Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: God is Bigger than Dr. Phil by Becky Bailey

ISBN #: 978-1257802999
Page Count: 168
Copyright: 2011


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

God is Bigger than Dr. Phil is Becky Bailey's autobiography. It is about hope, about triumphing through your pain, rather than getting bogged down in fear, defeat, and endless questions. Becky opens herself up and exposes herself in hopes that she can inspire people to persevere even when the desire for a permanent solution seems like the only solution. She has been there and made it through to the other side with the help of a higher power. Today, her life is testimony to why sometimes just holding on can get you through and she is glad she held on just a bit longer. Becky endured pain a little longer than others might, mostly because she is stubborn and also because she is a passionate person...passionate about motivating people to be the best they can be. She has found a new love for life and wants to inspire people to find their love.


Charlene's Review:

Becky Bailey share her trials, triumphs, and life strategies in this 168 page non-fiction, titled God Is Bigger Than Dr. Phil. Ms. Bailey addresses self-esteem, relationships, parenthood, and more in a very straight-forward, down-to-earth, humorous way. A lesson in living life on your own terms, regardless.

I found this book to be a quick read with many important lessons. Ms. Baileys acerbic attitude and street language takes a little getting used to. She is bluntly honest in what she believes, and as a peacekeeper, myself, I cringed quite a bit reading her thoughts on things. Equally noted, there are many points in her book where her wisdom is simply magnificent. Ms. Bailey is a survivor that continues to evolve. While she doesn't claim to have all the answers, she does claim to have the answers that work for her.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: Flight of the Silver Vixen by Annalide Matichei

ASIN #: B004OR1TYG (ebook)
File Size: 447 KB
Copyright: 2011


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

The Flight of the Silver Vixen is an all-girl space adventure that is at once an action-packed thriller and an exploration of philosophical themes.

It begins with a group of wild teenagers from an all-girl planet hijacking a spacecraft and accidentally warping to the other side of the galaxy.

It proceeds through deadly battles with space pirates to a landing on another all-girl world where we rapidly discover that something much darker than mere pirates is threatening civilization on many planets.


Mandy's Review:

Cover

A universal, perhaps intergalactic, symbol for females, a picture of a lady's face in the center of the symbol, backdrop of outer space ... all of these combine to make a unique-looking, but aptly depicted, cover for this novel.

Plot

A group of "rebels" play a practical joke and take a spaceship-prototype on a joyride into outer space.  During their trip, they are pursued by those who wish to bring them back home.  The captain then makes a decision that will alter the lives of everyone on board and force them into maturing faster than they anticipated.

There are two sexes in this novel: blondes and brunettes.  The blondes are the weaker, more feminine sex that are usually taken care of by the brunettes.  The brunettes seem to be the decision-makers (with the exception of the Royal Bloodline, which can be blonde) and in control of situations.  I am curious, though, how these people reproduce with no males around.

Main Characters

Princess Mela - A blonde - The highest-ranking of the Silver Vixen's crew.  She is a princess of the Blood Imperial.  She's young, but inherently wise ... a result of her bloodline, no doubt.

Antala - A brunette - Captain of the Silver Vixen.  She often makes quick, rash decisions.  Those decisions, though, are a characteristic of any captain and are usually the correct course of action for her crew.

Overall

Unique, interesting, engaging, realistic action sequences (as real as a fiction sci-fi novel can get) ... I, a person who is not even remotely interested in most things sci-fi, was drawn into this novel.  I really enjoyed it and want to know what's going to happen next.  I would recommend this novel to those who enjoy reading about feisty independent women or who just enjoy sci-fi.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

July's BintoM Monthly Giveaway (#6)


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.

July's BintoM Giveaway (ending July 10th) prize pack will consist of:
  
Where the Red Fern Grows book/movie combo


Here's a little bit about both:


I have a brand new paperback copy of Where the Red Fern Grows written by Wilson Rawls that I bought from Books-A-Million.

Summary:  Billly, Old Dan, and Little Ann - a boy and his two dogs.  A loving threesome, they range the dark hills and river bottoms of Cherokee country.  Old Dan has the brawn, Little Ann has the brains, and Billy has the will to make them into the finest hunting team in the valley.  Glory and victory are coming to them, but sadness awaits too.



To go along with the book, I have a brand new copy of Where the Red Fern Grows, the movie:


Blurb:  Billy Coleman, a boy growing up in the Ozarks of Oklahoma, is desperate for his own hunting dogs.  He scrimps and saves to make his dream a reality, and his investment pays off when he and his dogs Old Dan and Lil' Ann win the top prize at the annual raccoon hunting contest!


DVD Bonus Features:

There are no bonus features on this DVD


DVD Info:

97 Minutes (Color)

Rated G

Full Screen Version


Main Actors:

James Whitmore
Beverly Garland
Stewart Petersen
Jack Ging


Click here to enter for your chance to win ... Good Luck!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Review - The Keys of Fate: Tower of Change by Tina M. Randolph

ISBN #: 978-0984102402 (sc)
Page Count: 216
Copyright: 2010


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Secrets and mysteries are locked within an ancient tower that the wizard's apprentice must guard with his life.  One simple slip-up puts the fate of the world in the power of a desperate King's Mage, threatening to destroy peace and harmony throughout the world.

Time is running out, and Galax Hanz is the only one with the magical arts to lead a collection of unlikely allies to retrieve the precious Keys of Fate.  But when Galax is pursued by the evil Mage's Bloodwyns - the half-man, half-bird shadowy creatures of darkness - he soon realizes he has been drawn into a monumental struggle that challenges the foundations of his tradition.  Galax will be forced to test his faith and training, which will guide him into the unknown regions on the road to the discovery of the alchemistic formula of life, death and destiny.


