Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Very Special Day


Every day is a special day, but today is extra special for me in several ways – I’m featuring a delightful book by a fellow blogger and amazing musician, it’s a holiday, and it’s my Blogiversary.

First, let me tell you about a fascinating book by author Sherry Ellis.

BUBBA AND SQUIRT’S BIG DIG TO CHINA
by Sherry Ellis
◊ Genre: Youth
◊ Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press
◊ Print & eBooks
◊ Paperback: 94 pages

Squirt doesn't believe Bubba can dig a hole to China. But when the hole swallows them, the kids find themselves in Xi'an, China, surrounded by Terracotta Warriors.
          It gets worse when the ghost of the first emperor of China appears. He tells them they can't go home until they find his missing pi. The kids don't know where to begin until they meet a girl and her grandmother who promise to help find the pendant.
          Soon they realize they are being followed. And they are no closer to finding the missing pi. Will Bubba and Squirt ever make it back home?

Sometimes book labels can keep us from experiencing a reading pleasure. I know labels are important to keep youngsters from reading stories that are unsuitable for them. But at the same time, labels keep adults from reading a book categorized “juvenile” because they are “too old for it.”

Author Sherry Ellis has created a story that may be geared toward youngsters but will entertain and delight adults as well. Her combination of imagination and tidbits of history make for a fascinating read. It will draw readers in to remember a time when every child dreams of where would I end up if I dug a hole to the other side of the world.

This is a magical story filled with mystery and adventure, as well as friendship and loyalty. The characters are well developed with traits that will have you smiling. The story flows at a good pace with helpful information included on pronouncing the Chinese words. This is an enchanting story that is fun for all ages.

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the author as part of her blog tour. Receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.


BUBBA AND SQUIRT’S BIG DIG TO CHINA available at:


Author Sherry Ellis
Sherry Ellis is an award-winning author and professional musician who plays and teaches the violin, viola, and piano.

When she is not writing or engaged in musical activities, she can be found doing household chores, hiking, or exploring the world. Sherry, her husband, and their two children live in Atlanta, Georgia. 

For more on Sherry and her writing, you can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, her blog, her website and her Amazon Author Page.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

This tour-wide giveaway is for five (5) autographed copies of BUBBA AND SQUIRT’S BIG DIG TO CHINA. The giveaway is open internationally.

To enter the giveaway, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load so please be patient. If the widget doesn’t show up, just click HERE and you’ll be directed to the widget.


 

Now, as many of you know, it’s Halloween here in the U.S. While some may think of this day as a terrible holiday honoring things that shouldn’t be honored, I see it as a day of fun. I see it as a time youngsters dress up and pretend to be some character or even create their own characters to be using their imagination. It’s a time to get more candy than you should probably eat in a month. It’s a time for adults to dress up and let their inner child come out and play for an evening without worrying what someone else might think. It’s a time of friendship, laughter, and funny photos. So, I’m wishing everyone (no matter where you live) a Happy and Safe Halloween. May your bags be filled with all your favorite candies.

Last, but not least, today is the anniversary of Thoughts in Progress. It’s hard to believe it’s been nine years since I posted that first entry into the world of blogging.

I apologize for not being around as much this past year and not posting on a regular schedule. Life, as we all have experienced, has its ups and downs but all is well. I find as I get older, I’m not as organized with my time as I once thought I was. My plan is to be more consistent with my posting in the coming new year.

I want to say a huge THANK YOU to each and every one of y’all for the support and concern you have shown me. I miss y’all when I’m not online. Thank you again because without you, Thoughts in Progress would not be what it is. I appreciate y’all more than I can ever express.

Thanks for stopping by today. Be sure to check out Bubba and Squirt’s book. (I hear they may be going on another adventure before long.) Are you dressing up for Halloween? If so, what costume are you wearing? If not, what or who would you like to dress up as?


