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23 April 2014

SIBA 2014 - Are You Attending?


Four years ago when I first started seriously (and consistently) blogging, Bermuda Onion posted that SIBA was heading to Daytona Beach for their annual trade show. It was the first time I'd heard of a trade show dedicated to books, and at the time, I only lived an hour and a half north in the Jacksonville beaches area. I dragged my amazing and supportive partner/husband/father-of-our-cute-son, Jason, and couldn't believe my eyes. A conference room filled with exhibitors and books! Not only did I have the best time walking the floor, speaking with publicists about which books to select, I met four key ladies that day: Sandy from You've Gotta Read This, Kathy from Bermuda Onion, Heather from Raging Bibliomania, and Stacy from The Novel Life. I was a lowly blogger with about four months writing under my belt, but these ladies were so welcoming and treated me as though I had been blogging for years. I thought all trade shows were like that.

Until I went to BEA in New York the following year. Keep in mind that I'm used to big cities and absolutely love them. I grew up outside of Baltimore, went to school six miles outside of Washington, D.C., and regularly visit Boston, New York, and more. I love big cities. I love the energy and the ability to walk two feet and have an overwhelming number of restaurants to choose from. Surprisingly, BEA was just a bit too much for me, even though the Blogger Conference and my own sightseeing resulted in the actual fun that I took away from that time. With the BEA trade show however, gone was the intimacy, to interact with representatives and authors without an uptight atmosphere. I missed the smaller get-togethers. I made the decision that if I were to attend BEA again, it would likely be only for the Blogger Conference, which back in 2011 was when I met *the* gal, Jenn from The Picky Girl, who motivated me to start my own blog.

When my husband and I moved to Virginia Beach a few years ago, I was excited to attend the Virginia Festival of the Book held in Charlottesville. This was an even smaller event, and although I enjoyed it, I missed SIBA. I wasn't able to go the past couple of years because of moving, or I was pregnant, etc. But this year? This year is different.

SIBA is being held this year in... Norfolk, Virginia! And since Virginia is for lovers, it's now also going to be for book lovers as well! A short twenty-five minute drive will bring me back to an event that I have the best memories of and I urge you to check it out. If you're even just a few hours away, make the drive. SIBA is so much fun and the author and publisher events are aplenty!

Here are the details:
  • Dates: September 19 through September 21, 2014
  • Location: Norfolk Virginia
  • Site: Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel
  • Click here for the Schedule of Events
  • Click here to register as an attendee.
  • Click here to register as an exhibitor.
  • If you tweet about it, use #siba14 as your hashtag.
And if you're planning on attending, let me know!

17 April 2014

Two Sisters, by Mary Hogan


If you want a secret kept safe, Muriel is the one to tell it to. In her entire life, the only connection she had with her beautiful and worshipped mother, Lidia, and equally mesmerizing sister, Pia, are the things she's seen or gone through with them, or because of them. Never once, though, has Muriel broken her promises and told a soul. With her father emotionally absent and bonded to his only son, Logan, and Lidia and Pia always excluding others, Muriel continues to be the outcast in a family of four who accidentally had a fifth.

Now an adult at twenty-three and living in New York with an entry level job, Muriel still keeps her promises, but limits her time with family. She prefers Sundays securely snug in the comfort and safety of her tiny fourth-floor walk-up apartment, eating popcorn while on the bed and reading the Times. Planning the day starts off like any other, but when her perfect sister Pia, now living in Connecticut with the perfect husband, house, and daughter, unexpectedly calls to spend Sunday with her, little does she know her entire life will change. What Muriel once thought about her family turns upside-down and sideways as relationships are scrutinized, past events are inspected again, all because of one more secret Pia has to share.

No matter how odd it may sound that I loved a story so sad and heartbreaking, Two Sisters resulted in just that. Beautifully written, Muriel's sad story is oftentimes difficult to read, frustration seeping in for the reader as Lidia and Pia dig at Muriel, cruelly teasing Muriel's hair, shape, and more. With reminders that being the odd man out in any situation can feel horrible, within a family, it can be damaging.

