Posted in Uncategorized

The Return of The Brown Bookloft

My last published review on this website was in August 2020, almost 2 years ago. At that time, I felt that I just couldn’t give books my full attention. COVID was rampant and I was dealing with some personal issues. I felt that my lack of attention wasn’t fair to the authors who work so hard to write and publish their books.

During the time that this blog was on hiatus, I was still reading and doing short reviews on sites like Goodreads. I found I missed doing my own blog!

I’ve changed my review format a bit and made it a bit more informal. This allows me to have more flexibility in giving a book and its author more of a personal touch in reviews. I will focus less on plot, as you can easily find that on many sites, although I will provide a link to the Goodreads website information for each book.

At this time, I am not taking requests to review books. If that changes, I will post a form and contact information.

Posted in Uncategorized

Sneak Preview: Paris Never Leaves You

Publication Info: Expected publication date: August 4, 2020.

I’m delighted to take part in my first blog tour for a book, thanks to St. Martin’s Press! My review will post on the publication date, August, 4, 2020. In the meantime, here is some promotional material provided by the publisher. Click HERE for an excerpt from the first chapter.

Praise for Paris Never Leaves You

“A memorable, thought-provoking moral conflict, and dialogue [that] crackles like a duel… Paris Never Leaves You succeeds as a meaty moral tale.” —Historical Novel Society

“Fans of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale may want to pick this up.” —Booklist

“Nothing is quite what it seems… Wartime Paris is described in vivid, sometimes harrowing, detail… [An] engrossing page-turner.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The best works of historical fiction have a way of illuminating the present, allowing readers to better understand themselves through well-defined characters reflected in the prism of time…. Feldman does this beautifully in a multi-layered, tender story that explores the emotionally charged, often parallel terrains of truth, deception, love and heartbreak.” —Shelf Awareness

“A nuanced WWII story of love and survival in Occupied Paris… With its appealing heroine and historically detailed settings… a dangerous secret gives Feldman’s story a gasp-worthy spin.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“Things are seldom as they seem in this engrossing tale of identity, survival, loyalty, and love…Recommend with enthusiasm.” —Library Journal

“Ellen Feldman’s writing is riveting in this beautiful novel that tells the bittersweet story of a young mother’s strength and survival during WWII. From a tiny bookstore in Nazi-occupied Paris to a post-war New York publishing house, Feldman effortlessly captures the terror, immediacy, and inextinguishable human spirit.” —Noelle Salazar, author of The Flight Girls

“Completely compelling. I tore through it. This novel pivots on how we manage to survive surviving… Charlotte’s visceral story will stay with me.” —Naomi Wood, New York Times best-selling author of Mrs. Hemingway and The Hiding Game

“Feldman’s powerful exploration of some of the most profound questions about love and loyalty resonates strongly today: What would you do to save your child? What is morality in wartime? How do we make peace with the past?” —Christina Lynch, author of The Italian Party

“This is an exquisite novel – one that gives us what we’re hungry for: an intelligent, complex female character who challenges our ideas of right and wrong, morality and immorality. We’re reminded, too, of the dangers of drawing easy, swift conclusions. Feldman achieves all of this with wholly admirable precision and wit; she takes aim and does not miss.” —Elizabeth J. Church, author of The Atomic Weight of Love and All the Beautiful Girls

“A fluid, rich, and nuanced novel, expertly crafted, guaranteed to follow you around long after you’ve turned the last page. I gulped it down.” —Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra, Vera, The Witches, and A Great Improvisation

“Feldman’s characters—in the Paris bookstore that harbors many secrets or the Manhattan publishing house with its marvelous cast of misfits—are both terrifying and utterly engaging. With more twists and turns than the back streets of Paris, the story is as propulsively readable as a spy novel, and as rich and psychologically rewarding as only the finest literature can be.” —Liza Gyllenhaal, author of Local Knowledge and Bleeding Heart

