Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Literary Liberation Giveaway



It's that time again!  I am accumulating WAY too many books on my bookshelves.  So, in celebration of the upcoming Independence Day, I am liberating 31 books during the month of July.  I am opening up the giveaway form now, though, so I can begin drawing winners around July 1st.

For all of the details, you can visit the Literary Liberation Giveaway Link on the right side of page.

Good luck everyone! =)

Review - Olga: A Daughter's Tale by Marie-Therese Browne

ISBN #: 978-0-646-54559-2
Page Count: 214
Copyright: 2008


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

In 1994, my mother, Carmen Browne, was admitted to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton in the UK seriously ill.  As she slowly recovered I realised had she died so too would the chance for me to find out about our past, her family in Jamaica and, of great importance to me, who my father was, information she had resolutely refused to share with me.  So, I decided to find out for myself.

My first discovery was that my mother was, in fact, Olga Browney, born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, and one of eleven children from a close-knit coloured Catholic family.  A kind, naive and gentle girl, Olga came to London in 1939 to live with her malevolent, alcoholic aunt and intending to stay only six months.  But, world events, personal tragedy and malicious intent all combined to prevent her from returning to her family in Kingston.


Mandy's Review:

Cover

I thought the cover was okay when I first received the book, but after reading the story I looked at the cover a second time.  That second look endeared the cover to me.  I like to think the old photographs and color drawings on the cover are personal mementos from the author's, now gone, family members ... only the author knows for sure if they are.

Plot

The back cover states this book is written in the form of diary entries and old letters ... I would rather like to believe these chapters are reprints of actual diary entries and old letters.

Becky travels to Jamaica to visit her sister, Lucy, and decides she does not want to return to London.  During her visit, she falls in love with a man ... the result of which causes them to be the gossip of Jamaica.  They marry and have eleven children, Olga being one of them.

Years later, Olga travels to London because she wishes to attend dance school.  Due to a series of unfortunate events, Olga is unable to return to Jamaica when originally planned and decides to attend nursing school.  Sadly, naive Olga becomes a victim and now feels she can no longer communicate or visit her family in Jamaica.  She feels her secret is so huge and unforgiving that she becomes reclusive and takes whatever menial jobs she can to earn wages.

Eventually, the truth comes out and the Browney family is reunited.  The sad part is that some of Olga's family died believing Olga to be dead years before, thanks to one particularly cruel, and I believe jealous, member of the family.

Main Characters

Becky - I love Becky.  She had spunk, tenacity and didn't give one whit what society thought of her or her actions.  I understand Becky because I was in her place not too long ago.  I applaud Becky and will forever be proud of her and what she stood for.

Sydney - The eldest son of Becky - He had to become the man of the house after Becky kicked her husband out of the home.  Sydney was sometimes cruel to the other ten children, but thought he did his best by them when he could.

Martha - A spiteful, bitter, jealous, hypocrite of a lady - She was Becky and Lucy's sister who lived in London earning wages as a seamstress for a theater.

Olga - Naive, stubborn, proud, untrusting, self-depreciating ... These are a few adjectives that describe Olga.  She was a complex mixture of strong and weak.  It felt as though she struggled with wanting to be taken care of and being proud of the small accomplishments she made in providing for herself and her daughter.

Overall

I have a strong desire to learn my own ancestry, so knowing the author researched her family history and based this book on that history intrigued me.  I would have loved to have gotten to know Becky and Olga.  I rooted for both of them throughout the book and to know they actually existed makes me wish I were a part of their family tree.

To say I was drawn to this book or that I loved it is not enough.  I can say that, after reading it, it still resonates within me.

Review: No Rest for the Wicca by Toni LoTempio

ASIN #: B00427ZIIG
File Size: 340 KB
Copyright: 2010


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Communing with the dead is an everyday occurrence for PI Morgan Hawkes. A half-Wiccan witch who can commune with spirits of those caught between worlds, Morgan uses her talents to exorcise the trapped ghost or demon as part of the Paranormal Investigation Squad – until a string of murders with a voodoo slant prompts the Special Forces Agency to ask for her assistance. Someone’s killing pureblood witches- and the SFA’s convinced Morgan’s heritage (her father was a voodoo priest) could be instrumental in solving the mystery. Teamed with dashing SF agent Cole St. John – an Inheritor Vampire that sets her blood racing – the two of them fight their attraction for each other as they race to stop a madman from unleashing a demonic force upon the world.


Mandy's Review:

Cover

The cover is definitely sexy, but I'm not sure if it really gives you a preview of the story inside.  Yes, this story has some romance in it, but it is not the main objective.

Plot

A definite twist.  I don't recall ever reading a mystery that involved witches, vampires, trolls, shape shifters and more.

It certainly keeps the reader guessing until close to the end, where the reader finds out if they were correct or not.  There were elements of humor and romance, but they did not take away from the main focal point of the story ... and that was the mystery element.

Main Characters

Morgan - A hard-ass paranormal investigator who uses her tough exterior to keep away potential emotional entanglements.  She would rather be single and alone than to risk being hurt.  She used to work Homicide until a tragedy befell her partner.  Unable to forgive herself for her part in her partner's demise, Morgan now doubts her abilities with her Wiccan heritage.

Cole - A sexy vampire (what vampire isn't sexy?) who believes in Morgan and her abilities.  He requests her to work a case with him because of her Wiccan and voodoo knowledge.  We learn that Cole is also half-Wiccan, thanks to his mother's genetics.

Xia - Morgan's cousin who has psychic abilities and a fetish for collecting tarot card sets.  She is broad-minded and worries over Morgan, almost constantly.

