As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

September 12, 2014

OUT OF THE EASY by Ruta Sepetys, 2013

It's 1950 and the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie Moraine wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Julie, Children's lit enthusiast and pop culture geek

OUT OF THE EASY chronicles the life of seventeen-year-old Josie in 1950s New Orleans.  Saddled with the reputation of a prostitute's daughter, Josie yearns for a better life.  However, when a murder occurs, Josie is embroiled in a police investigation that will challenge her morals and allegiances.

Out of the Easy instantly pulls you into the seedy underbelly of New Orleans, where secrets abound and characters are as full and rich as a bowl of gumbo.  (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)  The main character, Josie, is mature, interesting, and tough-as-nails.  You can't help but root for her as she does anything she can not to end up like her mother.  The supporting characters are just as fascinating.  Two to look out for include:  Cokie, the cab driver with a heart of gold, who wants the best for Josie, and Willie, the brothel madam, who is sassy, unexpectedly likable, and more of a mother figure than Josie's ever had.  The characters carry the plot effortlessly, keeping you company as the mystery of another character's death unravels.

After reading Sepetys's first novel, Between Shades of Gray, I was worried Out of the Easy wouldn't compare.  However, Sepetys proves with her second novel that she is a master of YA historical fiction. It is almost not worth comparing the two novels, because the settings and characters are so different.  Sepetys's novels are like time machines: she can effortlessly recreate any historical time period and make you believe you were there.  If you love historical fiction novels and aren't afraid of a little grit, be sure to pick this one up.

Market: YA historical fiction
Violence: Allusions to crime (the central murder, gang activity, the protagonist carries a gun, etc.)
Language: Mild--mostly cruel barbs from Josie's mother
Sensuality: The novel's main setting is a brothel, so the sexual
undertones and innuendos are pretty unavoidable.  However, nothing is too explicit for the age group, and Josie's determination to rise about this lifestyle overrides any possible glamorization of prostitution.
Adult Themes: Identity/family struggle, poverty, prostitution, education, murder

September 7, 2014

FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER by Ellen Meister, 2013


When it comes to movie reviews, critic Violet Epps is a powerhouse voice. But that's only because she's learned to channel her literary hero, Dorothy Parker, the most celebrated and scathing wit of the 20th century. If only Violet could summon that kind of courage in her personal life. Determined to defeat her social anxiety, Violet visits the Algonquin Hotel where Dorothy Parker and so many other famous writers of the 1920s traded barbs. But she gets more than she bargained for when Dorothy Parker's feisty spirit rematerializes from an ancient guestbook and hitches a ride onto her life. (Amazon)


Reviewed by Julie, Children's lit enthusiast and pop culture geek


Famous critic Violet Epps may be able to skewer movies with scathing wit, but in real life, she is a timid mouse.  Juggling a deadbeat boyfriend, a custody case involving her teenage niece, and rivals at work, Violet feels like she will crumble under the pressure of it all. One day, at the Algonquin Hotel, Violet accidentally summons the ghost of her hero, writer and humorist Dorothy Parker.  When the delightfully-acerbic Mrs. Parker refuses to leave, Violet realizes that this spirit may be able to help her find the courage she needs.

When I first heard about this novel, I was hesitant. Recreating Dorothy Parker, mistress of the verbal hand  grenade?  Could it be done?  Well, Ellen Meister's creation is about as true a representation of Dorothy Parker as can be.  The novel is alive with zingers and one liners, some invented, and some attributed to the great Mrs. Parker.  Meister's imagination runs wild with the kind of trouble Parker might get into in the 21st century.  There is never a dull moment in the book, and laughs abound.

The plot itself is interesting and, while reminiscent of many "chick lit" or romantic comedy works, gives the opportunity to add depth to Parker's character.  Violet's teenage niece, a young girl reeling after her parents' sudden deaths in a car accident, relates to Parker's lifelong struggle with grief and depression.  Here, Meister is able to present a different side to a historical figure who is so often known only for her smart-aleck remarks.  Of course, these aspects of the novel also make Violet's struggle all the more real and relatable--but Mrs. Parker is certainly always the star of the novel.