“…a vivid and precise portrait of that city under German occupation during the Second World War, but it is also an exploration of the courage and cowardice of those bitter years, as well as offering a slyly persuasive love story. The swift, engrossing narrative conceals, in the best way, the fact that Feldman is also giving us a wise and troubling lesson about the great moral crisis of the last century.” —Richard Snow, author of Iron Dawn

“A thrilling achievement…I was thoroughly drawn into a deep, rich, vivid world of engrossing characters and emotional and moral crises…a great piece of writing in every way.” —Fred Allen, Leadership Editor, Forbes

Excerpt from Paris Never Leaves You

One

New York, 1954

Charlotte spotted the letter as soon as she stepped into

her office. There was no reason it should have caught her

eye. The desk was littered with papers and envelopes.

Stacks of manuscripts and books filled the shelves of

the small cubicle and spilled over onto the two chairs.

Certainly the airmail envelope didn’t make it stand out.

Most of the books she published were American editions

of European works, and a good deal of her mail arrived

in those tissue-thin blue envelopes. The only explanation

for its attracting her attention was that she’d already gone

through her morning mail and the afternoon delivery

hadn’t yet arrived. Perhaps the letter had gone to another

editor by mistake, and he or she had left it on Charlotte’s

desk while she was upstairs in the art department. Or

perhaps the mailroom had overlooked it in the morning

sorting.

Gibbon & Field was a prestigious publishing house,

but a certain loucheness lurked behind the scenes. That

was the fault of Horace Field, the publisher. He was too

forgiving, or perhaps only cannily manipulative. She’d had

her earliest inkling of the trait the first Christmas after she’d

come to work at the house. Leaving the office one evening

at the same time, she and Horace had entered the elevator

together to find a young man from the production depart-

ment struggling to balance two or three oversize art books

and several of a more conventional trim size. When he saw

Horace, he colored an unhappy Christmas red.

“I see you’ve taken our ads to heart, Seth,” Horace said.

“‘There’s a book for everyone on your Christmas list.’”

The young man turned a deeper red and shot out of

the elevator as soon as the doors opened. That was un-

usual. The staff usually deferred to Horace getting on and

off elevators, and everywhere else.

“Are you going to take the books out of his salary?”

she’d asked as they’d followed him across the lobby.

“Not on your life.”

“It would teach him a lesson.”

“The only lesson I want to teach him, Charlie, is to

work his tail off for the greater glory of G&F.”

“And you think encouraging him to walk out the door

with an armful of purloined books will do that?”

“I think the next time he asks for a raise and doesn’t

get it, he’ll remember all the books he’s filched and feel

guilty, or at least compensated. Same with the expense

accounts the editors and travelers turn in. They think

they’re stealing me blind, but a guilty conscience breeds

contrition. Maybe even loyalty. They feel they owe the

house something in return. That’s why I worry about you.

Those expense accounts you file are a travesty. If the other

editors get wind of them, they’ll never forgive you for

spoiling the game.”

Horace’s philosophy permeated the entire publishing

house from the grand larceny of the production depart-

ment, run by a man rumored to have ties to the Mafia,

to the petty pilfering and general slacking off of the mail-

room. That must be why the letter had been delivered

late. And the timing was the only reason she noticed it. It

had nothing to do with a sixth sense, in which she defi-

nitely did not believe.

She sat behind the desk and picked up the envelope.

Her name and the G&F address were written, not typed.

The handwriting wasn’t familiar. There was no return ad-

dress on the upper left-hand corner. She turned it over.

As soon as she saw the name, she realized why she hadn’t

recognized the handwriting. When had they put anything

in writing? No, that wasn’t true. He’d written her once,

a year or so after the end of the war. The letter had taken

months to wind its way through the Drancy records and

the various agencies to reach her in New York. She’d

taken solace in that. He didn’t know where she was, and

he was still in Germany. She’d never answered that letter.

