Category: Interview

Guest Review + Giveaway: The Winters by Lisa Gabriele

Posted November 7, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Interview, Reviews / 32 Comments

Guest Review + Giveaway: The Winters by Lisa GabrieleThe Winters by Lisa Gabriele
Series: standalone
Published by Viking on October 16, 2018
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“From the brilliant first line to the shattering conclusion, The Winters will draw you in and leave you breathless. . . . A must read.” —Liv Constantine, author of The Last Mrs. Parrish
Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, a spellbindingly suspenseful novel set in the moneyed world of the Hamptons, about secrets that refuse to remain buried and consequences that can’t be escaped

After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded Long Island mansion of her new fiancé Max Winter—a wealthy politician and recent widower—and a life of luxury she’s never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max’s beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman’s imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell. She soon realizes there is no clear place for her in this twisted little family: Max and Dani circle each other like cats, a dynamic that both repels and fascinates her, and he harbors political ambitions with which he will allow no woman—alive or dead—to interfere.
As the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family’s dark secrets—the kind of secrets that could kill her, too. The Winters is a riveting story about what happens when a family’s ghosts resurface and threaten to upend everything.

How could I resist the lure of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca revisited in an all new take on a gothic thriller that is still keeping readers riveted to the pages. Naturally, there was a great deal of curiosity to see a modern variation on the classic, a little trepidation, but also so much anticipation.

The Winters introduces a young unnamed woman, average and good, who has known poverty and her fair share of loss, working a job for a charter boat business in the Cayman Islands. She is bowled over by the older, debonair Max Winters’ charm. She’s living the fairytale until she leaves her island for his family home on a little island just off Long Island, NY. There she faces the challenge of living down his dead wife’s ghost in the lives of all who live on the estate and in the heart of the dead Rebecca’s bitter, spiteful teenage daughter who resents her mother’s replacement. But, slowly this young woman uncovers the secrets of Asherley and the Winters taking a dark twisting journey to the truth.

“Last night, Rebecca tried to murder me again.”

The opening line is as startling as the many lines after it take their time to build the story. The story is told framed by the present around the past. The narrator is telling the reader her story and she goes back to describe who she was before Max came, why she was susceptible to his charm and the safety of what he offered, and then why she was inadequately prepared to enter his world and the life at Asherley. Naive and woefully unprepared. The introductions to the main players take place including the ghostly woman who is at the heart of it all. I thought the author did an excellent job building her story and the suspense. She carried over the gothic tones that were so prevalent into this modern version well.

Now, its been many years since I read Rebecca and I’m actually thinking that is a good thing. It wasn’t fresh enough in my mind to draw as many comparisons. I felt the flavor of the classic, of course, but I’m pretty sure that this was very much the author’s original creation. I could give The Winters its due and not slighting it for not being Rebecca. I say this because I felt the connection, but really I just read and enjoyed the book for what it gave me.

I found myself considering Dani, Max and Rebecca’s teenage daughter, as someone I couldn’t pin down about how I felt, but she kept my attention the most even over the unnamed heroine. Dani was so multi-faceted and unpredictable. I loved how she was written. Actually, I was well pleased with how everyone and the background was developed. My only niggle was that this did move along ponderously for me in the first bit. That was where I think I missed the older version that got me wound up in the atmosphere a lot sooner. But, this one eventually got rolling and it had me flipping pages rapidly in the end.

So, for those who have not read Rebecca and also for those who have, I think readers will find this a worthy novel of modern gothic suspense that will leave them breathless in the end.

My thanks to Penguin Viking for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

And, now, an extra treat for our Night Owl Book Café readers!

Read on for a Q&A with the author and a giveaway hosted by the publisher, Viking.

A Conversation with Lisa Gabriele

Author of The Winters

1.       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?

 

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.

 

2.      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?

 

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.

 

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

 

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 ofThe 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. 

 

4.      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?   

 

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.

 

5.      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? 

 

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.

 

6.      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?

 

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.

 

7.      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?

 

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’sEligible (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.

 

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

 

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.

GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNITY FOR U.S. RESIDENTS

One print copy of The Winters by Lisa Gabriele will be given away to a lucky commenter on this post. The giveaway will be open for one week following postdate and the winner will be a random pick from the comments. Winner must have a US postal address and the address will be forwarded to publisher. Penguin-Viking will handle the actual giveaway. Good Luck!

