Posted in Giveaways Reviews 2013 Wisconsin Author

Spotlight: Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini with Review and Giveaway

mrs. lincolns dressmaker

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker
Historical Fiction
Dutton (January 15, 2013)
Published by The Penguin Group
Hardcover: 352 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0525953616
E-Book File Size: 716 KB

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

This story tells of the friendship between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keckley. Lizzie, a slave who bought the way out of slavery for both herself and her son did so using her sewing talents. She went on to sew for some of the elite woman in Washington D.C. When Mrs. Lincoln moved to The White House she chose Lizzie over many applicants to be her her personal “modiste,” responsible not only for creating the First Lady’s gowns, but also for dressing Mrs. Lincoln in the beautiful attire she created for the first lady. Their friendship quickly evolved and she became part of the fabric of the Lincoln White House. She was there to see Mary through the loss of her son and the assassination of her husband.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
Chiaverini has written an in depth look at an important time in history from the women’s point of view as only she can. It is well researched and flows smoothly into the reader’s heart and mind. This being her first novel away from her characters in the Elm Creek Series there were a bit of growing pains in places. She is writing about real people and tries to keep all the facts straight even though the book is fiction which can be extremely difficult. Readers should know this is not a quilting or a quilter’s story but Lizzie does create a quilt from the scraps leftover from her creations for Mrs. Lincoln. This is a very small part of this novel.

The author has a reputation of writing strong woman and Elizabeth Keckley is one strong woman. She definitely went above and beyond for Mrs. Lincoln. Chiaverini has captured her excellently and it is easy to forget Lizzie was a real person. Her insight into Mary Todd Lincoln was enlightening as well. Reading stories like this one are superb ways to learn more about the people the history texts forget about or only mention in passing. 

This book is everything I expect a Jennifer Chiaverini novel. Wonderful characters in a fascinating time and exciting places.  Fans of historical fiction will absolutely love this book. I sure did!! I can’t wait to read her next novel due out in October. The Spymistress features Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union loyalist who was a spy for General Grant.

a perfect escape


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Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker

Picture by Steven Garfinkel
Picture by Steven Garfinkel

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker chronicles the friendship between First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley, who was born a slave and earned her freedom through her skill with a needle. What brought this story to your attention, and how did it inspire your first stand-alone historical novel?

More than a decade ago, I was researching antebellum and Civil War era quilts for my fourth novel when I discovered a photograph of an antique masterpiece. Arranged in the medallion style, with appliquéd eagles, embroidered flowers, meticulously-pieced hexagons, and deep red fringe, the quilt was the work of a gifted needleworker, its striking beauty unmarred by the shattered silk and broken threads that gave evidence to its age. The caption noted that the quilt had been sewn from scraps of Mary Todd Lincoln’s gowns by her dressmaker and confidante, a former slave named Elizabeth Keckley. I marveled at the compelling story those brief lines suggested—a courageous woman’s rise from slavery to freedom, an improbable friendship that ignored the era’s sharp distinctions of class and race, the confidences shared between a loyal dressmaker and a controversial, divisive First Lady. What I would give, I thought, to have been present as Elizabeth Keckley measured Mary Lincoln for a new gown, to overhear their conversations on topics significant and ordinary, to observe the Lincoln White House from such an intimate perspective. From that moment, my interest in their remarkable friendship was captivated, and it never really waned.

Readers may be surprised to learn that Elizabeth Keckley was not only an accomplished modiste and businesswoman, but also a published author. Was meeting a historical figure through her own words different than encountering her via more distant historical sources?

A few years after I learned about the Mary Todd Lincoln Quilt, I was researching a Civil War novel set on the Pennsylvania home front when I realized that many of my secondary sources cited the same work—Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House, a memoir published in 1868 by Elizabeth Keckley. Struck by the familiar name, I immediately found a reprint and plunged into her story, which told of her harrowing years as a slave, her difficult struggle for freedom, and her ascendance as the most popular dressmaker of Washington’s social elite, including the new president’s wife. Sewing in the Lincoln family’s chambers within the White House, dressing Mrs. Lincoln for balls and receptions, Keckley observed Abraham and Mary Lincoln in their most private, unguarded moments, and with them she witnessed some of the most glorious and most tragic events in the nation’s history. Reading the story of her life in her own words made her experiences more immediate and more compelling, and for a long time afterward, I longed to delve more deeply into Elizabeth Keckley’s history, to learn about the woman she was beyond her friendship with Mary Lincoln, to discover what had happened after the closing passages of her memoir, and to uncover the details of everyday life in wartime Washington she had omitted.

