On YouTube – Retracting my paperless announcement!

Hi Everyone,

I’m over on YouTube with a retraction to my “going paperless” announcement. See what I’m going to do instead!

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Book Review: Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards

Five Total Strangers
Natalie D. Richards

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This Young Adult thriller is just as good or better than many of the adult thrillers I’ve recently read! Five Total Strangers is about Mira Hayes, a high school art student traveling home for Christmas from San Diego to Pittsburgh. When a snowstorm strands her in Newark, she accepts a ride from Harper Chung, her seatmate on the flight. Harper, a college student at Pomona, has rented an SUV and offered rides to three others: Brecken, an intense pre-med student from UC Berkeley, Josh, a tall blond with sleepy eyes and a knee brace and Kayla, a willowy girl who sleeps a lot. At first, Mira thinks the others all know each other, but she soon discovers that they are all strangers, with an emphasis on strange.

But Mira doesn’t care as long as she gets home for Christmas. It’s just Mira and her mom this year and it’s also the anniversary of her aunt’s death, her mother’s twin. Plus she’s just discovered that her mom and stepfather have split. After a year of helping her mom through a devastating loss, Mira has become her mother’s emotional caretaker and getting home is a must.

Treacherous driving conditions become the first layer of suspense. Then, one by one, the strangers’ belongings, important ones, go missing. Someone is lying and Mira doesn’t know whom to trust. Things get weirder when they stop along the way and outsiders become involved. As tension builds, Mira asks herself, “What if one of us isn’t in this car to get home at all? What if one of us got in this car for all the wrong reasons?”

I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll stop with the plot development! I thought this was an excellent story and that the characters were realistic teens and early twenty-somethings. Like Mira, readers won’t be sure who’s trustworthy and who’s evil because they all have secrets (even Mira, who hasn’t told them she’s only in high school). Harper keeps looking at her phone in horror. Brecken smiles like a wolf. Josh doesn’t want help or attention and Kayla, when she’s awake acts strangely. Readers want Mira to get home safely, but they also want to know what’s up with these people.

Although the subplot of Mira wanting to get home to her mom is more young-adult oriented, the suspense is on par with adult thrillers. This is a fast, satisfying read and I recommend it to all readers who like thrillers.

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Book Review of Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan

Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea
Steven Callahan

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve always liked survival stories and became totally engrossed in Steven Callahan’s first-hand account of how he survived for more than two months, alone in the North Atlantic after his boat sank. In 1980, Callahan entered the Mini-Transat Race from France to Antigua, but less than a week out, his boat was hit and destroyed by what he thinks was a whale. With only minutes to escape, he grabbed what he could and jumped in the inflatable life raft. His supplies consisted of a few items of food, minimal water, some tools and twine, desalination equipment, emergency flares, a signaling device with limited battery and a survival book he’d picked up at a used book sale.

Callahan endured blazing sun, huge waves, storms, shark attacks and a never-ending assortment of life-or-death situations, including the constant pressure to find food. His salt distillers malfunctioned, his raft leaked and he was hundreds of miles out of range for anyone to hear his signal. When he finally made it to the shipping lanes, ships didn’t catch the signal or see him, despite the flares.

Equally challenging were feelings of worry and hopelessness, but Callahan had a mental resiliency like no one else. He writes:

“Mountain climbing, camping, Boy Scouts, boat building, sailing, and design, and my family’s continued encouragement to confront life head on have all given me enough skill to ‘seastead’ on this tiny, floating island. I am getting there.”

Callahan speared dorados and trigger fish, journaled, drew, and calculated where he was with a sextant he made out of pencils, but over time, especially after the raft was punctured while he wrestled a dorado, he questioned if he had the strength to keep fighting. By then he was emaciated and dehydrated and was covered with cuts and sores.

One of his only comforts was the relationship he developed with the schools of dorados that followed him and nipped and bumped his raft, feeding off the barnacles on the bottom.

“The dorados have become much more than food to me…I look upon them as equals—in many ways as my superiors. Their flesh keeps me alive. Their spirits keep me company. Their attacks and their resistance to the hunt make them worthy opponents, as well as friends.”

Later, he wrote: “I needed a miracle and my fish gave it to me.”

On land, Callahan’s family notified the Coast Guard and conducted their own campaign to find him. But on the seventy-sixth day, a fishing boat from the tiny island of Marie Galante spotted his raft. He’d floated all the way from France to just south of Guadeloupe!

Callahan survived because of his unique skills and mindset and I wonder if anyone else could have made it. I marveled at how he used his mind to find solutions to a continuous run of seemingly hopeless situations. This is an example of perseverance like no other.

Adrift was first published in 1986 and despite being an older book, I think this excellent account has stood the test of time.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Jacqueline Church Simonds

Jacqueline Church Simonds

Author Name: Jacqueline Church Simonds

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Books: The Heirs to Camelot series: The Priestess of Camelot (prequel); The Midsummer Wife (Book 1); The Solstice Bride (Book 2); Mistress of the Rose Moon (Book 3)

Bio: I have been writing for as long as I’ve been able to hold a pencil. Along the way, I have been everything from a lady’s companion, to a salesperson, to a rock band roadie, to a publishing consultant. Somewhere in there, I’ve written six books and ghostwritten an additional seven to eight.

What got you started as a writer? I always told myself stories. One day, my mom suggested I write them down. It took until I was forty to actually write a novel. (I have been a professional editor, so I was always in words.)

What is your writing routine? What’s that? Seriously, I write when/as/if I have time.

What route did you take to get your books published? I self-published my first book, Captain Mary, Buccaneer (I sold all three thousand copies and foreign rights to Italy’s Harlequin Mondadori). For this series, I went with a small press.

What things do you do to promote your books? I’ve done newspaper/radio/TV interviews, podcasts, website interviews and guest hosting, signings at bookstores/libraries/author events, a table at a garage sale, and a local convention.

What is your favorite genre to read and why? I read a lot of sci-fi, but I’ll read anything not nailed down. I post my quick Book Takes on my website.

Do you prefer to write dialogue or description? I often write a lengthy description, then turn it into dialogue because it reads better.

Have any of your characters ever surprised you? Did this change the plot of your book? Ava, the main character of my series, totally surprised me in the first book. In the first draft, I felt she was sort of lifeless. A fellow writer suggested I try writing in first person, so I could “hear” the main character clearly. I discovered Ava suffered from massive anxiety attacks/poor self-esteem/PTSD from a terrible event in her life. Although I went back to third person, it gave me a better handle on how to handle the character.

What is the most difficult thing you have accomplished in your life? I had a brain tumor and recovered almost fully from it. It changes the way you think about time and what you are doing here.

What three events or people have most influenced how you live your life? Going back/finishing college in my thirties. Sitting down and writing that first novel. Recovering from brain tumor.

What would you tell your younger self? Own being a writer. Don’t give up because it’s hard and you’ll get no support. Get jobs writing. Write that big book that’s in your head. WRITE, DAMMIT!

Have you ever met up with a bear on a hike? If so, what did you do? If not, are you looking up what to do right now? I stopped hiking long ago, but the best method for dealing with a bear is: don’t be where there are bears.

You’re locked in your local library for the night with no dinner. Thank goodness you have water, but you only have enough change to buy one item from the vending machine. Choices are limited to: Fudge Pop Tarts, Snickers or Doritos. Which would you choose and why? I almost went with Doritos, but then I’d get that fake nacho dust on my fingers and I wouldn’t want to leave that on the pages. I guess I’d get a Snickers.

What’s the largest number of people you’ve had in your kitchen at one time? Ten? Last family Christmas at my folks’ place before they sold it. My kitchen is pretty quiet—my Hubbers is the cook and hates anyone else in there until he’s done.

Closing thoughts: I’ve been involved in publishing for twenty-two years. I’ve helped other people get their book babies published and launch their dreams. Indie and self-publishing is a great way to get our work out. We need more readers!

Website and social media links:
Website: www.jcsimonds.com
Facebook: @jacquelinechurchsimonds
Twitter: @jcsimonds (Caution: I am VERY political and this is where I vent.)

Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

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On YouTube: Playing Bach for you!

Hi Everyone,

I’ve been practicing on my new piano and today I’m playing a little Bach for you. I hope you enjoy it!

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In case you missed them! BCM post recap July 2022

Hey Everyone,

In case you missed them, here’s a quick look at Book Club Mom’s posts for July.

I read six books this month, which is unusual. I was on a roll!

Sea Wife by Amity Gaige – 4 stars. I liked this book very much. It’s a fast read because you’ll want to know what happened. But it’s also a deeper look at marriage and parenthood.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy – 4 stars. I teared up reading this inspirational graphic novel!

The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons – 3 stars. Not my favorite book, but readable nonetheless and good for summer.

The Family by Naomi Krupitsky – 4 stars. Picked this at random and thought this book about two women who grow up in the mafia was excellent.

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian – 4 stars. Much different from other books by this author. I really liked this historical suspense set in 1662 Boston.

Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer – 3 stars. This was an okay beach read with gorgeous characters and insta-love set on Nantucket.

I made four YouTube videos in July. I’m trying to get back on a regular schedule with those, but it’s not easy!

Reading Update – I’m going paperless!

Read React Decide Review of Sea Wife by Amity Gaige

Piano Reveal!

Special Beach Reads episode of Read React Decide

Miscellaneous posts – a bunch of these this month!

Who’s That Indie Author? W. L. Hawkin

Reading outside – can you concentrate?

The Great Gatsby movies – there are five of them!

Are you a reading snob? Am I?

