Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: Straight Up by Rachel A. Frias

ISBN#: 978-1456723910
Page Count: 128
Copyright: 2011

Book Excerpts:
(Taken from back cover)

The intention behind writing this superb collection of short stories is to entertain the quick reader…

In “The Chic Collection” Jonathan becomes Gus and finds out what Gus wanted to do with fifty seven brassieres before being arrested. “Ambrosia’s Starter” reveals a mechanic’s cold metal world. Josephina in “Whisk Away” is vengeful of men because of her overweight and lesbian condition. Nathaniel becomes anal retentive in “The Cornered Paycheck” not telling anyone of his experiences with his new armoire. Generals betray each other in “The General’s Apple”.

Charlene's Review:

Straight Up is definitely not in my usual genre. A compilation of quick reads, I thought “why not?” I’m fairly open-minded and dove in right away. And then, attempted to struggle through the remainder.

Described to me as “paranormal fiction/fantasy/mystery” seems to be painting a pretty rosy picture. I would describe it as “dark, twisted, and slightly unintelligible”. I think of myself as a well educated person, but some of these stories left me completely lost. Perhaps, that was the point?
Definitely geared for “grown-ups”, Straight Up has heavily erotic themes, murder, and madness at its core. To be fair, there is a large share of people who might find this entertaining. I am not one of them.

The back cover suggests, “Straight Up has an element of reality since these short stories could occur in our community”. That may be the scariest quote of the book. Ms. Frias has a definite ability for writing. Structure and form are sound. Her stories are not. I tried, I really did. Not a fan. =(

Sunday, August 28, 2011

September's BintoM Monthly Giveaway (#8)

Time for the BintoM Monthly Giveaway meme began, and hosted, by me! =)  I began this because I know I have a habit of comparing books to movies, and vice versa, when a movie is based on a book. 

*I am thinking about having a BintoM blog hop one month.  If you are interested in participating, please email me at:


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.

September's BintoM Giveaway (ending September 11th) prize pack will consist of:
Somewhere In Time book/movie combo

Here's a little bit about both:

I have a brand new paperback copy of Somewhere In Time written by Richard Matheson that I bought from Books-A-Million.

Summary:  Richard Collier, a man of the modern era, becomes obsessed with a woman of another time, a celebrated actress at the turn of the century.  His fascination with Elise McKenna proves strong enough to physically transport him back to 1896, where he meets and woos the woman of his dreams.  But for how long can their passion resist the relentless tide of history?

To go along with the book, I have a brand new copy of Somewhere In Time, the movie:

Blurb:  Somewhere In Time is the story of a young writer who sacrifices his life in the present to find happiness in the past, where true love awaits him.  Young Richard Collier is approached by an elderly woman who gives him an antique gold watch and who pleads with him to return in time to her.  Years later, Richard Collier is overwhelmed by a photograph of a beautiful young woman.  Another picture of this woman in her later years reveals to him that she is the same woman who had given him the gold watch.  Collier then becomes obsessed with returning to 1912 and the beautiful young woman who awaits him there.

DVD Special Features:

Back to Somewhere In Time, an original documentary

Feature Commentary with Director Jeannot Szwarc

The Somewhere In Time Fan Club

Production Photographs

Theatrical Trailer

Production Notes

Cast and Filmmakers

DVD Info:

104 Minutes

Rated PG

Widescreen Version

Main Actors:

Christopher Reeve
Jane Seymour
Christopher Plummer
Teresa Wright

Click here to enter for your chance to win

Good Luck!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Blog Tour/Guest Post: The Lure of the Good Witch by Jeanette Baker

Welcome to part two of Literary R&R's involvement in Jeanette Baker's book blog tour for her book, Catriona, promoted by Pump Up Your Book!

Part one was an interview with the author that you can read by clicking here.  The third, and final, part of our involvement with this tour will be on September 4th.  On that day, a review of Catriona by Literary R&R reviewer Charlene will be posted.  Today, though, we have a guest post by Jeanette Baker.  So, please, take a minute or two and read what Jeanette has to say about:

The Lure of the "Good Witch"

Catriona, my fifth novel, was first published in 1997 by Simon & Schuster.  At the time, I was teaching elementary school in one of Southern California's most conservative communities.  One evening, while researching the supernatural, magic and Wiccan spells in a local bookstore, two mothers with children attending the school where I taught were shopping in the same store.  They happened to notice the subject matter spread out on the table around me.  The very next day I received an early morning visit in my classroom from the school principal who asked me carefully worded questions about my intentions regarding my curriculum.  I managed to convince him that my students were quite safe and I was not interested in converting them to any religion at all, pagan or otherwise.

Interestingly, even though fourteen years have passed and I've written many more novels, the questions still come: why do you write paranormals? What is so intriguing about the supernatural?

The answer to those questions is the same as the one I gave to those who wonder why I explore the possibilities of DNA memory and time travel or why I create left-handed characters with interesting mutations and clairvoyant heroines who dabble in white witchcraft.  The unusual fascinates me.  It has since that September 17, 1964 evening when beautiful, blonde Samantha Stephens, the star of the television series, Bewitched, twitched her turned-up nose, hooking me forever.  Wouldn't it be wonderful, I thought, to have the power to sway the mortal universe to my way of thinking? I remember rolling my pre-teen eyes at the doddering predictability of Samantha's husband, Darrin who, with typical mortal myopia, wanted an ordinary wife.  I empathized with Endora, her mother, over the stupidity of mortals and cheered when Aunt Clara's magic actually worked.

Years later, during post-midnight feedings, I introduced my children to the magic of Samantha's spirit world, occasionally twitching my own nose in credible imitation, hoping that my colicky, wide-awake infants would magically fall asleep. Sadly, the gift of magic continued to elude me until I first put pen to paper and realized I could create my own bewitching heroines, endowing them with all the characteristics I longed to claim as my own.

The results of course, are my paranormal novels, Legacy, Witch Woman and my newly reissued Catriona, the story of Kate Sutherland, one of the twice-born who five centuries before walked the earth as Catriona Wells, daughter of an English earl and a Scots princess, first cousin to James IV of Scotland, English spy and harbinger of a shameful secret.

I hope you enjoy reading Catriona as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Slain abhaile,                                                             
Facebook - Jeanette Baker, Jeanette Baker - author

Friday, August 19, 2011

Review: The Silence Between Waves by Audrey Weis Smith

ISBN #: 978-1463692940
Page Count: 206
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Celia Minor faces a difficult decision when her dying mother begs Celia to help her end her life. As Celia struggles with deciding between her mother's life and death, Celia must also face her own problems when the same symptoms of her mother's illness begin to surface. The story unravels as Celia, her younger sister Letta, and Celia's seven-year-old daughter Livvy deal with Celia's decisions and the ensuing emotional aftermath.


Celia (Cecelia): Main character. Cries a lot.

Letta (Juliet): Celia’s sister. She is pregnant. In case you forget this detail, you will be reminded at least once per page where Letta’s character is present.

Rennie: Celia’s husband.

LuAnne: Celia’s mother. Is dying from cancer, lives in a nursing home. May also have dementia but this is never made clear, and she seems extremely lucid in her one scene at the beach.

Livvy (Olivia): Celia’s oldest daughter and possibly the smartest person in the book. Book has her age as 8 and 7, so let’s split the difference and say 7 ½.

Samuel: Celia’s son.

Alexis: Celia’s younger daughter

Jeff: Letta’s husband. An attorney, but apparently not a very good one.

Sam: random man who assists Letta with a flat tire, object of her fantasies. Not to be confused with Samuel, who is a child, because that would just be weird.

Judy: obnoxious neighbor who plants the idea in Celia’s brain – not purposefully of course – for Celia to divorce her husband

Merv: writer Celia meets at a conference

Francine: writer Celia meets at a conference

Kathy's Review:

As an aspiring author myself, I can only imagine what it’s like to put a book out there into the reviewing world and have people judge you for it. I hope that someday I will be able to do the same thing, and that I will have tough enough skin to handle the criticism. I preface my review with this because, well …

This book is in serious need of an editor. It is crying for it – literally. There are so many mentions of crying that I began to underline each time a character cried and kept a tally. For a book that centers around a woman’s decision to kill her dying mother, you expect it’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbows. But these characters go from having a normal conversation in the kitchen to sobbing uncontrollably with the flick of a switch. It’s like the book has PMS with all the mood swings going on.

An editor would be helpful, too, in removing some of the repetitive words and phrases in the writing. Examples are gingerly, plopped, rolls her eyes. These phrases are seen frequently enough that you could have a drinking game around them and be pretty sloshed at the end of the book.

The character development is basically non-existent. Smith attempts to change perspectives between Celia, Letta and Livvy, which could have been interesting. But the third person perspective is clunky, and although we hear the characters’ inner dialogue, it would have been more dynamic to hear their individual voices give their own perspective. Celia and Letta are such flat and unlikeable characters that the chapters mainly revolve around their own internal dialogue, followed by tears, followed by an emotional outburst at their spouse and/or each other, followed by more tears. Livvy’s chapters make feeble attempts at capturing a child’s perspective on the adults’ drama, but even here, the third person perspective misses the essence of a child.

The vocabulary during Livvy’s chapters is too advanced for a 7 ½ year old, and Livvy’s actions are repeated (e.g. she rolls her eyes multiple times – “Livvy rolls her eyes again” is an actual sentence in the book.) If you have to have a character do the same thing twice, find a different action for them to take, or describe it in a different way.

The characters also seem to be completely oblivious to anyone else’s feelings. Three times in the story, someone visits or calls Celia right after she has been an emotional basket case and doesn’t seem to acknowledge her tears. Now I know after I cry, I’m blotchy for a good 10, 15 minutes.

As far as the plot of the book, it could have been interesting. But it meanders through the three perspectives and ends up nowhere. We are stuck in dull conversations between the characters that mostly do nothing to advance the plot, and ultimately result in one or more of the characters sobbing, dabbing at their eyes with a tissue, etc.

The premise has promise – Celia makes a decision to help her mother die on her terms. She is dealing with her own health issue which causes her to make the (very unlikely) decision to abandon her husband and three kids, so they will not have to bear the financial burden of the health issue – which she believes to be cancer. But guess what? She hasn’t been to a doctor to even verify this fear! She just acts on it anyway. What I felt was missing from Celia, among other things, was any acknowledgement of guilt for both her act with her mother, and leaving her family. It’s just a big “woe is me” routine that wears off after the second chapter.

Letta and Livvy’s chapters do little to advance the plot. I think both of these characters could have been made more interesting by having them both independently discover Celia’s secret. I kept hoping for some big twist with these two characters that never came.

The story wraps up in a sloppy fashion with absolutely no repercussions for Celia. Ho hum.

