Capitol Secrets by Maureen Dean

Capitol Secrets by Maureen Dean
Publisher: Putnam
Genre: Recent Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Laura Christen aspires to become the first female speaker of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill. She and her beautiful daughter, Catsy, are in for a rough sprint. Has Laura’s past been impeccable and golden? Or are some long buried secrets about to unfold?

Lusty, dangerous and intoxicating.

I have to admit I picked up this book because I’d been watching a documentary on John Dean, Maureen Dean’s husband, and found out she was an author. I wanted to know more about what she’d written, so I looked her up at the library. This is one of the three books I found. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get when I started reading it. Could be good. Could be bad. But why not try it?

Man, oh, man. I was blown away. This is a tawdry, intoxicating thriller of a story. It’s evident that the author moved and shook in the circles written about in this book because it hits rather closet to the bone. I have to mention this is a political thriller, but it’s not so much focused around politics and picking a side. It’s about a woman trying to be speaker, the powers that be trying to keep her from it, her past getting in the way and a whole lot more. Politics are really a sidebar.

Laura Christen wants to be speaker, but she’s made some interesting deals in the past and has some skeletons in her closet. What politician doesn’t? I liked the intrigue and thriller aspect of this story. There are tawdry bits, but I expected that and it only enhanced the story. There’s a lot of bargaining, wheeling and dealing and subterfuge in this world and the author really showed that.

This was an unexpected story that I loved. I will be reading more by this author. I suggest you do, too. Discover this hidden thriller gem.


Miss Memory Lane: A Memoir by Colton Haynes

Miss Memory Lane: A Memoir by Colton Haynes
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Recent Historical, Contemporary, Non-Fiction, LGBTQ
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

A brutally honest and moving memoir of lust, abuse, addiction, stardom, and redemption from Arrow and Teen Wolf actor Colton Haynes.

Four years ago, Colton Haynes woke up in a hospital. He’d had two seizures, lost the sight in one eye, almost ruptured a kidney, and been put on an involuntary psychiatry hold. Not yet thirty, he knew he had to take stock of his life and make some serious changes if he wanted to see his next birthday.

As he worked towards sobriety, Haynes allowed himself to become vulnerable for the first time in years and with that, discovered profound self-awareness. He had millions of social media followers who constantly told him they loved him. But what would they think if they knew his true story? If they knew where he came from and the things he had done?

Now, Colton bravely pulls back the curtain on his life and career, revealing the incredible highs and devastating lows. From his unorthodox childhood in a small Kansas town, to coming to terms with his sexuality, he keeps nothing back.

By sixteen, he had been signed by the world’s top modeling agency and his face appeared on billboards. But he was still a broke, lonely, confused teenager, surrounded by people telling him he could be a star as long as he never let anyone see his true self. As his career in television took off, the stress of wearing so many masks and trying to please so many different people turned his use of drugs and alcohol into full-blown addiction.

A lyrical and intimate confession, apology, and cautionary tale, Miss Memory Lane is an unforgettable story of dreams deferred and dreams fulfilled; of a family torn apart and rebuilt; and of a man stepping into the light as no one but himself.

At times, this is a run-of-the-mill autobiography, but at others, it’s heart-rendering and poetic.

I’ve never seen Colton Haynes on television. I guess I don’t watch the shows he’s been on and that’s okay. I didn’t pick this book up because of the star quality. I wanted an autobiography that would make me think and feel. This is one of those books. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t agree with everything that happened and there were times I cringed, but that’s life. It’s not always perfect or sweet. People can be mean to each other, can use each other and it’s up to those people to pick themselves up afterward.

Colton Haynes is a mess, it’s true. He grew up in a bad situation, was treated awfully and went into a profession that tends to chew people up and spit them out. Yet, he’s still here. There are moments of gut-wrenching seriousness and some of humor. I hated the way the author was treated, but I can see how it made him the man who wrote the book today. It made him stronger and appreciate what he has. At least that’s how it seemed in the book.

If you’re looking for something lurid, then this might be it. There’s underage sex, abuse and the like. It’s not an easy read. But if you’re looking for something to make you think and realize your life isn’t so bad, then this might be the one to read. Check it out.

Touch the Wind by Janet Dailey

Touch the Wind by Janet Dailey
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Recent Historical, Romance, Action/Adventure
Rating: 2 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

All her life, beautiful Sheila got what she wanted. Now she yearned for the raw passion of a man beyond her reach, a violent, mysterious outlaw whose followers adored him. A lion of a man who held her for ransom—a man who would trade her for a fortune in gold. But Sheila wanted only him—with all the reckless longing of her body and soul.

