Thursday, February 21, 2019

Excerpt: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

I am excited to participate in the tour for Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward. First, an excerpt (see below) and I will post my review on March 5.

A devoted wife, a loving husband and a chilling murder that no one saw coming.
Things that make me scared: When Charlie cries. Hospitals and lakes. When Ian drinks vodka in the basement. ISIS. When Ian gets angry… That something is really, really wrong with me.
Maddie and Ian’s love story began with a chance encounter at a party overseas; he was serving in the British army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend, Jo. Now almost two decades later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America. But when a camping accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son; and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.
From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, sixteen years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of a shocking crime.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Ten weeks before
Her eyes keep coming back to the top left corner of my face. She looks away toward the window, out over the manmade neighborhood pond visible from her home office, but then it’s right back to the place where I’ve been sewn back together. 
I don’t know how this is going to work. On her website she says she is “above all a nonjudgmental, compassionate and discreet psychologist accomplished at using writing therapy to address anxiety.” For fuck’s sake then, stop staring. I’ve told her I’m here because I’d like to feel less nervous. 
She smiles at me. That’s better. She says, in a lilting infomercial voice, “There are many, many extremely helpful exercises used in writing therapy. What I love most about it is that you can explore as far and wide and deep as your imagination and inhibitions will allow. We’ll try a variety of approaches and see—” she tilts her head to the side in a way that is at once obviously rehearsed and yet strangely attractive “—see what works best for you, Maddie.” 
I nod, and the hair I wear pulled over the left side of my face must move a little. She’s playing it very cool, but her fascination is evident. I’m not surprised. The bruise has faded but the whole mess is still pretty shocking. 
I feel discouraged. I need this to work, but this woman is not what I expected. It was important to me that I do writing therapy, and there were not all that many choices in my area. When I chose Dr. Camilla Jones, with her private practice in Overland Park, I pictured a lady in a sophisticated suit and some grandmotherly pumps. Kind eyes. Silver hair. 
This woman, this Camilla, has told me that her name rhymes with Pamela. What? Instead of Dr. Jones, she wants me to call her Cami J. She is dressed in a loose, floral off-the-shoulder T-shirt, yoga pants and a baseball cap. I hate to be shallow, but I have to point out that there are rhinestones all over the front of her cap. All over. Everywhere. It’s probably as hard for me not to gawk at her cap as it is for her not to gawk at my face. The focal point on this cap is a giant rhinestone fleur-de-lis. This troubles me. She’s got be in her early sixties even though she looks fucking great. Honestly, though, I just didn’t want my psychologist to remind me of a Zumba instructor. 
Finally she is looking me in the eyes. “Maddie?” 
“Yes?” I don’t know why but I am clenching my fists, then opening them, then clenching them again. I used to get carpal tunnel syndrome from all the writing, and I would do this when my wrists were sore. I stop. 
“Let’s cut to the chase and start easy. I want you to write down twenty things that set off your anxiety.” She passes me a piece of lined notebook paper and a pen. “Try not to think too much about it. Just what scares you or makes you sad or nervous. Write the first things that pop into your head, okay?” 
  1. When Charlie cries. Anything bad happening to Charlie. 
  2. When Ian drinks vodka in the basement. Or when he won’t wake up.
  3. When someone shoots kids in a school, or really when anybody goes and shoots a bunch of people randomly, but especially kids. I don’t like the guns in the house either.
  4. When someone drives a gigantic eighteen-wheeler through a beach parade in France and mows everyone down. 
  5. ISIS. 
  6. It sounds silly but I get scared when I go somewhere to meet new people and they want to sit in a circle and have me tell them about myself. I don’t go to the Meadowlark mom’s brunch thing anymore. 
  7. When the angry man with the beard on the treadmill in front of me gets off and walks away and leaves his big backpack sitting there. 
  8. When I call the dogs and they don’t come and I can’t find them. (Probably just because this happened last night. They dug under the fence but they didn’t get hit by a car. I patched the fence where they got out.) 
  9. When my parents or Charlie get sick. Deadly new strains of the flu. 
  10. 10. When Ian goes to dangerous countries to work. All the things that could go wrong. 
  11. Funerals. Hospitals and lakes. 
  12. When Ian gets angry at Charlie. 
  13. That an alligator can lunge out of the Disney lagoon and snatch a little boy right out of his father’s arms. 
  14. When my heart races uncontrollably. This happens usually when I start missing Joanna and thinking about how she probably still hates me. 
  15. Drowning, especially little Syrian kids that wash up dead on the shore, I can’t even cope, sometimes for days, and I dream about Charlie drowning and sometimes I worry about the dogs drowning. Tidal waves. 
  16. When I take Charlie to the park and then suddenly he’s gone and I can’t find him. 
  17. The darkness in some people. Like, that guy in Germany who paid some other guy to cut him up a little bit at a time, cook him and eat him. 
  18. When Charlie cries.
  19. When I have to leave Charlie with Ian.
  20. That something is wrong with me. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Review: Once A Liar by A.F. Brady

Title: Once a Liar
Author: A.F. Brady
Year Published: 2019

Genre: Adult fiction (thriller)
Pages: 363
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (NY)

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for a fair review

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Did he kill Charlie Doyle? And if he didn’t…who did?