But there’s hope. This story is fixable, with, as I said before, the help of some major editing. I’m talking about start-from-scratch kind of editing. One thing I’d like to see is the character of LuAnne, Celia’s (late) mother, be developed. A major miss, in my opinion, is that we don’t get to see the scene where LuAnne allegedly tells Celia she wants to die. So it becomes unclear whether Celia made that up.

Also, there are periods of really good descriptive prose. I noticed that the wrap-up paragraph of each chapter usually was well-written.

So, in its current form, I would not recommend this book. However, I do recommend that the author find an editor who can help her turn this story around.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: Roll of the Die by Sean P. Bridges

File Size: 292 KB
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

An Ex-Con on the straight and narrow is pulled into a twisted game of Russian Roulette in Las Vegas to save his wife. 666. Six Contestants, six chambers in a revolver and six sides of a die.

Riley Toback is at a crossroads. After serving a four year prison sentence for Armed Robbery, he’s determined to make a fresh start in Atlantic City.

Until his brother-in-law, drowning in gambling debt, convinces him to pull a heist at a Jersey Shore nightclub.

In the aftermath of the botched robbery, Karim Rashid, a vicious Indian gangster, tracks them down. And he makes Riley an offer.

Triple Six. One round is loaded into a revolver and the chamber is spun. The Contestant rolls a die, with the face value dictating how many times the weapon is fired.

If you can survive three rounds, you win.

With his wife and life on the line, Riley takes the deal.

Mandy's Review:


I like the simplicity of the cover.  Not too many graphics to take away from the title.  I'm digging the skull.  Between that and the dark, rock-n-rollish vibe of the lettering, the cover gives you a sense that the story is going to be edgier than most.

Plot/Main Characters

Poor Riley ... He grew up as a screw up.  Just as he is finally getting into some semblence of normalcy, along comes his brother-in-law.

Joey has never grown up.  He's the type that thinks his next big break is right around the corner... as he gets deeper and deeper into trouble.  It's one of these "big breaks" in which he convinces Riley to help him by telling him Carol will be in trouble if they don't pull off this job.

Riley is hesitant, but decides to help Joey so Carol, Riley's wife and Joey's sister, is protected.

Thanks to Joey's hare-brained scheme, Riley gets roped into becoming a contestant in a competition called Triple Six.

Triple Six is a deadly game that requires no strength, speed or stamina.  The winner is chosen by pure luck, or fate.

Will fate shine upon Riley and allow him to win?  It can only be revealed by the Roll of the Die.


To be honest, I didn't expect to like this book.  I was pleasantly surprised, though, when I quickly became immersed in this story.

There were a few grammatical isues, but overall, this is a story worth reading.  It has a unique plot that I could easily see on a movie screen... maybe with Jason Statham playing Riley (nom!).  =)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I Have Decided...

Hey everyone!

I hope ya'll are having a good weekend so far.  I know I'm being computer-productive, but domestically-lazy right now.  =)

Anyway, I've been looking over my TBR list the past week or so and realized that the majority of the books I have on hand are review commitments.  I have a Type A personality so I am uncomfortable with the unorganization of my TBR list.  So, a decision had to be made...

For the remainder of 2011, I (Mandy) will not be entertaining review requests.  If you send a review request, please address them to Charlene, C.J. or Kathy, the newest Literary R&R reviewer.  I am doing this because I want to catch up and not have authors waiting for a ridiculous amount of time for a review from me.

If you are an author/publisher/publicist and I have committed to reviewing a book for you, I will still fulfill my commitment.  Thank you for abounding patience!

Thanks everyone! =)

Review: The Wild Adventures of Eli Johnson & Curly Bill (Book 1) by Dan Wright and Bill Wright

ISBN #: 9781453721049
Page Count: 107
Copyright: 2010

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

In the mid 1800's many Americans headed West in search of gold and adventure.  These folks traveled on horses and buggies down perilous trails filled with bandits, wild animals, and hostile Indians in an effort to strike it rich.  Our story follows a young man from Virginia, Eli Johnson, who shares the same dream of discovering gold.  His plans are derailed as a card game goes bad in a small hotel/saloon in the mountains of Colorado, and is forced to live a life on the run with his comrade Curly Bill.  Along the way, the men encounter a host of interesting characters, battle dangerous animals, and try to stay one step ahead of a group of bandits looking for revenge.  The men learn valuable lessons about friendship, survival, and a love of the great outdoors.

Mandy's Review:


The dark brown of the edge-burnt paper with the pen drawing is reminiscent of the olden days.

Plot/Main Characters

Eli Johnson is a young Virginia kid who decides to head out West and become part of the gold rush.  Thanks to a rigged poker game with a bunch of cheaters in a saloon, Eli meets Curly Bill.  When the game ends abruptly, the two men run to Canada to escape the three men running after them.

Curly Bill is older and seemingly wiser.  It's his cabin that they go to in the Canadian woods.  While there, they decide to do some trapping so they can make money off the pelts.

Well, the Indians do not appreciate them showing up and warn them to leave.

Do Eli and Curly heed their warnings?