Janet Dailey is a word weaver and master storyteller.

This isn’t the first book I’ve read by Janet Dailey and won’t be the last. I’ve loved many of her books. This one is a fantastic story, with sweeping narratives and moves along at a great pace. The writing is good, and I didn’t want to put it down.

That’s not to say it was my favorite book. There are certainly triggers in this book. I must say I liked Sheila and seeing her humanized. At the beginning of the book, she’s a bit of an ice princess, but also yearning so much for something she’ll take anything to get it. She was a bit one-dimensional, and I liked seeing her grow. That also said, I didn’t care for the hero or the way she was treated. There are scenes of abuse, scenes of violence and I never quite got the connection between the hero and heroine. She was better off with him in some ways than her husband, but in other ways…I wasn’t so sure. I wasn’t a fan of the hero, that’s all.

I have to also add this is a book from 1979. It reads like a book of that era–it’s a bodice ripper and there is certainly an air of almost toxic masculinity. Keep that in mind while reading. It’s meant to be over the top, hyper masculine and raw. To some, this might be a bad thing, but others this might be the fantasy type of hero they want to read about.

If you’re looking for something of that era, something hot and with a touch of romance, then this might be the one for you.

Get Back by John Harris

Get Back by John Harris
Publisher: Callaway Arts & Entertainment
Genre: Historical, Recent Historical, Music, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The most anticipated book in more than a decade by the legendary band, The Beatles: Get Back is the official account of the creation of their final album, Let It Be, told in The Beatles’ own words, illustrated with hundreds of previously unpublished images, including photos by Ethan A. Russell and Linda McCartney. Half a century after the 1970 Let It Be album and film, this milestone book coincides with the global release of Peter Jackson’s documentary feature film, The Beatles: Get Back.

The book opens in January 1969, the beginning of The Beatles’ last year as a band. The BEATLES (The White Album) is at number one in the charts and the foursome gather in London for a new project. Over 21 days, first at Twickenham Film Studios and then at their own brand-new Apple Studios, with cameras and tape recorders documenting every day’s work and conversations, the band rehearse a huge number of songs, culminating in their final concert, which famously takes place on the rooftop of their own office building, bringing central London to a halt.

The Beatles: Get Back tells the story of those sessions through transcripts of the band’s candid conversations. Drawing on over 120 hours of sound recordings, leading music writer John Harris edits the richly captivating text to give us a fly-on-the-wall experience of being there in the studios. These sessions come vividly to life through hundreds of unpublished, extraordinary images by two photographers who had special access to their sessions—Ethan A. Russell and Linda Eastman (who married Paul McCartney two months later). Also included are many unseen high-resolution film-frames, selected from the 55 hours of restored footage from which Peter Jackson’s documentary is also drawn.

Legend has it that these sessions were a grim time for a band falling apart. However, as acclaimed novelist Hanif Kureishi writes in his introduction, “In fact this was a productive time for them, when they created some of their best work. And it is here that we have the privilege of witnessing their early drafts, the mistakes, the drift and digressions, the boredom, the excitement, joyous jamming and sudden breakthroughs that led to the work we now know and admire.” Half a century after their final performance, this book completes the story of the creative genius, timeless music, and inspiring legacy of The Beatles.

Have you ever wanted to know how the recording of Get Back really went? Want to be an insider at the sessions? Then this book takes you there.

I’m a huge Beatles fan. Have been my whole life. I live for the next tome about their work and love the unreleased weird sidetracks, plus the tracks that show how far the song ends up going during the creation process. This book is a lot like that. There are pieces of undiscovered treasure in the conversations and interesting things to learn about the band.

It’s also a bit sad. I thought I knew a lot about the band, but I didn’t realize how much the band was breaking apart during the recording of this album. This book touches on that tension. There are entire pieces of conversation written as dialogue and the exact words from each member are there. It’s sad because there were definite cracks in the foundation of the band and like many groups, no one wanted to deal with said cracks.

If you don’t have time to sit through the entire Get Back tv special, then this might be a good alternative. There are a lot of photos. Since this was a documentary, there is a lot of insider info and little held back. It’s worth a read.

If you’re looking for a Beatles fix, then this might be the book for you. Check it out.

Waiting On A Friend by Megan Slayer

Waiting On A Friend by Megan Slayer
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Recent Historical, Erotic Romance, Paranormal, Holiday, LGBTQ
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

King Mason doesn’t want to spend another year alone. He loves his job at the men’s shelter, but there has to be more from life than work. He’s seen the pretty blond man around the community and can’t wait to make a move at the Christmas street party.

