After You Giveaway

October 3, 2015 Book Talk, Giveaway 1

One of the most in-depth discussions my IRL book club ever had was  the night we discussed Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  Lou captured our hearts with her effervescent spirit and zest for life. I was overjoyed to hear Moyes had written After You as a follow-up to Lou’s story.  With many thanks to Pamela Dorman Books I’ve got a nice, shiny, brand-new copy of After You for one of my lovely readers.

after you

from Goodreads:

How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?

After You is quintessential Jojo Moyes—a novel that will make you laugh, cry, and rejoice at being back in the world she creates. Here she does what few novelists can do—revisits beloved characters and takes them to places neither they nor we ever expected.


Entries accepted til Saturday, October 10th at 11:59 pm. U.S. entries only.  One winner will be chosen at random to receive a copy of After You by Jojo Moyes. Good luck!

Here’s a great interview of Jojo Moyes by Sophie Kinsella. AND the publisher has put together a really sweet book club kit.  My favorite part is the list of books and websites as a feminism primer – so cool!

Happy weekend friends!



What does The Shining Have to do with The Night Sister?

October 2, 2015 Book Review 2

I received this book for free from complimentary review copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

What does The Shining Have to do with The Night Sister?The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon
Published by Doubleday on August 4th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 322
Format: Hardcover
Source: complimentary review copy


The first and only time I saw the movie “The Shining” I got to the part with the little kid on the tricycle and had to leave the room. . .I’m a huge scaredy cat when it comes to horror.  Add a creepy hotel and Jack Nicholson and to this day I have nightmares of “Red Rum!”

But. I’m human enough to thoroughly enjoy scaring myself to death. Having read The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon I knew I had to read her latest, The Night Sister.  Set in a creepy motel in rural Vermont with a replica of the London Tower at the entrance, The Night Sister has location, location, location in spades.  The setting drew me in and swept me along even more so than the characters.  Jennifer McMahon is a master at setting up an atmosphere of spooky without depending on blood and gore.

I was reminded of the old “Dark Shadows” episodes while I was reading The Night Sister – well, “Dark Shadows” and “The Shining!”  The book gives you that sense of dark and foreboding.  The characters were lightly drawn but engaging.  At times it was a little difficult to keep up with who was who but the plot kept me flipping pages as fast as I could.

If you’re looking for a creepy, atmospheric, plot-driven novel for your October reads, definitely pick up The Night Sister.  Then come back and tell me at one point you figured out who killed the family in the opening pages!

Linking up to Jenn’s Bookshelves for Murder, Monsters, Mayhem and the R.I.P. X challenge.

R.I.P. X

Many thanks to Doubleday Books for the review copy.


You Can’t Read That

October 1, 2015 Book Talk, Giveaway 15



Growing up in a family of readers I was surrounded by books of all shapes and sizes.  My Granny always had going one of those “historical bodice-rippers,” while my grandfather would be reading detailed mystery after mystery.  My mom loved poetry and every now and then we would catch her writing a short story or poem of her own.  My dad was probably the most eclectic reader going from a traditional western to main-stream thriller to even a few of those historical bodice-rippers he would read when no one was looking!  I really don’t recall having too many children’s books and definitely no young adult books around like thankfully there are today.  Instead, I was picking up any book that sounded remotely interesting and burying my nose into the pages for hours on end {when I could hide away from the farm work 😉 }

Of course my family took me to the library and I would check out the maximum number of books allowable…at the time I seem to recall it was 20!

So now every year, when banned books week rolls around, I am eternally grateful to my family for raising me to not only be a reader but to be a reader who thinks and feels and has opinions for herself. No one ever, ever told me “You can’t read that.”

One of  my favorite quotes about why it is so important we continue to fight attempts at censorship is from Oscar Wilde, author of The Picture of Dorian Gray.  The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.”

A quick glance at the top three books challenged during 2015 reveals just that –

The Absolutely True Diary of Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie is banned and challenged because “the book contains numerous depictions of sexual behavior, as well as instances of racism, vulgar language, bullying, and violence.”  Have you heard that bullying never happens! Quite amazing how far we’ve come as a society, eh?

Persepolis by Marjane Sartrapi challenged for “depicting torture techniques that were used on Iranian dissidents.”  Students fighting the challenge responded about the graphic novel panels stating the panels “are no more graphic than images encountered while studying other true events such as the Holocaust or slavery.”  Nope, the Iranian Revolution never happened either.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison is banned and challenged due to “sexual and violent content.”  Yup, the molestation of 11 year old children never happens. . .let’s continue to sweep it under the rug so those victims never learn it didn’t just happen to them and they CAN tell someone their devastating secret.

Can you tell I get a little passionate about this subject? Am I overly passionate and insistent that books are important – especially the books that “shows the world its own shame?”

