Monday, October 31, 2011

Mandy Reviews: Unnatural Law (Darwin's Children, Book 2) by Natasha Larry

ASIN #: B005ZZJO20
File Size: 538 KB
Copyright: October 26, 2011
Publisher: Penumbra Publishing

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Seventeen-year-old Jaycie Lerner's psychokinetic power surge is over, and her astounding powers are under control for the time being - sort of. As she struggles to maintain her humanity in the face of the awesome terror and responsibility of her abilities, she also yearns for the chance at a normal life - and a relationship with Matt Carter, the best friend she had to leave behind. But Matt's got a few tricks up his sleeve, and he's not about to give up on his feelings for Jaycie.

As Jaycie and her family grapple with the day-to-day routine of trying to keep their world together, Jaycie's mother figure, Allison Young, endures a personal crisis of her own. The superhuman blonde possesses the physical equivalent of Jaycie's awesome psychic power. So evolved, at ninety-two she still looks twenty. But what good is extended life when everyone else around her is so fragile? With no one to share her unusual life, she's a uniquely lonely woman yearning for the romantic love she sees all around her. But in a dream she gets her wish - and it quickly turns to a nightmare for everyone else in her life. The memory of a rose is all she can hold onto in the storm of obsession that nearly sweeps her away.

Things quickly turn deadly for the vampires, but the Dey-Vah Guard fairies refuse to acknowledge there's an imbalance in the nature they protect. As the danger gets ever closer to Jaycie and her family, the race is on to find answers before a secret plot can destroy them all.

Mandy's Review:


Well, the cover is absolutely gorgeous.  I love that Allison is portrayed instead of Jaycie ... I even think I like this cover a LOT better than the cover for Darwin's Children (sorry Natasha!).

I don't know how many of you watch America's Next Top Model, but the portrayal of Allison on the cover reminds me of the pale blonde chic on ANTM that is fascinated with blood and ... oh my God ... now that I think about it, her name is Allison, too!!!!  Coincidence?  I think so...


There's quite a bit going on in this book and the pace stays fluent from the first page to the last. Without giving too much away, I'm going to try and give you a quick summary. Ready?

Jaycie's trying to learn to control her power, but needs the help of a supergeek until an alpha male figures out her problem.

Haley's getting more comfortable with the family and is starting to feel like she's a part of them.

Allison is lonely and "looking for love in all the wrong places, looking for love in too many faces, searching their eyes looking for traces of the one I've been dreaming oooffff..." ... Sorry, was channeling Johnny Lee via the movie Urban Cowboy for a sec ... Back to the book ... So, Allison's lonely and wishes she could find someone she doesn't have to worry about being gentle with. She finds someone she believes she can love, but can she trust him?

The fairies are pissed that something is affecting their abilities and they're unable to detect where the issue is. They typically blame everyone around them and finally, by process of elimination, have to look at their own clan.

The vampires make an appearance again and side with Jaycie and her family.

Main Characters

Jaycie - Seventeen and having serious anger issues. Of course, this has to do with the power surge she experienced at the end of Darwin's Children ... Oh, you don't know about that? How about going to get it and read it then?

Anywho, Jaycie is trying her best to control all of the power that she now has, but it's a little difficult to control ... especially when Matt's around.

Hayley - This girl stays in sarcasm mode. She uses it as a defense mechanism against people she doesn't know, but uses it for humorous effects with the people she knows and loves.

Matt - Dedicated as ever to Jaycie and will do anything in his power to help her ... which is basically whatever he sets his mind to do. Oh, you didn't know ... Matt's perfect.

Allison - This woman has some major emotional issues in this book. It's understandable to want someone to love, but she gets blinded by her wants and desires until it's, almost, too late.

Mason - Still a pretty cool (mind-reading) dad getting his groove on with some nurse chic who he thinks hid something major from him. He winds up all mad and has John wipe her memory.

John - If you thought a magician hypnotizing a person was funny, this guy is hilarious. Not only can he make a person do whatever he wants them to, but they obey with full cognizance of what they're doing and unable to stop it ... unless he wants you to forget, then he'll just wipe that little memory from your brain.


I am totally loving this series so far. The concept is fresh and original.

Any and all YA paranormal book lover should read Darwin's Children and Unnatural Law. You will become so engrossed in the books that you won't realize you've been sitting for hours on end with no break whatsoever ... yes, they are that good.

I'm ready for Book #3, Ms. Larry!!!!! =)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mandy Reviews: Caught in the Winds by L. D. Wenzel

ISBN #: 978-1453647875
Page Count: 330
Copyright: 2010

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Morrie Schiller is a new philosophy student at an evangelical college in the Midwest. Try though he may, he just doesn't fit into the Christian campus scene. The girl he loves sees him only as a 'brother,' and he's in the crossfire as religious extremists rage against the school. Add to the mix, he's haunted by an obsession to become a Roman Catholic. Enter Jack Joplin, a mysterious stranger, offering a "new" philosophy, promising to 'transcend' religious conventionality. Morrie accepts and is catapulted into adventures that go beyond his wildest dreams. Time was when Morrie only wanted to meet a nice Christian girl and settle down as an ordinary evangelical. However, the Socratic dictum: 'Know Thyself' seems to be his sacred calling. Spiritual maturity comes only by passing through the refiner's fire.

Mandy's Review:


Cute. Nostalgic ... but not really a representation of the main character's life. Perhaps, it is, instead, a quiet idyllic representation of the silent, but ever-looming, background character and main spiritual battlefield, the college ... ?


A spiritual coming-of-age story for a naive, inexperienced student at an evangelical college. From his first day of school to his last, we watch Morrie grow out of his child-like awkwardness into, what should be, a young man's self-confidence.

Many events take place and happen to Morrie during his spiritual growth process: The loss of his first love, the meeting of a few new friends, the re-awakening of his Catholic desires, the loss of his virginity and several encounters with the Right Hand of God.

What will the end result be? Will Morrie finally know himself and what he wants?