Thursday, October 18, 2018

THE WINTERS -- A sharp and spellbinding thriller


On an island in the Caribbean, a young woman—unnamed and self-described as “unremarkable”—lives a quiet simple life, working for a sailing company and trying to pay her debts. Until a dashing older man, a recent widower and wealthy senator named Max Winter, arrives in town and sweeps her off her feet. After a whirlwind romance, she finds herself newly engaged and ensconced in a life of luxury she never could have imagined. But all is not as it seems at Asherley, Max’s opulent Long Island estate, and no amount of glitz and glamour can keep every secret buried, or every ghost quiet.

Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and imbued with a rich sense of suspense, Lisa Gabriele’s novel, THE WINTERS (Viking; On Sale: October 16, 2018), is a page-turner about the seductive trappings of wealth, the dangers of infatuation, and the impossibility of escaping the past. Gabriele’s vivid prose brings the affluent Hamptons alive, and skillfully reveals the darkness lurking just beneath the surface and the skeletons in every walk-in closet.

Please join me in welcoming author Lisa Gabriele to Thoughts in Progress as she talks about her new release. Welcome, Lisa.

The Winters begins like a lot of books, with a handsome man sweeping a young woman off her feet. But at its heart, this is a story about women—our unnamed heroine, plucked out of her quiet existence; Rebekah, the dead first wife who haunts her dreams; and Dani, Rebekah’s vengeful teenage daughter. Did you set out to write a story about female relationships, power, and sexuality?

Lisa:
Yes. I’m obsessed with female relationships, sex, and power, and how they intersect. These are my favorite things to read and write about. The genesis of this book began with me thinking about the women in Rebecca, and all the ways modern female characters and a new setting would completely change their relationship with each other. Suddenly The Winters became an exercise in demonstrating how much women have changed in contemporary times, and how some men, especially rich and powerful ones, really have not. I mean, think about all the different ways patriarchy still shapes and molds our lives as women. My narrator certainly has agency, she has a job of her own that she’s quite good at, and a potential role model of a single working woman, but despite this, she’s still deeply susceptible to the lure of a “happily ever after.” And with Max’s daughter Dani, I got to play around with some of my worst fears around young women and social media, on the difficulty of getting your new boyfriend’s kid to accept you, and about feminism’s so-called generational divide. Dani is 15 going on 40, an heiress with a chauffeur, a tutor, and thirty thousand Instagram followers. She isn’t going to make life easy for her new stepmother-to-be. And what better wedge for her to use than the memory of her dead (perfect) mother, Rebekah? The relationship between her and the narrator was explosively fun to write. But this time, the primary question that hovers over the narrator’s image of the dead Rebekah isn’t about her sexuality, but rather her role as a mother—a much more loaded question these days.

The Winters is inspired in part by Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel, Rebecca—an instant bestseller, first published in 1938, that has never gone out of print, reportedly selling 50,000 copies a year. And it’s obvious you’re a fan. What do you love about it, and what made you use it as the launching point for your novel?

Lisa:
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of Rebecca. My mother, who died almost twenty years ago, introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock’s movie first, and whenever I miss her I reach for it. In the fall of 2016, in the despairing days of the U.S. election, I bought some ice cream and threw in the DVD to drown out the bad news. But this time, instead of comforted, it left me feeling deeply uneasy. I had to remind myself that in Daphne du Maurier’s book Maxim de Winter killed his sexually rebellious first wife, a fact that Hitchcock, due to Production Codes at the time, erased. I suddenly felt this strong desire to avenge Rebecca and punish Maxim. So I guess you could say nostalgia inspired me to reread the book, but anger drove me to write mine.

Much of The Winters is set at Asherley, Max Winter’s opulent estate in the Hamptons. Why did you choose that setting?

