to the hotel!  It was an AWESOME weekend and maybe next time I should bring home less and read a little more, but the mother/daughter time was priceless.  

My favorite book places that we went to while in Baltimore (and the ones that we will be revisiting in the future) are - The Book Thing - free books, as many as you can carry!; Ukazoo - used books galore, and buy 3 get 1 free, can't beat that deal AND B&N Power Plant - on the inner harbor, cool architecture inside and a great discount section!

PS - I did take 6 boxes of book to donate at The Book Thing, that felt like such a great gift because The Book Thing has given me some really great finds!  

Here is a video, showing a few of the things that came home with me from Baltimore.

Below are the places we visited and the books I obtained while we were there.   
The Book Thing:
Engaging Men by Lynda Curnyn  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Lies We Told by Diane Chamberlain  (Goodreads  Amazon)
24 Karat Kids by D.r Judy Goldstein and Sebastian Stuart  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Souvenir by Therese Fowler  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Aftermath by Brian Shawver  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Cleaving by Julie Powell  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Feeling for Bones by Bethany Pierce  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Romancipation of Maggie Hunter by Jane Sigaloff  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Babysitter by Diana Diamond  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Red White and Blue by Susan Isaacs  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Goldengrove by Francine Prose  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Senator's Wife by Karen Robards  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Ghost Moon by Karen Robards  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Wanted by Kim Wozencraft  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Circle of Grace by Penelope J. Stokes  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Preacher by Camilla Lackberg  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot  (Goodreads  Amazon)

Ask Me Anything by Francesca Delbanco  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Sweet Jiminy by Kristin Gore  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Luaren Willig  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Art of Saying Goodbye by Ellyn Bache  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Geography of Love by Glenda Burgess  (Goodreads  Amazon)
City Dog by Alison Pace  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult  (Goodreads  Amazon)

The Book Escape:
Sex with the Ex by Tyne O'Connell  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman  (Goodreads  Amazon)

The Ivy Bookshop:
Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson  (Goodreads  Amazon)
The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb  (Goodreads  Amazon)

Barnes and Noble Power Plant:
The Department of Lost & Found by Allison Winn Scotch  (Goodreads  Amazon)
A Different Kind of Normal by Cathy Lamb  (Goodreads  Amazon)
A Place of Yes by Bethenny Frankel  (Goodreads  Amazon)

Daedalus Book Warehouse:
Entertaining Disasters by Nancy Spiller  (Goodreads  Amazon)
Friendship Bread by Darien Gee  (Goodreads  Amazon)

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