Main Characters

Morrie - Easily susceptible to the influences of people and events around him. Socially awkward and unsure of how to handle himself. Falls in love WAY too easily and too often.

Tracy - A beauty who, in my opinion, uses her beauty and tears to get what she wants, when she wants, from Morrie. She doesn't mind spending time with him and leading him on as long as she doesn't have a boyfriend. Once she's dating someone, though, she forgets all about Morrie ... of course, he's stupid enough to wait on her and allow her to treat him like that, so what does that say about him?

Frank - He's somewhat of a zealot, but he plays a role in Morrie's college life. Although very different in their beliefs, Frank and Morrie come to terms with each other and have a unique friendship.

Jack - Coerces Morrie to open up his thought processes and teaches him how to doubt everything. Jack almost seems to be the embodiment of an evil spirit, or demon, that has entered Morrie's life simply to direct him away from the narrow, holy, path.

Crusader - Encourages Morrie's philosophical side, but with a Christian viewpoint. Crusader almost seems to be the embodiment of a holy spirit, or angel, that has entered Morrie's life to help him stay on the straight and narrow. He's not around often, but he does seem to be around right when Morrie needs him most.


I was not a big fan of this book. The story was written well, but ... I don't know. It did not resonate within me. I understood it, most of it, but the verbiage used was getting on my nerves a little.

First of all, the story was set in the mid-1990s. This is my era, so I was expecting to be swept away in memories. Did not happen. I don't know about you, but I do not recall people going around talking in proper grammar all the time.

I don't recall seeing one slang phrase in this book. Now, during philosophical discussions, I can understand proper grammar, but in every day speech? No, sir... sorry, but I don't believe it happens ... even among evangelical college students.

Then, the whole issue with how fast Morrie falls in love... Ridiculous. I mean, really? It seemed that as soon as a girl smiled at him, little Morrie's heart was pitter-pattering away in the fantasy realm of love. Give me a break! Hormones, I could've understood. Repressed sexual feelings, yes definitely. But falling in love with every girl who paid him the slightest bit of attention? I find that in only extremely inexperienced boys ... and it gets a little boring to read about.

So, did I like this book? Eh... parts of it, but I don't like it enough to recommend it to other readers. Apologies, Mr. Wenzel.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Charlene Reviews - Bobby Slater's World: An Early 1960's Summer Ghost Story by Hugh Centerville

ISBN #: 978-1451515642
Page Count: 260
Copyright: 2010


Summer, 1964 and for 13 year old Bobby Slater, 1 of those rich summer kids up on Baker Lake, it's idyllic - swimming, fishing, baseball, hiking the mountains around the lake, camping on the islands, but what Bobby wants is a girlfriend. Be careful what you wish for, Bobby. Bobby gets his girl, a local girl, an Indian cutie and it's 1 soda, 2 straws, foreheads touching, eyes lost in love. It's bliss except the girl is fickle. Sometimes she's sweet and funny, sometimes not and it's because she's living with a deadly 150 year old curse. Bobby will lead the fight against the curse and he'll have help from people living and dead. He'll have his sisters and his loyal sidekick, best friend/cousin Joe, who spends summers with the family and Bobby will have a grumpy Indian war chief and the local gypsy fortune teller and from the other side there's Sophronia, the Indian girl's mom, dead 10 years, a victim of the curse. Mostly, though, it's on Bobby Slater. Can he break down the barrier that divides the summer people from the locals? Can he bring them all together to save the girl?

Charlene's Review:

Bobby Slater's World takes the reader back to a simpler time, when families vacationed on the lake, and kids played together outside until dark. Bobby spends most of his summers just this way, enjoying the vacation town on Baker Lake, and this year is no different, except he's 13 and on the lookout for a girlfriend. After having his heart broken by his sister's best friend, Bobby sets out alone and finds himself in trouble with the "townies," kids that live there all year long. Chased and caught by the "Squawman," Bobby soon finds his first love with an Indian girl that is said to be cursed by a 150 year old spirit. In order to save her, Bobby must team up with the girl's family and a fortune teller, and finally bury the bones of an Indian boy that was killed by the white man.

A very simple read, but delightful in its innocence of the time. To think that way back before video games ruled, there was family time and kids played outside gladly. Added to the innocence is your typical coming-of-age story about Bobby and his friends. It has all the angst and heartbreak, joy and wonderment of first love, when everything seems possible. To top it all off, we have a curse, a war chief, and a gypsy.

There are more subtle storylines taking place in the background, intrigue and excitement, as well as innocent romance, lots of baseball, and even more, plenty of heart. The characters are relatable. I would have liked to see some of the characters explained better. It is alluded to that Bobby's mother is sad and lethargic, and the author went as far as to dialogue about her seeing a psychiatrist, but that storyline was not expanded, leaving me to wonder if I missed something of importance. That said, it is a fun, enjoyable story about a courageous young boy growing up in a simpler world.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Charlene Reviews: My Corner of the Sky by Kerri Dyer-Keen

ISBN #: 978-1450226646
Page Count: 408
Copyright: 2010

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

She was going to go home with her husband driving the car, in order to get ready to perform a variety show at a leading club in Sydney Australia. Happy, everything seeming normal. Next thing you know - 4 and a half months later - total chaos reigns!

30 years on Kerri is a singer, that can no longer sing! (at the moment!)

Follow her through her growing up years - 'her time as a witch'! - 'her time as a club and television entertainer' - her 'scary road trip to Darwin' and 'performing at the Sydney Opera house'. - Then she has an accident - Chaos, and the eventual triumph over adversity! Laugh and cry at all the funny and strange things that made up Kerri's 3 'different' lives - Sometimes wish that it was your life? MAYBE NOT!!!!!!!

Charlene's Review:

Kerri Dyer was an up-and-coming talent in Australia when she was in a horrific car accident that changed her life forever. Mrs. Dyer-Keen takes us back to her days as a child of unconventional parenting, through her glamorous years as a singer/entertainer in top clubs, and through the 30 and counting years of rehabilitation after her accident. Having lost her ability to sing, suffering the effects of brain damage, and living with ataxia, Mrs. Dyer-Keen shows us how her childhood wish "to be different" has definitely come true.

