Sunday, November 24, 2019

Think Positive, Live Happy

My story, “Reach Out,” has been included in the latest installment of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive, Live Happy: 101 Stories about Creating Your Best Life. This anthology, edited by Amy Newmark and Deborah Norville (Emmy Award-winning anchor/journalist of Inside Edition), is a collection of hopeful, inspiring stories about living a life filled with thoughtfulness and gratitude. My piece presents a lesson about not being afraid to reach out and do something nice for someone, even a stranger. Sometimes we second-guess ourselves, we hesitate, because we wonder if our outreach will be welcome. But in the case of the experience I share in my story, by taking a simple photograph and sharing it, two lives were changed in very special ways. This collection would make a perfect gift for the upcoming holidays…HAPPY THANKSGIVING!



Chicken Soup for the Soul Books (distributed by Simon and Schuster), $16.00 Paperback, 9781611599923, 368 pp

Publication Date: September 24, 2019

To order this book via INDIEBOUND, link HERE

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Kate Racculia: The Journey Changes Your Perception


The Writer's Life
Kate Racculia is the author of the novels This Must Be the Place and Bellweather Rhapsody, an ALA Alex Award winner. Her third novel, Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts (reviewed below), centers on an adventurous treasure hunt through the city of Boston.
Why did you set the story in Boston?
I moved to Boston to get my MFA from Emerson College. After grad school, I spent 11 years working there--first as a marketing writer in financial services, then as a prospect researcher. It was a niche fundraising job that involved researching and profiling wealthy donors--very similar to the job Tuesday Mooney holds in the novel. It was only after I moved out of Boston and settled in Bethlehem, Pa., that I really began to miss the place where I'd become a young adult.
So, the novel pays homage to your affection for the city?
The novel is a love letter to Boston and my life there, which I treasured. I wrote the book during the 2016 election, the constant cruelties of the Trump presidency, #MeToo--under increasing distraction, destruction and pain, and my own anger, confusion and alienation. I believe that art can be an agent for change, a political action, a comfort in the face of brutality. The novel also deals with adventure, friendship, a capacious understanding of human connections and family, work and responsibility, and wealth.
Wealth and money are central to the story?
Without ever intending to, I learned an awful lot about wealth in the jobs I had: how wealth works in America, its inextricable connection to power, how inequitably both are distributed. What having a lot of money can do to people, namely: insulate them from the world, destroy their perspective and make them paranoid and selfish--or allow them to be incredibly generous, and give them tools to remake the world around them.
Is this where the idea for the novel hatched?
I always try to write with a question in mind rather than an answer--to create a series of givens about psychologically realistic characters, to place them in high-genre situations and learn who they are by what they do, how they react and feel, and how they're capable of surprising even themselves--especially when they encounter the uncanny, the strange, the heightened. There's a terrific tension there that I love to play with, and I do use the word "play" intentionally; at its best, writing for me is a form of play and discovery.
Your characters are always infused with layers of eccentricity.
I love other people--characters--in all the ways that loving other people is itself complicated, endlessly interesting, frustrating, weird, heartbreaking and hilarious. So, I write both to get to know and get to experience many other people, to tease out my own identities and curiosities, but also explore imagined lives and adventures beyond my own. I tend to share with characters my own loves and worries, so we can almost investigate those mysteries together.
What draws you to creating ensemble casts?
I was an only child, and lived 30 miles away from the district where I went to school (and where my mother was a teacher). That degree of remove gave me a unique point of view on groups, the mystery of where and how I or any one person fit in (or didn't), and how everyone brought their own, often secret story into this combined larger tale that we were all a part of. It was fascinating and confusing--I've found many, many people who are "My People," but growing up I was an outlier, which was much easier for me to process and understand in fiction rather than in real life.
Did this inspire you to create Tuesday Mooney as a "loner"?
I have always loved stories about human connections--friendships, teams, and found families, whether at work, school or from neighborhoods. And I am, constitutionally, an introvert loner, so stories where introvert loners are essential parts of a group--while retaining their unique identities--really interest me.
Why are grief, loss and memories from the past recurrent themes in your work?
I think I'm just drawn to the mysterious--the dark, unexplored corners in people, in history, in the world around us, and how the attempt to plumb those depths, the work of seeking and trying to understand (even though full understanding may never be possible), can be the work of a whole life.
In terms of the "mysterious," a ghost figures prominently in this novel.
I flat out love a ghost story; always have. Ghosts were people, after all, with all the desires and fears and complexities of living characters, with that added flair of morbid mystery.
A puzzle resides at the heart of this novel. Off the page, do puzzles interest you?
Ha! Funnily enough, I'm not much of a puzzler. I'm a ringer at pub trivia and would love to get on Jeopardy! one day, but I'm not a big puzzle-as-a-pastime person. Although, I've always had an appreciation for seeking solutions.
Aha, seeking solutions... is that what inspired the treasure hunt that propels the mystery of the story? 
I adore mysteries themselves, whether a procedural television show, a P.D. James novel, or a larger, less-solvable puzzle about the things in life we can't understand, explain or account for--tackling those puzzles, even when they're painful or tragic, gives me an enormous amount of pleasure. I almost prefer a mystery that doesn't have a straightforward solution, a prize that gets refracted and redefined by human messiness and isn't what you thought it would be. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was a huge influence on this novel. The true grail isn't the object you seek, it's what--and who--you discover along the way, and how the journey changes your perception about what you value.

