Posted in Reviews 2012

Review: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

Blackberry Winter: A Novel
Plume (September 25, 2012)
Published by The Penguin Group
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0452298385

Blackberry Winter

Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May-Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face-down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator’s.

Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 “blackberry winter” storm and its twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways…


Dollycas’s Thoughts

What a wonderful story! A story that was inspired by a song the author just happened to hear one day on the radio. I am amazed how authors take just a couple of words and create such wonder for us to read and enjoy.

A mystery entwined with emotions so raw. Mothers will feel this story not only in their hearts but in their souls. The love a mother has for a child cannot be measured. The lengths that mothers will go to for their children is infinite. The loss of a child leaves an imprint on your very being. Nothing is ever the same. Jio takes us into the lives of two women that are grieving, just trying to get through the days.

The main characters of Vera and Claire are fleshed out and so real. I was also drawn to Charles. His heart was in the right place but circumstances of the times made things difficult. I had hoped for a little different resolution but as I kept reading and the story started to mesh the pages couldn’t turn fast enough. The story had to play out just as it did for the surprise at the end.

This is a book you are going to want on your keeper shelf. It along with the other books by this author are going to become the classics of this time. Stories we want to share and read over and over again.

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To find out more about this author check out her webpage here.

Posted in Giveaways Reviews 2012

Review: On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves (Giveaway too!)

2012 contemporary romance

On the Island: A Novel
A Plume Book
Published by The Penguin Group

On the Island


Anna Emerson needs a getaway. She is a 30 year old English teacher in a stalled relationship. Before she makes a huge decision she jumps at the chance for a real adventure. She accepts an offer that will get her out of Chicago for the entire summer. She will be tutoring 16 year old T.J. on a beautiful tropical island.

T.J. Callahan has been battling cancer but it is now in remission. It is completely his parents desire to spend the summer in the Maldives. They think away from his friends, with a tutor, he can catch up on the classwork he missed last year so he will not be held back. He would rather stay in Illinois with his friends. He talks his parents into letting him stay home until after a friend’s party. His parents fly ahead and he will fly over with his tutor.

Anna and T.J. board a private plane for the final leg of their trip to the Callahan summer home. Then the unthinkable happens. While flying over the 1200 Maldives’ islands the plane crashes in the Indian Ocean. They make it to the shore of one of the small uninhabited islands. They just need to survive until someone finds them. When weeks, turn to months, their challenges mount. T.J. is growing into a man right before Anna’s eyes. Food, fire and water are not the only challenges they face.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Masterfully written! A beautiful story of so much more than mere survival. A truly wonderful debut.

Tracey Garvis Graves took what could have been a tricky story line and created a awesome book.

The characters are real and each are at a type of crossroads in their lives. The land on the island as strangers and quickly become best friends long before they fall in love. They need each other to survive but the relationship evolves a little more with each passing day. The author is written with each chapter alternating the point of view between Anna and T.J. which allows the reader into each of their thoughts. It didn’t take long to become engaged in their story.

Life On the Island was far from ideal. Dealing from basic survival like building a fire, catching a fish, collecting rain water to drink and hoping each and every day to be rescued.

Need a beach read this summer, this is it! It is a New York Times Bestseller for a reason. Tracey Garvis Graves is a new author to watch! I cannot wait to read more of her work!!

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About This Author
Author of the USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times bestseller On the Island. She likes reading, writing, martinis, karaoke, 70’s music, my dog Chloe, my kids, my husband Dave, wine, and my suburban neighborhood.
Check out her website Looks like she has a new book coming out in the Spring!

This is such an extraordinary story I just have to share it as soon as possible!
I will be giving away my gently read review copy.
Winners will be notified by email and announced in the sidebar of this blog.


Posted in Reviews 2012

Review: My Father At 100 by Ron Reagan

My Father at 100: A Memoir

Published by The Penguin Group

My Father at 100

Ron Reagan celebrates the centenary of his father’s birth by taking us on a trip to the small towns that made his father the man we know as one of the most beloved presidents in history. Ron traveled to these towns and shares his experiences along with many stories he heard his father tell over the years.

The journey before Hollywood, Sacramento and Washington D.C. that shaped Ronald Reagan into the man we got to know later in his life when he hit the public spotlight.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

The love Ron Reagan has for his father just flows off these pages. He takes us back in time and shares with us the life of Ronald Reagan from the very start.

This is not a book about Ronald Reagan the politician or Ronald Reagan the actor although a bit of that is mentioned. This is a story of Ronald “Dutch” Reagan, the boy, the young man, and how his life growing up in Illinois brought him to be the man we came to know as an actor, a Governor and a President, from the very beginning when his ancestors came to the United States. Ronald Reagan, the child of a what would be called today a dysfunctional family became a local hero, the lifeguard and the football player. A man who even when everything was against him he always tried to do what was right. He set a very high standard for himself and while like all of us, he had is faults, he tried to be the best he could be every day and in every way.

This book is a loving tribute by a son about his father. Ron Jr. admits he didn’t completely understand his father and wishes he would have listened closer to his dad’s stories and spent more time talking about the past before the Alzheimer’s started to take over. I think this book turned in a different direction than what was originally planned. He may have had some unresolved conflict he needed to work out after his dad passed away. Not only did the readers learn much about Ronald “Dutch” Reagan but the author did as well.

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About This Author
Ronald Prescott “Ron” Reagan (born May 20, 1958) sometimes known as Ronald Reagan Jr., is a former talk radio host and political analyst for KIRO radio and later, Air America Radio. His Ron Reagan Show was a daily three-hour show broadcast from 6–9 PM (ET). He is notable for his liberal or progressive views, despite being the son of a conservative icon, President Ronald Reagan.

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: Life Without Parole by Clare O’Donohue

Life Without Parole:
A Kate Conway Mystery (Kate Conway Mysteries)

2nd in Series
A Plume Book
Published by The Penguin Group

We first met Kate Conway, free lance television producer in Missing Persons, her soon to be ex-husband was killed and she was the prime suspect. Of course, she didn’t do it.

In Life Without Parole Kate is actually a little bored as her life returns to “normal”. Then she is offered two new jobs. One is a documentary about prison inmates sentenced to life without parole and the other is a reality show about a new restaurant.

She accepts both jobs and works out a schedule. Things go awry when one of the investor’s in the restaurants is murdered. Then become even poor intense as she digs deeper in to the minds of the prisoners. Can what she learns from these death row killers help her solve the murder mystery?

Dollycas’s Thoughts
I adore the way Clare O’Donohue writes. These stories are of the edge of your seat variety, face paced, exciting and can’t put down.

Kate Conway knows her job and she does it well. She gets in the heads of both the investors and the prisoners. There are a lot of mind games happening here giving this story some unexpected psychological elements. 

Clare O’Donohue is writing what she knows as she has worked in television. Her experience helps draw some awesome characters and plausible  plots. The dialogue rings true as do the relationships, even the most unlikely friendship between Kate and Vera.  In my review of Missing Persons I said I felt like I was watching a television drama and almost forgot I was reading a book. The same is true in this installment. 

Kate Conway continues to develop at a perfect pace. With her chosen profession the material for future stories is endless. That makes this reader very happy.

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To Find Out More About Clare Visit Her Website

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

Bent Road by Lori Roy

Bent Road: A Novel
Published by The Penguin Group
Set in 1967. The Detroit riots push Arthur Scott to move his family back to his hometown in Kansas. He has not lived there for more than 20 years. His wife, Celia, knows he has secrets. Secrets that have burdened him for years. She fears moving back will be too much for her family. Celia knows his sister Eve died all those years ago but doesn’t know the details. She acquiesces to her husband’s wishes and packs up her family to return to Bent Road.