Overall

I wasn't sure what to think when I first received this book from the author.  From the title and cover alone, I thought it was going to be an erotic tale involving witches.  This was not the case.  Because of the uniqueness involving witches, daemons, vampires, trolls and ghosts, No Rest for the Wicca is a novel that mystery lovers will enjoy reading.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Review: Karma and Melodies by Katie Salidas

ASIN #: B004MPRVBA
File Size: 387 KB
Copyright: 2011


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Second chances at love don't come very often, even for a vampire who has eternity.

Kendra used to spend her days organizing events for Café Enigma while daydreaming about Marcus, the sexy lead singer of Normal Paradox. But all those dreams of becoming Mrs. Rock Star died, along with her mortality, the moment Hector entered her life. He tricked her and seduced her into becoming a vampire, stealing Kendra away from Marcus forever.

Ten torturous years later; however, Kendra finds a way to escape Hector and is reunited with her lost love, Marcus. Now that she's found him she doesn't want to let him go. But, whispered threats from Hector begin invading her dreams. He's tracking her down, and she can feel it. He's a true monster, capable of unspeakable horrors, and Kendra knows what he will do if he catches them.
She'll have to make a choice: stay and fight for the man she's always loved, or protect him by leaving and keeping Marcus off of Hector's radar?


Mandy's Review:

Cover

Sexy and sets the tone for the story.

Plot/Main Characters

Kendra is a poetic lady who hopes to capture the attention of Marcus, the lead singer of a local band.  In the meantime, she captures the attention of an evil vampire, Hector, and is turned against her will.

Ten years later, Kendra comes across Marcus and they become joined by a blood bond as a result of an accident of fate.  Can Kendra escape Hector's authority over her?  Will Marcus be turned and become Kendra's mate?

Overall

This was a really short story (less than 100 pages on Kindle), but was entertaining nonetheless.  It definitely has the potential to become a novel, if the author were so inclined.  =)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review: The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

ISBN #: 978-0-7642-0708-2
Page Count: 391
Copyright: 2010


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Banished from the only home she's ever known, Mariah Aubrey hides herself away in an abandoned gatehouse on a distant relative's estate.  There she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way she knows how - by writing novels in secret.

When Captain Matthew Bryant leases the estate, he is intrigued by the beautiful girl in the gatehouse.  But there are many things he doesn't know about this beguiling outcast.  Will he risk his plans - and his heart - for a woman shadowed by scandal?


Mandy's Review:
(This book was provided to me by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review)

Cover

Victorian-esque and whimsical ... a perfect cover for this wonderful captivating story.

Plot

Set in a time when the touch of a hand implied a couple had feelings for each other, this story stirs a desire inside the reader for a more romantic and simpler time.  I have always loved the language and personalities surrounding the Victorian era and this novel exemplifies everything I love about this period.

A young lady shunned by "polite" society due to being found in a compromising situation, a greedy nephew searching for any way possible to make a guinea, a Captain who has come into money and is now striving to prove himself worthy to a certain young lady ... there are many plots within this one novel, but not once does it get confusing.  The author does a remarkable job of intertwining all of the characters' pasts and presents keeping the reader interested until the very end.

Main Characters

Mariah - Beautiful, young and, sometimes to her detriment, too trusting.  She lives in the gatehouse on an estate owned by her aunt's second husband's family.  She earns wages through a way of living that is deemed improper for a lady of her time.  She is a romantic at heart and strives to help as many people as she can.

Dixon - Mariah's former nanny-turned-companion.  Dixon has never been pursued by a male in her life, but suddenly finds herself the interest of two men's attentions.  She sometimes places her loyalty to Mariah above her longing for a life of her own.  Will she accept one of her pursuers' love and lead a life away from Mariah?

Matthew - Captain of the Navy and new leasee of Windrush Court.  He is striving, in every way possible, to make himself presentable to polite society in the hopes of winning one young lady's affections and the approval of her father.  What he does not anticipate are his growing feelings for another young lady of a questionable reputation.

Overall

I absolutely loved this book ... from the cover, to the plot, to the complexity of the characters and the intermingling of them all.  If you love a romantic story reminiscent of a Jane Austen novel, then you will love The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen.

June's BintoM Monthly Giveaway (#5)


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:

bannedbookreader@gmail.com


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.

June's BintoM Giveaway (ending June 12th) prize pack will consist of:
 
I Am Number Four book/movie combo


Here's a little bit about both:




I have a brand new hardbook copy (with dust jacket) of I Am Number Four written by Pittacus Lore that I bought from Books-A-Million.

Summary:  Nine of us came here.  We look like you.  We talk like you.  We live among you.  But we are not you.  We can do things you dream of doing.  We have powers you dream of having.  We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen.  We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books - but we are real.

Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them.  But they found us and started hunting us first.  Now all of us are running.  Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in.  We have lived among you without you knowing.

But they know.

They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They killed them all.

I am Number Four.

I am next.



To go along with the book, I have a brand new copy of I Am Number Four the movie:



Blurb:  John Smith is an extraordinary teen masking his true identity to elude a deadly enemy sent to destroy him.  Living with his guardian in the small town he now calls home, John encounters unexpected, life-changing events - his first love, powerful new abilities and a secret connection to the others who share his incredible destiny.

DVD Bonus Features:

Bloopers

"Becoming Number Six" - Follow actress Teresa Palmer as she masters her stunts, surprising everyone, including herself


DVD Info:

109 Minutes

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for brief language
(Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13)

Widescreen Version


Main Actors:

Alex Pettyfer
Timothy Olyphant
Teresa Palmer
Dianna Agron
Callan McAuliffe
Kevin Durand


Enter below for your chance to win and good luck!


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review: Air Mail by Naomi Bulger

ISBN #: 978-1-4502-3549-5
Page Count: 103
Copyright: 2011


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Reclusive old Mr. G. L. Solomon's favorite things are single malt whiskey, Steve McQueen movies, and gingersnap cookies.  He hates processed cheese, washing detergent commercials, and the way the teacup rattles in the saucer when he picks it up.  Solomon has become accustomed to his lonely routine in Sydney, Australia - until the day he begins receiving letters in his mailbox from a complete stranger.

On the other side of the world, Anouk is a mentally delicate young woman living in New York who insists she is being stalked by a fat woman in a pink tracksuit.  When Anouk declares to Solomon that she is writing "from the Other Side," the old man breaks away from his daily grind of watching soap operas and reading Fishing World and travels to New York to find her.  As he is drawn into Anouk's surreal world of stalkers and storytelling, marbles and cats, purgatory and Plato, Solomon has but one goal - to unravel the mystery before it is too late.


Mandy's Review:

Cover

To make the cover look like a postcard was ingenious.  I think it original and shows the creative imagination of one smart individual.

Plot/Main Characters

Although this book was short, it causes a reader to think while, and after, reading it.  It was definitely ... interesting and different.

Anouk is a strange person.  She writes letters to a person she doesn't know and spills out all her feelings.  I have yet to figure out why she includes a memento with each letter, but I do think it a neat idea.

Mr. Solomon is an older gentleman stuck in his routinely ways.  I won't say he's lonely because he seems rather content on his own.  For some reason, though, one of Anouk's letters causes something in the old man's brain to spur him into action.  As a result, he travels to New York on his very first trip out of his Australian homeland.

What then results is that the old man changes ... he becomes more outgoing and constantly experiences new things.  Will he find Anouk?  Can he help her?

Overall

This was a smartly written book.  Definitely an entertaining quick read that will make you think "what if ..."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blog Tour/Guest Post: Simla to Shimla by Elle Newmark

Please welcome author of The Sandalwood Tree, Elle Newmark



"Simla to Shimla"


While in Shimla, Queen of British Hill Stations, researching The Sandalwood Tree, we drove up and down roads that were brake-shrieking steep, only partially paved, and composed of hairpin corners that required three-point turns.  I was thrown side to side and up and down as we zigzagged around other cars, monkeys, bicycles, dogs, cows and unconcerned pedestrians walking along the edge of a 5,000-foot drop.  Occasionally, we met a rusty tourist bus that required the skill of a brain surgeon to get past it.  I looked down at pine forests, gracefully terraced hillsides, and hotels hanging precariously off the sides of mountains, wondering how the hell the British did it.  How did they establish themselves these forbidding mountains in the 1800's?  Mules, I was later told.  Mules hauled up everything needed to build Shimla.

Mules?  A mule can carry what, a couple hundred pounds?  The Viceregal Lodge in Shimla is as sprawling and impressive as the most palatial estate in England and it's furnished with fine heavy furniture and valuable art.  Christchurch boasts butter-colored spires and magnificent stained glass that would rival anything in Europe.  The Gaiety Theater can seat hundreds and looks as though it was transplanted directly from 1900 London.  The Willow Bakery and Pelitis Tea Shoppe stood ready to supply scones and cakes for any occasion.  Clark's Hotel is a big Tudor affair with all the amenities.  The main street - The Mall - is lined with iron benches and pretty tubs of flowers and even has a bandstand.  It was an entire Victorian village transplanted, brick-by-brick, custom-by-custom in the Himalayas.  Mules?  You really do have to hand it to them.

Today, of course, India is Indian and although the fine colonial buildings still stand, the Mall is a bazaar of open-sided stalls and crowds of people in a moving kaleidoscope of color.  A stroll down the Mall will take you past The Timely Tailor Shop, Thakur General Store, The Silk Emporium, Sanjay's Internet Cafe, The Pashmina Emporium, and Tension Free Parking.  You will also see noodle shops, ice cream vendors, and snack stalls where the cook is hidden behind a mountain of golden pakoras and samosas.  In chai stalls, you can watch a man pour water into a tin pot, then add a spoonful of something black, something white, something brown, a dash of spice and bring it all to a boil.  The result will be masala chai, a fragrant, creamy tea, redolent of cardamom, served in a tiny china cup.

What you will not see is McDonald's, because in India, a quarter pounder would be sacrilege.  The cows, with their humped backs and beautiful eyes, are sacred.  I saw a beleaguered woman walking along a dusty road carrying about 50 pounds of firewood on her head.  The cow that she had taken to graze while she gathered the wood walked ahead of her, unburdened, well-fed and wearing blue beads on its horns.

Simla was once a British enclave for privileged colonials to escape the hot, hot weather of the plains.  It was a heroic attempt to recreate England in India and it almost succeeded.  The colonials went so far as to forbid Indians to walk on the Mall or enter colonial buildings, but one needed servants and so it all hot hopelessly muddled.

Today, Shimla is a curious hybrid of faded British glory and changing Indian culture.  Old Simla was an idyllic piece of England set against an astonishing Himalayan backdrop; new Shimla is a melange of Indian bazaars, colonial architecture, and the congestion of 21'st century hotels and cars.  These days, one has to travel out of Shimla to see the Himalayas.  Pity.

*If you're interested in reading my review of The Sandalwood Tree, click here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Review: My Superhero Sister by Toni LoTempio

ASIN #: B004KZP1Q4
Size: 278 KB (Kindle)
Copyright: 2011


Book Summary:
(Provided to me by author)

Holly Hamilton has always been perturbed by the way her older sister, Ellen, seems to get everything.  It's especially tough living in the shadow of your sister's cape when she's a super heroine named Suprema!