*  I won this book in the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway  *


Mandy's Review:

Cover

The forest, moss-covered key and addition of the swirly, leafy drawings combine to make this an interesting cover.  It's interpretation leans more towards the series' title rather than the book's title.

Plot

A wizard's apprentice is overcome by curiosity while his master is away.  His actions initiate a sequence of events that are potentially catastrophic.  It then becomes his responsibility to clean up his own mess by tracking down and collecting all of the Keys of Fate.

Main Characters

Galax - A wizard's apprentice.  While reading, I noticed he appeared to be full of gifts, but had no real talent.  Whether that was due to the fact he had not been trained in his gifts yet, I don't know ... but it did seem a little ... off.  He always seemed unsure of himself and his actions.

Elazar - The wizard over Galax and master of the castle that houses the Tower of Change.  He is extremely old, wise and talented, but often seems forgetful.

Mortighan - Elazar's oldest friend and uncle to Justise, a lady that helps Galax on his quest to find the Keys of Fate.

Overall

For an adult, this book may seem to start off a little slow.  For a child, however, the book would be captivating ... which is wonderful since the book is written for nine-year-olds and up.

There were good wizards, bad wizards, flying keys (reminiscent of Harry Potter), Bloodwyns, faes, trolls ... many mythical creatures you expect to see in a fantasy book.  I will give the author credit in that she created four different types of phoenix ... which is something I've not read about before.

I would definitely recommend this book/series to children rather than adults.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: Where to Now by Rod Rogers

ISBN-10: 146200363X
ISBN-13: 978-1462003631
Page Count: 324 Pages
Copyright: 2011


Book Summary:
(Taken from book jacket)

Where to now? It is a question Len Arial repeatedly asks himself. As a personal injury lawyer, in the picturesque city of Charleston, SC, he is frustrated with his seemingly meaningless legal status. Once a dedicated prosecutor, Len is floundering in his own moral ambiguity, and sense of worth. Everything changes with one phone call. His closest friend, Detective TJ Jackson, informs him that their old nemesis, simply known as Billy Jack, is out of prison and back to settle-up. Murder, terror, and extensive world-wide felonious activities are a way of life, for this diabolical, sophisticated, and highly intelligent master criminal. Facing off with Billy Jack, in a frantic struggle, are Arial, and three very close friends. TJ Jackson, the superlative cop, who came through the projects and his own version of hell. Josie Jackson, noted microbiologist, who supports her husband against Billy Jack. Hannah Baktiar, also an extraordinary cop, escaped the repressive regime in Iran. All, of these lives, and many more are stories within the story, each interesting, and desperate, in their own way. In a tale of suspense, intrigue and terror, four people, battling their own internal demons, are in a turbulent cauldron, where the perplexity, of good and evil, intermingle in a clash of cultural values. Who will survive to redefine themselves? Where to now?


Charlene's Review:

I was slowed down, minimally, by unusually heavy use of punctuation. Commas and dashes seemed to pop up everywhere, and confused me at times. I am not a scholar, but it seemed a little heavy-handed. Also, dialect was a huge part of this book, and southern and African American dialogue was difficult to read fluidly. While this caused me a little pause, it is still a very exciting, suspenseful book, and shouldn’t be passed up on these merits. Just a warning that you may need to put a little more focus into certain aspects.

As a former prosecutor, Lenmore Arial has had his share of threats, but nothing compared to what he faces in the form of the criminal mind of Billy Jack. Arial teams up with friends and colleagues from ethnically varied backgrounds, all involved for different reasons, and all with personal demons that have shaped where they are now. An intriguing game of cat and mouse, thrilling scenes, and unexpected turns make this a real page-turner. Likable characters, along with relational subplots add to the story. There is something here for everyone.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Review: Paved with Good Intentions by Keith B. Darrell

ISBN #: 978-0-9771611-9-5
Page Count: 320
Copyright: 2009


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Exiled on Earth, naive angel Gabriel and amoral demon Lucifer - in the human guise of "Gabe Horn" and "Lou Cypher" - form an unlikely partnership as private investigators in Las Vegas.  Their adventures take them across the seven heavenly realms, into the nine levels of Hell, through the dream realm of the Dreamscape, and even through time to Camelot.  Along the way, the pair encounter a wickedly funny assortment of angels, demons, witches, warlocks, vampires, and other supernatural creatures.


Mandy's Review:

Cover

The picture of the sky on top and fire on bottom are pretty literal symbols of what people think of when thinking of Heaven and Hell.  I like the devil's tail wrapped through the halo ... I think it'd make a good tattoo if you were to design it out a little more.

Plot

The concept of the book was definitely original: An angel and a demon coming together and forming a partnership on Earth, unexpectedly helping each other out during the entire process.  Because of this, I really wanted to like this book.  Anybody who thinks outside the norm is worth a shot in my book.

However, I did have some issues.  Thinking outside the norm can be good (i.e. an angel and demon working together), but if you take away the fundamental aspects of two beings that people expect ... it can get kind of iffy.  For example ... oh ... wait a sec ... let me do this first ....

*Slight Spoiler Alert*

Okay, now you've been warned ... back to what I was saying ...

An example of taking away the fundamental aspects of a being people know is when the author had the angel (Gabriel) have sex with a college student ... I'm sorry, but when people think of Heavenly angels, they think of goodness and purity.  They don't think of them as having human weaknesses, like sexual temptations.

On the flip side, when people think of demons (particularly Lucifer), do they imagine a demon falling in love and behaving well?  They become lustful, definitely, but falling in love ... ???  That was sort of a stretch for me.

