Spotlight/US Giveaway: A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison

a small indiscretion

A Small Indiscretion fixes an unflinching eye on the power of desire and the danger of obsession as it unfolds the story of one woman’s reckoning with a youthful mistake.

At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak future in her washed-out hometown for a London winter of drinking to oblivion and yearning for deliverance. Some two decades later, she is married to a good man and settled in San Francisco, with a son and two daughters and a successful career designing artistic interior lights. One June morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, igniting an old longing and setting off a chain of events that rock the foundations of her marriage and threaten to overturn her family’s hard-won happiness.

The novel moves back and forth across time between San Francisco in the present and that distant winter in Europe. The two worlds converge and explode when the adult Annie returns to London seeking answers, her indiscretions come to light, and the phone rings with shocking news about her son. Now Annie must fight to save her family by piecing together the mystery of her past — the fateful collision of liberation and abandon and sexual desire that drew an invisible map of her future.

A Small Indiscretion is a riveting debut novel about a woman’s search for understanding and forgiveness, a taut exploration of a modern marriage, and of love — the kind that destroys, and the kind that redeems.


Author Bio
Jan Ellison is a graduate of Stanford University and San Francisco State University’s MFA Program. She has published award-winning short fiction, and was the recipient of a 2007 O. Henry Prize for her first story to appear in print. Her work has also been shortlisted for The Best American Short Stories and the Pushcart Prize. She lives in Northern California with her husband and their four children. A Small Indiscretion is her first book.

For more information please visit and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter


“This voice is alive. It knows something. It will take us somewhere. The magic is accomplished so fast, so subtly, that most readers hardly notice… A Small Indiscretion is rich with suspense…astonishing … Delectable elements of this terrific first novel abound: Its characters are round and real…Ellison gives us an achingly physical sense of family life … Lovely writing guides us through, driven by a quiet generosity … This voice knows something, and by the end of the novel, so do we.” — San Francisco Chronicle, A&E, by Joan Frank

“The literary equivalent of a day spa: sink in, tune out, turn page, turn page, turn page. Delicious, lazy-day reading…just don’t underestimate the writing.”— Oprah’s Book Club Editor’s Pick, Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, by Leigh Newman

“An engrossing, believable, gracefully written family drama that reveals our past’s bare-knuckle grip on our present.”  — Emma DonoghueNew York Times bestselling author of Room

“A stunning debut by Jan Ellison . . . Like the photograph that arrives in the mail and sets in motion the plot of this gorgeous novel, A Small Indiscretion reminds us of the intensity of youthful desire and of the fragile nature of a marriage built on secrecy.” — Ann PackerNew York Times bestselling author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier

“It might be convenient if our mistakes would fade with time rather than hunt us down complete with consequence, but that wouldn’t make for the kind of taut, hypnotic story Jan Ellison tells. The impact of narrator Annie Black’s ‘small’ indiscretion is anything but, and in a brilliantly paced unraveling, Ellison makes vivid the sometimes tragic interplay of choice and fate, lust and love, youth and adulthood — which can bring its own mistakes. Absorbing, chilling, and moving, A Small Indiscretion is the debut of an elegant writer who will be known and admired from the start.” — Robin Black, author of Life Drawing

“An emotional thriller of the Anita Shreve variety, with revelations that continue and relationships that evolve until the final pages . . . Connoisseurs of domestic suspense will finish this book in a few breathless sittings, then wait eagerly for Ellison’s next trick.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“[A] cleverly constructed debut . . . a deftly crafted, absorbing novel that peels back the layers of Annie’s character as it reveals the secrets of her past and present.”
— Booklist

US Giveaway

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a small indiscretion

Published by Random House
Hardcover: 336 pages
January 20, 2015; $27.00 US/ $32.00 CAN; 9780812995442

Singing to a Bulldog by Anson Williams

  • Singing to a Bulldog (Nov11)Title:  Singing to a Bulldog: From “Happy Days” to Hollywood Director, and the Unlikely Mentor Who Got Me There
  • Author:  Anson Williams
  • Genre:  Memoir
  • Published:  November 2014 – Reader’s Digest
  • Source:  Publicist

My take:  Singing to a Bulldog is a slim memoir that packs a lot of inspiration within the 150+ pages. I remembered Anson Williams from the 70s sitcom Happy Days but hadn’t heard anything about him in recent decades. I don’t watch a lot of tv so I missed all the shows he directed. He’s been a busy guy who realizes how blessed his life has been.

He didn’t start out that way. He had a criticizing father who blamed Anson for all of his own failures. That had to be tough for a kid to live with! What ended up saving Anson was a janitorial job at a California store when he was in his mid-teens. His department boss, Willie Turner, taught him life lessons through brief adages he’d learned in his own life. Willie was an older, alcoholic man who was able to keep his job despite his issues.

In his own way, Willie provided the nurturing that had been missing in Anson’s life. Without realizing it he became Anson’s mentor and Anson listened and used those lessons. What he found out was that Willie knew what he was talking about.

I thought Singing to a Bulldog had a folksy feel to it. It’s chapters are very short (rarely going over five pages). That made it easy to pick up and set down. Each begins and ends with one of Willie’s lessons. The lessons may seem a bit simplistic to some readers but it’s Williams’ memoir and, given he had no parent willing to teach him, the effect of the lessons on his life was huge. It’s not a typical Hollywood memoir although Williams does share a few stories about other stars that all readers will recognize. One thing I found lacking in the book are photos. I would have loved to see a few.

Recommended to fans of the memoir genre, Hollywood memoirs, life advice books.

