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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff

[ 18 ] August 17, 2015

last summer at chelsea beach book coverPlease join Pam Jenoff, author of The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy of the book PLUS a Chelsea Beach limited edition beach bag below – open to US and Canada residents

Why The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach Is My Homecoming

by Pam Jenoff

Though none of my work is autobiographical, I have come to believe after eight (!) novels that some books are just inherently more personal to write than others. For me, this has never been more true than writing The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach. Though I never set out to write it that way, and I didn’t know it until after the book was finished, but my new book is in many senses a homecoming.

Readers may be surprised to learn that The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach is not a new project for me. Rather it is a manuscript I started almost 20 yeas ago. I was living in Europe at the time; I was in my early 20s, alone and halfway around the world from my family. (And this was before cellphones and the internet so I really was quite alone over there.) In the solitude of living remotely and alone, I realized consciously for the first time what I had known all along: that I wanted to be a writer. So I began a story about Adelia, a young girl who goes to the beach for the summer and meets a family with four sons vacationing next door. (On some level I think I was inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, with the boy Laurie living next door to Jo and her three sisters.) For many months, I struggled with the manuscript – I had no English speaking peer group of writers and no way to connect with writing resources back home. I tried to publish it and failed. Ultimately I put it in a drawer and forgot all about it.

Only I didn’t forget. A few years ago, I pulled it out again. The language, though unpolished and nearly two decades old, leapt out and grabbed me, still ringing fresh and true. I knew there was still a story there worth telling. So I developed the concept, set it during the Second World War, and made the families in the book hail from different religious and ethnic backgrounds. But it was not just a homecoming for the manuscript – working with my own words from a lifetime ago was like having a conversation with my younger self and I could see who I had been and how far I had come since then.

The other way in which The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach is a homecoming is the sense of place. Two of the book’s major settings are South Philadelphia and Atlantic City. Each has particular resonance and meaning for me. My mom grew up in South Philadelphia in the 1940s and it was so much fun to “research” by speaking with her, listening to the stories of her childhood (many of which I had not heard before) and having her proof my work.

Equally joyous was setting the story at the shore. My dad’s family is from Atlantic City and my grandparents and great grandparents owned hotels and restaurants there in the 1930s and 40s. I summered at the shore as a girl until my grandmother passed and her beach house was lost to us forever. (Looking back I think some of the losses I felt as a young girl are mirrored in some of Addie’s own losses.) I loved the research for this part of the book, which included going to the shore, driving the roads and digging into the library archives, a piece of my own past even more dear to me now that my dad is gone.

Addie’s story is not my story but crafting it has been one of the most meaningful projects of my career because of the parts of my own past it has enabled me to explore.  Thank you for joining me on my journey home.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Mailbox Monday

[ 7 ] August 17, 2015

Welcome to Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Here are the books that made their way into my physical and digital mailboxes last week:

Paper Review Copies

the witches book coverbroken homes and gardens book covertsar of love and techno book coverilluminae book coverlackey book coverdream things true book cover

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Review: Doubling Back by Linda Cracknell

[ 2 ] August 14, 2015

doubling back book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield

Doubling Back by Linda Cracknell is a series of stories following Cracknell’s travels through the British Isle, points in Europe, and Kenya. Cracknell’s stories slip easily through time. In her opening essay, Saunters, the reader accompanies Cracknell in the contemporary setting of Switzerland ambling through flowering gardens or the wooded slopes of the Aubonne valley then, at the next moment, we are stumbling along on Cracknell’s first solitary outing as a four-year old child exploring her new backyard in a Surrey suburb. The present and past are intrinsically linked together through a weaving of activity (walking) and place. There is always an air of discovery in Cracknell’s treks whether the walk is familiar or new to her.

