Book Review Tuesday – Life Before Us – #BRT


Who here has read books by the late Maeve Binchy? I love everything she’d ever written – lovely, warm Irish stories like Circle of Friends, Light a Penny Candle, Scarlet Feather. Binchy died in 2012, alas, but there’s an Irish writer who’s just as wonderful, if not better.

Meet Roisin (“Ro-SHEEN”) Meaney, based in Limerick. She’s written 20 novels, all of them worth your time, in my humble opinion. Her newest is called Life Before Us, and it’s exactly what you should be reading!

Roisin Meaney

In Life Before Us, we meet George Murphy, a 34-year-old schoolteacher with a kind heart and an 11-year-old daughter named Suzi (adorable and precocious) from his now-ended marriage to Claire. George is a gentle and caring person who devotes extra time to his sixth-grade students. His widowed mother has recently moved out of the family home (where George returned after his divorce) and is now living with John.

Alice O’Mahoney is a receptionist in a dentist’s office in Dublin, and is involved with a man named Chris, who is far too secretive to be trusted. Except Alice ignores the red flags and is preparing a getaway with him, until Chris’s wife (!!!) calls her at work to let her know that Alice has been a fool. Well, yes, but what about Chris? Anyway, how humiliating! Alice decides to return to her hometown of Naas, Ireland, only to find that her old friends have moved on with their lives. She moves in temporarily with her aunt Kate, who runs an Italian restaurant, and helps out at the restaurant, delivers local eggs for Kate (who has hens, of course), and manages to snag a gig writing a “kindness column” for the local newspaper.

Throughout the book, Alice’s path will cross with George’s path numerous times, but they never meet in person (well, they do, but only you, the reader, knows it). If it’s destiny that these two meet, it takes some time. And that’s what is so gorgeous about this novel – and about Meaney’s writing in particular – she weaves these moments, phrases, glances, all together so that by the time you’re almost finished with the book (and trust me, you don’t want it to end), there is a stunning tapestry of a tale.

I adored this book – five big beautiful stars. If you enjoyed reading this review, I encourage you to buy or download her book – and you’ll be hooked, too.

If you can’t find Roisin Meaney’s books locally, then by all means go here https://tinyurl.com/2ttjndcr and you’ll find them all.

Book Review Tuesday – City on Fire – #BRT


You know I’ve been showcasing local authors here Tuesdays. Not every Tuesday, but when I can I do like to give a shout-out to my fellow RI authors. So today I’m bringing you the newest book from a Rhode Island native. Yes, Don Winslow, the New York Times bestselling author of over 20 novels, grew up in Perryville, a village within the town of South Kingstown, Rhode Island. When I learned that, I smiled. My grandparents had a house in Perryville when I was a little girl, and it was magical – a converted log cabin within the woods, with trails marked by my outdoors-loving Pop-Pop. Anyway, I felt a kindred warmth toward Mr. Winslow.

City on Fire, the first book in what will be Winslow’s final trilogy, is set in Rhode Island, so locals, listen up! According to the author, it’s his first time setting one of his books in Rhode Island. This book brings together Italian and Irish crime syndicates (what we here might refer to as the Mafia and the “Murphya”). It’s set in the 80s and 90s, with all the trappings of that era. Providence has its Dogtown, and Galilee is Gilead in the book, but Rhode Islanders will recognize enough of the area.

What I found intriguing about this novel is that during the early days of the pandemic, Winslow re-read a lot of the classics of literature, and his efforts at modernizing “The Iliad” with a Helen of Troy character were spot-on successful. (In an interview, Winslow noted that there was an incident in real crime history where a war was touched off between two syndicates and it was an argument over a woman at a beach party.)

City on Fire is a fast-paced page-turner. The sequel to this book will be out next year, and the final book – the last Don Winslow book ever! – will be published in spring of 2024.

Stephen King called it “superb.” I’d say that’s a pretty good endorsement.

Shop local! If you’re looking for a print copy, check out Stillwater Books in Pawtucket, Ink Fish Books in Warren, or Books on the Square in Providence. It should be available everywhere.

Don Winslow

Book Review Tuesday – Just Like a Pill – #BRT


Am I too old to read a Young Adult novel? Nah, not when it means I support a fellow Rhode Island author. Look, if you’ve been following these Tuesday book reviews, you’ll know that I’ve been reading way out of my comfort zone (horror, paranormal, children’s…!), so what the heck.

In this debut novel (2016) from Angelina Singer, the protagonist is Scarlett, a young woman in high school with all the teenage angst that goes with it. Remember? Of course you do. Scarlett, with dyed red hair to match her name, pines for hunky rocker Maxx, who is in a relationship with mean girl Ashley. Her best friend is health nut Izzy and there is nerdy Greg to round out the group.

