Monday, July 24, 2017

It's Summer – Time for Book Club! A Guest Post from Julia Thomas

We welcome Julia Thomas, author of THE ENGLISH BOYS and her latest release PENHALE WOOD, to Midnight Ink's blog today! Julia shares the beauty of book clubs, especially during these sweltering summer months.

Like a lot of authors, I not only write, I love to read, too. Several years ago, long before I finished my first book, I started a book club with several friends at work. I didn't know any of them particularly well, but over time, we've bonded in special ways, discovering books that have made us laugh, cry, and grow along the way. It's morphed into something very different from our first formal book club, where we sat rigidly in a circle of chairs and discussed Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, taking turns as we went around the circle to contribute one polite thought about the book club guide questions asked. That group of women is unrecognizable from the group of friends who gather in each other's kitchens today, pouring wine and having deep discussions about our current book choices.

There are many benefits to having a book club.
  1. First, you'll discipline yourself to read more books. There were all levels of readers when we first started our book club. Some of us were hardcore booklovers who enjoyed classics and award-winning books, who had been serious readers for years. Others were casual readers who picked up a book occasionally but might not even finish it. You might think that such a wide range wouldn't be conducive to a good book club, but all of us became better readers for the journey and we learned to value each other's opinions.
  2. You will begin to read "outside the box" of your normal book choices. I'll admit, as an avid reader, it was difficult to accept some of the choices that were offered. But I quickly found that there's something to be learned from nearly every book we've discussed. We haven't stuck with a single genre, either. We've read fiction and nonfiction, mysteries, romances, literary novels, and classics; everything from Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (my favorite so far) to The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, a surprising and thought-provoking book.
  3. You'll discuss things in books that can address your own emotional needs. Each of us has found books that we are passionate about, books that take us on common journeys and speak to the issues we face today. For every life twist and turn, there is comfort in knowing that others have gone before us and light torches for our path.
  4. You'll make—and strengthen—friendships. Readers (and writers) are so often introverts who are shy about making friends. We struggled through our first few book club meetings dealing with that very problem, and have come through it as more confident and happy women.
This summer, it's my turn to host, and we’ll be discussing Elin Hilderbrand's The Castaways. It's the perfect blend of beach read and a juicy mystery. We'll gather at my house for lunch, and one of the perks of hosting is the chance to set a pretty table.
However, we've been flexible in our book club, meaning that we don't always serve a meal. Sometimes we meet in a restaurant, or even poolside to chat about books. The important thing is that we're reading, growing, and challenging ourselves in the best possible way: through the joy of reading.


***

Penhale Wood by Julia Thomas If it's the last thing she ever does, Iris will find Sophie's killer and make her pay. On a cold December night in Cornwall, nanny Karen Peterson disappeared with three-year-old Sophie Flynn. The next day, the child’s body was found on a riverbank in Penhale Wood. A year later, Sophie’s mother, Iris Flynn, appears on the doorstep of investigating officer Rob McIntyre, determined to make him reopen her daughter’s case. McIntyre has his own personal demons, but Iris hijacks his life in order to find the woman she thinks is responsible for Sophie’s death. Following the slimmest of leads, they are soon confronting ghosts from the past and a chameleon-like killer who will do anything to stay hidden.

Praise:
"An entertaining contemporary crime novel about love and revenge."—Library Journal (starred review) and Debut of the Month

"A real gem . . . This is an excellent mystery and readers are in for quite a surprise at the end." —Suspense Magazine

"[An] eminently readable debut."—Kirkus Review

"A tightly sequenced tale with the many flashbacks expertly woven in."
Reviewing the Evidence


Julia ThomasJulia Thomas (Oklahoma) is a graduate of Northeastern State University and an educator. She is married to Will Thomas, author of the Barker and Llewelyn mystery series (Minotaur Books). The English Boys is her debut novel.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The July Issue of the Midnight Ink Newsletter Is Here!


Our July 2017 issue of the Midnight Ink, our email newsletter for consumers, was mailed this morning. This issue includes:
Didn't receive a copy in your email inbox? You can also view it here: Midnight Ink Newsletter, July 2017 Issue.

You can also visit our website to subscribe!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Not Every Bucket List Needs Checkmarks: A Guest Post from Tony Perona


We welcome Tony Perona, one half of the father-daughter writing team Elizabeth Perona, to Midnight Ink's blog today! Tony explores bucket lists...and why writing them down and checking them off may not be so important, after all. 

(Although, checking off bucket list items can be entertaining...when you're the characters of the Bucket List mystery series! The third in the series, Murder at the Male Revue, is available now!)


My father-in-law died in March of this year, just a week shy of his 95th birthday. I realize now that I never asked him if he'd had a bucket list, or if he did, if he'd accomplished all of the things on it. This is strange, considering that Liz and I write the Bucket List mystery series about older people knocking items off their bucket lists. We ask a lot of people questions about what's on their bucket lists. But for whatever reason, not him.

But as I look back on it, I don't think we needed to. The way Jim lived his life made it clear that if he didn't have a formal list, he embraced the spirit of a bucket list. He and my mother-in-law Marge (who died in 2010) were adventurous souls who were engaged with life right up until the end. The two were "bucket list buddies," even if they didn't define it that way.

Here's what I mean by "bucket list buddies:" In late 2012, two researchers writing for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology cited evidence indicating that spending discretionary money with the intention of acquiring life experiences makes people happier than spending money with the intention of acquiring material possessions. They then demonstrated that the inclusion of others is a key dimension of how people derive happiness from discretionary spending.

In other words, if your goal is to have experiences (which frequently show up as bucket list items), then accomplishing them with others makes you happier. Thus, the "bucket list buddy."

Jim and Marge led extraordinary lives. In his life span, Jim lived through the Great Depression, put himself through college, became an engineer, fought against Japan as a pilot in WWII, worked for General Motors for 40 years on aircraft engines, and raised a family that included a software developer, an engineer, and a pharmacist, two of whom were women. He retired to Florida for over 20 happy years before health issues brought he and Marge back to be with family in Indiana. Though he started with a slide rule for calculations, he adapted to electronic calculators, computers, the Internet and even a cell phone. He used a personal computer to keep track of his finances even to the end. In his last couple of months, he was asking my daughter Katy to explain the "cloud" to him.

He and Marge traveled extensively. They dragged their kids through national parks during summer vacations. When Jim was given the chance to go to Europe to work on a GM program with a British-based aircraft engine manufacturer, he packed up the family and they lived in England for three years. They extensively explored Europe while they were there. After retirement, they traveled around the US in a travel trailer, returned to Europe on occasion, and took cruises to Alaska and Asia.

Some of this took money, of course, and he was blessed to have that. But even stripping away experiences that required money, what I see in his life is an appreciation for the adventure of daily life—and sharing it with others.

He enjoyed golf, perhaps the prime reason he retired to Florida. He golfed frequently with Marge, his son Russ, with longtime golfing buddies, with strangers he met on golf courses. After Marge died, he played with the "Round Bellies," a group of retirees who were ten and twenty years younger than he was. When he had to give up golf at age 92, the Round Bellies loved him so much they kept in touch. He was an active church member, and he and Marge were valued members of congregations wherever they lived. They also enjoyed doing things for the good of their community. In his seventies, I remember Jim helped build a playground in a needy area of Punta Gorda. He was generous with his time, and he had a true heart for making the world a better place.

A bucket list does its best work when it engages its author in life. It's not necessarily about what's on the list or about how many items you can check off. Its value, I would argue—and I think the authors of the study in the Journal would back me up on this—is that it always has us looking forward to the next day. As our Bucket List characters Francine, Charlotte, Mary Ruth, Joy, and Alice can attest—along with Jim and Marge—it brings the promise of great happiness.
***

The Skinny-Dipping Grandmas enjoy a male stripper show . . . until it gets too hot to handle and nearly goes up in flames

When Mary Ruth's company is hired to cater a fundraiser featuring the Royal Buckingham Male Dance Revue, the ladies see the chance to cross another item off their bucket list: helping divorcée Joy McQueen get over her decades-old fear of men in the buff. But when fundraiser sponsor Camille Ledfelter is stabbed to death, the women must uncover the naked truth about who wanted her dead.

Proving who did it, however, will require dodging a persistent stripper-for-hire, surviving the American Legion Bingo, drinking high-end cognac, searching for a certain 3D printer, and laying bare the motives of a dangerous killer.

Elizabeth Perona (Plainfield, Indiana) is the father/daughter writing team of Tony Perona and Elizabeth Dombrosky.