Jul 142018
 

Scandal Above Stairs (A Below Stairs Mystery)
Historical Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Berkley (July 3, 2018)
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN-10: 0399585532
ISBN-13: 978-0399585531
Kindle ASIN: B076922WRT

A mystery of stolen antiquities has Kat Holloway setting aside her apron once again for the intrigues of the upper echelons of Victorian London

Priceless artwork has gone missing from the home of a wealthy baronet, and his wife stands to take the blame. When Kat’s employer asks for help in clearing her friend’s name, Kat trades her kitchen for the homes of Mayfair’s wealthiest families. Soon antiques are disappearing not only from the extravagant households of connoisseurs and collectors, but from the illustrious British Museum.

As the thefts increase in frequency, Kat calls upon her friend Daniel McAdam, who has already set himself up in a pawnshop on the Strand as a seedy receiver of stolen goods. When a man is murdered in the shop, Kat must use all of her wits to see that the thieves are caught and justice is done.

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Jennifer Ashley writes historical, paranormal, and contemporary romance, mysteries, and historical fiction as Jennifer Ashley; paranormal romance and urban fantasy as Allyson James; and mysteries as Ashley Gardner. Jennifer’s novels have won RWA’s RITA and RT Reviewer’s Choice awards among others.  Find out more about Jennifer and her books on her website here.

Dollycas

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Jul 132018
 

On FlashbackFridays I will share with you
the books I was not able to review
when they were first released that have been screaming at me
from my To-Be-Read bookshelf.

This book was released back in December but has only been on my Kindle a short time.

About the Book

Tied Up with Strings (A Serebral Seniors Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – United Kingdom
Imajin Qwickies, An imprint of Imajin Books (December 11, 2017)
Print Length: 85 pages
ASIN: B077PLNWY9

An Imajin Qwickies® Mystery/Crime Novella

Big mysteries often come in small packages…

When curmudgeonly private detective Betty Grape visits a young friend, who is housesitting in a remote village in England for Christmas vacation, something seems out of place. Her friend, Catia, is visibly nervous. Is she worried about the young men in the decrepit caravan in next door’s back garden? Or is Catia involved in the disappearance of the homeowner’s invalid wife?

As an American, Betty discovers the locals are full of friendly gossip but taciturn about solid facts. Though they are determined to keep Betty from butting in on their territory, she blunders through the social morass of narrow-minded foreigners and their broad Dorset accents. Can she unravel the tight knots of this mystery? Will she find the perpetrator under thickly thatched rooves or behind floral chintz curtains?

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Imajin Books has launched an imprint, Imajin Qwickies – “Qwickies” Are Novellas Ranging From 20,000-30,000 Words. In my opinion that while this story was very good it could have been great as a full-length novel.

The story opens with Betty Grape arriving in England to spend the holidays with the daughter of one of her friends. She had not seen the daughter in years. Apparently, Betty is a “part-time private investigator”.  Here is one of the places a longer story would have helped me as a reader immensely. Background on Betty was almost non-existent. Betty is supposedly part of a firm with 2 other “investigators”. They are all senior citizens. Anyway, something seems off to her almost immediately.  Catia, her friend’s daughter is housesitting for a professor and his invalid wife. They are two young men staying in a caravan next door.  There is also a missing cat. Betty overhears some things, listens to the gossip and starts to realize things are not what they seem.

I really like Betty and want to know her better. She seems to have much life experience and is very intuitive. But this novel reads like the 2nd or 3rd book in the series, assuming I know these things already, rather than it being the first book and readers meeting her for the first time. I enjoyed her subtle way of investigating. Sometimes she is just in the right place at the right time. She makes some keen observations and starts to pull the clues together.  She also has a low key way of passing on what she learns. I really enjoyed her as an American learning British ways, food, and slang.

There is a young man in the story that Betty quickly realizes is autistic. He plays a key part in the mysteries. His character was very well written, but until Betty pointed out he was autistic I had not reached the conclusion by what I had read. Because she is close to someone at home that has autism she recognized what others like me may not have tuned into right away.

The mysteries themselves were very interesting. It really reminded me of an old-time British cozy. Again with only 85 pages things had to unfold quickly. I was surprised by one part but figured out some of the other elements before Betty.  The book does have a few nice twists. I did feel the ending was a bit abrupt. I would have liked one thing verified before everything was all tied up.