I couldn't put down Two Sisters and ended up flying through it in a day. It was an excellent change of pace from my current reading preferences, and I enjoyed every page. With truly nasty, unlikable characters throughout, Muriel's the ultimate underdog, and I cheered her on. While things tied up a little too neatly for my preferences, I loved Muriel's story, her quiet attempts to bond with her sister and mother tugging at my heartstrings.

Mary Hogan has a gift when writing the voice of the tortured soul excluded from others, and I'm eager to read more from her. I've heard that this is her first foray into adult fiction, with seven previously published books in the YA genre, so I'm excited to dive more into her work when her next adult novels come out.

Book club readers will definitely feel inclined to share their own personal family stories after reading Two Sisters. There is much to think about and mull over with others, and the simultaneously sweet and harsh message that sometimes you have to look at who you are, instead of always thinking everyone else is the problem, might hit home for many. The words lift from the page, pulling you into Muriel's world and I happily went into it, no matter how sad it sometimes could be.

FTC Disclosure: I accepted this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: 3/4/2014
Pages: 384

About the Author
Mary Hogan is the award-winning author of seven Young Adult novels, and is also a writer for several national magazines, including her most recent article featured in Woman's Day about her mother, sister, and herself. (I'm going to have to read that one now, too!)  She lives in New York City with her husband and her dog Lucy. Two Sisters is her first mainstream adult fiction book. And it is good.

Visit the author:

08 April 2014

Seasoned Search and Rescue volunteer and debut novelist M.L. Rowland takes on the subject she knows best and brings the first in a thriller series sure to maintain your edge-of-the-seat spot.

Gracie Kincaid is a professionally serious volunteer with the Timber Creek Search and Rescue team, the largest county in the country. And while she may be ordered and disciplined in her role, her youthful and feisty vigor can sometimes get just a little bit in the way of her personal life, if you can call failed relationships and a string of job-hopping as one. In this first installment in the Search and Rescue mystery series, Gracie's partnered up with Cashman, a rogue and reckless volunteer who is given the lead to search for the missing British actors of a movie being filmed locally and who have somehow gotten lost in Southern California's wilderness on Thanksgiving Day. When Gracie and Cashman finally find one of the missing persons, he's been a little bit knocked around and seems to slightly remember being attacked on the trail. As Cashman takes the radio and hike out to report their position, Gracie does her best to not worry that the only link to the rest of the team, and ultimate rescue, didn't just go with him. With a possible killer in the mountains to contend with, Gracie has to keep Rob Christian, world-famous actor, alive and well at all costs.

This isn't my typical reading choice, but I was in the mood for something different. Different, thrilling, and one I could learn from. So when I got the offer to read M.L. Rowland's debut, I was more than happy to accept it. With survival tactics weaved into the story, Gracie's cute and somewhat rebellious self (although never about her SAR volunteer work), was incredibly fun to read. It'll keep you distracted in a busy airport, and engaged throughout.

My only wish was that I found out earlier on the depths of Gracie's life and why she's built the way she is, especially why the defiant and personal wall set up with her family is so big. The work was incredibly interesting to learn, and I enjoyed the twists and turns and survival knowledge thrown in, but I wanted to understand more about Gracie and really get into her past. It wasn't until the last few chapters that I got that peek, which easily painted the full picture of why Gracie is the way she is.

M.L. Rowland is an author to keep on the watch list; as with any author, there is no doubt she's only going to just get even better, and more thrilling, with each step along the Search and Rescue mystery trail.

FTC Disclosure: I accepted this book from the publisher in order to provide an honest review.

Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Release Date: 01/07/14
Pages: 293

About the Author (from the website)
M.L. Rowland is an experienced Search and Rescue volunteer of twelve years, participating in hundreds of missions and trainings, including technical ropes rescues, helicopter insertions and evacuations, and searches for lost children, hikers, snowboarders, mountain bikers and criminal evidence, in alpine, desert and urban environments. She served as the team’s Training Officer and participated in community events and public speaking engagements. Trained in land navigation, and desert and winter survival, including avalanche awareness and self-arrest, she holds a certification in tracking from the State of California.

