Book Club Mom’s August 2020 recap

August was a good summer month for me. A few socially distant day trips to the beach made these summer days seem like normal. We still have more days of summer ahead, but yesterday I spotted candy corn and mini pumpkins at the grocery store. Is anyone thinking about Halloween? I’m not!

Here’s a quick look at what I’ve been doing:


Book Reviews

Near Prospect Park by Lawrence H. Levy

Sadie by Courtney Summers

The Deadly Houses by Charlie Gallagher

It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way by Mary Rowen

Short reviews from 2013: The Fault in Our Stars, The Silent Wife and Old School


Miscellaneous posts

Book Club Mom’s recommended biographies and memoirs

Bloggers’ recommended biographies and memoirs

Last lines of my Top 15 Faves

Latest and greatest book lists

Blog views and other obsessions – random thoughts


Who’s That Indie Author – new interview questions and a new look!

Who’s That Indie Author? Robin Delnoce


I hope you’re all healthy and doing well – leave a comment with any news!

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Blog views and other obsessions – random thoughts

Hi Everyone! Today I’m sharing some random thoughts about blogging.

The blogging world is constantly evolving, whether we like it or not. Technology has changed dramatically since I started my blog seven years ago. I’ve always been interested in how things connect and for me, blogging and connecting though other social media is fun, but time and patience have their limits, don’t they?

I’m not dreading the new WordPress editor. I’ve already used it on my new blog, Books to Pen, but I’m in no hurry to convert Book Club Mom.

My blog has grown slowly, but steadily over the years and my focus has changed during this time. I’d like to have unlimited content ideas, but I don’t! That used to bother me, but now I don’t worry about it and wait for an idea to come to me.

I have a good idea for a new YouTube video, so stay tuned for that.

As for growing a blog – I wish WordPress would make it easier to follow and be followed. Even when I search for blogs and get a list, it’s still cumbersome. And it would be nice to see what blogs my favorite bloggers follow. Twitter has it all figured out in that department IMO.

I see a lot of swishy new blogs out there and I’m always looking for ways to update my look. I like my basic blog design but I’ve recently changed some of my banners. Last year I tried displaying book covers in more creative ways, but I moved away from that. I like the creative displays, but doing them myself felt like a force.

I’m getting ready to start an Instagram account. I resisted at first, but now I’m ready.

What’s new with your blog?

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Book Review: It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way by Mary Rowen

It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way
by
Mary Rowen

Molly Dolan dreams of a steady relationship. At twenty-five, she’s floundering, drinking too much and making poor decisions. The only good thing going is Molly’s job. She got in on the ground floor at FSI as senior marketing writer, but she’s just learned of a big a change.

Molly’s relationship problems began in high school. When her one close friendship ended tragically, she tried to suppress her feelings, but the burden of loss and regret led to reckless decisions and she has carried that burden into adulthood.

Molly’s neighbor Fred Flaherty is alone at seventy-two. Divorced for many years, he listens to Jim Croce records and talks to buddies on his ham radio. But his failed marriage and the recent death of his younger brother, Davey weigh heavy on him.

When Davey was born, Fred’s awkward and lonely childhood turned happy. The twelve-year difference didn’t matter because they adored each other. Now Fred looks back at how Davey’s once promising future dissolved when he returned from Vietnam.

With seemingly little in common, Molly and Fred strike up a friendship that, despite many unforeseen obstacles, may help them find happiness and direction in their lives.

Mary Rowen’s charming new book, It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way, is due out this fall. It’s a hopeful and touching story about how people make mistakes and get caught up in bad situations, even when they’re trying to do the right thing. Set outside Boston, in Arlington, Massachusetts, the story begins in 2012 and begins with Molly’s first-person narrative. Alternating third-person chapters provide details about both characters’ lives, framed by chapters named after Jim Croce’s music. Readers will like how Rowen’s flawed characters navigate modern and realistic situations. She introduces serious themes of family problems, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual assault, harassment and mental health and buffers them with everyday examples of kindness and humor.

I recommend this women’s fiction story about difficult relationships and hopeful friendships and look forward to more books by Rowen.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Robin Delnoce

Author Name: Robin Delnoce

Genre: Women’s Humor Fiction

Book: Bunco: A Comedy About The Drama Of Friendship

Are you a full-time author? If not, what’s your side gig? I am not a full-time author. I have had many gigs over the years… accounting, retail store manager, elementary school/juvenile detention center office clerk. I was just getting back into accounting when the world turned upside down.

Favorite author/books: Okay… this is going to be weird list. I love Carrie Fisher! Her wit and cynicism cracked me up! Diane English, creator & writer of Murphy Brown, was my absolute hero going through high school and college. JK Rowling… I know… I know… but I started reading her books to my children when the were young. They would fall asleep and I was compelled to continue reading.

What experiences or people have influenced your writing the most?  A combination of my friends and family in real life interactions and my imagination. I tend to play out potential scenarios to the extreme and when they don’t transpire, I throw them in the story😊

Do you keep a writing journal and if so, how do you use it? I don’t keep a journal. I should. I keep a Facebook account… which I have been advised to shut down and keep a private journal😊

Do you belong to a writers’ group? If so, describe your experience: I don’t belong to a writers’ group. I live with my husband and two daughters who think they are all hilarious, if that counts.

Are you up with the sun or do you burn the midnight oil? I’m 50… I’m up late, awake for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night, and then up with the sun! I think I do my best work in my pajamas, and that can be any time of day😊

How do you get over a writing slump? A long drive! I’m sure I’ve had several passing cars question my mental stability as they watch me talk to an empty passenger seat.

Do you prefer writing dialogue or descriptive passages? DIALOGUE! I have taken over 9 years to make my characters sound incredibly quick witted.

What are you working on now? Getting through this pandemic without a criminal record.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about writing and publishing a book? I don’t think I’m qualified to give advice about publishing a book. I’m new at this and really just kind of faking my way through it. I do, however, have experience in endurance events, and I will give the advice I used to give to new runners who would ask me if they could complete a certain distance. If it doesn’t scare the hell out of you, you aren’t challenging yourself enough.

Do you listen to podcasts? If so, which podcasts do you find the most interesting? I listen to a lot of true crime podcasts. It creeps out my husband because whenever he asks what I’m doing I always answer, “research.” I don’t really want to kill him, but I’ve listened to so many, I’m pretty sure I could get away with it 😉

Favorite escape: Going to thrift and antique stores and buying ridiculous things I have no room in my house for.

Have you ever tried Kombucha tea? I tried it once… maybe I got a bad batch.

Do you prefer a couch with pillows or no pillows? You can NEVER have too many pillows! I like them behind me, and next to me, and most of all, covering up my belly😊

Would you rather rake leaves, shovel snow or weed? Shovel snow for sure! Raking leaves isn’t so bad, but I have to resist the urge to jump in the pile. Weeding is the punishment of Satan.

Favorite mask – disposable paper, plain fabric, colorful print or something else? For comfort, the disposable paper… colorful print is my everyday go-to… but when this whole thing started, I used my Darth Vader voice changing mask. It was more uncomfortable than I thought it would be. That was a bummer.

Biggest writing challenge since Covid-19: I’m lucky if I can set aside enough time to write a grocery list.

Website and social media links:
Website: www.buncothebook.com
Goodreads link to: Bunco: A Comedy About The Drama Of Friendship
Amazon link to: Bunco: A Comedy About The Drama Of Friendship


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.

 

Book Review: The Deadly Houses by Charlie Gallagher

The Deadly Houses
by
Charlie Gallagher

Detective Sergeant Maddie Ives is on the night shift at the Canterbury police station when she receives an unusual call. A man waits outside, ready to confess a murder. Adrian Hughes claims he kidnapped and brutally killed a young woman and he’s ready with all the details and evidence that will put him in jail, including where to find the woman.

The details check out but Ives thinks Hughes is lying. Her new boss is anxious for a quick conviction, however, so Ives must dig fast if she wants to uncover the whole story. While she’s out in the field, she relies on the sharp investigative skills of DC Rhiannon Davis to gather information. And soon her former partner, Harry Blaker is on the team, pulled from a quieter, low-pressure assignment he’d requested after a personal tragedy.

The reader knows there’s more because additional characters reveal strange and confusing details. And alternating scenes put the reader in an abandoned building where prisoners are forced to watch violent and disturbing videos. In a race against time and unknown enemies, Ives will need sort it out before more people die.

The Deadly Houses is the sixth book in the Maddie Ives police procedural series set in the UK but it can be read as a standalone. It was easy enough to get into the plot and I did not feel like I was missing out on a back story. That said, I found the story somewhat overloaded with details and its bad guys were a little too twisted and extreme for my tastes. The author is also a police officer and his knowledge of procedures and politics shows, making that part authentic.

