Friday, January 29, 2016

The Tip of My Wish List - Unusual Mysteries

To change things up this year, I've decided to do a monthly post on 5 books from my insane wish list that I am most excited about getting to. Some might be new, some old and some out of wish list has it all! I'll pick a theme each month and share my wish list post on the last Friday of the month. I know a number of excellent reviewers who will be doing similar posts and I'll be sure to link to their posts as well so you can see all the goodies we're excited about and, hopefully, add a few new book to your own wish list. 

For January I've decided to highlight what I call unusual mysteries. These aren't your run-of-the-mill whodunits but books with unreliable narrators, touches of mysticism to deepen the mystery or complicated circumstances that you don't find in just any story. I'll link the titles to Goodreads where you can read reviews and find the various ways to purchase a copy if it sounds like your style. I really hope you enjoy and let me know if you've read any of these or have other unusual mysteries you would add to the list. 


For fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, an electrifying thriller that will take you into the dark spaces that exist between a husband and a wife.

When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen...

But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.

There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.

Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.

The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…

New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl, Mary Kubica returns with an electrifying and addictive tale of deceit and obsession 

In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she's the person Quinn thought she knew.

Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected.

As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under Pearl's spell, master of suspense Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us in the end.

For fans of Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, and Edward Gorey, a beguiling and disarming debut novel from an award-winning British author about a mysterious group of children who appear to a disfigured recluse and his country doctor,and the startling revelations their behavior evokes.

In a sprawling estate, willfully secluded, lives Morgan Fletcher, the disfigured heir to a fortune of mysterious origins. Morgan spends his days in quiet study, avoiding his reflection in mirrors and the lake at the end of his garden. One day, two children, Moira and David, appear. Morgan takes them in, giving them free reign of the mansion he shares with his housekeeper Engel. Then more children begin to show up.

Dr. Crane, the town physician and Morgan's lone tether to the outside world, is as taken with the children as Morgan, and begins to spend more time in Morgan's library. But the children behave strangely. They show a prescient understanding of Morgan's past, and their bizarre discoveries in the mansion attics grow increasingly disturbing. Every day the children seem to disappear into the hidden rooms of the estate, and perhaps, into the hidden corners of Morgan's mind.

The Children's Home is a genre-defying, utterly bewitching masterwork, an inversion of modern fairy tales like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass, in which children visit faraway lands to accomplish elusive tasks. Lambert writes from the perspective of the visited, weaving elements of psychological suspense, Jamesian stream of consciousness, and neo-gothic horror, to reveal the inescapable effects of abandonment, isolation, and the grotesque - as well as the glimmers of goodness - buried deep within the soul.

“The Last September is a wonderful, glowing book populated by characters that become a part of your life long after the last page has been turned. It is the type of novel writers admire and readers long for.” —Jason Mott, author of The Returned

Brett has been in love with her husband, Charlie, from the day she laid eyes on him in college. When he is found murdered, Brett is devastated. But if she is honest with herself, their marriage had been hanging by a thread for quite some time.

All clues point to Charlie’s mentally ill brother, Eli, but any number of people might have been driven to kill Charlie--a handsome, charismatic man who unwittingly damaged almost every life he touched. Brett is determined to understand how such a tragedy could have happened--and whether she was somehow complicit.

Set against the desolate autumn beauty of Cape Cod, The Last September is a riveting emotional puzzle that takes readers inside the psyche of a woman facing down the meaning of love and loyalty.

Like Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, Remember Mia is a riveting psychological suspense, exploring what happens when a young mother’s worst nightmare becomes devastatingly real…

First I remember the darkness.
Then I remember the blood.
I don’t know where my daughter is.

Estelle Paradise wakes up in a hospital after being found near dead at the bottom of a ravine with a fragmented memory and a vague sense of loss. Then a terrifying reality sets in: her daughter is missing.

Days earlier, Estelle discovered her baby’s crib empty in their Brooklyn apartment. There was no sign of a break-in, but all traces of seven-month-old Mia had disappeared. Her diapers, her clothes, her bottles—all gone.

Frustrated and unable to explain her daughter’s disappearance, Estelle begins a desperate search. But when the lack of evidence casts doubt on her story, Estelle becomes the number one suspect in the eyes of the police and the media.

As hope of reuniting with Mia becomes all she has left, Estelle will do anything to find answers: What has she done to her baby? And what has someone else done to her?


Check out these lovely blogs for more books to add to your wish list:

Magdalena at It's a Mad Mad World shared her top 5 haunted house wish list books HERE.

Stephanie at Layered Pages shared 5 of her most anticipated Historical Fiction/Classic re-telling novels HERE.

Heather at The Maiden's Court shared her top 5 wish list novels set in Colonial/Revolutionary America HERE.

Erin at Flashlight Commentary shared her 5 WWI wish list books HERE.

Holly at 2 Kids and Tired Books shared her wish list HERE.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Q & A with Suzanne Redfearn, Author of No Ordinary Life

Please welcome Suzanne Redfearn, author of No Ordinary Life, to A Literary Vacation today! Her new book sounds delicious and I am so pleased she agreed to stop by today and answer some of my questions. Please enjoy and continue after for more information about No Ordinary Life and Suzanne herself.


