Saturday, December 31, 2011

Charlene Reviews - Tho' It Were Ten Thousand Miles: A Love Story by William H. A. Williams

ISBN #: 978-1456794972
Page Count: 300
Copyright: September 2007
Publisher: AuthorHouse Publishing


Seamus O'Rouke's obsession with a girl he discovers on YouTube turns into love when Fiona MacKenzie turns up on his Midwestern campus. While the sixty-five-year-old Irishman's pursuit of this twenty-year-old folk singer is against all reason, rhyme does play its role. Seamus is adept at wielding poetry, as well as music, art, gourmet meals and fine wine, in his campaign for the heart of his green-eyed auburn-haired beauty.

Fiona is haunted by the earlier death of her Scottish father and by the resulting loneliness, which she tries to hide beneath her usually self-confident exterior. She tries to keep from being overwhelmed by Seamus' larger-than-life personality. Gradually, however, her skeptical common sense gives way before the onslaught of this unreconstructed Irish Romantic.

During their brief months together, this age-crossed pair discovers that romance is a tightrope strung between incomprehension and farce. As told through a his/her dual narrative, these two head-strong and highly articulate individuals continuously collide, often comically, as they struggle to comprehend the nature of their love. In spite of moments of often bawdy comedy, questions of love, age, loss and death thread their way through the story. As Fiona observes, "What strange ways love has of going about her business."

Charlene Reviews:

65-year-old Seamus is captivated by a face in a video. Fiona, all of 20, is a student and sings folk songs. It is her face that Seamus obsesses over until one day they fatefully meet. At first, Fiona struggles with what this older gentleman would want with her, but eventually, he wins her over through their shared love of music. As they become more involved, a winter/spring romance begins, and their lives become intertwined. As she spends her days in Seamus' company, Fiona learns more about herself, and how the loss of her father defined her. Through his poetry, patience, and persistence, Seamus helps her love and grow, and through Fiona's youth, and exuberance, Seamus finds new life.

This unforgettable tale of an unlikely love story left me wanting more. I knew as soon as I cracked the spine, I was in for a treat! A bit put-off at first by the narrative and yes, the age difference made me wonder, but it is written eloquently. Not one to read much in the way of "love stories," I was soon swept away by the romanticism of Seamus. Loaded with Irish lore, music, and poetry, it spoke to my hopelessly romantic side. I think most women would agree that we could all use a little "Seamus" in our lives.

Mr. Williams handled the age difference with humor and dignity. I believe my favorite sentence, "love has its own ways of expressing itself, and it is pointless to question them," may very well sum up the entire book. If you judge the book by its cover story, you may miss a bittersweet journey of love that will, personally, haunt me for quite a while.

Absolutely one of my top reads of 2011!

Charlene Reviews: Victory on the Home Front by D. S. Grier

Release Date: January 2012


It's 1943 and eleven-year-old Les MacGregor is thinking of running away. He's sick of his parents, who are always fighting, and his three horrible brothers - perfect James, bitter Charlie and annoying Johnny - the youngest and a total pest. With his parents focused on their own problems, Les has plenty of time on his own to do what he wants. After being ostracized thanks to the school bully, Les spends time dissecting a dead cat in his secret science lab, scaling the attic roof, and tapping phone lines, which seems like a great idea until the FBI comes calling. It's time for Les to go, so he plans his escape.

While the family gathers at the station to ship his oldest brother off to war, Les figures it's the perfect time to hop a train and go on a grand adventure. After all, there's nobody looking, right?

Charlene's Review:

Les is a middle child in this young adult fiction based in the WWII era. His parents struggle with personal and addiction issues, and Les and his brothers are left to fend for themselves. Les' favorite place to hide is in his secret lab where he can experiment and stay out of his parents' arguments. His dream is to escape and live in a family that gets along. When he finally escapes, along with his little brother, to his grandparents home, he gets a taste of what living within a loving family feels like.

This is a definite coming-of-age tale. Les and his brothers all experience the ravages of a particularly dysfunctional family life. Although this is geared for the young adult genre, it is well written and I enjoyed reading about a simpler time. It has a certain innocence about it, and poignant reminders of the fears of that era, especially regarding the young men fighting in the war. It deals with alcoholism in a way that doesn't judge the disease, but paints a true picture of the possible damage to a family. Among the dysfunction, you see glimpses of hope and love in supporting characters. You also watch a family be transformed, one by one, and learn to live beside each other.

A very enjoyable novel.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Mandy Reviews: Unclean Spirits by M. L. N. Hanover

ISBN #: 9781439143056
Page Count: 373
Copyright: 2008
Publisher: Pocket Books

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Jayne (accent over last 'e') Heller thinks of herself as a realist, until she discovers reality isn't quite what she thought. When her uncle Eric is murdered, Jayne travels to Denver to settle his estate, only to learn that it's all hers - and vaster than she ever imagined. And along with properties across the world and an inexhaustible fortune, Eric has left her another legacy: his unfinished business with a cabal of wizards known as the Invisible College.

Led by the ruthless Randolph Coin, the Invisible College harnesses demon spirits for their own ends of power and domination. Jayne finds it difficult to believe magic and demons can even exist, but Coin sees Eric's heir as a threat to be eliminated by any means - magical or mundane - so Jayne had better start believing in something to save her own life. If she hopes to survive, she'll have to learn the new rules fast - or break them completely...

Mandy's Review:

Unclean Spirits begins with a very recognizable theme: Main character is poor, has lost everything and everyone, nowhere to go, rich relative dies (right in the nick of time) making main character unspeakably wealthy. I tend to get a little weary reading this happening over and over again in different books.


Once I got past the opening and delved into the story, it became a book I could not put down. Between the creation of the supernatural world/characters and the interactions between the main and supporting characters, it created a world to me as real as the one we live in now.

Jayne is very unsure about people, life, her surroundings and has to learn how to be assertive. Fortunately, with the help of Aubrey, Ex and Chogyi Jake, she does just that. And, between the four of them, they succeed where Jayne's Uncle Eric failed.

Does that mean the story's over just because they succeeded? Heck no! There are three more books in this series that I will be reading and reviewing just for you.

If you like a paranormal book with some ass-kicking action and sarcastic humor, then this book would be perfect for you.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

January's BintoM Monthly Giveaway (#12)

Have you ever read a book and then wanted to watch the movie made from it? Or, maybe you've seen a movie and then found out there was a book it was based on. Well, that was the basis of this monthly meme that I started.