With one super-parent and one not, it was inevitable that the girls would turn out different.  Unfortunately for Holly, she takes after her earthling mother. Ellen has taken over their retired father’s role as Century City's reigning superhero, balancing school and super-duties with remarkable ease while it’s a struggle for Holly to get through her English class without mishap, not to mention those Cheer Squad tryouts!

The girls learn their father’s old nemeses, Anti-Hero, has escaped from his Space Prison, and they’re concerned – Anti-Hero nullified their father’s powers once – what else does he have in store for him and Suprema?  When another teen superhero extraordinaire appears on the scene, they’re even more puzzled.  Who is Magna Boy? Is he friend or foe?  And does he have a connection to Anti-Hero?   The appearance of two  new guys at school, teen heartthrob Tad Barker and nerd Ed McGee, set Holly and her sister to wondering—and arguing—could one of them be the new super kid on the block?  If so, which one?

Working with her friend Mona and her scientist uncle, Holly finally uncovers Anti-Hero’s dastardly plot – he intends to capture Suprema and Magna Boy and siphon their powers for himself!   Before she can warn her sibling, however, Anti-Hero strikes and captures the superheroes.  Now it’s up to Holly to use her ingenuity and prove to everyone, but most of all herself, that you don’t’ have to be a superhero for good to win out over evil…or to nab a super-boyfriend, either!


Mandy's Review:

Cover

I hate to say it, but I'm not a big fan of the cover.  I understand it ... I'm just not a fan.  It reminds me of the old comic books with how the two girls are drawn.

Plot

The story definitely has action and suspense while still dealing with the normal teenage feelings of inadequacy, jealousy over an older sibling and low self-esteem.

It definitely kept my interest.  However, I must say the ending lacked a little oomph for me.  I understand why the author went in the direction she did, but I did not find it as exciting action-wise as the pages before it.

Main Characters

Ellen - Holly's older sister and superheroine, Suprema - Ellen has taken after her father's side of the family and has become a superhero.  She's smart, attractive, fun and people are drawn to her ... which can be a source of contention where Holly is concerned.

Holly - Ellen's younger sister and normal human - Holly has her father's physique, but her mother's human nature.  Holly is jealous of Ellen and how perfect she is.  Only when Holly is thrown into an unexpected situation does she somewhat understand how Ellen's life must be.

Tad - New kid in town - He has just arrived in Century City and is Holly's crush.  Even though Tad is in Ellen's grade, Holly tries her best to get Tad to notice her and like her.  He's the All-American good looking hunk that all the girls go ga-ga over.

Overall

There were a couple writing errors and some questions left unanswered (for me), but overall I was drawn into this book and enjoyed it.  I would recommend this more to the teen crowd rather than the adults.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: The Father's Child by Mark Adair

ASIN: B004DCB3W0
File Size: 396 KB
Copyright: 2010


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

John Truman, a bright, introverted, college student belongs to the New Dawn...he just doesn't know it yet. The plans of the 300-year-old, Oxford-based, secret society revolve around him, the final piece in their puzzle. He struggles with almost everything - the girl he loves, the extroverted uber-social best friend, his estranged father, and the recurring visions that compromise his ability to interact with others. All John wants is to get through today; all they want is to rule the world.


Mandy's Review:

Cover/Title

The cover is dark and mysterious-looking and I'm not sure it captures the story exactly.  There is definitely a mysterious element to the story, but it's not as dark as you would think by looking at the cover.

The title has a literal meaning, yes, but after reading the story I realized it was also a play on words ... in more ways than one.

Plot/Main Characters

John is a brilliant whiz kid who grew up not knowing his biological father.  Susan and he have been friends ever since they were little and now feel destined to be together.

Paul, John's outgoing friend, is a bit of a player where the ladies are concerned.  He's slightly egotistical and is uncomfortable with anything outside of the norm.  One day, Paul meets Julia ... the girl who flabbergasts him and causes him to forget about all other women ... or so we think.

Then we have the New Dawn ... a long-lived organization with plans to take control of the world (insert evil laugh here).  The operatives and leaders of this organization are well hidden in society ... sort of like the CIA, FBI, NCIS, you get the idea.

All four lives of the above mentioned people have been  intertwined far longer than they are aware of.  Those lives have also been intimately intertwined with the very organization they believe they need to stop, the New Dawn.  Will they find out the truth?  Will they still try to stop the New Dawn?

Overall

This novel has intrigue/mystery, humor and keeps you guessing quite often.  It wasn't the most easy of reads sometimes, but it did keep my interest.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Blog Tour/Review: The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark


Welcome to The Sandalwood Tree virtual book tour starring Elle Newmark.  This tour is being sponsored by Tracee at Pump Up Your Book.  Enjoy!


Book Info:

ISBN #: 978-1-4165-9059-0
Page Count: 357
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: Atria Books (a division of Simon & Schuster)


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

From incredible storyteller and national bestseller Elle Newmark comes a rich, sweeping novel that brings to life two love stories, ninety years apart, set against the backdrop of war-torn India.

Bursting with lavish detail and vivid imagery of Bombay and beyond, The Sandalwood Tree is a powerful story about betrayal, forgiveness, fate, and love.


Mandy's Review:

Cover

I am absolutely infatuated with the colors on the cover of this book.  I find them gorgeous and was drawn to them as soon as I opened up the envelope the book arrived in.

