What I’ve Been Reading Lately…

and what I thought about it:

Review: Senseless by Mary Burton

This time of year is great for sinking your teeth into a juicy mystery, and Mary Burton has delivered up two for us over the next two months.

The first- January’s offering- Senseless is the story of Eva Rayburn, who returns to her home town of Alexandria, Virginia after serving ten years in prison for a crime she cannot remember committing. Hoping to regain some normalcy in her life and possibly gain some answers about what happened that dark night ten years past, Eva soon finds that her past is chasing her.

When murdered women start popping up, branded in a fashion that is eerily reminiscent of a mark she herself received on the night she supposedly killed a man, that is chilling enough. That the women being murdered turn out to be the very women who testified against her- her sorority sisters at the time- makes the need for answers even more compelling. Especially when the detectives in charge of the case begin to wonder if Eva is a suspect or a possible future victim.

One of the detectives on the case, Deacon Garrison, becomes interested in Eva and while he is conflicted about her past and her part in the current murders, his instincts tell him that Eva needs his protection. When Eva’s estranged half-sister, Angie becomes linked, through a client, to his case, Deacon is convinced that the current string of murders can only be solved by looking into what really happened to Eva ten years ago.

Mary Burton has created a well-paced,  engrossing mystery- or more accurately, a pair of mysteries in one- and woven the threads of  secrets of the past and the present into a seamless tapestry, sure to keep you glued to the pages until you reach the very end.  

When you do reach the final pages of Senseless, don’t think that all is back to normal for either Deacon and his partner Malcolm Kier- or for Eva and her sister Angie, a high powered defense attorney, because there’s a new killer in town… and you’ll find this one Merciless.

Mary Burton is Richmond, Virginia  author and you can learn more about her and her other novels at http://www.maryburton.com

Senseless released this month in paperback through Zebra Books

Merciless  releases next month, Feb. 2011 in paperback as well

Both will be available  online from Simple Pleasures Books : http://www.alibris.com/stores/spbooks1

as well as other online and retail outlets.

Review: The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern


Imagine you are a teenage girl whose life has just been turned upside-down and inside out. Everything you blithely took for granted is gone, and in its place you are surrounded by strangeness and secrets and mystery. Imagine that, because of everything that has happened, you now look at life differently- thinking back on your past actions with regret and wishing you knew then what you know now. Who among us hasn’t wished that last thought at least once in our lives? Imagine then, if you were to have possession of a book that would give you a glimpse into your future – of what would happen to you the next day. How would that change you? What would you do with that knowledge? That is what Tamara Goodwin must decide when she happens upon an strange, locked volume inside a traveling library- what to do with the foreknowledge of tomorrow.

With the sudden death of her father, Tamara and her mother learn their privileged lifestyle was a house of cards about to crumble. Forced to leave their opulent home and wealthy friends behind in Dublin, the pair are forced to go stay with Tamara’s aunt and uncle in the quiet Irish country-side of County Meath. Uncomfortable with relatives she barely knows  and cut off from both her usual diversions and her old friends, Tamara is forced to think about her life and seek new friends and diversions. Among the first of these diversions is the ruins of a castle on the grounds where she now lives. Although, in reality, the castle is nothing more than a ruin, Tamara refuses to see it that way. To her, it is as vital and real as the trees and animals in the forest that surround it. This attitude becomes quite understandable as the story unfolds.

Among the first of her new friends is a young man named Marcus who drives the traveling library van. When Tamara first meets him he is looking for a Sir Ignatius Power, who is on his list of library patrons. Sir Ignatius turns out to be Sister Ignatius, a nun from the nearby order who ends up befriending Tamara. Indeed, when Tamara is confounded by the mysterious locked book she gets from the traveling library, it is Sister Ignatius who helps her unlock it and persuades her that writing in the blank volume may be helpful for Tamara. The first time that Tamara chooses to take the Sister’s advice, she finds words in her own hand already on the pages. Astonishingly, the words don’t describe things that have already happened, but things that are to happen the next day.

Convinced at first that what is written is a trick or there is some other reasonable explanation, Tamara soon finds out the book is eerily accurate. From that point on she sees it as her way of uncovering the mysteries surrounding her and perhaps righting wrongs before they can happen.

