Category Archives: Virginia is for Book Lovers

Review: Ashes to Water by Irene Ziegler

  • Hardcover: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Five Star (June 16, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 1594148600
  • Source: Author

Annie Bartlett returns to her small Florida hometown after her father is murdered.  She demands to confront the woman acquitted of the crime, and is astonished to find that she looks remarkably like her mother, who has been dead since she was a young girl, a victim of suicide.  It’s not difficult for Annie to remember what her mother looked like; she continues to see her nearly every day.  Her mother has “haunted” her since her death, berating Annie’s father and discounting his love to her.

After meeting his father’s accused murderer, she’s suddenly drawn to fight for this woman’s acquittal. She begins to dig a little deeper she discovers that some pretty powerful people are involved, and these individuals want to keep their secrets buried.

I was happy to have “met” Irene on Twitter and I was instantly drawn to the premise of this book.  She has developed some very complex characters; the reader learns a great deal about each of the major characters.  The storyline was evenly paced, keeping my focus and interest throughout.  Irene is definitely an author to keep on your radar, I see nothing but good things in her future. Highly recommended for fans of character-driven thrillers.

Thank you to TLC book tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour.  Please check out the other stops along the way:

Monday, August 23rd: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Tuesday, August 24th: My Reading Room

Wednesday, August 25th: Booksie’s Blog

Thursday, August 26th: Café of Dreams

Monday, August 30th: Jen’s Book Thoughts

Tuesday, August 31st: My Random Acts of Reading

Wednesday, September 1st: Helen’s Book Blog

Thursday, September 2nd: Life In Review

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Virginia is for…Book Lovers: Veracity by Laura Bynum

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket (January 5, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 1439123349
  • Source: Publisher

In 2012, a viral infection sweeps the country and wipes out half the population.  A new government rises up from the ruins, called “The Confederation of the Willing.”  The Confederation provides the only food, supplies and resources availablle.  Given this additional power & control, they begin to make a few changes.  Speech and behavior are now controlled by “slates”, computer chips embedded in the necks of all citizens. When a forbidden act is performed, or a red-listed word spoken, the individual is punished, sometimes even killed by an electrical shock.

Fast forward to 2045. The Confederation still exists, now providing sex and drugs to its willing populace.  Harper Adams is a “monitor”, working directly for the Confederation.  She has a special gift, she can see auras and read the thoughts of others.  This gift gives Harper a unique advantage; she can see just how manipulative the Confederation is and begins to wonder if there is a better life. When the word “veracity”, also her daughter’s name, is red-listed, Harper knows she can stand for this no longer.  Harper discovers the Resistance, an underground group set on overtaking the Confederation, willing to give up her own life in the name of freedom.

Compared to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood,Veracity gives the reader a chilling look at the future. The freedom of speech we have is one that we often take for granted. Imagine not being able to say things such as poem, or courage.The characters Bynum has created are strong, well-developed; characters you want to survive, to win.  Veracity is a book that will stick with you long after you read the last pages. This book would be the perfect book club book; there are dozens of themes to be discussed.

Check back tomorrow for a special guest post by the author of Veracity, Laura Bynum.

Virginia is for…Book Lovers is a feature hosted by Jenn’s Bookshelves which spotlights local Virginia authors.  If you are a Virginia author, or publicist for a Virginia author, and would like to be a part of this feature, please contact me!

Virginia is For..Book Lovers: Featuring Laura Brodie, Author of The Widow’s Season


 I’m officially resurrecting my dormant Virginia is for…book lovers feature. I have a ton of great authors lined up to feature, but unfortunately sometimes life takes you over!  I promise to make this a monthly feature and give these amazing authors their due!  This month’s featured author is Laurie Brodie, author of  The Widow’s Season.



Paperback: 303 pages
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA), June 2009
ISBN: 0425227650
Source: Author

Sarah McConnell is still grieving the death of her husband, David, after losing him nearly three months ago in a flash flood.  His body was never recovered and while Sarah knew there was no way he could have survived the flood, she still needs that physical evidence of his demise before she can truly accept he is gone.

But then one day, she sees him at the grocery store.  She catches his eye but as quickly as he appeared, he is gone.  Reluctantly, she tells her friend Margaret, also a widow. To her surprise, Margaret doesn’t seem appalled by this news. She, too, used to see her husband everwhere after he passed away, nearly five years ago.  But her visions were of men who resembled her husband and obviously not her husband himself.

Margaret recommends that Sarah join her at her next bereavement group meeting.  Talking with other women experiencing the same grief might aid in her healing.  Also aiding her in this recovery process is Nate, her brother-in-law. He drops by and checks in on Sarah on a regular basis.  His resemblance to David is uncanny, almost so similar he could almost be mistaken for his older brother.