As for the flow of the book ... I'm sure the author wanted this book to read straight through like a novel.  It did not read that way to me at all.  The characters experienced so many people, places and things that it read ... jerky ... I almost felt like I had mental whiplash in some parts.

Main Characters

Gabriel - One of God's angels sent to exile on Earth.  He forms a partnership with Lucifer in Las Vegas as private detectives.

Lucifer - A fallen angel a.k.a. a demon from Hell.  Gabriel's partner in their private eye business.

Miss Twitch - A several hundred year old witch straight from Salem ... mmhmm ... she was involved in the Salem witch trials.  She has a cat who is actually a warlock trapped in the cat's body.  There is a spell on him that will not allow him to change back into a human.

Overall

I'm sorry to say I was disappointed in this book.  The concept grabbed me and I was anxious to read it, but it just fell flat for me.  However, that is just my opinion and, if you're interested, you should read it for yourself ... Perhaps you'll enjoy it.  =)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Blog Tour/Review & Giveaway: Johnny One-Eye by Jerome Charyn

Welcome to a stop on Jerome Charyn's Johnny One-Eye Blog Tour, promoted by Tribute Books!

Check out the Blog Tour website here


Below you will find info about the book, author and a link to enter the giveaway.  I hope you enjoy! =)


Book Info:

ISBN #: 978-0-393-06497-1 (dj)
Page Count: 479
Copyright: 2008
Cost: $25.95
ISBN #: 978-0-393-33395-4 (sc)
Page Count: 448
Copyright: 2009
Cost: $14.95















Purchasing Links:




About the Author:

Jerome Charyn (born May 13, 1937) is an award-winning American author. With nearly 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life. Michael Chabon calls him “one of the most important writers in American literature.”
New York Newsday hailed Charyn as “a contemporary American Balzac,” and the Los Angeles Times described him as “absolutely unique among American writers.”

Since the 1964 release of Charyn’s first novel, Once Upon a Droshky, he has published 30 novels, three memoirs, eight graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year. Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture.
Charyn was Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the American University of Paris until he left teaching in 2009.

In addition to his writing and teaching, Charyn is a tournament table tennis player, once ranked in the top 10 percent of players in France. Noted novelist Don DeLillo called Charyn’s book on table tennis, Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins, "The Sun Also Rises of ping-pong."

Charyn lives in Paris and New York City.

Visit the author's website, Facebook page or follow him on Twitter!

Check out Jerome Charyn, in the video below, and see what he has to say about Johnny One-Eye




Book Summary:
(Taken from dust jacket flaps)

Set in New York during the eight years of the Revolution, Charyn's Manhattan is a place where "British officers dined on blancmange while the rest of the population scrounged for scraps of food," where "dogs howled in a language that must have been terrible even for them."  A city abandoned by its patriots, given over to soldiers, thieves, and a courageous scatter of African stevedores and slaves, Manhattan has become a swamp where generals and whores rule, often in tandem, and spies lurk in every alley, not the least of them John Stocking, a one-eyed double agent "wandering across the landscape, a picaro" who is caught trying to poison General Washington's soup as the story opens in April 1776.

Called upon by both armies to do their bidding, Johnny must navigate the dangerous warrens of wartime Manhattan while dodging ruffians who want to have him dead.  Believing that his father may be George Washington and that his mother might be Mrs. Gertrude Jennings, the red-haired madam of Manhattan's "Holy Ground," Johnny is driven mad by his love for Clara, a ravishing, green-eyed octoroon, the most celebrated harlot of Gertrude's house, whose sexual powers threaten to influence the course of the Revolution.

As Johnny grapples with his allegiances, we follow the circuitous path of the Revolution, from the torching of Manhattan in 1776 to the murder of thousands of Americans aboard the infamous prison ship Jersey, to the decisive battle of Yorktown and Washington's heartrending departure from Manhattan in the autumn of 1783.


Mandy's Review:

Cover/Title

Cover:  I was graciously sent a hardcover copy of Johnny One-Eye, so I will be reviewing that cover.

I love this cover.  The drawing of old-American footwear on a man and woman in a seemingly compromising situation is definitely an attention-grabber.  It intimates a certain ... private looseness about the citizens during the Revolutionary period.

Title:  Coupled with the drawing on intimacy, I first wondered if there was a certain perverseness in the title.  However, upon reading this novel, the title and cover art redefine themselves in the reader's mind.

Plot

The novels takes the reader through the eight years during the American Revolution.  It is told in the first-person through the eyes of John Stocking, or Johnny One-Eye as he's known to be called.  He came upon the nickname for losing an eye during the Quebec skirmishes under Benedict Arnold's command.

Teachers have taught, and still teach, about the American Revolution.  This novel is different from what you hear in class.  Yes, you are reading about the American Revolution, but in a fictional way that seems to be factual.  Jerome Charyn opens the reader's eyes to how it may have been for the people who were not soldiers, but were still affected because of the war.  I can promise you that if Jerome Charyn had been teaching my History class in school, I would've paid closer attention.  His writing truly captivates the reader's attention.

Main Characters

John Stocking - Born and raised in a brothel, John is an often disregarded fixture in the whore-house.  He loves King George for being his benefactor and allowing him to go to the King's College, but he also idolizes Benedict Arnold and George Washington.  He is a man conflicted and perhaps that is the reason why he became a double spy.

Gertrude Jennings - Madam of Queen's Yard, a brothel on a street nicknamed "Holy Ground."  She cares for the women in her bordello and does not pressure them to do anything they do not wish to do.  She has a huge heart, but can also be duplicitous ... mayhap having Gert's genes in him is another reason why Johnny became a double spy ... ???