Written with incredible love for its namesake, FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER is a wonderful novel for Parker's fans and those who have yet to discover her.  Meister's storytelling and sparkling language would have made Dottie proud.

Market: Adult fiction
Violence: none
Language: moderate (a couple of f-bombs, used in a light/joking context)
Sensuality: moderate (1-2 intimate scenes, but nothing explicit)
Adult Themes: romantic relationships, alcoholism, death and grief

September 1, 2014

FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS by Diana Peterfreund, 2012


Elliot North is a dutiful Luddite and a dutiful daughter who runs her father’s estate. When the boy she loved, Kai, a servant, asked her to run away with him four years ago, she refused, although it broke her heart. Now Kai is back. And while Elliot longs for a second chance with her first love, she knows it could mean betraying everything she’s been raised to believe is right. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Brooke-Wife, Mother, Reader

Jane Austen's Persuasion set in a post apocalyptic society.  Fascinating. Really this was a surprise for me (meaning I liked it more than I thought I would). There were the familiar elements of Persuasion, but also so much more.  

The setting was almost a character on its own.  So many of the circumstances of the story revolved around the setting.  Elliot, the heroine of the story, was tied to her farm, keeping it running, trying to keep her family and the workers alive.  


The ages of the characters were very young.  It was hard for me to picture these teenagers dealing with all of this, but that is part of the post-apocalyptic society.


The post-apocalyptic rules and regulations created much of the conflict in the story.  When do you follow the rules?  When do you do what you believe is right, if that goes against those rules?

FOR THE DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS was a book about decision making and the consequences that follow, good or bad.  


Luckily, with the base of Jane Austen's Persuasion, there was at least some sense of there being a happy ending.  And, as much as this is a love story, it had little physical romance in it.  

Market: Teen/Young Adult
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: Growing up fast

August 28, 2014

TELL THE WOLVES I'M HOME by Carol Rifka Brunt, 2012

There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart. (Amazon)

Reviewed by 
Julie, Children's Lit. enthusiast and pop culture geek

TELL THE WOLVES I'M HOME is a coming of age novel set in New York in 
1987.  When fourteen-year-old June Elbus learns that her uncle Finn, a famous artist, has died of AIDS, her grief is immeasurable.  Uncle Finn has always been the only one who understands her, who values her unusual interests and social awkwardness.  Without him, June is left virtually friendless: her older sister Greta bullies her, and her parents refuse to give her answers regarding Finn's mysterious illness.  Then, one day, June receives her uncle's favorite teapot in the mail with an accompanying note . . . and a new friend and confidante steps into her life.

Carol Rifka Brunt has crafted a thoroughly engrossing, relatable, and bittersweet first novel.  A coming of age story, Tell the Wolves I'm Home tackles many difficult issues, but manages to remain insightful and hopeful.  Set in 1987, the novel and its characters feel transcendent, but the narrative reveals the decade's prejudices towards AIDS and homosexuality.  Much of the mystery surrounding Finn's illness reflects the mysteries in June's family: Why is June's mother so reluctant to talk about Finn?  Why did Finn insist on painting June's portrait weeks before his death?  How did June's and Greta's once-strong relationship dissolve?  Most importantly--who is the stranger who appeared at Finn's funeral?  The story will keep you reading, but Brunt's gorgeous, lyrical language will make you want to take your time.  Every word, every sentence flows beautifully and feels like poetry.

The characters are another high point of the novel.  June, a teenage loner, is sensitive and interesting, an homage to anyone who just wants to feel loved and understood.  Uncle Finn, portrayed with loving detail, appears largely in flashbacks but lights up every scene. June's affection for him, while complicated, feels relatable and moving.  Even Greta, the older sister, proves to be appropriately complex and sympathetic despite her mean-girl ways.  This novel would make a great read for anyone who loves to read about love, family dynamics, and the difficulties of growing up.