Welcome to Literary R&R's BintoM (Books-into-Movies) Monthly Giveaway! 

Here are the particulars for this month's giveaway:

  • Towards the end of the month, I will post the next month's giveaway.
  • I will leave it open for 2 to 3 weeks. At that time, a winner (or winners, if I'm feeling generous) will be chosen and notified.
  • I will expect the winner to acknowledge the winning email within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen in their place.
  • This is now open internationally
  • You do not need to be a GFC follower to win. Yes, I would like it if you followed me, but I am not making that a stipulation to participate or to win.

 January's BintoM Giveaway (ending January 8th) prize pack will consist of:

Shutter Island book/movie combo

Here's a little bit about both:

I have a brand new paperback copy of Shutter Island written by Dennis Lehane that I bought from Books-A-Million.

Summary:  In the year 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate an unexplained disappearance. Multiple murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this barren island, despite having been kept under constant surveillance in a locked, guarded cell. As a killer hurricane bears relentlessly down on the island, hints of radical experimentation and covert government machinations add darker, more sinister shades to an already bizarre case. Because nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is remotely what it seems.

To go along with the book, I have a brand new copy of Shutter Island, the movie:

Blurb:  When U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels arrives at the asylum for the criminally insane on Shutter Island, what starts as a routine investigation quickly takes a sinister turn. As the investigation unfolds and Teddy uncovers more shocking and terrifying truths about the island, he learns there are some places that never let you go. 

DVD Info:

137 Minutes

Rated R

Widescreen Version

Main Actors:

Leonardo DiCaprio

Mark Ruffalo

Ben Kingsley

Michelle Williams

Click here to enter for your chance to win

Good Luck!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mandy Reviews: Ella's Coffee by Tony Pritchard

File Size: 31 KB
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: Tony Pritchard

(Taken from Amazon)

These stories are short blasts of comedy and tragedy, written to raise the spirits of anyone needing a quick lift.

Mandy's Review:

These stories were extremely quick reads. I've had them read for over a week now, but haven't written my review because I've been going over and over this work in my mind. I am torn.

Before I get to why I'm torn, let me describe the work to you a little bit. Ella's Coffee actually encases two very short stories ... glimpses, really ... into the lives of two different women. 

The first story is Ella's Coffee and is about a woman going on a blind date with a man she met through the Internet.

The second story is Adrift and is about a woman sure her marriage has fallen apart now that their child has left for college.

Now, to explain why I'm torn... The reviewer in me says that these stories are life-like, realistic and could be any woman you meet. They're well-written and descriptive enough that you feel the settings and people are familiar to you. So, in this respect, job well done Mr. Pritchard.

The OTHER side of me, the woman, is divided as well!!!

Womanly side A is offended that the female characters in both stories seem to exude a sense of insecurity. I know all woman do not portray a confident persona, but I like to think we do. Maybe I'm becoming feminist as I grow older ...

Womanly side B cheers the endings of these stories. I'm not going to tell you how they end, but I did enjoy them.

Are you now as confused as I am? Then I am in good company!

I must say, though, this review is not what I had written originally to post. However, the more I thought about these stories ... well ... this is its end result. So, Mr. Pritchard, I'm not sure where the comedy comes in at, but kudos for confusing the hell out of me. Not many writers can do that and still have me enjoy their stories! =)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Charlene Reviews: Nitt Witt Hill by Sebastian Gibson

ISBN #: 978-0984777600
Page Count: 248
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: Sebastian Gibson Publishing


The top political parties have degenerated into the Nitt Witts, the Turkeys and the Clown Party and the country is becoming deranged. Unless Mark Twain (Mark, a political consultant and his dog, Twain) can determine what's making people so neurotic and make sense of the madness, riots may cause the country's collapse.

The Clowns are running for office with the slogan, "One more Clown in Congress probably won't make any difference." The Turkey candidates are running against the Clowns with their counter slogan, "Isn't it time we had some real Turkeys in office instead of those Clowns?" But it's the Nitt Witt Party who may have the most appeal to voters with their slogan, "Elect a Nitt Witt and see what some real Nitt Witts can do in Washington."

Meanwhile, believing a lightweight metal alloy in bras when placed in contact with the wearer's skin is causing electrostatic interference with aircraft navigation equipment and with people themselves, Homeland Security and the Senate take action to prohibit the wearing of bras on airplanes and their sale in America. Still, the situation fails to improve and the country is on the verge of losing its collective mind.

With the rhetoric of political parties at a level never seen before ("Turkeys are made for stuffing, Clowns are for Congress") and as protesters riot over the right to wear or go without bras and try to take control of the White House it's up to Mark and his dog Twain to determine the cause of the country's mental imbalance and find a way to save the country.

Charlene's Review:

Nitt Witt Hill is preceded by this quote from Mark Twain: "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot." I find that this pretty much sums up the next 234+ pages. If you're looking for a serious look into our nations politics, this isn't it.

A satirical novel, in which no party or political ambition is safe, Nitt Witt Hill is an absurd, often humorous look at our nation's leaders. In the search for what is making the American public neurotic, Mark and his dog, Twain, lunch with Sarah Palin, attend a Senate hearing on bras, fake their way into the President's campaign strategy meeting, uncover conspiracy, and strategize with the FBI. In the end, a solution is found for all the craziness, and politics will continue as usual.

Whether you root for the Nitt Witts, Turkeys or the Clowns, you will enjoy this somewhat warped, but sadly accurate portrayal of our government. Mr. Gibson tells it like it is, although he may have a slight obsession with breast support. =)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kathy Reviews: Switch Witch by Pamela Hurd

ISBN #: 978-1463445874
Page Count: 24
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: AuthorHouse Publishing

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

We all want a friend who will be there to watch our backs! Flotilla Batwing and Blistell Cattail are just that, friends who stick together, especially when trying something new. More importantly, this story not only shows the significance of having a friend that is always there, but also conveys the worth of being that kind of friend.

Suggested Audience:

This is a children's book. I'd say the appropriate age group is between 6-8 years old. Girls may like this book better than boys, since the two main characters are female. My 6 year old son, who is just beginning to read, would probably have a hard time reading this on his own, but he liked the story.

Kathy's Review:

Fun illustrations and vivid descriptions make Switch Witch an entertaining read for kids. Flotilla and Blistell are the best of friends, and Blistell wants Flotilla to try something new - wearing inline skates to fly around instead of a broom. Flotilla resists the idea at first, because she remembers other incidents where the two of them got into trouble. But when she sees that her friend's feelings are hurt because she doesn't want to try the skates, she agrees to the idea. The two friends spiral off into an adventure together that doesn't go as planned, but they have fun.