Clara - A waif found by Gert.  She was covered in lice when Gert found her and cleaned her up.  Clara then became the most sought-after whore in Gert's establishment.  Clara was tall, blonde and the source of Johnny's obsession.  She was often conflicting in her ways.  I think she acted that way as a defense mechanism, to keep people from getting too emotionally attached to her.

Overall

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Jerome Charyn is a literary genius.  This is my third novel I have read of his and he is able to captivate me every time irregardless of topic.  I have never enjoyed reading about history as much as I have when I read this novel.  Charyn has become a must-read, automatic-buy author for me and I highly recommend his novels to all adults.


Giveaway:

Want to win a copy of this novel?  Then click here to enter for your chance.  This is for U. S. residents only.  I will leave the form open until Friday, June 24th.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond with their mailing address.  If I do not receive a response within 48 hours of win notification, another winner will be chosen in their place.

Thanks for stopping by and good luck on the giveaway!  Happy Reading =)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Review: Where's Unimportant by Daniel Shortell

ISBN #: 978-1461064978 (pb)
ISBN #: 978-0615486116 (ebook)
Page Count: 276 Pages (pb)
Copyright: 2011


About the Author:
(Provided by danielshortell Publishing press release)


Daniel Shortell is a thirty-something currently holed-up in a fourth-floor walk-up in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  At university, he earned degrees in ridiculous, boring shit like finance and information systems.  His real education came from wandering around the world.  When not writing, he enjoys putting the ping pong beat down on his Asian friends at the rec center.


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Jack Addington is stuck. A carefree life wandering the globe has morphed into a monotonous existence working for an oppressive Manhattan-based software company peddling products which destroy the lives of decent people. Jack struggles through soul-sucking affairs with despotic executives and eccentric scientists by mentally projecting himself out of the present and into past adventures. Avoidance, however, is temporary, and, it does not take long for his overly medicated mind to lose perspective, causing him to act increasingly irrational in a brutally rational world. Jack attempts to reconnect to reality through the guidance of a colorful group of 'advisers', but, a bleak situation continues to spin out of control despite his best efforts. Ultimately for Jack, a slice of contentment is found only when luck stands amid the rubble of his failed attempts at perseverance. Sharply satirical, funny and painfully honest, Where's Unimportant is a snapshot of one man's failed attempt at the American Dream.


Charlene's Review:

Jack Addington and his wife quit everything to travel the world. After a turn in the economy, Jack returns to the states to work for a software company that produces VigilantEye, a program designed to track employees use of company electronics. Trying to maintain his job, which he despises, Jack turns to daydreaming about his past adventures, and methodically self-destructs as his displeasure turns to acts of neurotic behavior. Where’s Unimportant tells a story of how low one man can go when he sells out his principles for a paycheck.

Reading this novel feels as if you are the unwilling prisoner of a very depressed mind. Mr. Shortell tells a story dealing with unhappiness fought back with flashbacks, a multi-drug cocktail, and ultimately, an alcohol-induced rage. You can’t help but feel for the character, as he is sadly desperate in a way that too many can relate. With a nod to “Big Brother” and the electronic age we live in, Where’s Unimportant satirizes Corporate America, plays into our hopes of achieving the American Dream, and pokes fun at widely available prescription antidepressant “fixes”. While the story seemed slow at times, Jacks eventual breakdown lends to an unexpected and imaginative ending.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blog Tour/Review: Revelations by Laurel Dewey

ISBN #: 978-098419055-3
Page Count: 479
Copyright: 2011


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

The small, upscale Colorado town of Midas had barely registered on Sergeant Detective Jane Perry's radar before her former boss and current colleague told her she needed to join him there for a case.  All she knew was that it was a long way from Denver - both in terms of physical distance and sensibility.  Jake Van Gorden, the fifteen-year-old son of a prominent area businessman, has disappeared, and all signs point to his abductor being Jordan Copeland, a man who committed a similar crime decades ago.  There are indications that Jake is still alive, so the clock is ticking, but as Jane investigates Copeland, she begins to have doubts about his guilt.  And at the same time, she begins to uncover trails of devastating - and even deadly - secrets all around Midas.

Meanwhile, Jane must deal with two considerable secrets of her own.  One hits her like a left cross before she leaves Denver, and the other creeps up on her from the most unlikely of places.  On top of this, Hank Ross, owner of a bar in Midas, has somehow managed to find a way beneath Jane's armor-plated defenses, forcing her to contend with feelings she hasn't allowed to surface for a very long time.


Sponsored by Pump Up Your Book


Mandy's Review:

Cover

The starkness of the leafless trees against a darkening sky casts a somber mood over the reader preparing them for another dramatic episodic glimpse into Jane Perry's life.

Plot

This is my second Jane Perry novel that I've read and Laurel Dewey does not disappoint.  She goes beyond remaining consistent with her writing and has improved upon previous novels with Revelations ... not that there was much to improve upon, mind you.

The novel is suspenseful as well as mysterious.  There's a touch of the paranormal mixed in with the crime-solving action that takes place ... and, FINALLY, Jane allows herself to get in touch with her softer side.  It was a wonderful addition and side-plot.

Main Characters

Jane - She's still the hard, kick-ass detective that she was in previous novels, but this time we get to see Jane's somewhat softer side.  She seems to be wrapped up in secrets upon secrets where her past and family is concerned.  Jane is smart, intuitive and extremely observant.

Weyler - Jane's former boss, now equal.  He has a history of covering for and taking care of Jane when she needs it most.  Weyler is extremely loyal and a man of his word.