2015 Banned Books Week Giveaway

In honor of Banned Books Week I’m giving away one Banned Books Composition Notebook from and one book of your choice up to $15 from Amazon or The Book Depository – your preference.  This is an international giveaway and ends Saturday, October 3rd at 11:59 pm EST.  One winner will be chosen at random.  Good luck!

Giveaway Ended.

This post is part of the  “Playing to Beat the Banned Week.”  I hope you’ll check out some of the other fabulous posts by bloggers at Sheila’s site.



Secrets Revealed in The Admissions

September 7, 2015 Book Review 4

I received this book for free from complimentary review copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Secrets Revealed in The AdmissionsThe Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore
Published by Doubleday on August 18th 2015
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: complimentary review copy


The Admissions reveals the inner-workings of an upscale family living in a prized suburb of San Francisco.  Seventeen year old Angela is the beloved first-born to Nora and Gabe.  She’s been groomed since the age of two for a college career at Harvard.  When the story begins Angela has just begun her senior year of high school.  She is the anticipated valedictorian, runs competitive cross-country, participates in a myriad of extra-curricular activities and is getting her college application ready to submit.  Ten year old Cecily is a talented Irish dance competitor and the peacemaker of the family.  Eight year old Maya is in second grade, but she still cannot read, much to her family’s chagrin.

With each chapter focusing on a different character, The Admissions slowly builds to a denouement that leaves no one in the family unscathed.  Thoroughly enjoyable, shocking on some accounts ~ did you know that some high school students and their parents hire summer overseers to plan the best use of the student’s summer? To the point of recommending a student bypass family vacation so he or she can squeeze in one more activity that will look good on college applications?

Although I’m a huge fan of long books, this one came in at only 320 pages but felt longish.  Normally the longer the better, but in this case, I wanted to know what happened to the family.  The introduction is shocking and left me anxious to discover what happened, but it took about 3/4 of the novel to get to the point where I learned the outcome.  So, while not necessarily a bad thing, I kept getting impatient.  BUT I resisted reading the ending first.  I sure wanted to though!

One side note that I very much loved about The Admissions ~ Angela is in an AP Honors Lit class and is constantly using SAT words to replace cliched phrases and average words.  I learned a few new words just reading The Admissions; words like piquantengagingly provocative; indefatigableincapable of being fatigued; ignominydeep, personal humiliation and disgrace. {definitions from Merriam-Webster}

Recommended for readers who enjoyed Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford or Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple or warm, humorous, modern-day family dramas.  The Admissions will have you looking at your own family problems in a whole new way.   It will also have you reminding family members that the fall out from any secret kept is much worse than the fallout from admitting something up front.  The takeaways from this novel are spot on!  I know I was thankful to a. not live in an upscale suburb of San Francisco, b. not be a teenager ever. ever. again. and c. that all families have problems, just different ones.

Learn more about the author at

The Admissions is included in the She Reads “Books of Fall.”  Visit to read what other bloggers are saying.

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me a copy to review.




#30authors: S.M. Hulse recommends Road Ends by Mary Lawson

September 4, 2015 Book Talk 5

The one thing I’ve learned from six years of blogging is that bloggers are a huge community and authors are the coolest people ever.  Last year, Allison from The Book Wheel created an event to bring authors, bloggers and readers together.  I’m thrilled to be a small piece of the cog in the wheel {yup, pun intended}!  And immensely thrilled to host S.M. Hulse, author of Black River, on The Novel Life as she shares her review of Road Ends by Mary Lawson.


#30Authors is an annual event connecting readers, authors, and bloggers. Throughout the month of September, 30 authors review their favorite books on 30 blogs in 30 days. The event has been met with incredible support from and success within the literary community. In the six months following the event’s inaugural launch, the concept was published as an anthology by Velvet Morning Press (Legacy: An Anthology). Started by The Book Wheel, #30Authors remains active throughout the year and you can join in the fun by following along on Twitter at @30Authors, using the hashtag, #30Authors, or purchasing the anthology. To learn more about the event and to see the full schedule, please click here.

S.M. Hulse recommends Road Ends

road endsThe Cartwright family is a mess. Edward Cartwright spends most of his time at work, and when he’s home he shuts himself in his study. His wife, Emily, seems even more distant than usual, and eldest son Tom is away at school. The household is in disarray, and the only one holding it together is Megan, the second-eldest child and the only daughter. But as Mary Lawson’s Road Ends opens, Megan has had enough.

Megan has spent most of her life as the primary force of order in her chaotic family home, but at twenty-one she fears that if she doesn’t leave her small Canadian hometown now, she never will. In characteristic no-nonsense fashion, she discards most of her possessions, then informs her family of her intention to move to England. When she tells her boyfriend, he proposes marriage. Her only response: “Patrick, please.”