This interview is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this Q&A on Shelf Awareness for Readers (October 15, 2019), link HERE 

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts


A treasure hunt through Boston for the fortune of a deceased billionaire inspires a quirky researcher to join forces with a cast of lovable misfits.
Tuesday Mooney is a single, 30-something loner--a dedicated prospect researcher for Boston General Hospital. There she gathers facts and tracks "digital fingerprints" on rich people in the hope that they will donate their fortunes. Tuesday volunteers to help at a benefit auction and invites along her former coworker and friend Poindexter "Dex" Howard--a financier suffering romantic woes with his younger beau. Both friends get swept up in a night of surprises, including meeting Vincent A. Pryce (an eccentric, cape-wearing, elderly billionaire and collector of Edgar Allan Poe memorabilia) and handsome Nathaniel Arches, an eligible, however notorious, bachelor. Tuesday is drawn to Nathaniel, especially after he makes a whopping $50,000 bid for a meet-and-greet with New Kids, a pop band.

When Vincent Pryce drops dead of an aneurysm at the auction, his obituary launches a treasure hunt through the city of Boston. Whoever can read between the lines of the obit and pursue the cryptic clues set forth will inherit a portion of his wealth. Tuesday--an inquisitive, "human Google"--charges headlong into the quest. But she's not alone: Dex, Nathaniel, Dorothea "Dorry" Bones (Tuesday's precocious 14-year-old, motherless neighbor), a lingering ghost from a sad chapter in Tuesday's adolescence, and a host of competing--often dark, duplicitous--forces are hell-bent on getting to the finish line first.

Kate Racculia (Bellweather Rhapsody) displays an abundance of intellect and imagination in this clever, immensely adventurous story that pays homage to the elaborate mysteries of life and death--and self-discovery.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts: A Novel by Kate Racculia

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26.00 Hardcover, 9780358023937, 368 pages

Publication Date: October 8, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (October 15, 2019), link HERE


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Mystery Weekly Magazine


I’m pleased to share that one of my short stories is included in the latest issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine (November 2019). In the comic mystery story, “To Whom It May Concern,” a Client Intimacy Customer Service Expert--with an extremely high opinion of himself--tells the story of how he was forced into a life of crime that snowballed beyond his wildest dreams. The issue of the magazine is available as an ezine (Kindle), via libraries and can also be purchased as a paperback on Amazon. Links are below – click on the highlighted text to learn more. Happy Reading!


To read an excerpt from “To Whom It May Concern,” link HERE


Mystery Weekly Magazine (November 2019)

Purchase the magazine as an e-zine via the Kindle Newsstand


Purchase direct via Mystery Weekly Magazine

Read via the library program FLIPSTER (check with your local library)




Tuesday, October 29, 2019

No Judgments

A heartbroken young woman hunkers down in the Florida Keys during a Category Five hurricane and goes on a quest to rescue stranded local pets.