Click here for a video of the author on Access Hollywood

Author Bio
Best known for his Golden Globe nominated role as Warren “Potsie” Weber on the series Happy Days, Anson Williams is also an award-winning television director and writer as well as a singer and producer. He has directed more than 300 hours of television for a variety of series, including Beverly Hills, 90210, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. He won the prized Humanitas Award for his writing, has been honored by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and served on the board of the USO. Together with business partner JoAnna Connell, he founded StarMaker Products, an international product company. He lives with his wife and five daughters in Los Angeles, California.

Singing To A Bulldog is such a meaningful, fun, and uplifting book. I have such sweet memories of Anson . . . like millions of others, I loved him on “Happy Days.” I am proud to be a little part of this wonderfully written, revealing, informative, and entertaining book. Praise and congratulations to Anson.”
— Dolly Parton

“I’ve always known Anson to be a great storyteller as well as a true and generous friend. Now he’s written the most important story of his life — about Willie Turner, the head janitor at one of Anson’s first jobs, whose words of wisdom guided him through a turbulent time in his life and gave him the confidence to move forward to a successful career as an actor, television director, and entrepreneur. Even better, he’s made it into a truly inspirational book of life lessons for the rest of us.”
— Ron Howard

Spotlight and US Giveaway: Monday, Monday: A Novel by Elizabeth Crook

monday, monday
Monday, Monday: A Novel
By Elizabeth Crook Published by Sarah Crichton Books Hardcover: 352 pages April 29, 2014; $26.00 US/$30.00 CAN; 9781621451457

Description: In this gripping, emotionally charged novel, a tragedy in Texas changes the course of three lives

On an oppressively hot Monday in August of 1966, a student and former marine named Charles Whitman hauled a footlocker of guns to the top of the University of Texas tower and began firing on pedestrians below. Before it was over, sixteen people had been killed and thirty-two wounded. It was the first mass shooting of civilians on a campus in American history.

Monday, Monday follows three students caught up in the massacre: Shelly, who leaves her math class and walks directly into the path of the bullets, and two cousins, Wyatt and Jack, who heroically rush from their classrooms to help the victims. On this searing day, a relationship begins that will eventually entangle these three young people in a forbidden love affair, an illicit pregnancy, and a vow of secrecy that will span forty years. Reunited decades after the tragedy, they will be forced to confront the event that changed their lives and that has silently and persistently ruled the lives of their children.

With electrifying storytelling and the powerful sense of destiny found in Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, and with the epic sweep of Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, Elizabeth Crook’s Monday, Monday explores the ways in which we sustain ourselves and one another when the unthinkable happens. At its core, it is the story of a woman determined to make peace with herself, with the people she loves, and with a history that will not let her go. A humane treatment of a national tragedy, it marks a generous and thrilling new direction for a gifted American writer.


Author Bio Elizabeth Crook, author of Monday, Monday: A Novel, is the author of three novels, The Raven’s Bride, Promised Lands, and The Night Journal. She has written for anthologies and periodicals, including Texas Monthly and the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, and has served on the council of the Texas Institute of Letters. Currently she is a member of the board of directors of the Texas Book Festival. She lives in Austin with her husband and two children.

For more information please visit and follow the author on Facebook.


Reviews: “This rapturous novel starts with one of the most heinous shootings in history, yet every page shines with life. Crook follows three students who endured the tragedy as they grapple with the past, struggle to navigate their futures, and discover that who and what saves us is nothing like what you imagine. Brilliantly realized and so vivid the novel seems to virtually breathe, Monday, Monday is a stunning achievement.” — Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You

“Elizabeth Crook has written an extraordinary novel — an eloquent love story born from an act of random violence, a tale of destruction and redemption. It’s about making a whole life out of a damaged one, and about holding on and letting go. The characters are as real as people you know; their story is subtle, startling, and wise.” — Sarah Bird, author of The Yokota Officers Club and Above the East China Sea

Monday, Monday begins by throwing us into the midst of one of the worst mass murders in American history, a scene painted with such harrowing exactitude that it leaves you wondering how the characters can possibly survive and how the author can possibly sustain such a high level of narrative momentum and emotional insight. And yet Elizabeth Crook pulls it off. This is a brilliant and beautiful book.” — Stephen Harrigan, author of The Gates of the Alamo and Remember Ben Clayton



I have one copy for a lucky reader from the US

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Saving Each Other: A Mother-Daughter Love Story by Victoria Jackson and Ali Guthy

Saving Each Other

  • Title:  Saving Each Other: A Mother-Daughter Love Story
  • Authors:  Victoria Jackson & Ali Guthy
  • Genre:  Memoir
  • Published:  October 2012 – Vanguard Press
  • Source:  Review copy from FSB Associates

(Book flap synopsis) On the surface, Victoria Jackson is the American Dream personified: from a troubled childhood and unfinished high school education she overcame immeasurable odds to create a cosmetics empire valued at more than half a billion dollars. Married to Bill Guthy—self-made principal of infomercial marketing giant Guthy-Renker—Victoria’s most treasured role was mother to three beautiful, beloved children, Evan, Ali, and Jackson.

Suddenly, Victoria’s dream life is broken as she begins to battle a mother’s greatest fear. In 2008, her daughter, Ali, began experiencing unusual symptoms of blurred vision and an ache in her eye. Her test results led to the diagnosis of a disease so rare, the chance that she had it was only 2%. Neuromyeltis Optica (NMO) is a little understood, incurable, and often fatal autoimmune disease that can cause blindness, paralysis, and life-threatening seizures, and afflicts as few as 20,000 people in the world. At the age of 14, Ali was given a terrifying prognosis of between four to six years to live.

