Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Abduction of Smith and Smith by Rashad Harrison - Book Blog Tour Stop and Review

The Abduction of Smith and Smith


About The Abduction of Smith and Smith

• Hardcover: 352 pages
• Publisher: Atria Books (January 6, 2015)

In this harrowing and thrilling work of historical fiction, two enemies become the unlikeliest of allies as they fight to save their own lives aboard a hell ship headed into the dangerous unknown.

The Civil War is over, though for Jupiter Smith, a former slave and Union soldier, many battles still lie ahead. He returns to the plantation he worked on before the war in search of his woman, but rather finds his old master gone mad, haunting the ruins like a ghost. Out of pity for the now mentally ill Colonel, Jupiter strangles him and heads west to seek a new life in San Francisco.

When the Colonel’s son, Confederate soldier Archer Smith, arrives at home and finds his father murdered, he vows revenge upon Jupiter for all he has lost—following his former slave to the far reaches of the continent.

But things take a new turn as Archer’s desire for retribution is overwhelmed by his dependency on opium, and he ends up the target of a gang of “crimpers”…the very gang that Jupiter works for in San Francisco. When Jupiter fails in an attempt to save Archer, they both end up shanghaied aboard a ship headed on a dangerous mission and ruled by a merciless captain. Will the two Smiths work together to stay alive and return home, or will they become victims of the sea, the crew, and their mad captain?


"A splendid tale of high-seas adventure that examines the ironies of freedom in post-Civil War America, steeped in the desperate hope to reunite family. Harrison's second offering is not short on plot yet maintains both thoughtful and dastardly characters who insist on defining freedom on their own terms . . . . come hell or high water." Marcus J. Guillory, author Red Now and Laters

"Filled with adventure, this sweeping novel also reflects the complexities of slavery, freedom, and shared history." Library Journal; A 2015 Writer to Watch

"...touches on themes from The Odyssey, Jack London's Sea Wolf and Conrad's Heart of Darkness...(Harrison's) deftly plotted historical novel quickly becomes an around-the-world adventure...that ends with a stunning revelation." Kirkus Reviews

"The Abduction of Smith and Smith may be historical, but it reads like a cinematic big-budget popcorn thriller....Harrison's storytelling is topnotch and makes this novel not only a page-tuner but also an informative resource on post-Civil War America." UPTOWN Magazine

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My Thoughts:

A Quest for finding a lost love, swashbuckling pirates, family drama, romance - all set in the post Civil-War era when things were trying to renew themselves!  All this is found in Rashad Harrison's novel "The Abduction of Smith and Smith."

I was so delighted with this story!  Harrison's storytelling is masterful as he draws his reader into the story through the various viewpoints of his fascinating characters. To me a story should inspire an almost movie-like image in your mind as you read along and Harrison captures this so very well with this historical tale.

If you enjoy high adventure, family drama, and a beautiful romance at the heart of the tale, then you will absolutely love "The Abduction of Smith and Smith."  One of my favorite books of 2015 so far!

About Rashad Harrison

Rashad HarrisonRashad Harrison was the Jacob K. Javits Fellow in fiction at New York University. He is the author of the acclaimed novel Our Man in the Dark (2011) and The Abduction of Smith and Smith (2015). He and his family currently live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Visit Rashad at his website,, connect with him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

My thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour and to Simon and Schuster for providing the review copy of this book.

I was not compensated for my opinion.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Guest Post - Author Mary Kay Andrews talking about "Going Hollywood!"

I'm so thrilled to be hosting one of my favorite authors, Mary Kay Andrews today!  She has a fun new summer book out, "Beach Town," and she was so kind to take time to write a post about her research into the glittering world of "Hollywood!"

Gone Hollywoodfor BEACH TOWN

By Mary Kay Andrews
New York Times bestselling author of BEACH TOWN

When I start plotting a new novel one of my first concerns is how to create the world inhabited by my protagonist. Maybe it’s because of my background as a journalist, but it’s vital to me that my characters be convincing and believable.

That’s where research comes in. Greer Hennessy, the protagonist of my new novel BEACH TOWN, is a Hollywood location manager. Her job seems glamorous to an outsider, but the nitty gritty of managing a movie location shoot is dirty, detailed, daunting work.

How do I know? As soon as I knew Greer’s job, I set to work learning as much as I could about her world. Luckily, Atlanta, where I live, is currently a hotbed of movie and television production, and it just happens that my daughter Katie is in charge of issuing film permits for an Atlanta area municipality. She had the names and phone numbers of half a dozen film scouts on her Rolodex, and fortunately for me, one of them, Brian Albertini, happens to live only blocks away from my house.

I peppered Brian and two other Atlanta-based scouts with questions about the job. Of course, since I write fiction and fiction needs conflict and drama, I was particularly interested in disasters and worst-case scenarios. Most movie shoots where I live are "closed sets" but after much pestering, Brian managed to get me on the set of a cable television show being filmed in a local cemetery.

Once I had a basic understanding of what Greer’s job entailed, I decided to "go Hollywood," travelling to Los Angeles last summer to further entrench myself in the world of movie-making.

With the help of a dear friend with connections in the entertainment industry, I had drinks with a woman who’d been a film costume designer and another who’d been head accountant on a long-running cable show. I spent an afternoon spitballing ideas with an up-and-coming television producer and his business partner who generously schooled me in the ins and outs of something Hollywood calls "the slow no."

With my friend’s help, we figured out the neighborhood where Greer’s apartment would be, as well as the historic bungalow court where her mother, Lise, a has-been television actress owned a home.

As a long-time movie buff, I was thrilled to take the Paramount Pictures studio tour, which gave me a great look at behind-the-scenes movie-making. But probably my favorite field trip was to a place called Western Costume.

I wanted to get an idea of what a costume workshop looked like because in the book, Greer’s grandmother Dearie was a retired studio costume seamstress. Western Costume, which is over a century old, is the largest costume business in the U.S. It was fascinating to tour their facility and speak to the highly skilled designers, seamstresses, milliners, tailors and custom shoe-makers who outfit theatrical productions.

In BEACH TOWN, Greer’s best friend is CeeJay, a hair and makeup artist she meets when both the young women are learning their trades in the movie business. My friend’s hair and makeup artist pal was busy on a shoot, but I did manage to do a highly entertaining (and enlightening) phone interview with the artist, whose name is J Money. J was the total inspiration for the irrespressible CeeJay in the book.

Later, my friend and I headed up to the central California coast, to San Luis Obispo (or SLO, as the locals call it) because my plot called for Greer to have a location shoot (and ensuing disaster) in a drought-ravaged avocado grove. We toured an avocado grove and learned all about how avocados are harvested. We were fascinated to observe the avocado rancher’s Australian shepherds gobbling up avocados that had been overlooked during the recent harvest. Who knew avocados were good for dogs?

I knew from my research into the business that lots of things that get filmed never actually make it onto the big (or small) screen. Ironically, some of the research for BEACH TOWN also ended up on the cutting room floor after my cheerfully ruthless editor trimmed my final draft of the book.

At first, I mourned the loss of all those cool California movie details in the book. Truthfully though, the book reads better without it. Who knows? Maybe someday we’ll re-issue a BEACH TOWN "director’s cut" that restores all those "lost scenes."

My thanks to Mary Kay Andrews for providing this wonderful guest and to Meg at Tandem Literary for helping to coordinate.

Watch for my review of "Beach Town" to be coming soon!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Things You've Inherited From Your Mother by Hollie Adams - Book Blog Tour and Review

Things You've Inherited From Your Mother











About Things You've Inherited From Your Mother

• Paperback: 172 pages
• Publisher: NeWest Press (May 2015)
Everyone deals with grief in their own personal way. Take Carrie, for example. Getting over her mother’s death from ovarian cancer takes the form of ramping up passive-aggressive office warfare, continuing her campaign to show her ex-husband she’s over him (further increasing the distance between herself and her teenage daughter, natch), ridding herself of her mother’s overweight cat Poncho, and consuming heroic quantities of red wine, spiked coffee and coffin nails. Nobody’s perfect.
Situated at the midpoint between booze-soaked mayhem and middle-aged ennui, Things You’ve Inherited From Your Mother is a riotous assemblage of found objects, Choose Your Own Adventure-style in jokes and useful facts about mice. In her startlingly funny first novel, Hollie Adams takes the conventional wisdom about likeable literary heroines and shoves it down an elevator shaft.
My Thoughts:
What do you think about a book that starts off with ... "Tuesday your mother died. Ovarian cancer." Well, if you're reading Hollie Adams' debut novel, "Things You've Inherited From Your Mother," you dive in and see what path this story is going to take. 
Within this story there is humor, grief, sarcasm, sibling rivalry, boyfriend and ex-husband rivalry, and oh yes, the little thing that brings the whole tale together - the passing of dear ol' mom.  Adams crafts the story of Carrie, her sister Izzy, daughter Kate and a whole cast of characters as they maneuver their way through complicated lives with a few complicated lies, more complicated truths and a whole lot of humor along the way.
I enjoyed this unconventional novel - Adams' humor is sharp and witty and keeps the story rolling through the landmines of life.  I highly recommend this debut author and will keep an eye on further great works from her.
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Hollie Adams

About Hollie Adams

Hollie Adams is a Windsorite living in Alberta, where she teaches writing and literature. She has studied creative writing at the University of Windsor and has a PhD in English from the University of Calgary. Her writing has been published in several Canadian periodicals including Prairie FireThe Antigonish Review,CarouselThe Windsor Review, and Filling Station, and online at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.
Things You've Inherited From Your Mother is her first novel.
Check out her website at

My thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour and to the author for providing the review copy of the book.  I was not compensated for my opinion.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From The Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes - Book Review

About The Book:

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.
Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets and backstage stories.
With a foreword by Rob Reiner and a limited edition original poster by acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey, As You Wish is a must-have for all fans of this beloved film.

My Thoughts:

One of my absolute favorite books is William Goldman's "The Princess Bride," and one of my absolute favorite movies is "The Princess Bride."  So I was thrilled to find out that the lead actor in this movie, Cary Elwes (Westley), had written a book of his experiences during the making of this incredible film.  And I was not disappointed - Elwes delivers an in-depth, rollicking, fantastically fun accounting of his own experience as well as tidbits from his fellow actors who starred in this classic and beloved movie.

From his first meeting with director Rob Reiner to his first look at Andre The Giant, Elwes shares his memories of what has to be a highlight in his movie-making career. He tells of how sweet Robin Wright (Buttercup) was, how he and Mandy Patinkin worked tirelessly learning to fence for the big fight scene, how Billy Crystal and Carol Kane (Miracle Max and Valerie) kept the entire cast in stitches while they filmed their scenes and how the entire company became a bonafide family during the months of filming in England.

There are wonderful photos of behind-the-scenes included here, and a real treat - the book cover makes out into a one-of-a-kind posterette! 

This book was just a pure delight to read and will become a prized possession in my book collection.  If you are a fan of the book and/or the movie - get this book!  You'll be so glad you did!  It's "inconceivable" that you wouldn't be! :)

Here's is a wonderful video clip of Elwes talking about his book -

About The Author:

Cary Elwes

Cary Elwes is a celebrated English actor who starred in The Princess Bride before moving on to roles in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Glory, Days of Thunder, Twister, and Saw, among many other acclaimed performances. He will always be indebted to The Princess Bride, he says, for changing his life and giving him a career that has spanned decades. He lives in Hollywood, California, with his family.

Find out more about Cary Elwes on Twitter @Cary_Elwes
Joe Layden has authored or coauthored more than thirty books, including multiple New York Times bestsellers.

I purchased this book for my personal collection. I was not compensated for my opinion.

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday and time again to share with you what I have lined up to read this week!  I've got some great books and I have some wonderful blog tour stops scheduled for the next few days and I hope that you'll find something that peaks your interest among them!

Hope you are enjoying Spring wherever you are!

What I'm Reading Now:

You will always find me with a smile on my face when I have a new Laura Childs' book to read! 

What I Plan To Read:

Special Events:

Tuesday - Book Blog Tour Stop for Things You've Inherited From Your Mother

Wednesday - Guest Post with author Mary Kay Andrews

Thursday - Book Blog Tour Stop for The Abduction of Smith and Smith

Friday - Book Blog Tour Stop for Under The Same Blue Sky

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Devotional Spotlight - You Are Loved: Inspiration to Refresh Your Soul by Darlene Sala

About The Book:

It’s true that life is hard. But it’s equally true that God is good! Popular author Darlene Sala will refresh your heart with that message in this new devotional. This beautifully packaged, 90-entry follow-up to her recent devotional You Are Blessed will show God’s heart for you, His concern for the trials and struggles you face.

Addressing issues such as loneliness, stress, aging, and money, Sala, author of Created for a Purpose and Encouraging Words for Women, reminds you that God is always watching, listening, and loving. When you’re feeling tired and drained by life, find strength in the Bible-based encouragement of You Are Loved.

My Thoughts:

I love finding a small devotional book that I can easily slip into my purse or tote bag, and the ones from Darlene Sala are always just the perfect size and have the best devotionals.

In this lovely lavender edition, Sala shares 90 short but meaningful devotionals that are uplifting and inspirational. From stressing the importance of having quiet time with the Lord to having confidence in your spirituality, Sala covers subjects that will hit home with women of all walks of life.

I highly recommend it.

About The Author:

Darlene Sala and her husband, Harold, live in Mission Viejo, California, where they lead Guidelines International Ministries, a Christian outreach to 100 countries through radio, video, literature, and conferences. Darlene is an author, speaker, mother of three grown children, and grandmother of eight.

Check out her website at for more devotions and information about her work.

My thanks to Barbour Books for supplying the review copy of this book. I was not compensated for my opinion.

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