Tag Archives: On the Island

The Year of Blogging Dangerously – Beta Reading, Ranting and Reviewing

On this date in 2013, an innocuous blog was created Penny Dreadful Book Reviews. At the time, a fact that was significant probably only to a handful of people, if that, hopefully there are more of you now. A few days after I wrote my first post I clearly remember casually mentioning to my husband that I had started a blog and he asked me how many followers I had when I told him proudly that there were four. He laughed and then proceeded to list my three closest friends. He was right but missed my childhood neighbor albeit that was a curve-ball after all since they had never met. In retrospect it might sound more auspicious if I said I lost a bet or something, but truly the reason I started this blog seemed arbitrary at the time.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, however aren’t we all guilty of this particular crime? I have been taken in countless times by gorgeous covers and then found the substance within sorely lacking. Typically I chalk it up to “you win some, you lose some,” today being the first anniversary of my blog’s creation I was reflecting on how I came to start it in the first place. Somewhat ironically it was a case of as Wiki states prejudging the worth or value of something by its outward appearance alone that led me to this place.

Throughout my teens and even into my early twenties I entertained dreams of becoming a writer when I “grew up”,

I know, I know. Who didn’t?

But I was the one in English class who was regularly told that I was one of the best (in more than one school I might add) and as I write that sentence it occurred to me that that was out of thirty some odd students and that I may not have been truly very special at all! Give me a moment …that is a hard pill to swallow. Regardless, I have taken writing courses and know my way around a sentence BUT I later realized to my chagrin that I really had no stories to tell still don’t. Like Cartman, I maturely decided to go home, I was content to quietly lose myself in the work of others or so I thought.

I can be standoffish, to be honest I am not sure why. Unlike most babies perhaps I just never got past the “stranger danger” stage, however once I have finished eyeing you mistrustfully and decided that you pose no real threat good luck shutting me up. I met Auralee Wallace at work, against my will, I would like to state for the record. A friend, who completely unlike myself never met a stranger, was having a long drawn out conversation with her while I lurked in the background wondering when we could return to our regularly scheduled programming. Then the unthinkable happened she transferred into our department, I should preface this somewhat so you don’t think I am a complete bitch. Auralee is one of those elegantly beautiful blondes, and my past dealings with the beautiful people had left me with a healthy mistrust of their ilk. But as I am sure you have already guessed, she was the exception to the rule, a blonde who was not only gorgeous but smart too. Admit it you would have hated her as well! Worst of all she’s nice and despite my best efforts I grew to adore her.

During the decade and a half that I have known her, she completed her masters, taught college English and has written four manuscripts. Quite without realizing it I have been beta reading for a number of years and unofficially reviewing for longer. We have had some very satisfying discourse on the implications of geriatric pregnancies on Bold & the Beautiful, my love hate relationship with New Adult literature and the strange appeal of erotica just to name a few. In between these often bizarre discussions she would cleverly dole out Sidekick in bite sized pieces wanting to know what I thought. I would gobble up these offerings demanding more and tactfully sometimes more so than others, pointing out things that I liked and very carefully, authors are SENSITIVE, things that I didn’t.

She, unlike myself was not content to take her toys and return to more hospitable climbs that are not littered with rejections from agents and as of this time last year she “was”, take note that is significant, was unpublished and having heard just about all that I ever wanted to on the subject. I decided the solution was ridiculously easy.

  1. Start a blog
  2. Get noticed
  3. Share my opinion on what I read in the meantime
  4. And get her published already duh!

Well perhaps promoting Sidekick was not my sole focus but it was definitely a motivating factor. I am a fixer at heart after all, and though I may have an inflated sense of my own self worth I would like to think I helped somewhat. At the time Auralee assured me if her seventy three year old father could manage a blog that I could. It was significantly more difficult than anticipated but I completed my first post shortly thereafter (read a few frustrating Friday nights later), a short 4-Star review of Tracey Garvis GravesOn the Island was the result, the rights of which have been sold to MGM for a screen adaptation. Now there is a movie I will look forward to.

Before I knew it, it was almost as if the blog became its own entity complete with Facebook and Twitter pages both of which I largely eschew in my personal life. I quickly learned that I was a tiny minnow (possibly only plankton) in a vast ocean and that the day I posted for the first time was not as ground breaking for everyone as it was for me. However times change and while I am no Great White as yet in the vast book sea that I have declared my home, I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and the chance to pick their brains about their amazing stories. I have read some brilliant work that I would never have gotten the opportunity to read and for that I must be thankful that Auralee came up with such a ingenious suggestion. Best of all the wise people at Escape Publishing saw what I smugly identified years ago and are releasing Sidekick June 1st for you all to enjoy.


How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” ― Dr. Seuss



Dreadful Retrospective – Best of 2013

The Best of 2013…


Not all of the following were published in 2013, but here is a sampling of thirteen of the best I read and reviewed this past year.