The dominant theme of this story is the protection of women and children from violent partners and the author gives the reader a closer look at important police and social programs designed to help.

As with many thrillers, readers will need to bring with them the usual suspension of disbelief. Maddie Ives powers through many injuries and defies the odds in a number of situations. But she’s a likable character and has good rapport with Blaker and Davis and a peek at her personal life rounds out the story nicely.

All-in-all, I liked The Deadly Houses, but think this series is more geared towards fans of police procedurals.

I received a copy of The Deadly Houses from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Share your news on Book Club Mom’s Author Update

Are you working on a new 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, big-time and anything in between. Author submissions are limited to one per author in a six-month period.

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Who’s That Indie Author – you’re in the spotlight!

 

Are you a self-published or indie 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, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and many other social media and business platforms.

And it’s free! So why not take advantage of a chance to showcase your talents? Submit an author profile with your answers to a brand new set of questions and see your name and books travel from blog to blog and tweet to tweet!

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com to request an author profile template.

Open to all self-published and indie authors.

Who’s That Indie Author is designed to introduce authors to the reading and writing community and to give others the same opportunity to be featured. Therefore, each author is limited to one Who’s That Indie Author feature on Book Club Mom.


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Short reviews from 2013: The Fault in Our Stars, The Silent Wife and Old School

In celebration of my 7-year blogging anniversary, here are three short reviews of books I read in 2013.


The Fault in Our Stars
by
John Green

This is the kind of book you are self-propelled to read non-stop until you finish. I loved it because of the many gem-like moments that give you a wonderful, emotional feeling. But this is also a sad story, with heart-breaking moments. Seventeen-year-old Hazel is dying. She meets Gus, a bone cancer survivor, and they fall in love. They have an intense courtship and they know they are short on time.

I think John Green does a great job portraying Hazel and Gus. I have heard others say their conversations are too intellectual for teenagers. I don’t think so and I think he really captures the teenage intensity along with their heightened sense of the loss of time.

Although the story is written through Hazel’s point of view, Green also shows us what it is like to be parents of cancer patients, and how they must prepare themselves for loss. And he shows how Gus and Hazel cling to each other and their friend Isaac, and try to have normal teenage lives.

There are unexpected plot turns and surprising characters, and the story is nicely tied together, with some open endings to keep the reader thinking. I think the ending is uplifting and makes the best of tough loss.


The Silent Wife
by
A. S. A. Harrison

What’s beneath the surface of a seemingly happy relationship? Jodi Brett and Todd Gilbert have a smooth way of being together and it’s worked for twenty-some years. They’ve never officially married, but it doesn’t matter. This is a marriage and they have a nice rhythm, live a very nice life and have everything they want.

Then we get to know them a little better. Todd is a big person with a big personality. He’s made a success of himself in real estate, flipping office buildings in Chicago. He loves Jodi, but has other relationships. Jodi works part-time as a psychologist, seeing patients in their home. She loves Todd, likes taking care of him and making their life nice and comfortable.  She also likes the routine of their life and looks the other way because she’s settled.

Then things begin to happen and the balance is upset. What comes next is a look at how far a person will go to make things right and fair.

Harrison has written a great story and I enjoyed every word. Her characters are fun and, despite the dark side of the plot, strangely likable. The story unfolds in a comfortable and humorous way.  I liked their life, their condo, their conversations and what they ate.  I liked the nice way they had with each other. I think she does a terrific job introducing these characters.

I like the way Harrison builds suspense and then returns to the plot, giving the reader a taste of what’s to come. The story moves at a very good pace and still provides a solid background.

Through therapy sessions that are a required part of Jodi’s training, Harrison explores Jodi’s character, her childhood and the events that shape her. Harrison helps the reader understand these characters by applying psychological theory to their backgrounds. This element adds a nice layer to the story.

There are surprises and twists all the way to the end and that makes it work. I wish I could have read it in one sitting!


Old School
by
Tobias Wolff

I thought this was a very interesting premise for a book, in which actual authors become characters in the story. Wolff’s story takes place in 1960 at an elite Eastern prep school for boys, which takes pride in its literary connections and achievements. The plot revolves around the school’s literary contest, whose winners are given an audience with famous authors.