Author Lisa Gabriele
Lisa:
I’ve always been fascinated with Long Island’s moneyed elite; a couple of my favorite books are set there. I loved the storied Gold Coast of The Great Gatsby, and the deceptively serene town in The Amityville Horror. I needed a place that combined history and horror and the Hamptons seemed like a natural choice. However, to pull off the violent conclusion, I also needed a location that wasn’t only private, but remote. In the research stage, I visited the Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead and read about Gardiner’s Island. It’s one of the biggest swaths of privately-owned land in America, purchased by Lion Gardiner from the Montaukett Indians in the 1600s, in exchange for a large black dog and some Dutch blankets. Today it’s worth more than $125 million dollars so keeping the island in the family has driven generations of Gardiners to sometimes concoct nefarious plots. So Winter’s Island was born, as was a motive for murder. I changed some geographic details, but the rest of its history and topography, its dense forests, the old ruins, the private beach and thick, marshy shores, are the same. Then there’s the mansion. I love a looming turret, so I made Asherley a Queen Anne Victorian—spookier, in my opinion, than the typical center hall design from the Gilded Age. Entering the house, with its paneled walls, oak and marble floors and mullioned windows, the reader falls back in time. The only modern touch is a dramatic, star-shaped greenhouse, Rebekah’s pride and joy, lodged, incongruously and a little violently, against the house, a constant reminder that this was once her domain. 

As our narrator spends more time at Asherley and begins to discover her new family’s dark secrets, The Winters becomes a gripping slow-burn thriller. What are your tricks for building suspense and keeping the reader on the edge of their seat?   

Lisa:
E.L. Doctorow said, “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” With The Winters I never set out to “write a thriller.” I just metaphorically made my headlights a little dimmer and the road ahead a little snakier, but kept the speed the same, (barely) avoiding smashing through the guardrails. Also, the whole story is told from one POV. The narrator’s. We are only in her head. We only know what she knows. And she’s fed different versions of the same stories. So who to trust? You can also use short staccato sentences. They ratchet up the tension. Sometimes.

Like many fictional politicians—from House of Cards’ Frank Underwood to the Senator in Joyce Carol Oates’ Black Water—Max Winter is powerful, charismatic, and fiercely ambitious. Why did you choose politics for Max’s career, and what made you want to dip into that world? 

Lisa:
As I mentioned above, the 2016 U.S. election consumed me, and the subsequent presidency has upended all norms. It’s been a struggle to keep up with the controversies, the news being, for this former journalist, a constant distraction. But it’s also a source of inspiration. So I stopped fighting it. Since I couldn’t get away from the news, I folded some of my current fixations into my book. I didn’t want to date the book, or bog it down in current affairs, but divisive politics, and the corrosive effects of both social media and (questionable) Russian money on modern American life all make cameos. Presciently I finished the book at the start of the #metoo movement, which, like my book, demonstrates how important it is to believe women.

You’ve been a journalist and an award-winning producer, in both radio and TV, for more than twenty years. When (and how) does your journalism background seep into your novels?

Lisa:
It always does, sometimes subtly and sometimes more obviously, but I am first and foremost a journalist. The books I write require research to get the settings, tone, and era right, but it’s my favorite part of the job. And for me it’s unavoidable. My characters tend to arrive almost fully formed. So when the unnamed narrator of The Winters insisted she worked on boats, and Max decided to run for reelection in Suffolk County, I had some research to do. Learning about politics at the state level and proper boat terminology was interesting and fun. But I also consult experts. I reached out to a PhD in mortuary archeology to confirm how many years it would take for a body buried in a shallow grave to completely turn to skin and bones. And, thankfully, one of my best friends is a family lawyer, so I ran by her all the details about conservatorships and inheritances. The hardest part was trying to understand the murderous lengths to which some people will go to maintain their wealth and privilege, but one need only turn on CNN these days for that kind of research.

The Winters takes many of its cues from classic novels—a plain unassuming heroine; a dashing older gentleman; a lavish estate; an inconvenient first wife. But the ending is decidedly more modern—even feminist. Without giving too much away, can you speak to how you went about crafting a contemporary version of these kinds of novels?

