Saturday, June 30, 2012

{Review} Now It's Funny: How I Survived Cancer, Divorce and Other Looming Disasters by Michael Solomon

ISBN #: 978-1463749552
Page Count: 212
Copyright: February 16, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace

(Taken from back cover)

Now It's Funny: How I Survived Cancer, Divorce, and Other Looming Disasters is a modern hybrid, on one hand a page-turning medical thriller, and on the other a hilarious romp through the mind of a man bedazzled by fatherhood and midlife. What makes it so different from other "illness" memoirs is that it reads like a movie: in its frenetic pace, its intensity, and its improbable and relentless humor. In the same way that A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was grounded in a cancer story, Now It's Funny ... transcends its medical milieu and introduces a fresh new voice into the realm of non-fiction to tell a heartfelt story about a father's search for meaning and his undying devotion to his sons.

Charlene's Review:

Having watched my father battle lung cancer, I was filled with certain trepidation when I got into the details of Mr. Solomon's story. Seems I can't get away from this awful illness. However, having said that, this is a different kind of cancer story. This is a survival story, a survival of all things gone wrong, and not giving up. To sum up Mr. Solomon's mindset; "Heroism on a daily basis is the hardest kind. Today I'm going to be a hero to myself; brave, focused and strong." This may be the wisest mantra I have ever heard when facing cancer.

While he faces his battle with cancer, Mr. Solomon's humor remains intact. One of my favorite laugh-out-loud moments was an alliteration on broccoli, "your lovely leaves are lobed like lyres." With an incredible balance, he faces illness, divorce, and 9-11 with deep insight and great patience, while never wandering far from the basic truth: He could die.

Having been asked "how do you feel?" so many times, 9-11 gives him a worthy explanation that I can honestly say describes my feelings when I learned of my father's illness. "I feel I've become a witness to a world I once felt a part of ... Where do I apply for parole, or a pardon, or whatever else gets you out of this mess and gives you a second chance, or a reprieve, or a break? ... How can I go back in time and just shift the whole world into reverse for a few seconds so I can prepare and make a move?"

This is an excellent book for anyone dealing with cancer, in any form. Honest, unapologetic, and haunting.

*A physical copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 29, 2012

{Review} Loco Moco: A Darby Stansfield Thriller by Ty Hutchinson

ISBN #: 978-1477572719
Page Count: 296
Copyright: June 6, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace

(Taken from Amazon)

The world's only consultant to the criminal underworld has just experienced his closest brush with death yet, and wonders if it's time to quit the biz.

In need of some serious soul searching, Darby Stansfield and his girlfriend, Izzy Weber, set off for a summer surfing adventure in Hawaii. But what the land of Aloha offers instead, is the same temptations he's eager to escape - one in particular, the North Beach Boys. Hoping to resist the lure of the local gang, Darby focuses on improving his relationship with Izzy. All is fun in the sun until their beach house is broken into.

From there, the mysterious threats begin to escalate, forcing Darby and Izzy to hire a local private detective. Between the PI working the case and the security improvements made around their place, the ideal summer appears to be back on track. Wrong.

What they don't realize is that a stranger is watching them and someone is going to die.

Charlene's Review:

In book three of the Darby Stansfield series, Darby decides it may be time to go legit. With his girlfriend, Izzy, Darby uses his savings to book a vacation in Hawaii, and take some time to decide on his next business move. Immediately welcomed to the island by locals, Darby and Izzy are enjoying the surf and their time together. Unfortunately, when Darby heads back to the States for his monthly business meeting, Izzy is attacked in their rental home. As Darby looks around for the attacker, he finds out his reputation as the telecommunications consultant of the underworld has proceeded him to the island, and the North Beach Boys, or NBB, want his services for their gambling and petty crime.

Once again involved with a gang, Darby is caught up in mysterious happenings that escalate, especially in his absence, against Izzy. Darby hires a Private Detective and works hard to keep his business dealings a secret, especially from Izzy's father, a retired FBI agent. Looking to marry Izzy, Darby is assured that its time to get out of the criminal dealings with the gang, but as the crimes against them continue, it looks as if it might be too late.

