Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A (BELATED) What Am I Reading Wednesday (1/31/2017)

Well, here we are. A What Am I Reading Wednesday on a Thurs...I mean Fri...Maybe I can get it done on Sat...or Sun...er...Well, shit. I guess it's the next Tuesday.

I won't lie, the last week was a little rough, but ultimately I have no excuses. So, let's shake it off and keep moving! 

I had a feeling even with the clue I gave everyone that it would still be pretty difficult to guess today's book, so I won't keep you in suspense any longer.

Today's book is:

Title: Nighttime Is My Time

Author: Mary Higgins Clark

First Reading: Yes - I actually won the book at an author event earlier this month!

Initial Impression: Holy crap, there's an entire hotel full of suspects.

Final Thoughts:  If there was a required game of "Guess the Killer" along with this novel, I would have lost.

(Source: www.goodreads.com)

In classic Mary Higgins Clark fashion, 'Nighttime Is My Time' opens with our protagonist, Jean Sheridan, arriving for her twenty-year class reunion at the prestigious Stonecroft Academy (a fictional stepping-stone school to West Point Academy). In addition to the usual awkward encounters with her former classmates, Jean also has to deal with a series of cryptic messages sent to her by someone who is also at the reunion, and out for revenge on certain classmates.

Normally I like to think I'm pretty good at the "Guess the Killer" game, but this one really threw me for a loop. I think it was a combination of the story itself, with the fact that everyone in the entire hotel hosting the reunion was a suspect. I will say, I wasn't a fan of the initial contact method the killer used to contact Jean. Most likely because the reader doesn't actually see it happen, we hear about it later on as a "memory" after she arrives at the hotel and that made it harder to visualize. Other than that, it was a gripping, beat-the-clock style mystery.  

And now, for the promised story of how I received a signed copy of Mary Higgins Clark's memoirs, also known as, "My Episode of Six Degrees of Separation".

As a middle and high school student, Mary Higgins Clark was one of my favorite authors. I was especially fond of her earlier novels, full of older references that were fascinating to me for some reason. It seemed so exciting to have to race to a payphone to make an important call, instead of having a car phone (yes, my dad had one at the time) or cell phone at your fingertips.

This love for MHC, and my mom's penchant for unique gifts, set in motion an instance of "Six Degrees of Separation" that I never would have expected.

Let's count together:

My mom (1), had a coworker (2) whose son (3) moved to New York to study acting. In the course of his studies and auditions, the son met a publicist (4) who was friends with a book editor (5), and this editor at the time was working with...Mary Higgins Clark (6)!

How wild is that? Whether or not the whole six degrees theory really does apply to everyone, it happened to work out this time, and I received a signed copy of 'Kitchen Privileges' for my sixteenth birthday!

So, what is everyone else reading on this fine Tuesday? Have you ever read any MHC books, or are they not your cup of tea? Let me know!

**Disclaimer: The "What Am I Reading Wednesday" posts are my personal opinion and not to be taken as "professional" literary reviews. I just love to share books I've enjoyed!**

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Taking a Moment to Remember Mary Tyler Moore

Good Evening Friends,

Today's What Am I Reading Wednesday post has been moved to tomorrow. Instead, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of the incredible Mary Tyler Moore, who left us today at age 80.

Source: http://secondnexus.com/arts-and-culture/mary-tyler-moore-television-icon-dead-80/

As a kid I was obsessed with the Dick Van Dyke show, then discovered the Mary Tyler Moore Show as a teenager (I'm pretty sure I was the only 16 year-old at my high school who owned all seven seasons on DVD), and that was it. Mary Tyler Moore was my role model.

She was funny, joyful, unafraid to laugh at herself, and took on a role that portrayed her as a "career woman" at a time when women were still finding their way into the business world. When I would pick out an outfit for an interview, or a meeting with new coworkers, one of my first thoughts was always: "What would Mary Richards (Moore's character on her namesake show) wear?"

If you're unfamiliar with Mary Tyler Moore's life and career, you can find some excellent information in this article by The New York Times, one of the many memorials that I'm sure will be written about her this week.

Now, I have to share my favorite scene from the Dick Van Dyke Show, where Laura (Mary) shows off her singing and dancing skills:

And who could forget one of the funniest moments from the Mary Tyler Moore Show? The infamous Ugly Green Dress!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

BONUS POST: 2017 Reading List Update

Five more books for the 2017 TBR List!

And two posts in two days? I'm on a roll!

- Say No More, by Hank Phillipi Ryan (This is Ryan's fifth Jane Ryland novel. I featured "What You See", the preceding book in the series, last year on a What Am I Reading Wednesday.)

- Putting Your Passion Into Print, by Arielle Eckstut & David Henry Sterry (Very excited to read this book! If anyone is interested in a more in-depth review of this one, just let me know.)