Lisa:
Writing a modern book that that still pays tribute to a beloved classic is a tricky balancing act. I am a huge fan of the ones done well: Jane Smiley’s King Lear redux, A Thousand Acres, Jean Rhys’ The Wide Sargasso Sea (which is actually a prequel to Jane Eyre, which du Maurier herself retold with Rebecca), Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible (a hilarious retelling of Pride and Prejudice), and Joanna Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility. The best ones preserve the original’s landmarks, though the terrain is completely different. They’re written in a contemporary style, though a sharp-eyed reader will spot my own iambic hexameter. And while the characters feel familiar, they’re not facsimiles. No character embodies all of these ideas more than Dani Winter, a 15-year old girl with all the traits of the average Millenial, minus any disadvantages. She has everything a girl her age could want, plus total freedom and the run of the house. She plays with her mother’s clothes and makeup, and the stories she tells about her run completely counter to her father’s. This presents a very current dilemma for our narrator. Does she believe the man she loves or his bratty kid? Dani becomes, then, a reminder that we longer live in an era where stories men tell about women take primacy over the ones they tell about themselves, as the #metoo movement is proving. Women just aren’t having that anymore. I know Dani’s generation isn’t.

Finally, considering the evocative setting of The Winters, where do you think is the best place to read a book like this?

Lisa:
You should read The Winters at one of my favorite hotels, The Chequit Inn, on Shelter Island. You should be sitting on the deep front porch that overlooks the Peconic River, sipping sweet tea. Funny enough, in a very early draft I wrote a scene where our teary, breathless narrator, running for her life, bursts into the lobby of The Chequit Inn demanding to use their phone. They let her. They get her a glass of water and calm her down. They offer her a chair. In the end, the incredible staff at even my imaginary Chequit Inn sucked the tension right out of the scene, so I had to redirect.

Lisa, thanks for joining us and sharing this insight into your story. Being a fan of REBECCA, your book sounds intriguing and one that would become a favorite read too.

Thanks everyone for stopping by. Are you a fan of REBECCA and if so, do you look for similar books for your TBR list?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Seven Days of Us


Paperback Edition
I’m delighted today to share with you a book that was released yesterday (Tuesday, Oct. 16) that will be an exciting read before the holidays.

SEVEN DAYS OF US by Francesca Hornak
◊ Paperback: 400 pages
◊ Genre: Humorous Fiction
◊ Publisher: Berkley (Oct. 16, 2018)
◊ Language: English
◊ ISBN-10: 0451488768
◊ ISBN-13: 978-0451488763

It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.
          For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems. 
As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.   
In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive...

Author Francesca Hornak
Francesca Hornak is a British author, journalist and former columnist for the Sunday Times.

Francesca's work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Metro, Elle, Grazia, Stylist, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Red. She is the author of two nonfiction books, History of the World in 100 Modern Objects: Middle Class Stuff (and Nonsense) and Worry with Mother: 101 Neuroses for the Modern Mama. Follow her on Twitter at @FrancescaHornak

Thanks for stopping by today. What are your thoughts about being confined to an estate for seven days with your entire family around the holidays?

Monday, October 15, 2018

Awesome book videos


It has been some time since I shared any videos from Penguin Random House, so I thought today would be a good time to change that.

Today’s videos include an interview with author Adam Bray, a look at scary books and Brightly Storytime. If you click on the image, you can view the interview.




Meet the Author: Adam Bray (MARVEL STUDIOS VISUAL DICTIONARY)

Adam talks about the key to a great story, the book he rereads the most, and more.



Scary Books | Six Picks

Read it Forward editors Abbe and Emma recommend six scary books that will give you the spooks.



The Day You Begin - Read Aloud | Brightly Storytime

BONUS videos of the week

This is a great Instagram account, run by a book historian at the Smithsonian. One of her recurring features is called #ForeEdgeFriday, where she shares old books’ fore-edge paintings, or scenes painted on the edges of the pages of a book that appear when fanned out. Here is a quick sampling, but if you like old books and have free time, it’s worth poking around in there. And if your thirst for fore-edge paintings still isn’t sated, here’s a profile of one of the few people still making them today



Fun video-adjacent tidbit of the week:
In a survey from DriversEd.com, 8% of drivers admitted to watching YouTube videos while driving (please don’t do this).