I would like to visit with Betty again and maybe get to know her friends in San Jose, California at the Serebral Senior Home. Like I said for a “Qwickie” this is a very good story. I hope future installments are longer so we can get to know the characters better.

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About the Author

Madeline McEwen is an ex-pat from the UK, bi-focaled and technically challenged. She and her Significant Other manage their four offspring, one major and three minors, two autistic, two neurotypical, plus a time-share with Alzheimer’s. In her free time, she walks the canines and chases the felines with her nose in a book and her fingers on a keyboard.

Author Links

Website     Amazon      Pinterest     Twitter     Facebook    GoodReads    Blog 

 

Purchase Link

Praise for Tied Up with Strings (A Serebral Seniors Mystery)
by Madeline McEwen

A heartwarming British cosy by a British ex-pat in America, TIED UP WITH STRING recalls adorable Village Mysteries with amateur–usually female senior citizens–sleuths.
~Mallory Heart’s Cozies

The story unfolds layer by layer. We meet interesting characters and get a bit of a comparison between American and British mannerisms.
~Laura’s Interests

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Sep 292017
 

On Flashback Fridays I will share with you
the books I was not able to review
when they were first released that have been screaming at me
from my To-Be-Read bookshelf.

I was so excited when Zanna contacted me about a book tour for this series. This book was already waiting for my on my Kindle.

 

In The Stars: A Humorous Romantic Mystery (Amber Reed Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – United Kingdom
Self Published
Publication Date: December 11, 2014
Print Length: 364 pages
ASIN: B00QXFNP62

One desperate phone call is all it takes to turn Amber’s previously dull day into one speeding scarily out of control!

Amber Reed’s at work making up the horoscopes for the local newspaper and wishing for some excitement in her life, when she gets a phone call offering her just that.

Plunged into the middle of a celebrity murder investigation she’s desperately trying to convince the scarily handsome special agent assigned to solve the case that she can help him catch the killer.

Amber’s soon battling something far more dangerous than she could ever have imagined – and it has nothing to do with the equally scary chemistry fizzing between her and special agent Charlie.

Is it Amber’s wish for more excitement in her life which has landed her in big trouble – or is her fate written in the stars?

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Amber Reed is still good friends with her ex. When his brother is found dead he calls for a celebrity murder investigation and asks Amber to help the investigator assigned to the case. The investigator is not happy but knows she is going to follow him no matter where he goes so he concedes to letting her tag along. Amber doesn’t know why but she is very attracted to this investigator and the more time they spend together the closer they get. As their romance heats us so does the danger. Is a life for them together “in the stars”? Will they survive this investigation and catch the killer?

If you like your mysteries balanced by romance and humor this is the perfect story for you.

Zanna Mackenzie has created some truly delightful characters in Amber and Charlie. Each a little wary of each other at first, their attraction progresses pretty rapidly. Amber is strong and independent and feels she doesn’t need a man to protect her. That gets her into some dicey situations. Charlie takes his job very seriously and finds himself not only trying to solve his case but keep Amber out of trouble too. Their relationship had me shaking my head, laughing out loud and scared for them, sometimes all on the same page.

The story has some nice twists making the story very exciting.  Some of the people involved hold things back to save themselves and without all the details the danger escalates. Turns out we are dealing with much more than murder.

I was very entertained by this story. The mystery was very well written, the characters are very engaging (their romance is G-rated) and there are several hilarious moments. I look forward to reading more books in this series.

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Twenty Quick Questions with Zanna Mackenzie

Favorite Color – Purple, well a lilac/ pink kind of purple!

Favorite Candy – I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and tend to prefer savory items such as crisps (chips) rather than candy but I do have a weakness for things like Nutella – we rarely buy it as I would end up eating the whole jar in a day or two!

Favorite Snack – Cheese! I have a digestive complaint which means I have to limit cheese on a rotation diet basis as I cannot digest proteins easily. In theory I’m only supposed to eat cheese twice a week with a three day gap between each serving but I confess it doesn’t always happen that way…

Favorite Soft Drink – I’ve never been a huge fan of fizzy drinks but I love Fentiman’s old fashioned ginger beer and also pure apple juice.

Favorite Hard Drink – I don’t drink alcohol because I’ve never much liked the taste of wines or spirits, even when I was younger.