Wallbanger by Alice Clayton is in a word FUN. When we meet Caroline she has just moved into a lovely sublet in San Francisco and everything seems perfect until the first night. The title really says it all, poor Caroline, who has misplaced her “o”, the “O” for those of us who require further elaboration, is an involuntary auditory spectator to her neighbors sexual antics adding insult to injury considering her “o-less” state.

on-the-island-cover1I absolutely devoured this book, I read it at every opportunity that being said Tracey Garvis GravesOn the Island isn’t for everyone. The relationship that develops between Anna and T.J. is contentious both within and without the book. The question is, what would make a romantic relationship between a woman in her third decade and a much younger man okay? If On the Island was an idealized version of the romance between a teen-aged boy and a woman in her third decade A Much Younger Man by Dianne Highbridge is the real story. If you have trouble choosing just read both. flat-out_love_-_jessica_park

Julie of Jessica Park‘s Flat Out Love has just found out first hand why you should never rent an apartment through Craig’s List. When she arrives in Boston ready to commence her college career instead of the 1-bedroom walk up agreed upon she finds a burrito stand instead. This might not be catastrophic under other circumstances but in a college town in August… This deceptively intricate multi-layered novel is not one to be missed. After you have finished it, NOT BEFORE, read the companion novel Flat Out Matt, a selection of chapters from Flat Out Love from his POV.


Here is a short list of places I am now scared to go, thanks to reading Karina Halle’s Experiment in Terror series: lighthouses, the New Mexican desert, old hotels…wait no, that was because of The Shining but I am sure if I wasn’t already afraid, I would be after reading The Benson. I suppose things could be worse and I could be afraid to go into my own basement as Stephen King is purported to be? Seriously, this series uniquely combines horror and romance something that is sadly very rare, download the first here it’s free! Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror #1)

Ghost-Planet-MM_final-with-blurb_2Elizabeth Cole is dead, she just doesn’t know it yet. How would you react if faced with an exact living breathing sentient replica of a significant, if not beloved person from your past… who also happens to be dead? Ghost Planet combines exquisitely, a poignantly emotional romance and a compelling science fiction story, Sharon Lynn Fisher hit it out of the park with this debut.

In Dear Adam, Ava Zavora‘s Eden receives a random tweet complimenting her review of the most recent novel of one of her favorite author’s. Truly there is no surer way to a blogger’s heart, and so begins a series of exchanges with the mysterious, intellectual Adam, her long lost book twin.

COVER-Isnt-She-LovelyLauren Layne’s Isn’t She Lovely was that perfect combination of irreverent and serious. If this book was a dessert I would have to compare it to key lime pie that perfect blend of sweet without crossing the dreaded line into saccharine but with just enough tang to keep things interesting. I am not always a fan of New Adult literature but I would defy anyone to read Lauren Layne’s take on Pygmalion and not be converted.

RWRealm Walker is a chimera of all the best aspects of the paranormal genre. Kathleen Collins’ has skillfully reinvented the classic paranormal paradigm with the mysterious hard boiled investigator type with just enough femininity as to be a convincing romantic heroine and the autocratic yet emotionally vulnerable vampire who loves her in a dark world full of monsters and the result is a fresh and entertaining read.

MadScientistsDaughter-144dpiEvery once and a while there is that perfect inexplicable union of words that creates that perfect bibliophilic high. Cassandra Rose Clarke‘s The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is for me one of those coveted works. Honestly, how can you miss with “A Tale of Love, Loss and Robots“?

This may sound like an oxymoron but if you are looking for an intelligent “bodice ripper” though I highly doubt The Ideal Gentleman would ever be so crass, look no farther than Sherry Thomas‘ work. All of which are favorites of mine, in particular her latest offering The Luckiest Lady in London.

The Husband's Secret

Last but not least by any means is The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, cleverly disguised as women’s fiction what I found instead was a terrifyingly real psychological thriller for lack of a better classification, there is none of the typical earmarks of the genre yet it is a deeply disquieting read.

This is just a few of the many stories I read and enjoyed so very much this year and I hope that if you have not read some or all of them that you will read and like them as much as I did.

Happy New Year – Penny Dreadful Books and Reviews

Danger! Will Robinson, Covet – Tracey Garvis Graves

What if the life you wanted, and the woman you fell in love with, belonged to someone else?


Let me say before I continue with my review that I find adultery and infidelity personally abhorrent but as I read Covet, the circumstances that Claire and Daniel find themselves in are all too plausible. In fact, I began to ponder the question simple as it may seem, what is worse an emotional or physical affair? It’s a slippery slope from one seemingly innocent step to the next.

coverChris and Claire Canton’s marriage is on life support. Downsized during the recession and out of work for a year, Chris copes by retreating to a dark place where no one can reach him, not even Claire. When he’s offered a position that will keep him away from home four nights a week, he dismisses Claire’s concern that time apart could be the one thing their fragile union can’t weather. 

