Thursday, December 30, 2010

"BELLA" by Steve Piacente ~ 5 Star Quality Novel

"A striking widow intent on proving the military lied about her husband's death lures a Washington journalist into the investigation. Working together, they discover the power of temptation, the futility of revenge, and the consequences of yielding to either." Book Cover Summary

Steve Piacente's first book, "Bella," is a smash hit. He is an author to be reckoned author with his own "voice," and particular charm that I expect we'll soon be hearing much about in reading circles.

"Bella" is a book from a gifted writer, not just an author. It's fast-paced, funny, heart-wrenching, and a little scary.

Mr. Piacente, who is Deputy Communications Director at the U.S. General Services Administration, formerly enjoyed a 25-year career in print journalism. He earned a Masters in Fiction from John Hopkins University in 2000.  I'd say he knows a bit about this story he's telling! 

Written with such a snappy dialogue, quick quips, humor and irony that the pages spark with life. "Bella" is a read that entertains, surprises, and leaves us wanting more.

Piacente's tight, well-sculpted novel has the precision of a plastic surgeon's new face-lift...beautiful and practically flawless! So smooth it speeds along in a momentum of mystery and angst. So peppered with humor that I found myself refusing to stop reading for my mood's sake alone!

The main story honestly captures the essence and repercussions of a young athlete who was killed in Iraq by "friendly fire," and whose death was then "covered up" by the military.

Piacente's use of characterization, plot and description in telling his story are on the mark.

I love his news-jockey/journalist, Dan Patragno, who was sassy and serious, sharing the inner dialogue of a seasoned, wise and jaundice-eyed, investigative reporter. Danny is a loveable character with strengths and rough edges that make me long to know more about him and his journalistic exploits.

In fact, all of Piacente's characters are deftly created: The Bella in question, Isabel Moss, widow of the lost soldier, is an atypical heroine; an understated siren, injured, sexy, intelligent, and desirable as white oleander. A woman we can both learn to relate to and resent. (Sex scenes are tasteful and modern! Says she who detests crudely scribbled attempts otherwise made...)

Danny's buddies Gus and Clay are such odd-men-out, geeky; yet, genius players that we only want more of them! His primary school son, Robin, is a blooming little wisecracker to die for!!

You have to read "Bella," this year because it's a great book. Read it because you don't want to be left off this rising star's first book trail. And, read it because you won't want to miss his other Dan Patragno books which I'm begging him to write.

See Piacente's website: for more specifics on Steve's interesting career and more on "Bella."

Watch a YouTube:

**Reviews on Amazon (including mine!) and ability to purchase on my sidebar.

Hope all of you had a happy Christmas and that your New Year's Resolutions aren't keeping you up nights. I haven't made my list on that, yet. Too busy reading and enjoying time back home this past couple of days.

I want to thank the authors and publishers who have provided me with books for reviews this past years. They know who they are! I have enjoyed the reads, and hope my reviews have mattered.

I especially hope my choices of books to read and review over the past year have meant something to my dear friends and followers.

With warmest regards,

Your Bookish Dame/Deb

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"The Highest Stakes" A Romping Race and Revenge!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010"The Highest Stakes" A Ride You'll Hold On For!

"Set against the sights, sounds, and excitement of the brand new sport of thoroughbred racing, "The Highest Stakes" is a story of drama, love, and retribution in a world where pedigree is everything and fortunes can be won and lost in the blink of an eye.""From the first day she learned to ride, Charlotte Wallace lived for the freedom that comes from tearing across the heath on one of her uncle's prized stallions. But that freedom is shattered when her uncle makes her the pawn in his bet on a high stakes horse race."

These are the cover descriptions of Emery Lee's extraordinary book, "The Highest Stakes." I'm never one to explain the story of a book, since that's something easily found on the covers or with a nod to the summaries already written. My goal as a reviewer is to tell more about the author's abilities to convey that story, and to give a personal sense of how it translates to the reader.

"The Highest Stakes," is a book that I took a risk on reading. I'm not one who knows horses. Having been completely in the dark about them, I've never grown to appreciate their history or people's attachments to them. But, when I saw Emery Lee's book, it seemed like a good time to jump in and try to see this side of things. I started reading with a jaded mind, I didn't expect to finish the book.

Surprisingly enough, I was mesmorized! Ms. Lee writes about horses, races, breeding horses, and riders as if these things were at the heart of all life. It is captivating! I learned so much about the history of horse racing. The breeding of horses and how they develop a racing horse was so interesting written from Emery's hand, and the training of a race horse became alive and almost sensual. My heart raced when the races were described!