Saving Each Other begins just as Victoria and Bill learn of Ali’s disease, starting them on a powerful journey to save Ali, their only daughter, including bringing together a team of more than fifty of the world’s leading experts in autoimmune and
NMO-related diseases to create the Guthy-Jackson Charitable Foundation.

Told in alternating viewpoints, Victoria and Ali narrate their very different journeys of coming to terms with the lack of control that neither mother nor daughter have over NMO, and their pioneering efforts and courage to take their fight to a global level.

Bringing their story to light with raw emotion, humor, warmth, and refreshing candor, Saving Each Other is the extraordinary journey of a mother and daughter who demonstrate how the power of love can transcend our greatest fears, while at the same time battling to find a cure for the incurable.

My take:  As a parent of a child who has an autoimmune disease I was very interested in reading Saving Each Other. I’d never heard of NMO before but now feel I have a general understanding of it. That’s mostly due to the format used by Jackson and Guthy. Written in diary form it was easy to understand their feelings as they were introduced to the disease at the time of Ali’s initial attack. I could relate to their search for medical help that would actually help. I was in awe of how quickly the family started a foundation that would make a cure for NMO it’s focus.

Victoria Jackson was the major force behind making things happen even while fighting anxiety and other issues. Bill Guthy was “the funder”.  And Ali just wanted to be a normal high school kid – play tennis, be with friends, anything but be a poster child for NMO.

As memoirs go I found Saving Each Other fascinating. Yes, the family had means to seek the best treatment for their child but they also shared the knowledge gained through their search. The GJCF (Guthy Jackson Charitable Foundation) continues to work for a cure of NMO.



The Shortest Way Home by Juliette Fay

Title:  The Shortest Way Home

Author:  Juliette Fay

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

Published:  October 2012 – Penguin

Paperback: 416 pages

Synopsis:  Sean has spent twenty years in Third World war zones and natural disaster areas, fully embracing what he’d always felt was his life’s mission. But when burnout sets in, Sean is reluctantly drawn home to Belham, Massachusetts, the setting of Fay’s much-loved Shelter Me. There, he discovers that his steely aunt, overly dramatic sister, and quirky nephew are having a little natural disaster of their own. When he reconnects with a woman from his past, Sean has to wonder if the bonds of love and loyalty might just rewrite his destiny. Completely relatable, The Shortest Way Home is another perfect serving of a slice of life from the irresistible Fay.

My take:  Sean Doran’s back is killing him and he’s feeling burnt out after years of nursing in third world countries. He takes a break and heads home to Belham, Mass. What he finds when he arrives home are family members who need him just as much, if not more, than the people he left in Africa. He also has to face the reason why he left home to begin with: Huntington’s disease – the cause of his mother’s early death. Has he managed to escape it? Will other family members be diagnosed with it? It hangs over him constantly.

Juliette Fay’s characters stole my heart from the first page. I understood Sean’s motivation, his sister Deirdre’s frustration, and his nephew Kevin’s issues. I loved Aunt Vivvy, Cormac the baker, and Rebecca, a former classmate and friend. By the time I finished reading The Shortest Way Home I felt like they were all family members – that’s how real they seemed. Completely relatable – as stated in the synopsis.

It really is a slice of life novel and it left me hoping Juliette Fay will write another “Belham novel” someday soon. I’m going to want an update on all of the Dorans!

Disclosure:  Review copy provided by the publisher. I was not compensated for my review.

Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way To Lose Weight by Harry Papas

Title:  Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way To Lose Weight

Author:  Harry Papas

Genre:  Health/Diets and Weight

Published:  2012 – Turner Publishing Company

About:  (from the book flap) In just one year, Harry Papas gained 110 pounds. Then he lost it all for life. Papas, a certified dietician in Greece, shed the pounds by creating a simple yet revolutionary nutrition plan: a delicious, low-fat Mediterranean diet coupled with the self-awareness he needed to combat the triggers that contributed to his weight gain.

My take:  Harry Papas’ diet plan is very readable and seems extremely easy to follow. It involves a 3 cycle plan with daily menus (and the option to switch out choices). Each cycle lasts twenty-one days and includes a few “free days” that allow one to “enjoy a favorite food at lunch or dinner that is not normally considered a diet choice”.

I’ve marked several recipes to try and have convinced the members of our household to give this plan a try. Papas explains all the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and suggests baby steps in making changes. The food choices all look good to me. I’m a fan of greek yogurt, red wine, olive oil, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains. Toss in a few “free days” and I’m on board!

Papas stresses the need for moderate physical activity. Even a little each day will help with weight loss. He also addresses the  importance of using quality ingredients, eating few or no processed foods, and most importantly (in my opinion):

Remember that you’re human: at some point you may become side-tracked….When it comes to food, no one is ever perfect. You cannot be perfect everywhere and all the time. Just try the best you can.

p. 228 Slimmer

Papas included dozens of recipes. I highlighted one a few weeks ago:  Mediterranean Chickpea Salad. I think anyone interested in losing weight or just eating a healthier diet should look for this book. And I’m serious about giving the plan a try. I’ll update before the end of the year!

Read more about Slimmer here:

You can buy it at most book stores. I noticed yesterday (June 22) the Kindle and Nook editions are $2.99 but I don’t know how long that price will hold.

Source:  FSB Associates

Disclosure:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad recipe and tips from the author of Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight

On June 5th, Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight, will be released for the first time in the US and Canada. Here’s a recipe followed by an excerpt from the book.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
By Harry Papas
Author of Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight

Full of fresh flavor with a hint of spice, not to mention a good amount of healthy fiber, this salad will satisfy any size appetite, just as it has at Maria and Eleni’s Taverna for years!