Local police officer Daniel Rush used to have it all, but now he goes home to an empty house every night. When Claire is hired to do some graphic design work for the police department, her friendship with Daniel grows, and soon they’re spending hours together.

I read and loved Tracey Garvis Graves bestselling novel On the Island. I found the subject matter compelling, even if I did feel that ultimately she pulled her punch in having Anna and T.J. quite unrealistically wait literally years to consummate their union, seemingly until it was more socially acceptable considering the vast age difference between the characters. Then after reading Uncharted I suspected that Garvis Graves success was a perfect example of the one hit wonder, although it was a reasonably entertaining story the purpose seemed lacking other than an opportunity to revisit Anna and T.J.

However, Covet convinced me that Tracey Garvis Graves is a talented storyteller capable of capturing and holding the readers interest in a challenging and competitive marketplace. I only had one issue with Covet, but it was a significant one. The author clearly wishes to depict controversial subject matter in her work for which I applaud her. Nonetheless I believe that her stories would transcend from entertaining albeit somewhat trite novels to something truly remarkable if she would only have her characters take that next step to that place that is not so easily defended and perhaps not quite as morally acceptable.

AUTHOR: Tracey Garvis Graves

RATING: 3 1/2 Stars

GENRE: Contemporary Women’s Fiction


Uncharted – Tracey Garvis Graves

One of the many uninhabited islands of the Mal...

It seemed unkind to title this post “Poor Little Rich Boy“, which was my first instinct upon reading Uncharted. Tracey Garvis Graves’ sophomore offering Uncharted: An On the Island Novella answers some of the remaining questions about who exactly lived On the Island before Anna and T.J. were marooned there. Owen Sparks is a 23 year old disenchanted dot com millionaire who abruptly decides to leave his budding empire and reside on an uninhabited island in the Maldives, Uncharted details the events of his time there.

When I read On the Island I finished it in less than 15 hours and during that day I had ostensibly worked a full day and commuted back and forth. I was completely committed to finding out what happened to the marooned teacher and her erstwhile pupil. The unlikely romance and story of survival in On the Island captivated me whereas my sympathies just were not engaged with Owen’s plight.

*If you have not read On the Island  be advised there are spoilers ahead the identity of the skeleton in the cave and the relationship of Owen to them simply are not compelling  enough to make any sort of lasting impression on the reader. Other than the overly descriptive entries regarding the spiders native to the island with the scheduled provisions drop the malevolent danger of the island seems diluted and as a whole the story feels forced as if trying to make lightning strike twice.  I would only recommend this story to die hard Anna and T.J. fans but be advised that while there is some mention of them their part in this story is minimal and their HEA was more than satisfactorily depicted in On the Island. This being said Uncharted was an enjoyable if forgettable read. However the preview chapter from Covet included was tantalizing enough to have me looking forward to its September release.

TITLE: Uncharted: An On the Island Novella

AUTHOR: Tracey Garvis Graves

RATING: 3 Stars

GENRE: Fiction


English: Maldives rudder fish (Kyphosus cinera...
English: Maldives rudder fish (Kyphosus cinerascens), Meeru island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Book Hoarding and Upcoming Reviews

Book Pile
Book Pile (Photo credit: Kristin Brenemen)

Readers are at heart book hoarders, personally I never quite got the whole “returning” the book to the library thing. Separate from reading, my hobby is collecting books for and arranging my library. If you follow any book person’s blog they often bemoan the state of the their TBR pile, honestly I couldn’t even hazard a guess at how many books I have in this infamous queue yet I live in mortal fear of “having NOTHING to read!” After reading Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, a frighteningly realistic dystopian  YA novel one of the first thoughts that occurred to me was not to go immediately to my local grocery store and buy all the canned goods in the place but whether I should abandon my new e-reader in favor of paperbacks because “how would I charge my e-reader if the hydro went out?!” Although I must admit this fear does still plague me somewhat I have reached an uneasy accord with myself balancing my book purchases between e-books and what I categorize as “library worthy” hardcover/trade paperback favorites for display and insurance against the apocalypse purposes.

With the creation of this blog my reading plan has changed somewhat from my lifelong rather aimless approach, it seems appropriate that to accurately evaluate a novel that there should be something to compare it to. An “apples to apples” approach if you will.  Writing my review of On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves inspired this thinking and as I discussed it with others I became intrigued with the exploring what different authors did with similar situations and who did it more effectively. Initially, I thought Finding Home by Bonnie Dee & Lauren Baker might be a good comparison piece but for reasons I will detail in the upcoming review I eliminated this one from competition. A comment from a blog follower actually ended the search and I am now waiting with bated breath to read and review A Much Younger Man by Dianne Highbridge.

Cover of "A Much Younger Man"
Cover of A Much Younger Ma