President Lincoln is often characterized by his calm, thoughtful, and wise demeanor. The same, however, can’t be said for Mrs. Lincoln. In Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, you paint a picture of a complex, yet fascinating woman with mood swings and emotional outbursts but who also possesses a strong and confident presence.  Can you describe your insights on her character? Why is she such an intriguing person, not just in your book but also in history?

Despite the volumes of historical and psychological research devoted to Mary Lincoln, she remains an enigma. She was the first wife of a US president to be called First Lady, and she was then and remains to this day one of the most controversial. Regrettably, descriptions of her tend to fall into the extremes of caricature: She is either portrayed as an unstable, shrill, vicious, corrupt shrew who made President Lincoln utterly miserable, or as a devoted wife and mother and a brilliant, shrewd, political helpmeet whose reputation was savaged by biased male historians. As a friend and confidante who observed Mary Lincoln closely in moments of triumph as well as tragedy, Elizabeth Keckley knew her as a real woman, full of flaws and virtues and surprises like any other. It was this far more nuanced woman that Elizabeth Keckley depicted in the pages of her memoir, and since Elizabeth Keckley is my narrator, I shaped the character of Mary Lincoln according to her perceptions.

Mrs. Lincoln chose Elizabeth Keckley first for her superior dressmaking skills; later for her confidence and friendship. Despite differences in temperament, status, and race, each woman made profound sacrifices for her country. Was it shared experience that cemented their bond?

Shared experiences certainly strengthened their bond, and for as long as their relationship endured, it was, for the most part, mutually beneficial. Mary Lincoln provided Elizabeth Keckley with opportunities for social and economic advancement she probably could not have even imagined during her years as a slave, while Elizabeth offered Mary the loyal, steadfast friendship she craved but had always found so elusive. But Mary assumed that the faithful Elizabeth would keep their shared experiences confidential. Loyalty meant everything to Mary, which is why their friendship could not survive the publication of Elizabeth’s memoir. Elizabeth claimed to have written her memoir in part to place Mary “in a better light before the world,” but since she was determined to write the truth, her portrayal was often unflattering. As publication day approached, Elizabeth worried that she might be criticized for revealing too much about the private lives of President Lincoln and the First Lady. “I have been prompted by the purest motive,” she defended herself in the book’s preface. “A breach of trust—if breach it can be called—of this kind is always excusable.” Understandably, Mary did not agree, and her sense of betrayal was so profound that she abruptly severed ties with the woman she had once considered her “best and kindest friend.” For the rest of her life, she rebuffed Elizabeth’s attempts to reconcile.

History has a way of offering its lessons in the way of recognizable trends and patterns. Elizabeth Keckley’s story was largely lost to history, yet it has recently been restored, through efforts to restore her gravesite, and now your novel. What do you regard as her legacy? 

Certainly her writing is a significant part of her legacy. Despite the vitriol of her critics and Robert Lincoln’s efforts to rid the world of Behind the Scenes, Elizabeth Keckley’s memoir, so denounced in its time, is today respected for its invaluable insights into the Lincoln White House. The influence she had upon President Lincoln—not in any official role of advisor, but rather through her presence and conversation, making him better aware of the needs of the African-American community—and how it might have informed his opinions and thus guided his policy decisions is another. Another part of her legacy—perhaps impossible to measure—springs from her role as a teacher, not only in her later years, when she worked as a domestic arts instructor at Wilberforce University, but also and especially when she taught sewing, reading, and other important skills to the former slaves living in Washington’s overcrowded refugee camps. She helped countless numbers of women gain the skills and knowledge they needed to build better lives for themselves and their families in the new world of freedom.

Entertainment Weekly has recently described President Lincoln as “having a moment.” Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed film Lincoln has renewed interest in this renowned figure in American history. From your experience in writing about him and his era, what has brought his Presidency back into cultural consideration?

