LIFE AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES by Kristan Higgins

August 5, 2019

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BLOG TOUR

I am so excited to be part of the blog tour for Kristan Higgins’ latest; it is simply unputdownable! Plus read on to find out how you can win a copy of her last book, Good Luck with That!

From the publisher:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Good Luck with That comes a new novel about a blue-blood grandmother and her black-sheep granddaughter who discover they are truly two sides of the same coin.

Emma London never thought she had anything in common with her grandmother Genevieve London. The regal old woman came from wealthy and bluest-blood New England stock, but that didn’t protect her from life’s cruelest blows: the disappearance of Genevieve’s young son, followed by the premature death of her husband. But Genevieve rose from those ashes of grief and built a fashion empire that was respected the world over, even when it meant neglecting her other son.

When Emma’s own mother died, her father abandoned her on his mother’s doorstep. Genevieve took Emma in and reluctantly raised her–until Emma got pregnant her senior year of high school. Genevieve kicked her out with nothing but the clothes on her back…but Emma took with her the most important London possession: the strength not just to survive but to thrive. And indeed, Emma has built a wonderful life for herself and her teenage daughter, Riley.

So what is Emma to do when Genevieve does the one thing Emma never expected of her and, after not speaking to her for nearly two decades, calls and asks for help?


REVIEW

Higgins brings her characters to life on the page and creates a memorable family saga in her latest. Like all good family tales, there is drama galore and enough angst and laughs to keep the pages turning.

Family matriarch Genevieve London has not had the easiest life, so even though she is definitely the antagonist of the story and makes some really horrible choices, we can’t help but feel a little bit badly for her. Emma is our heroine, and I really loved her relationship with her daughter Riley. As close as they are, and as distant as Emma and Genevieve are, it really speaks to the kind of mother she is that she allows Riley and Genevieve to bond. I also loved how independent Emma is, and her willingness to stand up to her grandmother and speak her truth.

There is a bit of romance here between Emma and Miller, a neighbor of Genevieve’s who is a widower with a very difficult three-year-old daughter, Tess. I hate to say Tess provides some of the comic relief, but she definitely does at times. She also made me want to hug both my kids and tell them how fabulous they are.

The family relationships here are all fraught, but it makes for compelling reading. This was a one night read for me as I really couldn’t put it down. I must say I really love Higgins’ writing, she hits the perfect pitch for each character and the story in general. Great beach reading or for any kind of escape you may need. Don’t miss it – I loved this book!

8/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

LIFE AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES by Kristan Higgins. Berkley (August 6, 2019). ISBN 978-0451489425. 448p.

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To win a copy of Good Luck with That by Kristan Higgins, please send an email to contest@gmail.com with “GOOD LUCK” as the subject.

You must include your U.S. street address in your email.

All entries must be received by August 31, 2019. One (1) name will be drawn from all qualified entries and notified via email. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age in the United States only. Your book will be sent by PenguinRandomHouse.

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Read an excerpt of Life and Other Inconveniences :

When I called Genevieve back and told her we were coming—including Pop, who would be staying elsewhere—there’d been a long pause. “Thank you,” she finally said.

“On one condition, Genevieve,” I said. “You do not mention money or inheritance to Riley. Not a whisper, not a hint. I don’t want you dangling your bank accounts in front of my daughter and snatching them away if she uses the wrong fork.”

“By which I assume you’re referring to the fact that I didn’t fund your teenage folly.”

“Teenage folly? You mean your great-granddaughter? Yes. This summer isn’t about the money. It’s us giving you a chance to make amends, and you making me Hope’s guardian.”

“How very gracious you are, my dear,” she said, and I heard a slurp. Five o’clock somewhere.

But she agreed, and here we were.

My clients, the ones I saw in person, were fine with me leaving for two months. I’d TheraTalk with most of them; two were about done anyway, and said they’d call me if they needed me. I’d had to give up my office space, though; luckily, a classmate from my PhD program had sublet it. Once I got back, I’d have to find another space, but I’d deal with that later.