Another exciting book in the series, Moco Loco adds a new element in the person of Izzy. She is a feisty lady that perfectly complements Darby's lifestyle. I will admit, whether I am just more familiar with Mr. Hutchinson's style, or he gave a few too many subtle clues, I figured the mystery person out fairly early in the story. It still had many twists and turns, and an incredibly interesting ending that I did not see coming. Loved the entire series! It also gave me a whole new view of food, as I find I'm wanting to try the Loco Moco. I am definitely going to look up his other books, and, note to Ty, would love to see more of Darby. He is just too quirky to stay out of trouble. Keep 'em coming!

*A physical copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

{Review} Stroganov: A Darby Stansfield Thriller by Ty Hutchinson

ISBN #: 978-1468191851
Page Count: 344
Copyright: January 13, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace

(Taken from Amazon)

Stroganov, a smarter, more confident Darby Stansfield continues his life as the telecommunications consultant to the criminal underworld. This time he's in bed with the Russians and everything is peachy, so far.

With his career back on track, Darby focuses on improving his personal life. However, his unconventional methods for finding love land him in the middle of a war between the Ukrainian government and a dangerous sex trafficking ring. That's his life. Wrong place. Wrong time. All of the time.

Anxious to get out of the situation, he reluctantly offers his help to the authorities in hopes of a clean break. What he gets instead is the attention of Russia's most feared criminal.

Stroganov takes you on a wild journey through Minsk, Moscow and Odessa.

Charlene's Review:

In the second book of the Darby Stansfield series, Mr. Hutchinson continues the story of Darby, telecommunications consultant of the underworld. Having worked his way up to "heavy-hitter" in the company, Darby is now dealing with the Russian Mafia, selling them electronics that will boost their profitability. On his way to a meeting with his contact, Darby sees an ad for a vacation promoting Russian women. Always on the look-out for an improved personal life, Darby books a vacation to Russia, and so begins his next adventure. Fairly quickly, he is accidentally caught up in the sex-trafficking in Russia, and a professional hitman, "Ghostface" is after him for interfering. When those close to him start becoming the victims of Ghostface, Darby begins to realize the consequences of his business practices.

Having reviewed Mr. Hutchinson's first book of the series, Chop Suey, I agreed to read the follow-up books. I was not disappointed. Written in a fast-paced, humorous style, I can't help but like Darby and his clueless "Darbytastic" ideas that always end up causing him trouble. Adventure, thriller, or crime story, it's all here. Perhaps the storyline is far-fetched, maybe a little more risque sexually this time, but I love this series for the personalities portrayed, and the curious twists and turns that continue from beginning to end.

Stroganov refers to the Chop Suey book on occasion, and I highly recommend it, but stands well on its own. This is a fun series, with crazy antics that leave you shaking your head and rooting for Darby as he tries to keep his heavy-hitter status without getting killed.

*A physical copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

{Review/Giveaway} Don't Call Me Angel by Alicia Wright Brewster

ISBN #: 978-0985023034
Page Count: 128
Copyright: June 15, 2012
Publisher: Dragonfairy Press

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

After crawling her way out of Hell, Six is ready to cast aside her angel wings and all the responsibilities that come with them. But Earth is not as peaceful as she imagined it. Demons, dark angels, and other hell-beasties escaped before her, and they're not as content as she is to live a quiet life on Earth.

A fellow angel who escaped Hell with her commits a series of soul-murders, destroying human souls so they can't go to the afterlife. Although Six has conflicting feelings about humans, she goes after the other angel to keep their escape a secret from the one she fears most.

Mandy's Review:

I have a strong affinity for books about angels and demons. I think it began with the first angel/demon fiction book I ever read as a teenager: Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness. So, when this review came across my desk, I had to say 'yes!' despite my overflowing TBR pile.

Sorry waiting authors, but a girl has her weaknesses ...

What I like about this book is that it is unlike others that I have read. Six is a fallen angel who manages to escape her way out of Hell. She's very open to the emotions of humans and winds up helping one almost immediately after coming to Earth. Then she winds up severing the wings from her back. Afterward, bloody, alone and destitute, she encounters a college student willing to help her by giving her a place to stay, food to eat and clothes to wear.