Robert Frost, Ayn Rand and Ernest Hemingway are featured and, at a reception in Rand’s honor, students and faculty participate in an extended discussion of her characters and philosophies in Rand’s novel The Fountainhead.

There are more complex parts of the story as well. The narrator, on scholarship to the school, is acutely aware of class distinction and privilege and keeps his modest background and Jewish heritage a secret. He struggles with his own self-image as he mirrors the looks and actions of his wealthy classmates, inviting the false assumption of wealth and class. The contest puts him at the center of a scandal that reveals deceptions and radiates to classmates and faculty. Its conclusion shows Wolff’s characters in their true form.

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Book Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie
by
Courtney Summers

Sadie Hunter is nineteen and missing. She left the Sparkling River Estates trailer park in Cold Creek, Colorado and the only clue is an abandoned car found in Fairfield. Where is she? On a revenge trip, hunting for the person who killed her thirteen-year-old sister, Mattie.

When podcast producer West McCray and his boss learn of Sadie’s disappearance, they know they have a story to tell and create a serial podcast called “The Girls.” While McCray conducts interviews and follows leads, Sadie follows her own leads, desperate to catch up and kill the man responsible.

Sadie alternates between a script of McCray’s podcast and Sadie’s personal narrative of her search for justice. In telling, she reveals painful details about her alcoholic and drug-addicted mother, Claire, who hooks up with a string of move-in boyfriends. She ignores Sadie, who develops a paralyzing stutter, and favors little Mattie. When Claire abandons her daughters, young Mattie is nearly crushed, and Sadie steps in. Determined to give Mattie a decent upbringing, Sadie drops out of high school to be around for her little sister. The sisters are close because, besides May Beth Foster, their surrogate grandmother and manager of the trailer park, they’re all they have. But by the time Mattie is thirteen, she’s resentful and rebellious, sure she can handle herself.

Sadie had done her best, but she was just a girl too. Now she wonders what more she could have done to protect her sister.

In her search, Sadie makes risky connections, but she’s ready for anything, with a switchblade in her pocket, vowing to carve her name into the killer’s soul. She’s not afraid and reasons,

…here’s the thing I tell myself to dull the sharp edges of everything that’s surely left to come: The worst has already happened.

She meets and befriends others, seeking information, but also getting a taste of the privileged life in Montgomery, Colorado. Sadie has only known hardship and neglect and at one point when she connects with a boy her age, she wonders,

why can’t I let myself be worth a moment’s tenderness?

Sadie’s narrative and the podcast reveal details about the sisters and advance at a similar pace, but from different angles, until they nearly intersect in Fairfield. By this point, the reader has the full dark story of the sisters’ childhood and Mattie’s death.

I enjoyed reading this fast-paced mystery. At times I wanted to pull Sadie out of the story and give her a good home and at other times I was right there with her, chasing after her sister’s killer. Sadie’s story is dark and heavy, but full of tender and raw feelings. Readers will be surprised and maybe unhappy with the story’s finish, best left alone in reviews. I was a little disappointed, yet I find myself thinking about Sadie days after I’ve finished, always a good sign of a book.

Sadie is the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult, which honors the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television.

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Latest and greatest book lists

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

I love looking at book lists – there are so many! Books to read before you die (never liked that phrase), books to read in a lifetime (that’s better), best books, essential books, books that changed the world, etc. And don’t forget the lists of award winners for the Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize, Man Booker Award, National Book Award, PEN/Faulkner Award – you get the idea.

Well today I found the list of all lists. The Greatest Books is made up of 128 book lists. Here’s how the website creator explains it:

This list is generated from 128 “best of” book lists from a variety of great sources. An algorithm is used to create a master list based on how many lists a particular book appears on. Some lists count more than others. I generally trust “best of all time” lists voted by authors and experts over user-generated lists. On the lists that are actually ranked, the book that is 1st counts a lot more than the book that’s 100th.

If you create an account, you can track the books you’ve read and those you want to read. There’s also a link to the website’s blog. One of the neat things is you can narrow your list to certain years from year 0 to present. You can also look at both fiction and nonfiction lists separately.


For fun, I searched for the Greatest Books from 1600 – 1700 and here’s what I got for the top three:


Here’s what I got for the Greatest Books from 2019 – 2020:I’m pretty impressed by this website. There’s some serious math involved in aggregating all these lists, don’t you think?

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