Sunday, June 29, 2014

PUYB Virtual Book Club: Secrets of Hallstead House by Amy M. Reade



Title: Secrets of Hallstead House
Author: Amy M. Reade
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp.
Pages: 255
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Format: Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

“You are not wanted here. Go away from Hallstead Island or you will be very sorry you stayed.”

Macy Stoddard, a nurse from Manhattan, comes to Hallstead Island in the North Country of New York to escape a haunting pain.  It is here that Macy discovers secrets that were not meant to be shared – secrets that reach back into Macy’s past and that will change her future and the futures of the people on Hallstead Island.  There are those, however, who will stop at nothing to keep the secrets that are hidden there

Book Excerpt:

My journey was almost over.
It was raining, and I looked out through the drizzle across the
blue-gray water of the Saint Lawrence River. Only a few boats were
out on such a raw and rainy day. From the bench where I sat on the
Cape Cartier public dock, I could see several islands. Each was covered
with trees—dark green pine trees and leafy maples, oaks,
birches, and weeping willows. In the chilly late September air, the
leaves were already tinged with the colors of fall: yellows, reds, oranges,
browns. I could glimpse homes on the islands, but I didn’t see
any people. It was beautiful here—so different from the city I had
just left behind.
Even though twenty years have come and gone since that day, I
can still remember the calm that settled around me as I waited for my
ride to Hallstead House in the middle of the Thousand Islands. My
nerves were still ragged, but the river had an immediate and peaceful
effect on me. I was only twenty then, but I had been through so much.
Though I had been traveling for just a few hours, my journey to this
place had begun six long weeks earlier.
As I listened to the raindrops plunk into the river, the sound of the
motor from an approaching boat cut into my reverie. It was an older
boat of gleaming mahogany with a large white awning covering most
of it, protecting the cabin and the pilot from the rain. It puttered up to
the dock slowly and in a few moments had pulled alongside, close to
where I sat. The pilot moved to the stern and climbed out quickly, securing
the boat to the dock with a thick rope. He turned to me with a
questioning look and said, “Macy Stoddard?”
“Yes.”
He shook my hand curtly. “I’m Pete McHale. I work for Alexandria
Hallstead. She sent me here to pick you up. That all the luggage
you brought?”
“Yes, that’s it.”
He shot me a disapproving look and said, “I hope you brought
some warm stuff to wear. It starts getting cold up here pretty early in
the fall. It’s colder here than it is in the big city, you know.” He
smirked.
Determined to stay positive, I ignored his look of reproach and
replied that I had plenty of warm clothes. Once he’d stowed my two
large suitcases in the boat under the awning, he helped me on board,
where I chose a seat in the front so I could see where we were going
and stay dry. I had been in a boat once as a child when a furious storm
blew up, and I had hated boats ever since. Still, though I was unhappy
and nervous to be riding in one, there was absolutely no other way to
get to my island destination. Pete untied the boat and we slowly
pulled away from the dock. As he scanned the river and began turning
the boat to the north, I glanced at his profile. He looked like he was
in his mid-thirties—medium height, with light-brown, windblown
hair, and green eyes with creases in the corners that made it look like
he squinted a lot. He wore faded jeans and a Windbreaker.
When he had steered the boat out of the small, sheltered bay at
Cape Cartier and into the more open channel, he glanced at me and
said, “We’ll be at Summerplace in about ten minutes.”
“Summerplace?”
“That’s the name of the house on Hallstead Island.”
“Oh. I thought it was called Hallstead House.”
“Its official name is Hallstead House. The people who live on the
island just call it Summerplace.”
We sat in silence for several moments, and finally I asked, “Why
is it called Summerplace?”
Pete sighed. Evidently he didn’t relish playing the role of tour
guide. “It’s called Summerplace because it used to be a summer retreat
for the Hallstead family. Now Miss Hallstead stays there for as
much of the year as she can. In early to mid-October she moves the
household over to Pine Island and spends the winter there.”
To keep my mind off my abject fear of being on the water, I turned
my attention to the islands we were passing. Each one had a home on
it, and all of the homes were beautiful. Some looked empty, since
their occupants had probably left after the summer ended, but some
still had boats tied to docks or housed in quaint boathouses. The
homes themselves, most of which were huge and had large, welcoming
porches, were surrounded by the ever-present trees. Several had
bright awnings over the windows.
In the face of Pete’s apparent ambivalence, I had determined not
to ask any more questions. But as I sat looking around me I forgot my
self-imposed rule. “Are there really a thousand islands in this area?”
I blurted out.
“There are actually over eighteen hundred islands in the Thousand
Islands,” he replied. To my surprise, he seemed to warm to this
subject and continued. “In order to be included in the count, an island
has to be above water three hundred and sixty-five days a year and
support at least two living trees.”
I continued to draw him out, asking, “What do you do for Mrs.
Hallstead?”
His attitude changed again, becoming colder. “It’s Miss Hallstead.
She never took her husband’s name.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Caught by Deirdre Thurston


                                                                                           Title: Caught
Genre: short stories, literary sketches and vignettes.
Author: Dierdre Thurston
Publisher:  Koehler Books NY
Language: English
Pages:  210
Format: Paperback and Kindle
Publication Date:  April 1, 2014
Purchase at Amazon

Book Synopis: 

A collection of short stories, literary sketches and vignettes each capturing a moment in the life of someone a lot like you. Each story delves into human themes: expectation, desire, hope, loss, fear, joy, peace, suffering, redemption. The narrative is filled with subtle irony, humour and touching observations. The stories highlight our era of increasing social disconnection, in which technology is replacing intimacy and life occurs at a pace that challenges people’s ability to stop, observe and interpret their own existence and its relationship with those around them.

It highlights the everyday moment and provides nourishment for the harried soul. The overriding message in Caught is: that any moment in every life can be viewed as worthy of treasuring. Whether that moment is filled with despair or joy; they provide entertaining relief and nourishing benefits.

You can read more at www.deirdrethurston.com

Discuss this book in our Pump Up Your Book Virtual Book Club at Goodreads 


Friday, June 20, 2014

When Shmack Happens by Amber Neben

Title:  When Shmack Happens: The Making of a Spiritual Champion
Author: Amber Neben
Genre: Christian nonfiction/inspirational stories/sports autobiography
Paperback: 172 pages
Publisher: Neben Px4 (March 18, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0991303008
ISBN-13: 978-0991303007

Purchase at:
Amazon UK and Amazon EU

Have you ever been through a hard time in life? Ever wondered why bad things happen? Amber Neben has you covered. The 2x Olympic cyclist for Team USA knows a thing or two about shmack- her word for describing adversity that comes our way in life. Follow Amber’s journey as she overcomes major obstacles both on and off the bike-and encourages you to join her in developing the perseverance, patience, perspective, and power than only Christ can give us. Very few people may know or understand what road cycling is, but everyone knows what it means to be an Olympian. The champion road cyclist chronicles her disappointments and failures, as well as amazing comebacks and victories-while thrilling audiences along the way with gripping stories of faith and hope. After reading When Shmack Happens, you’ll feel equipped and encouraged to face life’s tough moments, and find yourself cheering for Amber to get back on the bike…one more time. Learn what it means to be a spiritual champion in God’s eyes.

Excerpt:
From Chapter 10
Fear gripped me as I skidded to a stop against the guardrail and looked up at the entire peloton riding toward my head. Another rider had just slid into my front wheel, causing it to turn violently sideways, ripping the handlebars out of my hands, and instantly halting the bike’s forward momentum. Since my body was still carrying the 30-plus mph speed and energy, I launched with my arms out like superman until I hit the pavement. Hard. The combination of the friction of my body on the road followed by the impact with the guardrail spun me around, so I could see what was coming at me. For a few seconds more, I was terrified of being run over until the peloton had passed.

After this immediate danger was gone, I realized my finger was screaming at me. I hadn’t initially noticed it, but now it hurt like nothing I had ever felt. Fear grabbed me again as I connected the pain with the blood and the massive gash on it. I thought for sure I was going to lose the tip of it if I didn’t get help fast.
I had no idea what had just occurred. We had crested a climb and started an easy downhill. I was still up front on the outside of the group. The corner was sweeping to the left, and I was looking far down the road…when suddenly I was tossed. It wasn’t until later that night that the rider who was behind me explained what had happened, and why I had no chance to react or had any sense that it was coming.


I was in the middle of the 2009 racing season, coming off of the World Championship win the previous year. Only two days prior, I had won the time trial stage in this race, the women’s Giro d’Italia. The win had catapulted me into the General Classification (GC) lead, and although I had cramped the next day and lost it, I was still close enough to fight back. There were enough hill-top finishes remaining, and I wasn’t planning on giving up the race so easily. However, in an instant, everything changed. I went from being in contention, to being bloodied on the side of an Italian road in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the race ambulance and a doctor.

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with Cary Smith, author of FOUR CORNERS OR A BOOK THAT WILL TICKLE YOUR INTELLECTUAL NIPPLE



Cary Smith, the nom de plume of Greg Hawkins, lives in San Jose, CA. He became interested in books and writing because of a teacher. His favorite book is "Hocus Pocus," by Kurt Vonnegut or “100 Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He is currently either going to finish his collection of short stories next or turn one of his short stories into a novel, which would be a new take on the ghost genre.