I began this book wondering if I could possibly muddle through it. Her memoir is written in a bit of a confusing frenzy, somewhat off-putting at first, but ripe with optimistic triumph. That said, if you can manage to muddle through the unorthodox writing style, this is an inspirational, often humorous book that speaks to true perseverance, and a tremendous optimism that most people just do not have.

The heart of this story is how from her accident in July of 1978 to the present, Kerri Dyer-Keen has fought to regain her life. Leaving behind her entertainment dreams, she has since had a daughter, married the true love of her life, and surpassed all the obstacles modern medicine cautioned against, including her continued efforts to sing once more. My Corner of the Sky is a story of a very special woman's ability to soar higher than even she thought possible.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

C.J. Reviews - The Last Way Station: Hitler's Final Journey by Jon Reisfeld

File Size: 67 KB
Copyright: 2011

Story Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

On April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler, one of the greatest mass-murderers in history, retired to his room in his bunker, 25 feet beneath the old Reich Chancery garden. Above him, the Red Army was encircling Berlin as his dream of a thousand-year Aryan empire lay in ruins. Hitler placed a glass cyanide capsule between his teeth and pointed a loaded service pistol at his right temple. Then, smugly believing he had both evaded capture and escaped all accountability for his crimes, he bit down and pulled the trigger. He was wrong!

C.J.'s Review:

Ummm ... wow, that pretty much sums up how I feel about this book. Just an overview, the book starts at the point of Hitler's suicide and on into the ever after. Hitler is forced to relive each and every sin he has committed or was committed in his name. Not a bad read, I finished it in just under 30 minutes.

Now, don't get excited, those of you who think that all I ever have is bad reviews, because this one isn't great; just better than others. Without giving too much away, I want to go over just a few things I like about this book and a few things I didn't like.

Likes: The speed with which Jon Reisfeld got to the point of the book. I hate when a book drags through the first 10 chapters and still hasn't come close to hitting the plot. I like the fact that Jon allowed Hitler to remain "Hitler" throughout the story. He didn't allow Hitler to become some pansy-ass version of his former self. Hitler was portrayed exactly how I would expect the Fuhrer to act. I also liked the detail Jon uses when going through Hitler's sins. I like how Jon gave us a taste of the concentration camps. It added so much more to the story and made me feel sorrow for the Jews.

Of course, with everything good, there must be some bad. The ultimate bad in this book, the freaking ending ... Jon, I wanted so much more than your ending!! I wanted to be "shocked" by the ending. Instead, I was given a soft tap on the head and a "good boy, thanks for reading." For the love of God Jon, Hitler was a dick, give him an ending fitting for a dick. I thoroughly expected to see something like one of the Fatalities in the Mortal Kombat game. Instead, I got teased. It was like being promised foreplay by my beautiful wife and, instead, getting to spend the afternoon with her mother. Not gonna lie, completely disappointed. I also did not care for how quick the story was ... Jon, if you do nothing else with this book, rewrite it and give me more meat. Chapters 4 through 8 were damn good, I just want 50 more like it with more stories.

All in all, this short story was excellent. I enjoyed 95% of the book and that's saying a lot. Jon, if you have any more stuff coming out, add a dragon to the story and I'll fall in love with you. Excellent read.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review: The Underdog Edge by Amy Showalter

ISBN #: 978-1600379987
Page Count: 300
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

In The Underdog Edge, you'll learn why being the underdog is an advantage when influencing up, and how to engage the edge for influence success.

There will come a time when you will be the underdog, and you'll have to change the mind of someone more powerful than yourself. The typical influence tactics for general influence situations don't often work with powerful people. These situations call for extreme influence tactics.

Amy Showalter has drawn on over twenty years of experience teaching organizations how to get powerful people on their side. Her research with thousands of underdog influencers and the high-powered people whose minds they changed reveal the behaviors that work.

Find out:
  • Why powerful people have an inherent need to help underdogs
  • The five characteristics of underdog "street cred" (and how to obtain it)
  • Why showing passion for your cause can actually doom your request
  • The one underdog influence move that distinguishes the achievers from the "yaktivists"
  • The three qualities your pack members must have to maximum influence
  • Why giving the "gift of heroics" is incredibly persuasive

Kathy's Review:

The Underdog Edge shows you the psychology behind why certain underdogs are successful in championing their cause, whether it be a business person, sports figure or politician. Showalter, who has very impressive credentials in coaching organizations on the principles of persuasion, breaks down the traits and approaches that are necessary in order to get through to the "top dogs" as she calls them - in other words, the people who hold the keys to making the decisions. Many success stories, citing specific examples, are used in each chapter to illustrate how the various techniques worked.

I thought this book was well thought-out, well executed and chock-full of helpful information, with a flourish of humor and very candid quotes from her interview subjects. Though the people Showalter features in her book are typically fighting for larger issues than, say, asking your boss for a raise, I think the same principles can be applied. There are certainly things I could draw upon for use in my work life in how to better deal with management when trying to advocate for an idea.

There are SO many case studies and examples, particularly from the political world, that I have to admit I skipped a few of them. I was much more interested in the psychology of the different principles.

I think this is a book you specifically seek out when you have a cause to champion, but that being said, I took away some food for thought on how to approach certain people. And I'll try to look past the fact that the author is an ardent Ohio State fan.

Review: Impaled on the Horns of the Devil by Barbara Boatwright

ISBN #: 978-1456753672
Page Count: 260
Copyright: 2011


With courageous confession, the author describes her high school romance, laced with parental opposition, the pull of premarital sex, and an awareness of guilt before God. After less than a year of marriage to her high school sweetheart, when she begins to recognize her parents' concerns as valid, she meets a man who becomes a destructive force in her life. He encourages her to divorce her husband and instead, become dependent on him for emotional support. With painful honesty she relates how he gains manipulative control over her emotions and moral standards. She joins him in defying biblical commandments and societal conventions. Readers who have suffered through failed marriages will understand her struggles. The author winds up her memoir by observing what in her background contributes to vulnerability and control by a man who seems to represent the devil. She tells how she eventually escapes from him and an emotionally abusive second marriage. She offers insight to parents and teens about both positive and negative relationships between them, and how those relationships powerfully influence the lives and marital decisions of young adults.