Although interest certainly has escalated recently, Abraham Lincoln has always loomed large in the American imagination, perhaps because his story is so quintessentially American—from humble beginnings, through hard work and perseverance, he rose to success and renown. His tragic assassination just as the dawn of peace rose above the horizon only enhances his legend, because we will forever wonder what might have been, what else he would have accomplished had he lived. He consistently ranks at or near the top in national surveys rating the presidents on their greatness, their achievements, their leadership, and even those who disagree with his methods acknowledge that he saw the country through its most serious national crisis. The story of his presidency is especially relevant today, as the United States grapples with many of the same issues President Lincoln faced—matters of race, of the gulf between socioeconomic classes, of the role of government and the presidency, and of the challenge of fostering democracy in a nation of deeply divided citizens.

Your New York Times bestselling Elm Creek Quilts series has frequently drawn on history to great acclaim, and your passion for the American people, their struggles and triumphs, shines through. What is it about the antebellum and Civil War eras, especially, that intrigues you as a writer?

The antebellum and Civil War eras were a tumultuous and transformative time for our nation, showing the best and worst of humanity in stark contrast. Looking back, we discover great moral failings alongside true heroism in the struggle for justice, equality, and freedom. My personal heroes are people who face adversity with moral courage and dignity, whose hunger for justice and compassion for others lead them to stand up for what is right even at great risk to themselves. My favorite characters to write about either possess similar qualities, or are given the opportunity to summon up these qualities and do what is right but fall short. What slavery, the Underground Railroad, secession, and the Civil War say about our country—that we are capable of both great moral failings and tremendous goodness—resonates strongly even today, perhaps especially today, and as a creative person, I am drawn to explore and try to understand that conflict.

What is your next work of fiction? Can readers expect to meet another remarkable yet little known figure from America’s past?

My next novel, The Spymistress (Dutton, October 2013), will explore the suspenseful, clandestine life of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union loyalist who was General Grant’s most valuable spy in her native Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital during the tumultuous years of the Civil War.

I loved this book and would really like to add it to my Keeper Shelf
but I am going to share it with one lucky person.
Thank you to the people a Dutton for this copy!
The book hits shelves in exactly one week
so this is going to be a quick giveaway
so if you haven’t won the copy you can rush out and purchase the book!


There will be no Bonus Entries to give everyone a fair chance.

Winner will be notified by email and will be posted in the sidebar of this blog.
Good Luck Everyone!!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Reviews 2012 Wisconsin Author

Review: The Giving Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

The Giving Quilt:
An Elm Creek Quilts Novel

20th in Series
Dutton (October 30, 2012)
Published by The Penguin Group
Hardcover: 336 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0525953609
Jacket Design by Monica Benalcazar
Jacket Quilt by Janet Miller/The City Stitcher

The Giving Quilt: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel


The week after Thanksgiving is a very special time at Elm Creek Manor. It is Quiltsgiving! A week were quilters come and make quilts to give to Project Linus.

Master Quilter Sylvia Bergstrom Compson Cooper starts the week by asking the quilter’s “Why do you give?” Each quilter has their own reasons for coming to Elm Creek Manor at this time and most have trouble answering Sylvia’s question. As the week goes by they bond together making the quilts, sewing love and comfort right into each wonderful quilt. The friendships also bloom and burdens are lifted. The Giving Quilt will remind us all: Giving from the heart blesses the giver as much as the recipient, and while giving may not always be easy, it is always worthwhile.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Visiting Elm Creek Manor is like wrapping yourself in a warm cozy quilt. This story was a pure joy to read.

Chiaverini brings back all the characters we love and introduces to a wonderful new group of quilters too. She sews together their stories in a way that seems effortless and yet is so inspiring. These stories always leave me wanting to gather fabric and lose myself stitching a quilt, something I haven’t been able to do since my accident, but this story invoked another thought process all about giving. Why do I personally give and how? Can I give more?