Pop had found himself a little apartment over an antiques shop on Water Street. I was unspeakably grateful that he’d be nearby. He’d always hated Genevieve, who had viewed my mother as insufficient wife material for her wretched son.

Then again, she had a point. My mother had taken her own life. Maybe Genevieve had sensed something, even back then. She was many things, but she wasn’t stupid.

We crossed the Connecticut River, then the Thames. “There’s the Coast Guard Academy, Pop,” I said, pointing. He was an Air Force man himself, but he nodded. We went through Mystic, and I remembered going to the aquarium with Jason on a date. Or a field trip, maybe, but we’d held hands. Kissed in the dim light of the myriad fish tanks, and it had felt like the most romantic thing in the world.

He knew we were coming, of course. He was excited, he’d said on the phone. Talked about being separated, wasn’t sure where things were headed there. The boys couldn’t wait to meet Riley in person, though they knew her from Skype and phone calls.

My heart leaped into overdrive when, just before we hit Rhode Island, Charles exited the highway and entered the land of stone walls and gracious houses, tall oaks and two-hundred-year-old farms. The woods and fields gave way to narrower streets, and we went over the bridge that led to the borough.

Welcome to Stoningham, the sign said.

I found that I was holding my grandfather’s thumb, same as I had when I was little, back before my mother died, when seeing my grandparents was the happiest thing ever. He gave my hand a squeeze.

“Oh, my gosh, this town is so cute!” Riley said.

And it was. The sky was Maxfield Parrish blue, the lights of the Colonials that lined the streets glowing in what seemed to be a welcome. People were out, walking their dogs. At the library green, some kids tossed a football. As we came onto Water Street, Riley exclaimed over the little shops and restaurants. “There’s a café, Mom! Hooray! Oh, and an ice cream place! Even better!”
I smiled, but my stomach cramped again. It felt like I had never left.

The town hadn’t changed much. Still adorable with its colorful buildings and crooked streets. I caught glimpses of Long Island Sound as we drove, smelled garlic and seafood. Would Genevieve have dinner for us? Would she hug me? I swore if she made Riley feel one iota of shame, we’d be out of Connecticut forever.

Charles turned onto Bleak Point Road, where the most expensive houses in town sat like grand old ladies, weathered and gracious. All had names, which Riley read aloud as we passed.

“Thrush Hill. Summerly. Wisteria Cottage. Cliff View. Pop, we have to name our house when we get back!”

“Name it what? Crabgrass?” Pop asked.

“That’s kind of perfect, actually,” I murmured, having gone to war many times with weeds in our small yard.

“Oh, Sheerwater! We’re here!”

The iron gates (yes, gates) opened, and we turned onto the crushed shell drive. Sheerwater had ten acres of land, the very tip of Bleak Point, and it looked like a park, with beautifully gnarled dogwood trees on either side of the driveway, their intertwined branches making a tunnel of white blossoms. Spring was late this year.

We rounded the gentle curve, and my hands were sweating now.

“Holy guacamole,” my daughter breathed. “It’s even prettier than the pictures!” In the rearview mirror, I saw Charles smile. Beside me, Pop stiffened. He’d never been here, of course.

There it was—my grandmother’s twenty-room cottage, pristine and gracious and lit up like the fires of hell.


About the Author

 


THE PATRIOT THREAT by Steve Berry

March 31, 2015
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I fell in love with Steve Berry with his first book, The Amber Room, and many books later the love affair continues. I am delighted to help kick off his Blog Tour for his latest Cotton Malone thriller, The Patriot Threat. Read on for a review and an excerpt (and don’t forget to rush over & enter the ITW March Bookshelf of Thrillers contest to win a signed copy of this book plus several others – 3/31 is the last day to enter!)

REVIEW

by Paul Lane

The mantra that the only sure things in life are death and taxes is well known to everyone. Death is certain and taxes are always with us as a means of funding the government’s expenditures. The income tax that is law in the United States was approved as the 16th amendment to the Constitution and ratified by the requisite number of states needed to pass it. The implementation in 1913 was to only affect a few individuals that were perceived as able to pay it.