This book has everything you could want in an Old West tale: Indians, outlaws, bears, an old miner, etc.  I would recommend this as the perfect read suited for young pre-teen boys.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Blog Tour/Review: The Bond by Lynne McTaggart

Welcome to Literary R&R's stop on Lynne McTaggart's The Bond virtual book tour.  The tour is being hosted by Pump Up Your Book.  Below, for this tour, we have a review of The Bond by the newest member of the Literary R&R review team, Kathy.  I hope you enjoy! =)

ISBN #: 978-1439157947
Page Count: 304
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

For centuries, Western science and many Western cultures have taught us to think of ourselves as individuals. But today, a revolutionary new understanding is emerging from the laboratories of the most cutting-edge physicists, biologists, and psychologists:

What matters is not the isolated entity, but the space between things, the relationship of things. The Bond.

 By international bestselling author Lynne McTaggart, The Bond is the culmination of her groundbreaking work. It offers a completely new, scientific story of life and the human experience, one that challenges the very way we conceive of ourselves and our world. The Bond shows that the essential impulse of all life is a will to connect rather than a drive to compete.

In fact, we are inescapably connected, hardwired to each other at our moet elemental level – from cells to whole societies. The desire to help others is so necessary that we experience it as one of our chief pleasures, as essential as eating and having sex, and we succeed and prosper only when we see ourselves as part of a greater whole. Every conflict that occurs – whether between husband and wife, social or racial groups, or nations – is resolved only when we can fully see and embrace the space – the bond – between us.

McTaggart offers detailed recommendations to help foster more holistic thinking, more cooperative relationships, and more unified social groups. Blending interviews and human stories into an absorbing narrative, she shows how:

  • A simple daily practice conditions the brain to enable you to become more empathetic toward others
  • A new way of speaking and listening can overcome polarization, helping the staunchest of enemies to become closer friends
  • People who fire together wire together: Whenever a group works together for a common goal, the brains of all parties begin to get on the same wavelength, strengthening the bond within the group
  • Fairness is more powerful than unfairness: A small group of individuals committed to strong reciprocity can “invade” a population of self-interested individuals and create a fairer society.

The Bond offers a breathtaking, visionary plan for a new way to live, in harmony with our true nature and with each other, and a new way to heal our relationships, our neighborhoods, and our world.

Kathy's Review:

In The Bond, a non-fiction work that is largely comprised of descriptions of scientific and social experiments and studies, Lynne McTaggart proposes that humans are not, by nature, competitive, although our society has most certainly become that way. Backing up her premise with science, McTaggart describes the true nature of human beings as wanting to belong, to agree with one another, to give, and to take turns. She describes The Bond as the space between things that connects us, that make us less individuals and more a part of a larger collective being. Again, this is contrary to the (particularly Western) belief that champions the individual.

In the beginning of the book, McTaggart attempts to explain The Bond (it is always shown in italics whenever it is mentioned throughout the book) by using the principles of quantum biology. Not a science person? I’m not either, and at first, I was put off by this. But, most of the studies McTaggart describes in the rest of the book examine human nature and how people (and sometimes, animals) react in various social situations. One example is the Prisoner’s Dilemma, a famous “game” or experiment wherein a group of men is randomly assigned to be either prisoners or prison guards. The study found that the prisoners actually bonded under harsh conditions and became stronger as a group. The study is meant to demonstrate the power of connecting with other human beings.

Also in The Bond McTaggart suggests that environment impacts health and wellbeing – not genetics. That genes can be turned on and off depending on external factors (again, that Bond). And although I am automatically skeptical whenever I hear claims like this, she offers some compelling evidence.

Finally, as a way to unlock our true human nature, McTaggart suggests a “Pay it Forward” mentality that can spread throughout society.

I would not recommend this book for everyone. It’s a challenging read, although every page will make you think. It’s chock-full of interesting insights about human behavior, and did make me question some of my behaviors and how I look at people. Overall, the book stresses the innate human need to belong to groups. I think we’ve really lost that. So, if you want a different perspective on how to live your life, and you’re open to learning about some of the research going on, definitely check it out.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: Fleeting Memory by Sherban Young

ISBN #: 978-1463602017
Page Count: 234
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

The answer lies with Keats... With these cryptic last words, the man sprawled out on the floor of the rustic cabin expires - murdered. What could he have meant? Why Keats? Which answer? (For that matter, what was the question?)

All this and more passes through the mind of the young householder who discovers the body. If only he knew the guy's name. Or anybody's name. Including his own...

Two amnesia victims, two couriers without a package, two dead bodies (or rather one body dead twice), and one cryptic message regarding the poet Keats.

When retired private eye Enescu Fleet agreed to help out his daughter and compete in an exciting new game show called Deadly Allusions, he never would have thought it would become quite so deadly.  Fortunately the unflappable detective is up to the challenge.  The show must go on and what the show needs most of all is the world’s best puzzle-solving PI.  Or two.

Charlene's Review:

The main character is having a very bad day. He encounters a strange, beautiful blonde remember his name or anything in the past. All in the first 8 pages. With the help of a stranger, Enescu Fleet, a retired PI, he embarks on a journey to solve the mysteries.
Not normally a huge fan of mystery stories, I read Fleeting Memory straight through.
Hooked from the first chapter, I love Mr. Young’s writing style. Slightly acerbic, tastefully sarcastic, and largely humorous, all combined to make this a delightful read.

