Sunday, January 20, 2019

Of Another Time and Place by Brad Schaeffer

I got to talk about one of my favorite genres on Episode 129 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast: WWII Historical Fiction. I spoke with Brad Schaeffer about his book Of Another Time and Place.

She wondered if he was the man she was searching for. How many men after all could have that name, and be both a retired musician and a former Luftwaffe ace? She had so many unanswered questions. How would he explain the violence, the many deaths by his own hand? How had he survived when so many of his comrades perished under the guns of the Allied air armadas? And most important, had this man somehow found redemption? Or was he just another grizzled old Nazi living out his last days in undeserved anonymity, still unrepentant for the horrors his people inflicted upon the world, and her people in particular.
Rachael Azerod, a New York reporter, flies to London to interview Harmon Becker, the former German WW II hero whom Hitler himself awarded the highest honors—but she has her own reasons for meeting. Was he just a soldier? Or did he do something so astounding that not even he was willing to remember it…until now.
Of Another Time and Place is a novel about love, redemption, and two young lovers separated by war and desperate to survive the unparalleled violence consuming their war-torn nation. It is the story of a country gone astray, mesmerized by their mad Fuehrer, and the artist-turned-warrior and his courageous bride who vow to break his spell and make a difference, even it if means dangling at end of a Nazi rope. (Source)
This story is told from two different time periods. As Rachel interviews Harmon in the modern area he tells her the story of his experience. I liked that the relationship between Rachel and Harmon evolved as the WWII story unfolded. I also really liked how Amelia, Harmon's girlfriend and eventual wife, while a secondary character in many ways, is really the driving force behind much of what happens in the story in terms of Harmon's choices and decisions. She was my favorite character. Most of the WWII novels I've read have been from the perspective of the allies, and while this isn't the first or only story told from a German perspective, I really appreciated how Brad showed a realistic picture of a German citizen during this time. Harmon is a product of his environment, not completely brain-washed by Nazi propaganda, but not completely against the Nazis as a political party, either. It's not black or white and Harmon is a human character who has to examine his life, his choices, and what is happening to his beloved country. This is a well-written, multi-faceted, and enjoyable historical fiction book. 

If you want to know more about Brad and this book you can go to the following places:
Brad Schaeffer is an historian, author, musician, and trader. His eclectic body of writings have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News, and a variety of well-read blogs and news outlets. Of Another Time and Place is his first novel. He lives in New Jersey with his family. (Source)

Friday, January 18, 2019

Their Perfect Melody by Priscilla Oliveras

On Episode 125 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast I was happy to welcome back author Priscilla Oliveras. Priscilla first joined me on Episode 69 to talk about the second book in her Matched to Perfection trilogy Her Perfect Affair. This time she returned to talk about the final book, Their Perfect Melody.

Growing up, Lilí María Fernandez was affectionately known as the family “wild child.” The life of the party, she loved to dance, especially salsa, merengue, and bachata, and often sang beside her father during rehearsals for his trío group. But tragedy and loss have drawn out Lilí’s caretaking side, compelling her to become a victim’s advocate. These days, the special rhythms of the past seem like a distant memory. Until she meets Diego Reyes . . .
A police officer with the Chicago PD, Diego also has a talent for playing classical Spanish guitar. And Lilí soon finds herself inspired by his passion—for the music, for her, and for their shared love of familia and community. Can Diego reignite Lilí’s fun-loving spirit, persuade her to balance work and pleasure—and embrace her wild side once more? (Source)
I really like this family and have enjoyed all three of the sisters' stories. I'm actually sad that this is the conclusion to this trilogy as I will miss the Fernandez family. I love how family-centered this series is and how skillfully Priscilla twines both family life and Puerto Rican culture throughout. I mentioned in the first interview that although I'm not Puerto Rican there are still many aspects of the family dynamics of the Fernandez sisters that I completely relate to. 

Lilí and Diego start out butting heads a lot. They both bring their own issues from their pasts to the relationship and those issues spark mistrust and misunderstanding. They are undeniably attracted to one another, but run into conflict because of their prior experiences. Eventually, they start communicating in ways that help them to better understand one another and are able to move forward. Lilí's sisters, Yazmine and Rosa, are present throughout this book and the reader gets to continue watching their sibling bonds strengthen and grow as they did through the first two books.