Hank - Sexy, ex-cop who owns a bar and member of a band.  He automatically sees through Jane's "tough girl" act and is extremely patient and understanding with her.  Hank appears to be the yin to Jane's yang.

Overall

I don't know if Laurel Dewey is as widely known as Dean Koontz or James Patterson, but if she isn't she is definitely able to hold her own against the big boys.  Her Jane Perry novels are written skillfully and engagingly making you constantly wonder what is going to happen next.

I highly recommend this novel, as well as the first two Jane Perry novels (Protector and Redemption) to mystery-lovers world-wide.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June's BintoM Winner!



June's winner of I Am Number Four book and movie is:

Amy, the artsy bookish gal, from over at:


Congratulations Amy! =)  Now you can add this to your TBR pile for your Sunday Stew ... LOL =)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review: Althea by Madeleine Robins

ISBN #: 978-1-61138-050-7
Page Count: 372
Original Copyright: 1977
Re-released: April 2011


Book Summary:
(Taken from Bookwire.com)

The dazzling whirl of London society delighted Althea Ervine. Having spent all her young life in the country, she was more than ready for the excitement of the city--and for the ardent attention of Edward Pendarly. As they spent more time together, Althea found herself growing extremely fond of Edward. She couldn't understand why Sir Tracy Calendar hinted that there was something wrong about Pendarly's courtship. Althea chose to ignore Sir Tracy's warnings. Then she learned the shocking truth about Edward--and something more shocking about Sir Tracy....


** I won this ebook in the March 2011 Early Reviewers giveaway over at LibraryThing **

Mandy's Review:

Cover

Remniscent of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens covers, this is a standard portrayal of a lady during the Romantic era in early London.

Plot

Althea leaves her father's home and travels to London to stay with her married sister.  While there, she is introduced to the ton and receives the attention of several suitors ... one of whom asks for her hand in marriage.  She believes the marriage proposal is given out of necessity and not love.  What then ensues is a whole lot of misunderstanding which ends, as these stories tend to do, happily.  =)

Main Characters

Althea - She is not the insipid, weak-minded woman so prevelant during those times.  Althea speaks her own mind and can think for herself.  She is strong-willed and can fend for herself, if need be.

Edward - Some would say Edward is duplicitous and sneaky.  He seeks the attentions of Althea when it should not be convenient for him to do so.  Then, when he is found out, he admits no wrong-doing on his behalf and, instead, pushes the blame off on others.

Tracy - Definitely a ladies man.  He enjoys his freedom and does not think he will ever propose matrimony to a lady because the lady he searches for does not exist ... or so he thinks.  He is wealthy and, therefore, a gentleman that mothers and aunts push their daughters towards.  He enjoys the social circle and able to come and go as he pleases.

Overall

This novel is a combination of repressed emotions, formal upbringing and propriety that was so common during those times.  It is a wonderful escape into a romantic world so many wish was still prevelant today.  If you enjoy reading Jane Austen, I believe you would also enjoy Althea by Madeleine Robins.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Blog Tour/Review: Homefires by Emily Sue Harvey

ISBN #: 978-161188006-9
Page Count: 451
Copyright: 2011


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Homefires is set in the Deep South's Bible Belt on the eve of unprecedented moral changes.  It is the story of Janeece and Kirk Crenshaw, a couple married just after their high school graduation who set out to make a life for themselves.  It is a life marked by surprises, none more dramatic than when Kirk receives his "high-calling" and becomes a pastor.  It is a life marked by tragedy, the most heart-rending of which is a devastating event very close to home.  And it is a life marked by challenges: to their church, to their community, and most decidedly to their marriage.  And as the fullness of time makes its impact on their union, Kirk and Janeece must face the question of whether they have gone as far as they can together.


Sponsored by Pump Up Your Book


Mandy's Review:

Cover

I appreciate the fact that the author didn't try to depict Janeece or Kirk and, instead, chose a simple picture of a flower that grows prominently here in the South.

Plot

When the novel starts, the reader is introduced to present-day Janeece as she sits in the cemetery.  The novel then, told reminiscently in Janeece's voice, spans from Janeece and Kirk's high school graduation all the way through to their children's marriages.

The personal story of Janeece and Kirk just seemed so familiar ... probably because their relationship happened like a lot of ours does today.  Their interactions with the church and family seemed realistic as well, but there was something more present, more vivid, about their personal relationship that made one think ... "I know how she feels."

Main Characters

Janeece - Kirk's Wife - She was sweet, easy-going and naive ... naive, naive, naive ... I would've gladly shaken her several times while screaming "Are you kidding me?!!!  Wake up woman!!!"  Perhaps, though, that was her Christian nature.  No, Christians are not clueless ... although it is easy to see how they could be thought of that way.  I was so glad when this woman FINALLY grew a backbone!

Kirk - Janeece's Husband - Good ole Kirk ... He was a man's man.  He financially supported his wife while being able to squirrel away some savings for unforeseen circumstances.  His word was final.  He made the decisions in the household.  All I can say is, this man would not have made it as my husband.  I don't mind the man being head of the house, but his arrogance and occasional emotional cruelty made me want to slap the stew out of him.

Overall

Despite the author's almost obsessive love with italics, this novel encompassed a story that moved you.  It struck a chord within you that made you angry, laugh, cry ... it made you feel.  Isn't that what a story is supposed to do?