Thank you so much, Suzanne, for taking the time to stop by A Literary Vacation! One of my favorite aspects of interacting with authors is finding out what inspires them to write the novels that they do. Every author seems to have their own unique approach to their craft and learning that process really helps me, as a reader, get a better appreciation for the end result. So I can’t wait to learn more about your process!

Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your amazing blog.

Like a lot of people I can’t help but be drawn to the drama and scandal that seems to surround celebrities in Hollywood, even as, in many cases, I don’t particularly like what I see. In my own life I can’t stand drama, so I think I’m just fascinated by the wild ups and downs that seem to follow them wherever they go. Your novel, No Ordinary Life, centers around a mother that soon finds herself amidst this strange community when her daughter is discovered on a YouTube video and is offered a role on a television show. Where did you come up with this idea?

I completely agree. The world is fascinating and appears so full of intrigue. The idea came to me when I was in line at the grocery store. There was a tabloid with the headline, “Zac Efron Enters Rehab Again.” My daughter was a High School Musical fan when she was little, so I felt like I had watched Zac Efron grow up, and to know he was suffering and that his suffering was being made public made me feel horrible for him and his parents. The idea Child Star popped in my head. At that point I wasn’t certain what the story was going to be, but I liked the idea of exploring what goes on behind the glitz and glamour that causes so many young actors to suffer such tragic setbacks and downfalls. 

When dealing with child celebrities you often find the proverbial “stage mom” not far behind, pushing their child into the spotlight. Would Faye fit into this category, or is her experience different?

She really doesn’t fit that stereotype at all. I wanted her to be sympathetic to readers, and a mother who is exploiting her children is not someone people would root for. She was inspired in part by Pattie Mallette, Justin Bieber’s mom, a young single mom who was struggling financially and whose child was discovered through YouTube. It is only after Faye and her kids are caught up in the world that Faye realizes how dangerous it is. 

Being a contemporary novel, did you have to do any sort of research as part of the writing process? If so, what research did you conduct?

I always do a lot of research before I start writing, especially when I am writing about a world that is unfamiliar to me. I think I have read every autobiography ever written by former child stars. I also did a lot of research into television production, the psychological effects of celebrity, and on selective mutism. 

What does a typical day in your life look like? When do you fit in time to write?

When I am working on a story, I write every day. It is as if I am worried I will lose the idea if I don't get it out. It’s a bit of a compulsion. But I am also only able to write for about two hours before my brain goes numb. So I write in spurts. I will usually wake up and write for a couple of hours, go workout or go for a hike, write in my car (strange but effective) for another couple of hours, take a lunch break, run errands, return home and input the writing I did in my car into the computer. And usually at night, I catch up on research or reading.

A lot of authors have become huge on social media, not only promoting their work but interacting with their readers and offering up giveaways, book recommendations, etc. Are you a big proponent of using social media in this way? How do you prefer to interact with your fans?

You have to be active on social media. It’s how you connect with readers. Especially as a new author, it is a way to get your name out there and for readers to discover you. My favorite part of being an author is interacting with the readers and hearing their opinions and reactions to my stories. 

I’ve noticed that a lot of authors are also big readers. When you have time for leisure reading what sorts of books do you gravitate towards? Have you read anything good lately?

I am a reader, though when I’m writing, my time and brain energy is limited for recreational reading. I am currently reading Chris Bohjalian’s THE GUEST ROOM, and I am enjoying it very much. It’s the first book I’ve read of his, and it’s great to discover a new author. 

Are you working on any future books at this time? If so, can you tell us a little about it?

I am writing a story that I am very excited about. It’s about two moms on the run from the police and their husbands. It’s a road trip story, which I have always wanted to write, and so far I am having a lot of fun with it.

Thank you so much, Suzanne! Your upcoming book sounds very exciting...I keep thinking of Thelma and Louise! Everyone, find out more about No Ordinary Life below.


Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2016

Suzanne Redfearn delivers another gripping page-turner in her latest novel, a story about a young mother's fight to protect her children from the dangerous world of Hollywood. 

Faye Martin never expected her husband to abandon her and her three children . . . or that she'd have to struggle every day to make ends meet. So when her four-year-old daughter is discovered through a YouTube video and offered a starring role on a television series, it seems like her prayers have been answered. But when the reality of their new life settles in, Faye realizes that fame and fortune don't come without a price. And in a world where everyone is an actor and every move is scrutinized by millions, it's impossible to know whom to trust, and Faye finds herself utterly alone in her struggle to save her family. 

Emotionally riveting and insightful, No Ordinary Life is an unforgettable novel about the preciousness of childhood and the difficult choices a mother needs to make in order to protect this fragile time in her children's lives.

Praise for No Ordinary Life

“Suzanne Redfearn's NO ORDINARY LIFE is a gripping exploration of a mother's love and the lengths she'll go to protect her children. Redfearn honestly captures one family's meteoric rise and heartbreaking undoing. Compulsively readable, this poignant story will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.”  Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence

“Once again, Suzanne Redfearn delivers a fast-paced, compelling story of family, frustration, and the unexpected consequences of a mother's choice. NO ORDINARY LIFE provides a dazzling look inside the entertainment industry, illustrating both the lure and lunacy of child stardom.” Lori Nelson Spielman, #1 international bestselling author of The Life List

Buy the Book

About the Author

Suzanne Redfearn is the author of Hush Little Baby, which was chosen as a Target Recommends selection and Target’s Emerging Authors program. She graduated summa cum laude from California Polytechnic University and, prior to becoming an author, was an architect. She is an avid surfer, golfer, skier, and Angels fan. She lives with her husband and children in Southern California. No Ordinary Life is her second novel.