Unless I missed something while reading, I'm not sure how the stairs correlate to the story ... unless it is metaphorical.  Perhaps a woman at a crossroads?  Should she climb the stairs to civility or turn away and head on her own path?  Hhmmm ...

Plot

I've always enjoyed books where there's two different times and plots happening and then they're joined somehow towards the end.  If well written, I find those types of stories intriguing and attention-grabbing.  Does that mean this book was well written?

Oh my gosh, yes!  I loved this book.  There was romance, political/societal tension, war, murder, mystery ... I think this book had every element possibly imaginable.  This may seem like a lot of elements in one story, but the way Elle writes it makes the transitions seamless.

Main Characters

Evie - Wife of Martin; Mother to Billy - She is confused by the change in her husband after the war ended.  She couldn't understand his tendencies toward isolation, brusqueness and volatileness.  She felt like giving up several times, but was taught patience and acceptance by the people of India.

Martin - Husband to Evie; Father to Billy - He is a war veteran who is disappointed with himself and his actions during the war.  He still loves Evie, but is unsure how to show her when he comes home from the war.  He has come to India to write a historical thesis.

Adela - Born in England, she has lead a very sheltered life.  She becomes aware of her sexuality during an innocent encounter with a dear friend.  She leaves England for India with the supposed hope of finding a husband.  She really left to escape her parent's home and to experience true unbridled freedom to live how she chooses.

Felicity - Born in India, Felicity is sent to England to acquire proper schooling.  She lives with her host family and becomes great friends with the family's daughter.  Upon returning to India, Felicity becomes involved in charities and meets a married Indian man whom she falls in love with.

Overall

Elle Newmark has become one of my must-read authors thanks to The Sandalwood Tree.  If you've never read an Elle Newmark novel like me and you enjoy intrigues, history, love stories and an intertwining of two different eras, then I would highly recommend you read The Sandalwood Tree.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Review: Just A Few Seconds by Nemo James

ISBN #: 978-0956798602
Page Count: 266
Copyright: 2011


Book Summary:
(Taken from back of book)

Derek dreamt of becoming a professional musician from the first time he picked up a guitar following a talent contest disaster. Thought of by his friends as being the person most likely to make the big time he turned professional but was continually side tracked from stardom by the need to earn a living from music.

His journey takes him all over the world from private gigs for the rich and famous to the roughest pubs. Starting in the late sixties when heavy rock was born, through to the 1980's and 90's when discos and electronics decimated live music in dance halls.

An amusing and heartrending story of perseverance showing how the road to success can lead us down the strangest of paths.


Charlie's Review:

Derek “Nemo James” Newark takes us on an autobiographical journey through the ups and downs of trying to make it as a professional musician. Along the way, he finds himself doing everything possible to make his dream come true, no matter how far off the path it takes him. His will to succeed never falters and eventually, he finds his peace with the music of his life.

As much a tribute to the musicians’ struggle as it is a picturesque travelogue, Nemo James actually led a charmed life amid the world’s most glamorous places. He paints pictures of the towns and their people that make them live on the page. A very straightforward autobiography, but written with humor and charm.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: Precious Norman Honor by A. L. Stumo


ISBN #: 978-0983484707
Page Count: 280 (paperback); 77 (ebook)
Copyright: 2011


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Maud has always found that running errands and being helpful lets her go wherever the action is happening and wins the approval of her parents.But now that the castle is under siege by their own king, all that she knew is mixed up. She cannot go run errands outside, she cannot even see outside, and her parents only want her to sit still and be safe. Maud longs to see the army outside and make this siege come to a happy end so that her life with her friends and family can return to normal. But can her life ever be normal again? Will she even be alive after this siege? Based on an actual siege in 12th century England, “Precious Norman Honor” is Maud’s tale of conflicted loyalties, climbing attempts, and confinement.


C.J.'s Review:

Okay, let me start by saying one thing: I love history.  I love watching it, I love hearing stories about it, I would even love to travel back in time to Shropshire, England in 1102 to Bridgnorth Castle ... just to throw myself from the top of the castle walls to King Henry's army.  Then maybe, just maybe, there would be something interesting in this story to read about.  Don't get me wrong, I wanted so badly to like this story, because it is about history.  It just wasn't happening.

The author stayed true to historical information about the siege and I think that may have been where the story lost me indefinitely. Truth of the matter is, the siege in and of itself was an inconsequential historical moment. Nothing worth writing about really happened and the people of Bridgnorth Castle simply gave up without a fight. I will give props to the author for even finding a way to make a story out of this hiccup in England's past.

Let me put it to you straight, this read is painful ... and it is the lack of action that killed me.  I NEED for something to happen: an epic sword fight, a bloody army exchange, I would have even taken two horses kicking each other in the arse.  What I got was Maud and her buddy, Rowena, trying to convince everyone at the castle to let them climb something tall enough to see the army besieging their castle.

HEADS UP!!!  SPOILER ALERT!!!!

News flash: Maud and Rowena stumble through 77 pages of bland history to ... wait for it ... just a little longer ... climb a ladder.  Yep, that's it, to climb a ladder!  Let's reflect for a minute ... 77 pages of boring history, two girls whining the whole 77 pages and an inner monologue that would only have been worse if I had been struck by lightning while reading it.  And all the author gives us is they get to climb a ladder and see the army.

When I saw the ending, I immediately looked around my living room in disbelief.  You know ... there are some times I'm remorseful for being blunt and honest, but this time A. L. you deserve this one.  There has got to be a better way to end the book; have Maud make it half way up the ladder and fall to her death!  What is wrong with that? The author may have spent a lot of time and hard work on this story, but she has stolen precious hours from me that I'll never get back.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Giveaway: The Other Side by E. Thomas Finan

Fieldnor Press has approached me about hosting a giveaway for E. Thomas Finan's book, The Other Side (you can read my review here).  There will be one paperback copy given away to U.S. residents only and one ebook copy given away internationally.