I would recommend this to readers who enjoy Christian authors/stories or novels that insert you into someone else's life and problems for awhile, making you forget your own.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review - Why China Will Never Rule the World: Travels in the Two Chinas by Troy Parfitt

ISBN #: 978-0986803505
Page Count: 424


Revised Publication Date:

This book's publish date has been moved out to September 15, 2011


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

After having lived in Taipei for ten years, Troy Parfitt sets out on an epic journey to test the theory that China is ascending toward a position of global hegemony. The result is whirlwind tour of the Chinese world, one that enlightens, astonishes, and entertains. Parfitt shows us he is the perfect China tour guide: the steward of an intimate knowledge of the nation’s history, culture, and psyche – yet not serving any interest other than an investigative one. Here is a unique and powerful book, one that will change the way people think about China and its “great rise.”

Why China Will Never Rule the World is a tour de force; vital for anyone wishing to understand what China is, what is has been, and what it is likely to become.


Charlie's Review:

Troy Parfitt takes us on a tour of the “two Chinas.” Having lived in Taiwan, he is well-versed in the Mandarin language, and gives us insider knowledge of the country and its people. His mission: to disclose the truth behind claims of China becoming the World’s next Superpower. Taking us on a historical tour, showcasing the Confusianistic dogma still taught in present-day, and a government touting Authoritarianism, he squashes the myth that they will one day rule.

Parfitt has an expansive knowledge of the history of China. He paints a vivid picture of the culture and, sometimes disturbing, personalities of the people. China’s visible hints at Western development are overshadowed by its close-minded system of totalitarianism.

Why China Will Never Rule The World is as much history lesson, as it is travelogue, and allows us a glimpse into its colorful, although poorly maintained landscape. Highly recommended reading for anyone that would like to learn more about China’s history and beliefs.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Blog Tour/Review: Flesh & Bones by Paul Levine

ASIN #: B004W4ML7K (Kindle Edition)
File Size: 647 KB


Charity Info & Book Buy Links:

Flesh & Bones is now an e-book priced for a short time at $0.99, with all proceeds going to Hershey Children's Hospital for cancer treatment.

Flesh & Bones and all the Jake Lassiter novels are available on Kindle, Nook and Smashwords.

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Pro football player turned lawyer Jake Lassiter is savoring a drink at a South Beach bar when a beautiful young woman shoots the man on the next bar stool and faints in Lassiter's arms. It's one way to get clients, he figures. The woman, Chrissy Bernhardt, is charged with the first-degree murder of her father, whom Chrissy believes abused her as a child. Lassiter takes the case, which is complicated by the fact that Chrissy's repressed memories of her father's abuse have been "unlocked" with the help of a therapist who turns out to be her late mother's former lover.


Mandy's Review:

Cover

A picture of a skinny blond chic holding a gun ... I'd say it's a pretty literal depiction of the character Chrissy Bernhardt.

Plot

The story has several twists and turns.  Just when I thought I had it figured out another twist would happen.  Nobody, except maybe Jake and his family, is who they appear to be.  I don't know that this will keep you guessing to the end, but it will definitely keep you interested until the story is over.

Main Characters

Jake - A former linebacker, who is not fond of quarterbacks (for several reasons) - He is now a lawyer living in south Florida.  I got the impression that Jake is ultimately a good guy.  He appreciates honesty from his clients and from himself.  If he has all the facts, good or bad, then he knows how he needs to handle a situation ... more people should be this way.

Chrissy - A model - She seems to fall in love too easily.  She is prone to fainting spells and is a little spoiled.

Guy - Chrissy's half-brother - Since his father's death, he controls all of the business dealings.  Seemingly a nice guy, he agrees to pay for Chrissy's legal defense in the murder of their father.

Overall

As a mystery-lover, I enjoyed this book.  There were several humorous parts in this story, which I appreciated.  I believe all mystery-lovers would appreciate this novel ... you should check it out.  =)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Blog Tour/Guest Post: Part Con Man, Part Priest by Paul Levine

The author of 14 novels, Paul Levine won the John D. MacDonald fiction award and has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller, and James Thurber prizes.  His critically acclaimed and bestselling “Jake Lassiter” novels have been published in 21 countries.  The first of the series, To Speak for the Dead, was named one of the top ten thrillers of the year by the Los Angeles Times, and is now a bestselling e–book.  A former trial lawyer, he wrote more than 20 episodes of the CBS military drama “JAG” and co-created “First Monday,” starring James Garner and Joe Mantegna.  He is also the author of the “Solomon vs. Lord” series and the thriller Illegal.  His next novel will be Lassiter, due in Fall 2011 from Bantam.


Part Con Man, Part Priest


"They don't call us sharks for our ability to swim."

So says Jake Lassiter in Flesh & Bones.  Or rather, he thinks it in interior dialogue, sometimes called interior monologue.  It's one way to reveal character and answer the reader's question: Just who is this guy, anyway?

I'll let Jake answer that question, but first I wanted you to know that the international bestseller Flesh & Bones is now an e-book priced for a short time at $0.99, with all proceeds going to Hershey Children's Hospital for cancer treatment.

Now back to Jake: "A good lawyer is part con man, part priest - promising riches, threatening hell.  The rainmakers are the best paid and have coined a remarkably candid phrase: We eat what we kill."

The linebacker-turned-lawyer is a brew and burger guy in a pate and Chardonnay world.  Noting the sign over the judge's bench -- "We who labor here seek only the truth ..." -- he adds his own footnote: "Subject to the truth being concealed by lying witnesses, distorted by sleazy lawyers and excluded by inept judges."

In Flesh & Bones, Jake's client, model Chrissy Bernhardt, is accused of killing her father, claiming she had been raped by him as a child.  Jake seethes at hearing this.  Anger is not usually helpful in making important decisions, but with Jake, his fury helps form his legal strategy:

"The male animal.  At the low end of the evolutionary scale, he lords his physical superiority over women, beating and raping.  At the very bottom, this horned beast is the father who would rape his own child.  For a moment, I felt like killing Harry Bernhardt myself.  Which made me think ... if I get the jury to feel the same way, maybe I can win this case."