If you're a fan of contemporary romance you can't go wrong with this delightful trilogy.

Want to know more about Priscilla and her books?  Go here:

My first language was Spanish, followed quickly by Spanglish as I learned new words and phrases from other kids on the playground. With a Mexican American dad who served in the Navy and a Puerto Rican mom who earned her business degree from the University of Puerto Rico, my life has been a mix of our Latino culture and good ol’ US of A traditions.  Kinda like my books.
I’ve always been a reader—my parents even remind me about how I won a trophy in 2nd grade for reading the most books over the summer.  In high school I wrote a few short stories, and I read my first Harlequin romance while waiting in a hurricane shelter with my parents and siblings in the Florida Keys. When I started complaining about being bored, my dad—yes, my dad, that’s not a typo—handed me one of his Harlequin romance novels. (Source)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Shadow King by Susan K. Hamilton

I WILL catch up eventually! Moving right along we come to Episode 124 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast and my interview with Susan K. Hamilton about her dark fantasy novel Shadow King.

In a world where humans and faeries must live and work together, Aohdan Collins has abandoned the Seelie Court and ruthlessly worked to become the Fae Patriarch of Boston’s criminal underworld. Ambitious and single-minded, Aohdan turns his attention to expanding his influence and power, but when he shares a shot of whiskey with the lovely Seireadan Moore, everything changes.
Cursed with the Sight, Seireadan has been haunted since childhood by a vision of the Fae responsible for the death of her family, and who created The Desolation—the corrupt, dark spell that destroyed the Faerie Realm. Driven by revenge, Aohdan may hold the answers Seireadan seeks, but everyone knows that bad things happen to people who cross Aohdan Collins.
Confronted by tragedy and betrayal, Aohdan and Seireadan find themselves squarely in the Seelie King’s sights, where Seireadan must confront the man who killed her father, and Aohdan is forced to choose between taking on a role that will fracture the Seelie Court forever, or watch everything he’s built—and everyone he loves—be destroyed. (Source)
I have to admit that I'd never heard of dark fantasy before this novel. I'd read some, but didn't know there was a specific genre. For as well read as I think I am, there is a LOT I don't know. I'm OK with this as it means I get to learn new stuff all of the time.

When I first started reading this book I wasn't sure I was going to like Aohdan much as a main character. I much preferred  Seireadan. Aohdan does not come across as a nice person, especially at the beginning, but as the book went on Susan did a great job of developing him so the reader begins to see his character and how he holds to a strict moral code. As their relationship develops both Aohdan and Seireadan bring different aspects of themselves to it, which has an affect on the other. 

One thing I really liked about this story is that the fantasy and normal world aren't separate. The fae are known to the mundane world and interact with them. This isn't terribly common in fantasy books, and I found it really interesting. Susan does a great job of exploring how the two worlds might interact and what happens when the faeries can't simply escape to their own realm or use magic to fix or change things in the human world. This affects how the two worlds interact and what happens to the characters in those interactions.

Susan's writing is engaging and layered, and her characters are nuanced. If you're a fan of dark fantasy you'll enjoy this book. If you've never read dark fantasy but like contemporary fantasy and romance then this is a great place to jump into the world of dark fantasy!

If you want to know more about Susan and her work you can find her in the following places:
Fiction and fantasy author Susan K. Hamilton began writing at an early age but rediscovered her passion while in college. Her first novel, "Darkstar Rising," was published through Xlibris in 2003. Her upcoming title, "Shadow King," was a Top Ten Finalist in the 2016 Launchpad Manuscript Competition and will be released later in 2017 through Inkshares. Susan lives outside of Boston, MA with her husband, cat, and horse. (Source)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Lobster Lake Bandits by Tommy Carbone

On Episode 123 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast I welcomed Tommy Carbone back to talk about his new book The Lobster Lake Bandits: Mystery at Moosehead. Tommy had first been on the podcast in July (Episode 94) to talk about his memoir, Growing Up Greenpoint. For his new book he switched from memoir to mystery and from Brooklyn to his adopted home state of Maine.