Alden, on the other hand, has gone crazy. When Six escaped hell, Alden was right behind her. She helped him escape because she owed him a debt. Six and Alden are both amazed at how ungrateful humans are and how unsatisfied they are with everything they have. While Six is annoyed with humans, she still feels the urge to help them. Alden, however, decides he wants to kill their body and their soul.

You see where this is heading ... ???

Yep! Alden and Six duke it out fallen-angel-style. Of course, Six is at a slight disadvantage because she cut off her wings. Never fear ... Six can still hold her own.

While reading this book, I kept seeing where other beasties and demons were afraid to confront Six and I wondered why that was. Well, near the end I found out why ... but, I'm not going to tell you because that would ruin it for you!!!

Okay, now the things that made me wonder ... Six had been in hell for a long time. The summary above said that other demons and beasties escaped Hell before her. However, she had never heard of anyone escaping Hell. I'm wondering how that's possible. Six had a very prestigious position in Hell. Surely Lucifer would've gone crazy looking for an escapee and Six would've heard about it. So, I do find it a little unbelievable that she hadn't heard of anyone else escaping.

Also, when Six escapes Hell, she is as naked as a human baby is born. She walks around town this way AND with wings coming out of her back yet all people do is stare?! Maybe if this was a rural, out-of-the-way town I could probably imagine that, but this was a major city! Cops should've been stopping this girl and taking her to the station for indecent exposure. That, or at the very least, some horny guy on the street definitely would've been trying to tap that ... I'm just saying ...

One thing I would've like to have seen sooner was the city Six and Alden arrived in. At first, there was mention of a city park with trees and such, so I'm thinking Central Park. It's a major city, a lot of authors like to write about it ... it seemed feasible. I was happy to see that the city they landed in was actually Atlanta and I only knew that because the book mentioned The Underground (which I've been to) and Midtown. I don't believe the city name was actually mentioned until close to the end. This is a tiny infraction amidst all of the wonderful storytelling. I only mention it because when I read a book, and I'm sure a lot of you are the same way, I have a mental picture in my head of the place and setting. While NYC and Atlanta are similar in that they're both major cities, they each have their own unique aura that affects the storytelling. So it's a little disconcerting to have NYC in one's mind while reading only to have to stop and revamp the mental image when you realize it's actually Atlanta.

Overall, Don't Call Me Angel is a wonderfully unique book. Even though there are angels in it, they are fallen angels, which lends them a nice/naughty air. I like my sweetness with some spice, don't you?

If so, you have a chance to win an ecopy of this book. All you have to do is fill out the form below. I'll close this out Friday, June 29th, and select up to two winners on Saturday.

*An ecopy of the book was provided by Dragonfairy Press in exchange for an honest review. Permission was also granted by the publisher for a giveaway.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mandy Reviews: Helper12 by Jack Blaine

ISBN #: 978-1467925532
Page Count: 182
Copyright: November 14, 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Helper12 works as a Baby Helper in Pre Ward, the place where babies spend their first six months of life before they're tracked for vocations and sent for training. She does her job well, and she stays out of trouble. But one day, the Sloanes, Society members who enjoy all the privileges of their station - family unit clearance, a private dwelling, access to good food and good schools - come to "adopt" one of the Pre Ward babies. The Director makes a deal and the Sloanes walk out with a brand new child.

They also walk out owning Helper12 - the Director sells her to them, and there's nothing she can do but go. At the Sloanes, Helper12 enters a world where people should be able to enjoy life - with high position and riches come the opportunity for individual freedom, even the chance to love - but that's not what she finds. The Sloanes are keeping secrets. So is their biological son, Thomas.

Helper12 has some secrets of her own; she's drawing, which is a violation, since Baby Helpers aren't tracked for Art. And she's growing to love the child she was bought to care for - at the same time that Ms. Sloane is becoming disenchanted with her impulse baby buy.

When all your choices are made for you, how do you make some for yourself? Helper12 is about to find out.

Mandy's Review:

To be honest, when I first agreed to read this book I didn't expect to enjoy it very much. The setting and feel of the story is dystopian. There's a place where babies are bred for the menial, out-of-sight jobs that benefit Society members. Those jobs include picking up the city's garbage, laborers, thinkers, etc. Society members are affluent people who are born to the position. A person cannot go from being a part of the system to a part of Society ... legally, anyway.