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: Son of a Preacher Man by Karen M Cox + Interview

Posted July 3, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Interview / 17 Comments

Guest Review: Son of a Preacher Man by Karen M Cox + InterviewSon of a Preacher Man by Karen M. Cox
Series: standalone
Published by Adalia Street Press on July 1, 2018
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 274
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Author
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“Love has power we disregard at our peril...”
It’s 1959 — and although the country is poised at the edge of a tidal wave of social change, Billy Ray Davenport anticipates living a traditional, predictable life. Handsome, principled, and keenly observant, he arrives in town to lodge with the Millers, the local doctor’s family. Billy Ray has visited the small Southern town of Orchard Hill several times when he accompanied his father, a widowed traveling minister. But he never bargained for Lizzie Quinlan—a complex, kindred spirit who is beautiful and compassionate, yet scorned by the townsfolk. Could a girl with a reputation be different than she seems? With her quirky wisdom and a spine of steel hidden beneath an effortless sensuality, Lizzie is about to change Billy Ray’s life—and his heart—forever.A realistic look at first love, told by an idealistic young man, Son of a Preacher Man is a heartwarming coming of age tale set in a simpler time.

“He was the only son of a Preacher Man… the only one who could ever move me…”
Yep, it is connected to the old song written by John Hurley and Ronnie Walkins and sung by Dusty Springfield among others. And, it’s also equally influenced by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I love that the author set this one in the late fifties in a rural community area and then moved things to the city as a pair of young star-crossed lovers head out into the big wide world.

This was a tender story of first love, but so much more. There is a coming of age story all told through Billy Ray’s eyes. He’s had to grow up quickly and be responsible because of his mom’s death and knocking about with his dad, but because he’s preacher’s son, he’s also somewhat sheltered and innocent. Lizzy has been limited in her education and knowledge of the world outside her town, but she is wise to worldliness and hard-living with her family on the grub farm. My heart went out for this girl and I teared up at one point as her past was fully revealed. I got quite angry at a few people just like Billy Ray.

This story has one of my favorite settings- small town. But, instead of the romantic nostalgia that can paint a picture of the best side, this shows the uglier side, too. We have a small community set on believing the worst in one of their own even without evidence, what trouble a malice-filled girl can stir up, and Lizzy’s pain and strength needed to make it even years under a bad reputation before getting out to make good on her dreams.

The historical era was there and gave a nice layer of verisimilitude without taking over the engaging, gently-paced story.

The book has a strong faith element because of Billy Ray’s Christian outlook and he leans on his faith to try to help Lizzy through her pain and as his own guidepost, but it isn’t an inspirational fiction and there are no attempts to push his faith on others or on the reader, for that matter. Not that he needs to because it was still an era when the average person in rural America made nominal claims to Christianity. I respect that he lived out what he believed and that part of his struggle was how to reconcile his attraction for Lizzy with his dad’s concerns about falling for ‘that kind of girl’, respecting her need to pursue her own career when he’d been taught that women were to be the homemakers, and his acceptance that Lizzy is his equal not lesser because she is female.

All in all, this was a heartwarming story that had a strong flavor of nostalgia that was tempered with bittersweet reality. The pains and joys of coming of age and first love along with figuring out life while pursuing education. It was a well-written, well-developed story with engaging characters and elements. It had me smiling, laughing, crying, and swooning. Those who enjoy slightly sweet with a little spice, modern historical, and influences from an old song and an even older story should give it a look-see.

My thanks to the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Interview with Karen M. Cox

Howdy, Readers!
Today, I get the privilege of hosting an author who I’ve had the pleasure of reading her books over the last few years. Her books have taken me into the near past of America’s South and all the way to Cold War Europe for heartwarming romance and engaging characters. In honor of her latest release, Son of a Preacher Man (which makes a great summer beach ride, by the by), Karen Cox is joining us today.

Hey, Karen!
Hey there! Thanks so much for letting me stop in!
How is your summer treating you?
It has been fabulous so far. I’m a public school speech pathologist in real life, so I have some time to myself in the summers. I’ve just finished a trip to the Pacific Northwest to see some friends, which was fabulous, and I’ll be attending my first Romance Writers of America conference in July. Put that together with swimming, playing with my son’s 3 year-old daughter, going to lunch with my college-aged daughter, and Life Is Good!

