Mary Burton Book Giveaway!

Great Big Book Giveaway

WIN SIGNED COPIES OF MARY BURTON’S SENSELESS AND                                        MERCILESS !!

Many of you may remember our reviews of the premiere books in author Mary Burton’s Alexandria, Virginia romantic suspense series. In case you missed checking them out then, we have a great giveaway you won’t want to pass up!

The first book in the series, Senseless  released in January 2011. A gripping crime drama detailing the ritualistic killing of women, linked by the brand the killer stamps each with. These murders seem to be circling back to one woman and another death that occurred ten years before.

The second book in the series, Merciless  released one month later in  February 2011, revolves around another series of strange deaths. This time, when bodies are being discovered around Alexandria, they are showing up as pristine skeletons, completely stripped of their flesh. When the first victim is identified as a patient of an area doctor who had recently been acquitted of murder, the lead detective on the case makes the most obvious conclusion. However, as the bodies begin to mount up Detective Keir suspects that the doctor’s defense attorney may be the next victim in the killer’s sites.

Both books in the series are riveting, edge-of-your-seat, not to be missed page turners.  But- in case you missed them when they released last year, or you would like a chance to reacquaint yourself with this series, our giveaway promotion could not come at a better time.

On January 31, 2012 Mary Burton will release the third installment in this thrilling series – Before She Dies . So, now is the perfect time to get up to speed and find out what is going in the not-so sleepy town of Alexandria, Virginia.

Check out this interview Mary gave on Virginia This Morning as she talk about her writing process as well as her first two book in the series:

Mary Burton on Virginia This Morning

For more on Mary Burton and her books, please visit :

To enter the Senseless/ Merciless Book Giveaway  simply fill out the form below. Include your full name, mailing address and e-mail address (so we can let you know if you’ve won) .






**Note to Contestants– Simple Pleasures Books will not sell or share your name , address or email with any outside sources. We retain it only for the period of the contest/giveaway and will not use it for any other purpose, including our own. We will only retain your information if you request/ agree to be added to our mailing list. The winner will be announced on our blog after they have been notified via email. The winner will be selected at random and notified on selection.

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Kids Corner Review: Terrible, Awful Horrible Manners by Beth Bracken

Admin’s Note: I’ve previously down the book reviews in The Kid’s Corner  and as you’ve probably noticed we haven’t had one here in a while. Well, I decided to take advantage of the wealth of opinion that resides with my grandchildren to give new voice to  The Kid’s Corner . The following review comes from my grandson Dylan. What it lacks in length, it makes up for in totally undiluted kid-like honesty. So now, without further ado… our first guest reviewer in The Kid’s Corner : Dylan Courtright, reviewing  –

Terrible, Awful, Horrible Manners

by Beth Bracken

It was funny & hilarious and gross. Especially when he ‘tooted’. His mom & dad were trying to make their son respect his self and show manners. They showed him how nasty and gross his manners were by tooting, picking their nose and not washing their hands. The book was awesome!

Review by Dylan Courtright

Terrible, Awful, Horrible Manners by Beth Bracken is coming soon.

A Little Boost brand from Picture Window Books and released through  Capstone Books is for reading levels K-3

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Simple Pleasures Author Event ~ Raven A. Nuckols

Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts is pleased to announce our first Author Event of 2012! This event will take place  on Sat., March 10, 2012 for Raven A. Nuckols author of the historical novel

Had the Queen Lived- An Alternative History of Anne Boleyn.

The author will be available to sign copies of her book and answer questions from 12- 2 pm. at Ashland Coffee & Tea, 100 N. Railroad Ave. Ashland, VA

Copies of ” Had the Queen Lived” will be available in both hardcover and paperback.

Those who would like to pre-order in advance of the event can contact us at 







**Discounted Standard Shipping/Handling applies to all pre-orders for those not attending the event: ($1.00 charge for PB orders, $2.00 for HB)

To order your copies in advance of the event to either be mailed to you or to be picked up at the event, please email us at :    or fill out the form below. Please make sure to include your full name, address and daytime telephone number and/or email address where we can reach you to confirm the transaction. Also indicate whether you will pick up at the event or would like it shipped to you. You will receive a confirmation of the sale via email or text message to your phone. 

We accept all major credit cards and PayPal

For more information on Raven Nuckols and Had the Queen Lived: An Alternative History of Anne Boleyn  please visit the author’s website at:

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Review: The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak


Book Review: The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great

by Eva Stachniak

Imagine yourself in the Imperial Court of 18th century Russia. You are a young girl, the daughter of a tradesman- a gifted tradesman, who has managed to capture the attention of an Empress- but a tradesman all the same. Because of his notice by the Empress, your father secures a promise from her majesty to protect you in the event of his death . When he dies, you go to the palace of Empress Elizabeth of Russia and find yourself embroiled in a hotbed of intrigue, indulgence, greed and paranoia. This is the story of Barbara (Varvara) Nikolyevena, a fictional representation of a person or persons who most surely existed in the courts of first Empress Elizabeth, then later in the court of Empress Catherine the Great- and most surely other royal courts throughout history. A person whose very existence counted on them being the eyes, ears and tongue to the person who held the throne.

In The Winter Palace Stachniak has brought Imperial Russia to life in a most exquisite and horrifying way and does it using the un-jaded eyes of someone who is an outsider given a rare glimpse into the innermost secrets of the working of a monarchy. Rulers, especially those who seized the throne as Elizabeth did, need to have eyes and ears everywhere. They must constantly be on the lookout for a plot to overthrow, a betrayal  or secrets they can use as leverage against someone at an opportune time. This need was especially important inside the palace walls, where the most insidious machinations took place. Using Barbara, or Varvara ( the Russian version of her Polish name) Stachniak creates a plausible series of events to show how a person of seemingly little importance could offer such an invaluable service to an Empress, but also to illustrate how precarious the balance of power and the whim of favor could shift. She also uses this fictional figure to illustrate how a good person can be hardened and embittered over the course of time and events and even the most rapacious individual can experience moments of generosity and regret.

After reading The Winter Palace you come away with the lasting impression that good and evil are neither simple or well-defined and the choices we make in life are not always ruled by our moral code, but are often tempered by a lack of options, our inherent need to survive – or both. I believe this is a message the author has effectively related in this wonderfully rich and multi-faceted tale of a young girl who experiences the last days of one Empress’s reign and the molding of another who would become one of the most famous monarchs in Russian history.

We highly recommend The Winter Palace. It is an incredibly enjoyable and fast-paced read.

View the book trailer video here: 4RNlgKLbSfk

Review by Brenda Seward ~ Simple Pleasures Books

The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great is available now through Bantam Books

For more information on the author, please visit her website at:

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Book Review: Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves

Book Review: Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves

Using the real-life Jack the Ripper case as the premise for a novel isn’t a new idea. It has, in fact, been done many times. However, Amy Carol Reeves novel, Ripper takes that piece of notorious crime history and uses it in a unique and interesting way. The result is a rollicking good read, full of twists and turns and an ending just begging for a sequel.

The real life Jack the Ripper case has been the subject of study and fascination for over a hundred years. The fact that the Ripper was never caught and that the murders themselves were so heinous and grisly- especially in a time of supposed grace and gentility- makes for excellent fodder for speculation among historians, criminologists and yes… fiction authors.  While most “Ripper” novels of my experience concentrate on the experiences of or the pursuit of a  particular suspect, Reeves takes a somewhat unique approach by having her central character and voice, Arabella ( Abbie) Sharp dropped center stage into one of the most notorious crimes in history.

Abbie, having grown up outside the confines and restrictions of a girl of her social station, she returns to London under her grandmother’s care after the death of her mother. In an effort to curb Abbie’s somewhat unconventional tendencies, her grandmother arranges for her to do volunteer work in the Whitechapel Hospital in London’s impoverished East End. Almost as soon as Abbie begins working there, the first of the “Ripper” killings begins.

While the infamous events going on at the time would ordinarily be the focus of the story, Reese uses the killings quite effectively as a backdrop to Abbie’s personal experiences and dramas. It is only as the story evolves that the reader can see how intricately Reese has woven the threads of Arabella’s life and that of the Ripper murders into a rich tapestry of mystery, intrigue… and a splash of the paranormal.

Geared towards the 12 and up Young Adult audience Ripper is a rollicking good read for more mature audiences. A fact to which I can whole-heartedly attest. Set for release in April 2012, this is one you’ll want to have on your Spring reading list.

Review by, Brenda Seward ~ Simple Pleasures Books

Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves, published by Flux Books ( will release in April 2012.

For more information on the author visit her website at :

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Book Review: Voices of the Dead by Peter Leonard

Review: Voices of the Dead by Peter Leonard

In Voices of the Dead, Peter Leonard has created a gripping story of mystery and intrigue built on a framework of fate, coincidence and sheer happenstance. The incredible story of Harry Levin, his daughter,  a Nazi SS officer and the confluence of events that brings them together on a full scale collision course thirty years after its beginning would have not been credible in the hands of a less gifted storyteller.

Leonard’s novel reads like a good old-fashioned, gritty crime drama in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett. Brief passages and small bits of dialogue flesh out characters in a way that paragraphs of exposition could not. For instance, our first introduction to Harry Levin shows- in the context of one brief altercation- that this man is a survivor. That first glimpse character foundation is what makes his later actions not only believable, but understandable.

The depth and realism of all the characters in Voices of the Dead gives an additional weight and truth to a plot-line that may seem, at first glance, too fantastic to be believable. However, Leonard pulls the whole seemingly convoluted stream of events together in such an interesting and entertaining way that by the time you’ve reached the final chapter you find yourself believing that the whole thing could very well have happened in real life- and it very well could have. In Voices of the Dead, Peter Leonard flips that old axiom “truth is stranger than fiction” on its side- leaving you to wonder just how much truth was the inspiration for this riveting tale of intrigue and reckoning.

On a personal note, I will admit I found myself having to get used to Leonard’s writing style. If you’ve never read his work before  (and I had not) you may need to get used to his writing tempo, which can feel a bit staccato – at least until you get used to Leonard’s storyteller voice. It may not be an issue for every reader, but it was for me. In any case, like a great song that has to grow on you at first, I eventually picked up the beat and realized it was well worth the effort. I can’t recommend this one enough. A riveting, wild ride of a story, with enough twists and turns to keep you glued to the edge of your seat.

As an added bonus to those of you who enjoy Voices of the Dead as much as I did… there’s a sequel coming  behind the January 17th release of this book. I- for one- can’t wait.

Review by, Brenda Seward

Simple Pleasures Books

Voices of the Dead by Peter Leonard and published by The Story Plant- and imprint of Random House releases on January 17, 2012.

For more information on the author and his books, visit :

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Review: We’ve Got a Job… by Cynthia Levinson

Review: We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March

by Cynthia Levinson


We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March is a book directed to young people, about young people. Although it chronicles an event that happened almost fifty years ago, it is particularly timely. As a renewed era of protest has been seen in the U.S and abroad over the last year, it is important to reflect on past protests and struggles and realize both the importance of the lesser known battles – those that led to landmark events- and the long and arduous road that sometimes must be traveled to achieve success.

In addition to the stories told by several youths directly involved in the Birmingham march, there are informative sidebars in various places throughout the book that give  added meaning or context to the elements of each individual story. In one section the  Segregation Ordinances are outlined. These were local laws put in place after the Supreme Court overturned “Separate but Equal” in order to circumvent Federal measures to integrate public places. These local “laws” were enforced by a particularly brutish and dictatorial man named “Bull” Conner- a man who carried the full weight of local law behind him and in complete disregard  of right or fairness.

Another sidebar outlines the pledge of non-violence that all those  marching  and protesting in the movement were expected to observe. The pledge outlines the basic tenets of good and civil behavior, the utmost of those to “love thy enemy” and in the face of hatred and attack to “turn the other cheek”. In practicality, it meant that those engaged in marches and protests , faced with an increasingly violent and intimidating police force using attack dogs, fire hoses and batons were required to maintain a defensive posture only and not  react in any aggressive manner whatsoever. That kind of self-restraint is hard enough to ask of an adult, much less a child, but these children rose to the task.

As I stated before, this book is directed at a young audience, but the stories told are related in a riveting  and personal way that is sure to inform and engage readers of all ages. An excellent and important addition to any young person’s library and a book worthy of discussion – not only for its historical importance but for its current social relevance.

Review by Brenda Seward


We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March , published by Peachtree Publishers is available now.

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Review: Preservation Hall by Eve Adams

Preservation Hall  by Eve Adams

 ( Photographs by Shannon Brinkman)

I usually don’t review what are commonly referred to as ” coffee table books”. Books, that at their best, are visually rich but usually a bit anemic by literary standards.  Despite that, I wanted to review this particular book for a variety of reasons. First, one shouldn’t let themselves be ruled by generalizations- especially where books are concerned. Secondly, I wanted to see if a book about a place that is dedicated to a mostly auditory passion could be conveyed mainly through photographs with some accompanying words in print. Lastly, for those that know me or have read previous reviews ( particularly, Dan Baum’s Nine Lives ) you know I have a passion for anything  from New Orleans. The food, the culture, but especially the music. For that reason alone, this was a must read.

Preservation Hall , quite the musical institution in New Orleans, is not old by the city’s standards. It’s official status is a scant 50 years old and it began – as most things happen in the Crescent City- as an impromptu idea.  The introduction, by current owner, Ben Jaffe ( son of the originators of Preservation Hall) chronicles the genesis of this musical icon. That story, in itself. is enough to get you interested.

From its origins, Preservation Hall has been a pairing of art and music, and those origins are reflected beautifully in this book. Shannon Brinkman’s photographs have , at times, a musical fluidity that gives you the feeling you are there and can actually hear the music. Accompanying the wonderful photographs are comments by the musicians of Preservation Hall. Some are short notes, others longer remembrances. All recall a rich sense of the building’s history, the history of the only truly American music and the importance of this small, unpretentious institution in our cultural tapestry. This book is an exceptional tribute to a unique and important musical icon of American history.

Review by Brenda Seward

Preservation Hall is published by Louisiana State university Press . Available now.

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Book Review: The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White

Book Review: The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White

Karen White returns to her Tradd Street Series with this third installment, The Strangers on Montagu Street . Once again  Charleston, South Carolina realtor and reluctant psychic, Melanie Middleton is reunited with author, Jack Trenholm in what is to become another adventure.

This time, Jack arrives on Melanie’s doorstop in the middle of the night with a surprising development  and in urgent need of a very big favor. The surprising development comes in the form of a teenage daughter that Jack was unaware he had. A daughter, Nola who- in addition to a battered guitar case and an old backpack- is carrying a king size grudge against her new-found father, Jack. Despite having traveled all the way across country after her mother’s suicide, Nola is unwilling to stay under Jack’s roof, prompting the middle of the night visit to Melanie. Jack needs a safe haven in which to place his mutinous daughter and Melanie is the most suitable candidate.. .for a variety of reasons.

Of course, unbeknownst to Jack’s daughter, she doesn’t exactly arrive at Melanie’s home alone. Nola has a ‘spiritual companion’ accompanying her- her mother. Given Melanie’s gift, she notices her unannounced guest right away, but she is soon to learn that is the least of the surprises to come. When an eighty year old dollhouse is put into the mix, things escalate to a whole new level.

The Strangers on Montagu Street is part mystery, part paranormal intrigue and part romantic suspense, with all the plots and sub-plots woven together in a very enjoyable tapestry that will have you begging for more. While part of a series, the books can be read independent of each other, although I highly recommend the series- if for no other reason than to enrich the overall experience.

This newest installment is due to release in November 2011, so if you haven’t read  The Girl on Lagare Street and/or The House on Tradd Street you’ll want to remedy that right away. This one is a “not to be missed” selection that will have you waiting with baited breath for the fourth installment. You’ll know why when you reach the last page…

Review by Brenda Seward

The Strangers on Montagu Street releases November 2011 by New American Library, a division of Penguin Books

For more information on Karen White and her work visit :



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Becoming Part of “Books For Soldiers”

There have been times in my life when books have been my escape, my sanctuary and a soothing balm in a troubled world. They have made me laugh when I needed to laugh almost as much as I needed to breathe. They have made me think, opened my eyes to new ideas and allowed me to cherish memories. Sometimes they simply helped to take me on a mini-vacation in my mind when an actual vacation was impossible.

So yesterday when I saw a link for the site  Books For Soldiers  , I was immediately interested. I had been looking for a way to do something nice and give back to those who so constantly sacrifice so much. I had looked into a lot of other troop support sites and organizations and while they all seemed like fine organizations, none were quite the right fit for us. When I saw Books For Soldiers and the way the organization is set up I knew I had found just the right fit for us.

The site contains message boards from soldiers from all branches of the service with specific requests for books, dvds, games, etc…  You must register to be a member of the site ( it’s free) and if you want to be a Volunteer ( someone who fills the requests of the soldiers) all you have to do is fill out some basic information  about yourself ( name, address, email) on a form they provide ( in either Word or PDF format) and after having it notarized, send it to them for approval. That part is a little bit of a hassle, but it’s to protect the troops personal information ( name and where they are deployed and that you won’t share that information with outside sources) . That’s it. Very easy and in the end very fulfilling. We hope you will join us in being part of Books For Soldiers. If you find it;s something you are unable to do, please pass it on to someone who may be able to help or a soldier serving that may want to post their own wish list.

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