Once you strip away the dystopian aspects of this book, what you're really left with a classic story of a boy and a girl from two separate sides of the proverbial tracks who fall in love ...

Helper12, whose real name is Benna, is almost illiterate. She only knows how to read the medical charts, and a few other things, needed to get by in her "job" at the Pre Ward. Thomas, the Sloanes' biological son, helps her by buying her a dictionary for his reader that he loans her. He also takes her out in public to the Commons and a park with a lake. Benna is awed by the things she sees, things that only Society members are granted access to. During their time together, Thomas and Benna begin having feelings for each other. They dream of running away to a place where they can be together without the risk of someone sending them to the labor camps for being together, which is a violation of Society rules.

Will they be able to find a place for just the three of them?

Helper12 kept me engaged from the beginning to the end. I rooted for Thomas and Benna the entire story. I also enjoyed the dystopian setting. It lent an added level of the forbidden to this story that any reader would appreciate. This would be a book that I would recommend to all lovers of fiction, despite your preference of genre.

*An ecopy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 25, 2012

{Blog Tour} Spotlight: Murder Takes Time by Giacomo Giammatteo

Welcome to Literary R&R's first stop on Giacomo Giammatteo's Murder Takes Time book blog tour, hosted by Pump Up Your Book. For this stop, we'll be spotlighting both the author and the book. We hope you enjoy!

Book Summary:
(As provided by Pump Up Your Book)

A string of brutal murders has bodies piling up in Brooklyn, and Detective Frankie Donovan knows what is going on. Clues left at the crime scenes point to someone from the old neighborhood, and that isn't good.

Frankie has taken two oaths in his life - the one he took to uphold the law when he became a cop, and the one he took with his two best friends when they were eight years old and inseparable.

Those relationships have forced Frankie into many tough decisions, but now he faces the toughest one of his life; he has five murders to solve and one of those two friends is responsible. If Frankie lets him go, he breaks the oath he took as a cop and risks losing his job. But if he tries to bring him in, he breaks the oath he kept for twenty-five years - and risks losing his life.

In the neighborhood where Frankie Donovan grew up, you never broke an oath.

About the Author:

I live in Texas now, but I grew up in Cleland Heights, a mixed ethnic neighborhood in Wilmington, Delaware that sat on the fringes of the Italian, Irish and Polish neighborhoods. The main character of Murder Takes Time grew up in Cleland Heights and many of the scenes in the book were taken from real-life experiences.

Somehow I survived the transition to adulthood, but when my kids were young I left the Northeast and settled in Texas, where my wife suggested we get a few animals. I should have known better; we now have a full-blown animal sanctuary with rescues from all over. At last count we had 41 animals - 12 dogs, a horse, a three-legged cat and 26 pigs.

Oh, and one crazy - and very large - wild boar, who takes walks with me every day and happens to also be my best buddy.

Since this is a bio some of you might wonder what I do. By day I am a headhunter, scouring the country for top talent to fill jobs in the biotech and medical device industry. In the evening I help my wife tend the animals, and at night - late at night - I turn into a writer.

Go check out the website: Look around, click some links, and, if you've got the time, tell me what you think.

Contact me at

Mark the Date:

Literary R&R's 2nd, and final, stop on this tour will be on July 30th when Mandy will review Murder Takes Time.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Charlene Reviews: Two Kinds of Color by Deborah Kennedy

ISBN #: 978-1449988012
Page Count: 446
Copyright: January 19, 2010
Publisher: CreateSpace

(Taken from back cover)

A beautiful and sensuous woman, Freddie Walker, has fallen into the hands of a vain and greedy businessman, Jimmy Tate. His notorious reputation and illegal business practices allow him to take and make all the money he can.

On a stormy night Freddie decides to take her children and leave Jimmy for good. When Jimmy finds out he goes berserk and attempts to kill her. But her best friend, Ruby Johnson, a woman of deep faith who has a special relationship with God, arrives just in time. A struggle ensues and Jimmy is killed.

Freddie's children, two of them white, two of them black, are sent to foster homes and separated from one another. Freddie and Ruby are sent to prison. Did Ruby kill Jimmy? What sacrifices did Freddie make for the sake of her children? What secrets did she keep from them? What is their legacy? As adults will they have the courage to meet each other to find out?