The plot is straight-forward, but leaves a lot to the mystery that is wrapped up, very nicely, in the last chapter. The literary erudite will appreciate the scattered clues that they may, or may not, follow. Dead bodies that don’t always stay dead, and some that do. Fleeting Memory reminded me of an old detective show, with more than a dash of comedy. Definitely recommend this book to any mystery fans that like their reading light and fun!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

ISBN #: 978-0-425-23220-0
Page Count: 522
Copyright: 2009

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, raising her seventeenth white child.  She's always taken orders quietly, but lately it leaves her with a bitterness she can no longer bite back.  Her friend Minny has certainly never held her tongue, or held on to a job for very long, but now she's working for a newcomer with secrets that leave her speechless.  And white socialite Skeeter has just returned from college with ambition and a degree but, to her mother's lament, no husband.  Normally Skeeter would find solace in Constantine, the beloved maid who raised her, but Constantine has inexplicably disappeared.

Together, these seemingly different women join to work on a project that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town - to write, in secret, a tell-all book about what it's really like to work as a black maid in the white homes of the South.  Despite the terrible risks they will have to take, and the sometimes humorous boundaries they will have to cross, these three women unite with one intention: hope for a better day.

Mandy's Review:


Color-wise, I like the yellow and purple together.  I think it's pretty.  The three birds, though... that's where the meaning lies.

First of all, when I saw the birds, the first thing that occurred to me was Bob Marley's song "Three Little Birds."  You know the one.  The chorus that tells you:

Don't worry about a thing
Cause every little thing is gonna be alright

After I sang Bob Marley's song (one of my faves, by the way) and began reading the story, I thought of another meaning for the cover.

The two birds that are together represent the two main maids that are telling the stories about their employers.  The bird by itself represents the white lady who is gathering and editing the maid's stories.  They are birds of a feather who cannot flock together because of the Jim Crow laws that govern 1962 Jackson, Mississippi.


The setting for this story was definitely during a strenuous and tumultuous time in our Nation's history.  It takes place in the early 1960's, where well-to-do white women participated in the Junior League and played Bridge.  It was a time where segregation was prevalent and anybody fighting against segregation were punished ... especially in the Deep South.

Every well-to-do white home employed African Americans as maids, gardeners, butlers, etc.  African Americans were looked down upon and thought to be dirty, just because their skin color was different.  It was a dark, ugly time in our Nation's history that, unfortunately, hasn't completely died in some people's minds.

In this book, the various Civil Rights' events were touched upon: Rosa Parks, the sit-in at Woolworth's, Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s march.  Even former President John F. Kennedy's assassination was briefly touched upon.

The author was very adept at interweaving these real social and political events with a fictional story about two maids and a fed-up white woman.  The interaction between these three main characters were dynamic.  Even the secondary characters were extremely realistic and felt as if you knew them.

The entire book leapt off the page and effortlessly created a movie in your mind's eye.

Main Characters

Aibileen - Stoic, strong, dependable.  Aibileen is the maid that all the other maids look up to.  She moves from various families a lot because she only likes to work for them while their babies are young ... before they get the minds of their parents concerning 'the help.'

Bitter, prayerful, concerned.  Aibileen had an only son who died recently.  The way his death occurred planted the bitter seed in Aibileen's heart.  Despite that, she still wrote her prayers on a regular basis for everybody the Lord set in her heart.

What will happen to Aibileen once it leaks out that she's told her story and it's being published?

Minny - Sassy and dependable.  Minny keeps losing jobs left and right because of her mouth.  She tries to keep what she's thinking inside, but often it just comes out before she can stop herself.  The results are often detrimental to her career.

Scared and self-loathful.  Minny's home life is nothing to brag about.  She has five children and an alcoholic husband who tends to become violent and abusive.  Her only safe getaway is a few houses down at Aibileen's home.

Will Minny lose her job when the people of Jackson read about the Terrible Awful thing she did to her last employer's daughter?  Will her husband finally snap and become murderous when he finds out Minny's been talking to and trusting a white lady with her stories?

Skeeter - Frustrated.  She's tall, skinny and hasn't ever had a steady boyfriend.  Did I mention she's 23 years old?  She longs to be a writer in New York where she can write about things that matter without having to worry about what the other Junior Leaguers would say behind her back.  She's tired of the Bridge meetings and writing the Junior League's newsletter.  She wants more from life ... and she wants to be out of her parent's house!

Daring.  One letter from an editor in New York begins Skeeter thinking.  She decides to write the maids' stories.  IF she can get them to open up and talk to her.  She knows there's a line drawn in everybody's minds between the blacks and whites.  Can she convince the maids she's there to help?  Can the imaginary line be erased and they join together?


I chose to read this book because the movie previews caught my attention.  For this book to be Kathryn Stockett's debut is truly astonishing.  I can see why it was made into a movie right away.  It was original, poignant, thoughtful and gripping.  I don't usually refer to a novel as "gripping," but this one will.  It did me because it talks about one of the issues I feel strongly about: racism and racial equality.

I would definitely recommend this to readers who enjoy a fictional story interspersed with actual historical and political facts.  I know one thing... This book will not be leaving my bookshelf at all.  I only hope and pray the movie does this book justice.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review: Wallflower by Holly-Jane Rahlens

ISBN #: 978-1-935902-70-6
Page Count: 134
Copyright: 2010

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Wallflower is four hours in the life of Molly Lanzfeld, sixteen-year-old New Yorker in Berlin.  It's Thanksgiving Day 1989, two weeks after the fall of the Wall.  Molly, the daughter of a German-Jewish mother who fled the Nazis in 1938, is off to her mother's birth house in East Berlin.  On the subway trip from West to East, wallflower Molly meets East German wildflower Mick Maier, nineteen.  It's love at first sight, and for both, a journey into an unknown land and the labyrinth of Berlin's underground world - a fertile terrain in which to discover each other, the absurdities of the divided city, and of course, the wonder of love.

Mandy's Review:


An actual photo of what could be the Berlin Wall makes for an interesting cover.


The story begins two weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which had to be a confusing time for Germans.  They were so used to being separated and having a rigid structure define their circumstances that when the Wall fell it possibly felt as if reality had suddenly ceased... opening up a dream world to them.  Of course, the privileged Germans now had to deal with the "riff-raff" having access to their side.

Okay ... enough with the sociology lesson.  Back to the book ...

Main Characters

Molly - An 11th grade American girl who came to live in Berlin with her father for one year for his job.  She desires to see her mother's ancestral home and takes a trip to go visit it.

Mick - A German boy who attaches himself to Molly on her journey to East Germany.  He's free-spirited, polite, fun and spontaneous.


Even though this book only covers a four hour period of time, you really get a sense for the characters and the way the German government behaved.  It's a quick read that I would recommend to people who are looking for something quick and entertaining.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: Space Rats by Jacqueline Kirk

ISBN #: 978-1461062035
Page Count: 188
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:

Troy and his brother long to be back among the stars in their spaceship Star Chaser after crash landing on the planet of Goramir. They decide to escape and find their way home, accompanied by four of their friends. The little crew encounter aliens; visit a Space Station and stop an attack by the dreaded pirate Red Raven – the criminal who caused them to crash land in the first place!

Charlene's Review:

After surviving an attack on their spaceship, which killed their parents, Troy and Tristan find themselves at the The Home for Displaced Children. Tristan rebuilds their ship and, along with 4 of their new friends from the Home, they set out to return to their home planet. Along the way, however, they realize that they are being followed by the very man that killed their parents. A stop at a space station prepares them for the task ahead: to stop Red Raven from attacking a merchant cargo line, and free them from the space pirate, once and for all.

Classified by the author as a children's science fiction novel for the 8+ age range, I still found it an enjoyable read. Tristan, Troy, and their friends, Krista, Ziggy, Lena, and Orla are a group of characters that you cant help but like. All alone for their own reasons, they bond together and make a formidable group, and also a lesson on what family means, related or not. Action, adventure, sci-fi creatures, and a little mystery all combined. I especially look forward to further adventures to see what Orla, a kind of quiet hero, is truly all about.

An easy read, simply worded , but don’t count it out as a “rising star” in children’s fiction.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blog Tour/Interview: Jeanette Baker

Welcome to Jeanette Baker's book blog tour for her latest book, Catriona.  The tour is being promoted through the wonderful company, Pump Up Your Book.

For the first part of my participation in this blog tour, I will be posting an interview below with the author. 

A guest post by Jeanette will be posted on August 21st and Charlene's review of Jeanette's book, Catriona, will be posted on September 4th, so come back on those dates to check them out! =)

First, I would like to thank Jeanette for taking the time to answer the interview questions I sent her.  I didn't give her very much time, which I apologize profusely for, but she was a wonderful sport and got the answers back to me right away.  So, away we go...

I'd like to discuss you (Jeanette) a little first.  Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

My writing career began in 1973 as a newspaper reporter in Belfast, Northern Ireland where I wrote news and human interest for 9 years before coming home to California to teach school and write a column for my local newspaper.  In 1991, I began writing historical fiction, then paranormals and eventually contemporary fiction.  My publishers include Simon & Schuster, Kensington, Mira and now Sourcebooks.  I've also published an e-book called Witch Woman.  I still teach in Lake Forest, California and spend my summers in Tralee, Ireland, my fiance's home.  My family, the O'Flaherty's, live on a small island, Inishmore, off the coast of Galway.  I have two grown children.

How did you first become inspired to start writing?  Was there a certain person or particular even that sparked your interest in writing?

I don't remember a particular event that inspired my writing career.  I've always loved to read, almost to an unhealthy extent, but I don't think teaching children to write was an emphasis when I was in school.  I do know it came easily to me and as a child I loved Beverly Cleary, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Madeleine L'Engle, Louisa May Alcott and so many, many more wonderful writers.  My favorite part of the school day was after lunch when my teacher would read out loud.

Now, I'd like to get into your latest book, Catriona.  Is Catriona your first book?  If no, what other books have you written and do you try writing in different genres?

Catriona is my fifth book.  It was first published in 1997 and is now being reissued by Sourcebooks.  I've written 16 books: historicals, paranormals and contemporary fiction.

What was the inspiration behind Catriona?

A story, for me, begins with an event in history.  I love exploring country roads in settings rich in Celtic history, primarily Ireland and Scotland.  I always take the tour, if there is one, and something small triggers my interest.  It can be a place or a character.  All my novels stem from those beginnings.

Catriona began with a visit to Stirling Castle.  I was touched by the story of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland, who waited for her husband, Jamie Stewart, to come home from the Battle of Flodden Moor.  He was fighting against her father.  History tells us the marriage between Margaret and Jamie was not a love match.  I decided, for the purpose of my story, that it would be.  That very day the idea for Catriona was born.

What sort of research did you do to prepare?

Research for a historical is extremely time-consuming.  It involves reading, reading and more reading, travel, exploring the ruins of castles, walking battle sites, learning the political and social positions of the day as well as climate, flora, fauna, foods, clothing, practices, expressions, etc.  I usually begin with travel for an idea, and end with travel for polishing purposes.

Do you have a favorite character in Catriona?  Which one and why?

My favorite character is Patrick MacKendrick.  As the hero in the story, he combines the qualities of strength and sensitivity which I believe is essential for our alpha heroes.

How has the response been from readers so far?

The reviews for this book have been excellent.

From the responses, is there anything you wish you would've changed or improved about Catriona?

Because Catriona was first published in 1997, I've been able to edit where I felt it was needed.  This is where readers' reviews really help.  I changed details regarding Wiccan practices and, in fact, removed the term altogether because I felt the criticism had merit.  The historical details, dress, speech patterns, food, sites, practices are always very accurate.  I make a point of that.

Time to take a look into the future... Are you working on anything else?

I've recently completed an Irish contemporary paranormal called Hannie Rising.

Can you tell us a little bit about it?

An Irishman, Mickey Enright, has died and, after a year, is given another chance to walk the earth, specifically his own patch of earth, Tralee, Ireland, to remedy some of the mistakes he's made in his life with his wife and two grown children.  The only condition is that he must assume another identity.

Meanwhile, his wife, Hannie, has decided to move on.  She's lost weight, rearranged her home, even taken a position of importance at her job.  But then everything falls apart.  Her daughter is reassessing her marriage and moves home with her child.  Liam, Hannie's son, a victim of the real estate crash, decides he needs to resume his education and also needs to move back.  Then her mother, who owns a large, poorly trained dog, is showing signs of Alzheimer's and needs a caretaker.  Hannie finds support at her local coffee shop, with a stranger, named Patrick.

Oh, that sounds interesting.  Is there any advice you'd like to give to new writers or writers who feel like giving up?

Writing is a difficult profession with serious ups and downs.  The very best writers have more rejection slips than they can count.  I would advise struggling writers to always write about whatever is inspiring.  Without excitement, it's difficult to perform.  That goes for any number of things in addition to writing.

What is your favorite book of all time and why?

My favorite book is The Road to Avalon by Joan Wolf.

Is there a character in The Road to Avalon that you relate to the most?

I don't relate to any of the characters in the book.  What I thought, and still think, is so unique is the twist the author created in the familiar plot of King Aurthur and Morgan.  She created a King Aurthur who is young and vital and incredibly appealing.  The writing is direct, yet emotional, very difficult to do.

Which characteristic do you think makes Joan Wolf so great?

The ability to use words well.  Vocabulary.

Any final words you'd like to share with everyone, perhaps something I've not asked about?

A story, characters, settings, conversations work when there are elements of truth in them.

Is there a website or any social networking sites your fans can go to or follow you on?

My website is www.jeanettebaker.com  I'm also on Facebook: Jeanette Baker, Jeanette Baker - author

Thanks again to Jeanette for participating in this interview.  See below for additional info on Jeanette Baker that I copied from her Amazon's Author Page.

Jeanette Baker is the award-winning author of fifteen novels, most of them set in the lush countryside of historical and contemporary Ireland where she lives and writes during the summer months. Her ancestors, the Flahertys, hail from Inishmore the largest of the Aran Islands located off the coast of Galway. She takes great pride in the prayer posted by the English over the ancient city gates, 'From the wrath of the O'Flahertys, may the good Lord deliver us.'

Jeanette graduated from the University of California at Irvine and holds a Masters Degree in Education. For the remainder of the year, Jeanette teaches in Southern California and enjoys the company of her grown children. She is the Rita award-winning author of NELL.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review: How To Improve Your Life by Raymond H. Scudder

ISBN #: 978-1-936400-99-7
Page Count: 194
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

A must-read for anyone who wants to improve their life but doesn't know where or how to begin. The author provides a life-changing Improvement Process you can easily follow to take control of your life and achieve whatever you want.

The simplicity and beauty of this process means that in a very short time, you will:

• start thinking and behaving in a positive, can-do way
• target the areas of your life most in need of improvement
• begin using your vast personal potential
• notice and explore opportunities you never considered before
• stay motivated and focused on what you want in life until it becomes reality
• monitor your progress and celebrate your improvement accomplishments
How To Improve Your Life also offers a wealth of improvement tips and expert advice on how to:

• live a healthy life
• build and strengthen your relationships
• boost your career
• achieve personal financial success
• make internal changes that maximize your ability to accomplish whatever you want to do

Mandy's Review:

Since this is more of a self-help guide, I'm not going to be able to use my normal review format.  Instead, I am going to start my review off with a question:

What, in your life, do you wish you could/would improve?

We all have our areas of life that we are unsatisfied with: work, marriage, self, etc.  Raymond's book walks you through the steps you need to take in order to correct your problem areas.

I know what you're thinking: This is a standard self-help, boring book written by some know-it-all who uses terminology I can't understand.  Besides, he doesn't know me.  How could this book possibly help me?

First, the author is an every-day, down-to-earth man.  Secondly, the book reads as if it is a friend talking to you, not some know-it-all.  He begins by identifying the steps of the Improvement Process.

Stop rolling your eyes!

All good things are good because someone or something went through some form of process to make it/them that way.

Once the Improvement Process steps are identified, each step is given a chapter so that you can delve into the meanings of each step.

The last five or six chapters go in depth about each area of our life that we may need/want to improve.  Practical, step-by-step instructions are given to make your desired changes achievable.

