REVIEW: The Last Chance Matinee

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THE LAST CHANCE MATINEE

Mariah Stewart

Publication Date: March 21, 2017

Publisher: Gallery Books

$16.00 Trade Paperback Original

ISBN: 9781501144905

Fiction

Book 1 in the Hudson Sisters series

Look for Book 2 in 2018 and Book 3 in 2019!

 

**DISCLAIMER: I received a free, advance copy of The Last Chance Matinee in exchange for an honest review and participation in the author’s blog tour.**

Secret siblings who only discover each other’s existence during the reading of a will. A bit  cliché, but it does make for an enticing bit of drama in The Last Chance Matinee by Mariah Stewart. The author of the popular Chesapeake Diaries series returns with the first book in her new series about the unwitting progeny of a deceased movie agent.

When Fritz Hudson dies suddenly, his daughters Allie and Des are summoned from their homes in California and Montana, respectively, to the Philadelphia office of Fritz’s best friend and attorney, Peter Wheeler, for the reading of Fritz’s will. Much to their surprise, there is a third party waiting : Cara McCann, Fritz’s daughter by his longtime New Jersey mistress.

It seems as if Fritz had some misgivings about how he handled his dual-family situation in life, because he sought to merge both families in death: in order for his daughters to each receive their share of their considerable inheritance, they all had to work together to restore a run-down movie theater owned by Fritz’s family in his hometown of Hidden Falls, Pennsylvania. Of course, Fritz upped the stakes of the inheritance: if either of the sisters refused to take part in the project, then none of them would receive their inheritance, and it would all go to earmarked charities instead.

The reluctant trio travel to Hidden Falls, where events reiterate the “Hidden” in the town name. Allie, Des, and Cara not only learn more about each other, but also about the layers of secrets that formed the father each of them thought they knew. Of course, each woman meets a man that is well-suited for her and discovers that small-town life , and theater restoration, and their new sibling relationships, aren’t all as bad as they thought it would be.

When I first started reading The Last Chance Matinee, Stewart’s use of the trite secret love child/inheritance battle trope made me roll my eyes. However, she inserted enough plot twists  (Addictions! More secret family members! Unexplained deaths! Missing heirlooms!) to rescue the book from being a carbon copy of most romances on the market. However, the characters of Allie, Des, and Cara are a bit stereotypical in their own rights (Allie as the high-strung, perfectionist firstborn; Des as the peacemaking, bleeding-heart middle child; Cara as the free-spirited youngest child).

Stewart’s secondary, yet important, characters are what keep the book from being boilerplate. Seth, the tattooed Army veteran; Nikki, Allie’s teenage daughter; and the indomitable and enigmatic Barney Hudson (plus her car) are among those that keep the story interesting, as their personalities provide welcome relief from, and add flavor to, the storyline.

The Last Chance Matinee is a beach read: light, airy, not too taxing on the brain cells. It’s a good escape. The plot moves steadily and while the “Happily Ever After” plot points (and subsequent setups for the next two books in the series) can be seen a mile away, even that obviousness doesn’t deter too much from the story. While I enjoyed the book, I was peeved that the entire story arc is being dragged out into three (or more) books.

I’m not a big fan of serials, and I would have liked to have the entire Hudson Sisters storyline packed into one book.  While I have a general idea of how each book is going to end (thanks to the obvious clues in The Last Chance Matinee), I don’t like waiting another year or two for the series to come to fruition. Blame the “now” culture of our society, but my interest in what happens to Allie and Des will likely wane between now and then, and I may not be inclined to pick up book #2 or #3 when they are finally released.

The Last Chance Matinee is a solid, entertaining read that doesn’t expect much from the reader. Fans of Stewart’s previous works will likely enjoy it, and it is a good entry to her writing for new readers (as I was).

 

Public Self/Private Self

I subscribe to a daily newsletter about the publishing industry; it is comprised of articles from both the company that oublishes the newsletter, and other industry professionals on various topics.

Today’s email included an article by a PR person (who shall remain nameless because I felt rather disguated afte reading her $.02). who listed the major mistakes authors make with regard to marketing/PR (and what she allegedly tells her clients). One of those mistakes was oversharing on social media. She emphasized that politics, religion, or even what you had for breakfast/lunch/dinner. should not be mentioned on your social media, lest an author alienate potential and current fans. In short, keep it light and fluffy.