As Homecoming approaches, Scarlett dreads the thought of attending the dance without a partner, but a sinus infection and the resulting ‘prescription’ she’s given by a questionable ‘pharmacist’ result in a mixed-up set of circumstances that will shake up everything in Scarlett’s world.

Unrequited love and yearning is a tried and true theme, especially for YA books, but Singer brings Scarlett to life with her spot-on characterization and inner turmoil. Add in some funky ‘antibiotics’ that are anything but and you’ve got a fun, easy read.

I would recommend this author rework the manuscript to clean up errors, which abound but don’t take away from the story. (As an editor, I can’t not see typos and grammatical slip-ups, but many readers can glide by them – so it’s just my opinion).

You can pick up a copy of Just Like a Pill (Who Knew the Boy of her Dreams Would Fall Under Her Spell?) (yeah, it’s a long title) online at Amazon (https://tinyurl.com/4rdejk88) or locally from Stillwater Books in Pawtucket (https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/just-pill). Please patronize your local bookstore! If they don’t carry a title you want, ask them to order it for you.

Happy Pride Month!


“You know, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender – people are people.” (Judith Light)

This book of mine, pictured above, is FREE for the first five days of June, to celebrate people – everyone (click on the link right below the picture of the book). My character Joe Traversa was, I believe, the first gay character I wrote. He wasn’t the last, though. It’s important not to turn a fictional person into a caricature, and I hope I avoided doing so. Bits of Broken Glass was published in December of 2013 – over eight years and at least six books ago. It’s about an impending high school reunion (do those even take place anymore?) and four classmates who revisit their pasts as the reunion approaches. I created characters from what I call amalgams – bits of friends, and enemies – that I’ve known. No one character is solely based on one individual.

By making a book free for a few days, what I hope to do is attract a new reader or two. It’s hard for a stranger to take a chance on a new author. I know that. So you can download this book for nothing and see what you think. If you like the book, I’ve got plenty more!

Presently I’m working on my 11th novel, my 12th book. It’s pretty incredible sometimes when I think about it. And I do hope this one is the best yet (I say that about each of them). It will involve travel, and my recent trip to Portugal and Spain will provide some of the inspiration. But the book won’t be ready until late in the year, so I’m afraid you’ll have to wait.

For those of you who are loyal readers, let me thank you again. I so very much appreciate your support and kindness over the years. I may never be a famous author, but that’s okay with me. I’m doing what I truly enjoy, and as long as you like reading my books, I’ll keep writing them!

Happy Pride Month!

Book Review Tuesday – Summoned – #BRT


This is the first book in the From Smokeless Fire series by author M.A. Guglielmo (and her debut novel). Beautiful cover. Wow. I was wayyyyy out of my comfort zone with this one, but stay with me, because I stayed with the story.

I found Summoned a unique paranormal story, and though I don’t usually (ever) read paranormal, I really enjoyed the fact that this book seemed different – jinns!

Zahara is a jinn who loves sex, shoes, and lots of sugary sweets. She is an absolutely mesmerizing character, and kudos to the author for her creativity in drawing out Zahara. Zahara is summoned by an ordinary guy named Daniel Goldstein, and their mission is to stop a fallen angel who’s bent on destroying the world.

Daniel’s deceased Jewish grandmother plays a significant role as well, and Guglielmo takes the reader on a whirlwind journey to mysterious Morocco.

I enjoyed the fact that the author showed a lot of originality with this tale. It’s exceptionally well written, too. Banking on the timeless theme of good vs. evil, Summoned will captivate the reader with its unique spin. I did struggle a bit to stay with the story around two-thirds in – maybe that was just me, but it seemed a little slow. But I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. So, even if you’re not a reader of paranormal, I can recommend this book as a good escape novel.

You can grab a copy of this first-in-a-series book at Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Summoned-M-Guglielmo/dp/1950510387/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1653219488&sr=8-1

Next book review is Tuesday, June 7. I have some catching up to do!

Book Review Tuesday – Bart the Mysterious – #BRT


“A lesson in acceptance.” This line runs through Connie Ciampanelli’s story of her 10+-year relationship with Bartholemew Thomas Katt, affectionately known as “Bart,” “Black Bart,” and, as the cover indicates, “Bart the Mysterious.”

A stray cat who mysteriously appeared on the author’s doorstep one day, Bart was indeed a warrior, a cat that was slow to trust but one that won over the author’s heart. Ciampanelli points out at the beginning of the book that she wasn’t ‘a cat person.’ Ah, but don’t animals have a way of making us realize we really are? Cat people, dog people – either way, animals can demonstrate to us what unconditional acceptance and love can be.

Ciampanelli has created a book from her own reflections, and added email correspondence she had with the late Dr. Ernest Finocchio, then director of the RI SPCA. Their mutual admiration is evident in these exchanges, as Ciampanelli sought advice and Finocchio recognized how much she cared about Bart. Added to the book are Facebook posts, where the author kept her followers apprised of Bart’s appearances, as well as his sometimes long and worrisome absences.