Things don’t immediately go as planned. Megan, who has never been to a city before, promptly has her suitcase stolen and discovers that the friend with whom she was planning to stay has moved to France. However, before long she finds work that makes use of her impressive organizational skills and she sets about building a life in London. It can be difficult to write about a character who is essentially happy, but many of the novel’s most satisfying scenes involve Megan growing in confidence as she goes about her daily routine: working at a hotel, living in a space that is hers and hers alone, flirting with the man who rents the room across the hall.

Like Lawson’s previous novels Crow Lake and The Other Side of the Bridge, Road Ends is set primarily in and around the fictional northern Ontario community of Struan. Also like those novels, Road Ends makes use of multiple timelines. While part of the book follows Megan’s experiences in England beginning in 1966, other portions of the novel chronicle the tribulations of Megan’s family in Struan in 1969. It is these portions of the novel that illustrate how very integral Megan was to her family’s basic functioning.

In Megan’s absence, her mother has—against medical advice—become pregnant and given birth to her ninth child. Emily Cartwright has always focused on her newborn children to the exclusion of the others, but this time her behavior is taken to extremes. Megan’s father, Edward, is not exactly oblivious to the changes in his wife, but does his best to pretend he doesn’t notice them—or anything else going on in the family home. Megan’s eldest brother, Tom, has experienced perhaps the most dramatic downward spiral, as he has abandoned his aeronautics studies in favor of driving a snowplow. Lost in the shuffle are Megan’s other brothers. The older ones can take care of themselves, more or less, but four-year-old Adam cannot and suffers from her absence the most.

While the utter helplessness of the Cartwright family can be frustrating, Lawson makes it clear that indifference isn’t to blame. Road Ends devotes as many pages to Edward and Tom as it does to Megan, and in these chapters, it becomes clear that Edward’s past has left him paralyzed, afraid to involve himself in his family’s affairs. Early in the book, he yells at two of his sons and later reflects: “I heard my father’s voice today. Like the echo of a nightmare.” Tom is similarly haunted by his past, though in his case he is troubled by more recent history, particularly his friend’s suicide and the events that precipitated it.

The greatest strength of Road Ends is Lawson’s ability to deeply imbue each of her characters with an authentic humanity. They are flawed people, and readers may not approve of each of their actions, but they will absolutely understand them. Even relatively minor characters, like Struan’s former reverend, are fully formed individuals whose pasts affect their presents. (Readers familiar with Lawson’s previous work will be delighted to find that two other minor characters are familiar faces from Crow Lake.) The town of Struan, it should be noted, is a character in its own right, a complex entity with a long history and both positive and negative attributes.

Inevitably, Megan’s storyline once again intersects with that of the rest of her family. Tom has been reluctantly taking care of Adam’s most basic needs, but when he makes a discovery that proves Adam has been neglected more deeply than he realized, Tom calls Megan in England and asks her to come home. Megan must decide whether she has given her family enough, and whether returning is really the best thing for them—and for her. Some readers might wish that Megan’s choice were a bit more wrenching than it turns out to be—some potentially-significant factors are undercut somewhat as the novel draws to a close, and an opportunity arises the timing of which might generously be termed “convenient”—but Megan’s decision remains a difficult one for myriad reasons Lawson has deftly illustrated over the course of the book. Road Ends is an excellent novel with a deeply rooted sense of place, a strong cast of flawed but sympathetic characters, and an ending that satisfies.



Photo Credit: Rick Singer Photography

Photo Credit: Rick Singer Photography

S. M. Hulse is the author of the novel Black River, which has been long-listed for the 2015 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and was an American Booksellers Association Indies Introduce title, an Amazon Best Book of the Month, and an Indie Next List pick. Her stories have appeared in Willow Springs, Witness, and Salamander. Hulse received her M.F.A. from the University of Oregon and was a fiction fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in Spokane, Washington. 

Learn more about Ms. Hulse on her website or connect on Facebook or Twitter. Add Black River to your Goodreads shelf and purchase Black River from Amazon or IndieBound.

Find out more about Mary Lawson, author of Road Ends on her website or Goodreads.  And after reading that review I know you want a copy of Road Ends for yourself, right! Purchase from Amazon or IndieBound.

A tremendous shout out to Allison for the creation and continuation of the #30authors event! And a huge thank you to Ms. Hulse for joining us today, sharing a new-to-me author that I’m anxious to read.

Lovely Readers, Allison has the best giveaway in celebration of #30authors.  Check out the lineup of 18 books + more at The Book Wheel Blog.


With wishes for an uninterrupted reading day and copious amounts of hot tea {or coffee}!