It's a cute story about friendship with a lesson that it's okay to try new things, but sometimes you do things the old way for a reason! Your kids will appreciate the imaginative words to describe things like the potions they are brewing, Blistell's bed which is made out of fish lips, and references to other Halloween characters. The illustrations are all done in eye-catching, bright colors, which brings the characters to life. A superb effort to make these two witchy friends come to life!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

Seeing as how I have NUMEROUS books in my TBR pile, I thought I'd join this little soiree.  If you have a TBR pile, and you're a book blogger, why not join up?  You can read the official rules and guidelines by clicking here.

I am hoping to reach the highest level by reading 50 books, but I'm going to start off realistically by committing to the 2nd level (A Friendly Hug) with 12 books.  I have listed them below.  If I'm able to read more than 12 books for this challenge, I will expand my list in the 2012 Reading Challenges link to the right.

1.) Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
2.) Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
3.) Emma by Jane Austen
4.) The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
5.) Animal Farm by George Orwell
6.) The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
7.) Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
8.) Life is Funny by E. R. Franks
9.) Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
10.) Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes
11.) The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
12.) Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Kathy Reviews - Dancing With Duality: Confessions of a Free Spirit by Stella Vance

ISBN #: 978-1466326651
Page Count: 304
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Who Am I, Behind the Human Mask?

Is this life real? Or is it only a game? These are the questions Stella Vance asked herself. And the answers are sure to astound you.

Betrayed at the age of 21 by the first love of her life, Stella embarks on a life of fearless adventure. She travels the world, adding notches to her lipstick case with lovers from all over the world and surviving harrowing experiences, including abuse, abortion, date rape, and cult involvement. Along the way, Stella undergoes a spiritual transformation. Once awakened to the reality of nonduality, she gradually realizes that life is just a game, that death is just another dimension, and that nothing "out there" can really hurt her.

This inspiring page-turning memoir begins in the 1970's, when Stella is a Christian zealot. Subsequently questioning all religious dogma, Stella's mystical quests lead her to delve deeply into the realms of dreams, psychic readings, astrology, tantric yoga, reincarnation and her own past lives, the entheogen ketamine, Indian holy men and women, revolving-door relationships, the seeker culture of southern California, and finally, the ultimate path of Adavita Vedanta.

Kathy's Review:

Part memoir, part philosophy, Stella Vance voices an easy-to-follow tour through her life, following both the events and the internal struggles and questions she faced along the way. The last paragraph of this book summary gives you some idea of the philosophy and ideology Vance studied.

This book will only be enjoyable if you are completely open-minded and non-judgemental. As the title suggests, Vance is a free spirit, which means she doesn't follow the mainstream views on basically anything. Raised Christian, she questions her religious beliefs in her teen years. The points she raises are quite compelling, and made me think about my own beliefs. She also puts out the good, the bad and the ugly of her life, including multiple abortions, relationships gone wrong, threesomes, drug use, and more. One of the life lessons she stresses in the book, and repeats throughout: "Be careful when you judge someone; you may end up doing a similar thing." I think that is the mindframe one must be in while reading this book.

Vance recaps her life beginning as a teen and through to her current age. She travels many places in the world, meets many people and finds enlightenment. She is well-read and well-educated. Although she presents some ideas of which I am personally skeptical, she made so many good points and I had so many "ah-ha" moments throughout this book, that I would be interested to read some of the source books she quotes.

I'm not sure where I stand on the topic of reincarnation. I think it's a cool concept - that we lived before as someone else. Throughout the book, Vance makes references to people in her present life that she also encountered in past lives. This made me think about some of the people in my life that I've felt super-connected to and not really known why. One person in particular - the first time I met him, I felt an incredible connection and knew that he was going to be someone special in my life. He was - but not in the way I thought or hoped he was going to be. One quote toward the end of the book really made me think of this particular situation: "Some people come into our lives for a reason, some for a season, and some for a lifetime ... Each person who crosses our path in an intimate way is someone from whom we have a lesson to learn. Value the lesson and when the time is right, allow that person to exit from your life." That really struck a chord with me in reference to this person, who is no longer in my life. And the whole idea of reincarnation makes me wonder who this person was to me in a past life.

Vance has some poignant ideas and a very optimistic outlook on humanity, and I couldn't help but feeling envious of her way of life. Because of her lifestyle and beliefs, she has freed herself from some of the everyday struggle that some of us face.

A very thought-provoking book that may spur me to do some further research. If you have an open heart and open mind, I urge you to read Ms. Vance's book.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mandy Reviews: Birthday Pie by Arthur Wooten

ISBN #: 978-0983563143
Page Count: 214
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: Galaxias Productions

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

When Lex Martindale, a New York City writer, goes home to celebrate his birthday and say good-bye to his dying father, he struggles with whether or not to share with his eccentric Southern family news of his own life-threatening situation. As we travel through seventy years of the Martindales' rich and colorful history, unearthing forbidden loves, shattered hopes and tenacious dreams, we realize that this reunion is a volatile turning point in all of their lives. But as anger, resentments and jealousies erupt to the surface, it's their laughter and irreverent sense of humor that prevails allowing for a quiet healing in this bittersweet, moving portrait, of the all-American family.

Mandy's Review:


With the styling and coloring, the cover is reminiscent of old family-style recipe books.


A family comes home from all corners of the U.S. to celebrate a relative's birthday ... but is that really the only reason?

Between a senile old lady, a potential murderer, a narcissistic mother and an emotionally weak man, you have the makings of a dysfunctional family get-together.

Main Characters

Trudy - She seems a little flighty and self-absorbed, but she really does love her family in her own way.

Lex - Trudy's favorite who is involved in a relationship where they're staying together out of habit instead of love.

Junior - Extremely weak-willed. He allows his wife to treat him however she wants. He refuses to stick up for himself.

Mona - Mean and selfish. She doesn't know how to be nice unless it is to her advantage.

Roscoe - Hopeless dreamer always looking for the million-dollar break.


For me, this story showed that, no matter how dysfunctional your family may be, they care about one another. They may not show it in a way you'd expect, but if you look hard enough, you'll find the care and love they have for you.

Although I enjoyed reading this book and appreciated the occasional humorous passage, it did not become one of my favorites. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy reading stories that explore the complexity of a family's dynamics and diversity.