It was Michaela’s story that really touched my heart. I immediately went in to mother mode and wanted to protect her like I would do for my own daughters. So young and so strong and then stronger through the support she found making new friends at Elm Creek. If I would have been her age, a leg in a cast, I would have never pushed ahead to attend this week long quilting event. But she does and she has given me a push I probably needed to search out ways to do sew and quilt again someday. That asking for help to do something you love is important and maybe I may never be able to do it myself again but I plan to teach my daughters and try to revive my passion and pass it on to them.

Each character is different with various problems they are facing at home. Everyone that reads this book with find one or more characters they can identify with and understand.

A heartwarming and powerful story. A perfect read for this time of year that reminds us that giving and helping others can be more than a holiday event, it should be a year round happening.

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Find out more about Jennifer Chiaverini here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Reviews 2012

Review: Sweet Talk by Julie Garwood

Sweet Talk
Dutton (August 7, 2012)
Published by The Penguin Group
Hardcover: 368 pages
Contemporary Romantic Suspense
ISBN-13: 978-0525952862

Sweet Talk

The “Pips” are a group of four young girls Olivia MacKenzie, Samantha Pearson, Jane Weston, and Collins Davenport, that bonded while locked in a hospital for an experimental program for a disease that so far no drug could conquer. Their veins were pumped with poison and had excruciating pain for days after each infusion.

The story then jumps twelve years into the future where the “Pips” are young women in remission. They have all moved on but are heavily weighed down by the isolation they had endured and the fear the disease will return.

Olivia is an attorney who works for the IRS. She is determined to bring down a Ponzi scheme that has stolen millions from unsuspecting people. This is personal for her and even when she realizes her life is danger she doesn’t back down.

Enter FBI Agent Grayson Kincaid. Together they make an excellent team to uncover the whole story of corruption Olivia has been chasing. The added distraction that they are crazy about each other is a battle they are both trying to set aside until justice is served but is not easy. When they get within a few feet of each other you can just feel the heat. They need to keep themselves in control or they could both get burned.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
It has been awhile since I have escaped into a Julie Garwood novel. When this one arrived I moved it to the top of my reading list. I am glad I did. It is a fantastic story.

The suspense and the romance are blended perfectly. The plot is so relevant today. The romance is steamy and the mystery is masterfully detailed.

I loved the relationship between Olivia and her aunt Emma. Glad that Olivia had someone in her corner. Her immediate family was so dysfunctional. Her mother and sister were just blind to everything happening right in front of them. They were like “Stepford Wives” – absolutely mindless. It makes you understand why Olivia isolated away grew up to be an amazingly smart and independent woman. A woman who spent her spare time fighting for the rights of children and protecting children in dangerous home situations.

Grayson was the typical hunky male you read about in most romance novels but has an interesting back story as well. Assuming care for his ailing father, taking in his young nephew because his brother couldn’t cope with taking care of his own son, comfortable among the rich and famous, FBI Agent Extraordinaire, a Batmobile in his garage. O.K. he drives a “Beemer” but you get the idea.

Together they made an awesome team.

This was Olivia’s story. At the end it looked as if Grayson’s partner Ronan and Collins were going to get together. Is there a sequel in the works with their story? I sure hope so!!!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Giveaways Guest Posts Wisconsin Author Wisconsin Setting

Very Special Guest Lesley Kagen Answers My Questions (Giveaway too!)

One of joys of blogging is getting to “meet” authors. You know how much I love to feature authors from my home state of Wisconsin. Last year another Wisconsin author Rochelle Staab recommended a book by Lesley called Whistling In The Dark and I fell hard for the characters and setting. The book brought back many of my childhood memories. Good Graces is the sequel to that book and it was released in paperback on May 1st. As soon as I heard about this release I contacted Lesley and I couldn’t believe she said “Yes!” when I asked her to drop by for a few questions. I did a little research and tried to come up with some good questions to ask her. I hope you agree as we get to know a little bit more about the author the writes these wonderful stories. I will post my review of Good Graces after we spend a little time with Lesley!

Hi Lesley!

Hi Everyone! It’s great to spend a little time here today!


1. Is it harder to write from a child’s perspective as an adult? You do it so well.

Thank you! The most important part is slipping on my little girl tennis shoes, so that I can write as authentically as I can. It’s important to me to get it right. I don’t find it difficult. Actually, pretty relaxing. Aren’t all of us adults just kids at heart?