About the Book:

High school. Those two words, for some, instill fear and loathing and vivid memories of sadistic teachers, bullies, and bad lunches. For some happy few,
however, high school remains a misty paradise, where a student's budding dreams and aspirations were nurtured by brilliant, sympathetic teachers, guidance counselors and peers.

Cary Smith, the nom de plume of Greg Hawkins, clearly falls into the first group, as he describes in his hilarious new book, FOUR CORNERS, OR A BOOK THAT WILL TICKLE YOUR INTELLECTUAL NIPPLE.  With a keen sense of the absurd, Smith thrusts his satirical sword straight at the jugular vein of all things pretentious and pedantic that haunt the halls of the educational world. Nothing is spared as Smith takes on the institution of secondary education. Readers will wince in recognition at the cast of characters Smith has created – the brains, jocks, bullies, cliques, incompetent teachers and pompous administrators – who all take a good drubbing from the flat side of Smith's sword.

“I don't know why I thought that when middle school was over that high school would be a brand new place, a fresh start,” Smith writes. “Maybe it was because all my teachers in middle school were implanting their lectures about how in high school the teachers wouldn't let you get away with this and that and that it would be a very different place. Well, as usual, the teachers of the system lied to me ...”

For good measure, Smith creates another archetypal character – Brad Cruise, a symbol of the pseudo-intellectual critics and pedagogues who inhabit academia. If you spotted Cruise's name as a mash-up of Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, that's what the author intended.

Hawkins also points out that, while Cary Smith is the “satirical narrator” of FOUR CORNERS, “what we come to find out is that not only does he have a humorous side, he has a serious side, and he does, in fact, care, despite what he may say.”

Although much of Smith's writing is clearly based in personal experience, Hawkins says the book is satirical fiction. The book's style is steeped in hyperbolic language and literary hi-jinx that hark back to the 18th-century comic classic TRISTRAM SHANDY.

“I wrote FOUR CORNERS to entertain people,” Hawkins says, “not only to help people get through the turbulent time that is high school in America, but to make people feel OK about the time they spent during those years.” He adds:  “There is no one, to my knowledge, writing with this type of narrator, about this subject matter, in such a style and manner, and writing humorously. It is very hard to find a good book with a blend of the serious and comedic.”

Purchase your copy:

AMAZON

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

Welcome to the book club, Cary! What a hilarious title.  I’m curious—where did you get ‘Four Corners’ from?  What does that mean in relation to the book?

Four Corners represents the serious side, and elements of the book. There are four years in which Cary experiences high school. When Cary meets Alexis, she draws a symbol of a pair of human legs together, which in turn creates a square (or two triangles together), which of course has four corners. So it represents serious things, while “Tickle Your Intellectual Nipple” is obviously a title representing the humorous side.

Your author photo—just who is the real Cary?

He’s a guy who doesn’t really like that Eminem song, “The Real Slim Shady.”

Back to your book, Four Corners, Or a Book That Will Tickle Your Intellectual Nipple, I love that it focuses on your love/hate relationship with high school.  Does this book come from your own personal experiences?

It does. I think any authors first work is mired in personal experience, and it should be. Then from there, hopefully, for those who are truly talented, the imagination takes over.

Would you tell us a little about the characters in your book?

Cary Smith is the narrator and main character. Cary is a reasonable person who is trying to sort through the oddities and silliness of every day life, and who to listen to, and who not to. His good friend through the journey is Cyrus. Cyrus went to a private prep school before he started at a public high school. His parents have money, and he is very idealistic. Brad Cruise is a literature professor who takes himself way too seriously and is very unaware of his self, and has added to Cary’s writing without his permission. Alexis is Cary’s love interest, who he doesn’t want to love, and fights to not love her. And I’m the Literary Preservationist. I preserve works, especially those of Cary Smith…it is a made up title, but anyone can have the title, if they’d like to.

Fun question: If you could be published with any publisher in the world, who would that be?

Myself. I enjoy the freedom.

Another fun question.  How can your book solve the world’s problems?

I don’t think it can, but I do hope that it opens a discussion on the education system in America.

Okay one more.  We’re traveling to the locale of your book.  What would we do for fun?

Well, it would be pretty boring. It’s high school. To me it’s and was a boring place. I’m always amazed by people who say those were their best years, because life is so much better away from it…but, we can ditch and go watch, “The Nanny” at the McDonalds across the street. Unless someone has a car, then we can debate where to go while we drive around, only to end up at the McDonalds across the street to watch a repeat of “The Nanny.” 

It’s time to say our good-byes.  What’s next for you, Cary? 

We’ll see. Writing is an exhausting process, and there are many times that I don’t feel it’s worth it, and I’m not very well supported, so it’s tough.