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor – Coconut or good old proper vanilla.

Favorite Movie – Oooh, that’s a tough one. I have so many! I love movies, mostly romantic comedies. If pushed I could maybe narrow it down to three – am I allowed to do that or is it a bit of cheat? Okay, here’s my three – Walking On Sunshine (I adore music and dance films) / Leap Year (stunning scenery and I’m a fan of Amy Adams) and Serendipity (a lovely escapist movie with some great music).

Favorite TV Show – Ooh, another tough one! I’m prone to swapping and changing on this depending on mood/time of year/ what’s on the TV. At the moment it is Chesapeake Shores on Netflix. We have a bookshelf full of DVDs from series we have watched in the past and loved and we choose a series to watch right from start to finish. We have things like the fabulous Brothers & Sisters (we’re working our way through this at the moment and are on series 3 of 5). We recently finished Pan Am (only one series made of this wonderful programme for some reason) and are planning on moving on to Hart Of Dixie next. I enjoy sitcoms too, especially Last Man Standing.

Favorite Book – Oh no, these questions are getting harder! As with TV stuff, I have favorite’s in different genres as I read across romance, chick lit, cozy mystery, chick lit mystery, cozy paranormal mystery and romantic suspense. My favorite genre is romantic comedy mystery (which is the genre I also write in) and I enjoy books by people like Camilla Chafer, Gemma Halliday and Stephanie Bond but if I can really only choose one then it would probably be Martina Reilley’s Even Better Than The Real Thing. It’s set in Ireland and Florida and tells the story of a woman who gets unknowingly caught up in art fraud. It’s a romantic comedy mystery.

Favorite Fictional Character – probably Sophie from Kate Johnson’s Sophie Green Mysteries. She has many flaws but is funny and feisty and great fun to read about.

Favorite Super Hero – Not sure I have one! Maybe The Flash from the TV series of the same name. Reason? He seems more ‘real’ than the others to me.

Favorite Singer/Group/Band – Sorry, I don’t have one particular favorite. I enjoy music of lots of types from lots of artists – such as Olly Murs (for upbeat dance numbers), Coldplay (for emotional numbers) and classical for relaxation.

 

Favorite Carnival Ride – I get motion sickness so avoid them all!

Favorite Spring Activity – Planting vegetables in the tiny veg plot in our garden; venturing outside with a coat, hat and gloves to walk the dogs, and enjoying a cup of tea and a spot of reading on the bench in the garden.

Favorite Summer Activity – Picking the aforementioned fruit and veg in the garden once it’s ready.

Favorite Fall Activity – Heading to the woodlands to enjoy the amazing leaf colours.

Favorite Winter Activity – Lighting some candles and cuddling up on the sofa with the family underneath some throws to watch something  blissfully escapist on the TV.

Favorite Place to Read – In bed, last thing at night, it’s my switch off and relax time.

Favorite Place to Write – In the garden with a notebook and pen.

Dream Vacation Destination – A deserted beach in the UK in winter, doesn’t matter where, though favorite spots are in Lincolnshire, Anglesey and south west Scotland. It will be freezing cold but wonderfully bracing. Follow a few hours of walking with a supper of cheese, biscuits and crisps (chips) in front of a real fire and relaxing. Wonderful…

About the Author

I live in the UK (Derbyshire/ Leicestershire border) with my husband, 5 dogs, a vegetable patch that’s home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read

Being a freelance writer and editor of business publications is my ‘day job’ but, at every opportunity, I can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel I’m working on. I love it when the characters in my novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot.

I enjoy walking the dogs, gardening and reading.

Author Links –  Webpage – Blog – Facebook –  Twitter  GoodReads

Praise for In The Stars (Amber Reed Mystery)
by Zanna Mackenzie

Danger and romance heat up the pages of this intriguing mystery.
~Laura’s Interests

Amber is a great heroine. She is very loyal to her friends, as evidenced by her undertaking to help out in the investigation into the murder of her college-boyfriend-turned-movie-heartthrob (Ennis’s) brother (Joel), even though it initially is out of her comfort zone and eventually downright dangerous!
~Back Porchervations

Purchase Links
Amazon

In The Stars is part of the fun, romantic Amber Reed Mystery series:

* In The Stars (book 1)
* On Trial ( book 1.5)
* Precious (book 2)
* Forever Mine (book 3)
* Past Perfect (book 4)
* Stop The Beat (book 5)
* Paradise Lost (book 6)

 Right now you can get On Trial (book 1.5) for free.
Just go to Zanna’s Webpage here to get your copy!

