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Daily Deals: Moving memoirs, an uplifting romance, and a romantic suspense

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness By: Susannah CahalanBrain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. $ 2.99

From the Jacket Copy:

One day in 2009, twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. A wristband marked her as a “flight risk,” and her medical records—chronicling a monthlong hospital stay of which she had no memory at all—showed hallucinations, violence, and dangerous instability. Only weeks earlier, Susannah had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: a healthy, ambitious college grad a few months into her first serious relationship and a promising career as a cub reporter at a major New York newspaper. Who was the stranger who had taken over her body? What was happening to her mind?

In this swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her inexplicable descent into madness and the brilliant, lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen. A team of doctors would spend a month—and more than a million dollars—trying desperately to pin down a medical explanation for what had gone wrong. Meanwhile, as the days passed and her family, boyfriend, and friends helplessly stood watch by her bed, she began to move inexorably through psychosis into catatonia and, ultimately, toward death. Yet even as this period nearly tore her family apart, it offered an extraordinary testament to their faith in Susannah and their refusal to let her go.

Then, at the last minute, celebrated neurologist Souhel Najjar joined her team and, with the help of a lucky, ingenious test, saved her life. He recognized the symptoms of a newly discovered autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the brain, a disease now thought to be tied to both schizophrenia and autism, and perhaps the root of “demonic possessions” throughout history.

Far more than simply a riveting read and a crackling medical mystery, Brain on Fire is the powerful account of one woman’s struggle to recapture her identity and to rediscover herself among the fragments left behind. Using all her considerable journalistic skills, and building from hospital records and surveillance video, interviews with family and friends, and excerpts from the deeply moving journal her father kept during her illness, Susannah pieces together the story of her “lost month” to write an unforgettable memoir about memory and identity, faith and love. It is an important, profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic.

The blurb for this book sounded fascinating. The reviews are pretty positive but say that the author is a somewhat difficult person to sympathize with. Whether her behavior was the result of the disease or whether she was just sometimes spoiled and obnoxious may be part of the mystery.

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Smoke Screen by Sandra BrownSmoke Screen by Sandra Brown. $ 2.99

From the Jacket Copy:

New York Times bestselling author Sandra Brown returns with a tale of corruption and betrayal, revenge and reversal – where friends become foes, and heroes become criminals in the ultimate abuse of power.

When newswoman Britt Shelley wakes up to find herself in bed with Jay Burgess, a rising star detective in the Charleston PD, she remembers nothing of how she got there…or of how Jay wound up dead.

Handsome and hard-partying, Jay was a hero of the disastrous fire that five years earlier had destroyed Charleston’s police headquarters. The blaze left seven people dead, but the death toll would have been much higher if not for the bravery of Jay and three other city officials who risked their lives to lead others to safety.

Firefighter Raley Gannon, Jay’s lifelong friend, was off-duty that day. Though he might not have been a front-line hero, he was assigned to lead the investigation into the cause of the fire. It was an investigation he never got to complete. Because on one calamitous night, Raley’s world was shattered.

Scandalized, wronged by the people he trusted most, Raley was forced to surrender the woman he loved and the work to which he’d dedicated his life. For five years his resentment against the men who exploited their hero status to further their careers — and ruin his — had festered, but he was helpless to set things right.

That changes when he learns of Jay Burgess’s shocking death and Britt Shelley’s claim that she has no memory of her night with him. As the investigation into Jay’s death intensifies, and suspicion against Britt Shelley mounts, Raley realizes that the newswoman, Jay’s last sexual conquest, might be his only chance to get personal vindication — and justice for the seven victims of the police station fire.

But there are powerful men who don’t want to address unanswered questions about the fire and who will go to any lengths to protect their reputations. As Raley and Britt discover more about what happened that fateful day, the more perilous their situation becomes, until they’re not only chasing after the truth but running for their lives.

Friends are exposed as foes, heroes take on the taint of criminals, and no one can be trusted completely. A tale about audacious corruption — and those with the courage to expose it — Smoke Screen is Sandra Brown’s most searing and intense novel yet.

Brown writes serviceable romantic suspense but the emphasis is on the suspense. The three star reviews criticize the book for its predictable villains and ending. Probably a comfort read for many.

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Head Over Heels (A Lucky Harbor Novel) by Jill ShalvisHead Over Heels by Jill Shalvis. $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:

Free-spirited Chloe lives life on the edge. Unlike her soon-to-be married sisters, she isn’t ready to settle into a quiet life running their family’s newly renovated inn. But soon her love of trouble–and trouble with love-draws the attention of the very stern, very sexy sheriff who’d like nothing better than to tame her wild ways.

Suddenly Chloe can’t take a misstep without the sheriff hot on her heels. His rugged swagger and his enigmatic smile are enough to make a girl beg to be handcuffed. For the first time, instead of avoiding the law, Chloe dreams of surrender. Can this rebel find a way to keep the peace with the straitlaced sheriff? Or will Chloe’s colorful past keep her from a love that lasts . . . and the safe haven she truly wants in a town called Lucky Harbor?

This weekend I was with a few other readers talking about our favorite tropes. Mine is the caretaker alpha and the prickly Sheriff in Head Over Heels qualifies. I believe this is the third in the Lucky Harbor series.

Janet reviewed this for us and said:

Sawyer and Chloe’s mutual need for acceptance is somewhat standard Romance fare, but the addition of Chloe’s asthma creates an opportunity for more emotional intimacy between them. The asthma becomes a means through which Sawyer can show true care and concern for Chloe, and it allows Chloe to become vulnerable with Sawyer in ways she might not otherwise allow. The book does not treat the condition as a gimmick, nor does it become an all-consuming issue for the couple.

I agree with her that the resolution to the conflict was disappointing but it was a sweet read.

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Angela's Ashes    by     Frank McCourtAngela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. $ 2.99.

From the Jacket Copy:

“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”

So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank’s father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy—exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling—does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father’s tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies.

Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank’s survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig’s head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors—yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness.

Angela’s Ashes, imbued on every page with Frank McCourt’s astounding humor and compassion, is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic.

Pulitzer prize winner. I think you either want to read it or you don’t, regardless of what the reviews say.

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. MaryK
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 14:22:10

    So what are you fav caretaker alpha books? (Other than LMR, I’ve read those.) I’ve been wanting to read that lately.

  2. Jane
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 14:23:31

    @MaryK: I think Lisa Kleypas writes those character tropes perfectly in Blue Eyed Devil and Smooth Talking Stranger.

  3. Shelley
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 15:44:27

    I read Angela’s Ashes after seeing the movie and while I don’t remember if I cried during the movie, I definitely had to take frequent “moments” to gather my thoughts while reading the book. Definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read but probably will not reread as it is so dark and sad.

  4. Nalini Singh
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 16:10:06

    I read “Brain on Fire” a few weeks back and found it fascinating. It reads like a fictional medical mystery – the fact it all actually happened is both surreal and compelling.

  5. MaryK
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 16:27:22

    @Jane: Thanks. I think I have those in the TBR. Now to see if I can find them.

  6. Willa
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 16:33:35

    @Shelley: Exactly!

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