Rowland also served as a member and on the Board of a Colorado County Sheriff’s Department All-Hazards Incident Management Team (IMT) which manages local search and rescue operations, brush and wildfires, planned community events and other critical incidents.

Rowland is an avid political activist, naturalist and environmentalist. She is an accomplished painter and loves to snorkel. She has traveled to all fifty states in the US and also throughout the world. As often as possible, she hikes and explores the slot canyons of Utah.
Rowland lives with her husband, Mark, and their chocolate lab, Molly, at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in south-central Colorado.

Visit the author:

02 March 2014

The Good House, by Ann Leary (Audio Review)


Well, I'm an idiot. Let's just get that out of the way right from the start.

I began this audiobook months ago from excellent recommendations from JoAnn at Lakeside Musing and Sandy at You've Gotta Read This. Somewhere along the way, I decided to take a break from the story. Don't ask. I have no idea why.

Hildy Good is an older single woman and is the most successful realtor in a small New England town. A descendant of a witch from the Salem Witch Trials, Hildy's also got a knack for finding out what everyone's secrets are, whether they want to spill it or not. With two adult daughters, an ex-husband who is her ex only because she can't really be in a marriage with a man when he's gay, and a little bit of a problem with her wine (she just can't stop drinking it), Hildy's confident that life is now exactly where it needs to be. If a little bit of wine in the evenings takes the edge off of her busy day, what harm can it do? She's never viewed wine as a source of a problem and even when her daughters planned an intervention, forcing Hildy to go to rehab, she always told herself she was only going so her daughter wouldn't stop her from seeing her grandson.

For some reason, something didn't click with me. At first. Was it the narrator or was it the story? I really have no idea. It was just something, and probably something silly and minor, but I took a break from it, resolving to start it back up again one day in the future.

When another audio concluded and I was stuck in the car with another hour to go, I realized I had nothing ready except for The Good House. Deciding to give it another try, I pressed play. And I was floored. I absolutely fell in love with it. The narrator felt like an old friend I hadn't spoken with in forever, the character of Hildy suddenly became clearer to me and her story started to take shape even more. I got the humor, I started to feel her pain, and realized that Hildy's battle with the bottle was something she might never fully come to terms with. I grumbled about Rebecca, Hildy's new friend, a younger mother born into old money, who was just a tad entitled and definitely annoying, but I even changed my opinion of her as well. I loved Frank and wanted everything for him, and then suddenly, I was shocked when I realized I couldn't stop listening to it. I tweeted with JoAnn about this, and I made excuses to take long drives and run random errands just so I could be with Ann Leary's story. And then it all made sense that Mary Beth Hurt 's gravely voice and timely inflection was absolutely the only person on this planet who could deliver Hildy's story, revealing dark pain laced with an unsuspecting humor that seemed to blanket her in some iron-clad defense. This was incredible. One of the best audios I have ever listened to, and one for the books that New England can count as a "win" for stories told of small town life.

Click here for the sample so you can listen and be convinced. Don't be an idiot like me and think you need to take some silly break. The last few foreboding hours set up by an innocent first few chapters will keep you on the edge of your seat, the tale magically composed by Ann Leary and cunningly voiced by Mary Beth Hurt. You won't regret it.

FTC Disclosure: I downloaded this from Audible.com

Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Release Date: 01/15/13
Audio Time: 10 hours and 12 minutes
Narrator: Mary Beth Hurt

About the Author
Ann Leary is the author of the memoir An Innocent, A Broad, the novel Outtakes From a Marriage, and the latest New York Times and national bestselling novel The Good House. She is a co-host of the NPR weekly radio show Hash Hags, is a volunteer EMT and competes in equestrian sports. She sounds pretty awesome, so I just might have to read everything else now.







About the Narrator
Mary Beth Hurt is an actress best known for her role in The World According to Garp (1982), Interiors (1978), and Bringing Out the Dead (1999). Her voice has the perfect gritty stylings that will keep you transfixed to the story. I can't wait to listen to more from her.

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