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

September 21 – Carole’s Book Corner – GUEST POST
September 21 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT
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September 24 – The Montana Bookaholic – GUEST POST, SPOTLIGHT
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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.”

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Jun 092017
 

No Turning Back: A Novel
Women Sleuths/Suspense Thriller
Setting – United Kingdom
Crooked Lane Books (June 13, 2017)
Hardcover: 352 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1683311638
E-Book ASIN: B01N4FP1AR

 
 
 
 
 

Anna Graves’s whole life has recently been turned upside down. A new mother, she’s just gone back to her job as a radio presenter and is busy navigating a new schedule of late night feeding and early morning wake ups while also dealing with her newly separated husband. Then the worst happens. While Anna is walking on the beach with her daughter, she’s attacked by a crazed teenager. Terrified, Anna reacts instinctively to protect her baby.

But her life falls apart when the schoolboy dies from his injuries. The police believe Anna’s story, until the autopsy results reveal something more sinister. A frenzied media attack sends Anna into a spiral of self-doubt. Her precarious mental state is further threatened when she receives a chilling message from someone claiming to be the “Ophelia Killer,” a serial killer who preyed on the town twenty years ago—and who abruptly stopped when Anna’s father committed suicide.

Is Anna as innocent as she claims? And is murder forgivable, if committed to save your child’s life? Internationally bestselling author Tracy Buchanan takes readers on an emotional roller coaster ride filled with heart-stopping secrets and hairpin turns in No Turning Back, her US debut.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Can you say TWISTS? – This book is full of them.

Anna Graves’s finishes up her 8 month maternity leave to return to work as a radio talk show host. Separated from her husband she is trying to find the balance between work and home. While taking her daughter for a walk on the beach a young man attacks her with a knife. She does everything she can to protect her child and herself, fatally injuring her assailant. She is cleared by the police, it was clearly self defense. Until the autopsy shows there is more to the story. They bring her back in for more questions. The press hounds her everywhere she goes. She is forced to take another leave from work. Then she receives a terrifying email from the “Ophelia Killer”.  A serial killer that has been heard from for 20 years…since her father took his own life. Hang on tight this is just the start of the story…

The story is told alternatively between Anna and the killer making for a spine chilling read. When Anna receives emails from the killer she tries to stave off another killing but she ends up finding the body which makes her even more of a suspect. The police were mind blowing in the way they twisted logic to focus more on her and disregard any thing she tried to tell them. She puts herself at risk from the first page to almost the very last.

The characters in this story are very unique. Anna and her grandmother are close because her mother had an emotional breakdown after her father’s suicide.  Her brother is strange in his behavior and manner. He and Anna are not close. We see the darker side of the area, the docks, and those who live in the area. The young man who attacked Anna lived there. Anna’s work at the radio station brings in some notable characters too.

The plot was very complex and full of red herrings. Each chapter seemed to have a new twist pointing at another person who could be the killer. It was impossible to put this book down. I stayed up late trying finish but my body shut me down at about 70%. I couldn’t wait to get back to it and rushed to it as soon as the work day was done. At the end I just said WOW! This book took my breathe away.

The only thing in the story that gave me pause was the implement Anna used to defend herself and kill the teenager. The story calls it a comb. I went to a British dictionary to see if it was different from what we Americans call a comb. I didn’t find any difference but I am thinking it was the type of comb used to hold hair in place not one used to get out snarls. I think had it been made of metal those tines could be quite sharp.

This book marks the author’s US debut and is an author to watch. No Turning Back is a compelling psychological thriller and I give it more than 5 stars! My Paradise Rating! It kept me up the first night reading it and the second night thinking about the story I read.

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent



About The Author

Tracy Buchanan lives in the UK with her husband, their little girl and their one-eyed Jack Russell. Buchanan traveled extensively while working as a travel magazine editor and has always been drawn to the sea after spending her childhood holidays on the coast visiting family–a fascination that inspires her writing. She now dedicates her time to writing and procrastinating on Twitter.