- His Majesty's Dragon, by Naomi Novik (The Napoleonic Wars + Dragons *mic drop*)

- The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, by Stephen King (Another one that's been in the TBR pile for way too long! I want to at least get the first one in the series read before the movie comes out in July, 2017.)

- The Girl Before, by JP Delaney (Yes, I know it's supposedly a "Gone-Girl-On-The-Train" novel, and I just can't help myself. Also, I'm now given to understand that 'JP Delaney' might be a pseudonym for another author. Hmm...)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Sneak Peek + A Housekeeping Note + A New Jenna Mo Video!

Today we're going to do something a little different.

There is no possible way for me to give you a "sneak peek" of next week's What Am I Reading Wednesday book without giving the whole thing away. So, I'm going to give you a clue from the novel instead!


Your  clue is: A pewter owl.

Giving credit where credit is due, I believe this little guy is for sale on Amazon:

Now, I realize this makes it MUCH harder to guess the novel than if you had a snippet of the book cover, so I'll throw this in as well: The book is of the mystery/suspense variety, and if anyone is able to guess the novel before next Wednesday's post, I will send you a copy of the book as a prize!

If you were with me when I got the book a couple weeks ago (you know who you are) please give everyone else a chance to guess!

On to our housekeeping note:

As my returning readers know, I always start my What Am I Reading posts with my first impressions of each book. Recently, I was asked if I'd considered giving my final impressions as well once I'd finished. Is this something others would like to see? I know I typically post the books as I'm reading them, however, I'd be willing to either a) Include a follow-up post once I've finished the book, or b) Wait until I've finished reading the whole thing before making it a What Am I Reading book.


And last, but not least, I wanted to share with everyone the latest writing video from Jenna Moreci!

I've featured Jenna here on The Writing Desk before, both as an author and as a writing resource. I highly recommend her YouTube channel for writing advice, (Some language NSFW if that's something you have to worry about, just use your headphones. You were warned.) as well as her experiences in self-publishing/marketing her work.

Her most recent video was especially helpful for me as I'm getting back into my writing groove and preparing for my first short-story publication, so I thought I'd share it here.


Monday, January 16, 2017

2017 Reading List (Update 1/16/2017)

And the list keeps on growing!

I've decided to post an update for every five books added to my 2017 TBR List, and here's the first batch:

- The Duke Can Go to the Devil, by Erin Knightley (I've read several of Erin's novels, all set in the Regency England era, and she is an amazing story teller! Plus, I kind of want that dress the heroine is wearing...)

- Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott (One of those books I'd always planned to read, but hadn't gotten around to it until a good friend of mine gave me a copy.)

- On Writing, by Stephen King (Need I say more?)

- Nighttime Is My Time, by Mary Higgins Clark (There's a pretty interesting story of how I ended up with a signed copy of Mary Higgins Clark's memiors...which I'll share when this book is featured on a What Am I Reading Wednesday!)

- The Hook, by Donald E. Westlake (This is actually another re-read and one of my favorite thrillers! Donald E. Westlake was one of the world's most prolific crime writers, with dozens upon dozens of published works under several pseudonyms.)

There we are! This brings the total to 15, and it's still only January...I've got a lot of reading to do already. No complaints here!

Has anyone else started on their TBR list for this year? What books are you most excited to read?

Friday, January 13, 2017

BONUS POST: "What ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘The Girl on the Train’ have wrought" (The Washington Post)

I thought I'd share an article posted recently to author Art Taylor's Facebook page. (Art is a fantastic short story writer, you can find out more about him on his website!)

This is a topic I've covered before here on The Writing Desk, the phenomenon of the "Gone Girl" style of suspense novel and how it has affected any following novels that happen to resemble it, whether by a little or a lot.

Creepy stare
creepy stare!

This article by "Everything You Want Me To Be," by Mindy Mejia, “The Girl Before,” by JP Delaney, and “Her Every Fear,” by Peter Swanson. 

For me the key question in this article, which I'd love to hear your opinions on, is: What is it about these particular stories that has made them so popular in recent years? Or, alternatively, have we reached our limit of "Gone-Girl-on-a-Train" style thrillers and their broken-doll femme fatales, or is there still room for more?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Dinner Party Show - #TDPS2pointOMG!

Quick announcement!

As I mentioned when The Dinner Party Show podcast was featured here on the blog as a Writing Resource, the hosts of the show (Christopher Rice and Eric Shaw Quinn) were in the process of transitioning from audio-only to a new video format.

Well, the new "#TDPS2pointOMG" is officially here!

Source: http://thedinnerpartyshow.com/

The new show actually launched a few months ago, I just hadn't announced it on The Writing Desk yet...bad Courtney!

The point is, the new show format is here, and it's fantastic, and holy shit Jordan Ampersand has been made into a puppet! You can tune in to the show on the TDPS official website or on their Youtube channel


The #TDPS2pointOMG Launch Video!

Housekeeping Note:
It was brought to my attention that the settings on blogger were keeping people from leaving post comments. I've reset the settings, so please let me know if anyone has any trouble going forward.