Pause.

Now, I understand the oversharing part. Some things don’t need to be mentioned, like your cat’s yeast infection, or even your yeast infection. But authors are more than just sales numbers on a ledger sheet. We’re people. We have hopes,fears (writers moreso than others 🤣), likes, dislikes.

 I like it when my favorite authors share personal tidbits about themselves: pics from vacations, pets, favorite socks. It humanizes them and makes me even more inclined to buy their work, because they are not just robots sitting in front of a computer, churning out novels.

But to keep my thoughts silent regarding any issue that is important to me–be it Black Lives Matter or a BLT sandwich–for the sake of selling a book, does not sit right with me. And if someone doesn’t want to buy one of my books because I took a stance with which they do not agree, well…I’m not for everyone, and I wish that person well. 

It reminds me of the backlash when singers, athletes, actors, et al make their thoughts known regarding social and political issues. The mindset becomes, “Shut up and keep entertaining the masses. That’s your job, not expressing an independent thought.” Yet that is doing these people a disservice. They are human and have feelings; to try and shut them down for the sake of keeping stadiums, arenas, and theatres filled is hypocritical and oppressive.Yet many people concerned with an entertainer or athlete’s bottom line will attempt to do just that, all for the sake of making a buck (for themselves and their clients).

To paraphrase some quote that I saw on Instagram: I won’t dilute myself for those who can’t handle me at 100 proof. You shouldn’t either.

Thanks for stopping by.

What I’m Reading: The Steel Kiss by Jeffery Deaver

The Steel Kiss

Jeffery Deaver

Grand Central Publishing

March 2016

 

The Steel Kiss is the latest in the Lincoln Rhyme series by Jeffery Deaver. I received an advance copy through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

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Rhyme, who is now teaching instead of working with the NYPD to solve crimes, is nevertheless drawn into an interesting case: a man was trapped in a moving escalator and died from the resulting injuries, and Rhyme is hired by the widow’s attorney to figure out how the maintenance door managed to spring open so that the man could fall through it.

On a parallel track, Detective Amelia Sachs is now working the Major Crimes squad as a direct result of her severe arthritis. She is hunting a killer who is targeting people who use “smart” apparatus: computer-controlled appliances and cars that can be accessed via smartphone apps and wearable technology. Rhyme and Sachs soon find out that their investigations dovetail, and former rookie Ron Pulaski–still dealing with head injuries incurred in The Coffin Dancer–is almost caught in the crossfire.

Deaver weaves his usual interesting story while continuing the not-so-subtle rant against our computer-dependent society that he began in The Broken Window. The divergent cases, as well as the plot twists that lead to a rather satisfying yet unpredictable conclusion, are classic Deaver. Still, I did not enjoy this latest Rhyme novel as much as I have others. While I understand the need for character growth in order for a series to remain successful, the direction in which Deaver is taking his Rhyme and Sachs characters aren’t as riveting as in previous books. Still, Deaver knows how to deliver a story, and both fans and non-fans alike will enjoy it.

What I’m Reading: The Widow by Fiona Barton

The Widow

Fiona Barton

Berkeley Publishing Group

February 2016

DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-galley from Berkeley Publishing (via Net Galley) in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 
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I was invited to participate in a blog book tour for the February 2016 release of The Widow by Fiona Barton. Here’s my review for this stop on the tour.

The Widow, by Fiona Barton, is a pretty interesting read. Set in the United Kingdom, it follows Jean Taylor, the recent widow of accused child kidnapper (and possible murderer) Glen Taylor. The story opens as Jean is still reeling from the sudden death of her husband after being hit by a bus. Glen had never been formally charged with the kidnapping of Bella Elliott, though he’d been questioned heavily after her disappearance. The interference of the police alienated the Taylors, particularly Jean, from their neighbors and forced them to rely on each other even more for support and camaraderie. The police, as well as reporters, had always suspected that Jean knew more about Bella’s disappearance than she said. With Glen’s death, Jean was free from any obligations that she may have had to her husband while he was alive. And Jean decided to start talking.