One 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced
½ small cucumber, seeded and diced
2 Tablespoons diced green bell pepper
1 plum tomato, cored, seeded, and diced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon capers, drained and rinsed
A dash of cayenne pepper
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
A pinch of dried oregano

1. In a medium bowl toss together the chickpeas, scallion, cucumber, bell pepper, tomato, parsley, capers, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl stir together the remaining ingredients and pour over the chickpea mixture. Toss well to coat and allow to marinate, stirring occasionally, for at least 1 hour before serving.

Makes 1 serving

The above is an excerpt from the book Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight by Harry Papas. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2012 Harry Papas, author of Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight

9 Tips to Get to and Maintain Your Ideal Weight
By Harry Papas,
Author of Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight

Consider the following 9-point action plan to get to and maintain your ideal weight:

1. ACKNOWLEDGE the pain: Accept that you’re upset, sad, tired, and frustrated with your current weight and health.

2. Specifically OBSERVE what causes these feelings: Observe the conditions and situations, and the feelings in- side you and around you that contribute to the unhappiness you feel being overweight.

3. THINK and FEEL about the alternative: Imagine what it would be like to rid yourself of these excess pounds and unhappy feelings as you strive towards your own ideal weight.

4. ANALYZE your reasons for losing weight: Think about why you want to become slimmer (to feel better, to look better), and how your life is negatively impacted by remaining overweight. Repeat these analyses constantly.

5. CREATE incentives for losing weight: These are springboards that will give you the drive and power to stick with your weight-loss plan (a vacation, new outfit, or other reward).

6. DECIDE to begin: You’ve made your decision. Express it constantly and happily. Say to yourself, “I can and will get to my ideal weight.”

7. ACT on your commitment: Make a daily effort by going on the SLIMMER nutritional program, drinking more water, and increasing your physical activity.

8. EMPOWER your effort: Emit positive thoughts and energy for success. Feel good about your effort.

9. WITNESS the results: You’ve now lost all your excess pounds, and have achieved your ideal weight. Remember: To maintain your ideal weight forever, you need to perma- nently adopt the good dietary habits of the Slimmer program.

Slimmer is a Life Choice

Getting rid of excess pounds may only be a decision that you’ve made at the beginning, but the reality of shedding those pounds will depend upon your actions and your choices.


Remain devoted to your goal at all times and you will surely succeed. Just about all our life achievements are the result of combining persistence, desire, and focus on what we would like to see happen. This is no different.

And remember to be patient with yourself. Good results come to those who know how to wait and work towards their goals. Believe that you are this type of person and the success of weight loss will be yours.

The above is an excerpt from the book Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight by Harry Papas. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2012 Harry Papas, author of Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight

Author Bio
Harry Papas
, author of Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight, is a leading certified dietician and bestselling author in Greece, specializing in overweight and obesity issues. The founder of one of Greece’s top diet and weight-loss centers located in Athens, Papas created the Slimmer nutrition system to lose weight permanently, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and help others do the same.

For more information please visit and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Gossip by Beth Gutcheon

Title:  Gossip

Author:  Beth Gutcheon

Genre:  Fiction

Published:  March 2012 – William Morrow

About:  (from the publisher) Loviah “Lovie” French owns a small, high-end dress shop on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Renowned for her taste, charm, and discretion, Lovie is the one to whom certain women turn when they need “just the thing” for key life events: baptisms and balls, weddings and funerals. Among those who depend on Lovie’s sage advice are her two best friends since boarding school days: Dinah Wainwright and Avis Metcalf. Despite the love they share for their mutual friend, there has always been a chilly gulf between Dinah and Avis, the result of a perceived slight from decades ago that has unimaginably tragic echoes many years later.

My take:  Three girls met at boarding school in the early 1960s. Loviah “Lovie” French and Dinah Kittredge were on scholarship and Avis Binney was old money. They remained in Manhattan so their paths crossed throughout their lives.

I thought Dinah was the most developed character of the three. I really felt an understanding for her motivation throughout her life. Lovie is the narrator so she tells us about everyone else but very little about herself. I found myself wanting to know why she made one or two major life decisions. Avis, although a nice person, seems rather clueless and emotionally detached.

The story of the three women spans the 1960s to present day. Marriages, children, divorce, money problems – all the stuff of life – are revealed through Lovie’s story. The title works into the characters and plot. One of the woman writes a gossip column, one is telling the story, and more than one is the subject of gossip that may or may not be true.

I read Gossip in a day. I had to see where Lovie’s story was going so I kept reading. In the end, it’s an entertaining novel about the far-reaching effects of gossip on wealthy people who, money aside, are more like you and me than you might imagine.

Source:  FSB Associates

Disclosure:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

♦  ♦  ♦

Beth Gutcheon, author of Gossip, is the critically acclaimed author of eight previous novels: The New Girls, Still Missing, Domestic Pleasures, Saying Grace, Five Fortunes, More Than You Know, Leeway Cottage and Good-bye and Amen. She is the writer of several film scripts, including the Academy Award nominee The Children of Theatre Street. She lives in New York City.

For more information please visit and follow the author on Facebook

So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts

Title:  So Damn Lucky

#3 Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure Series

Author: Deborah Coonts

Genre:  Mystery; Humor; Light Romance

Published:  February 2012 – Forge

My take:  When a magician’s act seems to go tragically wrong Lucky O’Toole, head of customer relations/chief problem solver at the Babylon Resort, feels she must find out what happened since it happened at her hotel. Another disappearance in Lucky’s life is that of her boyfriend Teddie. He’s off to Europe to follow his dream of being a music star. That’s left a void in Lucky’s life but she soon has suitors vying for her attention. Add to the mix the fact that it’s Halloween week in Vegas – let the games begin!

I love it when the third book in a series is even better than the first two. So Damn Lucky is a fun adventure that goes from Las Vegas to Area 51. Oh yeah, there’s also a meet-up of UFO aficionados at The Babylon. They add a lot of color to the plot – and then some!

Fortunately, for Lucky, she has the loyal support of coworkers and friends in solving the mystery and getting through the hectic week. So Damn Lucky is a fast paced and entertaining novel that makes me want to book a flight to Las Vegas (I’ve never been) and visit many of the sites mentioned in the series. Is there really a drive-through wedding chapel?!

So Damn Lucky can be read without reading the first two books in the series but I highly recommend starting with the first: Wanna Get Lucky? Deborah Coonts left me wondering what could possibly come next for Lucky  – at work and in love. I can’t wait to find out!

Source:  FSB Associates

Disclosure:  see sidebar.

Excerpt: So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts

Click here to read Chapter One of

So Damn Lucky (on sale today!)

by Deborah Coonts

Author Bio
Deborah Coonts, 
author of So Damn Lucky, says her mother tells her she was born in Texas a very long time ago, though she’s not totally sure — her mother can’t be trusted. But she was definitely raised in Texas on barbeque, Mexican food and beer. She currently resides in Las Vegas, where family and friends tell her she can’t get into too much trouble. Silly people. Coonts has built her own business, practiced law, flown airplanes, written a humor column for a national magazine, and survived a teenager. She is the author of the Lucky O’Toole Las Vegas adventure series.

Her first book, Wanna Get Lucky?, was released in 2010.

For more information please visit, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

Lucky Stiff by Deborah Coonts

Title:  Lucky Stiff

A Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure

Author:  Deborah Coonts

Published:  February 2011, Forge Books

Genre:  Mystery

About:  (from the book flap) Lucky O’Toole – head of Customer Relations at premier megaresort the Babylon – thinks it’s just another night in Las Vegas. A tractor-trailer has spilled its load of a million honeybees, blocking not only the Strip but the entrance to her hotel. . . . The district attorney for Clark County – apparently the odd man out of a threesome on the twelfth floor – is hiding in the buff in one of the hotel’s laundry rooms. . . . And Numbers Neidermeyer  – one of Vegas’s less-than-savory oddsmakers – is throwing some major attitude at Las Vegas’s ace private investigator, the beautiful Jeremy Whitlock.

The next day, Lucky discovers Ms. Neidermeyer has been tossed into the shark tank at the Mandalay Bay Resort as a snack for the tiger shark.  When the police show up at the Babylon with a hastily prepared search warrant, applied for by the district attorney himself, and Jeremy lands in the hot seat, Lucky realizes her previous night was far from routine. . . .

My take:  If you haven’t read the first book in the series, Wanna Get Lucky?, I recommend you do just to get the full story on several characters. Many of them are back in action in Lucky Stiff  and I was happy to see them again. This time there’s a murder to solve, a wacky scheme for Lucky’s mom to make money, the boxing match of the year at the Babylon as well as a convention of entomologists – Lucky’s life is never dull.

Deborah Coonts described a vibrant Las Vegas. From the pulsing music in the clubs and the sounds of the slots in the casino to the sultry desert air – I felt immersed in the Vegas experience. I also had fun trying to figure out who fed Numbers Neidermeyer to the sharks and how it was done.

Lucky Stiff is an entertaining Vegas romp. Lucky O’Toole is a plucky girl who loves her job, her friends and family, and hopes she’s found her true love in Teddie. I hope she has too and I can’t wait to read more in the Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure series.

Source:  FSB Associates

Disclosure Policy:  see sidebar

Guest Post: by Deborah Coonts

Today I welcome author Deborah Coonts to Bookfan. I read Deborah’s book Wanna Get Lucky? a few months ago and really enjoyed it. Next week I’ll review the second book in the series: Lucky Stiff. I asked Deborah to write about her inspiration for the Lucky series.
♦  ♦  ♦
Inspiration for the Lucky Series: A Sinful Escape
By Deborah Coonts,
Author of Lucky Stiff

When my then fifteen-year-old son suggested a family relocation to Las Vegas, my then husband and I started packing. Okay, maybe we didn’t think it through, but after five years in suburban Maryland we had yet to find our niche, so we were ready for a change. Little did I know, the story I had been looking for was lurking in Sin City. In retrospect, perhaps it should’ve been obvious, but back then I was pretty naive.

With bags packed and good wishes ringing in our ears (The one I remember the best was: You’re going to finish raising a hormonal teenage male in Las Vegas? Are you on drugs? I’m still thankful those ‘friends’ didn’t call Social Services), we packed two cars and a moving van and headed toward the bright lights.

A lot of people say Vegas is an acquired taste — not for me.

Where else outside of maybe New York City can you watch an everchanging cross-section of the world parade past and still go home and sleep in your own bed? Absolute heaven for a storyteller.

However, it is true that everyone sees something different in Vegas.

I see magic.

And this is the Vegas I wanted to write about. The fun stuff. Not bodies buried in the desert. Not mobsters. Not fools losing everything. But the real Vegas. The forty-five million visitors a year — each of whom are on a mission of mischief, the celebrities, the singers, the shows, the amazing shopping — that Vegas.

My Vegas.

Wanna Get Lucky? is the beginning of the story. Of course, the story had to be set in a huge strip casino/resort, and since I’m a storyteller, not a reporter, I created my own — The Babylon. And who better to tell the story than a woman in her early thirties (old enough to know better, but young enough to ignore it) who is the Head of Customer Relations?

On a roll, I wrote the first sentence of the story — I’m big on beginnings — then came to a screeching halt.

Great, forty-three words into the next Great American Novel and I had writer’s block. This was going to be harder than I thought.

That’s when I started hearing voices.

At first, I thought maybe this ought to worry me, but then I remembered an interview with P. D. James. When asked how she came up with her stories, she said something to the effect that she sat in a room with her characters, listened to what they had to say, then wrote it down. I was so there. And, by all accounts, Ms. James did all right. So, if it was good enough for her, it was fine for little ol’ me.

Lucky, my protagonist, was the first character to speak to me. Apparently fed-up with my waffling, she spoke up loud and clear — she told me her name — while I was minding my own business sitting on the porch at the Grand Lake Lodge in Colorado. Vacation interrupts. Two women and one man (my then husband) do not make a great vacation. Of course, if we’d been in Vegas, that would’ve been just an interesting evening . . . or so I’ve been told.

But I digress. Being given my protagonist’s name was a good start, but I was hoping for more. Lucky didn’t disappoint — she introduced me to her friends: The Great Teddie Divine (Las Vegas’ premier female impersonator who is straight and, understandably, has a tough time picking up women), Miss Patterson (Lucky’s plucky assistant and a cougar), the Beautiful Jeremy Whitlock (a private investigator and prime cougar bait), The Big Boss, and Mona (Lucky’s bordelloowning mother).

The whole female impersonator thing sort of opened the door for me. I mean, some of the impersonators in this town are amazing. And then I started wondering . . . well, anyway, I finally ended-up wondering what would a straight guy do if he spent his professional life sheathed in Oscar de la Renta? How would he do with women? Of course, this being my fantasy, I decided he might do all right. Think about it. A man who can speak Jimmy Choo? A man who can help me with make-up (I’m not a girly-girly.) A man who would not only know who Rodgers and Hammerstein were, but who could even hum a few bars of I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair. All this and sex too? Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she? So, Teddie was born.

The cougar thing . . . well, I’m of a certain age — old enough to find that concept interesting. Enough said.

And who wouldn’t wonder what it would be like to have a mother in ‘the business’? This is Vegas after all.

The cast set, I actually had to come up with a story. Porn stars and spouse swappers?

The genesis for the porn star angle was a chapter of a book, Skin City by Jack Sheehan. Jack is a Vegas author and quite wonderful. The vignette he wrote that inspired me was a recitation of his attendance at the real adult film awards held in Vegas each January. I laughed so hard I had tears rolling down my face. So, of course, I had to have porn stars — of my own creation, of course.

And the spouse swappers — that idea came right out of Sixty Minutes.

Put the two together, along with a young woman who falls out of a tour helicopter, landing in the middle of the Pirate Show in front of Treasure Island, add some Vegas magic, and romance . . .

So, do you Wanna Get Lucky?

© 2011 Deborah Coonts, author of The Lucky O’Toole Vegas adventure series

Author Bio
Deborah Coonts, author of Lucky Stiff, says her mother tells her she was born in Texas a very long time ago, though she’s not totally sure — her mother can’t be trusted. But she was definitely raised in Texas on barbeque, Mexican food and beer. She currently resides in Las Vegas, where family and friends tell her she can’t get into too much trouble. Silly people. Coonts has built her own business, practiced law, flown airplanes, written a humor column for a national magazine, and survived a teenager. She is the author of the Lucky O’Toole Las Vegas adventure series.

Her first book, Wanna Get Lucky?, was released in 2010.

For more information please visit, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

♦  ♦  ♦

Thank you, Deborah. I love that Lucky named herself :) I hope she introduces you to many more characters! I can’t wait for her next adventure.

Recipes For Life: My Memories by Linda Evans with Sean Catherine Derek

Title:  Recipes For Life: My Memories

Author:  Linda Evans with Sean Catherine Derek

Genre:  Memoir with recipes

Published:  October 2011 – Vanguard Press

My take:  When I was young one of my favorite television shows was The Big Valley starring Barbara Stanwyck and a young actress named Linda Evans. I thought she was the most beautiful person on tv. So when I was offered a review copy of Recipes For Life I happily accepted. Linda Evans went on to star in one of the biggest shows on television: Dynasty. My children were born during those years so I was too busy/tired to watch the show but I knew it was very popular.

Recipes For Life is filled with Evans’ memories starting with her family’s move to California in the 1940s and moves through the decades to recent years. There are many stories about stars such as Barbara Stanwyck, John Forsythe, and John Wayne (to name a few) who were not only co-stars but also good friends. I enjoyed the numerous color photos scattered throughout the book. Evans also wrote about her love of cooking and included several favorite recipes – hers and those of famous chefs, actors, and other friends.

At times I was surprised by how much Evans disclosed about her marriages and relationships yet she didn’t do it in a negative way. She always seemed to take the good from each one and move on – usually on good terms. I admire her positive approach to life. Hers hasn’t necessarily been easy but she has been blessed with a few wonderful friends who have been as devoted to her as she is to them. And in my book that makes her a fortunate person.

I recommend Recipes For Life  to fans of Hollywood memoirs and cookbooks.

Source:   FSB Associates

♦  ♦  ♦

Linda’s Famed Artichoke Dip
By Linda Evans,
Author of Recipes For Life: My Memories

I’ve been making my artichoke dip for years. Practically everyone who has ever tasted it has asked me for the recipe. It’s perfect for large parties or for smaller, intimate gatherings. Or when your husband’s ex-wife comes to dinner! The secret here is to use the artichoke bottoms, not the hearts. Artichoke hearts may be easier to find, they don’t produce the same results. The recipe easily doubles or triples for large gatherings. You can also replace the artichokes with 7 ounces of lump crab meat for a delicious variation.


