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.

June 26, 2013

FALSE VICTIM by Kathie Truitt, 2010

Julie Patterson is a former Miss Mississippi with a successful husband, two wonderful children, and the lavish life that many can only dream about. Her life becomes even better when her husband receives a long-awaited promotion and the family moves to a neighborhood near Washington DC. Julie quickly makes friends with neighbors, except for the woman who lives behind her, who simply stares without acknowledgment of Julie. After a while, though, the woman, Lynn, warms up to Julie, and the two form a fast friendship. But this friendship quickly turns strange as Julie learns of Lynn's propensity to lie for attention . . . Lynn has some unknown agenda, and Julie is her target. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Kim Harris Thacker: writer, mommy, and Bookshop Talk host

Former Miss Mississippi Julie Patterson knew moving to another state would be difficult, but she never anticipated the horrors she and her family would endure at the hands of a neighbor. At first, Lynn seems to be the friend Julie has always wanted: someone who truly understands how difficult it is to lose a child because she lost two babies of her own. Even when Julie learns that Lynn lied about her losses, she gives Lynn the benefit of the doubt, as she believes a true southern lady would. But then the lies begin to multiply, and Julie learns from others that Lynn has a propensity to lie about everything, often changing her stories in order to appear more pitiable or, at times, even more heroic, than her neighbors. Unfortunately for Julie, Lynn has chosen her as her new favorite target, because Julie fights back. But will Julie’s efforts to protect her family from Lynn be enough?
FALSE VICTIM is based on true events that took place in the life of the author, Kathie Truitt, a former Mrs. Missouri America. Truitt builds her story gradually, but the pacing is excellent and perfectly suited to a contemporary psychological thriller.

Advice to Readers:  Read FALSE VICTIM on a weekend! It’s certain you’ll be up all night, engrossed in this shocking tale.

Market:  Adult Fiction
Language:  none (There is one scene in the book where the horrid neighbor shouts at Julie, but the publisher chose to omit the actual swearwords, leaving only the first letter of each of the words, followed by typed symbols such as these:  #$%@&).
Sensuality:  none (though the horrid neighbor does dress in a “provocative” manner, which is occasionally described)
Violence:  moderate (more threatened than anything)
Mature Themes:  manipulation, deceit, hatred, jealousy, psychological disorders

June 25, 2013


And the winners of our BOOK GIVEAWAY are . . .

Julie Ropelewski sent more than TEN reviews to Bookshop Talk and won THREE BOOKS!! 

And several more readers of Bookshop Talk get ONE BOOK each:

Laura Voss
Nanee Magee
Valette Morris
Michelle Nielson Lewis
Jaina (dpeter4389)
Mary Keck Christopherson
Brooke Clawson Carter

CONGRATULATIONS to all of you!! And a big thank you to everyone else who entered the drawing. 

Winners, please email us at with your real nameyour choice of book/s from among the hundreds of titles that have been reviewed on Bookshop Talk (or written by one of the author's we've interviewed), and don't forget to include your mailing address.

And please get this information to us ASAP.

Thank you!!!!!

June 21, 2013


With humor and flair, Michael Hearst introduces the reader to a wealth of extraordinary life-forms. Which animal can be found at the top of Mount Everest, 10,000 feet under the sea, and in your backyard? Which animal poops cubes? Which animal can disguise itself as a giant crab? These fascinating facts and hundreds more await curious minds, amateur zoologists, and anyone who has ever laughed at a funny-looking animal. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Kim Harris Thacker: mommy, writer, and Bookshop Talk host

Meet the blobfish (the name says everything), the tardigrade (also known as the water bear or moss piglet), and the yeti crab (named after the legendary yeti due to its oddly hairy legs). In fact, fifty bizarre creatures await the reader in this hilarious, informative book, which is an exemplary resource for reluctant readers who revel in science, the odd, or (ideally) a combination of both.