Charlene's Review:

Impaled on the Horns of the Devil is a memoir described by Ms. Boatwright as "The Development of Vulnerability to an Abusive Marriage." This 247 page book details her struggle with emotional abuse in the hands of her husbands. It is a painfully open and honest look at a young girl that overlooked all the parental and spiritual lessons in her life, and the consequences she faced. The fact that it took place in the 1950s, a time where domestic violence was not mentioned, and that she then successfully overcame her abusive past, makes it especially endearing.

Ms. Boatwright bares all in the hopes of reaching out to other women in abusive relationships, or before they embark on relationships. An easy read that focuses on the need to open up communication between teens and parents. She shows, through her own past, the cycle of abuse, the signs to look for, and how her faith in God helped her find her way out.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review - Effie at the Wedding: A Short Story by Tracy Marchini

ASIN #: B004UN57W4
File Size: 91 KB
Copyright: 2011

Story Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Effie has a million reasons why she's not thrilled to be at her sister's wedding - and the monstrously pink bridesmaid's dress isn't even on the list. When Effie finds herself locked in the bathroom, she thinks she might just stay there. After all, it's better than hearing from her mom about how often she's been to the buffet or how beautiful Ophelia looks in her wedding dress.

In this hysterical young adult short story, Effie will have to find a reason to celebrate ... or get used to her porcelain throne.

Mandy's Review:


The whimsical artwork and letter-style of the title combine to make this an enjoyable cover to look at.


Effie is the maid of honor in her sister's wedding, she is feeling emotionally upset by the whole event, but doesn't know what to do about it or who to talk it over with.

Main Characters

Effie - Overweight, wears braces, lives in the shadow of her elder, thinner sister. Loves to make lists ... about everything!

Ophelia - Effie's older sister. Getting married to a doctor. Cares about Effie and how she's feeling.


Cute and quick to read. Though short, you still get a feel for Effie's sense of abandonment ... even though she's not really being abandoned. She seems to be in that in-between stage of a child and young adult. You get a sense of both sides while reading her internal narrations.

I would recommend this for a young adult as there are several curse words in the story. It's not excessive though.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review - The Trip: A True Karmal Korn Adventure by Jeffrey Koconis

File Size: 116 KB
Copyright: 2011

Story Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

This story is a brief snapshot of history as seen by two young travelers who are learning about themselves, while finding out how they are perceived through some harsh realities on the road. It is a sequence of events that illustrate the unbridled energy and adventurous enthusiasm of becoming an adult, along with the distasteful and morose realities from which life's lessons are all too often learned from.

Mandy's Review:


I like the 70s styling of the cover art. Reminds me of the black light posters you'd stare at while tripping or getting high ... not that I'd know anything about either, mind you ...


Two friends decide to hitchhike their way from Milwaukee to California. Along the way, they experience more than they bargained for.

Will they ever make it to California?

Main Characters

Jeffrey - Author and narrator of this autobiographical memoir.

Kris - Jeffrey's friend and hitchhiking buddy whose extremely smart, but just doesn't do well in school.


Extremely well-written and descriptive. Mr. Koconis has a talent for writing stories (even true ones) that capture the reader's attention and keeps them engaged until the last page. If you enjoy memoirs, I would recommend this to you.

I must forewarn you of the language, though. A lot of f-bombs were thrown in the telling of this story.

Review: Chop Suey by Ty Hutchinson

ISBN #: 978-1461138587
Page Count: 378
Copyright: 2011


When disgraced sales associate Darby Stansfield discovers he has six months to save his job, he does what any normal person would do. He freaks.

Desperate to resurrect his career at Teleco Wireless, he conjures up an international scheme filled with the promise of endless high-spending clients. It's brilliant, it's successful, and it involves doing business with organized crime.

But soon those closest to him find themselves caught up in his dangerous plan, and one of these unknowingly has the power to destroy him. Darby must now make a tough decision - give up on the one good idea he ever had or risk it all.

This is the crazy life of Darby Stansfield, telecommunications consultant to the underworld.

Charlene's Review:

Darby Stansfield finds himself in a seemingly dead-end job, unless he can come up with a new "Darbytastic" idea that can raise his sales and send him to the upper levels. While procrastinating on job leads, Darby heads to his favorite Chinese restaurant, Mr. Fu's. While dining on his standard Chop Suey, Darby finds out that Mr. Fu used to belong to a gang. And thus begins his journey into the underworld.

This Chop Suey really has it all. Humor, romance, murder, suspense, interesting characters, and a well-written plot line. Darby is a somewhat lazy salesman, looking to break into the big time. His crazy ideas usually get him into trouble, but you can't help but like the poor guy. This is a story that takes place on many levels at the same time, but the plot is so flawless you never lose track of what is going on. Intriguing characters fill this novel, and his ability to mix humor and serial killings in the same text is genius. This is the best thriller I believe I have ever read. Kept me glued to the end, and wondering what good ol' Darby will get into in the next book. I will definitely keep my eye on Ty Hutchinson. Darbytastic book!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

November's BintoM Monthly Giveaway (#10)

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.

November's BintoM Giveaway (ending November 6th) prize pack will consist of:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book/movie combo

Here's a little bit about both:

I have a brand new paperback copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory written by Roald Dahl that I bought from Books-A-Million.

Summary:  Willy Wonka's famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!

To go along with the book, I have a brand new copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the movie:

Blurb:  What wonders await you in Willy Wonka's factory? Explore fields of soft minty sugar grass in the Chocolate Room ... Sail along the Chocolate River in a pink sugar boat ... Experiment with Everlasting Gobstoppers in the Inventing Room ... Observe talented squirrels in the Nut Room and travel to the Television Room by a glass elevator. You'll find a lot that's funny, a little that's mysterious ... and an adventure as sweet and satisfying as a Wonka Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight bar. 