Complicating the murder trial, Jake falls for his client, while at the same time doubting her truthfulness.  All of which creates an ethical dilemma:

"My ethical rules are simple.  I won't lie to the court or let a client do it.  But I've never been in this position before.  How far would I go for a woman who mattered?  Is there anything I wouldn't do to win?"

Is he defending an innocent woman or a guilty one?  Is there such a thing as true justice?  Rather than answer those questions - and spoil the book! - I'll leave you with Jake's final thoughts:

We seek justice in the courthouse, just as we seek holiness in a house of worship.  Justice is an ideal, a vague concept we strive for but can barely define.  Justice is the North Star, the burning bush, the holy virgin.  It cannot be bought, sold, or mass produced.  It is intangible and invisible, but if you are to spend your life in its pursuit, it is best to believe it exists, and that you can attain it.



Flesh & Bones and all the Jake Lassiter novels are available on Kindle, Nook and Smashwords.  More information on Paul Levine's website.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Review: The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers

ISBN #: 978-0-312-67443-4 (sc)
Page Count: 307
Copyright: 2009


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Lulu and Merry's childhood was never ideal, but on the day before Lulu's tenth birthday it became a nightmare.  Mama warns Lulu not to let her father in, but he bullies his way past her.  She runs for help, but discovers upon her return that he's murdered her mother, stabbed five-year-old Merry, and tried to kill himself.

Effectively orphaned by their mother's death and father's imprisonment, the girls' relatives abandon them to a terrifying group home.  Even as they plot to be taken in by a well-to-do family, they come to learn that all they have to hold on to is each other.

As the sisters spend thirty years trying to make sense of what happened, their jailed father shadows their every choice.  One spends her life pretending he's dead, while the other feels compelled to keep him close.  Both dread that someday he'll win parole.


Mandy's Review:

This book was provided to me by Kathleen Zrelak at Goldberg McDuffie Communications, Inc. in exchange for an honest review.

Cover

I am in love with this cover.  The softness of the colors with the two little girls on the boardwalk ... beautiful.  I was drawn to this book the moment I saw the cover.  You get a sense that good things are inside this book when looking at the cover ... that is, until you read the title ...

Plot

There is a lot of drama written in this book mixed with quite a bit of sadness, loneliness and uncertainty.  Most books only have one climactic point ... I believe this book has two.  The first being the murder of the girls' mother and the second being when the truth is finally revealed.

I felt sorry for Lulu and Merry, but for different reasons.

Poor Lulu, being the oldest, now became Merry's protector.  The responsibility and decision-making became hers.  As the oldest in my family, I know how it felt to bear that responsibility.  There are times when you perform your role even though it may be the last thing you want to do.  You are often torn between what you want to do and what you feel would be the responsible path to take.  So, I was surprised when Lulu wasn't the one who felt the need to go visit her father regularly.  Instead, that sense of responsibility fell to Merry ...

Merry became her father's champion even though she feared him.  She handled the stress of visiting him and writing him on a regular basis.  For the longest time, she felt like the little girl who was stabbed by her father.  Her feelings were evident in her sexual relationships and lack of commitments.  How horrible to never feel good enough for a decent relationship with a good person.

Overall

This novel is very thought-provoking and impressive for a debut author.  I would recommend this to everyone that enjoys a dramatic emotional novel.

Review: Night of the Living Dummy by R. L. Stine

ISBN #: 0-590-46617-8
Page Count: 134
Copyright: 1993


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Lindy names the ventriloquist's dummy she finds Slappy.  Slappy is kind of ugly, but he's a lot of fun.  Lindy's having a great time learning to make Slappy move and talk.

But Kris is jealous of all the attention her sister is getting.  It's no fair.  Why does Lindy always have all the luck?

Kris decides to get a dummy of her own.  She'll show Kris.

Then weird things begin to happen.  Nasty things.  Evil things.  No way a dummy can be causing all the trouble.

Or is there?


Mandy's Review:

Cover

The cover design artist did a great job of making the dummy look menacing.

Plot/Main Characters

R. L. Stine is a master of taking ordinary situations and objects and making them creepy enough to frighten children/young adults.  I must say, though, that I can easily see how ventriloquist dummies can be freakish.  They tend to creep me out.

Lindy and Kris are twins who, like most siblings, make everything a competition.  So, when Lindy finds a ventriloquist dummy and becomes good at ventriloquism, Kris gets jealous and wants one of her own.  Her father finds one in a pawn shop and decides to surprise Kris with it.

Then the competitions start on who can get the better jobs with their ventriloquist act ... until, one day, Kris finds a piece of paper with strange words in her dummy's shirt pocket.  She reads the words aloud and that's when strange things begin to happen.

Has her dummy come to life?  Is Lindy playing practical jokes on her?

Overall

I read this book because it is one on my Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000 - 2009 list (See link at right).  I enjoyed this one because it actually did cause me to get a slight case of the willies just thinking about a ventriloquist's dummy coming to life like the infamous doll Chucky.

Review: Two-Fisted Tweets by James Hutchings

Copyright: 2011 on Smashwords


Summary:
(Taken from Smashwords)

Thirty mostly humorous stories, including science fiction, fantasy, horror and romance. Each story is less than 140 characters long (the length of a Twitter tweet).


Mandy's Review:

Cover

I enjoy the comic book look of the cover.