Author Links

Webpage – Twitter – Facebook –  GoodReads 

Purchase Links

Amazon  B&N   IndieBound

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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.”

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Mar 282017
 

Kale to the Queen: A Kensington Palace Chef Mystery
Cozy Mystery
Brand New Series
Setting – United Kingdom
Crooked Lane Books (April 11, 2017)
Hardcover: 288 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1683311041
Kindle ASIN: B01N9PWJZD

 

 

Chef Carrie Ann Cole is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime–an assignment as the new Personal Chef to the Royal Family at Kensington Palace. But no sooner has Carrie Ann touched down across the pond and donned her apron than a dead body crops up beneath the royal kale beds.

With one assistant dead and the other soon under suspicion for his murder, Carrie Ann is scrambling to keep her kitchen up and running. Not to mention she gets off to an immediate bad start with the tempestuous Royal Chef Butterbottom, who has a bitter taste in his mouth since the prestigious position in the Royal Family’s kitchen was given to an “over-privileged, under-educated American chef.”

But the Royal Family’s appetites wait for no one, and Carrie Ann must solve the murder and still get supper on the table on time–even with the annoyingly handsome Head of Security Ian Gordon tracking her every move like an MI6 agent. Suspects abound as an American chef adds a bit of spice to the traditional royal household in the first in Nell Hampton’s charming and tasty Kensington Palace Chef Mystery series, Kale to the Queen.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

A fun debut for this series. It reminds me of Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef Mysteries.

Nell Hampton takes us behind the scenes of Kensington Palace as Chef Carrie Ann Cole leaves the U.S. to become the personal family chef for the Prince, Princess and their 2 children. She leaves her boyfriend of 6 years back in the States as they take a break so she call follow her dream. She hits the ground running preparing her first meal for the family soon after arriving at the palace. Then the next morning she finds one of her assistants dead and the other one is quickly arrested as the killer. What has she gotten herself into? She didn’t know her assistants well but she just can’t fathom that one would kill the other. So in addition to serving spectacular meals to her Royal Family, she now is trying to find a murderer.  Head of Security Ian Gordon is not happy with her chopping her way into the case. His job is too keep everyone in the palace safe, including her, and she is making his job very difficult.

I liked Carrie Anne immediately. At first I thought she was going to in over her head with this important job, but as soon as she got into her kitchen she was in control. The other chef in the palace, Royal Chef Butterbottom, dislikes her immediately, first because he thinks he should be the only chef and second because she is an American. He has his own kitchen and takes care of the events and dinners at the palace. Carrie Anne cooks for the family. Due to circumstances beyond their control is becomes impossible to avoid each other. This adds a little unexpected drama to the story. The author introduces several other members of the palace staff. The Royal Family stays pretty much in the background.

The palace itself and the area surrounding it are new to Carrie Anne, so the reader gets to follow along with her as she learns all the floors, rooms, hallways and even some local pubs. She also takes “the tube” to get to the markets and interesting other places. The descriptions are stellar, even telling us what a trek it is to use the stairway instead the elevator when reaching her stop in the city. The kitchens, Carrie Anne’s suite, and traveling to and from are all written in a way that makes us feel like we are there or maybe a fly on the wall.

The mystery is so well plotted. Everything is new to our chef. She really knows no one, who can she trust and who would even listen to her ideas? Ian Gordon, the Head of Security, seems friendly enough but will he just humor her or take her seriously? The story progresses at a nice pace and Carrie Anne makes some questionable decisions. She really surprised me the way she didn’t hold back, she was going to find the truth no matter what.

This series is off to a fantastic start. Chef Carrie Ann Cole evolved ten fold from the first page to the last with just a couple of moments of doubt in between. I am very excited to see where the author takes us in future stories. The core characters have my attention. I can’t wait for my next visit across the pond.

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

About the Author

An avid foodie and writer, Nell Hampton decided to finally combine her two loves. She lives in Richmond, VA. This is her first mystery. But you may also know her as Nancy J. Parra or Nancy Coco. Check out her webpage here. 


Written as Nancy Coco

Written as Nancy J. Parra

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.”

