Category Archives: Contemporary Women

A Review of The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

The Passenger

by Lisa Lutz

I would love to be a member of a book club that read The Passenger because then I could talk to people who have already read it. Right now I feel like I really can’t say much about it, because I might accidentally give something away. Read the book description below for an idea of what the book is about. It doesn’t give anything away.

I really liked the way this book is written. Ms. Lutz keeps us in the dark, while slowly putting little spots of light that gives us hints about where we are, while never illuminating the whole picture. It is kind of like the story of the six blind men and the elephant. Each part of the novel leads you to think that you have it figured out, but you can’t see that it is an elephant. Once you know about the elephant, it changes everything.

The identity changing characters in The Passenger feel alive. You can connect with them. They draw you into things and change your perceptions. You change as you read this book. You may never look at life in the shadows the same. It seems like it could happen to anyone. I hope it doesn’t.

I give The Passenger 4 1/2 Stars out of 5 and a Big Thumbs Up! If you like reading any kind of fiction, you really should give this book a read. You are going to be amazed.

I received a Digital Review Copy from the publisher.

Book Description

the-passenger-lisa-lutzFrom the author of the New York Times bestselling Spellman Files series, Lisa Lutz’s latest blistering thriller is about a woman who creates and sheds new identities as she crisscrosses the country to escape her past: you’ll want to buckle up for the ride!

In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it . . . .

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret . . . can she outrun her past?

With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless.

Book Details

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 1, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1451686633
ISBN-13: 978-1451686630
Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces

About the Author

Photo by Morgan Dox
Photo by Morgan Dox

Lisa Lutz is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels, including the forthcoming thriller, The Passenger (Simon & Schuster, March 2016), How to Start a Fire, six novels in the Spellman books series, and Heads You Lose, co-authored with David Hayward. She is also the author of the children’s book, How to Negotiate Everything, illustrated by Jaime Temairik. Lutz has won the Alex award and has been nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel.

Although she attended UC Santa Cruz, UC Irvine, the University of Leeds in England, and San Francisco State University, she still does not have a bachelor’s degree. Lisa spent most of the 1990s hopping through a string of low-paying odd jobs while writing and rewriting the screenplay Plan B, a mob comedy. After the film was made in 2000, she vowed she would never write another screenplay. Lisa lives in the Hudson Valley, New York.

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An Interview with Collette Yvonne, the author of The Perils of Pauline

Collette Yvonne, the author of The Perils of Pauline, was kind enough to agree to an interview. I’m glad that I was able to get to know her a little better. I hope that you enjoy it too. Don’t forget to go to the bottom of the post. There is an excerpt from her book. This will allow you to get a feel for her writing. Thanks again, Collette.

Author Interview

What is your typical writing day like?

Usually I try to carve out a full day for writing. If I have something pressing to do—work, a kid’s dentist appointment, a weedy garden, a sick friend who needs soup— I find it tough to concentrate knowing I will have to break my focus too soon. I find it painful, disorienting and tiring to transition in and out of my creative flow, so I am reluctant to work for short spurts of time. I try to clear my schedule first.

On a writing day, the coffee is poured first thing. Since I tend to be easily distracted I prefer to have the house all to myself. I am lucky enough to have a dedicated writing space of my own so that is where I go to write: in front of my desktop, steaming coffee mug at my elbow. I usually begin with answering email to focus my brain a little before I open my work in progress in Scrivener.

When I’m on a roll, I will work for hours without a break. At some point my dog usually demands a walk. Sometimes I stop to do some yoga stretches or grab a quick bite. I quit for the day when my family rolls in from school and work. My process is unremarkable: no charming boulevard cafés for me. Just butt in chair. All day.

Authors project parts of themselves into their main characters. Does your heroine have any of your qualities?

Yes and no. I always tell my friends and family not to think of The Perils of Pauline as an autobiography but usually people confess that they see me as the main character when they read the book. This is actually a little horrifying as Pauline is a bit wild and out of control. She is impulsive and bold and fearless, which can be a good thing unless you tend to act first and think later, which is what my character tends to do. As the author, I can safely explore impulsive choices and bad behavior when I write Pauline’s story. I can let her take all the risks and face the consequences while I remain safe in my writing chair, laughing at her—or crying with her—when everything falls to pieces and begins to circle the drain.

If you had three words to describe your main character, what would they be?