Find out more about Suzanne on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Guest Post by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre, Author of Pinnacle Lust

Please join me in welcoming Michelle Dim-St. Pierre to A Literary Vacation today! She's stopped by to tell us a little bit about the realities of becoming a published author as well as about her novel, Pinnacle Lust. Enjoy!
So you want to be a writer. Maybe you picture yourself working in your PJs all day by a cozy fire, your dog peacefully sleeping at your feet as you speed through your manuscript. I mean with all of the extra time to write, you will be able to write your book in a fraction of the time, right?

Well if this is your impression of the writing life, I’d suggest you hold onto your day job for awhile. The reality might surprise you.

This blog isn’t meant to discourage you from taking on the enormous challenge of being an author—well, maybe just a little. But only because I believe you should have a clear picture of the reality of the writing life before embarking on the journey—the road less travelled. 

The reality is, you can write in your PJs with no makeup, all day long if you want to—at least on some days. And you will have more time to write, at least until you publish your book. But the idea that more time means more productivity is an illusion. There is a reason for the cliché that busy people get more done.

Sometimes, the blank page and all that time don’t add up to much. You feel pressured to get more done and that stymies you. Or you feel like you have more time so you can put it off longer. In the end, you really don’t accomplish much more than if you put aside two or three hours a day to write after work or before work. In fact, when you are away from your desk, your subconscious works on the story and you accomplish more when you sit down.

There are other hiccups to the writing life. It can make you feel isolated and you have to go out of your way to get out and make social connections from real, living, breathing people, rather than just the ones who live in your mind. And there is the issue of your behind taking on the shape of your chair, but I’ll leave the details of that for another day.

The reality of publication brings a whole new set of issues to the writer. Once your book is out there in the big world, you will have to find ways to market it, maintain a presence on social media, answer emails from readers, do book signing events, and a whole range of additional marketing activities.

The thing most new authors struggle with is finding a balance and claiming back that writing time which is more concentrated than before, perhaps even more so than when you were working another job. 

Of course writing can be wonderful. There are those days cuddling up to the fire with the dog and living your adventure through your characters. There are perfect moments when the writing flows and your book seems to write itself. But expect these moments to be rare events rather than the norm.

The writing life can be wonderful at times. But it isn’t a life for everyone. Do you think this is the life for you?

 Publisher: BookLogix
Publication Date: January 20th, 2015
Pages: 368

 In a Tel-Aviv hospital during Operation Desert Storm, Sharon Lapidot, a beautiful young nurse, is having an affair with a married doctor.

Sharon’s colorful and exciting life is ultimately destroyed by powerful and eroding mistakes. But her courage and wisdom lead her to an unregretful commitment.

Vividly told, this compelling journey of love and lust, honor and betrayal, loss and redemption, will move you — and perhaps even change you.

About the Author

Michelle Dim-St. Pierre was born in Tel-Aviv, Israel, where she spent more than half of her life before relocating to the United States.

She lived through four wars and served in the Israel Defense Forces for two years. Unlike her first year of service in an armored division in the Golan Heights, she spent her second year serving in the medical corps where she interacted directly with the injured soldiers of the Peace of Galilee war and their families. This interaction, along with the exposure to the hospital atmosphere, fascinated Michelle and further touched her heart.

After graduating from nursing school with a BS in Nursing in Tel-Aviv, she practiced internationally for 32 years in various positions in the surgical field and quickly advanced into health care administration. During her career she worked in the Operating Room, Recovery Room, and CCU--along with many other duties.

Writing was Michelle's outlet at first, but it soon became her passion. Recently she left nursing and became a full-time writer. Her international background, along with her military and nursing experience, is always at the tip of her pen. Her first novel, Pinnacle Lust, starts the Pinnacle trilogy. She is also currently creating a cookbook inspired by the Pinnacle trilogy featuring dishes mentioned in the books.

Michelle is a world traveler who enjoys cooking epicurean food and creating original recipes.
Learn more about Michelle on her website, and connect with her on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Buy the Book



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Spotlight on A Brother's Oath by Chris Thorndycroft

Book 1 in the Hengest and Horsa Trilogy
Publication Date: September 13, 2015
eBook; 282 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

The Untold Story of England’s Beginning.

Denmark, 444 A.D. Two brothers – the cold and calculating Hengest and the intrepid but headstrong Horsa – find their separate worlds thrown into turmoil by royal treachery and an evil cult thought long dead. Reunited by an oath sworn in their youth, they set off on a journey that will define their destiny and set them upon the path to greatness.

When Hengest’s family is kidnapped by an unknown enemy, Horsa knows his oath has become more than a thing of words and he infiltrates the crew of one of the most feared raiders in the northern world to find out who took them. Meanwhile, Hengest struggles to unite his rag-tag group of followers into a united people. His heart yearns for a safe haven for his family; a land that he and his followers can call their own for generations to come.