Just so you know, I have had that old song stuck in my head off and on for a few months now.
Mua-ha-ha!
Fortunately for you, I happen to like the song. *gives her guest a narrow-eyed look*

I’m going to go out on a limb that the story was inspired by the song, but I’m always curious. How did it come about?
Well, it initially grew out of a discussion with some Jane Austen fans about what would be an analogous Darcy/Lizzy social divide in various times and places. I laughingly proposed that there would be no greater divide than between a girl with a reputation and a minister’s son in a small, Southern town before the Sexual Revolution of the 60s. The “Son of a Preacher Man” song was mentioned by someone, and since “FitzWILLIAM Darcy” was kind of like “BILLY Ray”, that suggested the hero’s name. It just evolved from there until it turned into an original story inspired by Pride and Prejudice.

What are some details you can share to entice our readers? Are we looking at a ‘wrong side of the tracks’ romance plot? I love those.
Yes, I would say that in the book’s time and place, Lizzy would be considered a girl from the “wrong side of the tracks.” But the story has its surprises too. Billy Ray is an unusual young man. He’s naïve and traditional in some ways, but he’s observant and open-minded in others. He has his old-fashioned side, but he thinks his way through his dilemmas and comes to his own conclusions. Lizzie is, to my mind, just delightful—beautiful and sensual, but with a child-like curiosity about the world; wounded but willing to open her heart; and always, always seeking knowledge and answers. (Yeah. I love them. A lot.)

Now, I understand that Son of a Preacher Man is a remake of At the Edge of the Sea. What instigated the re-write and can you share what sort of changes were involved?
I had been considering a rerelease of At the Edge of the Sea for its 5th birthday for a long time. One major change was that I went back to the story’s original title, Son of a Preacher Man. I had changed the title because I wanted to distinguish the story from what might have been considered traditional Christian fiction at that time. Son of a Preacher Man definitely has inspirational themes—that’s somewhat necessary, given who the hero is—but it also has an…I don’t know, an “edgy” side to it too. It’s not a tale that slides neatly into a genre. Over time, I grew to realize that Son of a Preacher Man is the title that represents the story best. So, I retitled, re-edited, and had a new cover designed (shout out to MadHat Books and Joshua Hollis.) And here ya go!

Should those who already read At the Edge of the Sea grab up this latest translation of the story? Maybe treat it as a good opportunity for a re-read?
I would be thrilled if readers wanted to treat themselves to Billy Ray and Lizzie’s story again! The changes I made were minor—a polishing, tightening of the prose, the cover, the title.
In spite of a glowing review from Publishers’ Weekly, winning two categories (Romance and Chick Lit) of the Next Generation Independent Book Awards, and over 4 star rating at Amazon and GoodReads, At the Edge of the Sea wasn’t widely known, either by fans of Austenesque literature or those outside that fanbase. The re-release is my hopeful attempt to share the story with more readers who would enjoy it. Which, for me, is what writing is all about.

Your characters, Billy Ray and Lizzy, are young. Would you describe your story as a Coming of Age? Or does the story stay with them into their adult years?
Yes, I would definitely consider this a coming-of-age story. I think it has a lot to say to young people trying to figure out who they are and how to reconcile their pasts with their futures. But I also think it strikes a nostalgic chord for readers who might remember the 1950s-60s time frame (or heard stories about it from parents, grandparents, etc.), or really, for anyone who likes laid-back stories of small towns and first loves that endure.

I have noted this in the past, but I love how you have focused your stories on what I’ll dub the modern historical eras in America. What appeals to you about writing in this time frame?
I’ll be honest—I don’t know what draws me to 20th Century time periods in my writing. Perhaps it’s that they aren’t usually popular settings for romantic fiction, although I have seen more World War 2 era books recently. I like that the 20th Century isn’t far enough removed to be trendy or cool, but yet it’s a fascinating time. Think how rapidly the world changed in those 100 years. So much happened—why not tell stories with that change as a backdrop?

What do you consider the challenge of writing more modern historicals?
Actually, it’s not that difficult because the historical information is, for the most part, readily accessible. Also, I lived through some of that time and have some personal experience to draw from. I do have an unfortunate tendency to go down a “rabbit hole” when doing 20th Century research. I have to remember to pull myself out and go write periodically!