But with such an instrument in hand, the tax bite grew like Topsy, and it was President Franklin Roosevelt that initiated withholding at the payer source in order to collect quickly. Berry uses his character, Cotton Malone, a former secret agent known quite well to many readers, to tell the story.

While retired and living in Copenhagen where he owns a book shop, he does answer his previous supervisor Stephanie Nelle’s request to go after a rogue member of North Korea’s ruling family who is searching for information which can be used to damage the United States. The item is a crumpled sheet of paper that was handed to Roosevelt in 1933 by Andrew Mellon, a multi millionaire who had been named Secretary of the Treasury by three successive presidents and had an ongoing dislike for FDR.

Berry obviously has a great deal of dislike for Roosevelt and his politics. He postulates that Mellon told him to his face that he was a failure since he would need a war to end the great depression, which continued unabated until WWII. He is also accused of using the Internal Revenue Service as a gestapo to punish those who opposed him.

Mellon is described as hurling a paper at Roosevelt while arguing in private. This paper is described as pointing out the 16th amendment was not legally passed with several states not processing the proposal correctly. If so, it opens the United States to lawsuits halting the income tax and putting in claims for past payments made to the government. Since the Income Tax provides about 90% of America’s funding such an event would cause the country to default on it’s debts as well as not having the ability to function.

The rogue brother of North Korea’s current ruling family, Kim Yong Jin, is seeking the “crumpled” paper as a means of doing damage to the U.S., causing it to default on its debts. As a consequence he feels that he would be able to displace the current leader and take power.

The Patriot Threat, similarly to other Cotton Malone books, is a fast and engrossing read as clues and information are gathered and made sense of. It also makes use of information that Berry and his wife have gathered that is a bit out of the mainstream, and learned through their research in areas that they pursue due to their love of history. The book makes reference to events in other books about Cotton Malone, but is, like the others, a satisfying stand alone to be enjoyed even without the information that may seem to be missing.

EXCERPT

ONE

Cotton Malone dove to the floor as bullets peppered the glass wall. Thankfully the transparent panel, which separated one space from another floor-to-ceiling, did not shatter. He risked a look into the expansive secretarial area and spotted flashes of light through the semi-darkness, each burst emitted from the end of a short-barreled  weapon. The glass between him and the assailant was obviously extra-resistant, and he silently thanked someone’s foresight.

His options were limited.

He knew little about the geography of the building’s eighth floor— after all, this was his first visit. He’d come expecting to covertly observe a massive financial transaction—$20 million U.S. being stuffed into two large sacks destined for North  Korea. Instead the exchange had turned into a bloodbath, four men dead in an office not far away, their killer—an Asian man with short, dark hair and dressed as a security guard—now homing in on him.

He needed to take cover.

At least he was armed, toting his Magellan Billet–issued Beretta and two spare magazines. The ability to travel with a gun was one advantage that came with again carrying a badge for the United States Justice Department. He’d agreed to the temporary assignment as a way to take his mind off things in Copenhagen, and to earn some money since nowadays spy work paid well.

Think.

He was outgunned, but not outsmarted.

Control whats around you and you control the outcome.

He darted left down the corridor, across gritty terrazzo, just as another volley finally obliterated the glass wall. He passed a nook with a restroom door on either side and kept going. Farther on a maid’s cart sat unattended. He caught sight of a propped-open  door to a nearby office and spied a uniformed woman cowering in the dark interior.

He whispered in Italian, “Crawl under the desk and stay quiet.” She did as he commanded.

This civilian could be a problem. Collateral damage was the term used for them in Magellan Billet reports. He hated the description. More accurately they were somebody’s father, mother, brother, sister. Innocents, caught in the crossfire.

It would be only a few moments before the Asian appeared.

He  noticed another  office door and rushed inside the dark space. The usual furniture lay scattered. A second doorway led to an adjacent room, light spilling in through its half-open door. A quick glance inside that other space confirmed that the second room opened back to the hall.