Mandy Reviews (as Raven Grace): Raven's Kiss by Toni LoTempio

File Size: 306 KB
Page Count: 236
Copyright: 2011

To read the book summary, you can click here to go to the Amazon page for this book.

I've decided to handle this review a little differently.  Instead of writing it in my voice, I've decided to try and channel Raven Grace (main character) and write it in her voice.  Let me know what you think...

Mandy's Review:

So, you're here and you want to know what I think of my story. Well, I'll tell you ... it sucked for awhile. I mean, why the hell did I have to get bit by a demon? All I was doing was winding down at a bar with a friend. One thing led to another and, next thing I know, I'm demon-bit and, as a result, changed into a damned shapeshifter.

Now I've got serious anger issues and this bitch, Hedy, that works in the same department as I do, knows how to push my buttons. Oh, what I wouldn't give to really put her in her place ... As a matter of fact, I started to and now I'm on a two-week sabbatical from the Recovery because of it.

Oh, I'm sorry ... you want to know what the Recovery is? It's like a police department and detective agency rolled into one, but with agents dealing in paranormal cases. We have full-blooded humans that work there, but everyone has some sort of special ability. Like my partner, George. He's a mage, which is another term for a sorcerer or conjurer.

So, anyhow, I'm on my two-week "sabbatical" from the department. First night off, I go grab a few from the local bar. Getting lost on the way home, I get hassled by a Hellhound. After kicking his ass, this chic comes running into the alley screaming for help. I go to her apartment and see her roommate has been bitten by the same demon I had been ... Aega.

That decided it. For the next two weeks, I was hunting down this damn demon and finishing him one way or another.

Enlisting the help of some friends, I set out on my quest. Over the course of 48 hours, I encounter an alternate parallel universe and an ancient prophesy involving a riddle I have no idea how to solve.

I muddle my way through and, at the end, I have to fight Aega's boss, Arkeath. Really?! I'm expected to fight a freaking demon without using my shapeshifting abilities?! What the hell?!!!

As unfair as that was, I figured out how to kick that demon's ass and save the day.

So, give it up for Ms. LoTempio for creating me, Raven. If you want to read about a kick-ass chic who can hold it down with the big boys, then you need to read my story. Raven's Kiss isn't just the title, it's the secret to my success. =)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Charlene Reviews: The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

ISBN #: 1439191697
Page Count: 288
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: Gallery


After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna's soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning ("do no let her...") before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish.

A haunted kitchen isn't Ginny's only challenge. Her domineering sister, Amanda (aka "Demanda), insists on selling their parents' house, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents' belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn't sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn't know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father's photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there's only one way to get answers: cook from dead people's recipes, raise their ghosts and ask them.

Charlene's Review:

Ginny Selvaggio has lived a life sheltered by her parents. Her quirky behavior has always been described as having a "personality," and it isn't until her parents accidental death that Ginny uncovers the secrets of her family, and herself. Withdrawing from the world around her and turning to her family's beloved recipes, Ginny discovers she can bring the deceased back to visit, one last time, if she follows their recipe to the letter. She only has the time it takes for the aroma to dissipate, to seek the answers she needs most. Unfortunately, the deceased have secrets of their own that Ginny must now come to understand.

The Kitchen Daughter is a story about grief, relationships, and the search for self. Ginny must face the loss of her home, and all the comfort she knows, if she allows her sister to sell the family home. Her sister, believing that Ginny is not capable of living alone, sends Ginny to a psychiatrist who offers a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. While exposing the intricacies of a developmental disorder, Ms. McHenry balances the scale with Gert, the housekeeper that seems to know, and accept Ginny unconditionally. An emotionally intriguing book, filled with great insight into the life of a misunderstood soul, The Kitchen Daughter also takes you through an unexpected twist that breaks your heart.

Ms. McHenry writes sensitively about an often painful subject, and leaves the reader with great hope for all the Ginny's of the world.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Just For Fun 2012 Reading Challenge

As bloggers, we are all on timetables to read books, get reviews posted, host giveaways, etc.  But we also travel around to other blogs and see books we would just like to read because of their recommendation or the cover or title catches our interest.

As followers, you get our recommendations, win books from us, pick up books at the library or buy them at a store. But our lives are so busy, these books sometimes sit in our To-Be-Read piles for months or even years.

This is the second year Dollycas, over at Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book, is hosting this challenge.

To sign up and to read all the details, click here to go to the Goodreads group page. You can sign up until January 31, 2012 so go now!

To read my list of 12 books that I'll be reading for this challenge, click on the 2012 Reading Challenges link to the right.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mandy Reviews: The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum

ISBN #: 978-0452297135
Page Count: 369
Copyright: 2010
Publisher: Plume

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

As a teenager, Karena Jorge always took care of her twin brother, Charles, who suffers from bipolar disorder. Obsessed with the weather and enraptured by its unpredictability that seems to mirror his own impulses, Charles grows increasingly unstable, until Karena finds herself caught between her loyalty for her brother and fear for her own safety. When a terrifying storm chase with Karena ends with deadly consequences, the twins are torn apart, and Karena's life is changed forever. Two decades later, Karena is forced to confront the dark secret from her past and track down her estranged brother before he does further damage to himself or to someone else. She embarks on an odyssey that will test the strength of their sibling bond and give her an unexpected chance at love and redemption.

Mandy's Review:


An effectual cover, the darkness of the clouds conveys the oppression of the upcoming storm to the reader. Makes you wonder why the children are sitting in the middle of the road, though.


Because of a phone call from a hospital, Karena decides to use her job, as a reporter, as a semi-ruse to go hunting for her twin brother. Since her brother is a storm chaser, she joins up with a storm chasing company that takes people on week-long expeditions.

After joining the team, Karena begins getting to know people and has several close encounters with her brother ... that she doesn't find out about until it's too late.

Once the week-long trek is over, Karena still hasn't found her brother and is determined to continue looking. With the help of one of the guides, who has decided to stay with her, and a twist of fate, Karena and Charles (her brother) meet up by pure chance ... or so it seems.

After finding each other, Charles goes home with Karena. Being around each other again causes past emotions to rise up and a blow-up ensues. Can Karena and Charles help each other get over their past?

Main Characters

Karena - This lady has some serious emotional baggage, but it's understandable after knowing what she had to endure growing up. She's very independent, but desires to have someone take care of her, too.

Charles - Karena's twin and often needs Karena to help him get out of trouble. He is affected by the bipolar disorder and believes he has a handle on his disease ... until one fateful storm chase.

