Book Spotlight: Close To Shore by Michael Capuzza

Me IIMy daughter and I are going to the beach soon before she starts school back and I have been looking for book to read at the beach. I am determined not to read books for review while I am there. I came across this book Early Bird Books via email. Can you imagine reading this story while at the beach? Ha-ha. It is currently $1.99 on the Amazon Kindle and I must day it actually doesn’t look half bad.

Combining rich historical detail and a harrowing, pulse-pounding narrative, Close to Shorebrilliantly re-creates the summer of 1916, when a rogue Great White shark attacked swimmers along the New Jersey shore, triggering mass hysteria and launching the most extensive shark hunt in history. 

Close to ShoreIn July 1916 a lone Great White left its usual deep-ocean habitat and headed in the direction of the New Jersey shoreline. There, near the towns of Beach Haven and Spring Lake–and, incredibly, a farming community eleven miles inland–the most ferocious and unpredictable of predators began a deadly rampage: the first shark attacks on swimmers in U.S. history.

Capuzzo interweaves a vivid portrait of the era and meticulously drawn characters with chilling accounts of the shark’s five attacks and the frenzied hunt that ensued. From the unnerving inevitability of the first attack on the esteemed son of a prosperous Philadelphia physician to the spine-tingling moment when a farm boy swimming in Matawan Creek feels the sandpaper-like skin of the passing shark, Close to Shore is an undeniably gripping saga.

Heightening the drama are stories of the resulting panic in the citizenry, press and politicians, and of colorful personalities such as Herman Oelrichs, a flamboyant millionaire who made a bet that a shark was no match for a man (and set out to prove it); Museum of Natural History ichthyologist John Treadwell Nichols, faced with the challenge of stopping a mythic sea creature about which little was known; and, most memorable, the rogue Great White itself moving through a world that couldn’t conceive of either its destructive power or its moral right to destroy.

Scrupulously researched and superbly written, Close to Shore brings to life a breathtaking, pivotal moment in American history. Masterfully written and suffused with fascinating period detail and insights into the science and behavior of sharks, Close to Shore recounts a breathtaking, pivotal moment in American history with startling immediacy.

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 I was going to post a book review today but that isn’t happening. I’m still reading the book. I hop to have it up by Monday. We will see…

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you all have a marvelous weekend!

Stay calm and support book bloggers

Cover Crush: The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch

Cover Crush banner

I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.

The Woman in the WaterLondon, 1850: A young Charles Lenox struggles to make a name for himself as a detective…without a single case. Scotland Yard refuses to take him seriously and his friends deride him for attempting a profession at all. But when an anonymous writer sends a letter to the paper claiming to have committed the perfect crime―and promising to kill again―Lenox is convinced that this is his chance to prove himself.

The writer’s first victim is a young woman whose body is found in a naval trunk, caught up in the rushes of a small islets in the middle of the Thames. With few clues to go on, Lenox endeavors to solve the crime before another innocent life is lost. When the killer’s sights are turned toward those whom Lenox holds most dear, the stakes are raised and Lenox is trapped in a desperate game of cat and mouse.

In the tradition of Sherlock Holmes, this newest mystery in the Charles Lenox series pits the young detective against a maniacal murderer who would give Professor Moriarty a run for his money.

Charles Finch Facebook Page

My Thoughts:

I do have a couple of Charles Finch’s novels on my bookshelf but have yet to read them. I came across The Woman in the Water on Facebook and I was drawn to the cover and the cover and premise has tempted me to start reading his novels.  I do love a good detective story and one that takes place in the mid-19th century at that. Detective stories such as Sherlock Holmes and Charles Todd are what I love the most and I believe Finch’s Charles Lenox Mysteries will fit nicely among my favorites.

The cover is atmospheric and true to its setting and period. One can only imagine how frigid the water is and the woman whose body is found there must have experienced such a horrific death.  

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. Erin’s latest cover crush HERE

Other great book bloggers who cover crush:

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Meghan @ Of Quills & Vellum

More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!

Bookish Happenings and Sound Advice in The World of Book Reviews

Me III have been picking up on my reading lately seeing as I have a lot of reviews to get through. One of my favorite publishers to review for is Severn House Publishing. I have several form them I hope to crank our reviews for in the next few weeks. Be sure to be on the lookout for those. Currently I am reading, I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott and I hope to post a review on Layered Pages by the end of the week. It is a big read but totally absorbing. There, I gave you a little teaser of how I’m progressing with the story.

Today I received an ARC through NetGalley by the publishers of Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli and I am delighted! Great cover by the way…

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Freedom's RingAbout the book:

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Christian, General Fiction (Adult)

Pub Date 08 Aug 2017

Boston, 2015
Two years after nearly losing her life in the Boston Marathon bombing, Annie David is still far from “Boston strong.” Instead she remains isolated and defeated—plagued by guilt over her niece, crippled in the blast, and by an antique ring alongside a hazy hero’s face. But when she learns the identity of her rescuer, will he be the hero she’s imagined? And can the long-past history of the woman behind the ring set her free from the guilt and fears of the present?

Boston, 1770
As a woman alone in a rebellious town, Liberty Caldwell finds herself in a dangerous predicament. When a British lieutenant, Alexander Smythe, comes to her rescue and offers her employment, Liberty accepts. As months go by, Alexander not only begins to share his love of poetry with her, but protects Liberty from the advances of a lecherous captain living in the officers’ house where she works.

Mounting tensions explode in the Boston Massacre, and Liberty’s world is shattered as her brother, with whom she has just reunited, is killed in the fray. Desperate and alone, she returns home, only to be assaulted by the captain. Afraid and furious toward redcoats, Liberty leaves the officers’ home, taking with her a ring that belonged to Alexander.

Two women, separated by centuries, must learn to face their fears. And when they feel they must be strong, they learn that sometimes true strength is found in surrender.

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Now on to something that is on my mind of late and I have talked about this many times before but I think it needs a refresher. As a book reviewer it’s my policy to be honest how I feel about a story. I know there are authors out there who don’t like that and they do what they can to make themselves the victims to the reviewer in question by posting “poor me” on their social media sites. They even try to declare that person who reviewed the book is not qualified to make opinions other than, praise worthy comments, about their stories. Or they try to get their friends and supporters to vote down the review as “not helpful” on Amazon. If that is the case, then a writer shouldn’t publish at all. How is doing all that putting the writer in a good light and expanding on their fan base? Better yet, how does one grow in their craft of writing? Think about it. Is it really worth taking that risk in losing your reader base or potential ones by responding to reviews like that on social media or on your blog?

I do realize there are REALLY nasty reviews out there but one must take those with a grain of salt and realize that not everyone is going to be at least respectful. The best thing to do is too not reply to those or bring your complaint to even your friends on social media. Some of the best writers I know in the book industry do not say a word about reviews regardless of the reviewer’s opinion whether it is praise worthy or not. They are truly right and smart in not doing so. Now they might privately rant, in their homes or on the phone to their friends or via emails to their fellow colleagues. Or drink large quantities of wine. I get that and that is okay. I would probably do the same as an author if someone didn’t like my book.

I completely understand it hurts to see someone not enjoying the story you wrote like you want. You put your heart and soul into your craft. I totally get it. However, once you have published your work, it belongs to the reader-as an experienced and seasoned writer has said to me on my Facebook wall.

You control how it is going to affect your response and how you deal with it. Be strong, be courageous and know that you are always going to be working on growing as a writer. Don’t give up. Another thing, negative reviews actually help your sales believe it or not. I know, a shocker!

Regardless of what people think of my opinions about stories, they are valid because they are what I came away with the story. They are my experiences alone. You don’t have to agree with them but they are mine. I will never bully authors or insult them but I will always be honest. If one feels a less than praise worthy review is insulting to a writer, then the author’s craft in writing stories is not being honestly portrayed.

Yes, there are different ways I receive book to review but my process does not change. If I did, then no one would respect me as a book reviewer. I receive books to review from authors, publishers, and NetGalley-both indie and mainstream. For my honesty, I get daily requests to review people’s work. I even have authors on a daily basis wanting to talk about their WIPs with me and they are often times inspired by some of the suggestions I give them. That is truly an honor and joy. Another reason why I conduct many authors series on the craft of writing.

Authors, please know I am in awe of your courageous efforts, and that fact alone that you published is remarkable in itself. Yes, I know anyone can publish these days, but it still takes guts. So continue that bravery when it comes to people’s reviews and keep writing your stories! Readers need you.

Please note: I do realize there are trolls out there that do nothing but post negative reviews on everything! Best thing to do is ignore those. People should be smart enough to spot those and not take their reviews seriously.

Have a lovely Wednesday and see you all back here tomorrow for my latest cover crush!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Stay calm and support book bloggers

Book Review: The Property of Lies by Marjorie Eccles

The Property of Lies (A 1930s_ historical mystery) by Marjorie EcclesThe Property of Lies: A 1930s’ Historical Mystery

by Marjorie Eccles

Expected publication: September 1st 2017 by Severn House Publisher

1930: When a body is discovered on the premises of the newly-established Maxstead Court School for Girls, Detective Inspector Herbert Reardon is called in to investigate. His wife Ellen having just accepted a job as French teacher, Reardon is alarmed to find the school a hotbed of scandalous secrets, suppressed passions, petty jealousies and wanton schoolgirl cruelty. As he pursues his enquiries, it becomes clear that the dead woman was not who – or what – she claimed to be. Who was she really – and why is Reardon convinced that more than one member of staff is not telling him the whole truth?

Then a pupil goes missing – and the case takes a disturbing new twist …

My thoughts:

The Property of Lies is the first book I have read by Marjorie Eccles and I am delighted I decided to read and review it. I adore historical mysteries and mysteries surrounding old manors and estates in England’s countryside’s. I have to say I normally find out who is committing crimes in stories like these, but found myself guessing all the wrong people!

DI Rearden and his wife Ellen are new to the area and Ellen takes a teaching position at Maxstead and before you know it, is caught up in a mysterious death of a previous teacher on the property. The teacher’s death and how she was found baffled everyone. Alas, there are other strange events happening at the school and you soon discover not everything is what it seems-not even to DI Rearden.

I enjoyed reading about all the characters and their role in the story. I would like to read more about their back story however but that in no way takes away from the story itself. It was enough to keep the characters interesting. I would have liked the period of the story to be a bit more atmospheric to the era and to have drawn stronger description to the boarding house.  Having said that, I recommend this story to avid readers of mystery and for those who want to give their try in this genre for the first time.

I look forward to reading more from this author!

I have rated this book three stars and I want to thank NetGalley and Severn House Publishers for a review copy.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Book Spotlight: Paintbrushes and Arrows (A Story of St. Augustine) by M.C. Finotti

Paintbrushes and ArrowsPaintbrushes and Arrows: A Story of St. Augustine

by M.C. Finotti

Print Length: 96 pages

Publisher: Pineapple Press (October 1, 2016)

Publication Date: October 1, 2016

In 1875, Ahkah, a 9-year-old Comanche girl, is the only child in a group of 72 Plains Indians brought to the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine for “re-education.” Callie Crump, a 14-year-old who has never so much as seen an Indian, begins to teach art classes to the prisoners. At first she is reluctant, but it doesn’t take long before she finds herself fascinated by the lives of the Native Americans at the fort. All the while, Akhah longs to return home, but finds comfort in learning an old skill, making bows and arrows to sell to tourists.

Paintbrushes and Arrows follows the lives of these two girls and their crafts, which bring them closer together than either could ever have guessed.

A common core teacher’s manual for this book is available through Teachers Paying Teachers.

Book available on Amazon

About Author:

M.C. Finotti is a journalist and former teacher who grew up imagining what it would be like to live in the “olden days.” Ms. Finotti lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida, with her husband and two children. She is the author of The Treasure of Amelia Island, winner of the Florida Historical Society’s Horgan Award for children’s historical fiction.

My thoughts:

I had the great pleasure talking with M.C. this weekend on the phone. I met her through Lou Aguilar. Previously I was talking with him about wanting more historical fiction stories set in Florida. That state is rich in history. Low and behold, he happened to know an author who wrote a story set in St. Augustine and gave her my phone number. This weekend I have been brainstorming ideas to promote work such as Finottis’. I look forward to what is to come out of this venture. 

Paintbrushes and Arrows is a story for children but I think all ages would enjoy it. I aim to find out shorty by reading the book and writing a review. Be sure to be on the lookout for it!

Thank you for visiting Layered Pages today and for supporting reading, authors and book bloggers.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Book Spotlight: The Stars Are Fire: A novel by Anita Shreve

It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything by Anita Shreve. -This looks like something I might read! You can enter to win this book in a book giveaway on goodreads!

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The Stars Are FireThe Stars Are Fire: A novel by Anita Shreve

Publisher: Knopf (April 18, 2017)

Publication Date: April 18, 2017

Sold by: Random House LLC

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Weight of Water and The Pilot’s Wife (an Oprah’s Book Club selection): an exquisitely suspenseful new novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event and its devastating aftermath–based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine’s history

In October 1947, after a summer long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie’s two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. The women spend the night frantically protecting their children, and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands’ fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms–joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain–and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens–and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.

DNF: Strangers in Budapest by Jessica Keener

Strangers in Budapest IIBudapest is a city of secrets, a place where everything is opaque and nothing is as it seems. It is to this enigmatic city that a young American couple, Annie and Will, move with their infant son shortly after the fall of the Communist regime. For Annie, it is an effort to escape the ghosts from her past; for Will, it is a chance to try his wings as an entrepreneur in Hungary’s newly developing economy.

But only a few months after moving there, they receive a secretive request from friends in the US to check up on an old man who also has recently come to Budapest. When they realize that his sole purpose for coming there is to exact revenge on a man whom he is convinced seduced and then murdered his daughter, Will insists they have nothing to do with him. Annie, however, unable to resist anyone she feels may need her help, soon finds herself enmeshed in the old man’s plan, caught up in a scheme that will end with death.

My Thoughts:

I am sad to report I could not finish this book. I tried my best but to no avail I couldn’t get into it and my eyes kept glazing over. I mean no disrespect to the author. Some aspects were interesting but not enough for me.

When I first came across this book on NetGalley it caught my attention straight away and I adore the cover! I thought surely I won’t be able to put this book down! Alas, there was a lot of unnecessary explaining in this book and I felt the plot wasn’t moving fast enough. The premise is a good one but not enough for me to finish the story. The characters didn’t stand out to me and my impression of them was not favorable. As for the mystery, it wasn’t solid enough in my opinion.

Having said all of this, I feel there are many who would enjoy this story.

I will not be rating this book.

Thank you NetGalley and the publishers for a review copy. I won’t give up on the author’s other work!

Stephanie M. Hopkins