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.

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.

Higher Levels, Bigger Devils

I love basketball. I get geeked for the start of NBA season, and March Madness is my personal holiday. I read sports-oriented publications, and I stan for Bleacher Report and its app, Team Stream.

Since its inception, I have enjoyed the online publishing portal Medium; specifically, its sports section, The Cauldron. While all and sundry can post their thoughts on Medium as a whole, certain sections such as The Cauldron are invitation-only, and if you’re selected, you have to show and prove.

I have never written about sports in an “official” venue, and never played sports a day in my life (unless you count high school varsity cheerleading, which many do not). Still, I decided to step outside my comfort zone and apply to write for The Cauldron.

My first article was rejected; no problem. As a writer, I’m no stranger to that. My second article was accepted, and has been getting good buzz. While I’m pleased, I’m also nervous. Medium reaches an audience vastly larger than my deliberately limited, personal social media presence. Suddenly, my ideas were exposed to a totally different audience…and along with the praise, came the trolls.

WHOA. What…who…WHAT?! To think that my six-minute read about granting NBA media access credentials to bloggers would strike nerves…it was interesting, to say the least, and at times amusing. And, I have to admit, kind of heady: that my words would make such an impact, become part of an ongoing conversation, and basically be  taken seriously (which is infinitely preferable to being considered a joke). That’s part of why writers write: to make that impact, to drive conversation, to call attention to an issue.

I’ve had people comment just to say they won’t read the article (huh?). I’ve gotten complaints that I didn’t take a firm stand on one aide versus the other (I did that on purpose). All this reminded me that when you strive for greatness, you catch more flak with each success. Or, as my late grandmother used to say, “Higher levels, bigger devils.”

Many of us say we want success but aren’t willing to pay the price. Part of that price, especially as a writer, is public exposure, and belief that someone out there wants to hear what you have to say. The flip side of that is opening yourself up to attack by those who aren’t feelimg what you have to say, or disagree with your right to say it. One article (so far) isn’t much of a down payment, but it’s a start. And the bill will only get bigger.

Thanks for stopping by.

Reading Rampage Nostalgia: Eric Jerome Dickey (NaBloPoMo day 29)

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s blog count: 30

Total blog posts: 30

Finding an old book is like finding an old friend. And, like some friendships, it’s easy to take stock of where and who you were when the friendship started, and how things stand now.

I found copies of paperbacks from an author I used to read religiously, Eric Jerome Dickey, and went on a reading rampage. I started with Friends and Lovers, which was, according to him, the second book he wrote, but the first published. Then I followed with Cheaters. I’m debating on whether to read Sister, Sister (first book written, but not the first published–in fact, some of his characters from this book show up in Cheaters). All of this really got started a few weeks ago, when I re-read Thieves’ Paradise (which remains, hands down, my favorite of all his books–and I’ve read most of them).

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One of the things that struck me was that I was in a much different place when I first picked up these books over…wow, has it been at least fifteen years? In the aforementioned books (along with Milk in My CoffeeLiar’s Game and Between Lovers, which were all written during the same time frame), all of his characters are in their late twenties/early thirties. As a result, they were still finding out who they were, their place in the world, and still members of Team Bad Decisions. Fifteen or so years ago, these books resonated with me more because I was within those same demographics (even at the ripe old age of 41, I’m still Team Bad Decisions sometimes). Now, I read the books and enjoy the stories on a more superficial level. Likewise, in reading his later books, I can see where Mr. Dickey has grown as a writer; perhaps that’s why I love Thieves’ Paradise so much: that was when his writing seemed to make that next evolutionary step, which may have had something to do with him being able to finally write the novel he always wanted to write (he told me this after an author signing for Thieves’ Paradise, which was arranged by a mutual friend).

I still have copies of the other books somewhere in a box, and I may dig them out and read them someday, although Between Lovers is one of his most complex books, and was the book that was published right before Thieves’ Paradise (so I guess that’s where I caught glimpses of that evolutionary step). I’ll enjoy the books with a side of nostalgia, then put them back on the shelf when I’m done. I may pick them up again in a few years.

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I don’t read many of his books now; he’s gone in a totally different direction, for the most part; his books are more in the vein of Thieves’ Paradise and Between Lovers: more gritty, more layered and nuanced adult relationships, and less wide-eyed, finding-oneself, time-to-be-a-grownup tropes. Still, I’m not as connected to them as I once was; I see less of myself in his current slate of books, and thus they have become just entertainment for me. I’m happy for him, that he’s writing what he wants to write, what he was meant to write–heck, that he’s still writing. He’s approximately my age, and his writing has reflected his personal evolution and growth, as well as his writing ones. But like an old friend, sometimes you just go in different directions and have to have a parting of the ways. You find new friends, but you keep the old ones on the shelf–and take them off once in a while, dust them off, and enjoy.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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Letting it Flow (NaBloPoMo day 28)

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s blog count: 29

Total blog posts: 29

 

Today was a no-writing day. I slept, ate Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, watched basketball, read, and thought about writing.

So much for rest. 🙂

Seriously: I had two story ideas and had to stop myself from reaching for my laptop and writing down the first few sentences/paragraphs/pages. That’s what happens when the writing mind is free of constraints (e.g., workshop/contest deadlines) and allowed to flow…stuff just comes to you. I also played with some various scenario twists for this year’s NaNo novel draft, but again; I’ll just jot them down and revisit them seriously next year sometime.

I will get back on my writing job on Monday, when I start revising the draft of the next Bastille novel that will be released in January. Until then, I will enjoy the weekend and catch up on reading and binge-watching my shows and movies.

But I’ll probably sneak some quick writing in. ‘Cause that’s what we writers do. Writing: it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure! (Shoutout to anyone who remembers that reference, which means you’re an American at least over 35 years of age LOL).

Thanks for stopping by.

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