That would work.

His nostrils detected the odor of cleaning solution, an open metal canister holding several gallons resting a few feet away. He also spotted a pack of cigarettes and a lighter on the maid’s cart.

Control whats around you.

He grabbed both, then tipped over the metal container.

Clear fluid gurgled onto the hall floor, spreading across the tile in a river that flowed in the direction from which the Asian would come.

He waited.

Five seconds later his attacker, leading with the automatic rifle, peered around a corner, surely wondering where his prey might be.

Malone lingered another few seconds so as to be seen. The rifle appeared.

He darted into the office. Bullets peppered the maid’s cart in deafening bursts. He flicked the lighter and ignited the cigarette pack. Paper, cellophane, and tobacco began to burn. One. Two. He tossed the burn- ing bundle out the door and into the clear film that sheathed the hall floor.

A swoosh and the cleaning liquid caught fire.

Movement in the second room confirmed what he’d thought would happen. The Asian had taken refuge there from the burning floor. Before his enemy could fully appreciate his dilemma Malone  plunged through the doorway, tackling the man to the ground.

The rifle clattered away.

His right hand clamped onto the man’s throat. But his opponent was strong.

And nimble.

They rolled, twice, colliding with a desk.

He told himself to keep his grip. But the Asian pivoted off the floor and catapulted him feetfirst into the air. His body hinged across his opponent’s head. He was thrust aside and the Asian sprang to his feet. He readied himself for a fight, but the “guard” fled the room.

He found his gun and approached the door, heart pounding, lungs heaving. Remnants of the liquid still smoldered on the floor. The hall was clear and wet footprints led away. He followed them. At a corner, he stopped and glanced around, seeing no one. He advanced toward the elevators and studied the transom, noticing that the position-indicator displays for both cars were lit 8—this floor. He pressed the up button and jumped back ready to fire.

The doors opened.

The right car was empty. The left held a bloodied corpse, dressed only in his underwear. The real guard, he assumed. He stared at the contorted face, obscured by two gaping wounds. Surely part of the plan was not only to eliminate all of the participants, but to leave no witnesses behind. He glanced inside the car and spotted a destroyed control panel. He checked the other car and found that it had also been disabled. The only way out now was the stairs.

He entered the stairwell and listened. Someone was climbing the risers toward the roof. He vaulted up as fast as caution advised, keeping an eye ahead for trouble.

A door opened, then closed.

At the top he found an exit and heard the distinct churn of a helicopter turbine starting from the other side.

He cracked open the door.

A chopper faced away, tail boom and fin close, its cabin pointing out to the night. The rotors began to wind fast and the Asian quickly loaded on the two large sacks of cash, then jumped inside.

Blades spun faster and the skids lifted from the roof. He pushed open the door.

A chilly wind buffeted him.

Should he fire? No. Let it fly away? He’d been sent only to observe, but things had gone wrong, so now he needed to earn his keep. He stuffed the pistol into his back pocket, buttoned  it shut, and ran. One leap and he grabbed hold of the rising skid.

The chopper powered out into the dark sky.

What a strange sensation, flying unprotected through the night. He clung tightly to the metal skid with both hands, the chopper’s airspeed making it increasingly difficult to hang on.

He stared down.

They were headed east, away from the mainland, toward the water and the islands. The location where the murders had occurred was on the Italian shore, a few hundred yards inland, a nondescript office building near Marco Polo International Airport. The lagoon itself was en- closed by thin strips of lighted coast joined in a wide arc to the mainland, Venice lying at the center.

The chopper banked right and increased speed.

He wrapped his right arm around the skid for a better hold.

Ahead he spied Venice, its towers and spires lit to the night. Beyond on all sides was blackness, signaling open water. Farther east was Lido, which fronted the Adriatic. His mind ticked off what lay below. To the north, ground lights betrayed the presence of Murano, then Burano and, farther on, Torcello. The islands lay embedded in the lagoon like sparkling trinkets. He curled himself around the skid and for the first time stared up into the cabin.