Meg Cabot has published scores of novels for adults and teens that deliver fast-paced fun, romance and comedy. With No Judgments, she begins a lively series for adults set in Little Bridge Island (pop. 4,700). This fictitious small town in the Florida Keys braces for Hurricane Marilyn, a Category Five storm.
Twenty-five-year-old Bree Beckham is a transplant from New York City. Following the death of her father, Bree dropped out of law school and suffered a harrowing assault. Badly shaken and disappointed by the lack of support she received, she dyed her hair pink, changed her name and set off for Little Bridge, once her family's favorite vacation spot. On the island, Bree works as a waitress at Mermaid's Cafe, a local hangout, and shares an apartment with a friendly ER nurse and Gary, Bree's tabby cat.
As the hurricane approaches, Lucy and Ed Hartwell, owners of the Mermaid, offer Bree and Gary refuge from the storm--their sturdy house has a generator--and Bree jumps at the chance. This, despite the fact that Bree's constantly at odds with Drew Hartwell, Lucy and Ed's nephew. He was publicly dumped by his last girlfriend and seems like a "player." Still, Bree hunkers down with the Hartwells. As they ride out the 170-mph winds, and struggle to rescue stranded animals in the storm's aftermath, the attraction between Bree and Drew deepens.
Cabot (The Boy Is Back) has a long, successful track record of writing entertaining stories that allow readers to escape from the realities of life by bringing levity, wit and a host of surprises and happy endings to the page. No Judgments is further testament to her appealing, winning style.




William Morrow, $26.99, Hardcover, 384 pp., 9780062913579

Publication Date: September 24, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (July 16, 2019), link HERE

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Window on the Bay


Two middle-aged divorcĂ©es--friends since college--find their plans to visit Paris complicated by familial demands and the prospects of new love.  
Jenna and Maureen are divorcées who live in Seattle. The duo originally met as college freshman while taking a French class and became best friends. They vowed that after graduation, they would take a trip to Paris where they would "walk in the moonlight along the Seine, tour the Louvre, and see the view of the city from the Eiffel Tower." Maureen's unplanned pregnancy, however, forced the friends to defer their plans to "someday."
Over the years, Jenna, an ICU nurse, and Maureen, a librarian, married, had children and divorced. Throughout 20 years of ups and downs, the two single moms emotionally supported each other. Now middle-aged--with their children grown and launched--Jenna and Maureen decide "someday" is now. Paris awaits. That is, until Jenna's mother has an accident that brings an attractive male surgeon into Jenna's life. Meanwhile, Maureen catches the attention of a book-loving plumber who, working near the library, starts paying Maureen visits in search of new reading material. The two women, bruised by the past, are leery, but soon become lured by the prospects of new love. But what about Paris?
Macomber (Cottage by the Sea, If Not for You) unspools several tender, romantic story threads in Window on the Bay. Through a refreshing role-reversal, the young adult offspring of each woman--with complications in their own lives--prove sources of unexpected wisdom to their mothers on the brink of change.  


Ballantine, $27.00, Hardcover, 336pp, 9780399181337

Publication Date: July 16, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (July 16, 2019), link HERE

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Ellie and the Harpmaker


A harp causes two lonely Brits, stalled by fate and the choices they've made in life, to forge a deep, life-changing friendship.
Ellie and the Harpmaker is a lyrically written, delightfully charming story about two strangers--lost souls--drifting through their lives, until a harp brings them together.
Ellie Jacobs is a lonely housewife living in Exmoor, England. She is married to Clive, a pragmatic, domineering man who goes to work every day and is obsessed with football and finance. One day, on a walk through the West English countryside, while reflecting upon the first anniversary of her beloved father's death, Ellie stumbles upon a place she's never seen before: the Harp Barn. There, she meets Dan Hollis, the "Exmoor Harpmaker." Dan takes utmost pride in his work. He also feels the experiences of life very deeply, but exhibits a limited range of expression.
When Ellie shares the special significance of the day with Dan--and how learning to play the harp is actually on her things to accomplish "before-forty list"--Dan kindly offers Ellie a gift: a harp beautifully carved out of red-gold cherrywood. Ellie is overwhelmed and thrilled by Dan's generosity, but her joy is dashed when she returns home and Clive demands she return the harp. Clive's will and Dan's will ultimately pull Ellie in opposite directions. This calls into question her beliefs about herself and her marriage, while also raising inquiries into the many mysteries of Dan's life.
By telling the story from two intimate points of view, debut novelist Hazel Prior allows readers to discover startling truths right along with her well-drawn characters. This approach heightens the narrative tension and allows this beautiful, tender story about the harmonious meaning of true friendship and love to reverberate with many unexpected surprises.