2. How did you decide to visit Troo and Sally again, was it the original plan or did you decide there was more to their story that needed to be told?
I received so many wonderful emails from readers all over the world after Whistling In the Dark was released. Thankfully, they wanted more…more…more of the O’Malley sisters. My standard line was…Thank you, but no way. I’ll write a sequel over my dead body. Ha! After I had written Land of a Hundred Wonders and Tomorrow River, both novels set in the South, I got homesick and wanted to set my next book back in Wisconsin. I yearned to pay the old neighborhood another visit, but was worried that I would be unable to re-capture the characters voices and the setting, but when I sat down to write Good Graces, there my girls were…standing on a Vliet Street corner, blue transistor radio in hand, just waiting for me to show up.

3. You started out in music, what kind of music is your favorite? What would we find on you Ipod or in your CD player right now?

Gosh, depending on my mood…I like blues and R & B, country, and, of course, old school rock ‘n roll. The Dixie Chicks are on my player right now.

4. I can’t believe it, you were on Laverne and Shirley in the episode Take Two, They’re Small where Lenny and Squiggy set up Laverne and Shirley on dates with little people. I tried to find the episode, but no luck there. What part did you play? What was it like being on actress on television?
I guest-starred with another actress, Debbie White, on L & S. We played good-for-nothing sisters. It was fantastic fun. I love acting, but not as much as writing.

5. Can you give us some hints about you next book and when it will be coming out?
My next book is entitled THE MARE’S NEST. It’s a mother/daughter story set in the horse world. After I finish it up (almost) my agent will try to find an interested publisher. Once it’s been sold, it’ll take a little over a year for it to be released.

6. If you are ready to “escape into a good book” who are you reading?
There are so many authors I love! Tough to pick just one, so I’ll tell you what I’m reading now. Alexander McCall’s,The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection: No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Fabulous!


1. Favorite Ice Cream?

2. Favorite Color?

3. Favorite Restaurant?
Mama Mia’s Pizza, a childhood favorite.

4. Best thing about living in Wisconsin?
Hands down…the people. They’re one of a kind.

Thank you Lesley! I hope you will come back when you new book comes out or whenever you like. You have an open invitation to stop by and chat anytime!

To find out more about Lesley Kagen be sure to visit

Now let me tell you about this book!!!

Good Graces
Dutton/New American Library
Published by The Penguin Group

Kagen takes us back to Milwaukee in this sequel to the National Bestseller Whistling In the Dark. One year has passed and Sally is still trying to deal with her escape from a child molester and murderer and the loss of her father. She promised her dad she would take care of her rebel sister Troo and keep her safe. Troo is not making the promise very easy to keep as she gets in trouble at school and sneaks out of their bedroom in the middle of the night.

The neighborhood is having a crime wave with several burglaries. Then an orphan boy goes missing and Troo’s arch enemy has escaped from reform school. Is Troo involved in these incidents? Is she going to hunt down the boy that escaped and try to get revenge? Is she the “cat burgler”? Sally will do anything to save her sister even if it means putting herself in danger.


Dollycas’s Thoughts
Life through the eyes of a child. Lesley Kagen is a master at writing from these young viewpoints.

Funny from having to write the charitable story over the summer to turn in on the first day of school to Troo pretending she is French and wanting to be called “Leeze”, visits to the Latour house where they have so many kids an extra one or two is never noticed and the muu-muu wearing granny who looks like George Washington. The childhood games and songs, the old sayings we all heard time and time again going up like “when it rains it pours and “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”.

Sad as the zoo moves across town, dealing with the changes that have come about since their fathers death.

Mysterious as we learn there is something going on at the church.

Kagen takes us on a time back in time. I would love to be sitting with Ethel on the porch or go to all the happenings at the park.

This is a completely charming novel just like Whistling In the Dark. Wonderfully drawn characters with engaging stories that all blend together with perfect precision. I think this one is even better than its predecessor! Escape to Milwaukee 1960 this summer, you will be glad you made the trip!!

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Thanks to the people at Penguin I have
one brand new paperback copy to give away.

You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

Leave a comment for Lesley to receive 5 more Bonus Entries!