1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Tabasco (or more, to taste)
1½ tablespoons thinly sliced scallions (white part only)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (I prefer Parmigiano-Reggiano)
1 (13¾ ounce) can artichoke bottoms (not hearts), drained and finely diced

Preheat oven to 350°F.

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with the mayonnaise. One by one, blend in the Tabasco sauce, scallions, and Parmesan.

Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the artichokes (don’t use the mixer for this).

Spoon the mixture into a 3-cup baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm with crackers.

The above is an excerpt from the book Recipes For Life: My Memories by Linda Evans. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Evans, author of Recipes For Life: My Memories

Weekend Cooking is a meme hosted at Beth Fish Reads

Wanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts

Title:  Wanna Get Lucky?

A Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure

Author:  Deborah Coonts

Genre:  Mystery

My take:  When a woman falls out of a helicopter into a pirate’s lagoon in front of the Treasure Island Hotel the event is captured on video and played on the local news. Lucky O’Toole works as “chief problem solver” at the Babylon Casino/Resort. Actually, she’s head of Customer Relations. How is she involved with the unfortunate demise of the victim? The helicopter is from the Babylon and it looks like someone Lucky knows may be to blame. Talk about a problem that needs to be solved – and fast!

There also seems to be a lot of blackmail going on at the Babylon. Guests found in compromising positions risk certain humiliation if they don’t pay up. Lucky is determined to find the blackmailers. Between her regular duties and the crime-solving she’s left with almost no time for a personal life. In her early thirties, Lucky’s had mostly bad luck in the love department. Two handsome men have been vying for her attention lately but now she has very little time for them.

I enjoyed this mystery. The Vegas setting is entertaining – think racy conventions, a swingers’ meet-up, and a patron who tries to get his room comped via unconventional means. Lucky O’Toole is an interesting heroine. Her unusual background makes her rather unique but she also has strengths and weaknesses that make her as normal as the rest of us.

Deborah Coonts writes with humor and heart – a combination that always works for me. Wanna Get Lucky? is a fast and fun mystery that left me eager to read the next book in the series.

Source:  FSB Associates

Pitch Uncertain: A Mid-Century Middle Daughter Finds Her Voice by Maisie Houghton

Title:  Pitch Uncertain: A Mid-Century Middle Daughter Finds Her Voice

Author:  Maisie Houghton

Genre:  Memoir

About:  (from the book flap) Touching and incisive, Pitch Uncertain is a beautifully drawn account of Maisie Houghton’s struggle to find her own voice as the middle child of two parents whose marriage and lives she slowly decoded as she came of age in the 1950s. Growing up in the gentle ambience of Cambridge, Massachusetts, spending full summers in Dark Harbor, Maine, and regularly visiting her relatives in the socially polished reaches of greater New York, Maisie and her two sisters had the makings of an ideal childhood. But their parents were an enigma.

Pitch Uncertain portrays an era and a genteel culture as much as it deciphers a marriage.

My thoughts:  This is an intriguing memoir of a woman who grew up with parents who, although they lived in the same house, were emotionally estranged. Maisie, the middle daughter, felt responsible for her  mother’s happiness since her father seemed unable or unwilling to care. Both parents were from old money and while they weren’t poor there wasn’t the wealth that had provided for previous generations.

The story of the Kinnicutt family goes from New York to Florida to Cambridge to Maine. Maisie’s memories are of summers in Maine, school years in Massachusetts, and travels abroad. There’s an underlying feeling of discontent among all the family members and that seems to stem from the unhappy parents.

I found this memoir interesting and ultimately enjoyable – Maisie Houghton tells a good story! I also appreciated the numerous photos scattered throughout the book. I’d love to read about Maisie Houghton’s life after the Pitch Uncertain years.

Recommend?  Yes.

Source:  FSB Associates

Spotlight on Pitch Uncertain by Maisie Houghton

Pitch Uncertain
By Maisie Houghton,
Author of Pitch Uncertain: A Mid-Century Middle Daughter Finds Her Voice

I was born in 1940, a bad time for the world, but I never did anything bad until the day I cut off my hair and left it on the floor for my mother to find, a bright, hot pool of yellow curls.

I was four. It was wartime and we were living in a rented house in Winter Park, Florida. My father, an officer in the navy, had recently been stationed there. My mother and I, along with Sybil, my older sister by two years, and Elizabeth, “Tizzy,” a new baby of two months, had moved from New York City to be near him.

Florida, despite all its palm trees and relentless sunlight, seemed dark to me — the people and the houses. Unaccustomed to southern heat, my mother kept the old, verandaed house heavily shaded. The blinds were always down, the curtains drawn. Someone was always taking a nap, my mother, my father (but not together), the amorphous baby. Sybil and I tiptoed around the closed doors, but when we went outside the glittering light hurt our eyes.

In the kitchen was Lily Mae, the black maid. Marion Skillon, a trained nurse from Naples, Maine, was also there. Uncertain in a new land, my mother had persuaded Marion to make the long journey south. Marion, all starched whiteness and squeaking rubber-soled shoes, stuck to the new baby upstairs. Lily Mae ironed endless rivers of laundry and passed dead-looking platters of food in the shadowy dining room.

My father was almost never there. When he did appear, it was often with a swirl of laughing young pilots in uniform. They brought us shells from the beach that we never visited. They set us on their knees, putting down their drinks to balance us on their laps.