I'll be honest with you, I put off reading this book for a while because I thought this was going to be boring.  I thought I would have to make myself finish it.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

This is the first self-help book I've read where I actually grabbed a notebook, while reading the first chapter, so I could take notes.  I will be applying the Improvement Process to my life.  I also plan on buying several copies to give to people I know.

If you enjoy improving yourself and your quality of life, then I highly recommend you give this book a try.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Review - Born of Tyranny:Port of Errors by Steve V. Cypert

ISBN #: 978-1257790319
Page Count: 249
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Port of Errors is the first novel in the Born of Tyranny series.

Set in the late seventeenth century Eastern Atlantic, this epic adventure of brotherly love and betrayal shadows two orphans, Davy and Joseph, who come to bond tighter than blood. But they are soon ripped apart by a tragic event that will set into motion the birth of tyrannous revenge on behalf of their loss and place them each on a daring journey to find one another.

Following many eventful years, the pirate Black-Hearted, along with Scurvy Shaw and Isabel, will find a mortal enemy in Daniel Stirvin, a captain in the Queen’s Royal Navy. Black-Hearted and Captain Stirvin must face a traitorous tangle of lies and deceit trailing back to an unexpected past, unraveling an even deeper conspiracy of vengeance that will haunt them to the bitter end. Unable to abandon their cause or their men, Black-Hearted and Captain Stirvin will be forced to fight unwillingly to the death.

Charlene's Review:

As innocent boys, Davy and Joseph were left in an orphanage. They formed a friendship, close as brothers, until the day they were sold at public auction. Each took a piece of a cloth as their only remembrance.

As the years go by, they face their private demons in totally different ways. Joseph, renamed Daniel by his new parents, becomes a captain in the Royal Navy, and Davy becomes known as Black-Hearted, a much feared pirate. With the story set mostly upon the waters of the Atlantic, Port of Errors gets its name from an island: A pirate safe haven set outside Royal governments jurisdiction. Unbeknownst to both friends, the choices they’ve made will see them battling face-to-face.

Epic battles, revenge, love stories, and loyalty all combine to make this a surprisingly good read.

Mr. Cypert takes much care in describing the world in the seventeenth century. It reads like an historical novel. The battle scenes are vivid and exciting. The characters are well developed and each have their own voice within the novel. There are many surprises along the way and the ending pulls it all together nicely while still giving hints of things to come. I came away from the book feeling as if I was an actual witness to the events, and anticipating the next book of the series. Mr. Cypert is a master storyteller!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Release Day Review: Releasing Gillian's Wolves by Tara Woolpy

ISBN #: 978-0-9832033-0-8
Page Count: 280
Release Date: 8/1/11

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Thirty years ago, Gillian married Jack Sach, now a United States Congressman.  Through the years she's remained faithful.  He hasn't.  Ever.  She cooks to soothe herself and others, takes care of her mother-in-law, gardens, sneaks off to the studio to explode with angry paintings and tries to keep Jack's dalliances secret.  As she nears fifty, her friends think she should leave, but she lingers, bound by inertia and fear of the effect media coverage of a divorce would have on her family.

Gillian shares a trust fund with Edward, her gay neighbor and best friend.  Their grandfathers made a fortune together and left it to the two of them.  Over the years, in support of Gillian's marriage, the trust bankrolled Jack's many successful campaigns.  Not particularly interested in politics, Gillian survives by ignoring everything outside her kitchen, garden and studio.  Edward has his own ragged past filled with bad relationships, drugs and alcohol.  Through the course of a summer, Gillian's marriage continues to deteriorate while Edward's life finally starts to improve.  He's sober, stable and has found life-changing love with Sam, a biology professor at the local university.  Their happiness shines a stark light on Gillian's loveless marriage.

Finally, when Gillian meets Jack's latest conquest, twenty-year-old Ashley, she's forced to confront the rot at the core of her relationship.  Is it too late for happiness?

Mandy's Review:


The red background and gold lettering of the title and author's name blends well with the fall colors on the trees in the cover photo.  Add a lake and a boathouse and you now have a place I am envious to visit.


The author gives us a glimpse into what life could be like for a wife of an unfaithful politician.  Gillian is the faithful, dependable wife who Jack can always lean on to help out in a pinch.  The problem is, Gillian is fed up with all of the lies.

With the help of her best friends, Gillian finally finds the freedom and peace of mind she so desperately craves.  The road getting there is long and often filled with potholes, but Gillian goes through it with considerable grace and aplomb.

Main Characters

Gillian - This woman amazes me.  She is faithful, loyal and strong.  She's there for every one.  I don't know how she manages to cram as much into a day as she does.  I loved this character.

Jack - Gillian's husband - It's like he's never left his teenage years.  The man is controlled by his hormones.  He's not satisfied with having a wonderful wife like Gillian ... oh no, he has to have the affections of every intern who shows him the slightest bit of interest as well.

Edward - Gillian's best friend - Edward is Gillian's oldest friend and hates to see her married to Jack because he knows what a sleazeball Jack is.  He often goes to Gillian's to eat her cooking since he has no skills of his own.

Sam - Edward's boyfriend - Sam is wonderful, understanding, patient, kind ... he is Edward's better half.  He makes a wonderful addition to this story.


This is a wonderfully written tale about family, friendship, happiness, peace and what we sometimes have to endure in order to obtain those things.  I find this an excellent debut for a new author.  I would recommend this story more towards adult women who enjoy reading a book that helps you wonder ... "What if...?"
If you are using wordpress.com, you can simply drop the html below in a widget in the footer or at the bottom of the sidebar.