TLC Book Tours: An Unmarked Grave

When we arrived at the next station, I found lines of gassed men waiting for their turn to be seen. Bandages across their eyes helped some of the pain and was a distinctive marker. They had a hand on the shoulder of the man in front of them, stumbling along, tripping if no one warned them of uneven ground, at the mercy of orderlies and sisters who guided them.

We bathed their skin and did what we could for their lungs. The worst cases would die painfully, the less damaged would linger in a misery that was frightful.  An Unmarked Grave, by Charles Todd

One would think being a nursing sister in the trenches of France during WWI would give Bess Crawford enough to worry about. But somehow, this intrepid young woman seems to find herself embroiled in one mysterious and dangerous situation after another. In An Unmarked Grave, the fourth installment in Charles Todd’s excellent series, Bess is herself the target of a killer, on who has killed three others – among them a family friend, and member of Bess’ father’s regiment – and will stop at nothing to carry out his nefarious plan.

Each of the books in this series takes the reader deeper into the history of WWI, and with this one set in 1918, the characters are faced not only with the dangers of battle but the deadly infestation on the Spanish Influenza, which struck down men, women, and children by the score. For this reader, the actual mystery sometimes is secondary to the fascinating picture Todd creates of this period in history.

I also enjoy a series with recurring characters who continue to develop personally as the books go on. In this fourth book, Bess’ relationship with Simon Brandon, her father’s faithful and illustrious batman (the orderly of a British Military officer), begins to develop. When Simon is wounded, Bess acknowledges to herself at least just how important he is to her life as the dawning awareness of her feelings is brought to the fore.

The Bess Crawford mysteries are a worthy collection in the growing literature about WWI. With the popularity of the Downton Abby television series (which is also set during this time period) the interest in this cataclysmic event has grown. These books provide another way of informing readers of this very important period in Western history. I highly recommend them for lovers of historical fiction and mystery.

The mother son writing team of Charles Todd

GIVEAWAY: I have a copy of An Unmarked Grave and A Bitter Truth to giveaway to a Bookstack reader. Leave a comment below for an opportunity. Winner will be chosen at random on July 4, 2012. (US entries only, please.) 

Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother and son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. Caroline has a BA in English Literature and History, and a Masters in International Relations. Charles has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Business Management, and a culinary arts degree that means he can boil more than water. Caroline has been married (to the same man) for umpteen years, and Charles is divorced.

Charles and Caroline have a rich storytelling heritage. Both spent many evenings on the porch listening to their fathers and grandfathers reminisce. And a maternal grandmother told marvelous ghost stories. This tradition allows them to write with passion about events before their own time. And an uncle/great uncle who served as a flyer in WWI aroused an early interest in the Great War.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read this book.

TLC Tours: How to Eat A Cupcake

When I eat cupcakes, I like to peel back the paper liner, take one big bite right out of the middle as if it were an apple, and then nibble my way around the rest of the cake, frosting first. Any little bit of cake I have left I simply pop into my mouth in one bite.

Reading Meg Donohue’s novel How To Eat A Cupcake inspired that little reflection -as well as making me hungry for cupcakes the entire time I was reading it. This sparkling little novel is the story of two young women who renew their childhood friendship while building a successful cupcakery together.

Annie Quintana and Julia St. Clair are from entirely different worlds, although they grew up almost in the same San Francisco mansion. Annie’s mother was the housekeeper for the elegant St. Clair’s, but she and her daughter became practically  members of the family. The girls were close as sisters until an incident during their high school years caused a huge rift that destroyed their friendship. When the novel opens, ten years have passed, Annie’s mother has died, and Julia is engaged to be married. A chance reunion allows the duo to open the lines of communication and they decide to bury the hatchet and start a business together.

Here the novel takes a slightly darker turn, as a mysterious saboteur targets the cupcakery, and it becomes obvious that Julia is hiding a dark secret which is affecting her emotionally. Annie discovers some things she didn’t know about her mother and the mysterious stranger who has been haunting her movements.

All the ingredients finally come together in a smooth concoction, and the story has a neat, if somewhat predictable happy ending.

I enjoyed this novel, it was a fast read with interesting characters. Even though I probably identify more with the mother in the story, it was fun to tag along on Annie and Julia’s excellent adventure.

Recommended reading for a sunny afternoon outside, with cupcakes at hand.

Author Meg Donohue’s running a pre-order campaign where she’ll email a Meyer lemon cupcake recipe developed exclusively for How to Eat a Cupcake readers by the pastry chef at San Francisco’s acclaimed Bar Bambino to anyone who pre-orders the book.  Details are at her blog.

 Meg will be joining Book Club Girl on Air on Tuesday, April 24 at 7pm ET.

Thanks to TLC Tours for the opportunity to read this book.

For a chance to win a copy of How To Eat A Cupcake, leave a comment below and tell me how YOU eat your cupcakes 🙂

The Three R’s…

Readin’, ‘Ritin’ …and Reality.

A busy weekend interfered with all of the above.

Before the weekend, however, I was able to finish another book for the Venice in February challenge. Crossing the Bridge of Sighs was a fun little romantic romp through Venice, where our heroine Claire, has gone to lick her wounds after finding her husband en flagrante with another man. Claire quickly obtains not just one, but two new men in her life, as well as being “haunted” by some very romantic historical figures who keep popping up to lend her advice. Although the plot was a bit contrived for my taste, the author seems to know modern day Venice, and there were some nice descriptions of places and customs which helped made up for it.

Also this week I finished The Rebel Wife, a very compelling novel set in the south during the Reconstruction period. Augusta Sedlaw Branson, is the daughter of a genteel southern family who has been forced into a marriage of convenience with Eli Branson, a wealthy Republican and advocate for the freed black population. This hasn’t made him popular with the embittered and vanquished Confederates of the town, and when Eli dies of a mysterious blood fever, Gus quickly discovers that he has kept many devastating secrets about their circumstances. The book details Gus’ attempts to make a safe life for herself and her young son. To do this, she must rely on the help of people who were once her slaves. The Rebel Wife was fascinating, because it was a look at an era we don’t often read about. After the end of the Civil War, the southern people were bitter and angry. They were not at all ready to change their way of life, or their feelings about slavery. The characters in The Rebel Wife capture these feelings perfectly.

As a special treat for Valentine’s Day, I’m offering my copies of these books as giveaways, along with a little Valentine’s Day surprise 🙂 If you’d like either Crossing the Bridge of Sighs, or The Rebel Wife, leave a comment below with. Winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, February 15. (Open to readers in the United States only, please.)


Summer Clearinghouse Giveaways

Many folks mark this end of summer holiday with a barbeque or last trip to the beach.  My Labor Day ritual is house cleaning.

Not just cleaning, but re-dressing, putting away the frothy summer curtains, light rugs, and Fresh Laundry scented candles, in favor of darker tones and more pungent scents.  Packing the white shoes into their boxes and pulling a sweater or two out of mothballs.  Replacing the pots of tired impatiens and petunias with hearty mums in rich fall colors.

The bookshelves get purged too, and the summer reading list gets a good going over.  Some things will be shelved for perpetuity, others will be donated to the library, and others offered up to you, my Bookstack reader, as a small token of affection.

If you would like to receive a (gently read) copy of any of these books, please leave a comment with your first, second, and third choices. Three winners will be chosen at random on Sunday, September 11, 2011.



Now tell me ~ do you have any rituals to prepare for the change of season?





Summer Saturday and A Gift for You

It’s been too hot to be outside today, so I’ve been doing some reorganizing in the bookstacks.

I’ve recently read and enjoyed both these novels and would love to pass them along to a Bookstack reader.  All you have to do is be the first person to comment and request them. You don’t have to go shopping, or answer a question, or anything.

What could be easier? It’s too hot to put forth much effort for anything except reading or making online purchases 🙂

Escape Into Summer Reading -Sea Escape Giveaway

I love summer reading.  When I was a youngster, I could hardly wait until school was out so I could join the library summer reading program.  I’d happily stock up on all sorts of books, then spend my summer afternoons ravenously reading out in the backyard.  True, some of the neighborhood kids made fun of me.  But I didn’t care, because there was nothing I loved more in summertime than taking a stack of books under the shade tree, setting up my chaise lounge, and settling in to read for an entire afternoon.

My son was the same way, although when he was a teenager, his preferred summer reading was usually graphic novels. He would have adored this site – “
…too bad he’s outgrown this passion (or has he?)

If reading is one of your favorite summer activities, or even if you’re looking for one perfect book to take on a beach vacation, you’ve come to the right place.  Lynne Griffin’s wonderful novel, Sea Escape, is the perfect summer read.  I read this novel last summer and loved it…It’s got interesting characters, a great family dynamic, and it’s set at the beach.  What’s not to like?

Sea Escape has just been released in paperback, and I have a brand new copy to give away to someone who’s looking for that perfect summer read.

Just leave a comment and tell me about your favorite place to read in the summer. Winner will be chosen on Monday, June 13, 2011.

Happy Summer Reading, y’all.

Friday Giveaway

I know – it’s not Friday.  Our power went out yesterday morning and I’ve running on borrowed battery time here at my local internet cafe.

This week is the first of  a weekly Friday book giveaway here at Bookstack. This week’s offering is Love in Mid Air, by Kim Wright, a delightful romantic novel for grown up women.  Scroll down a couple of posts to read my review.

Winning is easy.  Simply leave a comment below, and will choose a winner on Sunday night.

Just spreading the book love around…

Giveaway Winners

Alas, Labor Day is definitely over.  There’s a nip in the air this morning, and traffic was snarled with school buses, soccer moms, and high schoolers with freshly minted driver’s licenses.

So last night, thanks to my nifty random number generator, the winners of the Labor Day giveaway were chosen.

Joyce Maynard’s Labor Day goes to Bellezza (comment #7), and Lynne Griffin’s Sea Escape goes to Elizabeth (comment #6).  If you ladies would email your postal address to, I’ll send your books to you.

Happy fall, and happy reading!

Labor Day Giveaway

The title of this post is a double entendre ~ of course, it’s Labor Day here in the States, but I’m also offering a giveaway of a copy of Joyce Maynard’s novel entitled Labor Day.  This is a moving, emotional coming of age tale about a young man, his relationship with his mother, and a mysterious stranger who comes into their lives one Labor Day weekend and changes everything.  ( My complete review is here.)

To enter, just leave a comment here telling me what you’re doing on this Labor Day holiday.  (*offer limited to United States and Canadian readers please)

I’m taking a little Sea Escape (well, actually a lake escape).  Some dear friends of ours have a lovely old home on Lake Huron, and they’ve graciously invited us to spend the weekend with them.  It’s a little chilly here in Michigan this weekend – very fall-ish weather, indeed.  So I’ll be packing a hoodie along with a copy of Leaving Before It’s Over (which I hope to finish) and Barefoot, which I just won in a giveaway sponsored by Natalie (Coffee and a Book Chick).

And in honor of my personal “Sea Escape”, I’m also giving away a hardcover copy of Lynne Griffin’s novel by the same name, which I reviewed here.  Same rules apply:  just comment and tell me what you’re up to this long weekend.

As we officially say goodbye to summer, I extend my best wishes for a happy autumn to all my dear, bookish friends.

And, as always, happy reading.