This is the first part of the thrilling saga of the two warriors who spearheaded the Anglo-Saxon migrations to Britain and whose names became legendary as the founders of the land that would one day be called England.

Buy the Book


About the Author

Chris Thorndycroft is a British writer of historical fiction, horror and fantasy. His early short stories
appeared in magazines and anthologies such as Dark Moon Digest and American Nightmare. History has long been his passion and he began thinking about a series set in Arthurian Britain when he was a student. Ten years later, A Brother’s Oath is his first novel under his own name and the beginning of a trilogy concerning Hengest and Horsa. He also writes Steampunk and Retropulp under the pseudonym P. J. Thorndyke.
Connect with Chris on his blogTwitter and Goodreads.

A Brother's Oath Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, January 18

Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, January 19

Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, January 20

Guest Post at The Writing Desk

Friday, January 22

Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Saturday, January 23

Excerpt & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews

Monday, January 25

Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Tuesday, January 26

Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, January 27

Excerpt at Let Them Read Books

Friday, January 29

Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past


Friday, January 15, 2016

Review: The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

Some of you might not know, but I've been reviewing for another blog, Luxury Reading, for a number of years now. I just loved working with Vera so much I decided that I would continue to review for her even once A Literary Vacation began, just on a much smaller scale. Last year I listed my reviews for Luxury Reading under my reviews tab, but I didn't really highlight those reviews in any posts. So this year I've decided to do so, making sure you guys see them.

I'll give you all the book information, synopsis and a little taste of my review, and then link over to the full review on Luxury Reading. My first review of 2016 for Luxury Reading is The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth, a "fascinating look into the human struggle to understand why things happen to us and how to hold on to whatever we can when it all starts tumbling down".


Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: January 19th, 2016
Pages: 352

Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease at only thirty-eight years old, knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. She also knows there's just one another resident her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life at Rosalind House. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.

When Eve Bennett is suddenly thrust into the role of single mother she finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna's and Luke's families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them.

Review Quote

"Sally Hepworth did an exceptional job of getting the reader inside Anna’s head, so you could not only feel her frustration, confusion and anger but witness how her disease affected her thought processes, her memory and her ability to express her thoughts and wishes. With Anna being so close to my own age, I really related to her and could completely empathize with her feelings and actions…I would respond the exact same way if I was in her situation. Possibly because of this I really connected with her and her attempts, even when she wasn’t even aware of why she was doing it, to stay connected with Luke. There is a secret revolving around Anna that resulted in her being separated from Luke during much of the story (and which drives Eve’s attempts to help them be together) and while I have to admit that I saw it coming a mile away, it did add to the development of not only Anna’s character but her relationship with her brother and his reasons for wanting to protect her so badly. Anna was such a fascinating character to me that I really wanted her to be as happy as she could be, as her brain continued to fail her, and longed for something to be done to help her."

I rated The Things We Keep 4.5/5.0. You can find my full review HERE.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Q & A with Julie Dewey, Author of Forgetting Tabitha

First off, thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and answer some questions! Historical fiction is my all-time favorite genre and I’m always amazed at the myriad perspectives authors find to highlight for us readers. How do you decide what corners of history to write about?

Thank you so much for having me at A Literary Vacation! I love being here! Historical fiction is my favorite genre as well, I tend to write about these little nuggets in our history that we don’t really hear about. My book, Forgetting Tabitha, is about the orphan train movement, and I for one wasn’t taught anything about it in school! Yet hundreds of thousands of children from 1854-1929 were placed on orphan trains heading west and this movement was the impetus for our modern day welfare system!

That is fascinating! I didn't learn anything about the orphan trains in school either, but I wish I had! What draws you to historical fiction? Are there any particular times in history you gravitate towards or do you just enjoy history in general?

I gravitate towards medical history for certain. I have written books about leprosy, tuberculosis, and insane asylums and find the comparison between treatments one hundred years ago and now to be astounding. What people endured so long ago and how they had the will to survive is a theme I love to explore.

What sort of research do you conduct when writing? Have you ever traveled to the locations before or during the writing process?

I have traveled to many locations during my writing process and absorb as much as I can from my surroundings. For instance, when I went to what was once the Five Points District in New York City, I could envision the five corners and appreciate just how chaotic life alone on the streets had to be for my main character, Tabitha. Similarly, when I journeyed to the Willard Insane Asylum, I could feel shivers run up and down my spine, just being in the space where my book takes place was awesome in every way. The research is plentiful, I try to talk to as many people as I can with experience in my topic and then I just get to it!

What does a typical day (if there is one) look like for you? How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

I love this question. Being a writer does allow me flexibility so when I want to go outside with my best buddy, Ziggy, we leash up and take our walk. Some days I can put in twelve hours, others two or three. Some days are simply spent writing, and others promoting. I love every aspect of the process and am lucky to have people like yourself be such gracious hosts!

A lot of authors have become huge on social media, not only promoting their work but interacting with their readers and offering up giveaways, book recommendations, etc. Are you a big proponent of using social media in this way? How do you prefer to interact with your fans?

Social media is where it’s at. I spend a good amount of time answering emails and keeping my readers updated via a newsletter. I have done numerous virtual book tours, giveaways, and online promotions and it’s lovely. I could certainly do more but there is only so much time in a day! I do prefer, though, meeting my readers face to face. I do as many signings as I can, I go to book groups when invited and enjoy interacting with my readers and getting their perspective on my work.

I’ve noticed that a lot of authors are also big readers. When you have time for leisure reading what sorts of books do you gravitate towards? Have you read anything good lately?

I love to read HF. My very favorite book is Daughter of Fortune by Isabelle Allende. She is such a talent. I love Nancy E Turner and Geraldine Brooks as well, these are the true writers in my mind.

Are you working on any other books that we can look forward to reading in the future?

At the moment I am in the research phase of the Oneida Utopia…stay tuned for this unbelievable story!

Oh, I can't wait to learn more about the Oneida Utopia....sounds fascinating! Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing with my readers today. Your books sound right up my alley and I look forward to reading them! Everyone, be sure to read below for more information about Julie and her newest novel, Forgetting Tabitha.


Publisher: Holland Press
Publication Date: December 17th, 2015
Pages: 280

Raised on a farm, Tabitha Salt, the daughter of Irish immigrants, leads a bucolic and sheltered existence. When tragedy strikes the family, Tabitha and her mother are forced to move to the notorious Five Points District in New York City, known for its brothels, gangs, gambling halls, corrupt politicians, and thieves. As they struggle to survive in their new living conditions, tragedy strikes again. Young Tabitha resorts to life alone on the streets of New York, dreaming of a happier future. 

The Sisters of Charity are taking orphans off the streets with promises of a new life. Children are to forget their pasts: their religious beliefs, families, and names. They offer Tabitha a choice: stay in Five Points or board the orphan train and go West in search of a new life. 

The harrowing journey and the decision to leave everything behind launches Tabitha on a path from which she can never return.

Buy the Book

About the Author

Julie Dewey is a novelist residing in central New York with her family. Julie selects book topics that are little known nuggets of U.S. history and sheds light on them so that the reader not only gets an
intriguing storyline but learns a little something too.

Julie's daughter is a Nashville crooner and her son is a student. Her husband's blue eyes had her at hello and her motto is, "Life is too short to be Little!"

Her works include Forgetting Tabitha: the Story of an Orphan Train Rider, The Back Building, One Thousand Porches, The Other Side of the Fence, and Cat (the Livin' Large Series). To follow Julie, visit and sign up to get regular updates and reading guides.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Review: The Prime Minister's Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal

Maggie Hope Mystery # 4
Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: July 1st, 2014
Pages: 306


For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and Anne Perry, The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent is a gripping new mystery featuring intrepid spy and code breaker Maggie Hope. And this time, the fallout of a deadly plot comes straight to her own front door.

World War II rages on across Europe, but Maggie Hope has finally found a moment of rest on the pastoral coast of western Scotland. Home from an undercover mission in Berlin, she settles down to teach at her old spy training camp, and to heal from scars on both her body and heart. Yet instead of enjoying the quieter pace of life, Maggie is quickly drawn into another web of danger and intrigue. When three ballerinas fall strangely ill in Glasgow—including one of Maggie’s dearest friends—Maggie partners with MI-5 to uncover the truth behind their unusual symptoms. What she finds points to a series of poisonings that may expose shocking government secrets and put countless British lives at stake. But it’s the fight brewing in the Pacific that will forever change the course of the war—and indelibly shape Maggie’s fate.

What Did I Think About the Story?

The Maggie Hope mysteries are one of my favorite historical fiction series to read, not only because of the intelligent, resourceful and determined main character but because of the unique and historically informative viewpoints they give to readers. Maggie has brought us into the belly of No. 10 Downing Street, through the corridors of Windsor Castle, onto the training fields of secret MI-5 facilities and behind enemy lines in Berlin.  Mixed in with the historically accurate key players and circumstances we also get to feel along with Maggie as she experiences love and loss during these uncommon situations and singular time period. In this fourth installment we find Maggie healing from the horrific things she has witnessed and the losses she isn't quite ready to deal with. This is a Maggie we haven't really seen before and, to be honest, it isn't my favorite side of Maggie to see.

From the beginning of The Prime Minister's Secret Agent a shroud of depression and exhaustion seems to hang over not only Maggie but the British people. They've been staying strong for so long as  bombs (both literal and figurative) have rained down on them, but without an end in sight and without much hope that America will join them in bringing down Hitler, their stiff upper lip seems to be slipping. I hated seeing Maggie so down and unhappy, battling her "black dog" of depression and PTSD for much of the novel. The mystery of why and how her friend became so sick gives her something to do, but not much else really happens to Maggie during the story. More time was given to the real-life American and Japanese people surrounding the bombing of Pearl Harbor, an action that sets up Maggie's journey to America with Churchill in the next installment, than was given to any real development on Maggie's part. This isn't to say that seeing the politics behind the eventual bombing of Pearl Harbor wasn't interesting, it just wasn't what I was expecting or wanting from a Maggie Hope novel. I wanted more Maggie!

This being said, there were a lot of interesting elements that kept me turning the pages.  We get to learn a little bit about floriography, poisoning and secret British testing with biological warfare.  We also get to see Churchill begin to unravel somewhat and see what he's willing to sacrifice to win this war. Best of all, in my opinion, is the storyline dealing with Maggie's mother, Clara - a  Nazi spy due to be executed by the British for her crimes - and her multiple personality disorder that might be real and might be just another manipulation by a master manipulator. This element really helped solidify my understanding of Clara's backstory and made her even more interesting than I already found her. And let me just say the cliffhanger at the end of the novel involving Clara has me ready to jump into book number five ASAP!

In many ways, The Prime Minister's Secret Agent felt more like a transition between novels than a novel itself. The concentration is more on getting the Americans involved in the war than developing Maggie's character and, while it is still an enjoyable novel, it didn't satisfy my need for the character I've come to love in Maggie. I should also note that anyone new to the series could easily pick this book up and be caught up with previous events within the first few chapters (Susan Elia MacNeal does an exceptional job of weaving the backstory in so you never feel like you're missing something) but I would definitely recommend starting with book one as each book in the series is quite enjoyable. The set up for the next novel in the series sees Maggie ready to travel back to America, not only with Churchill but with her friend David and her old flame John, and I very much look forward to seeing Maggie on her old stomping grounds, to meeting the aunt who raised her and to hopefully seeing some old friends from previous novels that didn't make it into this one. And with the cliffhanger ending I mentioned above, it's shaping up to be quite the adventure!


What Did I Think About the Cover?

I quite like the design and think it fits in very well with the rest of the series. However, I'm not sure that it fits in very well with the actual story. Maggie looks perfect but I'm not sure who the soldier is supposed to be. She wasn't following around any particular soldier this time around, so while it fits with the time period it doesn't really remind me of this books particular sequence of events.

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

The Prime Minister's Secret Agent was a personal purchase and my review is in no way influenced by anything or anyone else. 

To check out the Maggie Hope series on Goodreads go HERE

Has anyone else read the Maggie Hope series? If so, do you have a favorite?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Q & A with Kim Kash, Author of Ocean City Cover Up: A Jamie August Novel

First off, thank you so much for taking the time to stop by A Literary Vacation! I’m always fascinated to get inside the head of an author and see what inspires them to write the captivating novels that they do. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea for Ocean City Cover-Up? Can you tell us about your writing process?

Thank you for hosting me, and for all the work you do to get the word out about great stuff to read. 

Ocean City Cover-up is the second in a mystery series that was originally inspired by the research I did for a travel guide to Ocean City, Maryland. At the time (2008) I was looking for a Ocean City-based mystery to read for pleasure as I was working on my book for the Tourist Town travel series. Much to my surprise, I found almost nothing! So I got to thinking about what a ripe, beautiful location Ocean City would be for some juicy mystery stories. And so, the Jamie August series was born with Ocean City Lowdown. Fast forward a couple of years, and my husband and I have moved to the Middle East, where he took a job. We packed up and moved to the Arabian Peninsula, and I began to explore all that this region has to offer. I’m still hip deep in the Ocean City mystery series, but now I can see the fascinating (and comedic) potential of sending a down-home Maryland girl like Jamie August to … Dubai. 

My writing process is relentless and dull. I set up a series of deadlines for myself and then I work like a stressed-out madwoman to meet those deadlines. I pay an editor and a cover designer, so I have to deliver the goods or I’m out a bunch of cash. There are moments where I feel exhilarated, and indeed I am proud that I’m bringing out something I feel is good-quality entertainment. But for the most part, it’s all about sitting at my desk and cranking it out, just like an accountant or a coder would do.

I think everyone, no matter what they do, struggles to fit in all the various aspects of their life into the short 24 hours we have each day. What does a typical day in your life look like? When do you fit in time to write?

I recently took a full-time job, so I’m not really sure how I’m going to push the next book out the door! I used to have the luxury of time, as a freelance writer with not quite a full-time load. Now, I guess I’m going to cook simpler dinners and let the laundry pile up.

A lot of authors have become huge on social media, not only promoting their work but interacting with their readers and offering up giveaways, book recommendations, etc. Are you a big proponent of using social media in this way? How do you prefer to interact with your fans?

Social media is a monster. Everybody says you have to do it, so I try to keep up. Frankly, though, I don’t know whether the time spent doing it is worth the time it takes away from my actual writing time. As you say, there are only 24 hours in a day! When I read other authors’ comments about how they LOVE interacting with their readers and they want to make themselves available to their audience 24/7, I think, are they crazy or are they lying? That said, I really do love hearing from readers. Frankly, that almost always happens via my web site rather than on Facebook or Twitter or any other the other social sites.

I’ve noticed that a lot of authors are also big readers. When you have time for leisure reading what sorts of books do you gravitate towards? Have you read anything good lately?

Indeed, I am a huge reader! I prefer mysteries, naturally. Just now I am in the middle of Sujata Massey’s India Gray, a collection of her historical fiction. Massey is best known for her mystery series featuring Rei Shimura, a Japanese-American art dealer/sleuth. Recently she has also started writing historical fiction set in India, and I’m enjoying that as well.

Finally, are you working on any future books at this time? If so, can you tell us a little about it?

I am now working on the third book in my Jamie August series. Ocean City Getaway is based, of course, in Ocean City. I can’t give away too much, but I will tell you I’ve been watching and reading up on classic cons and heists. And last summer I took a trip to Ocean City, and spent some time down at the track….

Thank you, Kim, for answering my questions! It sounds like Jamie August has quite a few adventures ahead of her.  Readers, please find more information about Kim and her Ocean City series below!


Publisher: Capri House
Publication Date: May 29th, 2015
Pages: 494

Euro-trash collides with American gangsta in Maryland's gleefully cheesy beach resort. Reporter Jamie August befriends a spoiled heiress who is being pursued by Russian mobsters--and a chart-topping rap star. Meanwhile, a raging crime spree is keeping Jamie busy--and so is a hot new boyfriend and a strict jogging and frozen custard fitness plan. Action careens from OC to Dubai, from the wild shores of Assateague to a wild-west campground. Will Jamie survive to debut her fringed leopard-print bikini?

Praise for Ocean City Cover Up

“High-spirited, slyly humorous page-turner." - Marcia Talley, Agatha and Anthony award-winning author of Daughter of Ashes

“Jamie is a smart, sexy and unforgettable heroine I'd love to be my guide to the real Ocean City, Maryland--no matter what the season."- Sujata Massey, Agatha and Macavity Award winner author of India Gray

“Kim Kash has crafted a solid mystery with plenty of twists, whip-smart dialogue, and a sprinkle of romance. Ocean City Cover Up kept me awake into the wee hours, flipping pages and collecting clues with Jamie." - LynDee Walker, Agatha Award-nominated author of Devil in the Deadline

Buy the Book

About the Author

Kim Kash is the author of two novels in the 
Jamie August series: Ocean City Cover-up (Capri House, 2015) and Ocean City Lowdown (Capri House, 2013). She also wrote the bestselling Ocean City: A Guide to Maryland's Seaside Resort (Channel Lake, 2009), and is currently working on the next installment in the Jamie August series. Kim divides her time between Maryland and the Middle East, which can be weird.

Find out more about Kim on her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also find her on Flickr where she curates her travel photos. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Happy Release Day! Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

Today's the day, folks! Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, the exceptional new novel from Susan Meissner, releases into the world today! I absolutely loved this novel and recommend you check it out if you haven't already pre-ordered your copy. If you missed it, you can read my review HERE as well as Susan's wonderful Q & A HERE. There's still a few days to enter to win a SIGNED copy of Stars Over Sunset Boulevard (US/CAN only) so make sure to leave a relevant comment on the Q & A post if you'd like a chance to win. I sincerely hope everyone loves the novel as much as I do!

Happy Book Birthday Stars Over Sunset Boulevard!! 

Publisher: NAL
Publication Date: January 5th, 2016
Pages: 400

In this new novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life, two women working in Hollywood during its Golden Age discover the joy and heartbreak of true friendship.

Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind  ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie… 

Los Angeles, 1938.  Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her  dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide.  What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future. 

Praise for Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

“Susan Meissner tackles Old Hollywood with her trademark heart, depth, and lyrical style. A touching portrait of two memorable women who will remind readers of the friendships that shape us.” —Michelle Gable, International Bestselling Author

“Susan Meissner deftly casts a fascinating friendship between two complex women against a glittering 1930s Hollywood backdrop. You will love this book for its very human characters and for its inside look at one of the greatest movies ever made.”— Marisa de los Santos, New York Times Bestselling Author

“Beautifully simple yet impactful" Romantic Times, 4 stars

"A lovely, well-crafted story that peeks at a fascinating moment in cinematic history and examines the power and vulnerability of sincere friendship." - Kirkus Reviews

 Buy the Book


 Amazon | Barnes and Noble |  Books A Million | Indie Bound | Powell's


About the Author


Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014, and The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the 100 Best Novels of 2008. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University. Susan is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When she’s not working on a novel, Susan writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church.

For more information on Susan and her books visit her website, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.



Monday, January 4, 2016

2016 Reading Challenges

I'm not sure about anyone else but setting some reasonable reading goals really helps me stay on target and strive towards reading a little more each year. Beyond that I really enjoy being able to check in from time to time to see how I'm doing and reassess the books I've read at the end of the year to see how far I've come. I sometimes forget what books I've read when and looking back always gives me a little happy jolt of remembrance. Last year I didn't quite meet all my goals so I've tempered it back a little for 2016, hoping to challenge myself but not set myself up for automatic failure. So here are the challenges I'm joining for 2016 and the goals I hope to meet:

Goodreads Reading Challenge

Last year I missed my Goodreads reading challenge goal of 55 books, so this year I've pushed it back to 50. This will still be a challenge for me as I'm not the fastest reader and finding time to read with a full time job and an active (and sometimes lovingly distracting) family can be nearly impossible. Combine all this with the extra time running the blog takes and I just don't have as much reading time as I'd like. However, like so many other readers, I always make the time each day to read at least a little bit, so I think this is something I can manage. I'll be tracking my progress on Goodreads HERE, and if you are on Goodreads I really recommend signing up for the challenge as well. So many readers join in and it is a really supportive group of people.