The return address on this one was Bogotá, Colombia. So

he’d got out after all. She was glad. She was also relieved.

South America was still a long distance away.

What troubled her was not where he was but that

now he knew where she was. She’d thought she’d been

so careful. Neither her address nor her telephone num-

ber was listed in the book. The people who had tried to

help her settle into her new life—social workers and do-

gooders from various refugee organizations; her colleagues

here and at other publishing houses; Horace Field’s wife,

Hannah—had found the omission foolish and antisocial.

“How do you expect to make a life for yourself in a new

country,” Hannah had asked, “if no one can find you?”

Charlotte hadn’t argued with her. She’d merely gone on

paying the small fee to be unlisted. Gradually Hannah

and everyone else had stopped asking and chalked it up

to what she’d been through. No one, including Hannah,

knew what that was, but that didn’t stop them from spec-

ulating.

She wasn’t much easier to find in the office, though

apparently he’d managed. Her name didn’t appear in

the list of editors that ran down the left-hand side of the

company stationery. Most publishing houses didn’t list

editors on the stationery but that was another of Horace

Field’s peculiar indulgences. A year after she’d come to

work at G&F, he’d asked if she wanted to be included.

“Think of it as a sop,” he’d said.

“A sop?” She spoke four languages, could read two

others, and had taken her degree at the Sorbonne in

English literature, but in those days she was still having

trouble with some American slang.

“Compensation for the slave wages we pay you.”

“At least you didn’t suggest I make up the difference by

stealing books,” she’d said, and added that she didn’t want

her name on the stationery but thanked him all the same.

Nonetheless, despite her absence in the phone book

and on the company stationery, her name did occasion-

ally turn up in acknowledgments in the books she worked

on. And my gratitude to Charlotte Foret for steering

my ves- sel safely through the turbulent waters of

American publish- ing. My thanks to Charlotte

Foret, who first saw that a book about the Dutch

Golden Age written by a Dutchman would appeal

to American audiences. The question was how he’d

managed to get his hands on a US edition in Europe, or

now South America. The various consulates had libraries to

spread the American gospel among the local populations,

but the books she published rarely spread the American

gospel. Nonetheless, he must have found one. Or else

he’d tracked her down through a refugee agency. Once

in America, she’d distanced herself from the émigré or

immigrant or refugee—choose your term—groups, but

she’d had to file the usual papers and obtain the

necessary documents to get here. She was traceable.

From Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen

Feldman. Copyright © 2020 by the author and

reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.

Posted in Uncategorized

A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker

Publication Info: Expected publication date September 10, 2019 by Berkley. Pre-pub Kindle edition courtesy of NetGalley

This is a repost from August 2019. A Song for a New Day just won the Nebula for best novel! Congratulations, Sarah Pinsker! If you didn’t read this book when it first came out, you should add it to your to-read pile now. The themes in this novel are very timely.

Summary: Due to a rash of bombings and shootings that killed thousands of people, the government passed the congregation laws. Public gatherings of more than two or three people in an area are prohibited. This changed the way restaurants and hotels function. Large office buildings are sometimes completely abandoned. There are no more movie theaters or concert venues. Traditional stores can no longer operate and have been subsumed into a huge, automated center called Superwally, that provides drone delivery service for everything anyone could need.

Rosemary, a young woman, still lives with her parents on their family farm. She works for Superwally from her bedroom via “hoodie space”, a virtual reality conduit. She is a tech troubleshooter. She’s never seen anything beyond the farm, is very isolated and is too young to remember “before”.

One day, Rosemary does some troubleshooting for a representative of StageHolo. He offers her a chance to see a StageHolo concert and sends her an upgraded hoodie. Rosemary is suddenly introduced to the larger virtual reality world, where people meet in cyberspace to hear music, dance, drink and share experiences.