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Dec 272012
 

me before you
Me Before You: A Novel
Contemporary/Woman’s Fiction
Pamela Dorman Books
Release Date: December 31, 2012
Hardcover: 384 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0670026609

Louisa Clark (Lou) is just an ordinary woman leading her life, living with and helping to take care of her parents and grandfather. Then the job she loves at the cafe is gone. The owner has closing and moved away. Jobs are hard to come by and she tries a few. Then she is convinced to become a companion/caregiver to Will Traynor. A man who was a daredevil and astute businessman that has been sidelined by an accident the caused damage to his spinal cord. He is now in a wheelchair and can only move one hand slightly. Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

 

Dollycas’s Thoughts

I couldn’t wait to dive into this book. I had only read a small synopsis sent by the publicist before I started reading. I knew the man in the story was paralyzed but didn’t really give it more than a passing thought until I read about his injury. His damage to his spine was in the C5-6 area, the exact same place as my injury. He is confined to a wheelchair with very little movement. This could have been me. I was lucky to have paralysis only claim one side of my body. This did give me pause but I continued reading. Will Traynor went through the same feelings and doubt and uncertainty that I did and still sometimes have. But he did do something I could never do. He decided to have 6 months with his family and then he would end his life at a assisted suicide clinic in  Switzerland. Lou will do anything to get him to change his mind. To say this book affected me deeply in an understatement.

Jojo Moyes has written a brilliant story that was well researched. She incorporates spinal injury online support groups to help Lou understand what Will is going through. From experience I know the snippets in the book are credible. She has included a caregiver that takes care of the more personal and medical needs for Will so that Lou is more of a friend or companion at least at first.

She has also created a wonderful cast of supporting characters. Lou’s lower class family, working hard every day to try to keep up. Her sister, the family favorite, with her own personal battles. Lou’s boyfriend who has suddenly become a fitness guru. Then there is Will’s family. Upper middle class with a huge house and plenty of money. But even with their son’s disability aside, were they ever happy? I truly enjoyed the chapters when other characters took over and gave their perspective. We were able to get a deeper vision of their thoughts and impressions of  their lives as well as their feelings about Lou and Will.

This was not a book that I could rush through but I feel that is because of my personal issues with the story. I found myself setting the book aside because some parts were so powerful or when I found myself actually crying so much the words were blurred. It is not your run of the mill love story. Feelings grew in ways that I didn’t even imagine. I don’t want to ruin the end for anyone but I was truly hoping for a different outcome. I understood, but as a person who has actually looked death in the eye and came back, life is just too precious to me.

An intense story, I highly recommend you have a box of tissues handy.

a perfect escape

5 STARFISH

Dollycas

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Q & A with JOJO MOYES,

Tell us a little about where your ideas for your characters and their stories come from.

They come from all over the place. It’s often a snippet of conversation or a news story that just lodges in my head and won’t go away. Sometimes I get an idea for a character too, and then unconsciously start knitting them together. Me Before You is the most “high concept” book I’ve ever written—in that I could describe it in two sentences. But most of them are a lot more organic and just contain lots of ideas and things that I’ve pulled together. With this book I think the issue of quality of life was probably to the front of my mind as I had two relatives who were facing life in care homes, and I know that in one case she would probably have chosen any alternative to that existence.

Which of the characters in Me Before You do you identify with the most?

Well, there’s definitely a bit of Lou in there. I did have a pair of stripy tights that I loved as a child! I think you have to identify with all your characters to some extent, or they just don’t come off the page properly. But I also identify with Camilla a bit. As a mother I can’t imagine the choice she has to make, and I could imagine in those circumstances you would just shut down a bit emotionally.

What made you choose to set Me Before You in a small historical town with a castle at its center?

I tried all sorts of settings for this book. I drove all over Scotland, trying to find a castle and a small town that would “fit.” It was essential that Lou came from a small town, rather than a city, because I live in one myself and I’m fascinated by the way that growing up in one can be the greatest comfort—and also incredibly stifling. I wanted a castle because it was the purest example of old money rubbing up against ordinary people. Britain is still incredibly hide-bound by class, and we only really notice it when we go to a place where it doesn’t exist in the same way, like the U.S. or Australia. I needed the class difference between Will and Lou to be clear.

We love the way you draw the social distinction between Lou’s working-class upbringing and Will’s upper-class background. Did you do that deliberately to introduce humor into what could otherwise have been a deeply tragic situation?