Sarah soon discovers that she’s not truly grieving the loss of her husband:

She was morning the loss of an idea, a vision of how her life should have been. And that vision had not been swept down the river three months ago; it had been dying slowly over the past few years, with each small dream that she abandoned.

Sarah had given up bits of herself in the years she was married to David. She dropped everything and moved to Jackson when he was offered a position there. She soon found a part-time job at the local college.

Once they were settled, Sarah and David tried to start a family. Unfortunately, they were unable.  Sarah was in a constant battle with her body, for some reason she was unable to carry a child to term. Sarah was devastated and sunk into a bout of depression.  David was unable to deal with her emotions:

She felt that her miscarriages were tainting his perfect world, a barren wife being the most ancient blight of all, and she sometimes suspected that the acidity of her mind might be poisoning her womb; no life could grow within a body so bitter.  Some nights David would stay at work just to avoid her tone at the dinner table.

So Sarah wasn’t really grieving David, but grieving the life and the family they could have had together.

Sarah joins Margaret for her bereavement group meeting.  She reveals her glimpses of David to the group of widows. Many of the women admit that they too have seen their husbands. Margaret is still hesitant to believe Sarah is actually being haunted by her husband:

if you are really seeing David, there must be a reason.  Either he is somehow trying to reach you, or you are trying to reach him. Most likely it is the latter.  There’s probably somthing unresolved in your mind.

On Halloween night, David makes another appearance.  This time he doesn’t disappear.  Thinking of Margaret’s statement, she opens the door and invites David inside.

David explains that he was a victim of the flood but he was able to save himself from the raging rapids.  But instead of contacting Sarah and returning to his life, he has an unmistakeable desire to run away. So he continues to hid in their cabin in the woods. Even though he saw Sarah and Margaret arrive at the cabin a week after the flood, he remained hidden.

He invites Sarah to (once again) leave everything behind and come with him to live in the cabin. Sarah is unable to commit to an answer, but begins to visit David at their cabin.

Meanwhile, Nate continues to pay visits to Sarah.  Sarah can’t help to feel alive in his presence. He shows a level of respect and care for her that David was unable to show.  She is torn between the feeling she has when she is with Nate, and the feelings of loyalty she has for David.

Sarah’s decision is made after attending a performance with Nate at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.  The lyrics seemed to describe Sarah to a “T”:

I am eager for the pleasures of the flesh

More than for salvation,

My soul is dead,

So I shall look after the flesh…

…The girl without a lover

Misses out on all the pleasures

She keeps the dark night


In the depth of her heart;

It is a most bitter fate.

Sarah realizes that she has to make a decision: is she going to live for her dead/undead husband or for once, live for herself?

The Widow’s Season a lot more than what it seems. Reading just the description on the back of the book, it seems to be a ghost story.  But it’s much more.  It is not only a story of a widow’s healing, but also one that details her transformation into a seemingly completely different individual. The years she was with David, it was as if she were a caterpillar and she wasn’t able to fully transform into a butterfly until her feelings about her marriage and David were resolved.

While reading, I didn’t know what to believe.  Was David truly alive or was Sarah just haunted by his ghost? I won’t reveal the answer, but Brodie did an outstanding job of keeping the answer ambiguous.

Brodie’s writing is very emotional and captivating, a very absorbing read.  It’s also a very addictive piece. I couldn’t put it down until I learned the truth behind David’s appearances.  In case you haven’t noticed yet, I highly recommend this one!  It would be the perfect book for a reading group. There are several aspects and issues that can be picked apart and discussed.

About the Author:

I was born in Columbus, Ohio, with the name Laura Ann Fairchild. My earliest memories come from Seattle, Washington, where my family lived in the Magnolia neighborhood near the Puget Sound. I loved the deep, rainy colors of Seattle; one of my dreams is to buy a summer house on the Olympic peninsula.

At age eight, my family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where I stayed through high school, spending most of my time writing poetry, playing tennis, and earning money as an amateur violinist. After graduating from Broughton High School in 1982, I went to college at Harvard, and lived in Cabot House with a group of eight talented and diverse women who inspire me to this day. Hello to all my roommates!

My favorite class was a poetry workshop with Seamus Heaney, and I graduated with a degree in English in 1986. While at Harvard, I played violin with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, touring in Russia, Europe and Asia. On an orchestra tour I met my future husband, trumpeter John Brodie. We married after my graduation, and lived in Washington, DC, where I worked on campaign finance reform for Common Cause.

In 1988 we moved to Lexington, VA, so that John could take a job as band director at the Virginia Military Institute. I commuted to Charlottesville to work on a PhD at the University of Virginia, and with the help of a dissertation fellowship from the American Association of University Women and a Woodrow Wilson Women’s Studies Grant, I wrote a dissertation focused on widows in English literature. Since that time, all of my writing has been tied to women’s studies. My favorite chapter from that dissertation was on husbands who fake their deaths in order to spy on their wives, and that inspired my  novel, The Widow’s Season.