The flashy concert brings some excitement into Rosemary’s dull life. She decides to apply for a job with StageHolo and leaves home for the first time. She is now a recruiting agent, looking for bands in hiding, playing in private homes and illegal clubs around the country.

She soon realizes she’s made a deal with the devil and determines to help the musicians she finds in a very different way.

Comments: A Song for a New Day is an amazing book. It projects from the current situation in the US to a not too distant future, where people live in fear and isolation. The book also addresses the loneliness and falsehoods in social media. People project avatars in hoodie space that homogenize them. This is a place where mega-corporations rule and the government dictates behavior. In our current world, laws that separate us are being passed now. Not to this extreme, but the seeds are being planted. We are living in fear of shooters at malls, concerts and schools.

I related to this book on multiple levels. I grew up in a suburb of Baltimore, where some of this book takes place. I used to play guitar and sing in small venues and coffee houses in the area. I saw those struggle to stay in business.

But most of all, I have been a resident in virtual reality for thirteen years. I know how it feels to attend cyberspace concerts and clubs, to have coffee with friends that I never meet in person. I have experienced deep isolation with most of my friends being just contacts on social media.

Sarah Pinsker hits the mark on so many points. I’ve become an instant fan of her writing and hope she writes more novels!

My Goodreads rating– 5 stars

Posted in Uncategorized

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Publication Info: Published January 20, 2020 by Berkley. I read the Book of the Month Club edition. Other editions available from your favorite bookseller.

Summary: Thirty-five years ago, Viv Delaney vanished from her job as a hotel night clerk and was presumed dead. Now her niece, Carly Kirk, wants to discover what happened to her aunt.

Carly travels to the town of Fell, in upstate New York. She initially drives to Vivian’s old apartment and learns that the young woman now renting it is looking for a roommate. Carly decides to stay in Fell for a while and takes the apartment. After learning why Carly is in town, her new roommate and friend, Heather, takes her to the hotel to show her around. Carly sees the Sun Down Motel and realizes not much has changed since the time her aunt worked there. There is an air of dissipation about the place, with its barricaded empty pool and vintage furnishings. After telling Carly a bit about the history of the motel, and its reputed hauntings, Heather informs Carly that there is a job opening — for the same job and shift that her Aunt Vivian worked before she disappeared.

Carly decides to take the job while further investigating her Aunt’s life in Fell. As she delves deeper into the past, the hotel’s restless ghosts both frighten and guide her toward the truth of what happened in 1982.

Comments: As a kid I loved reading ghost stories. The spookier the better! I’ve read very few as an adult, as most are either of are the bloody hack and slash variety or have very unsatisfactory and mundane conclusions. The Sun Down Motel is a creepy and genuinely old-fashioned ghost story. I won’t say more than that lest I spoil things. But if you are a fan of ghost stories, or a suspense reader looking for something a little different, I think you’ll like this one.

Highly recommended for readers of supernatural stories, ghost stories and psychological suspense.

My Rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Uncategorized

Hodgepodge 1

I had major dental surgery a few days before COVID-19 struck. Afterwards, I was really under the weather and not reading much, mostly listening to audio books. It’s now been two weeks after surgery and while I’m not 100% yet, I am on the mend. There was a complication during surgery that leaves me having to be on a liquid diet for at least 2 months. Combine that with the stress from COVID-19 and people hoarding groceries, finding things I can eat is a challenge. The good news is that I’m losing weight…the bad is that I didn’t plan to do it this way!

I decided not to do full reviews for the books that kept me company these last couple of weeks, but they do deserve mentions. (My brain was so foggy for a few days that I don’t even remember some of them). If you are looking for something light that will take your mind off things for a bit, you might find something in here you’ll like.

As for reading going forward, I’m going to take it one day at a time. There are days when I admit the stress of isolation and the news in Colorado, the United States and the world get to me. The health and financial status of my immediate family members is also a weighty concern. I will read and review as I am able, and probably will stay away from anything too heavy. We all cope in different ways. After this post, I’m going back to killing a few monsters in my current favorite MMO to relieve some stress!