If you publicize the giveaway anywhere you will receive
5 Bonus Entries For Each Link.

Contest Will End May 18, 2012 at 11:59 PM CST
Winners Will Be Chosen By
Winners Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Literary Escapes Reviews 2012

Review: Stay Close by Harlan Coben

Stay Close
Published by The Penguin Group
Available Now

Detective Broome is so obsessed with a cold-case that he visits the family every year on the anniversary since a man went missing 17 years ago.

Megan is a suburban mom with 2 kids, a loving husband and a mother-in-law that all depend on her. She walked away from wild life she once had but she is always thinking about what would have happened if she made different choices.

Ray is a talented photographer, his life now as a posing paparazzo for rich kids is far from the life he had as a documentary photographer.

These three lives collide and secrets long hidden are revealed as another man goes missing. They find the past and present can be just a heartbeat away from each other. The lives that they have lived for the past seventeen years can vanish in an instant.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
Harlan Coben is not called the master of suspense without good reason. He brings the gritty and chilling thrills to the page like no one else!

Megan bored with her suburban life thinks she can take a few steps back in the world she left behind but learns there are consequences for her actions. Ray is so unhappy, his life changed by one dramatic event, will he ever be a success again? Bromme still has feelings for his ex-wife/part-time partner and is dealing not only with a cold case but the fear an innocent man may have been sitting in jail for years.

Coben has put forth a real puzzler this time and it was fun to read as all the clues came together. He has also created wonderful, rich, multifaceted characters, several in addition to the main three, including one that will steal your heart and two that could scare your socks off. He has also included real settings like Steel Park,  and Lucy the Elephant in Atlantic City.

I have read everything Harlan Coben has written and enjoyed them all. This is one of his best. The man has yet to disappoint me. This novel is a page turner that you will not be able to put down. The twist at the end is a bombshell but I would expect no less from Mr. Coben! He definitely is the master!!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Finish The Series Challenge Literary Escapes Reviews 2012 Wisconsin Author

Sonoma Rose by Jennifer Chiaverini

Sonoma Rose (Elm Creek Quilts)
Published by The Penguin Group
An Elm Creek Quilts Novel
18th in the Series
Available Today!

What a Beautiful Cover!

In previous editions we were reminded that some of Sylvia Berstrom’s relatives had migrated to California. Sonoma Rose starts with a little of that history, picking up where The Quilter’s Homecoming, that was published in 2007 left off.

We meet Elizabeth Bergstrom Nelson’s  friend, Rosa Diaz as the country is coping with all the restrictions of Prohibition. Mother to eight children, Rosa mourns the loss of four who succumbed to the mysterious wasting disease currently afflicting young Ana and Miguel. Her abusive husband refuses to take them into the city so the children can see a doctor. His mind is clearly on other things, like his fancy car and keeping secrets about his business dealings from his wife. When an act of violence shatters Rosa’s resolve to maintain her increasingly dangerous existence, she flees with the children and her precious heirloom quilts to the mesa where she last saw her beloved mother alive.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
This is the Jennifer Chiaverini I love to read. I think she lost her way a little bit wrapping up the current characters in The Wedding Quilt.This story shines a brilliant light on her masterful storytelling talent.

This is Rosa’s story. She is yet another strong female heroine created by Chiaverini that has you engaged from the moment we step back into her life. You will feel a wide range of emotions during her story, anger, fear, hope and joy. The bonds of friendship are as strong as all the other books in this series. The power of love from a mother’s love for her children to the enduring love between a man and a woman are woven wondrously through these pages. This story was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t put it down.

Jennifer Chiaverini has created some very memorable fiction characters and has allowed us to go along with them on the journeys not only in current time but into the past and into the future. I am really wondering what is next in this series. I have loved all of these characters and will miss them if this is where the journey ends. I sincerely hope she has some more Elm Creek Quilts stories in that big sewing basket of hers.

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Alphabet Soup - A - Z Reading Challenge E-Book Challenge Finish The Series Challenge Reviews 2012

The Wedding Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

The Wedding Quilt: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel
Published by Dutton
An Elm Creek Quilts Novel
18th in Series

It’s September 2028 and Sarah’s daughter is getting married. Chiavernini takes us back in time as Sarah’s thoughts are filled with brides of Elm Creek Manor past and present-the traditions they honored, the legacies they bequeathed, and the wedding quilts that contain their stories in every stitch.