Kevin - A storm chasing guide that agreed to stay with Karena to help her find Charles. He cares for Karena, but does not do well with drama or lies.


An enjoyable, emotional and descriptive read. The storms were very realistic and easy to imagine for a non-storm chaser like me. The dynamic between Karena and Kevin was compelling and drew me into their world. I loved their witty, and often funny, dialogue.

If you love fiction that will draw you in emotionally and keep you reading, then pick up a copy of The Stormchasers.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kathy Reviews: Train Wreck by Bennett Gavrish

File Size: 269 KB

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

What if I told you there is a secret stock market that assigns a dollar value to the life of every man, woman and child?

Would you believe it? And more importantly, how much do you think you'd be worth? Nick Buchanan faces that question every day. He works for a nontraditional insurance firm that gambles on the lives of ordinary Americans and cashes in when they die. After one of his clients is murdered, Nick finds himself in the middle of a tangled conspiracy that he must unravel before the killers can claim another victim.

Kathy's Review:

This story centers around Nick Buchanan, who is leaving Boston on the red-eye Amtrak train, headed for D.C. He just quit his job and is not sure what his future holds. As the story begins, Nick is waiting for the train to arrive with his fellow passengers. Gavrish very hilariously describes the passengers - in fact, the entire book is filled with laugh-out-loud moments and current pop culture references.

The train is delayed and the passengers begin to talk to each other, and as the story progresses, we learn the back stories of each passenger. When the night is over we learn that each passenger on this train car is connected to Nick in some way, although Nick never realizes this.

Train Wreck is a little bit predictable, and the characters are more caricatures, but the humorous writing style makes up for some of this, in my mind. I was envisioning the beginning of the story as a play in the theater, since it takes place in a small space and the characters are so exaggerated. The back stories could also be developed for the stage.

Overall, I enjoyed Train Wreck - I appreciated the voice of the author, his writing style, and interesting plot twists. I would recommend Train Wreck to an audience who doesn't mind a little bit of crass humor (definitely some foul language in here, as well as sexual innuendoes). It's an enjoyable ride.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Charlene Reviews: Believe Like A Child by Paige Dearth

ISBN #: 978-1461105671
Page Count: 424
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace


Alessa is just seven years old when her uncle rapes her for the first time.

As the years pass, his sexual appetite becomes more voracious and his perversion more twisted, until the abuse has become almost a daily ritual, with the unspoken involvement of the girl's mother.

At the age of sixteen, after the death of her only friend, Alessa finds herself at the mercy of her real-life monster, with no relief in sight. She flees her home to escape this hell, only to find herself descending into a more dangerous one. Alone and helpless in the streets of North Philadelphia, she encounters more human predators who want to take over her life and devour her.

About to hit rock bottom, Alessa manages to break away from her new tormentors and finds refuge in a shelter for homeless and abused women. Wherever she goes, however, trouble keeps seeking her out, until she meets three people who change the course of her life forever.

Though Alessa's bittersweet journey is perpetually fraught with challenges, she does, nevertheless, manage to find fleeting moments of joy along the way. But as she begins to settle down, a ghost from the past comes to haunt her again, threatening to destroy the very foundation of her small world and plunging her back into an abyss of despair, until she makes her final bid for escape.

Charlene's Review:

Believe Like A Child is the haunting story of Alessa, a young woman who is sexually abused by her uncle as a child, and how that abuse continues to define her as she matures. Alone and naive, Alessa runs away from home, only to find herself confronted with the evils of the street. Along the way, she finds Lucy, an abandoned little girl, who gives her hope and purpose, and finally, Alessa finds love and acceptance in Remo, the man that acknowledges her past and helps her plan her future. Unfortunately, Alessa's past returns with startling consequences.

Paige Dearth is a powerhouse of the written word. Her characters burst with life, and her descriptions are emotive. She has a grasp of the pain of abuse that no one other than a survivor can possibly fathom. Graphically rendered details, at times, emotionally overwhelming, delve deep into the sickness and evil of sexual abuse, especially regarding children. This is not a "pleasant" read, but a powerful story of the ability of abuse victims to persevere under horrifying circumstances. Caution should be taken with any survivors of such abuse, as this could be extremely triggering.

I read this book in one sitting, as I was riveted, but at the same time felt as if I was witnessing a horrible wreck and couldn't avert my eyes, no matter the carnage. The ending was a complete shock and left me heartsick, as I identified with Alessa's struggle so deeply, and cheered her on from the first chapter. Believe Like A Child is a dramatic thriller with a strong message of how one act of abuse can spiral into a lifetime of pain, and how even the smallest acts of kindness and love can change a person's future.

Cannot wait to see more from Ms. Dearth!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Eclectic Reader 2012 Challenge

The aim of The Eclectic Reader 2012 Challenge (hosted by shelleyrae at Book'd Out) is to push you a little outside your comfort zone by reading up to 12 books during the year from 12 different genres.

To read the official rules, click on the link above to go to the Book'd Out site.  Below is my list of books that I'll be reading next year for this challenge:

1.) Literary Fiction: The Yoga Club by Cooper Lawrence
2.) Crime/Mystery Fiction: The Shake by Mel Nicolai
3.) Romantic Fiction: Faith Found in Frisco by Robin L. Scott
4.) Historical Fiction: The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
5.) Young Adult: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
6.) Fantasy: Falling Under by Gwen Hayes
7.) Science Fiction: Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson
8.) Non-Fiction: Love from the Other Side by Carol Shimp
9.) Horror: The Dark Half by Stephen King
10.) Thriller/Suspense: The Wicked Wives by Gus Pelagatti
11.) Classic: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
12.) My Favorite Genre - Mystery Fiction: Killer Sweet Tooth by Gayle Trent

I'll be joining other challenges as I find the ones that interest me. To keep up with the challenges, I'll be adding a link on the right titled '2012 Reading Challenges.'

Blog Tour - Guest Post: The Truth About The Holidays

Katherine Russell is on tour again with her novel, Deed So.  The first time around, I participated in the tour with a review of her novel.  To read it, you can click here.

For this tour, I've decided to post a guest post, by the author, entitled The Truth About The Holidays. So, sit back and enjoy a few words by Deed So's author, Katherine Russell.

The Truth About The Holidays:

I am almost done with my Christmas shopping and shipping, so I can take a deep breath and relax. Now that the pressure is off, I'll start to enjoy the season. Part of that enjoyment is remembering past holidays. I smile as I recall following my parents out into the woods as they decided which tree to chop down and drag home. My father was a pine man and my mother was a cedar maven, so sometimes there were arguments. I didn't much care which one they picked as long as I got to pitch the tinsel. Do we still have tinsel? Or has it become an environmental no-no?