Thanks for stopping by today. Hope you enjoy the videos. Do you have a scary book that you enjoy reading every year around this time?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Beguiling Bachelor Series

The Beguiling Bachelor Series
By Madison Michael
ALL on SALE for a LIMITED Time
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
FREE until October 13th!
 
Bedazzled  (Book 1)
A Chance Encounter Can Change Everything…
Keeli Larsen is second-guessing her decision to support herself as an independent jewelry designer. She has no money, no friends, but she knows she has talent. Leaving her job, she rides the elevator one last time with the sexy man from the penthouse office. That ride and a well placed hand are about to change her life.
Millionaire and hot hunk Wyatt Lyons Howe IV is trapped by generations of family loyalty and tradition until a moment in an elevator rocks his staid world. Wyatt is captivated by Keeli’s beauty and fiery spirit, choosing to pursue her and his dreams. He just needs to rid himself of a scheming fiancĂ©, defy his family, conquer his doubts, extricate himself from his traditional life and, of course, find the elusive Keeli again.
Is she Wyatt’s ticket to freedom or is Keeli an opportunist looking for a bankroll? Unsure of her motives, but unable to stay away, Wyatt is bedazzled.
Fans of steamy romances will fall in love with this contemporary retelling of Cinderella, a smart, sexy story, set within the splendor of Chicago’s elite society.
Amazon Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2K3OL4D
Bedazzled is on Kindle Unlimited 
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Only $.99 until October 13th!
 
Beholden (Book 2)
She’s Lost Everything. He Has Everything…
This is no docile heroine. Meet Sloane, assertive and tough, desperate for love. Meet Randall, drowning his troubles until Sloane provides a reason to sober up. Beholden is a sexy, romantic romp set in the glamour of Chicago’s elite society.
Amazon Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2AjMtPg
Beholden is on Kindle Unlimited 
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Only $1.99 until October 13th!



Bedeviled (Book 3)
Join Alex and Charlotte, along with characters you’ve met and loved in “Bedazzled” and “Beholden”, as they tackle the maze of half-truths and cover-ups threatening the lovers.

How can they build a bond with deceit on both sides? With malevolent forces advancing, is their love Bedeviled? 
Amazon Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2uUHsYu
Bedeviled is now on Kindle Unlimited 
~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 
Only $2.99 
 
Besotted (Book 4)
Time is Running Out…For Both of Them Join Tyler and Regan as they seek their happily ever after in the conclusion of the steamy, contemporary Beguiling Bachelor romance series. Amazon Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2AiK2MQ
~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 
About Madison:
Author Madison Michael
Madison Michael traded 28 years in Fortune 500 tech and management positions for a chance to spend her days with sassy heroines, sexy, rich heroes and nothing but happy endings. Growing up the daughter of a librarian, she learned to love books, especially classics and romances, and spent winters cuddled under blankets losing herself in books.
Madison is the author of three novels in the Beguiling Bachelor series, as well as several short stories. She is a member of Romance Writers of America.
After living in the northeast, southeast and the west, Maddy returned to her Midwest roots. She lives in Evanston, IL with two feline editorial assistants and great views of Chicago’s famous skyline.

Social Links:
Website: madisonmichael.net
Madison's Blog: madisonmichael.net/category/maddys-blog
Maddy's Romance Madness: madisonmichael.net/category/mrm/
Maddy's Tours and Treats: madisonmichael.net/category/tours-and-treats/
Facebook: facebook.com/madisonmichaelromance
Twitter: twitter.com/madisonmichael_
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/Madison-Michael/e/B01EVUGG6G/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1


Thanks for stopping by today. Have you read any of the books in The Beguiling Bachelor Series?