Review of A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles by Mary Elizabeth Williams

A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles cover

About A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles

A wry, witty account of what it is like to face death—and be restored to life.

After being diagnosed in her early 40s with metastatic melanoma—a “rapidly fatal” form of cancer—journalist and mother of two Mary Elizabeth Williams finds herself in a race against the clock. She takes a once-in-a-lifetime chance and joins a clinical trial for immunotherapy, a revolutionary drug regimen that trains the body to vanquish malignant cells. Astonishingly, her cancer disappears entirely in just a few weeks. But at the same time, her best friend embarks on a cancer journey of her own—with very different results. Williams’s experiences as a patient and a medical test subject reveal with stark honesty what it takes to weather disease, the extraordinary new developments that are rewriting the rules of science—and the healing power of human connection.

My Review

Williams gives great detail in telling her own story of cancer along with opening the door wide in regards to her very intimate thoughts and emotions, love, family, caregiver, friend, medical and science. Whether you have been touched by cancer directly or indirectly you’ll find Williams’ journey, experience and insight a wealth of information, educational. Her journalistic gift allows her to delve into clinical trials and cancer research without the explanation being complex or boring, she breaks it down for civilians to easily grasp. Williams participates in a clinical trial drilling the importance of breakthroughs and all the challenges associated with trials. Her positive attitude, humor, and determination helped her along the way with her survival and the profound losses she personally experienced along the way while fighting for her life. I appreciated her candor and openness. Bittersweet story with a wonderful uplifting ending for Williams.

Mary Elizabeth Williams APAbout Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior staff writer for award-winning whose columns are regularly among the top viewed, commented on, shared, and cited as the best of the week. The “Lab Rat” series on her clinical trial was nominated for the 2012 Online Journalism Award for Commentary, and her essay on receiving a melanoma diagnosis is in the Harper anthology The Moment, an Entertainment Weekly “Must List” pick—alongside essays by Elizabeth Gilbert, Jennifer Egan, and Dave Eggers. She is the author of Gimme Shelter: Ugly Houses, Cruddy Neighborhoods, Fast Talking Brokers, and Toxic Mortgages: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream. A starred Booklist selection,Gimme Shelter was called “poignant and funny” (Kirkus), “a must-read” (New York Daily News), “hilariously evocative” (Time Out Kids) and “compelling” (Publisher’s Weekly). She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.

Find out more about her at her website.

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Publisher: National Geographic; 1 edition (April 26, 2016)


Review of The Art of Calm by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh


About The Art of Calm

Let’s face it: the more we rush around, the shorter the days can seem. Packed with page after page of inspirational ideas to help you bring your life back to center, this is the perfect antidote to reducing the chaos of everyday life. Filled with exquisite photographs and insightful quotations, this elegant book offers an opportunity to enjoy guilt-free “me” time, as well as easy suggestions for a more peaceful existence—from keeping a bud vase on your desk to tucking yourself into bed an hour early with a book you love. The brilliant images are a reminder to savor the world’s natural beauty—and ease the mind in an instant. This enriching, beautifully illustrated book is an inspiring guide to relaxation and harmony. Simple tips for how to unwind, ideas for spending quality time with loved ones, and illuminating quotes offer ideas on how to slow down and savor life’s simple moments.

My Review

Let me start by saying this is an absolutely exquisite book. The stunning images, the simple yet inspiring and encouraging words indeed create a calming balm.

I have been dealing with very challenging issues lately in which I find myself overwhelmed at times requiring a recharge of my battery but..with responsbililites and limited time along with my high stress level I have failed at renewing myself until this beautiful book came my way.

No such thing as accidents, so it seems in my situation. I have enjoyed perusing the pages, absorbing the images and taking a few minutes to calm myself despite the various serious issues on my plate. A few minutes is all it takes to lose yourself in the illustrations paired with the wise words gently nudging, granting permission for respite from life’s grueling demands. Sitting on my nightstand, I simply reach over to start and end my day with a moment of calm, believe me it works!

I enjoyed all the illustrations and words, I found this particular pearl of wisdom striking –

Gorgeous, amazing things come into our lives
when we are paying attention: mangos, grand nieces, Bach, ponds. This happens more often when we have as little expectations as possible…Astonishing material and revelation appear in our lives all the time.
Let it be. Unto us, so much is given.
We just have to be open for business.