Do you have a favorite scene you can share with us?
Oh, it would give too much away if I shared my favorite! But how about this one? Billy Ray and Lizzie are both at the small town’s laundromat. I love the interaction between them in this scene:

The door to the laundromat was propped open with a cement block. The dank, soap-perfumed heat of clothes’ dryers poured out into the evening air.
A heavyset woman sat at the counter reading a magazine.
“Need some change, honey?”
“Yes, ma’am. Enough for two loads.” I handed her some bills. “And I need some soap too.” I took a quick look around, but there was no sign of Lizzie. I hoped I hadn’t missed her after all. I wanted to make up for not speaking to her at the library the other day—even though she had no idea I was there. I wanted to prove something to myself.
“Here you go.” The laundry attendant pushed the coins toward me, followed by a small box. I put my clothes in two side-by-side washers, read the directions on the lid, added soap and coins, pushed the button—and just about jumped out of my skin when I heard a blood-curdling shriek behind me. A blur of brown curls and a faded cotton dress raced from the back room toward the front door.
The attendant looked up from her magazine and frowned, grumpy but not irate. “Get that hellion out of here! She’s a menace.”
“Sorry, Miz Turner.”
I knew that voice. It set my stomach to flipping about like a trout on a fishing line. Lizzie Quinlan seemed unsurprised to see me, though.
“Oh hey, Billy Ray. I thought I heard you talking. Fancy meeting you here. Hold on a second.”
She blew by me and rounded the row of washers near the door. “All right, Lily, you little imp! I counted to fifty, and I found you fair and square.”
“Only if you catch me before I get back to base!” A little voice emerged from behind the washers on the next row. Lizzie pointed to the other end near the doorway to the next room and silently mouthed at me. “Head her off down there.”
I walked to the end of the row and stood in the door frame, arms folded, my best scowl in place. Lily came barreling down the aisle, squealing and laughing, looking behind her so she couldn’t see where she was going—and ran right into me.
“Hey you!” I tried to frown, but the shock on her face was so funny, I couldn’t keep it up. She looked up at me with big, brown eyes, her face drained of all color.
Lizzie swept in from behind, put her arms around her sister and twirled her about, laughing. “I got you! I got you! Now you’re It, Lily Lou!”
“No fair!” But now Lily was laughing too.
“Go back and check on our clothes, squirt,” Lizzie said.
Lily ran into the back room, and Lizzie turned to me. “So, Mr. Davenport does his own laundry. Couldn’t get Marlene to wash your undies for ya?” She grinned.
“She offered. I refused—as you see.”
Lizzie looked at me with a thoughtful expression. “Hey, c’mere a sec.” She started walking back to the room where her sister and their clothes were. “You been to college. I wanna ask you something.”
I followed her, my eyes dropping to her blue jean-clad bottom, bouncing up to her ponytail and then down again. She had a man’s shirt tied around her waist, and I wondered how a girl wearing men’s clothes could be so appealing. She stopped beside a couple of brassieres hanging over the side of a basket, feeling of them to see if they were dry.
“I, ah…” Swallowing nervously, I gazed up, down, anywhere but at her underthings.
“Your prissiness tickles me.” Her lighthearted laugh rang out. “No, I didn’t want to ask you about my underwear, College Man.”
I breathed a sigh of relief.
She picked up an old, thick textbook, and flipped back a couple of pages. “There.” She pointed. “How do you say that one?”
“Tanacetum parthenium. It’s feverfew—see here?” I pointed to the next line. “There’s the common name.”
“Then why don’t they just call it ‘feverfew’?” she asked with a touch of exasperation.
I tried to hide my smile. “It’s Latin. All the plants are organized into categories. The first name is called the genus, the group name. The second is the species, the group within the group. Like with animals—all cats belong to one genus, but bobcats are a specific type.”
She was watching me with wide-eyed interest, and it was strangely gratifying to have her hang on my every word.
“I didn’t know you were interested in botany.”
“Oh yes! I like to learn about plants. Mrs. Gardener got me started, but now I read on my own too.”
“Don’t they teach botany at the high school here?”
She shook her head. “Just chemistry and Earth science—not enough teachers.”
“Did you get the book from Mrs. Gardener?” I picked up the thick volume and turned it over in my hands, looking at the spine.
“Nope—the library. It’s an old book, but you gotta start somewhere, right?”
I grinned and handed it back to her. “Right. Botany doesn’t change that much anyway.”
“Plants fascinate me.” She thumbed through the book and shrugged her shoulders. “They seem so common, just your run-of-the-mill greenery growing in the field or beside the road. But hidden inside them is this amazing power. Some of them nourish or heal, but some of them can kill. The deadliest plants can appear so ordinary.”
“See? I’m not the only one that thinks about things real deeply—or looks to find answers in an old book.” I tapped the cover to illustrate my point.

Okay, I’ll wrap things up with my usual ‘what is next from the pen of Karen Cox?’
Well, my next published work is a short story in the Quill Collective’s Rational Creatures anthology. The collection is chock full of Regency-era stories about Austen’s female characters, all with an emphasis on how they were ahead of their time. My story is about the kind and elegant Eleanor Tilney, whose brother is the hero of Northanger Abbey.
After that, I’m torn. I’ve got several projects in my head: a Regency novel, an early 20th Century Western, another coming of age piece from the 1980s, and a women’s fiction piece about a young (late 40s) widow rebuilding her life. What to choose, what to choose? I guess I’ll figure it out along the way!
Glad to have you stop by today, Karen! I’ll just be slipping off now to torture my family while I sing the same lyrics over and over to the chorus of ‘Son of the Preacher Man’ …
“Bein’ good isn’t always easy, no matter how hard I try…”

Book Description:
“I forget that you’re a fella sometimes.”
“Gee, thanks.”
I never forgot that she was a girl. Not for one second…

1959. The long, hot Southern summer bakes the sleepy town of Orchard Hill. Billy Ray Davenport, an aspiring physician and only son of an indomitable traveling minister, is a young man with a plan that starts with working in a small-town doctor’s office before he begins medical school in the fall. Handsome, principled, and keenly observant, he arrives in town to lodge with the Millers, the local doctor’s family. He never bargained for Lizzie Quinlan—a complex, kindred spirit who is beautiful and compassionate, yet scorned by the townsfolk. Could a girl with a reputation be different than she seems? With her quirky wisdom and a spine of steel hidden beneath an effortless sensuality, Lizzie is about to change Billy Ray’s life—and his heart—forever.

A realistic look at first love, told by an idealistic young man, Son of a Preacher Man is a heartwarming coming of age tale set in a simpler time.
Available on Amazon and iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble

Connect with Karen:
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About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: Digging for Trouble by Linda Fairstein

Posted November 16, 2017 by Lily B in Interview, Reviews / 12 Comments

Review:  Digging for Trouble by Linda FairsteinDigging for Trouble by Linda Fairstein
Series: Devlin Quick #2
Published by Dial Books on November 7th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Childrens, Mystery
Pages: 332
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Twelve-year-old supersleuth Devlin Quick heads to Montana to dig out dinosaur bones, but instead she uncovers a mystery.After successfully apprehending a map thief at the beginning of summer, Dev is going to spend the second half of her summer vacation in Montana with her best friend, Katie, exploring the outdoors and NOT getting into trouble. But after participating in a dinosaur dig, Katie and Dev suspect that someone bad is in the Badlands when Katie's found fossils are switched out for old rocks. The good news? With Mom back in New York, no one can stop Devlin from investigating! But the fossil thief isn't the only danger here, as snakes, scorpions, and bears abound, making Montana a treacherous place for finding answers. And when the mystery takes Dev and Katie back to Manhattan--to the Museum of Natural History--the case gets even more complicated, even with Dev's friend Booker there to help. Dev has to use her brains, brawn, and yes, okay, the lessons learned from her police commissioner mother if she wants to dig up the truth once and for all.

Devlin and Katie are off to Montana to help dig out some dinosaur bones. When Katie makes a huge discovery, it was suppose to be a big thing. But something isn’t right when the fossils the girls dig up gets switched up for rocks. Soon Devlin and Katie cannot help but feel that something else is going on in the Badlands, and the mystery takes the two girls back to Manhattan and the Museum of Natural History.

This was such a pleasant read. I enjoy the writing, the writing was really well done and the characters are well fleshed out and developed. Devlin is a wonderful character to follow, she is headstrong, smart, and just a charming 12-year-old girl.

I love the strong friendships in this book, especially with the positive relationship between Devlin and her mother as well as between Devlin, Booker and Katie. Devlin cares, and it is evident with the fact when she tries to get to the bottom of a mystery when she feels like her friend Katie’s discovery seems to be underplayed and possibly stolen.

The author also does a great job of incorporating some facts in her books about certain things that end up being weaved as part of the story and does not make you realize that you are in fact also learning.

Devlin Quick is a great series for both adults and children alike. Filled with interesting characters, positive relationships and a fun storyline that makes this book a true keeper.