Sweet Special Features:

Becoming Oompa-Loompa: How They Turned One Man into Hundreds of Oompa-Loompas!

Oompa-Loompa Dance

Theatrical Trailer
DVD Info:

115 Minutes

Rated PG

Widescreen Version

Main Actors:

Johnny Depp
Freddie Highmore
David Kelly
Helena Bonham Carter
Noah Taylor
Missi Pyle
James Fox

Normally, this is where I'd have the link to the entry form, but... I've decided to add to this prize pack. Not only do I enjoy comparing books to their corresponding movies, but I also enjoy comparing older movies to their newer, remade versions. Thus, I have decided to include a copy of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory to this prize pack!

Blurb: Join the expedition visiting legendary Candy Man Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) in a splendiferous movie that wondrously brings to the screen the endlessly appetizing delights of Roald Dahl's classic book. Coated with flavorful tunes and production design that constantly dazzles the eye, this effervescent musical never fails to enchant young and old.

DVD Special Features:

Scrumptious Documentary

Pure Imagination: The Story of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

Mouthwatering Commentary with the Wonka Kids

4 Sing-Along Songs

Stills Gallery

Vintage 1971 Featurette

Theatrical Trailer

Included Inside:

3 Scratch-N-Sniff Sticker Sheets

DVD Info:

100 Minutes

Rated G

Widescreen Version

Main Actors:

Gene Wilder
Jack Albertson
Peter Ostrum
Roy Kinnear
Julie Dawn Cole
Leonard Stone
Denise Nickerson
Dodo Denney
Paris Themmen

Click here to enter for your chance to win

Good Luck!

Review: The Future Perfect by Kirk Mustard

ASIN #: B002AD13FQ
Copyright: 2011

(Taken from Amazon)

The Future Perfect is the hot new satire of the future. A funny, imaginative, provocative look at things to come.

Good science attempts to save the planet from bad science. A funny, insightful look at humanity, its destiny and relationship to the Earth. When the Earth's last wildlife preserve is destroyed and the planet is dying, society turns to a fictional animal to make things right again.

Kathy's Review:

I suppose it's fitting that this was my first ever e-book, considering the world in The Future Perfect is solely reliant on technology to regulate every aspect, including life itself. The story centers around main character Zenith Cobra, who works at a large corporation in the future. This future has completely been stripped away of nature - trees, animals, etc., no longer exist, but humanity is showing signs that they miss it. He and his co-workers, Apex and Sparkle, brainstorm an idea for an imaginary animal - and name it the Smelix (combination of the words "smile" and "sex"). Immediately, because everything in the future happens immediately, the Smelix is a huge sensation and people buy up Smelix-themed merchandise within minutes.

This kicks off a series of events that lead to an experiment-gone-wrong to restore the world to its former state. Along the way, Zenith and his friends shape the events that alter the course of humanity.

I will say this - the author has some extremely creative ideas that both poke fun at current society's obsession with technology and paint a frightening satirical picture of what could happen if we become too reliant. It definitely pays homage to one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, as well as the great Douglas Adams. This is a smart and imaginative book. For me the negatives were that there were too many primary characters, and despite their creative names, I lost track of who was who and who did what. Some characters, such as shallow Zenith and anti-technology Monty, were fleshed out well, and others weren't dynamic enough to really know who they were. I also think the dialogue was a little bit flat and kind of read like a magazine interview at times with one character asking a question and the other character giving a very long-winded answer.

Also, this being my first e-book, I really wished I could "flip back" to re-read passages many times because I felt a little lost in the action.

Other than that, this is an amusing read, particularly if you are fans of the authors mentioned above.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review- Clarice: Her Journey Through Life by Harriet Maxwell

ISBN #: 978-1456777500
Page Count: 208
Copyright: 2011


Clarice is a country girl with an open heart, looking forward to life in the big city, with no idea of the hard knocks that await her ... but she learns to deal with them all in her way, a secret way. When she meets Terry, the love of her life, everything falls into place, but the predictions of Odessa, a Fortune teller lurk in the back of her mind. What did she mean by saying 'There is someone else in the shadows. He moves in and out of the distance in a strange way.' The words haunt Clarice, and in the end their meaning becomes unnervingly clear ...

Charlene's Review:

Throughout this novel, we follow Clarice, as she struggles to deal with her dysfunctional family life, and her personal secret. When things become too difficult, food is her private comfort, and the need to control her addiction results in a life-long eating disorder. In an attempt to make sense of her journey, she consults a fortune teller, and not until the very end of life as she dreamt it, does the mysterious message make sense.

Clarice is a study in body image, psychological teachings, and the story of a woman looking for love and acceptance. At just over 200 pages, it is packed with plot. While there are many grammatical, and typographical errors, the story is well worth overlooking them. Anyone can identify with the struggles Clarice faced. From eating disorders and alcoholism, to spirituality, and the war on terror, Ms. Maxwell faces it all, head-on, and writes an emotional story of a less than perfect life. The ending takes on its own life, as we see that some answers to our largest problems are right in front of us all the time.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: Out of Breath by Blair Richmond

ISBN #: 978-0979647574
Page Count: 274
Released: October 11, 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Nineteen-year-old Kat Jones has been a competitive runner since she was a young girl, but after her mother's death, the path her life was supposed to take begins to crumble around her - until one day, she finds herself on the run in the literal sense, this time in a race for her very life.

Kat's journey takes her to the Pacific Northwest town of Lithia, the place of her last good memories, of the days when her mother was still alive. But soon after her arrival, strange things begin to happen in Lithia - and when one of her new friends disappears under mysterious circumstances, Kat begins to realize that Lithia's inhabitants are not all of this world. Worst of all, she is falling in love with one of these otherworldly locals, and the friend who hopes to save her has secrets of his own.