I set my novel, Deed So, in the early Sixties of my childhood. My main character, Haddie Bashford, is a little younger and a lot braver, but the setting is the small town America of bake sales and school car wash fund raisers I experienced. The story unfolds from the start of the school year through the following Easter, and includes Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas as the plot accelerates. I think I am a bit of a holiday junkie, and it comes through in my writing. Oops, I forgot to mention Veteran's Day and Valentine's Day. Fact is, though, holidays are useful tools for exploring characters and revealing emotions and conflicts. (See prickly pine needle controversy emerging above.)

I know not everyone was blessed with a happy childhood, but I certainly was, and although we had our share of sadness and tragedies, I look back on my preteen days with appreciation and thankfulness. Of course, the Sixties were not perfect, and that is what Deed So is about. I use the peaceful community as a template for introducing the civil rights struggle, women's rights issues and the Vietnam War to explore how these movements changed individual lives in big and small ways. We see these emerging national conflicts through the eyes of a girl entering her teens. Haddie watches and grows as the larger issues affect the adults and other young people in her close knit community.

But Deed So is not a textbook history lesson; it is a story of a community navigating through difficult transitions and confronting its own baggage of long-buried secrets, misplaced allegiances and cherished assumptions.

Deed So also contains love stories, both happy and sad. You can't write a book about the generation that embraced Teen Angel without including romance. The book also has a ghost, or a ghost story, depending on your views regarding ectoplasm.

Deed So is about recognizing what endures, what is true. I think that is why I wrote a story that weaves in and out of a calendar of celebrations and observances. At their core, holidays reminds us of what really matters, and it isn't the presents, the candy or the musical cards. They are about love, loyalty, care and connectedness, now, back then, and forever.

Katharine A. Russell

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mandy Reviews: Ghost Files by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson

ISBN #: 978-1451633108
Page Count: 549
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: Gallery Books

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

In this hair-raising omnibus, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, founders of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (T.A.P.S.), reveal the memorable and spine-tingling cases featured in their smash-hit collections, Ghost Hunting (copyright 2007) and Seeking Spirits (copyright 2009). From their never-seen-on-television adventures as budding paranormal investigators to the behind-the-scenes accounts of heart-pounding supernatural encounters featured on their popular show, these fascinating and frightening real life tales will keep you up at night!

Mandy's Review:

Quite a huge volume of ghost "stories" told by two of the most popular guys in the ghost hunting business, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson. I enjoyed reading what they went through when they first started out. It makes me wonder, though, why we don't see anything as spooky as some of these stories on their television show, Ghost Hunters.

The pictures in this book were interesting to look at as well. Some showed anomalies that could possibly be ghostly apparitions, while others showed a different side of Jason and Grant.

Ghost Files helped the reader to get a better feel for who Jason and Grant really are, two family men out to help as many people as they can. It was written in their voice, which helped to provide a personal aspect to the stories instead of writing them in third-person.

If you enjoy anything ghostly, and especially Ghost Hunters, then you would enjoy reading Ghost Files.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Kathy Reviews: Curse of the Egyptian Goddess by Lisa Rayns

ISBN #: 978-1466486089
Page Count: 92
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace

Book Summary:
(Taken from author's website)

Given her ten-year curse that leaves her beaten and bruised, Emma Patrix has grown accustomed to drinking away the pain. And with a trail of dead bodies behind her, it was only a matter of time before the law caught up.

Now she's accused of murder and she must flee the country to find the one man who can help her break the curse - Calvin Konrad. She finally catches up with him in Egypt, but he's not the same sweet boy she remembers from her childhood. And getting him to help her proves more difficult than she ever imagined.

Kathy's Review:

I like my heroines a little bit rough around the edges, and Emma (originally: Cleo) Patrix completely fits the bill. She's got a little bit of a drinking problem - and no wonder - she's dealing with a pretty nasty curse that can kill anyone she gets close to. As she tries to find her childhood love, the also-cursed Calvin, you can't help but root for her to succeed. This story kept me engaged throughout, and I was interested to see how the curse would be broken (if it is at all!).

This is a novella, so it's pretty short. I'd like to see this story take on a little bit more life - I think it certainly has the potential to do so. Rayns has a winner of a plot, as well as a very likable heroine in Emma/Cleo. The ending is certainly surprising, but I think it just needs a little bit more explanation. At the end I wasn't quite sure if I knew what happened. Maybe that's what Rayns intended though???

Check this out if you enjoy intense, sexually-charged thrillers with compelling characters. I look forward to seeing more from this author!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Blog Tour: Queen Vernita Visits the Islands of Enchantment by Dawn Menge

Welcome to Dawn Menge's Queen Vernita Visits the Islands of Enchantment book tour, hosted by Pump Up Your Books!

ISBN #: 978-1432773120
Page Count: 34
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: Outskirts Press

Book Summary:

Queen Vernita continues her adventures as she explores the Islands of Enchantment with Jeff the Sea Captain and Carrie the Enchantress. They and their 12 wonderful friends learn about sharks, eels, fish, swim with dolphins and manta rays and inside lava tubes. Come and enjoy her newest adventures.

About the Author:

Dawn Menge has a Masters Degree and clear credential in Special Education. She has worked with the severely handicapped population for eleven years. She is currently working towards her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. She combines imagination with practical skills to make learning fun. Dawn used her experiences within her life to create Queen Vernita's characters and her kingdom.

Mandy's Review:

Combine vibrant child-friendly pictures with Discovery Kids and a vivid imagination and you have Dawn Menge's Queen Vernita Visits the Islands of Enchantment.

Queen Vernita graciously allows twelve friends to come stay with her at the Islands of Enchantments one month at a time beginning in January. Each friend experiences a different part of the Islands, while gaining knowledge about the nature and natural processes of that part of the Island. I know this book is geared towards children, but, while reading it, even I learned some things I never knew.

For example, did you know that the waste a parrotfish creates from the skeleton of the corral it eats creates sand? And that one single parrotfish can generate up to five tons of sand within a year? I never knew that.

I would highly recommend this book to parents who have children interested in science, nature, how things work, etc. It is a very informative book with colorful pictures to help maintain a child's interest.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Charlene Reviews: When Horses Had Wings by Diana Estill

ISBN #: 978-0979970887
Page Count: 314
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: Corncob Press


Pregnant at 16, Renee Goodchild drops out of school and marries. Now she's trapped in rural Texas with Kenny, her violent, garbage-collecting husband. A bleak future seems assured until she meets self-appointed relationship guru, Pearly.