Cecelia Ahern does a wonderful job of immersing the reader in the mind of this young girl. She creates characters that are full and vivid and very real, as well as creating a sense of place that makes you feel as though you are there with Tamara. The sense of mystery that borders on the paranormal is created with a deft hand, making it all seem very possible.

I highly recommend this tale of mystery and self-discovery that reminds us that we are all connected… at times, in the most interesting ways.

Review: Return to Me by Catherine Berlin


When Catherine Berlin took part in our recent Banned Books Week event I had an opportunity to talk to her about her newest paperback release- Return to Me. At that time she confessed to me that of all her books, Return to Me was the one closest to her heart. After reading it, I can understand why.

A wonderfully told tale of destiny, myth  and legend… but most especially of the timeless strength of true and lasting love. The tragic love of the two main characters transcends not just a single life, but many lifetimes over hundreds of years.

This star-crossed couple has met time and time again, beginning in thirteenth century Scotland. They find each other, reveling in their abiding love and passion for each other, only to be parted again and again by an evil nemesis that follows them into each new life. However, in this most recent life, things are a bit different. Maureen retains her memory of all that has passed before, but her soul-mate- Trevor (in this incarnation) has no memory of what has passed between them. Indeed, at their first meeting, although he is immediately drawn to her, Trevor believes Maureen is definitely crazy.

Of course, more than Trevor’s apparent lack of memory has changed in this lifetime. Maureen has experienced too many lives as a victim, and as a result has become a proactive modern woman who conducts lectures  and demonstrations on self-defense for women. She has also decide not to wait for the current incarnation of their murderous  nemesis to find them. She has been hunting him down herself, trying in every way possible to thwart his actions as he works his way toward herself and her love.  Maureen’s actions throw her and Trevor together and despite his skepticism, he eventually cannot discount the clarity of Maureen’s uncanny vision and her devotion to their shared destiny.

Return to Me spans centuries, dropping  delicious tidbits of history and myth , intertwining them with a thrilling saga of murderous revenge and a poignant, ageless  love story. It will keep you intrigued from the first page to the last.

(** The above review was published  on VMagazine’s site  earlier this year, but had not been included here)

Review by Brenda Seward

Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts



Catherine Berlin is a Richmond area author, teacher and singer. Read more about her and her other novels on her website: http://web.me.com/catherineberlin/Site/Welcome.html




 Down On the Chickahominy

by Jack Trammell


  I received a copy of this book some time ago, and I’m embarrassed to say it sat on my shelf for far too long.  As other advance copies would come in, this book about the life and history surrounding one of Virginia’s lesser known, yet vitally important rivers would fall farther and farther from the top of my “to be read” stack. A couple of different things changed that recently. The first was the change of season- a return to warmer days and reemergence of the desire to be outdoors- as well as my returned desire to be near the water. Another would be an almost constant reminder, as I went about my errands from day to day near my home, passing over that area on the Hanover- Henrico line where the swampy, stream-like headwaters of the Chickahominy begin. As I would pass by the small sign noting its location, I would remember that book waiting to be read. Finally, it found its way to the top of the stack.

In Down On the Chickahominy, Jack Trammell gives the reader a multi-dimensional experience. Part history lesson, part sociological study, interwoven with research into the impact of industrial and residential growth on a complicated eco-system, the book is also an ode to a sadly fading way of life.

Interwoven with historical accounts related to the settlement at Jamestown, Trammell discusses the Chickahominy tribe of Native Americans and their unbreakable ties to the river they named. Their devotion to this Virginia waterway is echoed in the stories of the watermen Trammel interviewed. These men- who like their Native American counterparts before them- both lived and made their living on the waters of the Chickahominy relate a deep kinship to this particular stretch of water. These men relate stories of the hey-days of seemingly endless bounty on the Chickahominy and of the craft and art of fishing those waters – an art that is quickly diminishing into extinction.

As I mentioned before, Down On the Chickahominy offers a little something for everyone. For the history buff, there are little known facts relating to the river’s importance in the Civil War as well as the importance it, and the native Chickahominy tribe played to the colonists of Jamestown. For those interested in conservation, Trammell documents the changing complexion of the Chickahominy and how industrial development- most especially the construction of Walker’s Dam- has impacted the balance of the river’s eco-systems. This impact is shown most dramatically by the difference in the fish that once populated this river compared to now. Trammell’s discourse on fishing along the Chickahominy will delight any angler, especially his chapter on the yellow perch.

Most importantly, this book will touch a note in everyone who has a place in their heart for the by-gone places and traditions that make Virginia what it is to many of us. We seem to love our history as well as our progress and those devotions often have conflicting demands. This book gives us a snapshot view of that conflict and the result of choosing one over the other. Finally, Trammell reflects on the overwhelming constancy of the river. Eventually impervious to the intrusion of man and machine – the boundaries and flow may change, but the river will remain long after we are gone – a force onto itself.

Review by Brenda Seward

Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts


Review: Lives by JJ McMoon


When I first received the advance copy for Lives, by JJ McMoon I fully intended to give it a quick glance and put it on the stack with the other galleys, to wait its turn behind the other four that I planned to read next. However, that is not exactly how things worked out. Within the first few pages, I was intrigued and found I could not put it down.

Lives is the unusual story of Freddy, his brother Kyle and a group of Kyle’s friends and how their lives are inexplicably wound together despite years, geography and circumstances. The author’s own synopsis of the book sparks reader interest right away with the description of the group:

 “A prom queen turned lot lizard. A devil-worshipping rock star.  An assassin and the FBI agent tracking him. A jilted girlfriend and a telepathic psychopath. Coincidence is bringing them all together, but for what purpose?”

 What purpose, indeed? The lives of these seven people, who had crossed paths, no matter how briefly years before, seem  bound together on some crazy collision course. A course navigated by a ‘vintage’ 1973 Lincoln Continental affectionately referred to as “Wednesday”. The importance and use of the car gives the story an almost supernatural feel, while not actually straying fully into that realm. For lack of a better way to state it, the Lincoln is a “vehicle” of coincidence in this story of coincidence, fate or perhaps karmic justice.

Lives is also the story of missed chances, bad choices, and the seemingly innocent path that can lead down a road of destruction. It reflects on the idea of how each of our lives can intersect with others in seemingly benign and inconsequential ways, but can also have a deep and profound effect. That idea is illustrated in the story of these seven individuals who are anchored to a fate that began when they were young. It also begs the question- how much of our life is predetermined and how much is of our own making. Lives answers some of those questions, but leaves the reader with many, even more bewildering questions.

In another review Lives is hailed as “…Stand by Me for the new millennium”, and the comparison is certainly legitimate. All of the characters in Lives share a gritty and sometimes tragic realism with those in Stephen King’s novella, The Body (from which Stand By Me was adapted). There is also the similar theme of life paths being set along a single course and the sometimes-futile desire to alter that path. While the author is admittedly a fan of King’s, and his work has a similar feel (especially King’s early work) his voice is all his own. The characters in Lives are fresh and multi-layered, drawing on the whole kaleidoscope of human emotions.  As it happens in real life, the conclusions are not always neat and tidy, but they are intriguing.  I highly recommend this rich tapestry of character study, the effects of choice and the sometimes harsh judgment of fate.

Lives is Richmond native, JJ McMoon’s debut novel and is due to be released in June 1,

2010.  A launch event for Lives, sponsored by Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts, will be held at Ashland Coffee & Tea, 100 N. Railroad Ave. Ashland, Va. on Saturday May 8, 2010 from 2-5 pm.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Lives is going to be donated to The Dinner Garden (www.dinnergarden.org) to assist in their community efforts to rid world hunger.

Review by, Brenda Seward

Owner, Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts

Ashland, Va.



<a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6783559-the-education-of-mr-mayfield” style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img alt=”The Education of Mr. Mayfield: An Unusual Story of Social Change at Ole Miss” border=”0″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/419PhoZ-OrL._SX106_.jpg” /></a> <a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6783559-the-education-of-mr-mayfield”>The Education of Mr. Mayfield: An Unusual Story of Social Change at Ole Miss</a> by <a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/160974.David_Magee”>David Magee</a><br/><br/>
My rating: <a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/89950417″>4 of 5 stars</a>
One of my great loves, other than books, has always been the study of history. More often than not, my attention was drawn, not to the great and widely known stories that we learn in the schoolroom as children, but the small and little known parts of history. Those moments, which in their own way, led to the epic events recorded in history books.
As we focus on Black History this month, I wanted to draw your attention to a book you may not have heard of- The Education of Mr. Mayfield. This book by David Magee focuses on a small group of people who played a part in the nurturing of an artistic talent that may never have been known. A voice that would have been silenced due to the prevailing ignorance and injustice of the time. The story of how W.B Mayfield’s artistic talent came to the attention of the head of the new Art Department at the University of Mississippi is the result of a series of unrelated events that had a lasting impact for all those involved.
Most know the story of James Meredith’s groundbreaking and arduous path to become the first black person to gain admittance to the then all white University of Mississippi, or “Ole Miss” as it is widely known.   We know that it took a Federal mandate and escort to allow Meredith to cross the doors into this venerable state institution, and that it occurred under the cloud of riot, which resulted in two deaths.
What most do not know is that more than ten years earlier a young black man named W.B Mayfield had been receiving an education in art at Ole Miss. Mr. Mayfield was not officially enrolled at the university. It would have been against the law at that time. The education of W.B Mayfield at Ole Miss would have been impossible without the help and understanding of the newly appointed head of the Ole Miss art department, Stuart Purser. Purser happened upon Mayfield and his art collection on a weekend road trip to a nearby town, and was intrigued and enchanted by what he saw. Upon learning that Mayfield had never received any sort of formal training, Purser came up with an idea- an idea that would give Mayfield a steady income and an education at the same time. Hiding him in plain sight, as janitor in the art department and caretaker of the university’s gallery, Mayfield took classes, along with white students, from an adjoining broom closet. Other like-minded and sympathetic members of the faculty aided Purser in his tutelage of Mayfield during his two-year stay at the University of Mississippi. Mayfield’s talent even came to the attention of another illustrious member of community- Nobel Prize winning author, William Faulkner.
Viewed by today’s standards, Mayfield’s secret and segregated education may seem like nothing more than a token gesture, but it was in fact quite daring and innovative. While Purser was only with Mayfield at University of Mississippi for two short years, the impact he and others had on Mayfield would last throughout his life. Purser opened the door for Mayfield and others like him throughout his academic career, and while this book focuses on Mr. Mayfield’s life and artistic career, it is truly the story of both men. It is also the story of the University of Mississippi’s slow and sometimes troubled transition into the future.
David Magee has a long history of association with the university, beginning with his childhood days when he played about the campus where his father taught and where he later attended himself. He chronicles the journey of Purser, Mayfield and Ole Miss itself with diligent care and honesty. The Education of Mr. Mayfield is one of those untold stories in history that deserves a place of honor alongside the bold headlines that followed it. It is a story of one man’s compassion and sense of justice and how that act allowed another to shed beauty onto a sometimes ugly world.
Review by
Brenda Seward,
Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts

<a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/2485184-simple-pleasures”>View all my reviews >></a>

<a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/2485184-simple-pleasures”>View all my reviews >></a>

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

In many ways, I feel like the last bookseller in the country to read this book, but now that I have, I must add my voice to those that have given this beautiful book such a glowing reception.

Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s, The Help gives voice to a group of women from both very similar yet different backgrounds and experience, who find themselves drawn together in a combined effort to shine light on something that affects them all.

The world in which The Help is set seems very far removed from the world we now live in, and in many ways, thankfully it is. The world in which we now live does not have the same strict lines of division concerning race, class and so forth, and that is truly a good thing. However, in the time that has passed it seems we have forgotten how far we have come in a relatively short time. Not to mention how hard the journey was for so many, and what they risked to pave the way for those who would follow.

The Help introduces us to wise, regal and caring Aibileen, a woman who has raised seventeen white children- the most recent one after losing her own beloved son to a tragic accident. Aibileen is alone in the world, except for the children under her charge, and her best friend, Minny. Although they share a close friendship, Minny and Aibileen are very different. Aibileen is quietly resolute, choosing to teach the children in her charge a different way of seeing the world while she suffers the indignities of a bigoted society. Minny, on the other hand is daring and outspoken in her opinion towards her white employers. When we meet her, she is on the brink of losing yet another job due to her inability to appear in any way subservient to her employer’s daughter. When that same daughter uses her influence to ensure Minny is unable to get another position, Minny exacts revenge on this woman in a manner so daring and outrageous (while at the same time so comically just) that you can’t help but cheer at her audacity. Ironically, for all her flash and fire, Minny lives in fear of how her husband Leroy will react to her losing another job. In fact, contrary to her outwardly bold nature, Leroy seems to be the one thing Minny truly fears.

The woman who, in her own unwitting way, brings Minny, Aibileen and eventually many others together is young Eugenia, or Skeeter, as everyone knows her. Skeeter has returned home from college, with a degree and a desire to write professionally- but to her mother’s consternation, without a husband. The person Skeeter is most looking forward to seeing is Constantine, the woman who raised her in much the same way that Aibileen raised her ‘children’. However, when she arrives home, she finds that Constantine is gone. The fact that Constantine, who has been a source of continuity and support throughout Skeeter’s life is gone without any word is unacceptable to her and she sets out to find the truth about what happened.

 In the course of trying to resolve the mystery of Constantine’s abrupt departure, Skeeter slowly befriends Aibileen, who is also her best friend Elizabeth’s housekeeper. The more the friendship between Skeeter and Aibileen evolves, the more Skeeter sees the injustice and wrongdoing that her life-long friends see as perfectly acceptable behavior. When Skeeter asks Aibileen at one point if she wishes things could change, the seed of an idea is born. This idea evolves into a book documenting the stories of a collection of women who have served generations of white families. They have cooked, cleaned and tended to them. They have held their confidences, soothed them in time of illness, and raised their children when they were unwilling or unable. These women were treated like trusted confidants or with crass indifference and cruelty- sometimes both.

As Skeeter collects the stories of the women Aibileen brings to her, all of them becoming partners in this project, her view of the world she has always known is altered with almost brutal clarity, and she is forced to reevaluate whom she can and cannot trust.

In The Help, we see events both large and small in the context of how it affects the lives of these women. We see these women grow and trust one another regardless of their differences.  We witness both their combined and individual strength. The Help chronicles both the amazing kindness and love that humans are capable of, as well as their careless and deliberate cruelty. Stockett does this with an amazingly deft hand, creating every character in the novel in fine multi-layered detail. Each story, from each woman’s perspective, draws you in and holds you. You cheer for them, cry with them, and feel both their pain and joy. The Help is an unforgettable joy to read.

Review by,

Brenda Seward

Owner, Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts

The Help, released through Amy Einhorn Books, a member of the Penguin Group is available for purchase at Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts


Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman


One of the joys of being a bookseller is to get a chance to read new books before they are generally available. When we receive shipments of these advance copies from publishers and sometimes the authors themselves, it’s a little like Christmas morning or our birthday. For one- they are gifts (at least we look at them that way). Secondly, they sometimes include something we heard about and badly wanted. Other times we find they include a wonderful surprise- one that we were unaware of, but simply fall in love with.  Receiving Saving CeeCee Honeycutt was my wonderful surprise.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt chronicles the young and turbulent life of the title character, Cecelia Honeycutt. She is an exceptionally bright and sweet young girl who is forced to grow up with a mostly absent father and a mother who is increasingly absent from reality. While her mother bemoans her exile north, to Ohio, away from her beloved Georgia and escapes from reality by reliving her beauty-queen glory days, CeeCee is left to her own devices. CeeCee’s only salvation during her mother’s mental decline is an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Odell and her books.

By the time CeeCee turns twelve, her mother (and she, by relation) have become the joke of the town. When her mother dies in a tragic accident at the beginning of that summer, the young girl has terribly mixed feelings.  While she is sad over her mother’s death, she is also relieved at no longer having to carry the burden of both watching over her as well as having to endure the embarrassment and ridicule caused by her mother’s antics. She is also well aware that now her only parent is a father who has spent the better part of her life ignoring her. Even that slim thread of security is severed when her father announces he is sending her away to live with someone she has never met- her great-aunt in Savannah, Georgia.

Initially resistant to the idea of leaving everything she has ever know- most especially her beloved neighbor Mrs. Odell- CeeCee soon sees her exodus south as a new start. By the time CeeCee piles into her Aunt Tootie’s flashy Packard convertible with her clothes and her collection of books, she is ready to start the next chapter in her (as Mrs. Odell puts it) “life book”.

Upon arrival in Savannah, CeeCee is introduced to a different kind of life and a new way of looking at things. For a child who has spent the majority of her life virtually motherless, CeeCee suddenly finds herself surrounded by surrogate mother figures. From her effervescent Aunt Tootie, to the wise and loving housekeeper Oletta, and a colorful cast of others who populate CeeCee’s new life, she learns and heals, as well as discovering that a wonderful life can be found outside of a book as well as between the pages of one.

Set in Savannah in the 1960’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt touches on some of the racial issues of that time, but it does so in a wonderfully deft way. These issues are seen from CeeCee’s perspective (as is the entirety of the book) but they are given both a wide and deeply personal scope. Although those issues are not a large theme throughout, they are shown in a wonderfully poignant way that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. More than anything, this book is a story of mothers and daughters… of all kinds. Also one of love, faith, friendship and forgiveness -in all its forms.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt will be available in January 2010 from Penguin Books and I highly recommend that you put it on your winter reading wish list. Once you find yourself among it’s pages you will be transported, along with CeeCee, to the warm breezes of Savannah –laughing and crying with them along the way. When the journey comes to the end, you will be sad to leave them behind and wish you could stay forever.

By Brenda Seward

Owner, Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts

Cover Art courtesy of Beth Hoffman & Penguin Books

Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts is a family owned independent bookstore. Owned and managed by my three daughters, and myself. Our focus is toward women, while seeking to offer a little bit of something for everyone. From books, chocolate, unique custom gift bags and note cards to tea towels and bath products, Simple Pleasures offers just that- the simple pleasures of life.

All titles reviewed here are available at Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts in Ashland, VA

Or online at: http://www.alibris.com/stores/spbooks1

Review: Feng Shui Love by Joni Davis & Lisa Hyatt

Do you ever read your horoscope and think, ‘maybe that’s something I should consider’? In the new novel, Feng Shui Love, Lily gets a few astrological warnings that are, for her, cosmically accurate. On her way to a seemingly, postcard perfect, second-honeymoon island getaway with her husband, Lily reads her horoscope: “This month you’ll see the true character of someone close to you, and it’s not a pretty sight. Things look up when travel opportunities arrive at the end of the month. And money finds you too.”

Like most, her horoscope is irritatingly vague, while offering a tantalizing glimpse at information both good and bad. Little does Lily know at that moment how dead on those few lines turn out to be. Just as she is about to embark on the part of her life she has been waiting fifteen years for, the wheels fall off the wagon of her happy life, and she finds herself starting over.

As Lily is trying to figure out the best way to pick up the broken pieces of her life, she makes the decision to reach out to her best friend- someone she has lost touch with over the years. Her friend, Brook, is immediately there for her, and offers Lily sanctuary in her home in New York. Brook is at her own personal and professional crossroads, so the timing of their reunion is perfect for both.

On her way to her friend’s home, Lily makes a stopover at her parent’s home. While her mother is resistant to Lily closing the door on her marriage, she offers Lily a way to repair her broken love life- Feng Shui. A recent, but devoted convert to this discipline, Lily’s mother gives her a book on the subject that she proclaims will change Lily’s life. Armed with that, and the crystal her mother insists must be placed in her ‘love corner’, Lily departs for New York and her friend Brook.

As Lily and Brook reconnect, they think back over old hurts and past glories, and set about doing everything they can to move forward toward love and happiness. At first, both are somewhat resistant to the Feng Shui concept of reorganizing their lives, but Lily’s mother is stubbornly insistent and eventually Brook and Lily become converts as well.

As with any new and uncharted path, theirs is full of false starts and detours- not to mention a few bumps and potholes, but eventually things work out as they were destined to all along.

Joni Davis and Lisa Hyatt chart the path of these two friends in fun and realistic ways, giving an entertaining glimpse into what is involved in the world of dating for the 40-something single (or single-again, as the case may be). They show how easy it is to get caught up in the pursuit of an ideal, and how that may just blind you to something that is right under your nose. As Lily and Brook set off red balloons with attached notes listing requirements of their heart’s desire, neither is entirely convinced they will ever find it. Lily, in particular, has a crisis of confidence along the way- especially when she discovers her love life isn’t the only thing that has been turned upside down.

Feng Shui Love is a fun and engaging story that shows the path to true love is indeed a complicated one at times-( even with the help of Feng Shui and friends) but well worth the journey.

Feng Shui Love will release on November 17, 2009 by Palari Publishing of Richmond, Virginia. 


Joni and Lisa are hard at work on a sequel – Feng Shui Love Child.

More about Joni & Lisa, as well as more information about their book is available at www.fengshuilove.com

Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts will host a book signing for Feng Shui Love authors Joni Davis & Lisa Hyatt on Friday Nov. 20th. Visit us at www.simplepleasuresbooksandgifts.com  or call us: (804)368-7736 for more details.

Review by Brenda Seward

Owner, Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts

Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts is a family owned independent bookstore. Owned and managed by my three daughters, and myself. Our focus is toward women, while seeking to offer a little bit of something for everyone. From books, chocolate, unique custom gift bags and note cards to tea towels and bath products, Simple Pleasures offers just that- the simple pleasures of life.

All titles reviewed here are available at Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts in Ashland, VA

Or online at: http://www.alibris.com/stores/spbooks1


Review: Dead Weight by Batt Humphreys

Dead Weight is a novel based on a true story. It is the story of a nearly hundred-year-old injustice. One in which a man, wrongly accused and swiftly prosecuted, paid the ultimate price for the prejudice, folly and deceit of others.

Through the eyes of fictional character, Hal Hinson- a New York reporter sent to Charleston, South Carolina to cover the trial of a black man accused of killing a Jewish merchant, we meet the accused: Daniel Cornelius “Nealy” Duncan.  Duncan is a quiet man, a baker’s assistant, who worked hard and never got into trouble. He was arrested for the murder days before he was to be married ,in a bizarre and contrived manner. The trial was swift, the conclusion foregone by those in power, his conviction was sealed before the first arguments were made. Nealy Duncan, sentenced to death by hanging, was the last man sentenced to die in this manner in Charleston.  As Hinson chronicles Duncan’s trial and its conclusion, we see a more realistically diverse and sometimes darker side of a city long known for its gentility, grace and beauty.

Far from being a dry recitation of an event that occurred ninety-nine years ago, this story comes alive in Humphrey’s hands. From the day that Hal Hinson arrives in Charleston (to cover a story he originally considers punishment from his editor) he is swept into a society and way of life that he is both enchanted and repulsed by. His guide, on arrival in Charleston, comes in the form of a precocious and street-smart orphan named Mojo. This unlikely duo forms a quick friendship of mutual admiration and protectiveness.  Hinson, in his quest to find the truth surrounding the events of Duncan’s arrest and resulting conviction, makes other interesting alliances and finds himself involved in far more than the objective coverage of a murder trial.

In truth, Dead Weight is far more than a legal thriller that chronicles the bigotry and injustice of a time long past. It is a story of love and devotion that transcends circumstance and time. It is testimony to the endurance of faith and both the simple goodness and awfully treachery that humans are capable of.

Batt Humphreys, a Georgia native began his career in television news in Charleston, S.C. He spent 15 years at CBS News in New York before returning to his beloved south. He has petitioned the state of South Carolina to clear Duncan’s name. “The pardon is a chance to correct an injustice, to restore honor, even if it never connects to his immediate family. For those who believe in the continuity of souls, somewhere he will know and somehow we will have helped restore what was taken from him.”

Quote and Cover Art courtesy of Batt Humphreys and Joggling Board Press.

Review by Brenda Seward

Owner, Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts

Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts is a family owned independent bookstore. Owned and managed by my three daughters, and myself. Our focus is toward women, while seeking to offer a little bit of something for everyone. From books, chocolate, unique custom gift bags and note cards to tea towels and bath products, Simple Pleasures offers just that- the simple pleasures of life


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