Doubling Back is reflective and vibrant. Linda Cracknell has a keen ability of painting landscapes with her words. I can almost feel the warm red earth beneath my bare feet while reading Baring Our Soles, an enchanting tale of fading village life in Central Kenya, or lose my breath during Cracknell’s descent into the “cavernous depths” of Valle de Laguart in Stairway to Heaven. As one who admires the poetry of Thomas Hardy, Cracknell drew me into her story, The Opening Door, through Hardy’s words and his connection to Boscastle, Cornwall. This is a story of Cracknell’s past as well as Hardy’s past. Cracknell reflects on her visit to Boscastle at age eighteen then her return in 2008. She covers both a familiar fondness in reminiscence and universal despair of change within The Opening Door with seemingly simple thoughts such as a remembered meadow is “now a car park”.

Part memoir, part travelogue, descriptively delicious, Doubling Back by Linda Cracknell is a treat for the reader’s senses. Having read Linda Cracknell’s novel, Call of the Undertow, and liking it very much, I was excited for the chance to delve into her memoir, Doubling Back, and I was not disappointed. Not necessarily a quick read for escapism, Doubling Back is packed full of place, memory, and thought. The descriptions within Doubling Back brought to mind familiar paths Cracknell covered in Call of the Undertow. I feel I could follow Cracknell’s memoir as a personal guide on a walking holiday.

Doubling Back is well written, poignant, and took me onto the trails that Cracknell traversed from Scotland to Kenya, Wales to Switzerland, and other points crossed in the real and imagined. This collection of walking memories is a book I shall come back to in order to revisit Cracknell’s treks and meditations. Perhaps, as Linda Cracknell used other writer’s books for inspiration on her walks, I shall use Doubling Back as inspiration for my own rambles.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Linda Cracknell. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Flame Tree Road by Shona Patel

[ 6 ] August 14, 2015

flame tree road book coverReviewed by Colleen Turner

I was absolutely blown away by Shona Patel’s debut novel, Teatime for the Firefly, when I read it a few years ago and haven’t been able to forget her intelligent and independent heroine, Layla Roy, or Layla’s determination to chart her own life in an Indian culture based on strict traditions and expectations. The author’s use of language and imagery completely transported me to the beautiful yet savage environment of the Assam tea plantations and brought a world to life that I had never seen before. At the beginning of that novel we meet Layla’s kind and free-thinking grandfather, a man that raised Layla to be just as educated and self-possessed as any man. At a time when this way of thinking is nearly unheard of, Biren Roy has become a well-respected man known for his unwavering support of equality for the women of India, especially involving education. But how did he become this man? Flame Tree Road is Biren’s story of love, heartache and a passion born from tragedy that is just as beautiful as its predecessor.

Flame Tree Road begins in a small village in 1870s India with Biren’s family living a relatively poor yet loving and happy life. His parents have never been supporters of the country’s traditions that support cruel treatment and inequality towards women and Biren grows up dreaming of a different world. When his father dies and his mother is ostracized from everyone, including her family, and stripped from her position in society and her very humanity simply because she is a widow, smart and sensitive Biren knows his purpose in life must be to change these antiquated customs and ensure that the women of India can have a life of their own and the education they deserve regardless of their caste, their money or their marriage status.

The bulk of the novel deals with Biren’s journey to have his dream of equality and education for women realized. This takes him to England, where he becomes a lawyer and seeks to make changes within the British government that now rules over India, then back to India where he works to make sure those changes can become a reality. I hate to say it but I found Biren’s journey slow moving and, at times, tiresome. As would be expected, there are a lot of political and societal issues and delays that make this passion of Biren’s difficult to bring to fruition. While this helps highlight for the reader the odd traditions and superstitions of old-world India (to our modern eyes at least), after a while I became as frustrated as Biren clearly was at the obstacles that kept getting in his way. The relationships he develops along the way take a backseat to this journey and felt somewhat lackluster until he falls in love with Maya, the independent daughter of an Indian educator Biren works with to build a school for Indian girls, and by the time that beautiful relationship comes to be it isn’t given enough time to really flourish. Once Biren and Maya marry the story progresses at a rapid pace, covering many years in a short amount of pages, and, for me, wraps up too quickly. On top of that, I was saddened to see Biren’s life marked largely by tragedy as he lost so many of those he loved along the way. I get the idea that for a person to appreciate the sweet they must experience the sour, but it seemed like kind Biren got the short end of the stick there.