Sarah is also working on the perfect Wedding Quilt for her daughter complete with loving messages from all the guests of the wedding.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
As you know by now this is one of my favorite series. I love it when the author takes us back in time for the history of Elm Creek Valley and the when she writes of the wonderful Elm Creek Quilters. The Wedding Quilt has left me very sad and conflicted.

I know this is not the last Elm Creek Novel because I have an advance copy of Sonoma Rose right here on my desk, but while it is billed as an Elm Creek Quilts Novel, from a glance it doesn’t look like it features any of our favorites or connects to their history.

All of the current ladies’ history was wrapped up in The Wedding Quilt. The author put together snippets from past books and added a few pages to tie up all the loose ends. I feel like I have lost my fictional friends.

While Jennifer Chiaverini is an awesome writer and writes wonderful stories featuring very strong women, the was clearly not her best work. I feel there could have been several more books written with these characters. When I received this book I thought The Wedding Quilt would be about Anna and Jeremy’s wedding who came together at the end of A Quilter’s Holiday. I was shocked to find the wedding for one of the twins just born in real time. There is no way to go back.

I know sometimes the author’s work doesn’t necessarily go in the direct they would like, publishers and others have a great deal of input. I wish she would have just taken a break from the characters her readers had come to love and let us know she was headed in a different direction either with the series or an entirely new project. I have read several other reviews since finishing of people who also were shocked or disappointed in this installment. When you read a series through 18 books you become attached to the characters and the way it wrapped up just feels wrong.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Reviews From Dollycas's Thoughts

Review: Live Wire by Harlan Coben

This review was originally posted at Dollycas’s Thoughts on March 22, 2011.
Last year his book CAUGHT was another 
#1 New York Times Bestseller
 and my top choice for Best Suspense/Thriller for 2010. 
 I couldn’t wait to get this new novel in my hands!!!!


Published by DUTTON

A Division of Penguin Group

10th Myron Bolitar Novel


ISBN-10: 0525952063

ISBN-13: 978-0525952060

We first met Myron Bolitar back in 1995 in the book Deal Breaker.  He was an athlete knocked out of the game by an injury right before his first professional start so he became a Sports Agent to keep him in the game if only from the sidelines.  But he was more than an agent, he was a friend, a confidant, a problem solver, and a guy with an enormous heart that to protect his clients he also eventually becomes a private eye.
With the help of his friends, Windsor Horne Lockwood III (Win), and two gals who were a former tag team with the Fabulous Ladies Of Wrestling (FLOW), MB Reps has grown into a firm that not only handles athletes, but authors, actors, artists, and musicians.
In this book we learn more about Myron’s family and his past as he is forced to deal with some family issues.  He is also trying to help former tennis star Suzze T (Trevantino) and rock star husband Lex get to the bottom of a paternity issue being posed about their unborn child on a Facebook page.  Myron also learns that his family issues and these baby issues are intertwined in a way that leads him down a very dangerous path as he tries to find the truth that has been hidden for more than 15 years.


If you have read the previous 9 Myron Bolitar novels and you think you know Myron Bolitar you will realize early into this book that you didn’t know him at all.

Harlan Coben is by far the best author ever of the suspense thriller. He grabs you from the first word and like the title of one of his previous novels HOLD(s on) TIGHT until the very last word and leaves you wanting more.  The difference between this novel and others in this series is than we learn more about Myron Bolitar than we ever have before and Coben ties it into the latest mystery brilliantly.  What starts out as a simple question of who posted the anonymous Facebook comment builds into the thriller Coben is famous for, and brings to light the things Bolitar has kept hidden or to himself in the other books.

This is definitely a book you will want to read in one sitting, so plan accordingly and be prepared for a few surprises.  This book proves than even Harlan Coben still has plenty up his sleeve to thrill and entertain us.  Coben himself is the LIVE WIRE!!!

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To find out more about Harlan Coben be sure to check out his web page.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Dutton, A Division of the Penguin Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”