Author Interview

Hi Linda! I’m Lily and I want to welcome you to my blog, Night Owl Book Cafe. Thank you for taking your time and answering some questions for us today.

Let’s get right to it. What is your new book, Digging For Trouble about?

DIGGING FOR TROUBLE is my second book in a new series for Young Readers (8-12 year olds) that debuted last year. The protagonist is a smart sleuth – a twelve-year old girl named Devlin Quick who lives in New York City and likes nothing better than to engage her friends in solving a mystery. This story opens in Montana, where Dev and her best friend Katie are on a dig for dinosaur bones, and then moves back to Manhattan where they are assisted by their pal Booker. They wind up in the iconic Museum of Natural History – to see whether someone tampered with Dev and Katie’s bones. – and to see whether they can make things right.

I have to admit, I love that it features dinosaur fossils. Where do you get inspiration for your books?

As a writer, I’ve long found that there is inspiration all around us, as long as we always have our eyes open. I grew up near New York City, and the first place in Manhattan that totally enchanted me was the Museum of Natural History. What kid doesn’t love dino fossils? And how those discoveries have changed over the years. Also, I spend part of every summer in Montana, which is unusually rich in fossils from the dinosaur ages, so the combination came pretty easily.

Devlin sounds like a fun character! How did you get inspired to write her character?

When I was a young reader – in exactly this age range – I became hooked on the adventures of Nancy Drew. I envied her courage and her independence – not traits you would have found in me back then – and I loved that she was a character who came back to her fans in story after story. My goal was never to imitate that great series of stories, but to write a modern day character – familiar with new forensic tools – as a tribute to the books that inspired me in so many ways.

Which character did you find the most difficult to write?

I think creating Devlin was the most difficult part of this undertaking. INTO THE LION’S DEN was the first book, and I was well aware – as a writer of a long-running series of crime novels – that if I didn’t get Dev ‘right’ from the outset, I wouldn’t capture the imagination of readers. So a lot of thought went into figuring out who Devlin Quick is before I sat down at the computer to write the first page.

Do the characters ever try to take over your writing?

Of course they do! Before I started to write, I’d listen to authors I admired when they appeared on TV talk shows or lectures, and I would roll my eyes when they would say that their characters ‘spoke’ to them and often took over the story-telling. Most days, and especially when you write a series populated by continuing characters, it’s entirely true! I hear Booker telling me not to make him ‘do’ certain things, and Devlin asking for more freedom to go rogue. It’s part of the great fun of writing these books.

How did it feel when you published your first book?

All my young life – in school yearbooks and such – I always said that I wanted to be a writer. My father, who was terrifically loving and supportive, encouraged me to go to law school so that I would always have a career and a way to take care of myself in case the writing didn’t work. In the middle of a very rewarding career in the law, I wrote a non-fiction book called SEXUAL VIOLENCE: Our War Against Rape, which was published in 1993. One can talk about dreams coming true, but it’s all an understatement. The day I went to the post office and opened the package with the first bound copy in my hands, well, it’s one of the most memorable moments of my life.

What is it that you find about writing children’s book most rewarding?

I was a voracious reader as a kid, and it’s a trait that has served me well all my life. I love books, libraries, bookstores and people who love to read as much as I do. The stories I connected with as a child were such an influence on the rest of my life that it is a real joy to think I might be able to return that kind of pleasure by giving kids a new and entertaining experience with a good book.

What is it that you want young readers, diving into your book, to walk away with?

I want my readers to be entertained, of course. I want them to have fun with Devlin and Katie and Booker, and to want to see them back in book after book. But I also want them to be a bit smarter at the end of the pages. There’s information about forensics in each book, and in this one, there is a lot to learn about dinosaurs. Entertain and inform each reader, which I think is a good combination.

Do you mind sharing what’s next for Devlin?

Devlin’s next caper is entitled SECRETS OF THE DEEP. She and Booker are ending their summer vacation at his grandmother’s home on Martha’s Vineyard. Dev is supposed to be working on a science project, when they make some very unexpected discoveries. That should hook my young readers, I hope.

Final question before you go. Thank you for sharing everything with us. I do have to ask. What would you say your favorite food or dish is?

Hands down, from childhood to right now, if I could have one thing to eat if shipwrecked on a deserted island, it would be a supply of chocolate ice cream. Thanks for inviting me into the NIGHT OWL BOOK CAFÉ!

Thank you Linda 🙂

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