Market: upper YA/Adult realistic fiction
Language: mild
Sensuality: mild (first love feelings, quiet allusions to sex)
Violence: mild (one scene discusses a character's criminal past)
Mature Themes: Death and grief, AIDS/illness, family relationships, sexuality

August 26, 2014

EMILY'S DRESS AND OTHER MISSING THINGS by Kathryn Burak, 2012



When Claire’s best friend Richy went missing, he disappeared without a trace. But when Emily Dickinson’s dress goes missing from the Amherst museum, she knows exactly where it is: in her closet. As Claire and her student teacher, Tate, attempt to figure out what do to about the dress, they begin to uncover the truth behind Richy's disappearing act. Following a trail of clues across state lines, Claire and Tate attempt to find the person that Claire knows in her gut is responsible for his disappearance. (Amazon)


Julie, Children's Lit. enthusiast and pop culture geek

EMILY'S DRESS AND OTHER MISSING THINGS chronicles teenage Claire's attempts to come to grips with multiple losses. Having lost her mother to suicide years ago, Claire is now struggling with her best friend Richy's disappearance.  She feels responsible for both losses and afraid to jinx anyone else she might befriend.  Claire finds solace in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and, one night, one thing leads to another--and Claire accidentally steals the famous poet's dress from the Emily Dickinson House!  With the help of Tate, her student teacher and friend, Claire must return the dress--and sort out all of the other missing parts of her life.

Suicide, disappearance, loss, and grief--too much for a single novel? Somehow Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things balances all of these tough subjects without ever crossing into melodrama or after-school special territory.  Even though college-bound Claire is YA age, the narrative handles issues with such poignant sensitivity that mature middle schoolers could read and enjoy the novel.  Intelligent and sympathetic, Claire will appeal to many readers, especially young girls with ears for poetry.

High stakes mysteries thread themselves throughout the novel and will make readers want to keep reading.  The language in the novel is subtle, but lovely.  I can see how the writing style may not appeal to everyone--especially those who balk at poetry.  But Burak's quiet lyricism made this Emily Dickinson fan read long after that "certain slant of light" faded into dusk.

Market: upper middle grade or YA fiction
Language: none
Sensuality: none
Violence: references to suicide and death
Mature Themes: Death and grief, suicide, disappearance

August 20, 2014

“Authors I Can’t Write Without”: Guest Post by Author Teri Harman

I am a story addict. I am addicted to reading. It is my love of reading that helped shape my love of writing. It’s symbiotic in some ways: I suck all the greatness from my favorite writers, nourishing my ability to put words on the page.

These are some of the authors that inspire me, that make me want to try harder in my writing. That make me better.

1. Roald Dahl
Such imagination! Roald Dahl taught me to twist and turn the normal into the bizarre. To stretch my creativity to mold ideas into stories that feel fresh and yet familiar in all the right ways. Favorite titles: ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ ‘Matilda,’ and ‘Tales of the Unexpected.’

2. Kate Morton
Beautiful, intoxicating words. Kate Morton’s writing is so amazing – her descriptions, her solid plots, her gothic sense of place. I devour her books and always want to run to the computer when I’m done. Favorite titles: ‘The Forgotten Garden,’ and ‘The Secret Keeper.’

3. Sarah Addison Allen
Sarah does steamy romance and magic realism so well. Her books are magical and her characters authentic. I love her stories and want mine to be as absorbing. Favorite titles: ‘The Sugar Queen,’ and ‘Garden Spells.’

4. Sue Monk Kidd
The queen of emotional narratives that you never forget. I want to write as honest and deep as Sue does. She captures characters and how they feel in every situation so perfectly. That is not easy. Favorite titles: ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ and ‘The Invention of Wings.’

Which authors inspire you?

For more about Teri Harman and her books, including BLACK MOON, the sequel to BLOOD MOON, which Kirkus Reviews calls ‘unusual and absorbing,’ check out the links below…

Blog: http://www.teriharman.com/
Instagram: @teriharman
Goodreads: goodreads.com/TeriHarman
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorTeriHarman

Twitter: @TeriHarman, https://twitter.com/TeriHarman

August 19, 2014

Interview with Author Teri Harman

by Kim Thacker -- Writer, Mommy, Bookshop Talk Host

Interview with Author Teri Harman

I received a copy of BLOOD MOON, Teri Harman’s Young Adult/New Adult paranormal romance novel, from its publisher shortly before the book debuted last summer...and I was utterly bewitched by it (pun intended—it’s a book about witches). I enjoyed the novel so much, that I requested the pleasure of interviewing Teri on my personal website.