Barton did a very good job of building suspense throughout the novel. What I especially liked was the eventual humanization of Jean’s character. At first, she came across as somewhat of an caricatured automaton, a mousy wife who was completely controlled by her psychologically abusive husband. As the book progresses, we see the layers of Jean, alluded to by the character herself as “Jean” versus “Jeanie”. These hidden facets belied a keen cleverness and mastery of subtle manipulation, and I as a reader became hooked by Jean’s character as each layer was revealed.

Barton did another good job in the character of Kate Waters, the ambitious reporter who eventually scores a coveted interview with Jean. This was another case of a cookie-cutter character who becomes more than meets the eye. No apologies are made for Kate’s ambition or methodology, and there is no moral undertone to her success in the vein of “everything has a price.” Still, the character manages to garner sympathy as she manages to outwit her competition to garner an interview with perhaps the most famous widow in recent times, and strain her relationships with those who helped her get to Jean.

Unfortunately for Barton, she did rely on clichés with her male characters, particularly Detective Inspector Bob Sparkes. Sparkes became the quintessential over-obsessed law enforcement official who pursues a case to the detriment of his personal and professional lives. Sparkes’s boss, was the superior who wanted to make the headlines, even at the cost of those who worked under him. Likewise, Glen Taylor becomes just another garden-variety pedophile and narcissist; his behavior and personality are textbook, and leave little to the imagination. Perhaps this is because Barton wanted the women in the book–Jean, Kate, and Bella’s mother Dawn Elliott–to be the focus of the story. Indeed, the entire story is very female-centric and a statement on how women are actually the complicated creatures we are often made out to be, and are usually not how we appear to be.

The ending of the book was a bit anticlimactic, which marred an otherwise gripping story. There was also an issue with changing points of view near the end of the book, especially with Detective Zara Salmond. Her POV seemed abrupt and out of place, and Barton would have been better served sticking to those of the primary characters in the story–Jean, Kate, and Sparkes–and relegating Salmond to the background with the other characters.

Others have compared The Widow to the novel The Girl On the Train, which is a bit of a disservice since I found the latter to be underwhelming and not deserving of the hype surrounding it.   The Widow is much better, and a psychological thriller worth trying.

What I’m Reading: The Alchemists of Kush

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Critically acclaimed author Minister Faust returns with his fourth novel, The Alchemists of Kush.  Set in both modern-day Edmonton and ancient Sudan, this speculative fiction novel follows the path of two boys who must harness ancient knowledge in order to combat a great evil.

Raphael “Rap” Deng Garang was just your average seventeen year-old war refugee hanging on the streets of Edmonton, Canada. Half-Sudanese and half-Somali, he had one foot in both worlds but truly belonged in neither, especially in the close-knit Somali community in which he lived with his mother. A joy ride in a stolen car with a good friend led Rap down a path of self-knowledge that transformed him into Supreme Raptor, the “conscious rap” sensation.

Hru was a child soldier in ancient Sudan, helping the other children of his village survive when raiders destroyed their village. Forced to rely on rudimentary fighting  skills, Hru and the other child soliders manage to eke out an existence in the forest until they arrived at the ocean, in which the Great Devourer of Souls resided. Hru becomes the sole survivor of an attack by the Devourer, which leads him on a quest to find his mother and claim a birthright he didn’t know he had—as Horus, the son of Osiris.

Faust does a riveting job in alternating between modern-day Canada and ancient Sudan by way of Kush; the book is divided into four parts, and each part has two divisions: The Book of Then (which takes place in ancient times) and the Book of Now (which takes place in modern-day Edmonton.  The title of each of the four parts is key to the occurrences in that particular part, and takes on a greater sense of importance as the story progresses. As readers follow Rap’s path from an errant teenage refugee  to a young community leader, they are treated to a parallel course in history in the guise of the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris. Indeed, the final portion of the book is the text of the Book of the Golden Falcon, which is the seminal text from which Rap and his cohorts are taught to elevate and expand themselves. The Alchemists of Kush is heavy on allegory, and readers would do well to take this into account while delving into this novel.  Faust has managed to make history cool, and the Book of the Golden Falcon gives a lesson not commonly found in neither public nor private educational institutions in any country. The underlying message of the novel is one of self-improvement, self-sufficiency, and elevating others to their best selves; while this message is imprinted upon the teenagers in the novel, it can be applied by all ages. Even better, you can read all of the Books of Then or the Books of Now in order, for a different yet equally entertaining reading experience which puts an entirely different spin on the novel.  Fans of Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, and Charles Saunders would enjoy The Alchemists of Kush.