Life there is difficult, a local girl disappears and many believe that the same man took her that killed Arthur’s sister all those years ago. The man who is now married to his other sister Ruth is suspected of both crimes. Arthur’s daughter Evie looks remarkably like her deceased aunt and becomes fascinated by the clothes left behind in her aunt’s closet. Their son is unsure where he fits within the family. Arthur’s mother wants the past to stay in the past. Celia is just getting to know her in-laws and doing her best to keep her family together and safe. Life on Bent Road is just as unsettling as she suspected.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
I know why the was nominated for an Edgar Award. It is a fascinating debut and not your typical mystery. It is really a story of family relationships and struggles during a critical time in American history with mystery and suspense woven throughout the story. The characters are captivating and genuine. The family itself is very dysfunctional but so is the entire community. The drama is very real and intense in places, laid back in others. The story ebbs and flows at a comfortable pace, but on the whole is very dark. The author has a gift of drawing you in to the murky waters of this Kansas town. This book was not what I had expected at first but I am very glad I took the journey down Bent Road.

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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 Alphabet Soup - A - Z Reading Challenge Giveaways Guest Posts Reviews 2012

Special Guest – Sarah Pinneo Author of Julia’s Child (Giveaway too!)

I am so happy to have Sarah stop by today. I loved her story but you can read my review at the bottom of this post. Please join me in welcoming Sarah here today!!

Hi Sarah!

Thank you for hosting me! Julia’s Child was a joy to write. And it’s my pleasure to tell you why.

The Fun of Research
By Sarah Pinneo

One of the best things about writing a novel is research. You can spend an hour Googling “goat manure” or “flash freezers,” and if anyone asks what you’re up to, you can truthfully answer “working!” Writing is hard—pushing the story forward one sentence at a time. In contrast, research is an effortless trip down the meandering path of human invention and desire.

But the research for Julia’s Child did not happen only in my web browser. Julia’s Child is the story of mompreneur Julia Bailey, and her relentless desire to see her organic toddler food products on the shelves at Whole Foods. So getting the story right required that I meet several real-life organic entrepreneurs. A good researcher is always thorough, mind you. So not only did I interview them, but I tasted their wares. (Organic dark chocolate sandwich cookies? Yes I will, thank you).

It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

Calories aside, I learned a lot. I began writing Julia’s Child with the vague notion that selling food was a difficult way to make a buck, and I wanted to explore the clash between high ideals and the cool reality of trying to break even. When I began interviewing mompreneurs, my suspicions were confirmed. Their stories featured plenty of dramatic tension. One mom had her commercial freezer malfunction on the same day she went into labor for her second child. Her office smelled like rotting garbage by the time she made it back.

One woman was discouraged from touring investors in search of venture capital dollars, because she was pregnant. “It looks bad,” they told her. “Like you’re not committed to the business.” Her response: “It is baby food. You know that, right?”

Writing fiction involves choice after choice, judgment call after judgment call. When I wrote this book, especially the funny parts, I would step back and ask myself: should I really have obstructed her mad dash to the TV station with that political demonstration? Is it too much?

As it turns out, no and no.

La Verne Lesznik of Cottage Hill Farm was living proof that mompreneurs are in a slapstick business. She makes delicious organic cake mixes. She strapped her one year-old granddaughter into the car seat, and then set a single chocolate cake on the opposite side of the car. The cake was destined for a potential retail distributor.

Guess who found a way out of that car seat and into that cake? The little girl smeared La Verne’s only sample around the back of the car, and all over herself.

The bumps in the road these women experienced always seemed like a complete disaster at the time, but the difference between the winners and the losers was perseverance. Mompreneur Caroline Freedman is the co-founder of the now national baby food company NurturMe. Her innovation was to dehydrate organic fruits and vegetables—creating a product which is meant to be used like baby cereal. Moms combine it with milk or water for baby to eat.

But the first batch didn’t go so well.

Caroline and her friend and collaborator Lauren McCullough first tried to dehydrate sweet potato. “We put puree on a baking sheet, and set it in the oven to dehydrate. Twenty hours later we had something like a fruit roll-up.” Luckily, they were able to call on assistance from drum- and freeze-drying experts in the nearby organic farming community. And now NurturMe is sold at, at Stop n Shop and a dozen other places.

Another theme of their stories was risk taking. Dadpreneur Zak Normandin maxed out all his credit cards to start Little Duck Organics. He filled the first orders in the basement of his New Hampshire home. Now he has four employees (and a real office!) and Little Duck is sold in Whole Foods and other stores around the country.