As Kat tries to rebuild her life, she is also training for a race that will turn out to be her biggest challenge yet, as she must outrun not only the demons of her past but the demons of the here and now, who threaten her very existence and that of the entire town.

Mandy's Review:


I like the cover.  I've always found cement angels slightly spooky. It fits well with the book.


Kat is a runner. It's evident when we meet her because that's what she's doing at the start of the book: Running.  Running from life; Running from emotions; Running from everyone and everything she knows.

She winds up in the town where she was born, Lithia. Once there, she starts to notice that the people act differently from any other place she's been. People joke it's the water making everyone so friendly.

Fortunate to have found a new place to live and a new job in one day, Kat's life picks up some semblance of a normal routine. Then she begins investigating the recent murders and suddenly Lithia doesn't seem to be as friendly as she thought.

Main Characters

Kat - A runner; a vegan. Slightly skittish when it comes to men. She's an only child whose mother died eleven years before.

Alex - A runner; a vegan. He works at the local co-op and shows Kat some kindness on her first day in town.

Roman - A carnivore. He's a local theater actor who lives in the castle at the top of the hill. Dark and mysterious. Doesn't like to talk about his past much.


Minus the two or three proofread mistakes (please keep in mind I was reading an ARC and not a final proof), this book is extremely well-written. I became engaged in this story from the first page. When I had to put it down (one must sleep and work!), I was eager to pick it back up again as soon a I could.

The story has some familiar elements, but with a new twist that I wasn't expecting (and that I think vampire-story/book lovers would appreciate). I would definitely recommend this book to readers of YA and mystery books.

Although it wasn't indicated anywhere in the book, that I can recall, I just know there's going to be a second book and I am impatiently awaiting its debut so I can read it!

Virtual Party Invite:

Ashland Creek Press is hosting a Virtual Book Launch Party on Monday, October 31, 2011. 

On Halloween, you can click here to go to Ashland's blog to help celebrate the launch of Out of Breath as well as Halloween. So, stop by their blog to join in on the festivities, which will include giveaways and Q&As with Out of Breath author, Blair Richmond.

They'll also be posting all Out of Breath reviews throughout that day, so you'll get the chance to see what others are saying about this debut novel.

Review: One Voice Too Many by Paul Martin Midden

ISBN #: 978-1463413262
Page Count: 436
Copyright: 2011


Do we really know each other? Jeremy Walker seemed like a decent human being: hardworking, independent, intelligent. But he has a past that he can not quite shake and a terrible secret that only he knew. Despite a history of rocky relationships, he was determined to make a success of his relationship with Macy, an attractive woman who was similarly smart and independent. Will he succeed? The obstacles loom large.

Charlene's Review:

Jeremy Walker thinks he finally found the one woman that he can have a successful relationship with. Macy seems to bring out the best in him, and her daughter, Taylor, completes the picture of a perfect family. Unfortunately, Jeremy has a secret that has followed him into the marriage.  The Voice, a mysterious entity that speaks to him when he's all alone. It's telling him to do things that he doesn't understand. It eventually costs him all he's worked so hard to control.

Mr. Midden, a practicing psychologist, takes us into the mind of a very troubled man. An intense thriller, it kept me captivated to the end. At times it seemed a bit too erudite for every day reading, but it is put together in such a way as to explain, if the reader just hangs on and pays attention. The premise seemed to be that you can never really know someone, and some secrets take on a life of their own. Jeremy's struggle for normalcy adds desperation, while the character-driven plot gives it a sentimental quality. The stand-out character is The Voice, though quiet in the background throughout much of the story, it speaks the loudest.

Engaging, suspenseful and entertaining!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Review: Dreaming of You by Barbara Mack

ASIN #: B004ZLA5M8
File Size: 76 KB
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Kathleen Donaldson is proud, 26 years old and unmarried. She's a woman of power and strength, and some even might call her sharp-tongued and bossy. That makes her an oddity in the 1800's. No matter what others think, Kathleen has adapted to her life, and most of the time she feels fulfilled and happy. But Kathleen has a secret and keeping it hidden is becoming increasingly hard to do.

Then Dr. Duncan Murdoch arrives in town. He's attractive and exotic and Kathleen feels an immediate attraction. Before she knows it, he's discovered her secret, and tells her she needs to 'spend some time with him' if she wants him to keep quiet. Kathleen knows what that means, and she's determined to find some way out of this predicament. No matter how much her own mother throws her at the gorgeous Doctor's head ... or how irresistible she finds him.

Mandy's Review:


Even though it's not the newest looking artwork, I still like this cover.  It looks whimsical, timeless and romantic.


Duncan keeps having dreams of a woman perfect for him.  He often finds himself waking up reaching for her as if she's in the bed with him.  Will he ever find her, Mrs. Right? Or will she remain a figment of his imagination?

Main Characters

Duncan - The small town's newest doctor. He's over six feet with a rockin' bod, blue eyes and black hair.

Kathleen - Petite, blond, with ample bosom and curves. She is lonely after the death of her fiance and has built a wall around her heart.


Personally, I am tiring of all romances following the same formula:
  • Man is tall, dark and handsome
  • Woman is busty and curvaceous
  • Man finds some way to manipulate woman into spending time with him
  • They have sex, fall in love and become engaged
Oh ... and ...
  • The sex is always mind-blowing
That being said, I enjoyed the story. It was well-written and a quick read. Despite being part of the overused romantic formula, I think most romance readers would enjoy this story.

Review: Inklings by Aparna Warrier

ASIN #: B004YL5S7G
File Size: 27 KB
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Stories tagged under urban life, oblique humor, romance, satire and even the purpose of life. In this book, you will find urban-style, simple prose, sprinkled with thought-provoking metaphors along the way. Inklings offers a glimpse into the world of intelligent flash fiction, which, while not a popular genre in traditional publishing, is making an impact in online literature.

Mandy's Review:

Inklings is a collection of stories, or glimpses, into different people's lives.  This allows the reader to ponder the beginning and ending of each life glimpse. 