I'm hoping to have a new 'What Am I Reading Wednesday' post for next week! How did everyone feel about the "sneak peek" that was posted about last week's book? Let me know!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

2017 Reading List (Ongoing)

I know I promised a "To Be Read" list, and I shall not disappoint! This list is ongoing, so I'll be sure to update as new books are added. I'm always open to recommendations, so please feel free to comment below with any suggestions!

For the sake of brevity, I'm only going to include the first ten books on my list so far. You'll notice right away that not all of these novels are recently published, there's even one tucked in there that I've read before but always enjoy reading again. There are so many new novels published each year, whether through traditional, indie, or self-publishing, that I'm probably always going to be a bit behind.

But, you know, I don't mind at all.

And now may I present, in no particular order, The Writing Desk 2017 TBR List:

- Killing Lincoln, by Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard (Almost done with this one! It even made an appearance on last week's What Am I Reading Wednesday.)  

- The Snow Garden, by Christopher Rice (After reading both of Rice's supernatural thrillers last year, I'm looking forward to starting on his list of crime and suspense novels.)    

- American Gods, by Neil Gaiman (Because I always end up reading at least part of this book every year, plus the TV show produced by Starz is starting soon!)

- Prince Lestat, by Anne Rice (So excited to dive back into the Vampire Chronicles!)

- Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, by Anne Rice (And another one!)

- Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (Because, Hercule Poirot. Also, I've just learned this is being released as a movie this year!)

- The Circle, by Dave Eggers (Yet another book coming to theaters this year, starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks.)

- Long Upon the Land, by Margaret Maron (I had the absolute honor of meeting Ms. Maron at
Bouchercon 2015!)

- Live by Night, by Dennis Lehane (I'm a sucker for a good mobster story. On an unrelated note, I don't know how on earth I'm going to keep ahead of all the books becoming movies this year.)

- Mrs. Kennedy, by Barbara Leaming (I read Leaming's biography of Marilyn Monroe several years ago, and it was absolutely amazing! I'm expecting big things from her book on Jackie Kennedy.)

There we have it, the first ten books on my 2017 TBR list! What books are you excited to read this year?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What Am I Reading Wednesday (1/4/2017)

It's time for the first What Am I Reading post of the new year!

For those who saw the Sneak Peek from my last post, did you guess which book we'll be talking about today? Did you? Did you?

If you did, great job!

Title: Killing Lincoln

Authors: Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard

First Reading: Yes!

Initial Impression: Wow, I actually remember some of this from my high school history class. Go me!

Like many readers, I go through phases where I'll stick to the same genre(s) for a long period of time before switching to something else. Having said that, it's been a quite a while since I've read a good nonfiction/historical book, and 'Killing Lincoln' has been on my TBR list for a couple of years now.

It takes so long to work through the TBR list! I'm sure you all know the feeling.

Even though I already know the facts of Abraham Lincoln's death, it's another thing entirely to read it as a "story" versus how the information was presented in a history class. I'm about a third of the way through the book now, and am really enjoying the educational information sprinkled throughout. It's definitely not the information-dump I've seen in some historic novels.

I've chosen to not do an author profile on this one, I think most have heard of Bill O'Reilly in one capacity or another. The purpose of this post is to evaluate his work as a writer, and so far he's done an excellent job collaborating with author Martin Dugard to bring one of the most significant events of U.S. history into an intriguing narrative.  

If anyone is interested in learning more about co-author Martin Dugard, his bio and other published novels can be found on his website. Some of Dugard's works include two additional historic narratives co-written with O'Reilly, 'Killing Kennedy' and 'Killing Jesus', as well as 'Murdering King Tut' with James Patterson.

While researching for this post, I realized 'Killing Lincoln' was also made into a film by the National Geographic Channel in 2013, and it was narrated by Tom Hanks! How did I miss that?

Looks like I know what I'll be watching as soon as I finish the book!

**Disclaimer: The "What Am I Reading Wednesday" posts are my personal opinion and not to be taken as "professional" literary reviews. I just love to share books I've enjoyed!**

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year! + Sneak Peek + 2017 Reads


2017 is officially here! I hope everyone had a fantastic (and safe) New Years Eve. We had a pretty mild evening, counting down the clock at home with the pups (and wishing our neighbors would at least wait until midnight to start setting off fireworks). 

I've got a few new  ideas for The Writing Desk this year, the first of which we'll be trying out today! How about a little "sneak peek" of the first What Am I Reading Wednesday novel for 2017? 


First Sneak Peek of the new year!

Can you guess which book this cover snippet is from? I've been wanting to read it for a while now, so making it my first read of 2017 seemed like the perfect opportunity. If anyone is a fan of the Sneak Peek idea, let me know and we'll make them a regular part of the blog. 

What books do you want to read in 2017? I'll be putting out a TBR list soon for anyone who's interested!