The “guard” eyed him.

The chopper veered left, apparently to see if the unwanted passenger could be dislodged. His body flew out, then whipped back, but he held tight and stared up once more into icy eyes. He saw the Asian slide open the hatch with his left hand, the rifle in his right. In the instant before rounds rained down at the skids, he swung across the undercarriage to- ward the other skid and jerked himself over.

Bullets smacked the left skid, disappearing down through the dark. He was now safe on the right side, but his hands ached from gravity’s pull. The chopper again rocked back and forth, tapping his last bits of strength. He hooked his left leg onto the skid, hugging the metal. The brisk air dried his throat, making breathing difficult. He worked hard to build up saliva and relieve the parching.

He needed to do something and fast.

He studied the whirling rotors, blades beating the air, the staccato of the turbine deafening. On  the roof he’d hesitated, but now there ap- peared to be no choice. He held on tight with his legs and left arm, then reached back and unbuttoned  his pant pocket. He stuffed in his right hand and removed the Beretta.

Only one way left to force the chopper down.

He fired three shots into the screaming turbine just below the rotor’s hub.

The engine sputtered.

Flames poured out of the air intake and exhaust pipe. Airspeed diminished. The nose went up in an effort to stay airborne.

He glanced down.

They were still a thousand feet up but rapidly losing altitude in some- thing of a controlled descent.

He could see an island ahead of them. Scattered glows defined its rectangular shape just north of Venice. He knew the place. Isola di San Michele. Nothing  there but a couple of churches and a huge cemetery where the dead had been buried since the time of Napoleon.

More sputtering.

A sudden backfire.

Thick smoke billowed from the exhaust, the scent of sulfur and burning oil sickening. The pilot was apparently trying to stabilize the descent, the craft jerking up and down, its control planes working hard.

They overtook the island flying close to the dome of its main church.

At twenty feet off the ground success seemed at hand. The chopper leveled, then hovered. Its turbine smoothed. Below was a dark spot, but he wondered how many stone markers might be waiting. Hard to see any- thing in the darkness. The chopper’s occupants surely knew they still had company. So why land? Just head back up and ditch their passenger from the air.

He should have shot the turbine a few times more. Now he had no choice.

So he let go of the skid.

He seemed to fall for the longest time, though if memory served him right a free-falling object fell at the rate of thirty-two feet per second, per second. Twenty feet equaled less than one second. He hoped that the ground was soft and he avoided stone.

He pounded legs-first, his knees collapsing to absorb the shock, then rebounding, sending him rolling. His left thigh instantly ached. Some- how he managed to hold on to the gun. He came to a stop and looked back up. The pilot had regained full control. The helicopter pitched up and maneuvered closer. A swing to the right and his attacker now had a clear view below. He  could probably limp off, but  he saw no good ground cover. He was in the open, amid the graves. The Asian saw his predicament, hovering less than  a hundred  feet away, the downwash from the blades stirring up loose topsoil. The helicopter’s hatch slid open and his attacker one-handedly took aim with the automatic rifle.

Malone propped himself up and aimed the pistol using both hands. There couldn’t be more than four rounds left in the magazine.

Make em count.

So he aimed at the engine.

The Asian gestured to the pilot for a retreat.

But not before Malone fired. One, two, three, four shots.

Hard to tell which bullet actually did the trick, but the turbine exploded, a brilliant fireball lighting the sky, flaming chunks cascading to the ground in a searing shower fifty yards away. In the sudden light he spotted hundreds of grave markers in tightly packed rows. He hugged the earth and shielded his head as the explosions continued, a heaping mass of twisted metal, flesh, and burning fuel erupting before him.

He stared at the carnage.

A crackle of flames consumed the helicopter, its occupants, and $20 million U.S. in cash.

Somebody was going to be pissed.

 

THE PATRIOT THREAT by Steve Berry. Minotaur Books (March 31, 2015). ISBN 978-1250056238. 400p.