If you are a Virginia author and would like to be showcased in this feature, please contact me at jennsbookshelfATgmailDOTcom or fill out the form on my “Contact Me” page.

Virginia is for Book Lovers Feature Author: Elizabeth Massie

I’m pleased to announce the first author to be featured is Elizabeth Massie. First, a bit of information on Elizabeth, taken from her website.

Elizabeth Jane Spilman Massie was born and raised in Waynesboro, Virginia, a town in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Tended by a newspaperman/journalist father and watercolorist mother, she and her two sisters and one brother grew up surrounded by words, paintings, pets, open-minded attitudes, and wild senses of humor. She was a dreadful student; she rarely paid attention in class and frequently got bad marks on her report card for not “working to her potential.” Little did the teachers know that the daydreaming, the goofy drawings, and the angst-ridden stories she was doing in class instead of the assigned science/social studies/math, would some day have some relevance.

She taught in public schools in Augusta County, Virginia from 1975-1994. During those years she married Roger Massie, had two children (Erin, born in 1976 and Brian, born in 1979) and sold many of her wacky pen and ink/watercolor pictures at art shows around the state.

This was also the time she began writing in earnest. Her first horror short story, “Whittler,” was published in The Horror Show in the winter 1984 edition, along with the first published story by good friend and horror author, Brian Hodge. Many other story sales followed, in mags such as Deathrealm, Grue, Footsteps, Gauntlet, Iniquities, The Blood Review, After Hours, The Tome, and many more, as well as anthologies such as Borderlands, Borderlands III, Best New Horror 2, Dead End: City Limits, Women of Darkness, Best New Fantasy and Horror 4, Hottest Blood, New Masterpieces of Horror, Revelations, and many others. Beth’s novella, Stephen (Borderlands) was awarded the Bram Stoker Award and was a World Fantasy award finalist.

Elizabeth added horror novels to her repertoire in the early 1990’s, and has since published the Bram Stoker-winning Sineater, Welcome Back to the Night, Wire Mesh Mothers, Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (co-authored with Stephen Mark Rainey), Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Power of Persuasion, Twisted Branch (as Chris Blaine), and Homeplace. She has also had four story collections published: Southern Discomfort, Shadow Dreams, the extensive The Fear Report, and A Little Magenta Book of Mean Stories. Her bizarre poetry is included in the early 2004 anthology Devil’s Wine, along with poems by Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Peter Straub, and more. Presently, she is at work on a new novel about a haunted farm house and a bunch of new short fiction for various publications.

In the mid-1990s, Beth was divorced. She also branched out with her fiction and began to write historical novels for young adults and middle grade readers. She has said, “There is a great deal of horror in history, so moving from one to the other wasn’t that big a step for my creative thought processes. I love the idea of putting my mind back in time to experience what people years ago might have experienced. And damn, but some of that stuff was creepy!” Her works include the Young Founders series, the Daughters of Liberty trilogy, and The Great Chicago Fire: 1871.

On the side, Elizabeth also writes supplementary materials for educational publishers (both fiction and nonfiction) and continues to wield her inky pen and watercolors to create the characters of Skeeryvilletown. In her free time, she likes hiking and camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains, digging through antique stores, traveling roads on which she’s never traveled. She is also an active member of Amnesty International, the human rights organization to which she’s belonged since 1985.

Elizabeth still lives in the country in the Shenandoah Valley.

Be sure to check out my review of Massie’s Bram Stoker Award winning novel, Sineater.
If you are a Virginia author, or know of one that would like to be featured, please contact me at or fill out my Contact Me form.

New Feature: Virginia is for…Book Lovers!

Virginia is known for many things, our great wine, historic locations like Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Manassas. Virginia is also known for it’s amazing writers! Thanks to Michelle at Galleysmith, I’ve decided to start a new feature highlighting authors from my state, the Commonwealth of Virginia, by doing a review of one of their books. This feature will be called “Virginia is for Lovers…of Books!” When I was doing my research on authors from VA, I came up with a pretty amazing list:

Geraldine Brooks
Willa Cather
John Grisham
Barbara Kingsolver
Adriana Trigiani
Elizabeth Massie
David Baldacci
Patricia Cornwell
Sharyn McCrumb
Tom Wolfe
….and many many more!

Authors/Publicists-If you have a book written by a VA author (born in, or currently residing in) that you would like featured, please use the Contact Me Page to tell me about it!

Thank you to Heather from A High and Hidden Place for designing the amazing button you see above!

Check back in the coming weeks to find out more about all the amazing authors that have come out of Virginia!