Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Removers

In 1990, when Andrew Meredith was 14 years-old, his family fell apart. The downfall was caused by his 50 year-old father, a teacher fired from La Salle College in Pennsylvania after he was accused of sexual misconduct with a female student. The scandal and its lasting impact on the lives of his mother, sister and himself bind this powerfully drawn, often wrenching debut memoir, The Removers. The story of Meredith's experiences working alongside his father, who later found work as a "remover," taking away the bodies of people who died in their own homes, becomes the central thread and metaphor for the dissolution of his family.

A remover is someone who is "paid to be invisible . . . We are men made to be forgotten." Fortunately for the reader, however, Meredith never forgets incidents from an 18-year period in his life, which vividly recall details from his often gruesome, sometimes exhilarating, experiences in handling corpses while grappling with his bitterness toward a father who broke his heart.

Meredith's fluid, unabashed prose is delivered in a stream-of-consciousness style interspersed with scenes of how he floundered for fifteen years after high school. He worked a job he didn't want, taking ten years to finish college, and endured a series of failed romantic relationships. After ultimately moving to California, Meredith missed his hometown—the Frankford neighborhood of Philadelphia. Might his work with the dead have been his true professional calling, his salvation? Meredith's circuitous journey of self-discovery, his trying to reconcile his life by working with the dead, will fascinate those interested in the mysteries of life and death.

The Removers: A Memoir  by Andrew Meredith
Scribner, 24.00 Hardcover, 9781476761213, 179 pp
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Readers (7/25/14), click HERE

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Family Matters: A Mystery Anthology (New York Style)

Family life and the impact of crime on familial bonds take center stage in Family Matters: A Mystery Anthology (Murder New York Style) edited by Anita Page and presented by the New York/Tri-State Chapter of SISTERS IN CRIME

As in the first two anthologies in this series, Deadly Debut and Fresh Slices, all the stories are set within neighborhoods and towns of the greater New York City area and explore a gamut of scenarios and emotions. Pressure mounts in "Thanksgiving on the Throgs Neck Bridge" by Terrie Farley Moran, a menacing story about alcoholism and the toll it takes on a family. The power of wealth and the consequences of greed are at the heart of "Killing Short" by Cynthia Benjamin.  A diamond broach, a family heirloom, is the centerpiece of "Roads" by Eileen Dunbaugh. And a tragic 'work-related accident' tears a family apart in "Stealing Home" by Clare Toohey.

There are stories about parents and children. In "Their Little Secret" by Anita Pagea teenage daughter gets caught up amid her parents' crumbling marriage. "Eldercare" by Triss Stein deals with an adult son eager to cut the cord with his elderly, infirm mother.  A naive widow, a troubled son and a locked basement forge "Everything in its Place" by Fran Bannigan Cox. An over-bearing Italian-American mother reports a suspicious death to a tough, female, NYPD detective in Catherine Maiorisi's "Murder Italian Style." And a pet parrot comes between a mother and young daughter and brings them face-to-face with mortality in "The July Rebellion" by Kate Lincoln

Siblings and close relatives anchor "My Brother's Keeper" by Leigh Neely where an elderly mother gets drawn into a power-struggle between her righteous daughter and her ne'er-do-well son. And a mysterious history lingers between 'long-lost' cousins in "Sylvia" by Roslyn Siegel.

Husbands and wives take prominence in Deirdre Verne's, "Dead Last," about a 9-11 survivor who sets off for the New York City Marathon and is forced to run for his life. JFK airport serves as the backdrop for "We All Have Baggage" by Lindsay A. Curcio, a story about an older woman who is suddenly forced to question the implications of her marriage. A wife suspicious that her husband may be cheating pervades "Crossing the Line" by Ellen Quint.  And there is something very unsettling about a husband's sudden death in "You Always Hurt the One You Love" by Lynne Lederman.

Older relatives figure prominently in "The Kaluki Kings of Queens" by Cathi Stoler about slick, card-playing elderly grandfathers who exacerbate the imagination of an impressionable boy. And a centenarian who believes she is cursed, harbors a secret from the past that may change the present and future in "The House By the Bay" by Dorothy Mortman.

