Friday, February 17, 2012

The Restorer (The Graveyard Queen) by Amanda Stevens

The blurb:
Never acknowledge the dead.
Never stray far from hallowed ground.
Never get close to the haunted.
Never, ever tempt fate.

My name is Amelia Gray. I'm a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I've always held fast to these rules passed down from my father…until now.
Detective John Devlin needs my help to find a killer, but he is haunted by ghosts who shadow his every move. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I've vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the headstone symbols lead me closer to truth and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.
"I was nine when I saw my first ghost.My father and I were raking leaves in the cemetery where he'd worked for years as the caretaker. It was early autumn, not yet cool enough for a sweater, but on that particular afternoon there was a noticeable bite in the air as the sun dipped toward the horizon.
'What the dead want more than anything is to be a part of our world again. They're like parasites, drawn to our energy, feeding off our warmth.  If they know you can see them, they'll cling to you like blight.  You'll never be rid of them.  And your life will never again be your own.'"
A mystery with paranormal undertones, The Restorer gives us a heroine with the ability to see and interact with ghosts. This ability seems to be hereditary as Amanda Gray shares it with her father.   As her father warns her early on, the ability is more curse than gift. So few people share it that once a ghost knows that he can be heard, he is inclined to stalk the human, to plead for her help to settle unresolved issues that the ghost left behind.

So, Amanda's father warns her early on to pretend not to see the ghost and to ignore any "supernatural" touches that she might feel.  Amanda's father teaches her to find hallowed ground that are sanctified and free of spirits.  For himself, he accepted employment as a cemetery caretaker in part to keep his family safe.    Amanda's career as a cemetery restorer is similar in some respects. She "travels all over the South, cleaning up forgotten and abandoned graveyards and repairing worn and broken headstones" and blogging on Digging Graves where those with related interests share photographs, restoration techniques and the occasional ghost story.

Amanda accepts a commission to restore Oak Grove Cemetery, the graveyard attached to Emerson University, an old Southern university. She has learned to disguise when she notices the undead.  So when Detective John Devlin of the Charleston PD approaches her with an introduction from socialite and university trustee Camille Ashby,  Amanda doesn't expect to discuss a recent corpse.  But the police tap into Amanda's knowledge of the cemetery and she finds herself a resource in a homicide investigation. 
Detective Devlin has his own issues and appears to be haunted by a beautiful woman and a young child.  Amanda is careful not to get too involved with Detective Devlin, but it's tough as she's more attracted to him than anyone she's ever met.  Plus, their work forces them together.

The Restorer is part detective mystery, part love story and part ghost story -- and a fully engrossing read.

ISBN-10: 0778314006 - Mass Market Paperback edition $7.99
Publisher: Mira; Reprint edition (February 21, 2012), 368 pages.
Review copy courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher.
About the Author:
Amanda Stevens lives in Houston with her husband, Steven, and a black cat named Lola. She is an avid reader, a wannabe taphophile, and a collector of all things Alfred Hitchcock. When she's not writing, she likes taking road trips to Austin. And to Marfa. And to old cemeteries.
Find out more about Amanda Stevens at:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Agorafabulous! Dispatches from by Bedroom by Sara Benincasa + giveaway!

The blurb:
In Boston, a college student fears leaving her own room -- even to use the toilet. In Pennsylvania, a meek personal assistant finally confronts a perpetually enraged gay spiritual guru.  In Texas, a rookie high school teacher deals with her male student's unusually, er, hard personal problem.  Sara Benincasa has been that terrified student, that embattled employee, that confused teacher--and so much more.  Her hilarious memoir chronicles her attempts to forge a wonderfully weird adulthood in the midst of her lifelong struggle with agoraphobia, depression, and unruly hair.

Relatable, unpretentious, and unsentimental, Agorafabulous! celebrates eccentricity, resilience, and the power of humor to light up even the darkest corners of our lives.

Even if you don't usually read memoirs, you still might enjoy  Agorafabulous!  Sara Benincasa is hilarious while being quite frank about what it was like to deeply depressed and agoraphobic. There's no sugarcoating here but her frankness and sense of humor leaves one sympathizing and relating to what she went through.  While it's hard to read about bowls of pee in Le Creuset bowls to avoid entering the bathroom,  Benincasa makes you understand just how one might feel this way.

Benincasa takes us to different chapters of her life.  The trip to Sicily with other high school kids tells us about her early panic attacks and her place in the social hierarchy:
'I was generally liked in my own grade (I cracked jokes in class and wrote funny editorials about the cafeteria for the school newspaper) but had few friends on the trip to Italy.  And I was certainly not loved by Amber, who seemed particularly irritated by people who liked clowning around for laughs.  She disliked them even more than she disliked people who made art on their own time, people who wore vintage clothing, people who listened to non-Top 40 music, and people who read books. And Amber really hated people who read books.  I once heard her say in an English elective, "I have a boyfriend.  I don't have time to waste on a fu#@ing book."'
The anecdotes throughout the week long high school trip kept me chuckling and wincing in equal amounts.  When she weaves in how she told her best friend about her weak attempt to cut her wrists,  I felt like I was there in the restaurant and wanted to cheer her up.

Agorafabulous! is a funny, frank, and engaging account of a young woman growing up and into herself.
ISBN-10: 0062024418 - Hardcover $24.99
Publisher: William Morrow (February 14, 2012), 272 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Sara Benincasa is an award-winning comedian, writer, blogger, and podcast host as well as the writer and star of the one-woman show Agorafabulous! She frequently contributes opinion pieces to and was a citizen-journalist for the 2008 MTV News Choose or Lose Street Team.  She hosts the Web series Gettin' Wet with Sara Benincasa and the popular podcast Sex and Other Human Activities.  She travels the country to speak about mental illness and women's issues at universities and conferences. She lives in New York City.

For 1 signed copy of Agorafabulous!  Do help me with my project - imagine that you were thinking of renting a 1 BR 1 bath apartment, all things being equal, which factor would sway you most: (1) proximity to subway, (2) dishwasher, (3) washing machine & dryer in the unit, (4) washing machine in the building, (5) a garden in the unit. Thanks!
1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
2. You must be a follower to join the contest.
3.  One winner per household.
The contest is limited to US only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on Feb. 29, 2012. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top Ten Books That Broke My Heart A Little

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The folks at The Broke and the Bookish are particularly fond of lists.  I'd come across their list last week - the Top Ten Books To Hand Someone Who Doesn't Like To Read.  Although I couldn't stay within the 10 book mark, I had so much fun, that I plan to participate each Tuesday.

If' you'd like to sign up too, head over to The Broke & the Bookish. But do comment with your link below before you leave.  : )

If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

Here goes!  Gaby's Top Ten Books That Broke My Heart A Little (in no particular order)
  1. Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
  2. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak 
  3. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  4. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  5. Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini
  6. Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  7. When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson
  8. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  9. Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons
  10. Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaefer and Annie Barrows
Which 10 books broke your heart a little?