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

I've been doing the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge for a number of years now as historical fiction is my favorite genre, making this an easy challenge to complete for me. Last year the challenge was hosted by one of my absolute favorite blogs, Passages to the Past. If you aren't following Amy's blog and you love historical fiction than you are really missing out. Anyways, last year I signed up to complete the Ancient History level, which means I needed to read at least 25 historical fiction novels. I went way above that but I'm going to stick with this level as I don't think I can possibly make it to the next (Prehistoric: 50+ historical fiction books). Even if you don't sign up for this challenge (the lowest level starts at 2 books read in 2016 so if you read historical fiction at all you can find a level for you) you can follow along with the challenge and read lots of wonderful reviews by bloggers and reviewers across the sub-genres of historical fiction.

So tell me: do you like to sign up for challenges? If you do, what challenges are you looking to complete this year?   

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy Blogiversary To Me, First Book of the Year + A Giveaway!!

I can't believe it has already been a year since I start this little blog, my own happy little place in the world to share my love of all things bookish with anyone who felt like listening! I have enjoyed every single second of it, and have been amazed at the kindness and support I've found amongst other readers like me as well as all the lovely authors I've come into contact with. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who has taken the time to reach out to me, give me tips and suggestions on this wild world of blogging, read my reviews, guest posts, interviews, etc., entered my giveaways and left me lovely comments. I really appreciate it!

Now, enough of the mushy stuff. I wanted to take this opportunity to share just what A Literary Vacation accomplished in 2015, as well as share the first book I'm reading to begin 2016. And, because I wasn't quite done with the mushy stuff yet, I want to give one of you lovely followers the chance to pick one of my "Top 11" Books of 2015 (open to US only; you can see the books to choose from HERE). Just leave a comment on this post telling me one of your favorite books of 2015 or what will be your first read for 2016, let me know in your comment one way you follow A Literary Vacation and leave your email address so I can contact you if you are my winner. That's it!  I'll pick a winner on January 8th and the winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email with their US mailing address and the title of the book they've selected.

So, without further ado....

Just the facts, ma'am

I think one of the things that has surprised me the most is just how much I've posted this year. I thought I would occasionally get a review up, maybe be lucky enough to have an author provide me with a guest post, that sort of thing. But when I tally up everything I've done this year, I'm absolutely amazed! This is my 175th post of 2015 and that is just shocking to me! All this posting has cut back on my reading time a little bit, but I'm hoping now that I've got the hang of formatting posts it will become somewhat easier.  Here's some statistics for 2015:


I reviewed a total of 53 books this  year, 8 for the other blog I contribute to, Luxury Reading, and the rest for A Literary Vacation. 40 of the books were Historical Fiction books, which isn't surprising as that is my favorite genre. I reviewed 18 books for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and 9 for TLC Book Tours, both book tour companies I'm very excited to continue to work with in 2016. 

Author Interactions

I was lucky enough to share 30 different posts from the wonderful authors I've interacted with. Of that 30, 18 were guest posts and 12 were Q & A/Interviews. This was one of my favorite types of posts as it allowed me to get inside the heads of some of my favorite authors and see how they tick.

Spotlights/Book Blasts

I found running Spotlight and Book Blast posts was a great way to get the word out about an author's work quickly when I just didn't have the time to read the books (although I really wanted to read just about every book that was offered to me, I'm just not that fast of a reader!). In 2015 I posted 72 spotlights and 13 book blasts...I'm still reeling slightly from those numbers and am very excited to see if I can beat them next year.


The way I discovered this world of book blogging in the first place was when I found a giveaway for a book I really wanted to read. I entered, won and was hooked for life! Loving to enter giveaways as much as I do, I knew when I started my blog I wanted to host giveaways whenever possible. This year I have run 26 giveaways where I have selected the winner as well as joined blog tours that offered tour wide giveaways. That number wasn't as high as I thought it would be so I really hope to beat it next year!

My First Book of 2016

The lovely Sheila at Book Journey is hosting the First Book of the Year event on her blog and when I saw this I knew I wanted to participate! She suggested picking a long coveted book, guilty pleasure, or anything you might have not gotten to yet that you really wanted to read, so I decided to go with a book I've had on my shelves for awhile. This book is part of one of my favorite historical fiction series and I actually thought I had already read this installment and had planned to read the newest book in the series when I discovered this one still unread (*gasp*). So, my first book of the year is......

Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: July 1st, 2014
Pages: 306

For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and Anne Perry, The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent is a gripping new mystery featuring intrepid spy and code breaker Maggie Hope. And this time, the fallout of a deadly plot comes straight to her own front door.

World War II rages on across Europe, but Maggie Hope has finally found a moment of rest on the pastoral coast of western Scotland. Home from an undercover mission in Berlin, she settles down to teach at her old spy training camp, and to heal from scars on both her body and heart. Yet instead of enjoying the quieter pace of life, Maggie is quickly drawn into another web of danger and intrigue. When three ballerinas fall strangely ill in Glasgow—including one of Maggie’s dearest friends—Maggie partners with MI-5 to uncover the truth behind their unusual symptoms. What she finds points to a series of poisonings that may expose shocking government secrets and put countless British lives at stake. But it’s the fight brewing in the Pacific that will forever change the course of the war—and indelibly shape Maggie’s fate.

So tell me folks....what book will be your first book of the year? Don't forget to leave a comment that includes your email address and one way you follow A Literary Vacation for a chance to win one of my favorite books of 2015. And thank you again for coming along with me on my many literary vacations!!!