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior

Berkley, $26.99 Hardcover, 9781984803788, 336 pages 

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (August 6, 2019), link HERE


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Helpline


A 30-something numbers wiz uncovers surprising truths about herself, her small Australian town and the people in it.

When Germaine Johnson loses her job as a senior mathematician at an insurance company, the 30-year-old Australian numbers wiz and sudoku aficionado's life is upended. Data points, algorithms and variables are how Germaine--with a very high opinion of herself and her abilities--navigates the world. She may be mathematically brilliant, but her social skills are dismal. This makes her virtually unemployable, until her cousin Kimberly offers a lead on a job at a council office in the city of Deepdene. The facility manages the senior citizens helpline, a phone-in service for older residents who need advice, or are lonely and need someone to talk to.

Perceptive, painfully exacting and over-achieving, Germaine soon catches the attention of Deepdene's mayor, who asks her to deal with a parking problem plaguing the senior center and an adjacent golf club. The task brings Germaine in contact with Don Thomas, who owns the club. She instantly recognizes good-looking Don as Alan Cosgrove, the 2006 national sudoku champion. Alan was once a very positive influence--from afar--in Germaine's life. "Sort of like the father I never had," admits Germaine, who is instantly starstruck and smitten. But why has Alan changed his name? Why is he managing a golf club? And is there really a parking problem, or is something else actually going on in town?

These questions form the basis of The Helpline, a clever and moving—often madcap--journey through the realities of everyday life, local politics and power plays. Debut Australian novelist Katherine Collette delivers a hilarious story that is sure to charm readers.




Atria Books, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781982111335, 304 pages 

Publication Date: July 23, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (July 23, 2019), link HERE

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Aunt Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna


The second novel in a fun, cozy mysteries series about a Bavarian expat-turned-amateur-sleuth on a quest for justice in her adopted Sicilian hometown. 
Sicily's most obstinate Bavarian expat--a retiree turned amateur sleuth--lands in more hot water in the second installment of Mario Giordano's clever, cozy mystery series. Readers were first introduced to Isolde Oberreiter (aka "Poldi")--a spirited, sensual, 60-year-old widow--in Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions. Poldi relocated to a peaceful Sicilian village intending to live out her days while drinking herself to death. Instead, her handsome handyman was murdered, she became swept up in the search for his killer and sparked a romance with Detective Chief Inspector Vito Montana.
Murder and mayhem find Poldi again in the second book, as Mount Etna spews ash, the water supply to Poldi's community is cut off and a neighbor's dog is killed by poison. When an anti-Mafia district attorney dies from a blow to the head with a full bottle of locally produced wine, Poldi deems it part of a larger conspiracy. She's led to the vineyard, where another body is found. Inquisitive, Vespa-driving Poldi goes in search of answers--and justice. Amid her (mis)adventures, she tangles with the locals, the owner of the vineyard, her now-jealous beau and even the Mob. 
Poldi's story is narrated by her nephew--an unemployed, aspiring novelist who is often summoned from Germany when Auntie Poldi is in trouble. He, along with a cast of lovable, madcap characters, becomes embroiled in a plot with as many strands as a pasta bowl heaped with steaming spaghetti. Giordano's passion for the dramatic absurdity of Sicilian life, culture and traditions overflows with fun and wit.  

Aunt Poldi andthe Vineyards of Etna (An Aunt Poldi Adventure: Book Two) by Mario Giordano, translated by John Brownjohn

Houghton MifflinHarcourt, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781328919021, 368 pages 

Publication Date: March 5, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (March 26, 2019), link HERE