Though Inklings is a quick read, it is perfect for those who enjoy pondering and meditating on a story. It is perfect for creative writers as it will inspire you to write your own longer version of each story.

Review: Three Sisters by Helen Smith

ASIN #: B004M5HK0M
File Size: 78 KB
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

It's bonfire night in London. Emily has been invited to a party in the big house at the end of her street by the new owners, whom she has never met. Emily's dog Jessie has recently died so Emily is feeling a little raw and emotional. How could she know, as she left her house that evening, that she was making an appointment with death?

Mandy's Review:


My original thoughts on this cover were: I would like to see a different art design for this cover. The dog is referenced in the story, but doesn't really play a huge role. The font and effects on the lettering could be better also... too much curviness.

Then, as I was looking online for a picture of the cover, I found this:

This cover looks A LOT better than the one that came on my e-book.  I would still like to see something other than the dog, but at least it looks like an actual book cover.


There's a murder afoot!

There's a party at the house at the end of the street. All of the neighbors are invited. There are quite a few circus acts, a DJ, a fire-pit roasted pig, etc. During the festivities, Emily has to figure out who killed a girl ... or was she really murdered?

Main Characters

Emily - Recently lost her dog, Jessie. Decides to go to the party to try and get over the death of her dog. Instead, Emily winds up "investigating" a crime.

Dr. Muriel - Emily's neighbor - Dr. Muriel plays the Dr. Watson to Emily's Sherlock Holmes.

Joe - Helps the circus folk out by building the props.

Chris - Owner/manager/mastermind behind all of the festivities.


I think this short whodunit would be good for a preteen or teen to read to get them interested in mysteries. For adults, however, this story would need to be improved upon and fleshed out.

Review: The Angel by Nastasha LaBrake

ISBN #: 978-1452829807
Page Count: 280
Copyright: 2010


Seth Salvadore-Knight knew that his family wasn't exactly "normal," but he didn't think his life was really all that different from other seventeen-year-olds'.  There were no unusual difficulties in his life, just the average problems all teenagers experienced.  That was, until he and his family moved to the town of Madison.  Almost instantly the hatred began to show, through violent attacks against him, his family and his friends.  It is this violence, this hatred, that will forever change his life and the lives of those closest to him.

Charlene's Review:

Seth's family seems fine to him, but moving to a new town with his two adoptive dads and little sister opens up a whole new reality.  His neighbors repeatedly try to break up the family, and a bully at school targets him and his friends.  Finding strength in a group of friends, from differing backgrounds, Seth wages war on the school bully, which ultimately leads him to a fight for his life, and that of the girl he loves.

The Angel is the first in the series "Madison", targeted to the young adult audience.  Simply written, its focus is on bullying, prejudice, and the trials of a teen boy trying to find acceptance for his family and friends.  While I found some of the circumstances, and the openness of the teenage characters in regards to their sexual identities somewhat unbelievable, (who is that willingly open and and highly developed in high school?) the theme that holds it all together is equality.  The Angel is a happy-ending story of hope.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review: Common Sense Investing by Rick Van Ness

ISBN #: 978-1466204515
Page Count: 108
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Learn basic financial concepts to make it more likely that you'll achieve common life goals such as owning a home, providing for yourself or your family, taking fun vacations, and retiring in comfort - all free from financial stress.  Topics include:
  • The ten rules to successful investing
  • How to write a personal investment plan
  • How to diversify your investments
  • How to know a good mutual fund
  • How to be a tax-savvy investor

Kathy's Review:

Admittedly, I need some common sense when it comes to investing.  I can barely balance my checkbook, and when it comes to my 401k, I choose the automatic option and just hope for the best.  When someone starts talking to me about the stock market, mutual funds, diversification, etc., all I hear is the voice of the Charlie Brown teacher talking: "Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah."

If you feel like me, you need this book.  Even if you don't, this book is an excellent reference tool for anyone who is looking to invest wisely for their future (and who isn't?).

The book is broken down into ten steps to invest successfully.  Each is covered in one (short) chapter.  I read this entire book in an evening.  Maybe took me an hour, tops.  And I underlined the heck out of it because it is just THAT chock full of good advice.

What I also like about the book is that Van Ness has no hidden agenda - he points to a multitude of references on the web, including videos, wikis, message boards and more.  In short, this is a mini "Bible" of investing.  And it's worded easy enough that even a financial dummy like myself can understand it.

After reading this book, I feel more confident about what I need to do to better invest my money and create a plan to save for the future.  I think you will, too.

Review: Estatic Evil by Amanda McNeil

ASIN #: B005C1AMK0
File Size: 197 KB
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Tova Gallagher isn't just your average tough as nails, intelligent Bostonian.  She also just so happens to be half-demon, and halvesies have an important role to play in the supe world.  Whether they choose to go with the instincts of their demon or human half is supposed to predict the outcome of the endtimes, and now Tova has a deadline to choose sides.  But all of that is hard to care about when she's just met a sexy stranger on the edge of the Charles River.

Mandy's Review:


The cover art is okay.  I'm not in love with it, but it does show depictions of the two main characters in this tale.


A halvesie, Tova must decide which half of her genetic makeup she will side with by her 25th birthday, the good or the evil.  Being evil is easy, especially with the use of her demonic powers, but she doesn't want to give up the good side either.

Is there a middle ground?  Or will Tova have to decide between the fairies (good) and demons (bad)?

Main Characters

Tova - Half-demon and half-human.  She's smart, independent and a co-owner of a Boston bookstore.

Greg - A werewolf; Tall and sexy.  Greg has an animal magnetism that draws Tova to him ... despite her feministic personality.

Bartleby - Tova's cousin.  He's the demon assigned to Tova to make sure she chooses her evil side.

Fae - The fairy assigned to Tova to make sure she chooses her good side.