"That's why you don't let 'em rule the roost. 'Cause you can't count on 'em to be there the next mornin' when it's time to crow," the worldly Pearly advises.

Renee narrates this tale of ruin and redemption where the damaged and downtrodden lead each other to unintended, sometimes heartbreaking, and often bittersweet outcomes. When Horses Had Wings examines the lives of broken people competing for the most basic needs: the primal urge for affection and the eternal search for acceptance.

Charlene's Review:

Renee is a young girl of strict, religious parents. When she becomes pregnant, she is given no choice but to marry. Almost immediately, she is a victim of abuse at the hands of her husband. When Horses Had Wings is a classic example of the cycle of violence in domestic abuse, and how our choices can change our lives forever. After being isolated from the world, Renee finds the strength to change her future, no matter the cost.

My personal measure of a good book is if I can get totally lost in its pages. When Horses Had Wings is such a book. Although a work of fiction, Ms. Estill's writing brings the pain and heartbreak of abuse to life with clarity. Her characters are multi-dimensional and you feel their emotions completely. From fear and longing, to ambivalence and hope, you follow the characters through a less-than-perfect, yet humanly candid journey. While dealing with a sensitive, heartbreaking topic, the writing is beautiful and absorbing. Unlike a lot of fiction works, this isn't a happily ever after story. It's poignant, achingly real, and that is what makes it outstanding.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mandy Reviews: Treasure Me by Christine Nolfi

ISBN #: 978-1463765248
Page Count: 350
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Petty thief, Birdie Kaminsky, has arrived in Liberty, Ohio to steal a treasure hidden since the Civil War. She's in possession of a charming clue: Liberty safeguards the cherished heart. The beautiful thief wants to go straight. She secretly admires the clue's author, freedwoman Justice Postell, who left South Carolina at the dawn of the Civil War and carried untold riches on her journey north. As Birdie searches for the treasure, will she discover a history more precious than gems, a tradition a love richer than she could imagine?

Mandy's Review:


I understand the cover, with the flag exemplifying Liberty and the Civil War, but I don't know that I like it. I'm not sure I understand who the woman is supposed to be portraying. If it's Justice Postell, I feel it's a misrepresentation.


Right out of the gate, we meet Birdie on her 31st birthday hanging by her fingers out of her apartment window. From there, we follow Birdie to the town of Liberty, Ohio where she scams her way into a job and a place to stay. As luck would have it, the play she's staying in is above her new place of employment, which happens to be the very place she needs to begin her treasure hunt search.

On her treasure-hunting journey, Birdie gets to know more about Liberty, Justice and herself. Birdie realizes she wants more than just the treasure; she wants a new life. Does she succeed in obtaining her goal, or does her past secrets come back to haunt her?

Main Characters

Birdie - Blonde, beautiful, mysterious, independent... essentially every red-blooded male's fantasy. She has a difficult time allowing people, especially men, into her personal space and trusting them.

Hugh - Tall, hunky, dreamy eyes and is good at domestic chores ... basically a dream-come-true. He is a newspaper reporter working on a new angle to an old story in the town of Liberty.

Theodora - A spunky, elderly lady who doesn't give one wit about what anyone says about her. Once she's decided she likes you, she's fiercely loyal and would do anything for you.

Landon - An older man bogged down by depression. His daughter is concerned and wonders if he should be placed in a hospital for the mentally ill.


Generally speaking, this book has the most recognized aspects of a romance:
  • Beautiful woman meets sexy man
  • One, or both, have hidden secrets that, if they get out, will ruin them in the other's eyes
  • Man and woman draw closer together through some turn of events
  • One or the other's secret(s) comes out causing man and woman to argue and separate
  • Both spend their time apart missing the other, but unsure if the other misses them
  • Man and woman reunite with renewed fervor and passion, more in love than ever
Normally, I would be disgusted with yet another cookie-cutter romance. Treasure Me, however, is more than just a cookie-cutter romance.

I really enjoyed the plot dealing with the treasure hunting and all the other people of Liberty. The way the author brought out each of the clues was pretty nifty. I enjoyed it so much, I'm ready to see what happens in book two of the Liberty series.

So, if you enjoy a romantic treasure hunt with a bit of local history, then this book is for you! =)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kathy Reviews: The Kennedy Club by G. P. Schultz

ASIN #: B0050W9ABI
File Size: 731 KB

Book Summary:
(Taken from author's website)

When Emily and Jack meet by chance on a Cape Cod beach, it's the beginning of a tumultuous twenty-year romance that takes them into the eye of war and the heat of politics. Along for the ride are four Harvard University friends who are members of The Kennedy Club. Aspiring to the ideals of former president John F. Kennedy, the group's goal is to get Jack elected President of the United States. Emily and Jack fall in love, but will his ambition to be president outweigh his love for her, and will she be able to set aside her own career to help him achieve his dream? And will the bond of their relationship withstand betrayal and the lust of power as Jack fights to become the chief executive of the country?

Coop, Jack's best friend and trusted campaign manager gets caught up in the fight to stop the destructive practice of mountaintop mining devastating his home state of West Virginia. He becomes a terrorist activist against the coal companies, putting Jack's political career in jeopardy, and threatening Coop's relationship with the beautiful Adriana.

Kathy's Review:

Jack, Coop and Emily meet on the beach near Emily's home and realize they are all Harvard-bound. Jack and Coop recruit Emily to The Kennedy Club, which is a political club centered around getting Jack elected to high office. First, President of the Harvard student body, and finally, President of the United States. They certainly have the smarts, the financial backing and the heroics to do it.

Yet, these highly successful, rich, educated people talk throughout the novel like a bunch of sex-obsessed teenagers about who is screwing who and why. It was just over 400 pages of tedious political/romance. I felt no attachment to any of the characters, in fact, I disliked most of them.

Throughout the novel, there's this kind of unbelievable "right place right time" karma that happens to Jack and his cronies - such as, traveling to Bosnia and rescuing women from being sexually violated in a labor camp, helping rescue victims from the Oklahoma City bombing, being in Manhattan on the morning of 9/11, etc. A little too unbelievable.

This book definitely was not for me. I think it was too long, the dialogue was too boring, and the action too unbelievable.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

TRW2011: Wrap-Up

I know this is a couple days late, but I have been sick and the last thing I felt like doing was get on a computer.