Impulsive. Irrepressible. Bravehearted.

Would you call your protagonist a truth-seeker or a thrill-seeker?

Contrary to popular impressions, Pauline is a truth-seeker. She is trying to figure things out. She likes a thrill as well as the next girl, but she is in it to win answers.

What themes did you visit in your book?

Relationships. Parenting. Family. Marriage. Adultery. Adult ADHD. Conflict. Love and romance. Separation. Career. Civilian life after active service. Single parenting. Post traumatic stress disorder. Forgiveness. Humor.

How do you find/make time to write?

I have to be disciplined about it. Since I work part time as a yoga instructor and have many outside interests such as volunteering, gardening, photography, reading, visual arts, and gadding about, I need to find ways to keep writing squarely on the agenda. Membership in a writing group helps as the members will chew me up and spit me out if I don’t produce new writing regularly.

How did you come up with the title?

The original The Perils of Pauline was a 1914 American melodrama film serial. The main character, Pauline, is the original damsel in distress who often finds herself hanging from a cliff or tied to a set of train tracks. The 1914 Pauline was smart and resourceful, rather than helpless and needing to be rescued by a man (but there’s a dashing lover on scene willing to lend a hand). I loved the idea of recreating the plucky Pauline and placing her in a modern context. Like many woman today, who find themselves juggling work, marriage and children, the modern Pauline still feels as if she’s hanging by a thread. She faces her challenges with intelligence, courage and sheer force of will plus a large dash of eccentricity. She has to figure out how to save herself. She needs to be smart and fearless. And then of course there’s a dashing lover.

What’s the hardest part about writing? The easiest?

The hardest part is to ignore that mean little voice that says, “You have nothing to offer. You suck.” The easiest part is the comfy chair.

How do you keep your written world from encroaching on your life?

Why would I want to do that?

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I hope that readers will pick up on the theme of forgiveness. In this age of high divorce rates, it is considered to be normal and acceptable to cut loose from a marriage when everything goes off the rails. Of course, in some cases, filing for a divorce is absolutely necessary but, in other cases, a marriage may be saved with hard work and a very large reset button. Very few novels explore the situation of a couple who make huge mistakes and manage to patch things up, although in real life this happens, probably more often than we realize, given how tough staying in a relationship can be.

Book Description

The Perils of Pauline For ex-army vet Pauline Parril, life marches along in an orderly formation now that she is happily married, raising three kids, and ascending a promising career ladder. But the handles of her safe and comfortable world soon turn upside-down when a termination letter lands on her lap and her husband, it turns out, isn’t the person she thought she knew. Things get even more complicated when Pauline returns to school and meets Michael Fortune—a handsome and exciting poetry professor who threatens to get out of hand. Pauline once endured a long deployment to a war-torn country, but can she survive the front lines of her fraying household?

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About the Author

Collette YvonneCollette Yvonne was born in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, Canada where her father served as a fighter pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. She has many fond memories of growing up as a military brat. Now married with three children, she lives in Ontario where she is a part-time yoga instructor, as well as writing. She also enjoys volunteering in the community. She graduated from Toronto’s York University, majoring in Creative Writing with a minor in the Humanities. In her first year, she toyed with the idea of becoming an anthropologist and also considered being a computer scientist! However, following the opportunity to study under well-known Canadian authors such as Don Coles, Susan Swan, Elisabeth Harvor and Bruce Powe, she decided to stick with writing. Collette’s first novel, ‘The Queen of Cups’, was published in August 2006 and was a finalist within its genre in ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year. Other publication credits include many articles, stories, reviews and interviews in various Ontario local newspapers, and national Canadian publications including ‘The Toronto Star’, ‘The National Post’, ‘The Globe and Mail’ and ‘Canadian Woman Studies’. Her subjects tend to be personal journalism with pieces on a wide range of topics and she also likes to write in her blog, along with writing guest posts for other bloggers. She is a member of the Writer’s Community of Durham Region (WCDR), and has developed skills as a photographer, speaker, website designer, editor, and writing workshop facilitator. Editorial contributions have been made to several published works, along with short non-fiction pieces. Indeed, she is equally at home writing both fiction and non-fiction. One of her short stories was made into a short film ‘Snapshots for Henry’, which was screened in numerous film festivals around the world. The film received a nomination for a Genie Award in 2007.

Here is an excerpt from The Perils of Pauline

I step out my front door to find my next-door neighbor standing at the edge of his lawn, staring across at our yard, his lips compressed into a frown.

“Is everything okay, Lewis?”

“Your water sprinkler is too close to my property line.”

“How so? It’s on my lawn.”

“When you water your lawn, my driveway is getting sprinkled.”

I know better than to argue with Lewis. “Okay, no problem, I’ll position the sprinkler further away.”

I better not mention the sprinkler issue to Donald or he might freak out. Over the years, Lewis has complained about the height of our grass (too long), the color of our grass (yellow) and the condition of our grass (weedy). He also demands that we cut down our shady maple and repaint our porch.

The mature maples lining our street are the best feature of this old sprawling suburb with big front porches and quiet cul-de-sacs. Lewis chopped down all his trees last year, citing the aggravation of leaves choking his gutters.

Our grass is admittedly scruffy but that’s because last month Donald spot-sprayed it with a home-brew of salt and vinegar to kill the crabgrass and clover, and ended up pickling the grass instead. He dug out the worst scorched areas and laid pieces of new sod, so now the lawn has bright green patches interspersed with the weedy yellow parts and the dead brown bits. Now all the neighborhood kids like to come over to play The Floor is Lava on our front lawn. The green bits are safe. Step outside them, you die.

I hurry down the sidewalk to Bibienne’s where boring lawns go to die and reincarnate as boisterous perennial gardens full of day lilies, climbing honeysuckle and chrysanthemums. Hummingbirds chase butterflies through pink and purple peonies as I go around the side to her garden doors only to find an abandoned wheelbarrow. Odd. Usually Bibienne is outside pruning her roses on a day like this.

One of the doors is ajar so I rap on the frame and step inside. I love Bibienne’s roomy kitchen: an inspired mix of antique cabinets fitted with granite countertops. A cook’s dream but nothing’s cooking here. Beyond the kitchen, in the family room, I spy Bibienne reclined on the couch watching TV, legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles on the oversized ottoman in front of her. Without taking her eyes from the screen, she frowns at me while laying her palm on top of her head, as if to hold down her thick auburn hair, which is gathered away from her face in a hasty French twist. She raises a warning finger to her lips. Camilo Villegas and Adam Scott are playing so I know enough to remain silent until the next commercial break, when she turns her cool green eyes on me. I’ve interrupted men’s tennis so this better be good.

“I’ve been fired. My assistant, Daria, stole my job.”

“Oh. Okay.” She gets up from the couch and pats my shoulder. “I’ll make you a drink.”

I nod and follow her to the kitchen. I’m safe. I can stick around and watch tennis with her as long as I don’t make too much noise.

“I have ChocoLee chocolates too.” She drops ice cubes into tall glasses and fills them with red wine and lime soda. What luck. Bibienne always drinks Spanish wine cocktails and breaks out the chocolate when Villegas is winning.

Bibienne watches the end of the match with her lips parted and her hand across her heart. After the final point, she turns off the TV, fans her cheeks and sighs. “Él está bueno. Oh well, come see my new laptop. You can try it out while I top us off.”

The connection is lightning fast. I wish I had ripped-speed access to the Internet. Bibienne sets my glass at my elbow and peers over my shoulder. “Career Search Australia?”

“Yeah. Look. They need a snake wrangler in Canberra. Wait a minute, there’s an opening at the Bikini Car Wash.”

I click around. There are a zillion postings for jobs all around the world, from San Francisco to Shanghai. Even Kalamazoo has a raft of listings. Here, in the greater suburbs of the Boston Commonwealth, not so much. Unless I want to commute all the way into the city, like Donald does when he isn’t at the branch office here in town. Since Doubles got so busy, he has to go into the city more often than not these days.

Forget job searching for now. Bibi has a collection of fun apps on her desktop. I click on a Tarot icon. “Is this site any good?”

“Yes, it’s one of the best,” she says. “If you want a quick reading, try the Celtic Cross spread.”

Bibienne knows a lot about tarot. She’s so sharp and perceptive, her massage therapy clients are always asking her to read their cards for them.

I type in my question: What does the future hold for me?

The results show the Queen of Cups, seated in the auspicious Position One, which represents the “Questioner in Her Present Situation.”