The afternoon I rebelled, my mother was a long while on the telephone. She wasn’t the type to chatter on. She served as a sounding board to solve other people’s problems. My mother had been called to the telephone during a rare treat: We had been having lunch alone together. Her low voice burred on as she twisted the cord in her hand. What was she saying? To whom was she speaking?

I slipped away from the dining room table, wandering sulkily through the muted rooms. On my mother’s desk a pair of scissors gleamed. Long and sleek, they were grown ups’ scissors, not the stubby, disappointingly blunt ones we used for paper dolls. I ran my hand over my head. My hair was the one thing about me that was different. In everything else I matched my sister — our seersucker dresses, our red sandals, our black eyes. But Sybil had two brown pigtails while I still had a baby’s fuzz of buttery curls. I thought about Marion Skillon in the mornings, twisting my hair into ringlets, wrestling the ribbon to the top of my head. “There now, aren’t you sweet? Now go and be good.”

Suddenly it was easy to pick up the slender weapon and start to cut. One tentative snip and then I was possessed with the necessity to act and be done with my boldness. My curls fell away like skin being shed by a snake. It went so fast I hardly knew what I was doing. I crept back to the kitchen to face Lily Mae. She stared silently. “Your mama be upset,” she said, shaking her head as she moved through the swinging door with a stack of freshly ironed shirts. A little panic seized me, but, almost gleefully, I hurried to stand defiantly before my mother. She was still sitting, unspeaking, by the telephone. She seemed unmoved. “Heavens, what did you do that for? It will take forever to grow out.” Marion peered at me over the banister railing. “You’ve lost your looks,” she sniffed.

My mother guided me toward the dining room. “We must finish lunch,” she murmured, rousing herself. The table looked half-ravaged, like my hair, with crumpled napkins and tired lettuce on the plates. I started to weep at the enormity of what I had done. Fat tears fell on my grilled cheese sandwich. “Don’t fuss, darling,” consoled my mother distractedly. She wasn’t even looking at me.

There was an unspoken lesson in that afternoon. My mother should have been angry but instead she held her tongue. Was it at that point that I learned to guard the peace, to mind my manners, to keep my mouth shut?


The above is an excerpt from the book Pitch Uncertain: A Mid-Century Middle Daughter Finds Her Voice by Maisie Houghton. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2011 Maisie Houghton, author of Pitch Uncertain: A Mid-Century Middle Daughter Finds Her Voice

Author Bio
Maisie Houghton
, author of Pitch Uncertain: A Mid-Century Middle Daughter Finds Her Voice, was born in New York City, grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the fifties and graduated from Radcliffe College in 1962. With her husband, she has lived in Corning, New York, for over forty years. Pitch Uncertain is her first book.

For more information please visit TidePool Press

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider

Title: Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living

Author: Tsh Oxenreider

Genre: Home Organization

About: (Back of book) Simplicity isn’t about what you give up.  It’s about what you gain.  When you remove the things that don’t matter to you, you are free to focus on only the things that are meaningful to you.  Imagine your home, your time, your finances, and your belongings all filling you with positive energy and helping you achieve your dreams.  It can happen, and Organized Simplicity can show you how.

Inside you’ll find:

  • A simple, ten-day plan that shows you step by step how to organize every room in your home
  • Ideas for creating a family purpose statement to help you identify what to keep and what to remove from your life
  • Templates for a home management notebook to help you effectively and efficiently take care of daily, weekly and monthly tasks
  • Recipes for non-toxic household cleaners and natural toiletry items including toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo

Start living a more organized, intentional life today.

My thoughts: Tsh Oxenreider’s handy book is in an easy to read/understand format.  I love the spiral binding, the colors used to highlight important passages, and the lists (suggestions and specifics) that will make simplifying your life that much easier.  That is not to say this will be an easy process. In order to achieve the goal, it will take dedication, determination, and even elbow grease from every member of the family.  The author shares how she and her family have accomplished their goals which makes it seem like something anyone can do.

I wish I’d had this book when my family was young.  There are some very important concepts that, if stressed early on, would make living clutter-free a normal way of life.  My husband and I will have no problem following the suggestions.  I appreciate that the author points out you don’t have to go off the Grid to live simply.  You just need to rethink what are the necessities in your life.

Ms. Oxenreider states in her introduction:

My deepest wish is that this book changes your perspective on life at home.  It’s written as a jump start to get you started on a newfound road toward a simpler life, one many home managers have traveled in previous generations.

I think her book will do just that if you are willing to follow her advice.

Recommend? Yes, if you’re motivated I’m certain you’ll get the desired results.

Source: FSB Associates

Attention Aspiring Novelists!

Evan Marshall and Martha Jewett, creators of The Marshall Plan ® Novel Writing Software and Ebooks are hosting a fiction makeover contest for aspiring novelists in honor of National Novel Writing Month.

Simply click here for more information.  Entrants must not have published a novel with a major commercial publisher.


Evan Marshall is an internationally recognized expert on fiction writing and author of the “Hidden Manhattan” and “Jane Stuart and Winky” mystery series. A former book editor, for 27 years he has been a leading literary agent specializing in fiction. His Marshall Plan® Novel Writing Software, written with Martha Jewett, is an adaptation of his bestselling Marshall Plan® series.

Martha Jewett is an internationally recognized expert on business books. A former award-winning business book editor at McGraw-Hill, John Wiley & Sons, and HarperBusiness, she is currently a literary agent and editorial consultant specializing in business books. An avid memoirist, she blogs at She co-created with Evan Marshall The Marshall Plan® Novel Writing Software, an adaptation of the bestselling Marshall Plan® series.