This would make a fantastic gift for any woman encouraging her to find mere minutes in her life to feel a moment of calm, after all, WE can all use a dose in this chaotic, hectic world.

I love this book and I know you will too. I look forward to more from Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, no doubt she helped improve my life with her generous gift and art of calm. Simply lovely!

About Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

Rebecca Ascher-Walsh is a journalist who covers celebrities and lifestyle. She contributes to many newspapers and magazines, including Entertainment Weekly, The Wall Street Journaland The L.A. Times.

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Publisher: National Geographic (March 29, 2016)

Review of The Swede: A Novel by Robert Karjel, Nancy Pick (Translator)


About The Swede

A Swedish security agent is summoned to interrogate a terror suspect held by the FBI —but the prisoner isn’t the only one with something to hide.

At a remote military base in the Indian Ocean, the FBI is trying to get a prisoner to confess. But the detainee, a suspect in an Islamist-inspired terror attack in the United States, refuses to talk.

Ernst Grip, a Swedish security officer, has no idea why he’s been dispatched to New York City. The FBI agent he meets on arrival, Shauna Friedman, seems to know a little too much about him. And when he arrives at his real destination, the American authorities have just one question: Is their terror suspect a Swedish citizen?

In the process of uncovering the prisoner’s true identity, Grip discovers the man’s ties to a group of other suspects—a ruthless American arms dealer, a Czech hit man, a mysterious nurse from Kansas, and a heartbreakingly naive Pakistani. The closer Grip gets to the truth, the more complicated the deception becomes. Who is real and who is leading a double life?

My Review

The characters were full of intrigue and differences, enough to create interest for the reader.

The plot was involved, at first you are curious to see how it all fits together and believe me it falls into place wonderfully. Loads of suspense complete with knotty twists will continually grasp your attention.

Impressive work from Karjel. Everything pulls together nicely at the end. Identities are revealed at the tail end amplifying the suspenseful conclusion.

Exciting debut, anticipating more from the talented Robert Karjel.

About Robert KarjelRobert-desk-webres-500x500

I was born in 1965 in Gothenburg, Sweden. My mother is Swedish, and my father Estonian.

At the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, I majored in Applied Physics.

After graduation, I entered the military. At first I flew fighter jets, and then helicopters. I became a Lt. Colonel in the Swedish Air Force. I’m proud to have trained with the U.S. Marine Corps and flown its attack helicopters.

I’ve written four thrillers, and I’m finishing a new one now, sequel to The Swede/ My Name Is N. This next one, based on my experience with the Swedish Air Force, is about pirate-hunting in the seas near Somalia.

Researching my novels has taken me to the Libyan Desert, Amazonian drug dens and the secret archives of the Vatican.

In my downtime, I’ve taken my younger daughter scuba diving in Egypt and the Maldives. I’m also a runner, and I like sea-kayaking.

And then there’s the kitchen. For celebrations with friends and family, my official job is to make fancy desserts and chocolate pralines.

I have two daughters. The older is attending college in the US; the younger goes to high school in Stockholm, where I live myself.

My latest novel, The Swede (in the UK, My Name Is N), was published by HarperCollins in July. This is my first novel to be translated into in English.

Published July 7th 2015 by HarperCollins (first published 2010)

Review of Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore


About Wreck and Order

Decisively aimless, self-destructive, and impulsively in and out of love, Elsie is a young woman who feels stuck. She has a tumultuous relationship with an abusive boyfriend, a dead-end job at a newspaper, and a sharp intelligence that’s constantly at odds with her many bad decisions. When her initial attempts to improve her life go awry, Elsie decides that a dramatic change is the only solution.

An auto-didact who prefers the education of travel to college, Elsie uses an inheritance to support her as she travels to Paris and Sri Lanka, hoping to accumulate experiences, create connections, and discover a new way to live. Along the way, she meets men and women who challenge and provoke her towards the change she genuinely hopes to find. But in the end, she must still come face-to-face with herself.