Through it all, Ciampanelli’s deep love for this fiercely independent feline is apparent. She and her husband owned two “indoor” cats, but always made room for Bart. She worried about him when he was gone and rejoiced when he’d reappear. The “lesson in acceptance,” which is a lesson for us all, is that she allowed him to be the independent cat he was destined to be. After a ten-plus year relationship, Bart, perhaps knowing his own end was near, was euthanized at the RISCPA in the early days of the Covid pandemic. But he didn’t die alone, as Ciampanelli had always feared. He received the tender care that all living things deserve.

This book is a gem, especially for cat lovers, and includes a truly beautiful poem at the end by the author’s friend Deborah Halliday, a very talented poet.

You can get a copy of Bart the Mysterious online at Amazon (https://tinyurl.com/ycxeceuu) or, if you’re local, please stop by Stillwater Books in Pawtucket (https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/) for a copy.

Reflections on the 2022 #AtoZ Challenge


Hey, it’s over! For two months each year, I blog every day. November is reserved for the annual “Book-a-Day Giveaway” event here, where I feature local authors and offer up books and gift cards, and April brings the annual “Blogging from A to Z Challenge,” in which I have participated for – I believe – 12 years now.

This year I had my theme picked out months ahead of time. That’s usually the case for me, as I am the ultimate planner. It just works better if I have the theme, if I know I can cover all the letters, and I have pre-written and pre-scheduled my posts. Because I had a new novel out (October 2021) that is set in 1981, I looked into the possibility of featuring songs from 1981 as my theme. And it worked! What a variety of music – from classic rock (The Stones, The Who, George Harrison, John Lennon) to country crossovers (Eddie Rabbit, Rosanne Cash, Juice Newton) to new wave and punk (Blondie, Adam Ant) to fading disco and folk (Air Supply, Olivia Newton-John), there was truly a wide range of songs. If you missed out, you can start here: https://wordpress.com/post/marthareynoldswrites.com/9561

March and April are always busy months for me. This year I traveled to Portugal and Spain with my sister in March, and I chair and edit the annual anthology produced by the Association of Rhode Island Authors. It didn’t leave me with much time to visit other blogs, but I tried to find a few new ones. And, as always, I’m very grateful for the folks who took the time to visit my posts and like/comment. But having participated in this challenge for so long now, I no longer worry about whether people stop by.

So. on we go. I’m back to posting book reviews on Tuesdays (focusing mainly on my fellow Rhode Island authors) and I’m back to working on a new book, with the hopes of publishing later in the year. So stay tuned for that! And congratulations to all the bloggers who completed the challenge this year!

#AtoZ 1981 Songs to Remember – “X” is for “JukeboX Babe”


I chose 1981 music as my theme this year. My newest novel The Summer of Princess Diana is set in the summer of 1981, and oh! the music! Let’s take a look back at a pivotal time in the music industry.

Oh boy. Well, you know that I usually have to get a little creative by the time I reach the letter X, and today is no exception. I found this song on a list of 1981 songs and found the video on YouTube. So, I’m thinking, let’s see how this goes.

“Jukebox Babe” (not “Jukebox Baby” as it is often sung) was released as a single in 1981. This singer? Alan Vega, born Alan Bermowitz in 1938 – so yep, he was 43 when this song was released (I read that he lied about his age often). He was primarily known as a vocalist with the electronic duo Suicide. “Jukebox Babe” was a hit single in France, but to be honest, I had never heard of it, and I listened to a lot of music in the early 80s.

Here is Alan Vega, looking like he’d rather be anywhere else but on that stage:

#AtoZ 1981 BONUS SUNDAY!


It’s the last bonus Sunday of the month, and I wanted to feature a song that did make it big. Issued in January 1981 by the Dutch pop group Stars on 45, the song is called “Stars on 45 Medley” and was a medley of hits (you’ll see). It reached #1 in the Netherlands in February, #2 in the UK in April, and #1 in the US in June 1981.

The song kind of kicked off a craze of various medleys. Copyright issues? I have no idea.

#AtoZ 1981 Songs to Remember – “S” is for “Start Me Up”


I chose 1981 music as my theme this year. My newest novel The Summer of Princess Diana is set in the summer of 1981, and oh! the music! Let’s take a look back at a pivotal time in the music industry.

From their album Tattoo You, “Start Me Up” was the lead single released off the album, and reached #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1981. It was the biggest hit of the 80s for The Rolling Stones in the US.

Music critic Stewart Mason noted, “There were hits after ‘Start Me Up,’ but…it’s undeniable that this…was the last great Rolling Stones song.” Here are The Stones live in 2006: