Friday, June 28, 2013

Forgotten Books: The 39 Steps

The 39 Steps by John Buchan, Classic Spy Thriller

Written and published in 1915 and set in 1914, The 39 Steps is considered to be the first modern spy thriller. It provided inspiration for authors like Ian Fleming, whose James Bond is also a gentleman spy, equally comfortable in elite drawing rooms and roughing it in the wild. The book is written in a fast-paced style with a breezy tone and slang words from the time period, and seems much less stuffy than the older Victorian style of writing.

The hero/protanonist is Richard Hannay, a mining engineer in his mid-30's, who returns to England after having "made in pile" in Southern Africa. But after his adventures there, he finds life in London comfortable but boring. All that changes when a neighbor, Matthew Scudder, a rather odd American, pushes his way into Hannay's flat, claiming he's a freelance spy and his life is in danger. He asks Hannay to help him, and gives him a notebook full of coded information. Hannay is understandably skeptical, but before he knows it, Scudder is dead in his flat and Hannay is on the run from the police.

Hannay escapes into Scotland where he has a series of adventures while being chased by both the police and the German spy ring. Even after nearly 100 years, this is still a fun, fast read and a ripping good spy yarn, though I forgot to mention it has some politically incorrect references, mainly anti-Semitic and ethnic slurs, like referring to the Greek prime minister as a dago! I'm pretty sure it was the first to feature aerial surveillance which inspired movie makers like Hitchcock to film a man being chased by plane, a la North By Northwest, which I think borrows heavily from The 39 Steps.

The book was made into movies at least four times. All the movie versions make significant changes to the story, adding a love interest and other changes to plot and time period. I must have seen one of the old movies because I was under the impression that the book took place before World War II rather than World War I.

1935 black and white film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll

1959 color film starring Kenneth More, closely based on Hitchcock version

1978 film starred Robert Powell, Karen Dotrice and John Mills Closer to the book since set pre-WWI.

2008 BBC television adaptation produced by BBC Scotland's drama unit stars Rupert Penry-Jones, and Lydia Leonard. The film ends with a scene involving a submarine in a Scottish loch, rather than the original setting off the Kent coast. This one is REALLY fun, with good sexual tension and banter between Hannay and a Scottish suffragette, and gorgeous Scottish locales. Plus Rupert Penry-Jones is seriously good looking.

I watched both the Hitchcock and BBC versions and enjoyed them both, even though neither one followed the book all that closely. Both added romantic subplots, but I was okay with that. :)


Sunday, June 23, 2013


by Michael  Malone
Sourcebooks, 2009

The Four Corners of the Sky is master storyteller Michael Malone’s novel of love, secrets, and the mysterious bonds of families. Malone brings characters to life as only he can, exploring the questions that defy easy answers: Is love a choice or a calling? Why do the ties of family bind so tightly? And is forgiveness a gift to others…or a gift we give ourselves?

I read this as a downloadable library book from Anaheim Public Library during the first Big Library Read in conjunction with OverDrive. The program ran from May 15-June 1 and was "a pilot program in which libraries worldwide offer a single eBook to their patrons. In addition to creating a global “library book club,” Big Library Read is designed to demonstrate the positive exposure and sales influence library eBook catalogs provide to authors and publishers."

My review:

Though it's not obvious at first, the book mainly takes place in the summer of 2001, but with lots of flashbacks into the past of the characters. The genre is Adult Fiction of the quirky
Southern variety. The protagonist comes from a fairly unusual family, having been raised for her first seven years by her con man father before being left with her lesbian aunt and a local doctor who rents rooms from the aunt.

The main character is Anne Peregrine Goode, aka Annie P. Goode. Peregrine is her family name; Goode is the name of the doctor who adopted her, along with her aunt. (Not sure how believable that is for North Carolina, but will assume the author knows more than I do.) Annie is obsessed with flying all her life and becomes a Naval pilot. When her father Jack turns up again claiming he is dying, her life is uprooted while she searches for him and a gold artifact he claims was recovered from the wreck of a Spanish galleon. Annie isn't the only one searching for Jack; so are the Miami police and the feds. The Miami cop becomes Annie's love interest.

It's really hard to summarize the plot as it is all quite complicated and convoluted, plus it is a long book. I enjoyed it, though at times wished it had been more tightly written. Lots of quirky characters, but also a lot of food for thought about families and the nature of the American dream. Well worth the time to read it. 

Have you checked to see if your library has downloadable books? It's a great service. I would never have known about this book or author otherwise.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Coffee Chat Today

Today I'm being interviewed by Ally Shields on her blog. If you drop by, you might learn something new about me.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Guest Blogger @KittyBucholtz

Please join me in giving a warm welcome to the charming Kitty Bucholtz as she talks about her new release, Unexpected Superhero. I had the pleasure of working with Kitty on the Orange County romance anthology, Romancing The Pages. Kitty's story, Hero in Disguise, is a prequel to Unexpected Superhero and shows how Tori and Joe met on Halloween. Her writing is as delightful as she is.

Now I'll turn things over to Kitty.

Dreaming About Superheroes

Yesterday I woke up about dawn from the coolest dream. I don’t remember it all now, but one thing was really clear - my friend Kathleen knew everything there was to know about Marvel comics! In the dream, she was telling me about who wrote Spider-Man, and who did the artwork for Iron Man, and how the Incredible Hulk movies differed from each other and from the comics.

I was so interested in what she had to say, I tried to stay asleep and listen to her. But soon her voice was drowned out by a crow. That’s when I fully realized I was dreaming. That darned crow seems to love the tree outside our bedroom window.

And yet it still took me another minute to remember something - I don’t think Kathleen knows much at all about Marvel comics! Or any others!

Since I started writing my new novel, Unexpected Superhero, I’ve had superheroes on the brain. And it’s been even worse since the book came out as a Kindle exclusive ebook on June 1. My husband John is a computer animator and recovering comic book collector, so we see all the comic book movies, visit comic book stores with some regularity, and even watch cartoons on Netflix. Our inner ten-year-olds are alive and well!

But I wanted to write about superheroes from the girl’s perspective. What do you wear when you find out you’re a superhero? How do you stay warm in your super suit when it’s snowing? And the question on everyone’s mind - is sex with a superhero better?

My inner ten-year-old wants to know the answer to the first two questions - and my adult self is pretty curious about the last one! So I started the Adventures of Lewis and Clarke series about a pair of newlyweds with a lot of secrets. Here’s a little peek...

Tori Lewis was out of M&Ms. None in her purse, none in the glove box. Even the emergency packet in her briefcase had been consumed during her pre-wedding jitters. After the job interview she’d just endured for Half TV, a local cable TV station, she needed a chocolate fix. Now.

“I know I’m supposed to go to you for comfort,” she muttered to God as she pulled into a parking spot, “but if you wouldn’t mind, a package of M&Ms would jumpstart the process.”

The bell tinkled over her head as the door of Ed & Eddie’s Corner Market closed behind her. Tori stamped the snow off her boots as her eyes adjusted from the deepening twilight outside to the bright fluorescent lights of the store. It took her a moment to notice everyone in the store staring at her. Including the guy with the gun.

Tori froze. She always assumed her love of the colorful chocolate candy might one day destroy her figure, but she never expected her addiction to end in gunfire.

The gunman swung toward her. His bulky open coat couldn’t hide the fact that the skinny boy was no man. A Detroit Tigers baseball cap covered most of his brown hair, but not his panicky eyes. “What do you want?” His voice came out higher at the end and he cleared his throat. “Well?” he asked, forcing the word out at a lower pitch.

“Uhh… M&Ms,” Tori said. It sounded like a question. Her brain was having a hard time getting up to speed in this unexpected situation. God, help me.

Her eyes darted around the small store. An older woman cried and held a nearly hysterical younger woman, shushing her to no avail. One of the men held a baby ensconced in a little pink snowsuit. Another nodded quietly at her as if to convey caution.

Situation confirmed. She was hip-deep in doo-doo. Where was her big, strong new husband when she needed him?

The armed boy-man cocked his head toward the candy aisle. Tori didn’t know if he meant for her to move out of the way or if he was just being unusually helpful by pointing her in the right direction. Erring on the side of caution, she forced a fleeting smile and mumbled “thanks” as she walked past him and down the middle aisle to stand in front of the M&Ms. Now what?

The gunman turned back to Eddie, the cashier and half-owner of Ed & Eddie’s. “Hurry up before someone else comes in!”

“Easy, dude, easy,” Eddie said, moving his hands slowly toward the cash register. Eddie wasn’t very old either, early 20s or so, but he was sadly experienced in the holdup category. Tori couldn’t remember the details, but she’d heard bits and pieces of stories. Come to think of it, why did she shop at a store with a record anyway? She remembered Eddie had played sports in high school. Something like baseball or wrestling or karate could come in handy right now. Hopefully his sport hadn’t been cross-country running.

Tori glanced at the M&Ms next to her. More than ever she needed to stress eat. Could she open a package now and pay Eddie later? Maybe two packages. Her hands started to shake. She shoved them in her pockets.

Today was only day ten of her new and fabulous married life. She hadn’t wanted to go out today anyway and now this. Only two days ago she and Joe had checked out of their Disney World hotel, blue skies and temperatures in the 70s, nothing on their minds but a long and blissful life together. Tori prayed now that she’d make it to day eleven of that life. They hadn’t been married long enough to do anything except have sex – which was awesome – but she’d hoped for more. After all, they figured they’d have the rest of their lives together. Neither of them thought the “death” part of “till death do us part” would happen until there was a lot more gray hair involved.

The sound of a crying baby registered. Tori glanced over at the well-dressed man in the expensive trench coat. He kept his back between the gunman and his child. A gesture Tori would normally find heartwarming. But today it was the action of a man who wasn’t going to get involved. Great. He wouldn’t be of any use. So this is where equal opportunity gets us. Tori considered offering to hold the baby so he could help the other men save the day. Her self-esteem would be fine with that. Maybe if she were comforting someone, she wouldn’t feel like crying herself.

Enough! Tori wiped at her eyes. She was not letting some stupid, scared boy dictate her life and death. She’d spent too much energy changing her life into just what she wanted to lose it now. She chewed on her lip. What could she do?

A movement from the corner of her eye. She saw one of the men – the one who’d nodded calmly at her – edging closer to the gunman. Yikes. Should she duck or help?

Unexpected Superhero brims with fun, adventure, and romance in the pursuit of justice! Don’t miss this riveting start to an exciting new series in the urban fantasy genre!” Jennifer Lyon, Blood Magic

Kitty Bucholtz  is the author of the romantic comedy Little MissLovesick and the light urban fantasy Unexpected Superhero. Though she grew up in Northern Michigan, the setting for many of her stories, she followed her husband to Australia twice. While he made a penguin named Mumble dance, she earned her MA in Creative Writing in Sydney. When she's not unpacking or repacking, she's working on her next book or chatting with readers on Facebook


What do you think? Should Tori  duck or help? Come on, she's a Superhero, isn't she? Guess we'll have to read the book to find out. 

Thanks for visiting. Leave a comment below for Kitty and tell us what you think Tori should do. Other than eat the M&Ms, of course!



Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Book Review Club: Seduction #MJRose

Seduction: A Novel of Suspense (The Reincarnationist #5)
by M.J. Rose
Paranormal Fiction
Published May 7th 2013 by Atria Books
Read on my Kindle

From the author of The Book of Lost Fragrances comes a haunting novel about a grieving woman who discovers the lost letters of novelist Victor Hugo, awakening a mystery that spans centuries.

Opening lines:

"Every story begins with a tremble of anticipation. At the start we may have an idea of our point of arrival, but what lies before us and makes us shudder is the journey, for that is all discovery."


I have loved this series from the beginning, so had to grab this book as soon as it became available! 

Jacinthe (Jac) L'Etoile returns in this sequel to The Book of Lost Fragrances. This time she is drawn to the Isle of Jersey by Theo Gaspard, an old friend from her days at the Blixer-Rath Institute where the two teens were treated for psychological problems. (Jac had psychotic episodes that may or may not have been past life flashbacks while Theo was suicidally depressed.) Malachi Samuels, Jac's therapist from Blixer-Rath, warns her not to go. She's vulnerable after losing her chance to be with the man she loves (in Book of Lost Fragrances). Malachai fears that Theo is dangerous to Jac. But as usual, there is a lot Malachai is not telling Jac. 

Theo claims to have knowledge of a lost manuscript by Victor Hugo, one that involves his explorations into the spiritual realm after the loss of his daughter Leopoldine. Jac can never resist a puzzle or a chance to explore ancient ruins, of which Jersey has an abundance. Against Malachi's advice, she travels to the isolated island where she learns more about Theo and that confusing time at the clinic and also has visions of another time on the island when it was inhabited by Druids.

The book alternates between the contemporary story and excerpts from an imaginary journal by Victor Hugo about his experiences with the spirit world: seances and mysterious visits from The Spirit of the Sepulchre, aka Lucifer.

Seduction is quite different from the other books in the series, which alternate between fast-paced thrillers and past life memories. Seduction is more Gothic mystery than thriller-- atmospheric, slower paced, rich in sensory detail and psychological angst. MJ Rose seduces her reader into the inner lives of her characters in all their psychological and spiritual complexity. In the afterword, she explains that she wrote the book in longhand, with an old-fashioned fountain pen, but doesn't remember writing it. Perhaps she was channeling the spirit of Daphne du Maurier?

I recommend the book for lovers of Gothic or paranormal fiction. While it's not necessary to read the entire series to enjoy Seduction, I do think it would be helpful to first read The Book of Lost Fragrances, just to understand Jac and her world a bit better

And as always, click on the graph below to read more great reviews!


Hump Day Reads

Lady Elinor's Escape is featured today at Julie Kenner's Hump Day Reads!

My thanks to Julie and her assistant Rachael for the consideration.


Sunday, June 2, 2013


A month ago, I introduced Lady Elinor Ashworth, heroine of Lady Elinor's Escape, in a Sneak Peek Sunday post. Today's snippet introduces Stephen over breakfast at a country inn, after reuniting the proprietors with their runaway daughter Nancy.

Lady Elinor's Escape
Sweet Regency Romance
by Linda McLaughlin

Nancy fisted her hands on her hips. “Now that isn’t enough breakfast for the long trip to London. I’ll bring ye some of our fine Wiltshire bacon, too.”

Stephen laughed. Ever since he’d arrived, one Wainwright or another had been pressing food and drink on him. “Very well, Nancy. Toast and bacon.”

She turned and walked away, weaving between the crowded tables. She seemed like a different girl than the half-starved waif his housekeeper had taken in two months ago. He frowned, remembering her tale of being lured to London by a smooth-talking stranger only to be abandoned as soon as she had conceived. What kind of cad deserted a woman in a delicate condition? The only thing worse was a man who used his fists on a female, like that blackguard Northam.

Stephen closed his mind to that line of thought. Deborah had been gone for six years now, and if not forgotten, at least the pain of her death had faded. At her funeral Stephen had vowed never again to walk away from a woman in need, which was how he found himself at an inn in Wiltshire during the Season.

When Nancy returned with his breakfast, he applied himself to the large slab of bacon and toast dripping with butter, and then washed it all down with strong black coffee.

Rescuing damsels in distress was hungry work.

Lady Elinor's Escape is available at Amazon, All Romance eBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords.

Click here to read more Sneak Peeks.