Yes I did. I thought that the subject was so bleak potentially that it was important to have a lot of humor in the book. But it adds a useful tension to the narrative too: offsetting the warmth and chaos of Lou’s home life with the more formal and reserved nature of Will’s relationship with his parents. And it gives Lou an added reason to feel totally out of her depth once she arrives there. From the point of the reader, it also gives Will a subtle advantage that is vital if we are to see him as Lou’s equal and not just an object of pity.

Your books always have an incredibly moving love story at the heart of them. What is it about the emotional subject of love that makes you want to write about it?

I have no idea! I’m not very romantic in real life. I guess love is the thing that makes us do the most extraordinary things—the emotion that can bring us highest or lowest, or be the most transformative—and extremes of emotion are always interesting to write about. Plus I’m too wimpy to write horror.

Have you ever cried while writing a scene in any of your books?

Always. If I don’t cry while writing a key emotional scene, my gut feeling is it’s failed. I want the reader to feel something while reading—and making myself cry has become my litmus test as to whether that’s working. It’s an odd way to earn a living.

Where do you write? Do you set hours or just put pen to paper when inspiration strikes?

I work in roughly set hours, but with three children and a lot of animals I’ve found you have to be flexible. If there are no disruptions I roll out of bed and straight to my desk and work from 6am to 7:30am, and then again after I’ve done the animals from roughly 10am to 2:30pm. My ideal time to work would be from 3pm to 10pm—but unfortunately that only happens if I go away and hide in a hotel.

When you form characters do you ever incorporate aspects from people you know?

Yes—but often without realizing. Luckily if you write a negative character trait people are rarely likely to recognize themselves. More often though the characters have elements of myself which I then stretch and exaggerate until they become their own. Lou, for example, contains something of the character I could well have been if I had married the man I got engaged to at 17. I would have led a very different life.

Who would be in your dream book club? Where would you meet and what would you talk about?

Oh, wow. If I can have dead and living writers, I’d have Anaïs Nin, Hemingway, Xenophon, Haruki Murakami, Jessica Mitford, and Nora Ephron. We’d meet in a smoky bar in Paris and I’d probably not say very much at all. I’d be awestruck and just sit there and listen.

Do any other writers inspire you?

Yes. I love Kate Atkinson for her inventiveness, and because as a reader you can give yourself over to a plot that seems to go everywhere, trusting that she will bring the ends together in the most satisfactory and unexpected ways. I love Barbara Kingsolver for her use of language and Nora Ephron for her wit and the way she writes about the business of love and being human. It’s always tricky reading too much of the writers who inspire you though; sometimes they’re so good you just want to give up and go and work in a chicken factory instead.

When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your time?

I ride my ex-racehorse, Brian, and try to just hang out with my children without muttering: “I’ll be with you in a minute… I’ve just got to finish this…” A dream weekend, however, would be spent alone with my husband in Le Marais, Paris.

The Book Publicity Kit Even Includes This Recipe.

Lemon Cream Tart
1 large egg white
2 tablespoons stick margarine
3 tablespoons sugar
3 cups reduced-fat
vanilla wafer crumbs (about 36 cookies)
Cooking spray
3 large eggs
1 (14-ounce) can low-fat sweetened
condensed milk (not evaporated skim milk)
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup frozen reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed and divided
10 lemon rind strips (optional)
Mint leaves (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°. Combine first 3 ingredients and beat at high speed of a mixer until blended. Add crumbs and toss with a fork until moist. Press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch round tart pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 325° for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Combine eggs, milk, lemon rind, and juice in a bowl, stirring with a whisk until blended. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake at 325° for 30 minutes or until filling is set. Let cool completely. Top with whipped topping. Garnish with lemon rind strips and mint, if desired.

About This Author
Jojo Moyes (b. 1969 in London, England) is a British novelist. She is one of only a few authors to have twice won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award by the Romantic Novelists’ Association and has been translated into eleven different languages. Moyes studied at Royal Holloway, University of London. She won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to study journalism at City University and subsequently worked for The Independent for 10 years. In 2001 she became a full time novelist. She is married to journalist Charles Arthur and has three children. Find out more about Jojo Moyes here.

I am giving away my gently read review copy!
Open to U.S. and Canada
Contest Will End January 10, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. CST
Winner will be notified via email and name will be posted in the sidebar of this blog.

CLICK HERE FOR ENTRY FORM

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.”

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