Aside

Be S.U.R.E. in 2016 (by Mattieologie)

I subscribed to the Mattiologie newsletter a few months ago. While sometimes the content doesn’t move me, overall it’s a good contribution to my inbox. 🙂

Anyway, the latest installment came today, in which Mattie James (the owner/founder/raison d’etre of Mattiologie) explains why she hasn’t been feeling New Year’s “resolutions” for quite some time, and why being S.U.R.E. is a better bet. Email text copied & pasted below–it’s worth your time to read it (and she’s not trying to sell anything!). Thanks for stopping by.

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The whole “resolutions” schtick is not really my ministry. In the past it was, but nothing ever got done. They sounded good in January, got further away from me in February and by summer were completely obsolete. Honestly, there’s a little bit too much hype on resolutions because of the year changed. If you want something resolved, RESOLVE it.

When you really want to, you will.

For my past resolutions, I always talked how I wanted to get in shape in the past or wake up earlier. “Oh, this year I’m going to get my body together. Let me buy this gym membership.” “I need to wake up earlier. I’m going to make sure I set my alarm every night.”

I never got in shape or woke up earlier. One year, I paid for a gym membership for the entire year and probably went about 3 times. I set the alarm only to condition myself to turn it off at 6:30a immediately once it went off.

Which brings me to my case in point today.

The one habit you need to break in 2016 is being vague.

It is singlehandedly why you you never keep your resolutions or stay consistent. Your goals lack specifics that are necessary to succeed.

If I really wanted to get in shape, instead of just saying it generally I would’ve made the goal of “strength training every Monday, Wednesday & Thursday and doing cardio on Saturday while being on a vegetarian diet to maintain my pre-pregnancy weight.” It’s specific and clear while creating guidelines towards reaching my goals.

But Mattie, how can I stop being vague? I’m glad you asked, friend. The opposite of being vague is being SURE. Here’s how to keep your new habits – not resolutions – SURE for 2016.

S – Speak It Into Existence

I really believe in the power of the tongue. We do speak things into existence. Good habits included. It’s important that we say what we want, because you shouldn’t expect it if you don’t express it. This is certainly the “what” aspect of creating a new habit. Declare what it is you want and say it in the mirror to yourself every morning if you need to. Write it down. I would even share with a handful of your closest friends and family so they hold you accountable. It’s okay to talk about what you want as long as you do more walking than talking. When you say it, you hear it & when you hear it, hopefully you’ll believe it enough to bring to fruition.

U – Understand Why You’re Doing It

The problem with us being vague is that a lot of us are setting “goals” that we think we should be making. You have got to be clear on why you’re doing something to do it on purpose and with purpose. Losing weight to lose weight isn’t enough incentive to follow through. If you’re losing weight because you know that your 10 year high school reunion is coming up and you want to slay, then that’s a real reason to get your butt in the gym. Again, I didn’t say your why had to be deep, just clear.

R – Repeat To Create Consistency

Repetition is your friend when you want to make something a habit. The problem is that when we make these “resolutions” we do them for one or two weeks when it’s easy or convenient. We easily stray when we have to sacrifice sleep, time or money. But if you can repeatedly work towards a goal during inconvenience, it becomes a habit. Something like second nature. It becomes engrained in you. Repetition isn’t glamorous and most times it isn’t “fun” but it always delivers results. Just ask the girl who lost 50 lbs last year because she committed to her organic diet and ran 5 days a week in the last 12 months.

E – Elevate

So, you know what you want to do and have spoken it into existence. You’re clear on why you’re doing it. And you’ve even committed to repeatedly executing to create a habit. So you’re all good, right? Not exactly. You want to get better. And you should. Elevating is part of the success process. You don’t want to be how good you were 12 months ago. Not even 6 months ago if I’m being honest. Always get better. If you wake up at 6a everyday for a year and need more time as you work your 9 to 5 while building your side business, then wake up at 5am. Once you hit a certain milestone, it is your duty to set a new goal and reach it. You don’t get credit for staying the same even if consistent. Complacency looks like consistency. Results will expose the difference.