Readers will laugh their way through memorizing the biological classification taxa using Hearst’s odd mnemonic (“Kids Place Candles On Foot Gravy Sausage”) and won’t stop until they read Hearst’s “A Few Closing Words,” which are suggestions of how young people can help to save unusual and well-known creatures from extinction. The only thing that could possibly improve this book would be an actual photo of each of the odd creatures Hearst references. The illustrations, however, are delightful, as are the other graphics that are found throughout the book.

Though the suggested age range for this book is for children of elementary school years, older readers—including adults—will enjoy it and will appreciate the book’s clear organization (including a table of contents and an index) as well as the lists of websites and additional resources that appear in the “Oh! One More Thing!” section at the end of UNUSUAL CREATURES

June 16, 2013


Welcome to El Dorado Springs, Missouri, population 3,021. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but it doesn't take long any time at all, really to realize there's much more than meets the eye. That's how Molly McCarty feels, anyway. After deciding she's had enough of the big-city life as a politician's wife in Washington, Molly moves back to her hometown and buys the abandoned Serenity Farm. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Kim Harris Thacker: mommy, writer, and Bookshop Talk host

Molly McCarty has been away from her hometown of El Dorado Springs, Missouri for years, but two things about it haven’t changed:  Everyone in El Dorado knows everyone else’s business, and business is...quirky.  Molly’s old friend, Jerry Ray Turner, is now a cross-dresser—though he’s still the best mechanic in town, even done up in rhinestones and heels. Winthrop Worthington, the town’s (married) playboy is still making eyes at anything in a skirt (except for Jerry), and Ollie Griffin is bathing in the fountain in the park, since there’s no shower inside the 1969 Thunderbird in which he has lived since returning home from Vietnam. Still, not much can surprise Molly—unless it’s the facts that Roy Bob Benson is trying to open a strip club in the old jewelry building, and the ghost of the teenaged girl who died at Serenity Farm (which Molly and her husband just bought) is still hanging around to do chores.

Though the cast of characters in Kathie Truitt’s second novel is a large one, each character is fully realized and utterly believable.  As a native of a small town, I particularly appreciated the manner in which Truitt depicts the loyalty the townspeople feel toward each other, even though they don’t always see eye-to-eye.  I also sympathized with the characters who feel as if they are constantly being scrutinized.  The problems in this small town are small problems, for the most part, but because people are so connected to each other in El Dorado, everyone feels the weight of everyone else’s burdens—a beautiful idea and one that is true to country living, in my experience.

Characters are certainly the focus of this novel, and one character really stood out to me.  Oddly enough, this character is not the main character of Molly McCarty, but the narrator, whose identity is not revealed until the end of the book (a delightful, reader-hooking tactic!).  I also appreciated the solid plot, which moves along at a pace appropriate to a character-driven novel.

Readers who enjoy classic small town novels such as Jan Karon’s “Mitford” books and Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’ THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY will surely adore Kathie Truitt’s THE HILLBILLY DEBUTANTE CAFÉ, which, while being a little sassier than the aforementioned books, is quite as charming and heartwarming. 

Market: Adult Fiction
Violence: a couple of almost-fist-fights, threats of violence, and the killing of a cat by a human
Language: mild (I can't recall any, but there may have been a couple of "d-words" and the use of the name of deity in vain.)
Sensuality: One of the characters is a notorious playboy, so there are a few very mild references to his infidelity and the marriages he has broken up (he's married, too).
Adult themes: PTSD (one of the characters is a Vietnam veteran), infidelity in marriage, death of loved ones, financial struggles, and discrimination

June 14, 2013


We’re having a massive book giveaway between now and JUNE 24th in which you have the chance to win up to TEN FREE BOOKS of your choice, chosen from among the long list of books that have been reviewed on Bookshop Talk (including any books written by authors we've interviewed).

You can enter the drawing as many times as you want by doing one or all of the following, each of them worth one entry into a drawing:

1) Become a fan of Bookshop Talk on FacebookUnder the “Stay Connected” title on the right sidebar of this site, click on the Facebook icon, which will take you to our official Facebook page. From there, click on the “Like” button on the top middle of the page. (This is the process if you already have a Facebook account. If you don’t , you’ll need to sign up for Facebook first).

2) Follow Bookshop Talk on Twitter. Under the “Stay Connected” title on the right sidebar of this site, click on the Twitter icon, which will take you to our official Twitter profile. From there, click on the “Follow” button. (This is the process if you already have a Twitter account. If you don’t , you’ll need to sign up for Twitter first).

3) Follow Bookshop Talk using Google Friend Connect. Under the “Stay Connected” title on the right sidebar of this site, click on the “Join this Site” link and follow Google’s instructions from there.

4) Refer a friend to Bookshop Talk! Tell your friends (as many as you want) about Bookshop Talk, and if they Follow us through Facebook, Google, or Twitter, and leave a comment anywhere on our site that includes “My friend (insert name here) sent me,” we’ll not only give them an entry into the drawing, but you will get an entry, too! An easy way to do this is to click on one of the links on Bookshop Talk's right sidebar under "Tell your friends about Bookshop Talk" then be sure to tell them they need to comment after they follow us, and mention your name, so you can win some books. And they can win some, too, if they enter the giveaway.

5) Comment on any of our GAB BAG topics (after reading it, of course!) and include this phrase at the end "I want to win a book!" You can enter up to five times this way.

6) Submit a review of a favorite book (no matter how long ago it was published), and you will be entered into the drawing one time for each approved review. So raid your Goodreads reviews, blog, whatever, and send Bookshop Talk reviews of the books that you would like to recommend to others!

For instructions on how to format and submit your review, visit our Contact page here. To get your review approved, it must follow these guidelines and the book must not have been reviewed on this site before (please do a search on this site for a book you plan to review before submitting it). And please, please take note that the book must be published by a national publishing house (no self-published titles). As a reader, you might not be sure if it's self-published or not, but we can let you know if you ask. And no "erotica" books (sorry, Fifty Shades of TMI). 

So, how do you win up to TEN BOOKS??

To officially get your name entered into the drawing using the social media options, you need to leave a comment on THIS post, saying what social media links you are using to follow us (Facebook, Google, Twitter – any or all of them). You will then get one entry for each one of them (Please tell us your various user names if they aren’t similar to one another). If you have already been following us on any or all of these sites before today, just tell us in a comment and we’ll still count them each as a new entry into the drawing. So following us on all three sites will give you THREE entries!

BUT HERE’S THE BEST PART: If your name is entered TEN TIMES into the drawing (by submitting reviews and/or following us, etc.), then you AUTOMATICALLY WIN A BOOK! Yay!

In other words, if you get 100 of your friends to follow us and mention your name, you will automatically win TEN BOOKS!

The more friends you send here to follow us, the higher your chances are of winning!

Winners will be announced on Bookshop Talk Tuesday, June 25th! (You can enter your name into the drawing until June 24th, 11:59 pm US Eastern Time). You’ll need to come to the site on June 25th to see if your name is among the list of winners. From there, you’ll need to email us with your shipping information and the book/s you want us to send you—from among the list of books that have been reviewed on Bookshop Talk—and you’ll have lots of happy reading ahead of you.

We’re giving away a MINIMUM OF TEN BOOKS, so good luck!

*Crazy pandemonium disclaimer: To prevent any chance of bankrupting my sweet family, we are limiting the book giveaway to a possibility of 10 books per household, and up to 50 books in all for the giveaway*

*Disclaimer #2. Each book must be under the value of $20.*

*Also, if your name is drawn and you live outside the Continental U.S., we will send you an Amazon Gift Card for $15 US.*

June 11, 2013

JURASSIC PARK by Michael Crichton, 1990

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Creatures once extinct now roam Jurassic Park, soon-to-be opened as a theme park. Until something goes wrong...and science proves a dangerous toy. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Laura Madsen, mom, writer & veterinarian

Most readers have probably seen Steven Spielberg’s movie version of JURASSIC PARK, which was released in 1993, won a bunch of Oscars, and earned a zillion dollars at the box office. The special effects were extraordinary for the time. I still remember seeing the movie on opening day (wearing amber earrings especially for the occasion) and being wowed by the scene when the protagonists first see brachiosaurs towering over the trees.

But: Don’t judge a book by its movie. The book is better.

The plot, if you’re one of the few who’ve never heard of the novel or movie, is a Mary Shelley-esque warning about the dangers of unchecked scientific advancement. John Hammond, a wealthy, eccentric dinophile, buys an island in Central America and establishes Jurassic Park, an amusement park/ zoo featuring cloned dinosaurs. His scientists extract dinosaur DNA from blood from the guts of ancient mosquitoes trapped in amber, and then recreate the living creature from the DNA.

The entire novel takes place in one weekend. Like many of Michael Crichton’s thrillers (ANDROMEDA STRAIN, CONGO, SPHERE), the novel throws assorted strangers together in an isolated and dangerous situation. Some live, some die—usually horribly and creatively. In this case, the island is cut off from communication with the mainland, a storm approaches, the bad guy sabotages the system so he can steal frozen embryos, the electric fences fail allowing the dinos to run amok, and the tyrannosaurs and velociraptors learn that humans are yummy snacks.

The main characters are paleontologists Grant and Sattler, mathematician/ chaos theoretician Malcolm, attorney Gennaro, park operator Arnold, game hunter Muldoon, geneticist Wu, veterinarian Harding, publicist Regis, computer guru Nedry, and Hammond’s grandchildren Lex and Tim. In the movie, many characters were eliminated or changed unnecessarily (i.e., making Grant and Sattler a romantic couple and changing the ages of the kids), but in the book they are fully developed and much more interesting. For example, in the movie, Gennaro is Hammond’s toady, a wimpy “yes man,” but in the novel he is concerned about safety in the park and frequently challenges Hammond.

Some of the best scenes from the book didn’t make it to the movie: a raft trip through a pterodactyl aviary, Grant killing velociraptors with poisoned glowing blue eggs, Grant and Sattler investigating a raptor nest, and—most importantly—Hammond getting his come-uppance and finally learning the dangers of hubris when he is unceremoniously eaten by tiny procompsognathids.

The story is lots of fun, of course, but is also a commentary about modern Western society’s dependence on science. Malcolm says, “We live in a world of frightful givens. It is given that you will behave like this, given that you will care about that. No one thinks about the givens. Isn’t it amazing? In the information society, nobody thinks. We expected to banish paper, but we actually banished thought.” Genetic engineering was just beginning to be explored in 1990, but the issues that Crichton raises are still relevant in 2012. There is very little oversight when it comes to genetic engineering, and we don’t really know what will happen in the long term when genetically-engineered plants and animals are released into the wild (such as the AquAdvantage genetically-modified salmon).

The movie focuses on Nedry’s sabotage and dinos eating people dramatically, but the book explains that the park was already doomed before Nedry: dinosaurs had already escaped the island and killed people on the mainland, and the supposedly sterile dinosaurs on the island had already started breeding. Unforeseeable complications always develop when real life is involved.

Market: Adult fiction (sci-fi thriller)
Language: moderate
Violence: lots of dismemberment, blood and gore
Sensuality: none
Adult themes: science, chaos, death, betrayal

June 5, 2013

Gab Bag: Summer Lovin' ... Reader-Style!

(Repost of a popular topic)

By Kim Harris Thacker

For many people, summer is a time off school and a time for the pool! For others, it’s the time of year for hitting yard sales and farmer’s markets and for gardening, landscaping, Honey-Do List making (or completing items on the Honey-Do List), and of course, barbequing.

As a kid, I fell into the first category (though since we didn’t have a local pool, I played softball, picked worms, changed sprinkler pipe, and fished during the summer, instead). Now, as a mom with kids of my own, I fall into the latter category. After all my summer chores are done for the day, there’s nothing I like better than crawling into bed, exhausted, and flipping open a terrific book. In spite of the increase in the daily number of items I get accomplished during the summer, I also get in much more reading time than in the colder months. It makes absolutely no sense, but there you have it. Maybe it has something to do with how my girls and I love to walk to the library on warm days...

During the colder months, I adore snuggling under my covers and reading books like JANE EYRE, A TALE OF TWO CITIES, and THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL. A brisk wind begs for classic novels, I think. But during the summer, I crave books like DEAD END IN NORVELT, ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, and THE NAME OF THE WIND. Gimme giggles, romance, high adventure, and more than a small helping of magic, please.

A few of the novels that I’ve read this summer that really stand out to me include:
Lena Coakley’s WITCHLANDERS – YA fantasy
Teresa Flavin’s THE BLACKHOPE ENIGMA – MG fantasy
Marianne Malone’s STEALING MAGIC (sequel to THE SIXTY EIGHT ROOMS, which I reviewed on Bookshop Talk here) – MG fantasy
Leif Enger’s PEACE LIKE A RIVER – Adult fiction
Leif Enger’s SO BRAVE, YOUNG, AND HANDSOME (reviewed on Bookshop Talk by Josi Kilpack here) – Adult historical fiction
Joelle Anthony’s THE RIGHT & THE REAL – YA realistic fiction
Victoria Schwab’s THE NEAR WITCH (reviewed on Bookshop Talk by Pica here YA fantasy
Bethany Griffin’s MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH – YA fantasy

What are some of your favorite summer-time reads? Do you love contemporary novels for those coconut-scented-sunblock-and-drippy-ice-cream-cones days? Or are you all about the magic of fantasy? I hope you’ll share some of your favorite book titles with all of us on Bookshop Talk!

June 1, 2013

FAT FARM by Allen Carter, 2012

Amy Crockett was just looking for a relaxing getaway at an all expense-paid weight-loss retreat. What she found was a terrifying ordeal that had her running from the law. She has no idea what has happened to her, but it seems clear that the doctor in charge of the "fat farm" is doing more than teaching people about healthy lifestyles. The sheriff on the case is the only one who doesn't think she has had a mental breakdown. Now Amy and the sheriff must work together to find the evidence to prove that what Amy has seen is reality. What really happens at this idyllic weight-loss retreat? Are the other patients in danger? As Amy and Mike search for the answers, they find themselves developing feelings that are unexpected but not unwelcome. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Kim Harris Thacker: writer, mommy, and Bookshop Talk host

When Amy goes to the Rocky Mountain Restoration Center, a beautiful retreat designed to assist its clients with reaching their weight loss goals by helping them change their lifestyle, she has no idea that the center’s methods are unethical. What could be wrong with horseback riding in the mountains, eating healthy meals, and taking nature walks with new friends?  But the center isn’t all it seems, nor is Amy’s stay there.  She wakes up one evening, connected to a leaking IV in an unfamiliar room. Upon realizing she is much thinner, she also realizes she can’t remember how she lost the weight.  After escaping the center, Amy enlists the help of a shrewd (and handsome) sheriff, who has also been contacted by the center’s doctor—a man who pretends Amy suffered a psychological breakdown and ran away. The careful gathering of clues not only leads Amy and Sheriff Hansen to learn the truth of what is happening at the “Fat Farm,” but leads them to fall in love with each other, too.

As a native of a small Wyoming town south of Jackson Hole (which is the same setting as that of FAT FARM), I found the landscape and characters to be true-to-life while also being unique enough to entertain readers who are not from that area.  While ethics in medicine was a central theme of this story, I appreciated that the examination of what is right and what is wrong did not lead to sordid writing.  I also enjoyed the pacing of the book, which was slow enough to allow the romance between Amy and Sheriff Hansen to build naturally, and fast enough to make this book a true page-turner of a mystery.  Indeed, the novel is the sort that can be read in one relaxed sitting.

Readers who appreciate wholesome writing, a thought-provoking mystery, and a healthy dose of romance will surely enjoy FAT FARM.

Market:  Adult Fiction
Language:  none
Sensuality:  very mild (a sweet romance, building between two characters)
Violence:  mild (the main character receives questionable “treatments” without her consent, and there is a threat of a shooting at one point in the book)
Mature Themes:  ethics in medicine, lying, life-threatening situations