Randall Stevens has big plans for Christmas 1980, and all of them involve meeting King Mason. He’s fallen hard for the man, and his wish is to take things to the next level. Christmas Eve just might be the night — except some wishes are meant to go sideways. Can Start Me Up help provide the solution he and King need?

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I enjoyed this Christmassy short story. While a few of the previous couples are mentioned in relation to the potion store Start Me Up this book can totally be read as a stand alone and I had no problems following along with it having not read any of the previous stories. I enjoyed that despite the short length of the story the author gave a fair bit of time at the start to properly introduce King and Randall’s characters, this helped me get a good feel for what they’re like and where they are at in their respective lives so as they slowly became more attached to each other their relationship felt more realistic and understandable to me.

I was pleased the author managed to explain most of the “magic” or paranormal aspect of this story without info-dumping or bogging the pace of the plot down. It was quite unconventional but I enjoyed it and while I feel readers will definitely need to suspend their disbelief – Christmas magic and a bit of “love conquers all” is never a bad thing in a romance story to my mind.

Readers looking for an intensely erotic story might not be satisfied with the two quick sex scenes. Personally I felt the blossoming relationship between King and Randall, as well as the paranormal/magical element to the story and the rest of the plot was more interesting and important than a second or third sex scene between the two men. Especially considering the short length to the story I feel the author managed to balance all these elements really well – but for an “erotic romance” even though the sex was steamy and sensual I could understand if this might not be satisfying for everyone.

Christmassy and full of magic and the first blush of a new relationship I enjoyed this happy and short story.

Bread Bags & Bullies: Surviving in the 80’s by Steven Manchester

Bread Bags & Bullies: Surviving in the 80’s by Steven Manchester
Publisher: Luna Bella Media
Genre: Recent Historical, Mainstream Fiction
Length: Full length (267 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

It’s the winter of 1984. Twelve-year old Herbie and his two brothers—Wally and Cockroach—are enjoying the mayhem of winter break when a late Nor’easter blows through New England, trapping their quirky family in the house. The power goes out and playing Space Invaders to AC DC’s Back in Black album is suddenly silenced—forcing them to use their twisted imaginations in beating back the boredom. At a time when the brothers must overcome one fear after the next, they learn that courage is the one character trait that guarantees all others.
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This hysterical coming-of-age tale is jam-packed with enough nostalgia to satisfy anyone who grew up in the ‘80s or at least had the good fortune to travel through them.

This was just fun. That’s the first word that comes to mind. Although it is set in the 80’s, I don’t think there is a person of any age who couldn’t identify with various happenings or maybe I should say shenanigans. The actual format of an event of the 80’s might have been a little different but the same problems, even the same complaints still exist.

Steven Manchester wrote a memory story for some of us and a good fiction story for those of a different age. A belly-laugh type story full of fun and hard times too. Somehow people made them fun then, managed with what they had, while others before them thought they were spoiled.

Mr. Manchester’s “boys” or the three brothers in his story are a great depiction of how siblings interacted in pretty well every era.

A good read that evokes a lot of memories and a really good picture of the 80’s which is an era I don’t see as much literature on.

The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis

The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis
Publisher: Dutton/Penguin
Genre: Recent Historical, Women’s Fiction
Length: Full Length (352 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

From the dramatic redbrick facade to the sweeping staircase dripping with art, the Chelsea Hotel has long been New York City’s creative oasis for the many artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and poets who have called it home—a scene playwright Hazel Riley and actress Maxine Mead are determined to use to their advantage. Yet they soon discover that the greatest obstacle to putting up a show on Broadway has nothing to do with their art, and everything to do with politics. A Red scare is sweeping across America, and Senator Joseph McCarthy has started a witch hunt for Communists, with those in the entertainment industry in the crosshairs. As the pressure builds to name names, it is more than Hazel and Maxine’s Broadway dreams that may suffer as they grapple with the terrible consequences, but also their livelihood, their friendship, and even their freedom.

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Snooping, concern and McCarthyism… oh my!

This is my first book by Fiona Davis and I’m glad I got the chance to read it. I’ve been on a binge reading recent historical and historical novels, especially if there’s a period in history that interests me. This one did because I enjoy the 1950s. This book deals with women handling the highs and lows of the McCarthy era.