All you have to do is fill out the short form below.  The giveaway will be open from now until Sunday, May 22nd.  Winners will be chosen at that time and contacted via email.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen in their place.

Good luck! =)

Blog Tour/Guest Post: Hi, My Name Is Amy and I am a Vampire

Welcome Amy Mah, author of Fangs Rule: A Girls Guide To Being A Vampire


Hi, my name is Amy and I am a vampire and every time I say that think I sound like I have joined some sort of help group and I should now say: "It has now been three weeks since I had my last drink of blood," this should be followed by everyone else in the group clapping.

As I mentally look around the group I can see the werewolf is now wearing a large flee collar with the name Fido on it, which is a little odd as we all know his real name is Fred the Wolf.

And as we can all see the ghost it is really no point in him moving things around the room and going woooooooooooo all the time, and the next time he leaps out and say boo to me I am personally going to exorcise him by sucking him up in a vacuum cleaner.

Anyway I am going way out the point of my blog today and that is I am going to explain to you a very important numbering system that every vampire girl should know by heart, and that is the special numbers that explain exactly how far you are prepared to go with a boy and it is called the Base System, so here goes ...

BASE

When dating it is handy to know the code words of what you are doing with each other.  Believe it or not others have also done it, and have even numbered it!  So what is at 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th base? ... And yes there is a 5th base.

FIRST BASE

OK, this is the one we normally call making out, and unless you are on heat it stops at kissing, hugging and generally grabbing at each other.  At this stage you can bite a boy but he is not allowed to bite you back.

SECOND BASE

Letting a boy feel you above the waist - you know where I mean.  For some reason boys are fascinated with boobs, and with plastic surgery so easily available nowadays I don't see why they don't get their own.  Something to remember at this stage in a relationship is the golden rule that the only person allowed to touch your boobs with cold hands is a doctor.  If a boy forgets this golden rule and laughs as you leap in the air with the first stages of frost bite, you are fully entitled to ban him from touching them or other parts of your body until he learns the error of a misplaced laugh.  It is a good idea to also threaten to give him a very painful bite in a place where he can't show his friends.

THIRD BASE

This is when you let a boy bite you and you can both suck each other's blood - just don't let your parents find out (carry a packet of tissues to wipe away the blood stains).

FOURTH BASE

Homerun (er ... raising one's tail)

FIFTH BASE

Doing all of the above when on heat, this is called running the bases, it is also called getting pregnant and discovering that you have not just raised your tail and instantly got pregnant!  But, due to a bonding contract signed years ago by your parents, you now have a lifetime mate!

This can also come as a pleasant surprise to the boy who will be so happy he will wish to leave the Nest as fast as he can to celebrate.  He is generally so overcome with excitement that some of your male relatives may have to knock him unconscious and drag him to a quiet room where they can show him the contract and gently explain to him his new role as a loving mate and father, and also point out how lucky he is to have them protect him from various painful accidents that could so easily happen to him if he did not quickly become a relative.

If you have found this useful, then look out for more helpful hints from my book:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review: Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock

Promises to Keep
ISBN #: 978-0-7642-0809-6
Page Count: 343
Copyright: 2011


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

A mother fleeing unspeakable danger to keep her children safe ...

Two young girls guarding secrets in a "cross my heart and hope to die" pledge ...

A father desperate to be reunited with his family ....


Mandy's Review:
Book was provided to me by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review

Cover

I like the cover ... the little girl with pigtails just reminds me of simpler times and of the sweetness of childhood.

Plot

The story takes place in the 1960s when civilization was on the cusp of sexual and recreational reformation.  We meet a mother who moves her children away from their abusive alcoholic father.  While in their new home in the new town, they meet an elderly lady who has one last wish that she is determined to see through.  Will their past catch up with them?  Will the elderly lady get her wish?

Main Characters

Rosalind - A little girl who desperately misses her father and doesn't completely understand why they left him behind.  She wants to believe that he'll change for the better because she wants them all to be a family again.

Tillie - An elderly lady who wants nothing more than to die in the same house her husband and she built.  She is patient, kind and can be the life of the party.

Alan - An alcoholic father who hunts down his family and tricks Rosalind into believing his lies.  Her belief in him allows him to use her in helping him into their home with possibly dangerous consequences.

Overall

I love a book that has short chapters as it seems to go faster while reading ... like this one is set up.  I would consider this an easy read.  Ann Tatlock has a gift of writing that will keep you engaged in the story until the very end.

Review: North of Sunset by Henry Baum

ISBN #: 978-1411656567
Page Count: 279
Copyright: 2007


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

If there's an everyman, then Michael Sennet is every celebrity. Michael Sennet is a movie star. He should be happy, but he's bored. What does he do after he's achieved the best of everything: the best women, the best cars, the best homes, the best drugs? He doesn't have an answer. Meanwhile, the Vanity Plate Killer is roaming the streets of Los Angeles looking for new victims and dreaming of fame of his own. When Michael Sennet uses the M.O. of the Vanity Plate Killer, they find something that eclipses any starring role.


Charlie's Review:

Michael Sennet is a celebrity. Everywhere he goes, he’s instantly recognized as a star who has it all.  Eventually, this narcissistic actor yearns for more and ends up making a careless mistake that catches the eye of the paparazzi. Blackmailed by photographs that could ruin his career, Michael murders the offending journalist, and uses the method of a local serial killer, the “Vanity Plate Killer,” to throw off the police. Finding new energy and power in the murder, Michael finds himself falling deeper and deeper into the mind of a killer.