Nothing much really happens in the north woods, that is, until you mix seaplanes, poachers, game wardens, and strangers in a mystery at the lake.
Three generations of the Parker family had grown up in the woods near Maine’s Lobster Lake. The Parkers knew the roads, trails, and lakes around their cabin better than anyone, except maybe the local game warden. It was always a peaceful and safe place. That all changed the year Joe Parker rescued a girl, the oddly dressed stranger stalked their woods, and the bandits caused some serious trouble.
The Lobster Lake Bandits is the first book in the Moosehead Mystery series. (Source)
This book is absolutely a love letter to the north woods of Maine and definitely made me want to visit. I really liked the way Tommy wove the various timelines together, and how the flashbacks set up more of the story to come in the rest of the series. I was expecting a bit more of the more recent timeline (set in the 80s) with Joe and Sarah, but their relationship will be explored further as the series continues, which gives me something to look forward to.

If I had to choose one word to describe this book it would be layers: layers of mystery, layers of timelines, and layers of relationship. Each layer builds on the ones previous to create a rich story full of interesting secondary characters, likeable main characters, and a location that is a character in itself.

If you want to know more about Tommy Carbone and his books, you can find him in the following places:
Amazon Author Page: Tommy Carbone
GoodReads: Tommy Carbone

Tommy Carbone grew up in Greenpoint Brooklyn during the 1970s and early 80s.  He roamed the avenues, hung out in candy stores playing pinball, and dodged cars chasing spaldeens. Brooklyn was then, as it is now, the “4th largest city” in America.
He now writes from a one-room cabin, on the shore of a lake that is frozen for six months out of the year, and where moose outnumber people 3 to 1. (Source)

The Money is Green by Owen Sullivan

On Episode 121 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast I spoke with Owen Sullivan about his book The Money is Green as well as the other three books in his Indecent Fortunes series. I've known Owen for about 8 years, and he has been friends with my hubby for over 20, so it was a lot of fun to get to chat with him on the podcast about his books. And we got to chat in person! I've done all of my other interviews over the phone or via Skype, but since Owen is local he actually came to the studio which I really enjoyed.

After losing his wife to an affair, along with the electrical contracting company he built, Jason Ballard is experiencing life at its cruelest. In a desperate attempt to get back on his feet, he takes a job at Soltech, a thriving solar panel company based in Shanghai, only to discover all that glitters is not gold.
Mei Chen the seductive wife of the third highest-ranking official in the Communist Party, owns and operates Soltech with an iron fist. An industrious and successful business woman, she makes not attempt to hide her excessive wealth or shy away from her controversial opinions. Although extremely powerful, she yearns for more...wealth, status and above all more power.
Leave it to the United States Congress to throw open the doors to the vault. With literally billions of dollars slated for "green energy" projects, Mei Chen stands boldly at the front of the line to grab as much of the "green money" as she can. Jason, realizing too late that Mei is a ruthless adversary and will stop at nothing...risks his very life to oppose her. (Source)
This series introduced me to a lot of aspects of finance, building, real estate, etc. that I didn't know, and this book was no exception, teaching me about the solar industry (I joked in the interview that he is the only person I know who could make use the word photovoltaic in a book and make it sound completely natural). Owen has a way of writing about these topics, which are important to the overall plots, that is informative and integral to the story without making my eyes glaze over as I wondered why there was so much detail. This book is full of action and intrigue with touches of humor, romance, and family dynamics. The characters were well-developed and layered and the story kept me engaged throughout.

All four of Owen's books are part of his Indecent Fortune series, but each can be read as a stand-alone novel.

If you would like to learn more about Owen and his books you can find him in the following places:

With a degree from USC’s School of Business in Real Estate Finance and Marketing, Owen Sullivan has attacked almost every corner of the real estate industry for over 35 years. From one tip of California to the other, he served as Senior VP for one of the largest builders in the country. In 1987, he ventured off to start his own company, developing and selling in excess of $300 million in real estate ventures. (Source)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Toilet Trouble, Take a Hike! and Bedtime Story by Brett Fleishman

As I continue playing catch-up on the blog posts, I move on to Episode 119 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast and my interview with Brett Fleishman. Brett writes collections of children's poetry and joined me on the episode to talk about the three books in his second collection, one each for different levels of readers.
A collection of 20 humorous poems designed for beginner readers (grades K-2). Volume 2 of this series includes a reunion of the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs, a surprise birthday present for a baby crocodile, an uninviting hole in an ice skating rink, and much, much more. (Source)