Hopefully I’ve helped your realize why you need to create habits vs. make resolutions for 2016. I can’t tell you what it is, but I just know it’s going to be a big year for you. Just be SURE whenever you make new goals and habits.

Marvelously,

Mattie

P.S. – I know the site has been looking a bit funky in the last 24 hours. I’m transitioning to Squarespace. We should be back in business in a day or so. Thanks for your patience!

Reflections on the Old Year

On New Year’s Eve 2014, I wrote a list of goals that I wanted to achieve in 2015. It totaled over forty items, spanning four sheets (single-side) from a small, ruled notebook. I sealed that list in an envelope and scrawled “TO BE OPENED ON DEC. 31, 2015” across the front and the seal of the envelope. I tucked the sealed list in a journal and went about my business.

Yesterday, I opened that envelope and went through the list, checking off those things that I accomplished and making notes otherwise (e.g., maybe I accomplished part of a goal, or the goal needed to be modified during the year). Sadly, I didn’t check off most of my list, though I was proud of those things I did (the year wasn’t a total wash!). Among those was:

–Established a business banking account
–Found an accountant that specialized in small businesses
–Set up my author website
–Did book signings at independent bookstores
–Guest blogged on a site
–Got new glasses & a fresh supply of contact lenses
–Regularly exercised 3 times/week
–Wrote more handwritten letters, which of course led to
–Getting new stationery 🙂
–Got a new winter coat (not that I’ve had much occasion to wear it, what with temperatures being in the 60s & 70s for most of November and December 2015)
–Got more involved in my college alumni association and local chapter of the alumni club.

I also achieved some goals that I hadn’t listed, such as having my sports articles published in major, national publications such as Sports Illustrated (via The Cauldron on Medium) and Ms. magazine, and other articles published elsewhere around the web WOOT!  I was fortunate to make some cool connections with some like-minded folks in both the same and different industries, and I’m looking forward to our collaborations in the upcoming year.

I tried some new things and failed (applied for writing grants and submitted short stories to two publications), but got positive, valuable feedback that will set me up for success when I try again (and I was actually encouraged by The Powers That Be at each organization and publication to try again. How cool is that?).

Even those goals that weren’t accomplished were valuable. For some, they were only partially completed (I wanted to publish four books last year, but only did two: The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic and Stormbringer. That’s still better than zero. I also released BFC: Dominic and a previous book, Blizzard, in mass market paperback formats.).

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This a speculative fiction novel (a new genre for me!), written under the pen name Tai Daniels

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This is the second installment in the Bastille Family Chronicles series

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Now avaolable in mass market paperback, only on my website, tiffscribes.com

For others, they gave me an insight as to the work that was still to be done in order to check them off my list. Some goals were too vague, and some were too specific and didn’t allow for the twists and turns of life.

Still others became no longer relevant in retrospect, and these uncompleted goals are the ones to which I’m paying more attention. Their lack of relevancy to my life is forcing me to closeer inspect them and discover alternate routes that may be better suited to my needs.

Oprah Winfrey is often quoted as saying “Man’s rejection is God’s protection.” While some of my goals weren’t reached due to personal error, others weren’t due to circumstances beyond my control. There may be a reason for this, and that reason may be that Goal X isn’t what I really need–or, upon reexamination, what I really want. Not reaching those goals may have been a divine form of protection, and it’s up to me to figure out if this is true, and the way forward if it is indeed true. And for those unrealized goals that were my fault, having a long, hard look at some harsh truths is the best way to garner progress. As the Twelve Steppers say, admitting a problem is the first step. 🙂

Though 2015 didn’t shape up to be all that I hoped it would, the year ended up a lot better than 2014 was, for which I am truly grateful. I’m excited and optimistic for 2016, and I’m looking forward to opening the sealed envelope of goals that is now inscribed, “TO BE OPENED ON DEC. 31, 2016”.

Happy New Year, all, and thanks for stopping by.

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