North Of Sunset is a study in the human mind. The depth in which he developed the characters, while playing on the life of arrogant movie stars, is entertaining and believable. The lengths to which man will go for their own celebrity is also studied.

A scandalous murder mystery of human self-promotion. You truly believe in the end that there is nothing you can’t get away with if your address is North of Sunset.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

BintoM Winner!



May's prize pack consisted of a brand new full color edition of Charlotte's Web written by E. B. White, a brand new copy of the original animated Charlotte's Web movie and a brand new copy of the made-into-movie Charlotte's Web featuring Dakota Fanning (and others).  The winner of May's BintoM prize pack is:




Congratulations Michael!  Hope you enjoy! =)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Review: Ladies and Gentlemen ... The Redeemers by Michael Scott Miller


ISBN #: 1456363476
Page Count: 286
Copyright: 2010


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Ladies and Gentlemen…The Redeemers tells the story of Bert Ingram, once a successful rep in the music industry, who has lost his way. Desperate for redemption, the perpetual dreamer decides to put together a band, recruiting musicians who have only one thing in common: the need to overcome a significant obstacle in their lives. The volatile mix of the musicians' personalities and backgrounds threatens to derail the band at every opportunity, but in time, the Redeemers begin to realize they have more to gain from one another than they ever could have imagined.


Charlene's Review:

Bert Ingram is still struggling to recover from losing his career in the music field. Years have passed, but he refuses to give up on his dream to return to the top. After “teaming up” with a musician in the subway, begging change, he comes up with a plan to start a new band to manage.

Bert starts his search for talent in the subways and missions around San Francisco. An eclectic group forms, from the blind lead singer and the card-smart street hustler who plays sax, , to the middle class music teacher/keyboard player. The only common link between the musicians is the past they are all trying to redeem. As the band grows, musically, they are forced to mesh, or face losing their dream of success, altogether.

The characters are emotionally engaging as they face their inner demons and disappointments.  You get to know their struggles, and can relate to where life has taken them. Shows how your station in life can improve if you choose to work together for a common good. A very well written, feel good novel that will leave you wanting to dust off your own dreams!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Review: Exposure by Therese Fowler

Exposure: A Novel
ISBN-10: 0345515536
ISBN-13: 978-0345515537
Page Count: 384
Copyright: May 3, 2011 (Ballantine Books)


Book Summary:
(Taken from ARC)

High school seniors Amelia Wilkes and Anthony Winter are deeply in love, though until she turns eighteen, Amelia is keeping their relationship a secret from her overbearing father.  But their passion is exposed much sooner than expected when Harlan Wilkes finds naked "sexting" photos of Anthony on his daughter's computer.  Furious, Harlan calls the police and presses criminal charges against Anthony for disseminating harmful materials to a minor.  Anthony is arrested, expelled from school, and labeled by the salacious media as a sexual predator.  He becomes a walking pariah.

A headline-seeking DA launches a crusade to bring this burgeoning "sexting" crisis to light, and Amelia is arrested as well.  With blind justice settling two families at odds, common sense swiftly becomes a casualty.  Even Anthony's mother, Kim, finds herself under investigation, her teaching job and financial future in serious jeopardy.

As events spiral wildly out of control, with love seemingly the only consolation in an unjust world, Anthony has no choice but to enact a bold plan to stop the madness once and for all.


Mandy's Review:

Cover/Title

You get the feeling that the couple on the cover is trying to hide each other ... to prevent the risk of the other being exposed.  It also makes you think of the love that each of them feels for the other to want to try and protect each other like they are.

Exposure is such an apt title for this book.  There are so many definitions to this title within the story, which I love.  It makes one think outside of what one would normally think of when thinking 'exposure.'

Plot

I don't usually describe books as 'gripping,' but this one is.  It grabs you from the first few pages and doesn't let go until the end.  The book flowed smoothly from one incident to the next.  The characters were so realistic they could be a member of anybody's family.

You could feel the love between Anthony and Amelia, the anger and self-righteousness of Harlan, the angst and worry of Kim ... the book was wonderfully written.

Main Characters

Anthony - An eighteen-year-old who fell in love with Amelia.  He's romantic, poetic, respectful and hard-working.

Amelia - A seventeen-year-old who fell in love with Anthony.  She's overly protected by her parents.  She's determined yet a dreamer.  She wants to fight the injustices of her father, but is so much of a daddy's girl she's unsure how.

Harlan - Suffice it to say, this man made me angry.  He was bound and determined to believe his daughter an innocent and that she was coerced by Anthony ... although Amelia tried to tell him differently on several occasions.  Harlan wanted Anthony jailed for what he did, but was upset when Amelia's turn came to be arrested and tried.

Kim - A teacher at Anthony and Amelia's school, but also Anthony's mother.  She knew about Anthony and Amelia's secret relationship, but did not feel the need to get involved ... until the legal ramifications began.  Kim is a single mother, being left by her husband (Anthony's dad) a month or so before Anthony was born.  She raised Anthony quite well, but felt she failed as a mother somehow when Amelia's and his legal problems began.

Overall

I love this book.  Therese Fowler has become a new must-read author for me.  I recommend this book to everybody ... especially those who have teenagers or are teenagers.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

RAK - Random Acts of Kindness: May

I've seen this feature before, but haven't had the opportunity to participate until now.  How does this work?  Glad you asked!