A collection of 30 humorous poems designed for intermediate readers (grades 3-5). Volume 2 of this series includes a store that sells human body parts, a girl who controls the moon with her nose, a white-water rafting trip with an unexpected ending, and much, much more! (Source)

A collection of 25 humorous poems designed for advanced readers (grades 5-7). Volume 2 of this series includes a poorly planned Treasure Hunt, a rather chaotic manure machine, a very competitive laundry-shooting game, and much, much more! (Source)
All three collections are delightful. Brett's poetry reminds me a lot of that of  Shel Silverstein, and he captures the humor of each of the three age groups perfectly. I love that the books also contain word puzzles (some of which are actually quite hard!). In addition, he uses a lot of puns, metaphors, etc. which are explained in a glossary at the back of the book so if a child is confused or wants clarification while reading he or she can find it easily.

Brett does quite a bit of work with different schools, so something else I really appreciated about these collections is that they contain poems written by students from the schools he works with. He asks the students to write a specific type of poetry after they've discussed it and then he chooses winners to be included in his books. How cool would it be for a kid to have his or her poem chosen to be published?

If you would like to know more about Brett's poetry collections you can find him in the following places:
Brett Fleishman grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. In 1995, he earned his B.A. In 2001, he earned his M.B.A. At no point did he earn a roster spot in the N.B.A. Since 2001, Brett has been living with his two sons, Jacob and Dylan, in the greater Boston area. (Please note that, while Brett and his sons enjoy living in Boston, their sports allegiances remain firmly Philadelphian.) (Source)

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Fabulous!: An Opera Buffa by Laury A. Egan

I am so very far behind on the blog posts for the podcast. So I'm going to try to catch up. Way back on Episode 118 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast I interviewed Laury A. Egan about her book Fabulous!: An Opera Buffa.

A talented opera singer, Gilbert Eugene Rose, moonlights as a drag queen and diva divine, Kiri De Uwana, in order to pay his rent. However, Gil is dying to become famous on the New York operatic stage; unfortunately he might get his wish when he lands lead roles as a soprano and tenor in separate productions and is also hired to sing Handel by a dangerous female gangster who is at war with the producer of one of the two operas. Suddenly, happy-go-lucky Gil finds himself stranded in the middle of Mobster Boulevard, aflutter in heels, dresses, and wigs, with only his wits for protection and a new romance for inspiration. (Source)
This book is hilarious, and yes, fabulous. Gilbert as a main character was occasionally over-the-top and campy, making me laugh and sometimes roll my eyes. He's not a one dimensional character, though. He is caring, loyal, creative, funny, has complicated relationships with his mother and ex-boyfriend. The story contains elements of comedy, suspense, action, and romance, with secondary characters that contribute and enhance each of those elements. Laury's writing is full of humor and warmth and she has created a story that is thoroughly enjoyable. At 254 pages it's a quick read with a fast-paced plot.

If you would like to know more about Fabulous! And Opera Buffa or about Laury as an author, you can find her online at the following places:

Facebook: @lauryaegan

Laury A. Egan is the author of the young adult/adult novel, The Outcast Oracle, listed as a "Best Book of 2013" by Kirkus Revews; Fabulous! An Opera Buffa; the collection, Fog and Other Stories; and the psychological suspense, Jenny Kidd. Her stories have appeared in 35 literary journals and have been nominated for numerous awards; “The Mime” was a finalist for the Glass Woman Prize and "I Really Can't Say" was a finalist for the Glass Woman Ghost Story Prize. “Split,” “Fergus,” and “Jango Jacks” were honored by Short Story America as “Story-of-the-Week” and included in Volumes 1 and 2 of their anthologies. Her two full-length poetry books, Snow, Shadow, a Stranger and Beneath the Lion’s Paw, were issued by FootHills Publishing in limited edition, as were two chapbooks, Presence & Absence and The Sea & Beyond (the long poem "Beyond" was named an Inernational Merit winner by Atlanta Review and "The Sea" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize). She lives on the northern coast of New Jersey. (Source)