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Wonder of Lost Causes


A tender, affirming story of how an abused rescue dog helps an 11-year-old with cystic fibrosis and his hardworking mother to heal.
Nick Trout (Dog Gone, Back Soon; The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs) delivers a beautifully written, poignant story infused with gentle humor and compassion. Jasper Blunt is a precocious, very lovable 11-year-old battling cystic fibrosis and its complications. Kate, Jasper's hardworking single mother, is struggling to keep her son healthy and make ends meet while working hard as a rescue shelter veterinarian on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
When a mysterious and badly abused dog arrives at the shelter with health problems of his own, Jasper and the dog form an instant bond--the dog looks out for the boy, who intuitively knows what the dog is feeling. Jasper claims he can communicate with the mutt and even believes the dog told him his name, Whistler. This intrigues, yet worries, Kate. Might Jasper, plagued with breathing problems, hearing loss and a host of other ailments, also be growing delusional? When Jasper lobbies Kate to adopt Whistler, she resists. After all, their apartment building does not permit pets. But when Whistler's background and his true origin are ultimately discovered, Jasper and Kate face a big decision that takes them on an adventurous journey. Might the Blunts need Whistler as much as he needs them?
Trout's well-paced narrative is filled with big, resonant scenes that render the story surprisingly suspenseful. As Whistler's history unfolds via the points-of-view of Jasper and Kate, revealing their innermost thoughts and fears, the mother-son bond deepens. This tender, inspirational story--forged with themes of deliverance and hope--overflows with profound meaning.

The Wonder of Lost Causes: A Novel by Nick Trout

William Morrow Paperbacks, $16.99 Paperback, 9780062747945, 464 pages

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (April 30, 2019), link HERE


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Under Currents


A chilling suspense novel about the far-reaching implications of rampant and hidden domestic abuse.
The harrowing, far-reaching implications of domestic abuse are central to Nora Roberts's Under Currents. The novel begins in Lakeview, an upscale lakeside community in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where Graham Bigelow, an upstanding surgeon, and Eliza, his stay-at-home wife, raise two children: 14-year-old Zane and 11-year-old Britt. The foursome may look like an idyllic family--they have everything money can buy. But at home, Dr. Bigelow is a cruel, abusive and tormenting figure who beats his complicit wife and their innocent children. With the help of a trustworthy family friend, Zane confronts his violent father, who--along with his mother--is ultimately sent to prison.
The action then moves ahead 18 years. Zane, now a successful lawyer, returns from Raleigh and resettles in his old hometown, while Darby McCray, a Baltimore landscaper recently divorced from her own abusive husband, takes up residence in Lakeview in order to make a fresh start. Zane and Darby start a romance, but the deep pain of their pasts complicates their relationship--along with the re-emergence of Zane's father, released from prison and seeking vengeance.
Readers can always count on Nora Roberts (Shelter in Place, Come Sundown) to deliver high-octane thrillers that focus on the bonds of small-town life, dark secrets and the prospect of new love complicated by evil lurking around sharp corners. She doesn't disappoint in Under Currents, a chilling, suspenseful story that proves how appearances can be utterly deceiving.

Under Currents by Nora Roberts

St. Martin’s Press, $28.99 Hardcover,  9781250207098, 448 pages

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (July 12, 2019), link HERE


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Evvie Drake Starts Over


A smart romantic comedy about two lost, wounded souls who lean on each other as they step into their futures. 
Linda Holmes, host of the NPR podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, makes her fiction debut with a bright and lively romantic comedy that charts the course of 33-year-old widowed and childless Eveleth "Evvie" Drake of Calcasset, Maine. A transcriptionist, Evvie saw her life derail when her husband, Tim, died in a car crash on the very day Evvie was ready to leave him. Family and friends were completely unaware of Tim's dark, abusive side and Evvie's exit plan. This includes her closest friend, Andy, whose wife walked out on him and their two young children. 
Evvie's planned escape riddles her with guilt. And when small-town talk of Tim keeps circling back to Evvie, it exacerbates her isolation. But her life changes with the arrival of Andy's pal Dean Tenney, a pitcher for the New York Yankees who's struggling with an emotional block that has rendered him unable to throw a baseball straight. 
Andy asks Evvie to let Dean rent the small apartment in the back of her house so Dean can have privacy as he attempts to regroup. Evvie agrees, but sets conditions: Dean will not ask Evvie any questions about her marriage or her deceased husband. And Evvie will not ask Dean why his successful pitching career tanked to the point that he's known as "Baseball's Exiled 'Head Case.' " 
Evvie Drake Starts Over, ripe with amusing wit and charm, skillfully explores regret and longing, friendship, love and forgiveness, and the challenges posed by reinvention. Holmes has a firm grasp on the realities of everyday life and the difficulties of carving out happiness in the modern world.

EvvieDrake Starts Over: A Novel by Linda Holmes

Ballantine Books, $27.00 Hardcover,  9780525619246, 304 pages

Publication Date: June 25, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (June 25, 2019), link HERE