The more I talked to entrepreneurs, the more it came to seem to me that writing a novel was a lot like starting a company. You take a risk—it’s hard to say what will pan out before you’re actually out there trying to peddle your wares. You rewrite when necessary.

Julia says, in the first chapter, that to start a business (or write a book!) you begin with the crazy idea that you have something the world needs. And then you spend a lot of time and money trying to prove yourself correct.

Sometimes it works. After a couple of stutter steps, I’m thrilled that Plume/Penguin USA has published my debut novel. But it wasn’t easy. It was a dream which took either three years, seven years or twenty years depending on how I count them. Sometimes I hear it said that deserving books always find a publisher, and that’s a nice sentiment. But it’s my belief that luck plays a huge part in success.

And luck cuts both ways. Just ask entrepreneur Chris Kaiser, whose scrumptious company Vermont Peanut Butter makes a product I adore. Aside from the usual “crunchy” and “smooth,” Vermont Peanut Butter makes a flavor they call Good Karma, which has—brace yourself—dark chocolate in it. I’m hooked. But in spite of a great product and good planning, luck intervened. Hurricane Irene swept through Vermont this past fall, washing away homes and businesses, including Kaiser’s. His desk was literally swept down river in the flood.

Luckily, the company bounced back in time to go national, and to provide me with an uninterrupted supply of Good Karma.

Research, I tell you. Stick with me.

Julia’s Child: A Novel
A Plume Book
Published by The Penguin Group
Available Now

Moms do everything we can to get our kids to eat healthy foods. Julia Bailey decides to help moms out by creating her own organic food for toddlers. Getting her products out in the markets is not as easy as she thought it would be. But then she gets the opportunity to go on television to promote her product.  The response is overwhelming in many ways. Keeping up with demand, storage, transportation. She is now facing long hours away from her family. Her two sons need her, even as her husband volunteers to stay home with them. Can she juggle her career and her busy home life?

Dollycas’s Thoughts
I loved this story, so funny but also very enlightening. It had the feel of the movie Baby Boomthat came out in 1987 staring Diane Keaton with an up to date twist.

My first child was a very picky eater and 25 years later he still is. There were many days we were both covered in green beans and spinach. I wish there was Julia’s Child or something like it way back then.

I love Pinneo’s writing style. She gives a very realistic voice to the challenges of parents today with all the processed and fast food choices, she shows an alternative in a humorous and loving way. This is a book you will read all in one sitting and there are recipes included!!! Recipes that are not just good for children but all of us!!

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Sarah Pinneo, like her character Julia, understands the work vs. stay at home decision. Sarah was a Wall Street dealmaker for ten years before making the transition from breadwinner to bread baker. Now a food journalist, and co-author of The Ski House Cookbook: Warm Winter Dishes for Cold Weather Fun. Sarah blogs on her home page at, and at Blub is a Verb on She lives with her family in Ludlow Vermont, and Hanover, New Hampshire.

Here’s a recipe to try!
Apple & Cheddar Muffet Recipe
by Sarah Pinneo
for Julia’s Child

1 very large apple or 2 small ones
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg lightly beaten
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar, divided

“…The first time I wrote this, I put ‘organic’ in front of every ingredient. But it looked overzealous and uptight. (Don’t say it—kind of like me.) What do you think?…” Julia’s Child p. 97.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Generously grease and flour 12 muffin cups.
Peel and core the apples and dice finely. If your toddler is helping, peel and slice an extra one to share. If you play your cards right, he or she will be busy eating the apple slices while you’re measuring out the dry ingredients.
In a small skillet, melt the butter and sauté the apple until tender and just beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, sour cream, and 1 cup of the cheese. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients; then add the apples and butter. Stir just to combine.
Spoon into the prepared tin, and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until very brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffets comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a rack. Loosen muffets by ringing their edges with a plastic knife. Turn them gently out onto a plate. Serve warm or room temperature.


Thanks to the wonderful people at Plume
I have 2 copies of this delightful book to giveaway!!
You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

***Remember GFC is going away March 1, 2012
so be sure you are following in a different way if you want to
continue to follow Escape With Dollycas.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

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

Contest Will End March 8, 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.”