This September marks the release of BLACK MOON, the sequel to BLOOD MOON. As part of Teri’s blog tour for BLACK MOON, she will join us on Bookshop Talk on August 21st as a guest blogger, at which time she will tell us all about writers and books that inspire her. In the meantime, and to help you get to know Teri and her fabulous “Moonlight” series, here’s a re-post of the interview I conducted with Teri last summer.

Kim Harris Thacker:  BLOOD MOON is a wonderfully romantic novel, but it is unique among love stories in that it begins with the two lead characters falling into a stars-aligning-souls-a-blazing-hearts-a-pounding love. Why did you choose to begin your novel this way, instead of sticking with the more traditional (and, unfortunately, somewhat cliché) method of bringing two lovers together near the end of the book?

Teri Harman:  I purposely went against the cliché. I thought it would be interesting to avoid the normal he-loves-me-he-love-me-not relationship drama and start with a strong bond. I wanted Willa and Simon to be together from the start. Outside sources may threaten their bond, but they will always fight to protect their love. Also, I didn’t want the story to be about them coming together; it’s not really a romance, although it is often romantic.  I wanted it to be about them discovering the magic as a couple, supporting one another.

KHT:  In BLOOD MOON, all the witches have different gifts that give them particular powers. Here’s how Wynter (a Light witch) explains the Six Gifts to Simon and Willa (two new witches):

Every witch is born with a specific, dominant talent or ability. There are six in all. The four elemental gifts: Earth, Air, Water and Fire. And the two gifts connected to the Otherworld, or the world beyond our own: Mind and Dreams.

If you could have any one of the Six Gifts Wynter lists in BLOOD MOON, what would it be and why?

TH:  I think I’d have to go with Willa’s Gift of Dreams. I’ve always had vivid dreams and in fact a few of the scenes in BLOOD MOON were inspired by the nighttime creations of my mind. It’d be so interesting to see real events in dreams and talk to the spirits of the dead.

KHT:  Speaking of Wynter, Simon, and Willa, how did you come up with the names for your characters? They’re wonderful!

TH:  Thanks! Names are critical; I take a lot of time to pick the right ones. I’ve always loved the name Simon, so he was easy. Willa was harder. At first, her name was actually something else – Lynette, I think – and it totally did not work for the character that formed in my head. So I started looking for something else. Willa struck me. It fits her and it has ties to the willow tree in the books. Wynter’s name had to be something unique. She’s an Earth witch so I wanted it to sound like someone with strong ties to nature. I came across this name and it was perfect.

KHT:  In BLOOD MOON, you jump from time period to time period, visiting characters that, by the end of the story, are all integral cogs in a complex, interconnected wheel. How do these time leaps serve your story? Did you like writing in one particular time period more than another?

TH:  I love stories that move between the past and the present, that have a symbiotic relationship between what’s happening now and what happened then. Also, witches have a rich and long history – I wanted to honor that in this story.

It’s easier for me to write in the past. Maybe it’s because of my obsession with period dramas. It wasn’t always easy to switch between the two, but it was really interesting.

KHT:  Who is your favorite heroic character in BLOOD MOON and why? Who is your favorite villain and why?

TH:  It’s nearly impossible for me to pick between Willa and Simon – it’s their joint story – but I suppose I have a soft spot for Simon. His back story is so tragic and he’s struggled so much. He’s easy to root for.

Archard is the main villain in BLOOD MOON, but my favorite is Bartholomew. He has a small role in this book, but a big one in BLACK MOON, book 2.

KHT:  On your website, you have links to your Pinterest boards for your books. How does having a collection of images inspire you? Or is it just for fun?