How did I do with the Thankfully Reading Weekend 2011?

Not as well as I'd hoped. Out of the ten books I listed, I only finished the first three, started the fourth, posted two reviews (will post the third today or tomorrow) and participated in one mini-challenge. I sort of feel bad for not doing better, but then again, I don't.

Sunday, the last day of TRW2011, was spent with my three beautiful nieces and the hubs. I took the nieces bowling and, after dropping them back off, spent the rest of the day with the hubs. I had been feeling bad about ignoring him all day Friday and Saturday, so thought I should spend some time with him on Sunday.

So, that's about it for my Thankfully Reading Weekend. How did ya'll do?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

December's BintoM Monthly Giveaway (#11)

Have you ever read a book and then wanted to watch the movie made from it? Or, maybe you've seen a movie and then found out there was a book it was based on. Well, that was the basis of this monthly meme that I started.

Welcome to Literary R&R's BintoM (Books-into-Movies) Monthly Giveaway!

Here are the particulars for this giveaway:
  • Towards the end of the month, I will post the next month's giveaway.
  • I will leave it open for 2 to 3 weeks. At that time, a winner (or winners, if I'm feeling generous) will be chosen and notified.
  • I will expect the winner to acknowledge the winning email within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen in their place.
  • This is now open internationally
  • You do not need to be a GFC follower to win. Yes, I would like it if you followed me, but I am not making that a stipulation to participate or to win.

December's BintoM Giveaway (ending December 11th) prize pack will consist of:

 The Secret Life of Bees book/movie combo

Here's a little bit about both:

I have a brand new paperback copy of The Secret Life of Bees written by Sue Monk Kidd that I bought from Books-A-Million.

Summary:  Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina - a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.

To go along with the book, I have a brand new copy of The Secret Life of Bees, the movie:

Blurb:  To escape her cruel, angry father - and discover the truth about her late mother's past - 14-year-old Lily Owens flees with her caregiver and friend Rosaleen to a South Carolina town where she's taken in by the bee-keeping Boatwright sisters. Surrounded by the unexpected love, grace and spirituality she encounters there, Lily forms a bond with each of these uniquely gifted women and discovers that sometimes you must leave home in order to find it.

Special Features:

Theatrical Version

Director's Extended Cut

8 Deleted Scenes

 Adaptation: Bringing The Secret Life of Bees to the Big Screen (Featurette)
The Women and Men of The Secret Life of Bees (Featurette)

 Inside the Pink House with Sue Monk Kidd (Featurette)

Life on the Set (Featurette)

The World Premiere (Featurette)

Various Commentaries

DVD Info:

110 Minutes

Rated PG-13

Widescreen Version

Main Actors:

Queen Latifah

Dakota Fanning

Jennifer Hudson

Alicia Keys

Sophie Okonedo

Paula Bettany

Normally, this is where I'd have the link to the entry form, but... I've decided to add to this prize pack. I wanted to give away a themed prize this month.  Since there are beekeeping sisters in this novel, I've purchased items to do with bees and honey and one item to package it all into.

First up:

I have a brand new Thirty-One insulated lunch bag.  As you can see, the entire inside is insulated and the back has a large pocket for utensils while looking stylish in a St. Andrews Tartan design.

To go inside the bag:

A jar of Winnie-the-Pooh U.S. Grade A pure clover honey, a bag of Bit-O-Honey candy and a Burt's Bees combo pack.  In the Burt's Bees photo, there is a tube of Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm, a container of Burt's Bees Hand Salve, a Burt's Bees Foot Care Kit (which includes Burt's Bees Coconut Foot Creme with Vitamin E, Burt's Bees Exfoliating Pumice Stone and what looks like a pair of Burt's Bees socks) and two clover honey suckers - not a Burt's Bees item, but still pretty awesome!

(=  Now, how's that for a themed prize pack?!  =)

Click here to enter for your chance to win

Good Luck!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mandy Reviews: Hot Water by Erin Brockovich and CJ Lyons

ISBN #: 978-1-59315-684-8
Page Count: 275
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: Vanguard Press

Book Summary:
(Taken from dustjacket flaps)

Environmental activist AJ Palladino, first encountered in Rock Bottom, is no stranger to the juggling act of managing work and family. But when she's asked to leave home for a case involving a nuclear power plant, it takes all her strength to keep everything from crashing down on her.

Colleton River is a new, one-of-a-kind nuclear facility in South Carolina designed to create medical isotopes with the potential to save millions of lives. Recently, the plant has been plagued by a series of mishaps that, despite several investigations, remain unexplained. The accidents have caused local unrest and drawn the attention of anti-nuclear protest groups, as well as several homegrown terrorists who sense an opportunity to sow fear and chaos.

When Colleton River's owner contacts AJ for help, she knows she will have her hands full investigating the accidents and calming tensions at the plant. But AJ's simple business trip takes disastrous turns as she uncovers the source of the plant's accidents and, after an approaching hurricane prevents her from returning to West Virginia, her son disappears.

As AJ's life back home unravels, the plant hurtles toward nuclear catastrophe - with AJ caught between both worlds.

Can AJ stop the plant's meltdown and save the community, herself, and her son in time?

*Side Note: The first novel the AJ Palladino character was portrayed in was Rock Bottom, Erin Brockovich's debut novel. To read my review of Rock Bottom, click here.*

Mandy's Review:


The cover makes me think of heat, humidity and Southern summers ... which people in the South know it is not a pleasant thing to experience, especially if you're not used to it.


AJ and Elizabeth are hired to try and make a South Carolina nuclear plant acceptable by the townspeople. While AJ's away dealing with that, Elizabeth is fighting to keep David, AJ's son, safe.

Not to mention we have a radio-active alligator, an overzealous grandfather, a hitman trying to kill his target for the second time and a lawman trying valiantly to defend the woman he loves.

Main Characters

AJ - Still a single mom, but this time around she's permanently employed and has a stable home for her son. She tends to find herself in dangerous situations on a regular basis.

Ty - A local K9 officer who spends time with David, AJ's son, helping to give him a male role model.

Elizabeth - A lawyer and AJ's boss. She is slowly learning to appreciate and enjoy her single life in West Virginia, which is a lot different from her life in Philadelphia.


An easy read that is fast-paced and will keep you entertained until the end. I am interested in reading the third AJ Palladino novel, if only to see what happens with the lawman's budding relationship with the woman he's loved since they were kids.

I believe the AJ Palladino books are ones that most fans of Tom Clancy and John Grisham fiction would enjoy.
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