  • Twisted Threads by Lea Wait — B+. This was an unexpected surprise. I really liked it and plan to read more in the Mainely Needlepoint series.
  • Make Mine Magic by Shanna Swendson — C. Years ago, I read the author’s Enchanted, Inc. series and loved them. This one fell a little short of my expectations.
  • Sunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews –A. I’d forgotten how much I like this author’s books. I read a few years ago. There is a lot more to this book than it would appear from the description. I recommend this one if the story line appeals to you.
  • The Burnt House by Faye Kellerman — B+. I’m still working my way through this series. I liked this installment. Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus Series.
  • Mercedes Coffin by Faye Kellerman — C-. This was not a favorite. It felt like the entire book was created to pave the way for getting a character out of a rut. I’ll find out if I’m right when I read the next one. Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series.
  • Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas –B-. I enjoyed this enough to want to listen to the next in the series. Thank goodness for library downloads. I listened to this via Hoopla. The Ravenels series.
  • Miss Frost Solves a Cold Case — B+. I fell in love with Kristen Painter’s books in her Nocturne Falls series. This series also takes place in that town full of supernaturals and I want to read more! The books are light-hearted and fun. Jayne Frost series.

Posted in Uncategorized

Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine (Stillhouse Lake #4)

Publication Info: Published January 20, 2020 by Thomas & Mercer. I listened to the Kindle edition through Audible.com. Other editions available.

Summary: In this fourth book in the Stillhouse Lake series, Gwen Proctor, her partner Sam and Gwen’s two teenage children, Lanny and Connor, have been living relatively safely in their home. In fact, Gwen has let her guard down and has stopped regularly drilling the children in flight and escape methods. She and her family are about to regret that.

Gwen’s boss assigns her to look for a teenage boy who has been missing for three years. Her search takes her into the path of a very powerful and determined cult.

Lanny is chafing at her restricted life and wants friends. She climbs out of a window and goes to a wild lakeside party where she ends up in mortal danger.

With all of the media attention, Lakeside’s most powerful hillbilly drug-dealing family decides they want Gwen and her family to move out of town as soon as possible.

When all of these events collide, it becomes one heck of a firestorm!

Comments: This is definitely a put brain in neutral and hang on to your seats series. I like it for just that reason.

I thought the first book, Stillhouse Lake, was a very interesting twist on the serial killer theme. It was told from Gwen Proctor’s perspective. She had absolutely no idea what her husband’s gruesome hobby was in their garage! Her life, and that of her children, would never be peaceful again. Each subsequent novel pulls you further into the travails of this beleaguered family.

The ending of Bitter Falls definitely leaves some ends dangling toward a fifth in the series. I’ve got my blanket and popcorn ready!

Recommended for readers of Thrillers and Suspense series titles.

My rating 5 STARS

Posted in Amateur Sleuth, historical mystery, Mystery, New York, Uncategorized

Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mystery #1)

Publication Info: Published May 1, 1999 by Berkley Prime Crime. I read the paperback edition, purchased through Thrift Books. Other editions available.

Summary: Sarah Brandt is a widow working as a midwife in late Victorian era New York. While she was born into wealth, she became estranged from her family for following her heart, rather than social norms. Her physician husband’s death still weighs heavily in her memory.

While on a call at a boarding house, Sarah sees a distressed young girl in that reminds her so much of an old school friend that she calls out her old friend’s name. Startled, the girl flees from the doorway. Two days later, when she returned to check on the woman who just gave birth, Sarah learns that the girl was found murdered. Because of the dead girl’s resemblance to her old friend, Sarah is able to identify her as her friend’s younger sister. But what was an upper class girl doing living in a shoddy boarding house?

In an era of extreme police corruption, Sarah knows that few crimes get solved unless the investigation is greased with cash. Sarah takes it upon herself to find out who murdered the girl and why.