TH:  It helps me with visuals and descriptions, but I did it mainly for readers. I wanted readers to be able to check out the boards and experience more details, more visuals for the book. It’s also just fun.

KHT:  BLOOD MOON is the first book in “The Moonlight Trilogy.” What can you tell us about the other, forthcoming books?

TH:  Book 2 throws into question everything that happened in book 1. Evil abounds in expected and unexpected places. Simon struggles the most as his powers grow out of control. The ending is a killer! Book 3 is still up in the air. I need to make some serious decisions about what will happen.

KHT:  I’m from a small town just south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is one of the settings of BLOOD MOON. Does this mean I might be part witch? Just kidding. What I meant to say is, in your book, you mention that magical abilities are generally inherited. Does this mean we’ll learn more about Willa’s and Simon’s parents in future books?

TH:  Hmm. That has yet to occur, but it’s a great idea!!

KHT:  You will publish a work of literary fiction, entitled A PAINTED LIFE, in 2014. Here’s the synopsis, from your website:

Saffron is a painting. Brought to life, unknowingly, by the hand of the artist, she is color on canvas, but she is also so much more. From her prim white chair, surrounded by sunflowers, pretty Saffron watches the world move beyond the edges of her silver frame.

At the beginning it is only her eyes that can move, but as her story progresses so do her abilities. A finger that twitches, tears that stream down her canvas, her heart suddenly bursting into rhythm. These miraculous, but confusing changes bring thoughts of life beyond her frame. Thoughts that over time become more of a torture than a pleasure.

As mysterious as her ability to be alive, is the way her various owners talk about her, the way they look at her. Especially the way Mr. Emmett Charles looks at her. This handsome, complicated stranger, a cotton mill owner and an elite of late nineteenth century Boston society, looks at her with a layered sadness that only makes her wish for more things she cannot possibly have or become.

Saffron tries to resolve herself to life as a painting. But what happens when a dream won’t die? She wants more, but can she dare to reach for a real life beyond her frame, a life with Emmett?
Brimming with blissful romance, intriguing magic realism and curious mystery, A Painted Life, is a refreshingly unique novel about reaching beyond our frames and having the endurance to follow a dream.

KHT:  This sounds so romantic and intriguing! How was your writing experience for this book different from that of BLOOD MOON?

TH:  It was very different! A PAINTED LIFE is told in first person and chronologically. Plus, it’s such a different story. I loved writing this book soo much. Saffron’s journey is so close to my heart. I can’t wait to hear what readers think.

KHT:  You’ve been writing articles about books for a while, now. How is article writing different from novel writing? Is it the same in any way?

TH:  Article writing is brief, to the point. There are few flourishes; it’s all about facts and quick-access information. Novels are ALL about the details, about getting into the deep layers of things. It’s so much more interesting and so much more fun. However, writing articles and learning to be concise has helped me write better when I write novels. It’s helped me pull back when I tend to go overboard.

KHT:  On your website, you mention that you are a stay-at-home mom. How do you balance being a mom with being a professional writer?

TH:  Haha! Well, it’s pretty much chaos all the time. I am constantly interrupted while I work, it’s rarely quiet, but I gets things done. I’ve trained myself to still be productive while every day life is happening (most the time anyway). It also really helps to have a consistent schedule, so the kids know when it’s time for mommy to work and when we can play or read books. They are good kids too (most the time  ). Plus I have a wonderful husband who helps a lot.

KHT:  Tell us a little bit about your recent book launch party at The King’s English. How did you feel, standing in front of everyone to talk about your very own book?

TH:  It was so emotional. I started crying the moment everyone started clapping for me to come up to speak. I’d dreamed of that moment so many times over the last 6 years. Standing there and seeing my book in people’s hands was like standing inside a dream. It was blissful and felt so exactly right. What an incredible night!

KHT:  What is one piece of advice that you can give to aspiring writers?

TH:  Three words: Persistence, hope and hard work. Those three things can get you anywhere.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Teri! I wish you the very best in all you do, and I look forward to reading more of your work!

You can learn more about Teri by clicking on these links:  Teri on FacebookTeri on TwitterTeri’s Website.