The plot is interesting. A pair of women living in the famed Chelsea Hotel in New York with the artists and artsy types. One is an actress and the other a playwright. Interesting, right? I mean, I read Trumbo and have done reading about that era. There’s a lot to work with.

But this book deals more with the characters, not so much the time period. The Chelsea Hotel becomes a character, which is neat because it becomes more of a person than a thing. I liked that aspect. The characters of Hazel and Maxine left a little to be desired. I wanted to like them. I wanted to root for them, but they seemed a bit too one-dimensional to me. Now other readers might love them. They just didn’t strike a chord with me. It was more like reading diaries or the everyday lives in detail, rather than being drawn into the story. Again, it might just not have been the right book for me at this time.

It’s a good enough book that I suggest you try it for yourself. You might love it. It might be the read you’re looking for. Give it a shot.

The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard

The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Recent Historical Fiction
Length: Full Length (363 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.

The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.
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When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.

A different look at the way things were in Oak Ridge.

I picked this book up because it’s on the list of books we’re considering reading for the local reading group. I’d read The Girls of Atomic City and enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to this take on Oak Ridge. I’m glad I picked up this book. Really. I have some quibbles with it, but it’s a quick read and an interesting point of view on life at Oak Ridge.

One of my quibbles is with the characters. I didn’t really root for any of them. I didn’t see any of them–save for a secondary one–as someone I’d like to have for a friend. I did get emotionally involved in the story, so that’s going for the book. I wanted to clunk a couple of the characters on the head. But the thing is, some of the characters were rather immature. I get they were young when they arrived at Oak Ridge, the naivete, and in some ways negativity, made me want to skip pages.

Still, this is an interesting take on what the people went through in Oak Ridge. Racial bias, loose-lips-sink-ships, being wary of everyone…it’s vividly told.

If you’re looking for a book that’s different and involves the work at Oak Ridge, then this might be the book for you.

Trouble in Paradise by Kate Hill

Trouble in Paradise by Kate Hill
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Recent Historical, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story (65 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

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Set in the 1980’s, we are immediately thrown in the action when our heroine walks into a bar, looking for a specific someone whose help she needs. She finds him, but in his drunken state, she isn’t sure what use he will be to her after all.

Grace is a strong character, both physically and mentally. R.C. has his demons chasing him, which have influenced the decisions he has made in life. Something about Grace challenges those demons, making him want to help her. They head off to a private island, unconnected to the rest of the world, with a very loose plan on what to do once they get there. Of course, things don’t go according to plan, when their host appears to be in China on a business trip, leaving his wife in charge.

This book had an Agatha Christie feel to it as the various guests each have their own reasons for being there, and their behaviour once they arrive. Although I was invested with the two main characters, there wasn’t much about the others to help me connect to them. Only one or two are mentioned in detail, and I do like hearing about others. Especially when it’s a limited number of characters in the first place.

Well written, with a smooth pace, this is a great little adventure/mystery story with romance too. This book is the perfect length for a lunch-break book, or one to read in the bath. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and have no hesitation in recommending it.

Save It For Me by Emma D Fallon

Save It For Me by Emma D Fallon
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Recent Historical
Length: Short Story (61 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Tom and Caroline met on a summer day in 1965 in Ocean City, New Jersey. He was a soldier about to be sent to Vietnam. She was a divorceé whose future was uncertain. For just one night, they gave each other everything . . . and then said goodbye.

But not all goodbyes are forever.

Six months and many sizzling-hot letters later, Caroline and Tom are together again, this time in paradise. Tom’s R&R feels like heaven on earth, a place where war doesn’t exist. Neither of them want these seven days—and nights—to ever end.
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For one week in Hawaii, the past is irrelevant and the future is forgotten as two lovers share their hearts, their souls and their bodies under Pacific skies.

Two souls who need to be together finding their place, but for how long?

I picked up this book for two reasons: first, because I wanted a short read and second, because I liked the cover art. I’m glad I picked it up. The author packs a lot in a few pages and the story flows well.

I’m not wild about first person POV, but this one held my attention well. I enjoyed reading about Tom and Caroline. While I haven’t read the other books in their series, I wasn’t lost and am looking forward to the next story.

This story has a lot, and I mean a lot, of sex in it. That’s not a bad thing. I knew these characters cared about each other, so I liked reading the sexy parts.

The one thing that seemed a little off for me was the emotion in the story. Don’t get me wrong. I like short stories and hot books. But this is a snapshot in their relationship. The other books most likely help add to the emotion in this one, so maybe try reading those first.

Still, it’s a good beach read and I’m glad I chose it. Worth the read! Check it out.