Emery Lee is a highly articulate,intelligent writer. She has an infinite grasp of the English language of the times in which her book takes place and of the entire setting of her story. Her characters are subtle and strong. They are absorbing in their trueness and honesty, and their love of horses. There is a love story at the heart of this novel; however, it is beautifully balanced with the story of the horses as they are entwined.

This is an intelligent book. It is a book to be taken seriously. A book that will teach and thrill, I recommend it especially to those who know and love horses and English stories of the 1700's.

Ms. Lee has a new book which is a sequel to this one coming out in 2011.  Can't wait to get my hands on it!

I apologize for having left off the beautiful cover of Emery's book!  Please go to to see it and, perhaps, to order the book for yourself.  The cover is beautiful, but I'm having issues with downloading pictures at the moment!

Merry Christmas to friends and authors!

Love and hugs, too,

Deb/Your Bookish Dame

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Lake of Dreams" by Kim Edwards ~ Now on Goodreads and

More research reveals a new book by Kim Edwards of "The Memorykeeper's Daughter!"  Oh, my!  My "Outdoing Yourself...Challenge 2011" is getting easier by the moment!!  I need to hop back over and see who else is building their lists....

Can we hope to have as good a novel this time around?  I hope so.  It's always difficult to follow a blockbuster novel, particularly one made into a movie (!!), with a 2nd novel.   I think it's our duty not to set our hopes too  high.   This can really hurt a novelist.
Earlier this year when "Ape House" came out the reviews were all a-swirl about whether the book was as good as "Water for Elephants." Many reviewers and friends of mine were comparing the two and "Ape..." was on the losing side.  It's a shame because the subjects were totally different.  "Ape House" is a stand-alone novel and is a very good one!  Actually, I found it more interesting than "....Elephants," to tell the truth.  But poor Sara Gruen had to suffer through that 2nd Novel Syndrome.

Here's the summary of "The Lake of Dreams" that Goodreads is showing:

"With revelations that prove as captivating as the deceptions at the heart of her bestselling phenomenon The Memory Keeper's Daughter, Kim Edwards now gives us the story of a woman's homecoming, a family secret, and the old house that holds the key to the true legacy of a family.
At a crossroads in her life, Lucy Jarrett returns home from Japan, only to find herself haunted by her father's unresolved death a decade ago. Old longings stirred up by Keegan Fall, a local glass artist who was once her passionate first love, lead her into the unexpected. Late one night, as she paces the hallways of her family's rambling lakeside house, she discovers, locked in a window seat, a collection of objects that first appear to be useless curiosities, but soon reveal a deeper and more complex family past.
As Lucy discovers and explores the traces of her lineage - from an heirloom tapestry and dusty political tracts to a web of allusions depicted in stained-glass windows throughout upstate New York - the family story she has always known is shattered. Lucy's quest for the truth reconfigures her family's history, links her to a unique slice of the suffragette movement, and yields dramatic insights that embolden her to live freely.
With surprises at every turn, brimming with vibrant detail, The Lake of Dreams is an arresting saga in which every element emerges as a carefully place piece of the puzzle that's sure to enthrall the millions of readers who loved The Memory Keeper's Daughter."

I'm holding out hope that this new work is as good as her first, that it's different, and that it holds its own.  Certainly sounds like it!

Let me know what you're thinking...

Your Bookish Dame/Deb

YA Fiction 2011: "WARPED" by Maurissa Guibord ~ Pre-order

Since one of my new resolutions for 2011 is to read more YA fiction, I'm claiming this book as one for my "Outdoing Yourself Reading Challenge."

Can you get over how gorgeous the cover is? Children these days are simply so beautiful, it's breathtaking. There's something about their awareness of themselves and the world around them that makes them different than the children of my timeframe and even of my childrens' times. (My children now being in their 30's) I say all of this because...just look at this girl on the cover. Those are knowing eyes!

The reference to weaving drew me in, as well. I'm a needlewoman and have been for nearly 50 years. I adore French tapestries. This one featured in part on the cover is from The Unicorn Tapestries...The Unicorn in Captivity, to be exact, which is now housed in NYC at The Cloisters. A whole discussion in and of itself.

Should you wish to know more about these stunning tapestries, here is a link to Fordham in NYC, which has information and pictures.    Though this may be a slight side trip off the track of the's one probably more worthwhile than anything else in the long run.  Says she, the art historian.  Sorry.... :]

In a nutshell, you see the whole concept of the book, then, given to you just on the cover of the book. "Warped" the term often used in tapestry work...the weave in making of the tapestry is a process of warp and woof. The warp is the first part that's laid in a loom.....the strings that are stretched the length of the loom. The "woof" which is the old expression or the "weft" which is newer...are the horizontal threadings that will be made through the warp. The cover further reads, "Tessa's life is about to unravel." So, the warp and the woof are not secure.

This is a book written by Maurissa Guibord who seems to be either French or of some part French heritage. She has to be vastly aware of these particular tapestries... interestingly enough. She's given us significant symbolic information about her book.  Probably of where she even got her basic ideas for the book, altogether!

Without reading the summary that will be given below. We can pretty much surmise that poor Tessa will be stretched to the inth of her abilities to survive her coming of age experiences. I suspect that she will meet a young man (her unicorn) who is illusive to most people, except to herself...because a unicorn can only be tamed by a young virgin, after all. And, this young man must be pursued by those who want to hurt him or jail him for some reason. I'm guessing....

I can't wait to read this book which I understand will be out sometime in January, 2011, just in time for my Book List!

Here's the summary I took from Goodreads:

" Tessa doesn't believe in magic. Or Fate. But there's something weird about the dusty unicorn tapestry she discovers in a box of old books. She finds the creature woven within it compelling and frightening. After the tapestry comes into her possession, Tessa experiences dreams of the past and scenes from a brutal hunt that she herself participated in.  When she accidentally pulls a thread from the tapestry, Tessa releases a terrible centuries old secret. She also meets William de Chaucy, an irresistible 16th-century nobleman. His fate is as inextricably tied to the tapestry as Tessa's own. Together, they must correct the wrongs of the past. But then the Fates step in, making a tangled mess of Tessa's life. Now everyone she loves will be destroyed unless Tessa does their bidding and defeats a cruel and crafty ancient enemy. "

Please look on my sidebar if you'd like to check to pre-order or just see more about this book.  Even if you order for your Kindle, I'll get credit!! Thanks....  :]

Have fun! I can't wait to hear what you'll be reading. Please leave me a note.

Hope you're enjoying Christmas lights in your neighborhoods right about now!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

One of the most beloved of classical American literature, "The Scarlet Letter," is a novel and also letter of sorts written to all of us; a warning and a love letter from the hand of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the brilliant and gifted writer from New England who lived and worked not far away from the streets and times of which he sets his novel.  

Hawthorne lived in the Sudbury area of Massachusetts, not more than a couple of hours inland from the Plymouth Colony.  He was a contemporary of Walden and Alcott.  A spiritual man, but not a "religious" one, Hawthorne also wrote short stories.  One of his most famous short stories (which you can download free from Gutenberg Press) is called "Young Goodman Brown," another morality tale that will live long in your heart and mind.

"The Scarlet Letter," is Hawthorne's best known and beloved work.  It takes place in a MA Colony in the Puritan times.

Hester Pryne, the misbehaving woman who is ruled to wear the scarlet letter "A" (in question) for adultress, is beautiful, strong-minded and more admirable than most of the Puritans who blame and shun her. She is an honest woman caught in the web of star-crossed-love-gone-adrift, because her lover and father of her bastard child is the colony preacher! Hester does all she can to protect him and he does all he can to withstand his guilt and to find peace of heart and spirit in a Puritan society shifted so far afield that no one can see the truth or the good for the "letter" of the Law.

"The Scarlet Letter" is a deeply moving love story, but it is also a story of fear and distortion. It's a story of what can, and probably did, happen in a world where reason is set aside and mass hysteria takes over...where common sense mixed with spiritual insight is dashed by strict adherence to the law without compassion.

Those who have never read this book have missed a part of the American experience. I hope if you are one of those people, you will correct that situation soon and for your better good!

I first read it in 1967, and have reread it many times since then with new insights and pleasures every time. I even have a granddaughter named Pearl, after Hester's little treasure and my grandmother!   Pearl, the wild and free-spirited child who was honest and one with nature and God...the precious one.
This book has gone through so many re-issues and so many covers that I couldn't take up all the space showing them here.  The last is an interesting one to me because we now find it in the latest "Manga Edition" which is written by Adam Sexton and Yali Lin.  Even in 2010, more than 100 years after its original publication, this classic is being interpreted for America's young and old, and for the Nations, too.  Amazing and wonderful!


PS:   I have to add that as I was studying Women's Studies in College in the late 1980's, "The Scarlet Letter" was a book that came to my mind.  Hester Pryne was a strong woman role model.  She seemed to me to be the best in a feminist example.  I think she must have affected young women as such when the book was first published. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"The Last Train from Paris" ~ A Love Story of WWII

Saturday, December 4, 2010   

"The Last Train from Paris"~Love, Art and Parisian Patriots in WWII

A novel about Paris, not just the beautiful "City of the Lights," but a city captured and terrorized in the grip of a hostile German army in WWII, this is a book I couldn't help dying to read. I love Paris above all European cities, and my heart just stops at the thought of anyone destroying a single piece of its architecture or fine arts.

So, I could hardly wait to tell you that this book will leave you breathless and pensive. From the very first paragraphs you will be taken in to the epic story of lovers and liars, artists and anti-heros...

Stacy Cohen paints with a gentle hand and delft stokes the story of an occupied Paris that is so confined and crippled that you feel the constraints of it as you read. We come to know and love favored contemporary artists Miro and the grumpy but irrepressible Matisse, who take under wing the talented but fledgling young artist, Jean Luc Beauchamp.

Jean Luc becomes the hero of this story as we follow his passions of art, true love for a beautiful Russian ballerina with a secret, and love of Paris...all elements of the human story and the battle of good vs. evil. Ms Cohen also provides us a German Oberst officer villian to heat up the struggles. He's interesting, darkly intriguing and easy to hate.

A novel that will set you adrift into another time, "The Last Train for Paris," will catch you up in a story that will rush over your heart and bring you to tears. It is a story that will create a righteous indignation about the savaging of the arts, and the art thefts of WWII. And, it is a novel that will remain with you should you visit Paris or when you think of its beauty and many treasures.

Hopefully, you will never find yourself taking the last train from Paris...but always going toward Paris. It is the most beautiful and mysterious of European cities. Just like cities all over the world in these times and in the past, it is worthy of our concerns and protection.

I'm grateful to Ms Cohen for reminding me of that. It took many brave hearts in the Resistance to liberate Paris and France from a hostile enemy. Theirs is a story that is beautifully rendered in "The Last Train from Paris."

Highly recommended and timely.

Since Ms Cohen is a most admirable woman in every respect,  I wanted to add this very interesting information about her for you:
"Stacy Cohen, author, philanthropist, and life-style consultant continues to bring her passion for love and life to everything she does.  With her first novel, she creates a distinct voice that combines her passions for art, history, and the undying power of love....
In the world of international philanthropy, she has been a tireless advocate of children, including her support of Camp Okizu, the largest camp in Northern California for children and their families affected by cancer.  She has raised hundreds of thousands for children's hospitals and funded a special performance by the Russian National Orchestra in support of Russian orphans, bringing her love for children and her passion for the arts full circle."
Your Bookish Dame/Deb

Friday, December 3, 2010

Book Blogger Hop ~ Friday, December 3, 2010

The Hop is on from Dec. 3 - 6th, 2010!

Come join us from Crazy For Books new book blog. We newbies are trying to stick together and get a good following of friends for our blogs! Not to mention that it's fun to have and answer the Hop questions...

Go to the Crazy-For-Books site to join the Hop.

Here's information about it, as well:

"In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read! So, grab the logo, post about the Hop on your blog, and start HOPPING through the list of blogs that are posted in the Linky list...!!"

The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week, so if you don't have time to Hop today, come back later and join the fun! This is a weekly event! And stop back throughout the weekend to see all the new blogs that are added! We get over 200 links every week!! " (You have to go to Crazy's blog to see this list!!)

This week's question comes from Marce who blogs at Tea Time With Marce :

"What very popular and hyped book in the blogosphere did you NOT enjoy and how did you feel about posting your review?"

This is difficult to confess, but I did not enjoy Laurell K. Hamilton's last book "A Lick of Frost." I'm ordinarily an LKH fan...I like her Anita books and her first Merry books, too. But, she started getting too hinky for me. I'm not a prude by any stretch so you can't confuse me with that issue, but I wanted more story and less strange tail/tale...if you get my drift.  ;j   Btw, I never reviewed the books. I did read them, though.

Here's the whole collection of that Merredith Gentry series by LK Hamilton that you can find on Amazon...see my sidebar, just in case you want to read it. Different (dare it say it!) strokes for different folks!! :P

I'm passing this question on to my friend in newness: Crystal Jewell
at Crystals Reading Corner.
Please go check out her very beautiful and interesting blog, she'll be happy you did!

I hope you'll also be a follower of mine. I promise to follow up with you, stop by your blog and become a follower of your blog, as well.

Thanks for stopping by.

Your Bookish Dame/Deb

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Midnight in the Land of "Twilight!"

"What if Bella had a little sister? What if after Bella married Edward and was changed, her sister moved to Forks? In this story all of that happens. In this story there is even a love triangle for Bella’s sister Arabella. Seth Clearwater who was once a minor character now comes to the forefront. Seth begins to fall in love with Arabella and she falls for him. But, Arabella also falls in love with the Cullen's newest family member Cyrus Hale. Arabella must choose who she will love. ... "

Oh, my! This could be a very intriguing series, couldn't it?? I'm reading this new, self-published little volume put out on BookRix which is a wonderful site for downloading such books.

One of my first YA novels reviewed on this site, I hope to return to you with a review that will at least put a buzzzzzz in your ears!

Leave me a comment and tell me what you think about this idea of spintering off of "Twilight." :]

Your Bookish Dame/Deb