Peter Caine, a cutthroat Manhattan defense attorney, worked ruthlessly to become the best at his job. On the surface, he is charming and handsome, but inside he is cold and heartless. He fights without remorse to acquit murderers, pedophiles and rapists.
When Charlie Doyle, the daughter of the Manhattan DA—and Peter’s former lover—is murdered, Peter’s world is quickly sent into a tailspin. He becomes the prime suspect as the DA, a professional enemy of Peter’s, embarks on a witch hunt to avenge his daughter’s death, stopping at nothing to ensure Peter is found guilty of the murder.
In the challenge of his career and his life, Peter races against the clock to prove his innocence. As the evidence mounts against him, he’s forced to begin unraveling his own dark web of lies and confront the sins of his past. But the truth of who killed Charlie Doyle is more twisted and sinister than anyone could have imagined….
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Purchase Links: Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with A. F.: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Review: Narcissistic, mean, uncaring, what other words can I use to describe Peter Caine? He is not nice. But, I could see glimmers of hope underneath all that nastiness so he was a good main character. 

This is a fairly slow moving story, but in alternating chapters (Now and Then), we learn the story of Peter and his relationships with his (now-dead) ex-wife Juliette, his (now-dead) ex-girlfriend Charlie, his semi-estranged son Julian, and his current girlfriend Claire. As the story progresses, we learn more and more about Peter, his personality issues, and what really happened to Charlie and how it all fits in with Peter's job as a criminal defense lawyer.

I definitely kept asking myself what these successful and smart women saw in Peter. Is the lure of a charming, wealthy man so strong that they ignore all the icky? I guess so. 

And the ending! I thought I was so clever and had figured out the truth about 50 pages before the ending. And I was wrong. So, good job A.F. Brady

Challenges for which this counts: none

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sunday Musings: February 17, 2019

I've decided to change this post that I do every two weeks to Sunday Musings (my own creation) because I never post to the Sunday Salon Facebook group.

My life in books over the past two weeks: 
  • Learning Supercharged by Lynne Schrum (for work)
  • Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

Challenges progress:
  • A to Z Reading--I have read books with titles for 14 letters so far: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, L, M, O, P, Q, T, V, and W.
  • Diversity Reading Challenge--I have read 9 books.
  • Literary Escapes--I have read books set in 8 states so far, adding Pennsylvania in the past two weeks. I have read in 17 countries so far adding India.
  • Motif Reading Challenge--The February motif is "Cover Love."
  • Non-fiction--I have read 7 books so far.
  • YA Award Winners--Winners were announced January 28 and it turns out I have already read 4 of the winners!
My life outside books:
Both my job applications have been submitted and I have interviews on Feb 25 and 27. I have been juggling reading multiple books for work; they are really good.

Well, we've had a bunch of rain lately and I managed to slip and fall at one of the schools where I work. I went down hard on my knees, my right one in particular, so I went to Urgent Care because it REALLY hurt. But after taking x-rays, they said there was no crack or fracture and I have just bruised it badly. Whew! And the x-ray technician was a former student of mine and it was great to see her!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Review: Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

Title: Dear Evan Hansen
Author: Val Emmich
Year Published: 2018

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 357
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): When a letter that was never meant to be seen drawn high school senior Evan Hansen into a family's grief over the loss of their son, Evan is given the chance of a lifetime to belong. He just has to pretend that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn't invisible anymore--even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy's parents have taken him in like he's their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his "closest friend."As Evan gets pulled deeper into the family's swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he's doing can't be right, but if he's helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer incapacitated by anxiety or hiding from the disappointment in his mother's eyes, this new Evan has a purpose. And confidence. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face-to-face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

Review: All I had heard about this book was how much everyone loved the musical so I felt a bit of pressure to love the book. I didn't even know what this book was about when I started reading it, but boy is it good.

Evan is one of those characters that just sits with the reader. He is so needy, so alone, so like many people who aren't sure of their place in the world. His working mom really needs to spend more time with him, but can't seem to take time away from work or school. The one guy Evan does spend time with can't possibly provide what Evan needs: love and attention. And the girl Evan likes doesn't know he exists.

Then Connor dies and everything changes. Evan finds purpose, a family, friends, and a girl. What could possibly go wrong? This is when Evan begins to shine and sees how his life could really be; how he could feel every day.

This book tackles suicide, love, friendship, and truth. And it's well done.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

CYBILS Awards announced!

I was honored to be a second round judge for the CYBILS again this year. Last year I read junior high and high school non-fiction, but this year I judged graphic novels. What a fun category!

To see a list of winners, go to the CYBILS website.

To see my brief reviews of the finalist books that we read, go to my elementary / middle grade graphic novels post and my YA graphic novels post. You'll see that I liked a large number of the finalists.

I definitely want to read Boots on the Ground, the winner of junior high non-fiction. And, I think Sadie was a good choice for YA fiction.

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners!