Tag Archives: Reviews

Reasons to be Happy

It will take a journey unlike any other to remind Hannah of who she really is, and to begin to get that girl back. Reasons to Be Happy is about standing up for all the things you love—including yourself. ~ Katrina Kittle, Reasons To Be Happy

Although released at the beginning of October, Katrina Kittle’s newest book, Reasons To Be Happy, had its official launch last night at Books & Co. at The Greene in Dayton. (You can see photos from the signing here – number 22 is me getting my book signed!) Her earlier books, Traveling Light, Two Truths and a Lie, The Kindness of Strangers, and The Blessings of the Animals, each offer an intense look at a significant social topic. Reasons To Be Happy is Kittle’s first foray into the young adult market, yet the book is rich with all the characters and characteristics which make her previous books so vibrant and memorable. Most notably, Kittle does not shy away from descriptive reality, nor does she sugar-coat the angst and experiences of modern middle-school life. When she asked the audience how many would want to relive those middle-school days, the still-awkward laughs and absence of raised hands gave testimony to how those years affect us all, even years later.

If you haven’t read any of Kittle’s work, give her a try. I won’t guarantee that the stories are easy, because the topics she chooses to deal with are anything but. But they are about life, especially difficulties in modern life, and her works reflect a social awareness as well as a literary talent for reaching into the heart of the matter and bringing it to light via unforgettable characters. You can sample some of her work via her website, including the opening chapters of Reasons To Be Happy. As part of the celebration of her new book, Kittle has also embarked on a year-long celebration of her reasons to be happy, offering one reason per day for a year on her blog. She is at #105 today.

So as we set off into a hopefully beautiful fall weekend, I’ll leave you with my current top 5 reasons to be happy:

1. Sharing my life with my best friend and the love of my life.
2. Dear friends, who understand that friendship is about being close at heart even if not close at hand.
3. An abundance of good books.
4. Fall, autumn, harvest and all the pleasures it brings.
5. Health insurance, to pay for excellent medical care.

What are your reasons to be happy?

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The First Ones

book cover NO time FOR love

A book reads the better which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog’s ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins. ~Charles Lamb, Last Essays of Elia, 1833

Today, it’s all about firsts. And before we get too far, there is a very special first happening here on Monday — my first guest blogger! I am thrilled beyond measure that Tara Taylor Quinn will be blogging here on Monday, May 16, as part of her extensive blog tour for her newest book, co-written with her husband Tim Barney, It Happened on Maple Street.  We celebrated the launch of the book back in April, so I’m very pleased she will be joining us for a stop along the way. The excellent reviews keep pouring in, as in today’s Library Journal review. So please make a note to come back on Monday for this very special first!

Given that fantastic first, it is only fitting to talk of another. Do you remember the first romance novel you read?  The first time you lost yourself inside a story? Or maybe even found yourself?

I don’t recall the absolute first romance novel I read.  I’m sure there were a few before the ones pictured here.  But these are the first two I remember reading, or being able to recall characters and the story anyway.  On a whim, I tracked both of these down on Amazon.com, surprised that I could actually find them for purchase — you really can find just about anything there.  Once in hand, I reread them.  I wanted to see why I could remember, thirty years later, these two books enough to google the story to find the author and title.

Of course, that answers the heart of the question, doesn’t it?  I remembered the story.

No Time for Love (1980) was an early favorite, and I know it was most definitely because of the story.  The heroine, Lorelei, was a violinist with the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra; her love interest was concertmaster, playing first chair.  She was innocent, shy.  He was grumpy, distant, committed only to his career.  Throw in a healthy violin competition and references to classical pieces, a European tour, and a stalker and you’ve got a story.

book cover winters loving touch Winter’s Loving Touch (1979) is harder for me to understand why I remembered this story so long.  Maybe it was the exotic Alaskan setting, as this was a few years before I had the chance to visit that beautiful state.  Carrie, the new doctor in town, was engaged to a like-minded environmentalist.  The hero thinks her cold and hostile.  She thinks Zachary is arrogant and a danger to the environment in his job as an explorer intent on developing the rich energy resources hidden in the land.  Competing goals and personalities wove a tale set against a harsh, unforgiving and distant environment.

Reading these again showed that the basic story held true to my memory of it, but given the intense stories around these days, the plot and structure were decidedly flat. What it also showed, not surprisingly, is how very far the genre has come in those thirty years. Some of the language and actions, behaviors and descriptions would not be in a book published these days — too misogynistic, too “forced” – and that is especially true at its most literal meaning in what were considered the “love scenes.” Shudder. So why were they so memorable? Does the story triumph? Or is it a combination of things? I still am not sure.

What was your first one? What made it so memorable for you?

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The Chapman Files

This week marks the release of The Fourth Victim, the fourth book in the Chapman Files series by bestselling author Tara Taylor Quinn.  The series centers around the figure of Dr. Kelly Chapman, a noted psychologist and nationally recognized expert witness.  These books chronicle cases from her files as well as events in Kelly’s life.  In an unusual but highly effective choice, Chapman’s sections are voiced in first person, which provides an intimate connection between Kelly and the reader, putting one right into the center of her thoughts and feelings.   While each of the stories is capable of standing by itself, the richness and complexity of the stories is best enjoyed when read as a series, as characters and callbacks link the four works intimately together.

The First Wife (September 2010) unravels a complex story of bigamy, domestic abuse, murder, and an unexpected pregnancy.  Here, Kelly Chapman makes her debut as an expert witness in a murder trial and, along the way, also demonstrates why she is so successful as a psychologist and as a friend.  But the central story is that of Jane and Brad, and whether love really can heal all wounds.   As is her fashion, Quinn challenges traditional themes by incorporating tough and unexpected topics with deft storytelling, leading the reader through complex psychological issues and poignant, heart-breaking moments of discovery and understanding.  The final scenes left me in tears.

The second Chapman Files book, The Second Lie (October 2010), touched me in an entirely different way.  Having grown up in a small Midwestern farming community, Quinn’s depiction of the  farming town of Chandler, Ohio, was dead-on, complete with a range of characters who, in lesser hands, might have been stereotypical.  Here, however, I felt as though I were meeting older versions of people I grew up with, as real and quirky as old friends, and I was transported back to a small-town way of life, but one faced with very modern problems.  The issues are not minor — meth super-labs, drug-running, pedophiles, prostitution, murder/suicides, and even modern bio-agriculture and genetically-engineered corn– and show a wealth of background research.  And Chandler just happens to be Kelly Chapman’s hometown.  In addition to the suspenseful drama of the drug ring and murder, the story of long-time lovers Kyle and Samantha must resolve itself via emotional self-discovery and confronting challenging family issues.  Kelly’s role is no less difficult, as she takes on a new patient in fourteen-year-old Maggie, whose story will crack open the hardest of hearts.

In the third book of the series, The Third Lie (November 2010), Quinn moves the series onto a broader international stage by centering the story on a covert agent, used to the secrecy of international espionage, and a defense attorney, questioning the current state of her career and her life.  Intrigue, suspense, questions about the “rights and wrongs” of life choices, and intense characters kept this reader up well into the night.  Secrets unravel, many times over, and nothing is ever as it seems.  Rick is mysterious and charming, and as the story progresses, the reader, much like Kelly Chapman, has doubts about whether Erin should trust him.  How that plays out, with all its bends and twists, is suspense written at its best.   And through it all, Kelly’s growing relationship with Maggie grounds the reader as they struggle to become a family.

The Fourth Victim (December 2010) is Kelly’s story.  Simply put, it’s stunning.  The immediate dilemma for the author is to craft a romance when the heroine goes missing early in the book, and the hero’s job is to find her.  With layer upon layer of suspenseful possibilities, the story unfolds, teasing the reader with multiple possibilities for the ending.   Kelly’s scenes render her distress, at times in just a few lines.  Clay’s growing attachment is contagious, and those who liked Kelly in the first three books will come to love her as well.   Not only does The Fourth Victim begin the story of Kelly and Clay, it pulls together the series into a rich, harmonic quartet.  While it brings the original series to a close, it leaves the reader hopeful for more from Kelly Chapman and her files.

The series by itself is a phenomenal undertaking, but the effort to make a difference in real-world issues is also an important part of the story of the Chapman Files books.  Beginning with the release of The First Wife in September, Quinn began a four month long, international blog tour.  Her posts have covered topics including friendship, gratitude, domestic abuse, customer service, motherhood, and a myriad of other issues, including some that are deeply personal and highly emotional.  But each one is part of her very personal and public effort to help raise awareness and financial support for the issue of domestic violence.  In addition to requesting support for Strengthen Our Sisters, the first battered woman’s shelter in the U.S., Quinn is donating a portion of her proceeds from The Fourth Victim and has organized events and occasions to help as well.  The big events occur this weekend  –the first annual Tara Taylor Quinn Charity Skate/Walk, and a dual physical and online book launch party– both happening this Saturday, December 4, 2010.  Details on the events and on how you can support this effort are available on Quinn’s website.

As a long-time fan of her writing, I have been spoiled these past four months by having a new Tara Taylor Quinn book to savor and enjoy.    But without question, the Chapman Files series highlights the strengths that Quinn is best known for, including intense suspense, emotional and psychological depth, and cutting-edge, challenging topics.  As with all of her books, the characters find what I term a heart-and-soul love — transcending and encompassing passion and friendship, it’s the soul-deep, forever kind of love that great romances are all about.  If you haven’t read the Chapman Files, please do so.  And look for more amazing stories ahead from Quinn in 2011, including her own true-life romance.

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