Whole-hearted, fiercely honest and inexorably human, Wreck and Order is a stirring debut that, in mirroring one young woman’s dizzying quest for answers, illuminates the important questions that drive us all.

My Review

Lovely writing, my only compliment to the book. Elsie was boring, lazy and stupid. I wouldn’t want to befriend her or be in close proximity, nothing about her is appealing. She claims to seek her life’s purpose while in reality it’s a poor excuse to allow her to shrug responsibility and aimlessly flounder. She proclaims she wants to change yet she keeps reverting to her pathetic ways, whining, swearing to try again and repeating the pattern again and again without realizing (well maybe a little) her choices/decisions are terrible. Any person allowing abuse to occur should question why, not Elsie, and yet we are given a quick gloss over as to the root of her tolerating objectification and physical/sexual abuse. Frustrating for the reader with any intelligence to journey with this train wreck of a young adult. Her preoccupation with sex is annoying. Searching for meaning and purpose….not in my opinion. Disappointing and monotonous best describes my excruciating reading experience.

About Hannah Tennant-Moore1450541957702

Hannah Tennant-Moore’s work has appeared in the New York Times, The New Republic, n+1, Tin House, Salon, Bookforum, Dissent, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and has twice been included in Best Buddhist Writing. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband.

Published February 9th 2016 by Hogarth

Review & Giveaway Behind Closed Doors by Elizabeth Haynes

Behind Closed Doors

Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (March 31, 2015)

Ten years ago, 15-year-old Scarlett Rainsford vanished while on a family holiday in Greece. Was she abducted, or did she run away from her severely dysfunctional family? Lou Smith worked the case as a police constable, and failing to find Scarlett has been one of the biggest regrets of her career. No one is more shocked than Lou to learn that Scarlett has unexpectedly been found during a Special Branch raid of a brothel in Briarstone.

Quite a page turner, Haynes displays slick prose in minute detail, the brutality of human trafficking is distressful. An unmistakably uneasy well crafted mystery.

A cast of memorable female protagonists. Two female protagonists standout – Lou, a dedicated officer of the law, empathetic, she’s rigid yet flexible. Awkward in her romantic relationship she slowly manages to let her walls down. She faces an ongoing battle of balancing her professional and personal life. A smidgen of a romantic storyline adds to Lou’s character as well as to the narrative, helps swallow the challenging elements of Scarlett’s horrific ordeal. Scarlett’s voice is sobering. The inhumanness she experienced, her dysfunctional family will cause you to cringe. Her intimacy with human trafficking is halting, a very realistic glimpse into the harsh reality of this brutal international business.

Haynes takes on the weighty subject matter of human trafficking without exploiting this touchy topic with dramatics. A bread crumb trail harasses the peruser, keeping them on their toes as various players and back story’s make for unexpected and expected twists. Haynes deftly supplies enough details in an honest an appropriate manner to convey the barbarity of this disgusting trade.

Evoking characters, charitable prose combined with a charged narrative produce a fearsome story.

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Purchase Links

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About Elizabeth HaynesElizabeth Haynes

Elizabeth Haynes is a police intelligence analyst, a civilian role that involves determining patterns in offending and criminal behavior. Dark Tide is her second novel; rights to her first, Into the Darkest Corner, have been sold in twenty-five territories. Haynes lives in England in a village near Maidstone, Kent, with her husband and son.

Visit her at, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.


To enter to win a copy of Behind Closed Doors please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 5/8/15

Thrilled to be participating in the tour for Elizabeth Haynes’ Behind Closed Doors, click on the TLC banner to check out the entire tour schedule. Thank you TLC!

Quicksand by Gigi Pandian w/ Giveaway

Author Gigi Pandian

on Tour

April 20-29


A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery

(cozy mystery)

Release date: March 10, 2015
at Henery Press
280 pages

ISBN: 9781941962275

One incredibly smart narrative with highly intelligent characters. I found both narrative and characters quite appealing. The plot has an interactive feeling with undeniably charismatic characters, you try to solve the mystery with them every step of the way. Fabulous historical elements cement the solidity of the storyline.

Sébastien quickly became my favorite, his zest for life, his vibrant personality jumps off the pages. Jaya possesses all the ingredients for a standout female protagonist. I like Lane but I am rooting for Sanjay. Lane’s past seems impossible to escape, truthfully he comes across as insincere in turning over a new leaf, I sense hesitation. Ghosts from his past will manage to track him down and their demands place those in his life at risk. Jaya doesn’t seem the type attracted to bad boys, she’s far too pragmatic, Sanjay’s her best man.

Exciting, fast paced, loads of fun. Very enjoyable sharp mystery.


A thousand-year-old secret room. A sultan’s stolen treasure. A missing French priest. And an invitation to Paris to rekindle an old flame…

Historian Jaya Jones finds herself on the wrong side of the law during an art heist at the Louvre. To redeem herself, she follows clues from an illuminated manuscript that lead from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the quicksand-surrounded fortress of Mont Saint-Michel. With the help of enigmatic Lane Peters and a 90-year-old stage magician, Jaya delves into France’s colonial past in India to clear her name and catch a killer.



 Gigi PandianUSA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian
is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico
and the southern tip of India.
After being dragged around the world during her childhood,
she tried to escape her fate when she left a PhD program for art school.
But adventurous academics wouldn’t stay out of her head.
Thus was born the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series
(Artifact, Pirate Vishnu, and Quicksand).
Gigi’s debut mystery novel was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant
and named a “Best of 2012” Debut Novel by Suspense Magazine.
Her short fiction has been short-listed for Agatha and Macavity awards,
and she also writes the new Accidental Alchemist mystery series.
She takes photos of gargoyles wherever she goes, and posts them on her Gargoyle Girl blog.

Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter

Subscribe to her newsletter

Visit her Gargoyle photography blog:

Buy the book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Itunes | Google Play


You can enter the global giveaway here
or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
they are listed in the entry form below


Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open internationally:
1 winner will receive a print copy of the 3 books in the

Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries Series

plus a beautiful set of recipe cards matching the 3 books!
Yes, you got that right:
1 winner will win the 3 books + recipe cards!



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Orient by Christopher Bollen w/ Giveaway


Print Length: 624 pages
Publisher: Harper (May 5, 2015)

As summer draws to a close, a Small Long Island town is plagued by a series of mysterious deaths— and one young man, a loner taken in by a local, tries to piece together the crimes before his own time runs out.

A literary mystery, heavy on literary with the mystery pulling together the last quarter of the book.

I have never read a novel with such well developed characters. You are privy to personalities, thoughts, psyche. Backgrounds revealed providing comprehensive development. The small close knit town of Orient is fully presented in minute particulars. You’ll feel as if you’re looming above silently absorbing the residents in the private unaccepting community to outsiders as the epic story unleashes.

I have mixed feelings regarding the narrative. I thoroughly enjoyed the literary feel. I had no idea where the story would lead, what characters would be involved, intrigue was plentiful. I vacillated between being utterly absorbed to totally distracted. Parts became long winded and too drawn out. I appreciate details, often abundant details cause disturbances. Clearly more tell than show serving well but tedious at times. Zero predictability, satisfying conclusion.

Mills served as a wonderful main character, and I liked Beth and her personal struggles. They way these two became friends eliminated the sterile feeling which would would have existed if these two didn’t breathe life into Orient and all it holds. Given the number of characters I can’t help but feel a few could have been removed. Luz felt like unnecessary filler in an already jammed packed narrative, her absence would not have been missed. There were moments feeling as if too many cooks were in the kitchen, on the other hand, the mix added plausibility and texture to this esoteric hamlet.

Literary fans will love the burst of mystery Bollen masterfully crafts. A read meant to be enjoyed slowly with its keen details. Quite a little town with plenty of intrigue, inhabitants full of secrets and conniving ideas.

Christopher BollenAbout Christopher Bollen

Christopher Bollen is an editor at large for Interview magazine. He is the author of the novel Lightning People, and his work has appeared in GQ, the New York Times, the Believer, and Artforum, among other publications. He lives in New York.

Find out more about Christopher at his website.


To enter to win a copy of Orient please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 4/28/15

Excited to be included in the tour for Christopher Bollen’s Orient. Be sure to click on the TLC banner to check out the entire tour schedule. Thank you TLC!