“The Queen of Cups is the good woman card,” says Bibienne. “She’s loving and kind. A bit of a dreamer, distracted. But see? She sits on a throne, which means she wields power and makes the rules. The suit of cups represents emotions. Overflowing emotions, hidden emotions, secrets maybe. Who knows what’s in her cup?”

“Bra cups, cups of laundry detergent, cups of wine.”

Bibienne points to my glass. “Your cup of wine is empty.”

Position Two shows the Three of Swords: a lowly card suggestive of trickery and betrayal. “That would be Daria and WiFi-Robes,” I say as Bibienne refills my glass and sits beside me.

“Could be.” She examines the spread. “The Three of Swords usually represents sudden heartbreak or betrayal. But look over here. Your Three is countered by the Two of Swords, which is about the difficulty of making decisions. That’s a double whammy. See the blindfold on the woman in the picture? She can’t see her way. She may not want to see, in fact, she may be in denial.”

It all makes sense. I’ve been betrayed, lost my job, and now I have to make choices about what to do next, right? More curious though is the appearance of the powerful and authoritative Emperor standing in opposition to my Queen. Donald perhaps? But, if the Emperor is my husband, who is the Knight of Cups occupying the near future position? The Knight of Cups is a man of high romance, poetry and passion. Here, Donald doesn’t spring to mind. How intriguing: the card drawn for the position representing Final Outcomes turns out to be The Lovers. As I wander back home I can’t help but note that two cups makes a couple.

© Copyright 2015 Astor+Blue Editions

A Review of Sight Lines by Michelle DiCeglio

Sight Lines

by Michelle DiCeglio

4,0

First things first, I don’t think that the author wrote this book for me. I’m a 66 year-old, retired, male, construction worker. I was a little bit uncomfortable reading a novel where the main character, Lacey Mills. is a lesbian police detective. Her girlfriend was killed two years ago. She is thinking about getting her feet wet, but not sure that she is really ready to get involved with anyone quite yet. She does end up meeting a beautiful young web designer, Alison Rhodes. Ali and Lacey hit it off and before too long, they end up in bed. Now I know guys are supposed to get turned on by some hot girl-on-girl action, but it wasn’t really my thing. BTW, it wasn’t overly explicit either. I wouldn’t call it erotic.

For the most part, Ms. DiCeglio does a good job of bringing Lacey to life. She seems pretty lifelike, just, in my opinion, a bit too emotional to be a cop. It seems like her feelings would interfere with her job. They seem to cloud her judgement at a few crucial moments in this book. She has a hard shell act, but crumbles rather easily. I still liked her and wanted her to get though everything.

Sight Lines is a fast-paced, rather twisty, mystery. The story moves pretty quickly, but does slow down once in a while, mainly when Lacey’s emotions are getting the better of her. I did like some of the tender scenes that took place between Lacey and Ali, and also between Lacey and Bishop, her boss. Overall I enjoyed the story, even though it was a new experience for me.

I give Sight Lines 4 Stars out of 5, and a Thumbs Up! I think that the target audience for this book is the young, hip, female reader, who is looking for a mystery with a romantic twist. They should connect with this story much more than I did.

I received a Digital Review Copy from the publisher.

Book Description

Sight-Lines-cover-artPolice Detective Lacey Mills is on a mission to find a serial killer. Still reeling from the unsolved murder of her girlfriend two years earlier, Lacey has buried herself in work for too long. At least that’s what she’s told on her mandatory appointment with a shrink after being involved in a deadly shootout. It’s time to stop running away from every woman who shows interest in her.

When she meets a beautiful web designer named Ali, Lacey follows the doctor’s advice and lets herself take another chance on love. So much for cutting back on work—it turns out Ali has been hiding a big secret that might change the entire direction of Lacey’s murder investigation.

A mystery/suspense from Ellora’s Cave

Book Details

File Size: 758 KB
Print Length: 173 pages
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave Publishing Inc (November 6, 2015)
Publication Date: November 6, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B0178ADQF0
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
X-Ray: Not Enabled
Word Wise: Enabled
Lending: Not Enabled
Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

About the Author

MDMichelle DiCeglio is the author of Sight Lines published through Ellora’s Cave Publishing, LLC. She has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology and has been working in corrections and law enforcement for fifteen years. She is the photographer and (sometimes) stage manager for a local theater troupe, and in her spare time she will write and direct short films with her friends. Her photography has been published in newspapers and online magazines/blogs.

Michelle is married, and has two dogs and four cats. She hopes to see her novels turn into a movie or television show one day (Netflix, are you listening?).

Michelle can be reached at michellediceg@gmail.com or her website: michellediceglio.com

She is also on twitter: MLRED219 and SightLinesNovel, and Instagram: MLRED_photography

A Review of At the Water’s Edge: A Novel by Sara Gruen

At the Water’s Edge: A Novel

by Sara Gruen

I don’t usually read a book like At the Water’s Edge. I lean more toward action thrillers and mysteries, but I thought that a change of pace might do me good. I’m glad that I went out on a limb and read this. I don’t know exactly how to describe At the Water’s Edge. It takes place in Scotland near the end of World War II, so that would give it a historic label. The story involves a trio of wealthy twenty somethings from the states who are spoiled rich kids on a quest to find the Loch Ness monster, while staying  well lubricated from morning ’till night; so I guess that At the Water’s Edge might be called a buddy film if it was a movie. But then Maddie starts to realize that this party life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and begins to discover the real side of life and love, so maybe it could be called a coming of age novel, or maybe a romance. And then there are some mystical elements and even the possibility that the Loch Ness monster is real. So what can we call it? Amazon gives it two main labels, Historical, and Literary. While edelweiss.com adds Contemporary Women, so I guess that you will have to figure it out for yourself.

Ms. Gruen brings this story to life. It felt like a peek into a lifestyle that I only know from film and fiction. Hank and Ellis (Maddie’s husband) think that the world is divided into two groups, the wealthy and everyone else, whose sole purpose is to serve their privileged class. When Maddie sees that everything isn’t quite the way she always thought; she starts to doubt that she can continue live that way. She connects with the common people, and that threatens her relationship with Ellis. He can’t have his wife becoming a commoner.

Is this a great book? Not quite, but it was very enjoyable. It gives you a lot to think about. I imagine that At the Water’s Edge would make a great book club selection. It would have a plenty of ideas to discuss.

I give At the Water’s Edge 4 1/2 Stars out of 5 and a Big Thumbs Up! If you liked the movie Water for Elephants, then I’m sure you will be captured by At the Water’s Edge.

I received a Digital Review Copy from Netgalley.

Book Description

At-the-Waters-EdgeIn this thrilling new novel from the author of Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen again demonstrates her talent for creating spellbinding period pieces. At the Water’s Edge is a gripping and poignant love story about a privileged young woman’s awakening as she experiences the devastation of World War II in a tiny village in the Scottish Highlands.

After disgracing themselves at a high society New Year’s Eve party in Philadelphia in 1944, Madeline Hyde and her husband, Ellis, are cut off financially by his father, a former army colonel who is already ashamed of his son’s inability to serve in the war. When Ellis and his best friend, Hank, decide that the only way to regain the Colonel’s favor is to succeed where the Colonel very publicly failed—by hunting down the famous Loch Ness monster—Maddie reluctantly follows them across the Atlantic, leaving her sheltered world behind.

The trio find themselves in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands, where the locals have nothing but contempt for the privileged interlopers. Maddie is left on her own at the isolated inn, where food is rationed, fuel is scarce, and a knock from the postman can bring tragic news. Yet she finds herself falling in love with the stark beauty and subtle magic of the Scottish countryside. Gradually she comes to know the villagers, and the friendships she forms with two young women open her up to a larger world than she knew existed. Maddie begins to see that nothing is as it first appears: the values she holds dear prove unsustainable, and monsters lurk where they are least expected.

As she embraces a fuller sense of who she might be, Maddie becomes aware not only of the dark forces around her, but of life’s beauty and surprising possibilities.

Book Details

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (March 31, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385523238
ISBN-13: 978-0385523233
Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
Shipping Weight: 1 pound

About the Author

Photo credit: Tasha Thomas
Photo credit: Tasha Thomas

Sara Gruen is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Water for Elephants, Ape House, Riding Lessons, and Flying Changes. Her works have been translated into forty-three languages, and have sold more than ten million copies worldwide. Water for Elephants was adapted into a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon, Rob Pattinson, and Christoph Waltz in 2011.

She lives in Western North Carolina with her husband and three sons, along with their dogs, cats, horses, birds, and the world’s fussiest goat.