Comments: I happily settled into this book with its strong female character, historical setting and grisly murder accompanied by a cup of hot tea and a blanket. I enjoyed every minute of this mystery. The Gaslight series has been on my wish list for several years and. I liked plucky Sarah Brandt and even the gruff Detective showed himself to be more complex than he first appeared. Murder on Astor Place is the first in a series of twenty-three titles. I’m putting the second book, Murder on St. Mark’s Place on my to read list as soon as I hit the publish button on my blog!

Recommended for readers of mysteries, especially historical mysteries.

My rating: 4 STARS

Posted in Christmas Romance, Light Romance, Romance, Uncategorized

Christmas at the Lakeside Resort by Susan Schild (Lakeside Resort #1)

Publication Info: Published October 6, 2018 by Longleaf Pine Press. I read the Kindle edition, available through Kindle Unlimited. Other editions available.

Summary: Jenny Beckett is feeling a bit rattled. Her fiance dumped her for a much younger, flashier woman just a few weeks before their scheduled Christmas wedding. Jenny’s ill-tempered landlord sold her house and land out from under her, leaving Jenny, her miniature horse and two dogs without an affordable place to live. Then her peripatetic father passed away, saddling Jenny with some of his odds and ends.

A phone call from her father’s estate attorney opened up some unexpected options. In addition to an airstream trailer, Jenny’s father left her his mortgage-free home, plus several partially built cabins on a lakeside lot in a nearby North Carolina town.

Jenny decides to take the plunge and completely change the direction of her life. With the help of a hunky handyman with gorgeous blue eyes named Luke, and his sister, Alice, she takes on the monumental task of trying to get the cabins ready for the winter holidays.

Comments: Christmas at the Lakeside Resort is a sweet, mature romance novel and is completely charming. I totally related to Jenny’s problems and would love to have her as a friend! So many of her thoughts and reactions were like my own. I laughed out loud at her drinking wine out of Flintstone glasses, having owned a few of those myself at one point. Other than Jenny’s oh-so-dump-worthy boyfriend, the people in the book were adult, self-aware and completely non-egotistical. Very refreshing!

My husband and I stayed at a pretty downtown Denver hotel on Christmas Eve. I read this book in a warm, cozy alcove while sipping a glass of complimentary sparkling wine. The combination was absolutely perfect. I’m looking forward to reading more of Susan Schild’s books.

Highly recommended for readers of Romance, especially Light Romance. Christmas is featured on the cover, but this book could be read any time of the year.

My Rating: 5 STARS

Note: Background photo for the book cover was taken at a local hotel by me.

Posted in Apocalyptic Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, Uncategorized

The Rule of Many by Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders (The Rule of One #2)

Publication Info: Published May 7, 2019 by Skyscape. I listened to the Audio edition through my Kindle Unlimited subscription. Other editions available.

Summary: At the end of the last book, the twins, Ava and Mira, escaped to Canada. There, they found a group of rebels and their previously unknown to them maternal grandmother, Rayla. Rayla is also a member of the rebel group.

They now live in Canada in relative safety, despite some protests against them, until an incident puts them in danger and they are on the run again. They decide to head back to Texas to fight the evil governor for the rights of all multiples.

Comments: I didn’t like The Rule of Many nearly as much as the first book, The Rule of One. The whole book felt rushed and condensed and may have been better split into two making this a trilogy. But then, the book set wouldn’t have been a twin, would it?

There were so many characters and plot lines that nothing felt fully developed. I would have liked more background on their grandmother and the character named Zee. Owen, the guy who just jumped into the story line for no obvious reason other than to serve as comic relief, just never “fit” for me.

Overall, I was let down by this sequel. My suggestion is, read the first book and skip the second. However, if you like a lot of fast action and don’t care about character development, you may like this book better than I did.

Genre: Apocalyptic and Dystopian Fiction.

My Rating: 2 STARS.