Book Soulmates



RULES:
• Sign up each month that you'd like to participate.
• Show off your participation by grabbing our RAK button :)
• Create a wish list (on Amazon, Goodreads, or your blog etc) and post it in the Google Doc located in each R.A.K post for the month.
• If you choose to do a R.A.K for someone, check out their wish list and contact that blogger for their address.
• At the end of the month, SHOW US YOUR R.A.K!
Make a post saying 'Thank You' to whoever granted one of your wishes and share it with us :)


OPEN TO EVERYONE!
Let's keep our International bloggers in mind and in our hearts.
Remember, there's always the Book Depository and they offer FREE shipping!


Easy peasy!

Interested?  Want to sign up?  Then click here to sign up and see the wishlists of those who have already signed up.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blog Tour/Review: Happiness Quotations by Erica M. Nelson

ISBN #: 978-1-936214-39-6
Page Count: 137
Copyright: 2011

Welcome to Erica M. Nelson's Happiness Quotations Blog Tour


Below you will find book/author info and my book review ... enjoy!





Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Happiness is your birthright.  Step into a world where you are gently reminded of your own capacity for happiness, joy, inspiration, delight, and a new awakening.

Happiness is recession proof.  You can feel good about your life again.

Happiness Quotations: Gentle Reminders of Your Preciousness is a gift you give yourself, and then you may choose to give this gift to others.


Book/Author Info:
(Click any of the links below to go to that page)


Got a question for the author?  Click here to send her an email!


Nelson wrote for California newspapers as a news reporter when she was young, and still writes a weekly newspaper column "Working Knowledge," for seven San Francisco Bay Area newspapers including the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times.

Her first book, Prospect When You Are Happy (2007, Happy Publishing, an imprint of Wyatt-MacKenzie), was designed to help people master the practical applications of the Law of Attraction by getting happy first so that results skyrocket.

In Happiness Quotations, her intention is to give you daily pearls of wisdom, gentle reminders to become all that you are capable of becoming.  Step into your happiness, one breakthrough at a time.

She lives with her children, husband and her Tennessee Walking Horse in Silicon Valley, California.


Mandy's Review:

Cover

The cover is made to look like the wrappings of a gift, which is the happiness you will find in between the covers of the book.

Plot

The book is set up so you can read one daily affirmation a day or several a day ... the choice is yours.  Each affirmation is only a page long and reminded me of a devotional format.

Overall

I understand the concept behind the book.  I agree that people need more happiness in their lives.  There were even quite a few phrases/sentences that I could agree with and made me say "Aha!"  However, I must be honest and say that a lot of the daily readings seemed repetitive.  It just seemed like the same thing was being said, but in different ways ... and it wasn't all just about happiness.

The themes that kept being repeated were: Be happy, Strive for your goals and Let go of all the negative things in your life.  Now, like I said, I agree people need to be more happy and I understand the concept of this book, but I feel that over half of these daily readings could've been removed and the book would've been just as effective.

If you're into spiritualism (not religion ... totally different) and a zen-like feeling, then this book would be perfect for you.

Review: Credo's Hope by Alison Naomi Holt

Credo's Hope (Alex Wolfe Mysteries)
ASIN #: B004H4XH2I
Page Count: 256
Copyright: 2010


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Introducing Detective ALEXANDRA WOLFE, a fresh, funny, tough cop who skates on the edge of the law in her quest for justice. A Mafia boss, a hunky bi-sexual nurse, Alex’s rescued mutt, Tessa, and her exuberant best friend, MEGAN, help Alex turn her everyday life as a detective upside down.

Six years ago, Brian McClelland was murdered, and his brother was convicted of shooting him. When Megan bullies Alex into reviewing the case, Alex discovers that her captain was the chief investigator who overlooked evidence that might have proved the brother’s innocence.

Against the captain’s orders and Alex’s better judgment, she unofficially re-opens the case and finds herself following a twisted investigative trail left by the murder victim. The problem is, she has no idea what he was investigating or whether his investigation ultimately led to his death.

As she digs into clues from the past, she finds herself at the doorstep of the beautiful and daunting Giannina Angelino, who just happens to be the head of the Angelino Crime Family. Things really heat up for Alex when she starts to receive unsolicited help from the mafia, and the police department, once again orders her to stay away from the murder investigation and from any connections with organized crime. This in itself proves difficult since Gianina doesn’t answer to Alex’s chain of command and continues to help wherever and whenever she sees fit.

Alex’s unorthodox methods blur her personal and professional lives and when her two worlds collide, keeping her day job becomes the least of her worries as Alex struggles to keep from following the dead man’s trail straight to her own demise.


Mandy's Review:

Cover

The horse on the cover, as I found out while reading, is a racing horse named Credo's Hope.  The lady with the gun on the front is Detective Alex Wolfe.  So, the cover is an apt depiction of a couple of main character(s) that is in the story.

Plot/Characters

Alex is an arse-kicking, quick-tempered detective who has a knack for getting into trouble without even trying.  Her mother is constantly trying to get her invited to get-togethers where Alex could possibly meet "Mr. Right."

Casey is Alex's work partner.  She thinks before speaking and tries her best to get Alex to do the same thing.

Kate is Alex and Casey's boss and finds Alex's antics somewhat humorous, but extremely tiresome.  She is a hard boss, but fair.

Megan has been Alex's best friend since pre-K and teaches dog training classes.  She helps Alex and Casey on a side investigation that Alex is working on in her spare time.

Overall

The story is very engaging and will keep you reading wanting to know more.  There seem to be two main plots with a few sub-plots, but it is all kept well organized and does not get confusing at all.  As a matter of fact, it is part of what keeps you engaged and continuing to read.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy a good mystery with a strong female lead who can kick arse with the best of them.  =)
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