It's an interesting, and sexy, twist to the whole 'good vs. evil' war that wages inside of every one.  It's a well-written semi-quick read that romance, fantasy and erotica readers would enjoy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review: Being Light by Helen Smith

ISBN #: 978-0956517036
Page Count: 223
Copyright: 2000

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Roy Travers is swept away by a freak gust of wind while trying to install a bouncy castle in Brockwell Park, south London.  Sheila, his wife, can't understand why he hasn't found his way back home.  She begins to suspect that Roy has been abducted by aliens and enlists the help of Mrs. Fitzgerald's Bureau of Investigation to find him.  Sheila travels to Kent with Alison, a private detective.  Together they build a missing persons advertisement out of pebbles on a beach, hoping it will seen by the aliens who have taken Roy.  But Roy was not taken by aliens.  The truth is far stranger.

Mandy's Review:


I noticed that there were several different covers for this book online.  I chose this one because I liked it the most.  It's the one that most relates to the story behind it.


There was a lot going on in this book.  But, after awhile, you can see how everything is connected.

To me, the main story was between Sheila and Roy.  Roy floats off in a bouncy castle one day and crash lands on Sylvia's land, called Paradise, thinking he has died and gone to Heaven.  Sheila, then, spends the rest of the novel looking for him, involving a slew of other colorful, slightly strange, characters.

Main Characters

Roy - Contentedly married to Sheila.  He often shows his love through doing things instead of saying how he feels.

Sheila - Roy's wife.  I felt she sort of took Roy for granted, always thinking he'd be there.  She did turn a little loopy during her search.

Sylvia - Lonely.  Has run away from the circus with an elephant.  Lives on the coast and receives very little company.

Jeremy - Sylvia's brother.  Quit the circus at the prompting of his sister.  He is always involved in one cause or another, which eventually leads to his downfall.


In the beginning, Ms. Smith introduced the characters pretty quickly and it seemed chaotic and disjointed.  However, as the story progressed, the pieces started fitting together in some semblance of order.

This just wasn't one of my favorites.  The chaos in the beginning made my mind feel like it was zig-zagging back and forth... and even though it started making sense after awhile, the magic of getting lost in a story was gone for me.

Review: Pilgrimage of Love by Anaiya Aon Prakasha

ISBN #: 978-1460963937
Page Count: 502
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:

Does "The One" truly exist?

This is the question that Scarlett O'Shea attempts to answer in this passionate, inspiring, and life-changing story of finding her Beloved.  As she travels around the world calling in "The One," an orchestra of events is set in motion that brings about their destined meeting.  Along the way, she discovers that her Beloved (who is a well-known International "spiritual" teacher) is far more demanding than her international celebrity yoga lifestyle could have ever imagined.  With flames licking at her heels, he invites Scarlett to leave her old life behind so she can fulfill her desire to know what happens when you say "Yes!" to love, no matter what the cost!  Ride the twists and turns of this roller coaster in this hilarious, irresistibly romantic, and soulful journey.  Pilgrimage of Love is a tale that will have you believing in love all over again.

Charlene's Review:

Pilgrimage of Love is an autobiographical story of a woman that is searching for her "beloved," someone more closely matched than a soul mate.  The book spells out all the steps one must take to find one's own "beloved," and the total surrender of one's self that is required.  Steeped in eastern religious views and meditations, Pilgrimage of Love was at once, fascinating, while being a tad too foreign for my comfort.

The lessons Prakasha believes in have some valid truths, such as facing past hurts and those things that hold us back, and making peace with them, in order to move on.  The notion that there is one soul who can make a woman complete is a beautiful thought, but the things Scarlett O'Shea put up with for her beloved are just short of domestic abuse.  She believes that such sacrifices make her a better person, which might be true, but I found it to be painful to witness.

The end of the book holds step-by-step directions on how to heal old wounds and prepare yourself for "the one."  If you are a believer of eastern spirituality, or open to its teaching, you will thoroughly enjoy this tale.  I found it to be a slightly lengthy read, with lots of heart and soul.  I may not be ready for this type of mysticism, but it was entertaining.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: For the Love of Texas by John D. Schutt

ISBN #: 978-1602648005
Page Count: 282
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Dr. Bobby Stump, a university professor of political science as well as President of the Texas Republic Movement, has spent most of his life dreaming of a free and independent Texas.  Over the years, his movement has attracted a few hundred like-minded individuals, but the group was never a strong enough voice to be heard universally.  Now that the new Administration in Washington is determined to strip Texans of more and more of their freedoms, Bobby Stump finds that he can rally an increasing member of the kindred spirits to his cause, including some wealthy and influential people as well as the Governor of Texas.  In an incredibly short period of time, the Texas Republic Movement begins to increase its membership by the thousands of Texans unwilling to let the Federal Government strip them of their inherent independence.  The ground surge of this grass-roots enterprise builds to a momentous conclusion, changing the lives and challenging the ideas of a watchful nation.  This is a must-read for anyone who loves and believes in freedom.

Charlene's Review:

For the Love of Texas focuses on Dr. Bobby Stump, the head of a movement that wishes to make the State of Texas a free and independent nation.  Unhappy with current events unfolding in the Nation's capitol, Dr. Stump finds a renewed energy behind his dream.  William Abraham Johnston, President of the United States, is a fiercely self-centered liberal, pandering to whichever ethnic or social group will further his career, whether it be illegals, or big oil companies.  As proponents of the Texas Republic Movement sees his charismatic personality threatening their way of life, thousands jump on the bandwagon to free Texas from the United States control.

I admire Mr. Schutt for his ability to take current events in our country and write a believable novel.  That said, it was a little too much for me, even as a staunch Republican.  Whether it was the intention or not, I felt it, at times, seemed to border on prejudice.  The issue of illegal aliens in our country is a great problem, but to dwell on it being the biggest cause of our nation's spiral was a little off-putting.

The novel was well-written, and showed a tremendous pride in the citizens of Texas, for its state.  The argument for succession seemed very valid, and the emotions behind the politics, though highly charged, fit with the unrest of our times.  Whether this book is intended to be informationally entertaining, or a bleak warning, I found it to be more of a one-sided political rant than an enjoyable story.
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