Plot

Is there really a plot?  Of course, you could say there are 30 plots ... each one the length of a tweet (Twitter update  ... for those not familiar with Twitter-speak).  They're really there to spark your imagination.  You can come up with your own back story and future ending for each of these tweets.

Overall

A unique 'book' that can ignite a reader's imagination, if they are so inclined to use it.  Some were humorous and some .... not so much.

Review/Giveaway: Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz

ISBN #: 978-1-4013-2390-5 (dj)
Page Count: 273
Copyright: 2011


Author Info:

Melissa de la Cruz is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for teens.  Witches of East End is her first in a series for adults.  Her Blue Bloods series is a worldwide bestseller and has three million copies in print.  Her many other books include the anthology Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, which is now a reality-television show on the Sundance Channel.

A former fashion and beauty editor, de la Cruz has written for the New York Times, Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Allure, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Teen Vogue, among others.  She has also appeared as an expert on fashion, trends, and fame for CNN, E! and Fox News.

De la Cruz grew up in Manila before moving to San Francisco with her family.  She is a graduate of Columbia University and lives in Los Angeles and Palm Springs with her family.


Book Info/Summary:

An ARC copy of this book was graciously provided to me by publicist Megan Beatie of Goldberg McDuffie Communications in exchange for an honest review (see below).  This book is scheduled to go on sale in hardback on June 21, 2011.  The rights to this book have already sold in six countries and is already under development for TV by the producer of Water for Elephants and I Am Legend.

Summary

In the quiet Long Island hamlet of North Hampton (a place so "off the map" it literally does not appear on any maps), strange and ominous happenings are afoot: birds are dropping dead out of the sky and fish are being killed by an undersea poison; children are getting mysteriously ill, and people are going missing.

For longtime residents Joanna Beauchamp and her daughters Freya and Ingrid, this spells trouble.  Not only have they lived in North Hampton for years - they've lived there for centuries.  As immortal witches, forbidden to practice magic by the High Council, the three have been able to remain under the radar, recently living quiet lives as Joanna, a matron with a sweet tooth, and her daughters Ingrid, the bookish town librarian, and Freya, a newly-betrothed bartender trapped in a dangerous game of desire between two brothers.  After a few slip ups, however - a magic love potion here, a much-desired fertility treatment there - the women begin to remember how fun it can be to use their powers.  But when the town's maladies begin to bring them unwanted attention, reminiscent of the witch-hunts of centuries past, the Beauchamps must set out to uncover the darker forces at work in their hometown.


Mandy's Review:

Cover

I have yet to figure out how the cover relates to the story.  That being said, I like the cover.  It draws a reader's eye to it on the shelves.  The juxtaposition of the cover's design and the title of the book causes the reader to want to know what exactly goes on in between the covers.

Plot/Main Characters

This novel has it all ... mystery, witches, zombies, demons, history, romance, desire, potions, magic, etc.  The sisters, Ingrid and Freya, remind me of the sisters in the movie Practical Magic.

Ingrid reminds me of Sally (Sandra Bullock's character): Reserved, keeps to herself and winds up being her sister's protector and confidant.  The similarities do not stop there.  Both desire to be loved, but do not trust in the power of love enough to give it a chance when it's presented to them.  In the end, though, when it matters, Ingrid does open up to new possibilities, including love.

Freya reminds me of Jillian (Nicole Kidman's character): Free-loving, spontaneous and winds up getting into serious trouble due to her free spirit.  The difference between Freya and Jillian, though, is that Freya winds up loving two men at once ... therein lies her trouble.  She feels obligated to one brother while being inexplicably drawn to the other.  As much as she tries to fight it, she cannot stop.  Which brother will finally claim her heart and undying love?

Overall

I loved this book.  The similarities between Witches of East End and Practical Magic stop with the sisters.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is a Melissa de la Cruz fan and/or a fan of witches, mysteries, romance or any combination of the three.  I look forward to the next book in this series.


Giveaway

Thanks to the generosity of Goldberg McDuffie Communications, one hardback copy of Witches of East End will be given away to U.S. residents only.  The giveaway is open from now until June 15th, at which time a winner will be chosen randomly and given 48 hours to respond with their mailing address.  If the winner does not respond within the time allotted, another winner will be chosen in their place.


Good luck and happy reading! =)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Review: The Bad, The Good and Two Fly-Fishing Women by Randy Kadish

ASIN #: B004GEB7G2
File Size: 58 KB


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

When her mother deserts her to be with a new man, Amanda is hurt and betrayed. She loses faith in the world. To soothe her pain, she retreats into fly fishing, until she learns that her loving grandmother has terminal cancer.

Amanda struggles to find answers. Then one day she discovers that her grandmother, against the doctor’s orders, has gone fishing somewhere on the Junction River. Frightened, Amanda, along with Shana, her adopted dog, and Vernon, a grieving alcoholic, searches the river—but marches into an unexpected, terrifying event that, in a surprising way, helps her learn to forgive and to see the good in the world.


Mandy's Review:

Cover

I like the photograph, but from the story you get the sense that Amanda is at least a teenager ... not an adult woman like what is depicted on the cover.

Plot/Main Characters

One grandmother, terminally ill with cancer, decides to go fly-fishing one last time before she meets her end.  One school girl, sensing something's wrong, leaves school early one day to go home and search for her grandmother.  Along the way, she encounters a man who helps her see another side of people and life while another man is intent on hurting her.

In the midst of this is Shana ... Amanda's ever-present companion and protector.  Will they find Amanda's grandmother?  If so, what exactly will they find when they reach her?

Overall

Despite its short length, the book exemplifies a few familiar addages: Things are not always as they appear, never judge a book by its cover and do not pre-judge a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes.
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