Believe the (Im)possible!

The Fourteenth Goldfish
Jennifer L. Holm

210 pages random house for young readers
Good for YA 8-12/14 year olds (gr 5-7)
Adults will find this fun to read too, perhaps even reading the story out loud together (I would love to be the grandfather’s humorous voice. Make sure you have Wikipedia handy or several books to look up parallel stories.) There are good discussion points in each chapter, including adapt and change, poignant passages, heartfelt family issues: adult parent/ child, grandfather/father and daughter, mother and daughter.
Some school issues are addressed too – appearances are not everything, learn to look beneath the surface, become friends, build confidence.
11 year old Ellie Cruz is a smart little girl, starting middle school but struggling with too many changes. She is quite perceptive, interestingly especially concerning her mother. Then Grandad comes back as a teenager, to live with them; he was a famous scientist but his fountain of youth experiment worked too well on him. This book beautifully addresses family issues, as the author is an adept pro. I will be looking for more of her books.
I had no doubt Ellie would mature to a lovely, interesting (and one hopes scientific) adult. She has learned that life is about passion, interests and talents and good humor throughout helps. Science is presented in everyday light: Chemistry in cooking physics in relationships, astronomy in life. Science doesn’t have all the answers and there are consequences that need to be thought out. This is entertaining and educational (I loved the future research section).

Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors.
Jonas Salk (would that we all lived by this message)

Good for chapter books
Good as step to graphic books
Good for grandparents to purchase!

4.5 stars
Digital ARC from NetGalley (thank you!)

Fall into a Good Book!

David Liss
Day of Atonement 2014
I look forward to reading the books of David Liss – I learn a great deal about an historical period and savor the rich detail and tapestry of his plots. Often I met old friends, and greatly enjoyed finding Benjamin Weaver as the formative mentor to Sebastian Foxx. For ten years Sebastian learns his trade of thief taker/bounty hunter, while the desire for justice and retribution hone his skills. He abruptly departs London for Lisbon in 1755 seeking revenge for the deaths of his parents and the profound loss of his love/youth/innocence. He understands the game and the stakes and is a dangerous match for the Inquisition. Although that makes it sound quite melodramatic, and indeed this would work on the big screen, with fast action, danger, natural disasters, love, betrayal and redemption. The great earthquake which leveled Lisbon (and killed 90,000 people) provides a convenient escape, but adds another historical element.

I was exhausted when I finished breathtaking read. I lived through atrocities, bore the weight of judgment, and travelled both in time and culture. Many passages were underlined highlighting gems of wonderful writing and human moments.
It has humor which lighten some of the despair and betrayal and make it all too real, a story you are experiencing not just reading.

I closed the book with a sigh and a sense of well done. Well written, well researched, well developed characters. A most enjoyable read, as expected given his other similar novels, usually classified as historical mystery or historical thrillers (he does have one contemporary thriller Ethical Assassin). Don’t miss any of them; start with A Conspiracy of Paper, which won the 2001 Edgar for best first novel. I might even try his comic books.

4.5 stars
Digital ARC from NetGalley (thank you!)

Fall into a Good Book!

A friend of a friend is a friend.
A friend of a friend who likes books is a good friend.
A friend of a friend who shares books is a great friend.
And a friend of a friend who is also a regency writer, is a friend-in-waiting!?
Recently, I discovered a new award winning author Jess Russell – and I am delighted to comment on her debut Regency romance novel The Dressmaker’s Duke. Jess Russell has created a fascinating historical romance novel full of London high society, fashion, courtesans, village life, with complex characters. There are also interesting embedded stories which provide depth that include passion for painting, fashion and dressmaking (the author is also an accomplished seamstress!), the use of all our senses so accurately described which contribute to the story. This is not your standard debut novel. It is a well written and crafted combination of historical detail and rollicking romance. It showcases everyday life, primarily of the English aristocracy but has also some steamy intimate details characteristic of the new regency historical novel (now I understand there are even more regency categories: traditional, regency historical, sensual, paranormal (including Victorian steam punk) and Christian regency romance). This is well researched; you will find many familiar people and locations (Jackson’s, Mr Crup’s, Mrs Radcliffe’s novels, Mrs Siddons).


Mr Rhys Alistair James Merrick, 6th Duke of Royden aka The Monk

Mrs Olivia Weston (née Olivia Jayne Ballard, father Earl of Stokesly, Mr Angus Allen Hartner)

Her companion Egg (Mrs Eglantine Wiggens who has a flirtation with Merrick’s Uncle Betram)

Daria Battersby, courtesan

Lord Oscar Biden, scoundrel


The story takes place over the year of 1810. It is rather intricate, somewhat convoluted, with the usual melodrama and secrets. They each have past traumas that are slowly revealed, adding both dimension and substance to their relationship, while preventing straightforward courtship. I haven’t recovered fully from the visual of the main character being described as an onion with many layers. But perhaps that was also due to all of the senses so well described in this novel: the gutter smells and intoxicating fragrances, stunning scenery, gorgeous dresses and feel of the materials, champagne bubbles and sensual trysts, with incessant rain, cobblestone street traffic and droning matron voices. The mistress was slightly caricatured. Imagine being a hag at 35? There are no spoilers here, remember this IS a regency romance, with which I automatically have predictable expectations. But it has fun dialogue, interesting back stories, familiar territory with accurate descriptions, and a most satisfactory ending.