My opinion of memoirs explained

Book on my radar: The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns

Share your news on Book Club Mom’s Author Update

Looking for indie, self-published and hybrid authors – is that you?

Hope you all had a great month. On to the next book!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Looking for indie, self-published and hybrid authors – is that you?

Are you an indie, self-published or hybrid author looking for a way to tell the world about your books? Who’s That Indie Author is a great way to introduce yourself to readers. It’s also an opportunity to connect with bloggers and expand your network through connections on WordPress and social media.

Take advantage of a chance to show your talents. Submit an author profile and see your name travel from blog to blog and tweet to tweet!

Check out these recent Who’s That Indie Author profiles:

W. L. Hawkin
Bjørn Larssen
Leon Stevens
Mark Paxson
Geoff Le Pard
Darlene Foster
Christina Consolino
Anne Goodwin
Thomas “Buddy” Bardenwerper

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for more information.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Share your news on Book Club Mom’s Author Update

Are you working on a new or your very first book? Have you won an award or a writing contest? Did you just update your website? Maybe you just want to tell readers about an experience you’ve had. Book Club Mom’s Author Update is a great way to share news and information about you and your books.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for more information.

Open to all authors – self-published, indie, hybrid and anything in between.

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Book on my radar: The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns

Here’s a nonfiction book I got for Christmas (thank you A!) and I’m going to read it very soon. Published in 1997, it was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was the basis of the 2000 Emmy-winning HBO miniseries of the same name. David Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter, is also the creator of The Wire, an excellent HBO crime drama I am in the middle of watching. The Wire ran from 2002-2008 and is considered one of the best television series of all time. Edward Burns is a former Baltimore police detective, a screen writer, novelist and producer.

So, what’s The Corner about? Set in a drug-infested neighborhood in West Baltimore, Simon and Burns follow the lives of Gary and Fran McCullough and their fifteen-year-old son DeAndre. Gary and Fran had hoped to escape the trappings of the drug world, but they’re losing their battle with addiction and DeAndre must fight to avoid the same fate.

These two reviews praised the book when it was published:

“…a brave, unblinkered, and heartbreaking look at the residents of a few blocks of West Baltimore’s ghetto…So far above most reporting on the underclass as to demand attention.”—New York Times Book Review

“Powerful and revealing…It shows us the plight of urban American honestly and without condescending to those trapped on its mean streets.”—Washington Post”

I haven’t read a nonfiction book in a couple months, and although I know this will be a grim account, I’m looking forward to reading it.

Do you know about this book? Have you read it? Leave a comment!

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Book Review: Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer

Nantucket Sisters
Nancy Thayer

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I picked up this beach read to cross off another square on my summer reading bingo card. The squares are filling up and I’ll share the final results next month. Maybe I’ll win the staff prize!

Okay, so this is going to be a light review and I’m going to make a video with some different comments, to tie into my special Beach Read episode of Read React Decide. Stay tuned for that. I’ll link it to this post eventually.

Look at this cover! I loved it. I felt like I was right there on the beach and could imagine a book or two in the bag. This very fast read, despite its 334 pages, is about two women who become friends on Nantucket as five-year-olds. Emily Porter’s parents are wealthy New Yorkers and summer on the island. Their Nantucket house is beautiful. Maggie McIntyre is a local. They have no money and live in a cramped fisherman’s shack that’s been converted into a cottage. Emily’s father deserted them so it’s just Emily, her brother, Ben and their mom.

The story spans more than twenty years, during which the girls grow up, go to college and develop romantic relationships. At the center of the story is Ben. Emily’s girlhood crush on her best friend’s brother develops into a full-blown romance, but the big problem is money. Emily is used to the finer things and Ben can’t provide them. And he’s pretty chippy about it. Meanwhile, Maggie rejected her high school love interest and her geeky best guy friend has moved away. She swears off men for now because she wants to be a writer.

Everything changes when Cameron Chadwick, a loaded Wall Street trader, comes on the scene. His effect on both Emily and Maggie makes for a lot of trouble. Thayer’s task is to figure out how the women (and a hurt Ben) can untangle the mess that results.

I enjoyed this story, but there’s nothing deep here. All the characters are gorgeous, talented and they all go to great colleges. There’s also a lot of insta-love and a good dose of totally unrealistic situations in these pages. But, it’s a soap opera in a book and you have to go into it with that in mind. It’s pure entertainment. Readers looking for realistic situations and character studies will not enjoy Nantucket Sisters unless they leave those expectations behind.

Thayer does a great job describing Nantucket. I enjoyed imagining the houses and landscape. She also explains the challenges the island faces as overdevelopment threatens the environment, tying her characters to these ideas.

So now I’ve read a few beach reads. I recently read The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons which was also a fast read, but the characters did not appeal to me. I thought Nantucket Sisters was more enjoyable. I listened to the audiobook version of The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand a few years ago and liked it the most because I felt it had more substance.

Do you read beach reads? What ones would you recommend?

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