All of this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy Flame Tree Road. Shona Patel’s writing is amongst the most beautiful I have come across and her abilities to bring to life a brightly colored world of beauty against the ugliness of this time and place in history (at least when it comes to the rights of women and an antiquated caste system) is unmatched in my reading. She perfectly shows how this free-thinking man becomes stuck between two worlds – the old world beliefs of India and the advancements and changes of England – and I very much enjoyed seeing how Biren reconciled these two parts of his life together. He is a remarkable character and I feel quite satisfied that Ms. Patel gave fans of Teatime for the Firefly the history of one of the most enigmatic characters from that novel.

At the end of the day I think Flame Tree Road is a very solid novel that just fell slightly short of my very high expectations given how much I loved its predecessor. Regardless, I am still a huge fan of Shona Patel and will continue to read whatever she writes. Given her remarkably beautiful writing, I don’t think anyone could go wrong in picking up her novels.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, and their dogs Oliver and Cleopatra. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship. You can find more of her reviews on her blog.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by MIRA. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Most Creative/Prolific Contributor Award!

[ 4 ] August 14, 2015

stack of books As promised, every month I give away a prize of their choice to the most creative/prolific contributor to Luxury Reading!

The July winner is…

Bonnie Franks!

Kudos to everyone for your great comments! Bonnie, please post a comment here with your selection!

The contest started over on August 10th, and I will pick a new winner around the 10th of September. There is no limit to how many times you can win.

Remember, frequency of commenting counts, but so does the quality – a creative and relevant comment will get you more points than something like “sounds great”. Every month, I will pick a winner and post their name, as well as send them an e-mail. The winner can pick any item that is available on

Get commenting!

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Review: The Three-Nine Line by David Freed

[ 6 ] August 13, 2015

three nine line book coverReviewed by Caleb Shadis

The Three-Nine Line is the fourth book in the Cordell Logan mystery series. And I have to say I’m going to have to go back and read the first three! Cordell is a pilot instructor and truly enjoys flying the friendly skies.

Logan both instructs and hires his plane out for charter. We meet him as he is flying a famous movie star and his lady friends out over the Pacific Ocean. The movie star wants Cordell to buzz the whales they can see down below. When Cordell refuses on the grounds that it will disturb the whales, the movie star takes up a bribing tactic. Unfortunately for him, this tactic does not work out as expected.

Cordell’s friend Buzz Hauksson, who is in charge of an organization that reports directly to the president, has asked Logan to go to Vietnam to help prevent an international incident. It turns out that in an attempt at international diplomacy, the two countries tried reuniting ex-POWs from the U.S. with one of their jailers from the Hanoi Hilton. The only problem was that early the next morning Mr. Wonderful, as the jailer was known, was found floating face down in a pond with a knife in his chest.

The most likely murder suspects were of course the three ex-POWs. They were immediately placed under arrest in their hotel. Logan is sent in as a psychologist to ‘ascertain’ the mental well-being of the detainees while trying to find out who actually settled their grudge.

Turns out Mr. Wonderful had plenty of people who thought that he wasn’t so wonderful, including his estranged wife and his partner in crime, whose girl he had an affair with. The cop in charge seems to be railroading the POWs for a career advancement and in a corrupt town, no one is as innocent as they appear to be.

I found The Three-Nine Line to be a pretty good book and I enjoyed it more than I expected. Cordell Logan seems pretty competent and like a man I wouldn’t mind knowing. He also likes to fly by the seat of his pants–and not just in his airplane. He made a few good bluffs at the right time that paid off. The mystery of who dun’ it was pretty good with a reasonable surprise thrown in.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review and giveaway copies were provided by Permanent Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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