It is a pleasant distraction for an autumn afternoon. I have no recollection of the flight from Florida to Vermont as I was engrossed in this tale, marking hysterical comments and notes to share. 4 stars – open the champagne and celebrate this new author.

Received as an e- ARC from the author.

Publisher Wild Rose Press Author Jess Russell lives in New York (and not only loves power tools, but knows how to use them. I have found a kindred spirit who appreciated the gift of a chainsaw!). Her passions include dressmaking and batik.

The Dressmaker’s Duke came in first in the Fool for Love contest, Golden Apple Awards’ Secret Craving contest, the Indiana Golden Opportunity contest, and finaled in the Great Beginnings, Emerald City opener, and Lone Star contests.

Read on: If you like Mary Jo Putney, Mary Balogh, Jo Beverly, Marion Chesney, Georgette Heyer, Lisa Kleypas, Stephanie Laurens, Julia Quinn, Amanda Quick, Christina Dodd or Madeline Hunter.

Favourite Quotes:

“This particular shop was not for the faint of heart. Mr Crup specialised in the macabre.”

“Rhys raised an eyebrow, one of his surest weapons, and gave the man his most ducal look.”

“But the four full suits of armor, Sir Mutton, Sir Haggis, Sir Dunce-a-lot and last but not least, Sir Portly- she had named them all in the last hour- gave up no secrets.”

“Rhys waited and then raised an eyebrow ever so slightly. Wilcove (his secretary) used to reading volumes in the mere quiver of Rhys’s nostril, rushed on.”

“Please don’t resurrect that atrocity (a costume dress). Good lord, we need a patron not an arrest.”

“The ton had called her ruined. Ruined. What an odd word to associate with a human being, as if she were broken and no longer useful, something to be thrown away.”

Author interview!

The Dressmaker’s Duke, by Jess Russell, was recently published! It has received many accolades and came in first in the Fool for Love contest, Golden Apple Awards’ Secret Craving contest, the Indiana Golden Opportunity contest, and finaled in the Great Beginnings, Emerald City opener, and Lone Star contests. Jess was kind enough to answer a few questions and provide a few of her favourite authors too.
Author Questions

Do you remember the last time you said to someone: you really must read this book now?” and the book was? Gone Girl.

Are you part of a book club? I belong to a very small book club at our mountain house community. (if so how do you pick your books?) One member works at Random House and she often suggests books. Also we have read several books on the history of our particular little town and the Catskills in general.

What is your favorite line from a book? “Words are the source of all misunderstanding.” (The Little Prince)

A favorite first line or quote? “The mantua-maker’s (dressmaker’s) customers are not easily pleased; they frequently expect more from their dress than it is capable of giving. The mantua-maker must be an expert anatomist; and must, if judiciously chosen, have a name of French termination.”–The Book of English Trades.

A recent Book you bought just for the cover? A Reliable Wife. I liked the title too.

Have you heard any good books lately? All the Light We Do Not See.

Will there be an audio version of your book? I have been listening to Roy Dotrice read, Game of Thrones. I am a visual person, so it is hard for me to process just by listening. I prefer to read. However, an audible book sure makes a drive go faster and saves your eyes. :o) I HOPE there will be an audio version of my book. I would love to do the reading myself. I am an actress as well as a writer, so it would be very cool to do my own book. I must say, I have stopped “reading” an audio book because I couldn’t stand the reader.

Do you have a genre to beach read? ROMANCE! Especially Historical romances. I tell myself I’m “doing research”. Do you have a favorite literary adaptation on TV or film? Of course! Andrew Davies Pride and Prejudice with Collin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. What book is on your nightstand? The Fault in our Stars. Paper or electronic? Do you take notes? Paper. But I use my e-reader generally. As far as notes, sometimes a passage will prompt an idea for one of my own WIP’s and I will riff on that.

Do you read plays or poetry for pleasure? Not generally. I act in plays and love to perform Shakespeare. I recently did David Ives, School for Lies, which is entirely written in rhyming couplets. Fun! H

ave you memorized any poems? Lots of Shakespeare and a few poems. I recently came across, The Highwayman, which I hadn’t read in years and I memorized the first few stanzas. Very sexy, that highwayman.

What were your most cherished books as a child? James and the Giant Peach. A. A. Milne’s, When We Were Six. Nancy Drew. Do you have a favorite character or hero / heroine from one of those books? I loved the ladybug from James and the Giant Peach. She was so motherly to poor, terrified James. I remember being alternately scared and drawn in by those fantastical insects.

Is there one book you wish all children would read? The Little Prince.

Is there one book you would like adults to read? The Little Prince.

If you could meet any writer dead or alive, who would it be? what would you want to know? Well, my answer is not very original, I would imagine, but I would like to have met the man who wrote “Shakespeare’s” plays.

Is there one book you wish some one else would write? A uber-easy picture book on how to navigate social media and technology in general. The Dummy books are too involved for me. Do you tend to keep books, lend them out or give them away? All of the above.

Do you have a favorite question that you are often asked about your writing? a favorite question that was only asked once? My niece said, “Aunt So So, (they call me So So b/c I said I didn’t want to be a Grand Aunt. My sister said, so you just want to be a “so so” Aunt?) Anyway, my niece said, “are you writing one of those toe-wiggler books?”

Any guilty reading pleasures? Every month or so I will dip into my trove of “Favorites” and re-read the dog-eared delicious bits.

Which romance authors would you recommend? Some Mary Balogh-Slightly Dangerous, is an all-time favorite. As is Loretta Chase’s, Lord of Scoundrels. Laura Kinsale’s, Prince of Midnight, Shadow and the Star, Flowers from the Storm. Julia Quinn, When He was Wicked. Judith Ivory, Beast. Jo Beverly, Devilish. Joanna Bourne’s Spymaster series. Her Rogue Spy is coming out soon. Can’t wait!

Book Review: What I Remember Most


What I Remember Most
A review by Catherine H. Armstrong

There is nothing I love more than the anticipation of reading a new book by a favorite author. I mark my calendar far in advance and begin counting down the days about two weeks before launch date. The only thing that comes close to equaling that excitement is when I’m surprised with the the opportunity to review a copy in advance in the form of an Advanced Reader’s Copy from the author or publisher. Recently, I had the opportunity to get my hands on an ARC of Cathy Lamb’s newest novel, What I Remember Most.

As an avid reader and fan of Lamb’s work, I walked into this book expecting a good read. I’ve read everything she’s released, and so there’s a reason why I always anxiously await her next book. With that said, though, I had no idea the huge treat that was in store for me. Simply stated, this book was absolutely beautiful and probably the best book Lamb has released yet. It was without any doubts one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

As with many of Lamb’s books, What I Remember Most is filled with a strong female leading character surrounded by a close-knit group of quirky friends. But what sets this book apart and above all others is the grit and determination of the main character, Grenadine Scotch Wild. She’s a young woman who has been knocked down by life and by the system her entire life, and yet she refuses to give up. She refuses to be beaten and she refuses to accept defeat. She keeps her chin up and her head high as she plows forward through life in search of the peace and fairness she deserves. She’s tender-hearted, yet tough as nails and unafraid to stand her ground against those who would take advantage of her. And through all of this, she’s intensely likable and the kind of person we all wish was among our inner circle of friends. She’s the kind of character that a reader falls in love with, and the one who lingers in your memory long after the last pages have been turned.

When an author starts with a character as appealing as Grenadine, she has a responsibility to that character not to drop the ball on the storyline. Luckily Cathy Lamb was up to the task and brings the reader an unforgettable story of a young orphan as she navigates through the foster care system and then, later, the real world. It’s a story of love, loss, survival, determination, perseverance, friendship and new starts.

This is a book that I will be recommending to every one of my friends, and one that you won’t want to wait any longer than necessary to read.  This book is not yet available at Rochester Public Library, but a request has been sent to purchase it for their shelves.

NPR comes through again

A Field Guide to Little Known and Seldom Seen Birds of North America. Ben and Cathryn Sill (a parody)

NPR comes through again.
This was recommended to me awhile ago, and I snapped it up on a NetGalley, now learning there is volume two (Another Field…..) which you won’t want to miss either. This is actually the 25th anniversary edition of an earlier publication but still perfect. It is a charming little book, that is presented in guide format any birder would be familiar with. It looks just like the real thing with superb illustrations. The species however are another story! I am sure birders have been searching for these birds all their lives!!
It is silly, witty, clever, light hearted and vastly entertaining. I love the calls (semi-adled chaff chaff), advice (if you live within this tern’s range, it is advised to purchase reinforced feeders) and nonsense (the seed eating tern is the only tern that has been able to qualify for “authentic vegan” certificate).
I would be hard pressed to say which bird I liked best! (Middle and least yellowlegs?! Long range target duck?!) As a student I provided driving skills while the avid birders concentrated on their life list, and discovered then their amazing senses of humor. I need to buy dozens of copies of this book. Christmas is coming and this is a perfect, delightful gift.
If you have a sense of humor, if you need a gift for a birder or naturalist in your life, if you need a hostess gift or stocking stuffer, buy multiple copies of this book. If you like puns, buy this book. Send book editions to friends who need a little uplift now and then.

We are not too proud to admit that mistakes made in the first edition were the editor’s fault.
Let it be known that we have been hard at work to stay ahead of the birding frontier.
…when their data did not agree with our opinions we deleted them.

4.5 stars
ARC from NetGalley