Alternate variations of family also figure notably in "Death Will Fire Your Therapist" by Elizabeth Zelvin, a story which focuses on a tight-knit therapy group dealing with family issues and an unexpected death of one of the members.  A community busy-body unravels dark family secrets of her neighbors in "Murder in a Family" by Stephanie Wilson-Flaherty.  And family expectations oppress and impact friends and lovers in Anne-Marie Sutton's "Friends."

The smorgasbord of 20 stories that round out this well-balanced collection are filled with humor and horror and offer differing perspectives, voices and points-of-view. Unexpected twists and turns—and endings that often pack a chilling, emotional wallop—make for compelling, page-turning short reads that will interest a broad-range of mystery readers.

Glenmere Press, $25.00 Trade Paper, 97809909131922, 248 pp
Publication Date: August 22, 2014
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

New Novella Release: COLD COMFORT by Kathleen Gerard

I'm excited to announce that my new Thanksgiving novella, Cold Comfort, is ready for release. This is a very special story about the bonds of family and old flames—and the unexpected power of love. I hope this novella will warm your heart, especially as we head toward Autumn!

Here is a brief synopsis:  It's Thanksgiving weekend and photojournalist Anna Maria "A.M." LaRusa returns to Federal Hill, a small Italian-American enclave in Rhode Island, to spend a quiet holiday with her only remaining relative, her Aunt Minnie, a 96 year-old who texts and has a blog. But when an anticipated blizzard nor'easter threatens the region, there is a change in plans. As A.M. and her aunt prepare for the holiday and the storm, A.M. unexpectedly runs into a man she hasn't seen in ten years—a man whom she still refers to as "the guy who broke my heart in college"—and her weekend and her life are suddenly upended. Stuck amid the cold, snowy deep freeze that paralyzes the region, A.M. begins to wonder if her wounded heart from a long-ago unrequited love will ever thaw.  

The novella will officially be released on October 13th, and if you pre-order now (and have the novella automatically delivered to your e-reader on release day) you can purchase the novella at a discounted price of only 99 cents !

Link HERE to pre-order the book on Amazon

Link HERE to pre-order the book on iBooks

Link HERE to pre-order the book on Google Books

Link HERE to pre-order the book on OmniLit

As always, I appreciate your support and encourage you to share your review about the story on Amazon, iBooks, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, Google Books etc.  

And thank you, in advance, for passing on this information to other readers!

 Be sure to check out my other titles on Amazon and iBooks!

Untreed Reads Publishing, 99 cent e-book, ASIN: BOONFPVKEM, 61 pp (215 kb)
Publication Date:  October 13, 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Gina Holmes: Helping Others Heal

The Writer's Life

Gina Holmes is the CEO and founder of the popular literary site Novel Rocket and the bestselling and award-winning author of the novels Crossing OceansDry as Rain, and Wings of Glass. She is a two-time Christy and ECPA Book of the Year finalist and winner of the INSPY, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Carol Award. Her work often examines big themes reflecting the challenges of life including death, grief, adoption, alcoholism and spousal abuse.  

Holmes holds degrees in science and nursing and resides with her husband and children in southern Virginia. She "works too hard, laughs too loud, and longs to see others heal from their pasts and discover their God-given purpose."  To learn more about her, visit or follow her on facebook and twitter.

Gina, tell us about your newest release, Driftwood Tides.
Driftwood Tides tells the story of an aging, alcoholic driftwood artist turned beach bum, Holton Creary, and young woman named, Libby Slater. Libby grew up with an absent father and a loving but cold, socialite mother. Leading up to her wedding, Libby and her groom-to-be go through genetic testing, and she learns her blood-type doesn’t match either of her parents. She confronts her mother and is reluctantly told that she’s adopted. She goes searching for her mother, Adele, only to find her husband, Holton Creary passed out and lying face down on the carpet of his Nags Head, North Carolina beach shack.

Libby lies about her real identity until she is finally found out. Holton does not welcome the news. He never knew that the wife to whom he had given "saint" status had actually given up a daughter for adoption. Together, Libby and Holton search to learn the truth about Adele, Libby’s father and themselves.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
At its heart, Driftwood Tides is really about discovering who we are, whose we are, where we belong and the need to accept and bestow forgiveness.

Any special reason why you chose to set the novel in Nags Head, North Carolina ?
Oh, how I love that place! I’m not sure there’s a more peaceful setting in all the world. And the further out I get from civilization, the happier I am. I love the sand dunes, the untouched nature, the quaint towns. Just everything! (Well, except sand in my bathing suit maybe :)

You seem to have a recurring theme in your novels about absent fathers. If it’s not too personal, can you share the reason for this?
It is too personal, and I don’t mind answering (wink!) When I was 6 years-old, I was packed up by my stepfather and driven to my father’s house. Overnight I had a new Mom, new sisters and brother, house and life. It was as traumatic an experience as I can imagine. There were few explanations that made sense to me and I missed my other family desperately. I think ever since I’ve been trying to settle some pretty deep-seated questions. Writing books is wonderful for that.

Your novel Crossing Oceans is a fan-favorite. Do you think you will ever write a sequel? 
I love that book too. Makes me cry just thinking about certain scenes. I would love to write a
sequel, prequel or off-shoot stories. I love those characters dearly. I’m under contract for three different novels, so I’m not sure when I’ll have the time, but I’d love to explore Craig’s story and of course, Bella’s. I miss Mama Peg very much!

You’ve said that, out of all the novels you've written, Wings of Glass is your favorite. Why?
Well, for storyline, I think Crossing Oceans is the strongest. But I think my writing in Wings of Glass was my best. Plus when I was very young, I watched my mother in one abusive relationship after another, and then two of my sisters. I had been there too, despite thinking I was better than that. I know the mindset that keeps a woman (or man) in a relationship like that, and I wanted to give insight to those who don’t understand. I’ve received enough letters to know I did what I set out to do.

You’re originally from New Jersey but you seem to write all your novels from Southern locales. Why is that?
Ha, you found me out! Yes, I was born and raised in NJ. As much as I love my friends and family, I am definitely more suited for the slower pace of the South. I’ve lived in Southern Virginia for half of my life, and I plan to spend the rest of my life here if I can. I try to write books from settings that make me happy. So I write where I want to be. (Although, I’ve got to say, NJ food is amazing and you’ve got to love a boisterous NJ laugh!)

What do you like most about being a writer? Least?
Most, I like being able to have a platform to share lessons I’ve learned in my life that I know others would benefit from. And more than that, I just love to tell a good story.

Least, would be the unpredictability of the business. Sometimes it seems so random and the lack of control makes me uncomfortable sometimes. (Which is probably right where God wants me!)

If you could go back to the pre-published writer you were, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself?
Well, I wouldn’t have told myself how many novels I’d write that would never see the light of day, because I would have given up. I wouldn’t have told myself how little money there is actually to be made or how lonely writing can be sometimes. I wouldn’t have told myself that I’d still have a day job with 4 novels out in stores, including 3 bestselling novels… okay, but that wasn’t your question… I would tell myself to relax. Some of this, most of this is, is out of your hands, and that’s okay. It’s not going to be at all what you think it is, but it’s going to be so much more. You won’t get rich, but you will touch lives. At the end of the day, that’s going to be exactly what will fulfill you.

Where can readers find your books and learn more about you?
Thanks for asking! My books are available at B&N, BooksaMillion, Amazon and indie bookstores. You can learn more about me and my work at

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mr. Tall

Aspects of human frailty and damaged psyches permeate the stories in Mr. Tall, the latest collection of short fiction by Tony Earley.  Earley's work (Jim the Boy and Here We Are in Paradise) delves into the lives of ordinary people and addresses complex themes in a pared-down style. This time around, Earley tackles stories about characters that include, in "Yard Art," a divorced 28-year-old midwife and a rough-around-the-edges, bluegrass-singing plumber who spend an afternoon searching for what may or may not be a valuable piece of sculpture. "Haunted Castles of the Barrier Islands" explores the relationship of a North Carolina couple forced to come to terms with the state of their marriage now that their daughter has left for college. Four taut scenes frame "Just Married," a beautiful story about a recently wed older couple that bears witness to the intersection of random events and memory. An isolated, elderly Nashville widow becomes rapt by the disappearance of a seventh grader in "Have You Seen the Stolen Girl?" The incident conjures remembrances of the widow's own child and Jesse James, who legend says once lived for a time at the woman's address. "The Cryptozoologist" centers on a widow who believes she has spied a "skunk ape," a type of Bigfoot creature, wandering outside her home. The presence of the wildly elusive beast compels her to reconcile her past and her true feelings for her misunderstood artist husband.

Elements of the surreal resurface in the novella, "Jack and the Mad Dog," a story about how a young man's misdeeds come back to bite him via a talking dog and a clever play on the Jack and the Beanstalk fable. And in "Mr. Tall," the most suspenseful story of the collection, a young woman living in the 1930s marries a man who whisks her away from her family into a new life filled with uncertainty. Amid loneliness, the young wife is drawn to a mysteriously widowed, reclusive neighbor nicknamed Mr. Tall, who inhabits the only other farmhouse nearby. The young wife is warned to stay away, but can she resist learning more about this man's past?

Earley's vivid, well-crafted short stories speak volumes about the startling realities of life and the complexities of human relationships. He deftly compresses whole life histories into just a few pages that successfully blend humor and poignancy, reality and myth. All of the stories feature Southeastern locales and characters who are ripped from the familiarity of their lives--the comfort, however good or bad, they know and depend upon--only to be thrust, oftentimes unwillingly, into new realities. Along the way, unearthed secrets and epiphanies lead to revelatory moments infused with regret and grace.

Mr.Tall  by Tony Earley
Little, Brown and Company, $25.00 Hardcover, 9780316246125, 256 pp
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Book Trade (8/1/14), click HERE

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jill Paton Walsh: The Legacy of Dorothy L. Sayers

The Writer's Life

Dorothy L. Sayers was one of the greatest mystery writers of the 20th century. Her most notable creation was the aristocratic, eccentric sleuth Lord Peter--and later, Harriet Vane, the hyper-intelligent writer of detective novels who would become Lord Peter's wife. In 1936, Sayers abandoned the series. After her death in 1957, a partial manuscript and notes for a Lord Peter novel--what would become Thrones, Dominations, were found. It wasn't until many years later that Sayers's literary trustees commissioned Jill Paton Walsh--at the suggestion of Hope Dellon, an editor at St. Martin's Press--to complete the novel, which was published in 1998.

Walsh, the Booker Prize-nominated and Whitbread Prize-winning author of many novels for adults and children, has since written three additional books in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, including A Presumption of Death and The Attenbury Emeralds. In The Late Scholar (published by Minotaur), Peter and Harriet once again return to the page, post-World War II. In this installment, Peter is asked by his alma mater, St. Severin's College, Oxford University, to help resolve a dispute involving a valuable rare manuscript that needs to be sold in order to raise funds. But when the clever couple arrive at the college, they are faced with a string of mysterious deaths of faculty members.

Were you always a fan of Dorothy Sayers's work? What was your first experience with her writing?
My first experience with Sayers's work was when I was about 14 years old. I read Even the Parrot, a book for children, and managed to like it, though it's very patronizing. Then I moved on and fell in love with Lord Peter. When I read Strong Poison, the first Lord Peter book that features Harriet Vane, I noticed the unusual attitude of Lord Peter to a clever woman. I gave him my heart at once, and he helped inoculate me against the attentions of the men in my generation who wanted a woman chiefly to iron their shirts.

Were you intimidated by taking over the writing of the very successful Lord Peter series?
Yes, of course, I was intimidated... I still am. But it has been an irresistible challenge to my technical skills.

With Thrones, Dominations, you are considered a "co-author" with Dorothy Sayers. Were the notes she left behind easy to follow in finishing the story?
The materials left by Sayers consisted of about one-fifth of the length of the finished novel, in chapters not numbered in order. There were several versions of some of the scenes. There was a plot diagram, down a single page, showing a line for Peter and Harriet and a line for Murderer and Victim. It was annotated with the words "Moves and countermoves as many as may be necessary" and "little bump of emotional development leads to solution." The written part left behind did not get as far as the murder. It was not easy to decipher.

How much influence do the literary trustees of the Dorothy Sayers Society have over the content of each book? Have they ever asked you to rework or rewrite parts of the story?
The trustees are lawyers advised by a literary agent. They have not offered any literary comment or advice, and I would not agree to work under such supervision. But the publisher also has discretion to publish or not to publish, and I accept editorial advice from the publisher as I would with a work entirely my own.

How do you research each book, especially The Late Scholar, which is set mostly on the campus of your alma mater, Oxford University?
Each book is different. They all require some research into the historical setting. The Late Scholar needed very little research, just some checking, because it is set somewhere in 1952-1953, and I went to Oxford in 1955. Peter's life and mine nearly overlap there.

What's the most challenging part of continuing the series? What's the most enjoyable and rewarding?
Writing about someone else's characters imposes a duty to correctness about what is already written about them, as though they were real people. Peter is the most entertaining man possible to imagine, talking in my inner world. He's just fun.

Do you have a favorite book in the Lord Peter series?
Gaudy Night is my favorite--it would be, it's about Oxford, and it's about women with professional careers. But I think the best of the series is The Nine Tailors, even though it had no Harriet Vane for me to identify with.

How hard is it to keep updating the series with recurrent characters, now aging, and moving into a more contemporary, post-World War II era?
It's easier, actually, than writing about characters who do not grow and change. Characters need to be real to me before I can make them real to anybody else, and real people change over time.

Why do you think Lord Peter and Harriet Vane have gained and retained such a loyal and devoted following throughout the years?
Peter is very unusual in needing an intellectual equal for his wife. I can think of two others in literature: Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing and Ralph Touchett in A Portrait of a Lady. Sayers produced a picture of a deeply desirable relationship between a man and a woman--clever, passionate and mutually respectful.

If someone has never read a Lord Peter novel, which one do you suggest they read first? And what do you foresee for the future of the Lord Peter series?
I'd suggest Strong Poison--if someone likes this book, they will like them all. And in terms of Lord Peter's future, he seems to be immortal. Really, doesn't he?

Will there be another Imogen Quy novel? Also, will you write another children's book?
Yes, I do plan to return to the Imogen Quy series. I would also love to get a good idea for another children's book. But my own children are now in their 50s, and my grandchildren are growing up in Australia. I haven't enough contact with children to know in my bones what they like reading... just the same, I'd grab the chance if something promising occurred to me.

If you could meet Dorothy Sayers, what would you like to say to her?
I would be rather afraid of her--such a sharp and clever woman. But I would ask why she abandoned Thrones, Dominations.

Note: This interview is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this Q&A on Shelf Awareness (6/17/14), click HERE

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Five Year Anniversary

August 7, 2009 - August 7, 2014

Reading Between the Lines
is proud to 
five years!

Thank you for reading along!

Share your thoughts about the blog and be entered to win a $25 Amazon Gift card!

Email:  - write the phrase "Five Years" in the subject line

Winner will be announced on August 14, 2014 

UPDATE 8/15/14:  Appreciate all the kind and thoughtful emails!  Thank you!!
Winner of the $25 Amazon GC is Sheila N. of Yakima, WA
(Winner selected at random)

Link HERE to read the post that launched the blog on August 7, 2009

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

Sometimes you have to leave a place in order to appreciate it. Such was the case for Frances Mayes, who charts and examines her formative years before she wrote her blockbuster memoir, Under the Tuscan Sun. As a child, Mayes longed to escape her hometown of Fitzgerald, Georgia; she lived most of her adult life in Italy and California. But a trip to Oxford, Mississippi, for a book signing served as a conversion moment for Mayes. She and her husband relocated to Hillsborough, North Carolina, a small, historical enclave on the Eno River where many writers and artists reside.

"Often, seemingly spontaneous acts come from a deep, unacknowledged place," Mayes writes in Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir, as she re-imagines and re-creates the solitary, bookish, willful childhood she had in the pre-civil rights South. Mayes's unhurried, stream-of-consciousness narrative provides an intimate look into her upbringing, an "intense microcosm" of family, friends and a home where pride seemed to prevail over realism.

"Secretive, inverted things informed my childhood," writes Mayes, as she traces the complex connections of a small town. She renders the trajectory of her life story—the people and the places she's fled—via pivotal scenes infused with colorful characters and sensory imagery. In describing one of the first funerals she ever attended, Mayes writes, "The smell of roses feels so heavy it's as if we've stepped inside a flower. Pink shades on hanging lamps make the room glow like inside a shell." Such vivid, poetic prose serves to enhance the bittersweet journey of a natural-born storyteller who rediscovers and reclaims her Southern roots.

Crown, $26.00 Hardcover, 9780307885913, 336 pp
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (4/11/14), click HERE

Friday, August 1, 2014

Selling a Camera, Assessing a Life

"It's not what you look's what you see"

Friday, August 1, 2014
Opinion/Editorial: "Other Views" (Section A-19)

To read the article in its entirety, click on the highlighted title above

Monday, July 28, 2014

Special Heart

One out of every hundred babies is born with a congenital heart issue. Some problems are pinpointed and diagnosed early, while others go undetected for years. When Bret and Amy Baier joyfully gave birth to their son, Paul, in 2007, he was a "perfect," healthy baby. But less than 24 hours later, through a seeming coincidence—or more likely, providence—a substitute nurse assigned to the newborn didn't like something about Paul's color and alerted doctors. Paul was later diagnosed with a complicated combination of five major heart defects, the most serious and life-threatening being that his "walnut-sized heart" was pumping in the wrong direction.   

The main story that ensues in Special Heart: A Journey of Faith, Hope, Courage and Love is an intimate and detailed account of Paul's harrowing struggle to survive as his parents face hard choices amid his critical health condition. What hospital was best for Paul? Which pediatric surgeon would be the most experienced and capable to handle the delicacy of reconstructing and rebuilding Paul's fragile heart with vessels as "narrow as angel hair pasta"? And how long could the couple wait to make such life-changing decisions?

Along the way, Bret Baier, noted journalist and anchor of "Special Report," gives a well-told, anecdote-filled back story of his life—his years as a traveling reporter whose goal was to break into the Washington news business; how he met his wife, Amy, and courted her; his passion for golf; and his ascent en route to becoming the Chief White House Correspondent and ultimately manning the helm of a successful daily news program. These details offer a fully drawn portrait of Baier and enhance an era of his life when he and Amy had their faith and courage tested amid the challenges of Paul's unexpected medical crisis.

Throughout, the story is touch-and-go and stirring. Baier and his co-writer, Jim Mills, render it with perfect balance, blending facts with raw, emotional honesty, which makes for a riveting, page-turning read. From the time of Paul's birth until he turns six years-old, he bravely endures three open heart surgeries, seven angioplasties and one unrelated stomach surgery. The most moving parts of the memoir are the reprinted emails Baier sent to family, friends and others concerned and interested in the Baiers' journey, those who also offered love, support and the power of prayer. These passages are deeply personal and revealing. They shed light into the mind and soul of a sincere, sensitive person grappling with his faith, fate and the future.

In the end, all "Three Baiers" are physically, emotional and spiritually transformed by an experience that continues to require diligent, ongoing effort. At its core, "Special Heart" emerges as an inspirational story of hope from a man in the public eye unafraid to share the depth of his experiences in order to help and heal others.

* Note: One hundred percent of what the author receives from the sale of this book is donated to various non-profit pediatric heart causes.

 Click HERE to watch an in-depth interview with Bret Baier on Book-TV 

Center Street, $25.00 Hardcover, 9781455583638, 288 pp
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE