Category Archives: Uncategorized


October 29 – On this date in 1942 the Alaska highway was completed.

thelastwillofmoiraTHE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY is the debut novel by Therese Walsh, published by Shaye Areheart Books. Walsh is a gifted storyteller who has written a gripping story about the powerful bond of sisters and the unbearable sadness of losing a loved one.

 Raised on the coast of Maine, twin sisters Moira and Maeve, play pirates in their father’s boat. They are groomed to be uniquely different—one shy and demure, the other outgoing and bold—by their controlling mother. Moira is the piano-playing, awkward sister who grew up in Maeve’s shadow. Maeve, the extremely talented saxophone-playing, adventurous sister who is fun-loving and well liked.

 Though different in talent and tastes, the twins are connected by the strong bond of a shared secret language and an innate intuition. During the autumn of their sixteenth year, Moira steps out of Maeve’s shadows onto the main stage in an effort to become more daring–like her sister. Moira experiences her first love and gets wrapped in a web of lies and deception which led to a tragic end.

Years later Maeve is doing her best to cope after the loss of Moira. Estranged from her mother, who blames Maeve for Moira’s accident, Maeve pushes intimacy and music away and cocoons herself in her work. She skims the surface of life until one night at an auction she bids on a keris, a Javanese dagger that reminds her of the joyful days she shared with Moira. Her acquisition of the keris sets in motion a series of events that propel her to seek the truth and open herself from the numbness of her life to seek adventure, love, and face he secrets of her past.

 I love this book, even though toward the beginning I got confused trying to distinguish between the sisters, which mirrors the reality of not always being able to recognize the individuality of twins. Once I got Moira and Maeve straight in my mind, I was swept away with the beautiful language and compelling story. Walsh has written an elegant novel that transported me to a dark and mysterious world of love, secrets, regret, acceptance, and forgiveness. Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt

It was my good fortunate to receive two copies of Walsh’s debut novel as part of the WOW! Blog tour. I received one copy to review, and one to use as a giveaway on Donna’s Book Pub, my other blog.

Beginning tomorrow, through next Wednesday, stop by Donna’s Book Pub to read an interview with Therese. Anyone who leaves a question or comment for Therese on my blog is eligible to win the giveaway copy, which will be announced on November 4 (the birthday of my twin grand-nephews). 



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Writer Mama by Christina Katz

On this day in 1875, Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of the popular character Tarzan, was born in Chicago, Illinois.

Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids, by Christina Katz, is the book I’ve chosen to review this week.

backtoschoolKatz also has a fantastic Writer Mama blog. During in the month of September she is giving away a book each day. So, pop on over and sign up.

Back to Katz’s  book. I won a copy of Writer Mama book over on Cathy C. Hall’s blog a while back, and I’m so happy that I did. (Thank you, Cathy!) 

Katz’s book is chock-full of writing advice and encouragement for writing moms–and grandmoms like me. In the Pep Talk section, Katz lists 10 reasons for mamas to launch their writing career. The one that appeals to me is #5: “Mamas who write set a good example for their kids.” I’m sure this applies to Grandmas as well!

The book is divided into four sections, with exercises and sidebars  with highlights included in each section:

Preparation covers the tools and attributes writers mama need. 

Practice shows how to build basic writing skills to compete with professionals.

Professionalism covers querys and interviews and includes a glossary of query terms.

Poise offers suggestions for developing skills to get your name known and how to pitch.

Even if you not a Mama, Katz’s practical advice, exercises and resources can help your writing career.  And don’t forget to visit the Writer Mama blog during the month of September. You might get lucky and win a book on writing!  Donna Volkenannt 


Filed under Non-Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing Advice

The Last Ember by Daniel Levin

On this date in 1902, poet and editor Ogden Nash was born.

It’s been over two weeks since my last review, but if you’re looking for a page-turner with an intriguing premise, I believe this book is worth the wait.

lastemberThe Last Ember by Daniel Levin is an exciting biblical thriller that will keep you reading till the wee hours of the night. Levin’s debut novel combines elements of history, mystery, conspiricies, politics, religion, and archaelogy into an intelligent and engrossing story. 

Jonathan Marcus, the main character, is a fallen-from grace antiquities scholar skilled in Latin, Greek, and archaelogy, now  practicing law in New York.  After Jonathan is dispatched to Rome to represent his firm in a high-profile case involving the authenticity of an ancient stone map, he is pitted against with Dr. Emili Travia, a passionate preservationist and a woman from his past.

 While Jonathan is in Rome, an Italian antiquities squad discovers a woman’s perserved corpse. The corpse bears a clue about a biblical mystery that leads to the discovery about a sacred object. The clue, coupled with a hidden message in the ancient stone map, propels Jonathan and Emili to join forces on a quest that takes them from the underground caverns beneath the streets of Rome to the holiest shrines in Jerusalem.

Levin’s background and education undoubtedly qualify him to write this novel. He does a fine job translating the foreign language passages so the reader isn’t distracted from the story. He writes with elegance and passion about emotionally charged topics, but at the center of it all is a remarkable tale. 

A longer version of my review of The Last Ember can be found on You can also read New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry’s fascinating interview of Daniel Levin on  Donna Volkenannt

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Mudbound by Hillary Jordan Looks at Racism in the South after World War II

I couldn’t find a famous author’s birthday for today, but I found a historic event. On June 15, 1215, King John signs Magna Carta at Runnymede, England.

mudboundThe book I’ve chosed this week is the novel MUDBOUND by Hillary Jordan, published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. Last year I received the book as part of a prize package for being a top ten winner in the WOW! Spring Flash Fiction Contest. I added Mudbound to my stack of “to be read” books. It took me several months to get to it, but once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.

The story takes place in the Mississippi Delta at the end of World War II, where two Southern families, the McAllans, who are white, and the Johnsons, who are black, struggle to eke out a living raising cotton in the unforgiving delta. When the rain falls, the waters rise , creating a sea of mud, isolating the families from town.  

The book opens from Jamie McAllen’s point of view. Jamie is a damaged war hero. He and his brother Henry and Henry’s wife Laura are in a rush to bury the McAllens’ father before the storm sets in. Right away I wondered, what happened to the father. Ronsel Johnson is also a war hero, but some in the community are not as welcoming because of the color of his skin.  

Mudbound is a beautifully written story about love and loss and betrayal and the ugliness of racism. Told from the points of view of Jamie, Henry, and Laura McAllan and Ronsel, Hap, and Florence Johnson, whose voices are clear and compelling. Mudbound is a lovely work of fiction with a haunting story.  In 2006 Mudbound won the Bellweather Prize for fiction, which awarded biannually to a first literary novel that addresses issues of social justice

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Filed under Fiction, Literary Fiction, Southern Fiction, Uncategorized

STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE, a thriller by Jon Land

June 8 – Happy Birthday, Sara Paretsky, author and creator of the award-winning V I Warshawski detective novels. Paretsky was born on this date in 1947.

Oh, and on this date in 1948, a not-famous-except-to-her-family-and-friends writer was born to James and Katherine Duly in St. Louis, Missouri — that would be yours truly. Happy birthday to me!

strongenoughThe novel I’ve chosen for this week’s discussion is STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE by Jon Land.

Reading well written thrillers is one of my guilty pleasures and favorite escapes. I love getting swept away by serpentine plots and skillfully formed characters.  Last year I was introduced to Jon Land’s writing when I read and reviewed THE SEVEN SINS: THE TYRANT ASCENDING. Since then I’ve come to enjoy Land’s writing style.

The central characters in STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE, Land’s latest suspense novel, are Caitlin Strong, a damaged Texas Ranger seeking redemption, and  Cort Wesley Masters, an outlaw exonerated of the murder conviction of Caitlin’s partner, who is seeking revenge. Another notable and intriguing character is an assassin ironically named Guillermo Paz.

The story takes place in border towns in Texas, board rooms in Washington, D.C, marketplaces in Bahrain, slums in Venezuela and crime-plagued cities in Mexico. Beyond the fast-paced action and complex characters, the novel presents a message of mercy, understanding and redemption.

What I really like about Land’s novels is the way he subtly nudges the reader to ponder larger questions about human behavior. His latest novel broaches free will and the influence of parents, especially fathers, on shaping the lives of their children. 

STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE is an inventive thriller with memorable characters, surprising plot twists and fast-paced action, but it also gets you think while enjoying the ride.  Donna Volkenannt


Filed under Fiction, Thriller, Uncategorized