Charlene's Review:

Two Kinds of Color is a multi-faceted story of abuse, pain, despair, and finally, hope. I admit to having a hard time getting into the storyline, at first. It bounces from character to character in a seemingly disjointed way, but after a slow beginning, the story falls together. Focusing mainly on Freddie, a white woman from Florida, and her tumultuous relationship with Jimmy Tate, it also incorporates the fierce friendship with her best friend, Ruby. Together, Freddie and Ruby negotiate life with Freddie's four children among prostitution, gambling, and violence. Of Freddie's children, two are white, and two are black, and in the late 60's and early 70's, this adds a degree of racism that runs deep. When Jimmy beats Freddie, nearly to her death, a shot rings out, and he is killed. Ruby and Freddie spend the next 30+ years in prison, and the children are all separated, but Ruby never forgets them, and long after Freddie is gone, has some secrets of her own to share.

While, at times, the story was explicit and the crimes hard to absorb, Ms. Kennedy writes with so much sincerity and passion, I couldn't help but get caught up in the details of a sad life, and its effects on the following generation. Being reminded of a time filled with such rage and prejudice made me angry, as I am a mother of "two kinds of color" and cannot imagine the hardships being visited on my children that they speak of in this book. A gut-wrenching, painful story that ends up teaching you the true meaning of friendship, in extreme circumstances.

*A paperback copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Kathy Reivews: I'm Not Goin' There! - A Gutsy Girlfriend Guide for Boomer Women Who Don't Want to Spend Their Golden Years Cuddling With Their Cats by Barbara Morris, R.Ph.

File Size: 623 KB
Page Count: 82
Copyright: March 21, 2012
Publisher: Image F/X (1st Edition)

Book Summary:

As teenagers, boomers declared, "We'll never get old." Now, as they approach retirement and old age is beckoning them to join "Club Decline," boomers have changed their mantra to a defiant "We're not goin' there" - without knowing what it really takes to avoid "goin' there."

Barbara Morris, author of I'm Not Goin' There! - A Gutsy Girlfriend Guide for Boomers Who Don't Want to Spend Their Golden Years Cuddling With Their Cats knows what it takes to avoid "goin' there."

A pharmacist, Barbara worked full time until age seventy-six. Daily interaction with boomers and seniors exposed a depressing, unseen side of the aging process. She saw the traps, lures, and pitfalls boomers had to deal with, and she reveals them in I'm Not Goin' There!

Barbara Morris is eager to share what she knows to help younger women see the red flags and avoid the snares that lead straight to Club Decline. I'm Not Goin' There! is packed with gutsy girlfriend advice and information not seen elsewhere because it's the author's personal first hand experience as well as what she learned interacting with boomers and retirees.

Kathy's Review:

Not just for Boomers - this book is chock-full of wisdom for any woman who doesn't want to grow old and fade away in a corner of an assisted living facility. At age 36, I haven't really given much thought to retirement, other than the fact that I have a 401K. This book made me REALLY think about it, and what I could be doing TODAY to make sure that I am able to enjoy my retirement years, not just financially, but physically and mentally, as well.

There's real advice to help slow the aging process in this e-book, which is complete with links to other useful books and websites. Morris' writing style is very smart but sassy, like a good friend is giving you advice. There's a senior mindset Morris discusses, and it seems like as soon as you resign yourself to it, you age. If you can escape the senior mindset, you can beat the aging process.

She is an advocate of natural remedies, rather than pharmaceuticals, and gives references to websites where you can learn more about this. I signed up for the e-newsletter she recommended for health tips.

I think the author, who is 83, has this all figured out. I encourage all women, no matter what age you are, to read this and take heed of the advice within. It could set you on a path for a much healthier, happier future.

*An ecopy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Charlene Reviews: Willow Pond by Carol Tibaldi

ISBN #: 978-1468111729
Page Count: 324
Copyright: March 8, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace

(Taken from Amazon)

As the Roaring Twenties crumble into the Great Depression, Virginia Kingsley, New York's toughest and most successful speakeasy owner, is doing just fine; with the whole world falling apart for so many, bootlegging is a flourishing business.

But when a former lover, Rudy, attempts to coerce his way into her business, Virginia sends him packing and her entire family pays the price: Her niece, Laura, is devastated when her infant son vanishes without a trace. Speculation and rumors abound in the media circus that follows the abduction, and the police have few leads, most of which point straight back at Virginia and her fellow bootleggers.

Suspicious of Rudy but unable to go to the police, Virginia pursues her own investigation, shaking down, threatening, and killing one petty crook after another as she races against time to find her missing great-nephew. In the meantime, Laura's lover and Herald Tribune reporter, Erich, tries to convince Laura that Virginia knows more than she is telling ... and may be behind the boy's disappearance.

With time flying past and hope thinning, Virginia, Laura, and Erich must set aside their differences and work together in one last, desperate bid to find the missing child and whoever really abducted him.

Charlene's Review:

Set during Prohibition, Ms. Tibaldi gives us a believable and colorful look at the time period. She paints a stunning picture of the people and styles of the late 20's/early 30's. Laura, the estranged wife of a famous movie star, is the niece of speakeasy owner, Virginia, and mother to a young son. When he is kidnapped, the authorities have several avenues in which to search, but Virginia and her mob contacts soon become their main focus. When reporter, Erich, enters the story, he is looking for a sensational byline, but soon falls in love with Laura, and together, they continue the search for her son.

Filled with drama, action, colorful characters, and plenty of twist and turns, Willow Pond is a delight to read. I especially enjoyed the "underground" characters, and references to historical mobsters. It gave the novel a very real feel. Adding in the abduction of the child, and the romance aspect, and this is pretty much an "all-in-one" story. Virginia is, by far, my favored character, as she is a gutsy broad with a big heart. This novel would make a wonderful movie, with all its intricacies. I am hoping there is a sequel!

*A physical copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kathy Reviews: Suitcase Pimp by Loren Niva

File Size: 370 KB
Page Count: 184

Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

It started out organically enough ...

Serial malcontent Loren Niva and his impressionable young wife Anya make the move out to California, in search of their slice of the American Dream. Starry-eyed victims of blind faith and misplaced trust, it isn't long until the city of Los Angeles conspires to devour them whole.

Sick of navigating dire financial straits, open-minded Anya takes work as a 'girl-girl' performer in the San Fernando Valley's thriving adult entertainment industry. Loren assumes the role of a 'suitcase pimp' - a slur reserved for boyfriends and husbands of porn starlets - and takes to his sordid new life with voracious relish.

What follows is a boozy, merrily depraved descent into unbridled excess, spanning locales both seedy and stately throughout Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Through whiskey-bleared eyes, Loren eagerly explores his debaucherous new world. But as Anya's dubious star continues to rise, Loren's torrid, increasingly perverse adventures threaten to tear their already flimsy union asunder.

At turns outrageous and profane, Suitcase Pimp tackles the various oily idiosyncrasies of 'the Industry,' shining a grubby little spotlight on the colorful, low-dwelling characters that comprise it. It is a brutish testament to all-American excess - and a lament for the slow disintegration and demise of an all-American marriage.

Kathy's Review:

If someone were to peer at my iPhone's Kindle app, they might wonder about me. I've got 50 Shades of Grey on there (my book club's selection this month) as well as Suitcase Pimp. I swear, I'm not like that!

Let me tell you - after reading Suitcase Pimp, 50 Shades seems tame. With a story focused around the adult film industry (I am trying not to use that P word so we don't get *those* kind of visitors to this blog, if you know what I mean!), you can expect there to be graphic depictions of what goes on when the cameras are rolling, using words that might make some uncomfortable. For that reason, I would say definitely "mature audiences only" for this book, and even then, a strong tolerance for very frank and graphic sexual content. Very strong. Because it's on almost every page, and it's no hold barred. It's definitely not my thing, and after a while it just grossed me out to read.

The writing does seem to have some intelligence, and I think the author has a twinge of bitterness at the L.A. scene. Throughout the story, between the graphic depictions of what is happening behind the camera, you can see the main character's and his wife, Anya/Lacey's downfall coming miles away. It's not surprising when it happens.

Not sure if the author came up with the titles of some of the dirty movies but there's long laundry lists of both the movies (usually parodies of popular film titles) and names of the actors/actresses, which I think were supposed to be for humor. I found myself skipping those long list of names because I just didn't think they were funny or care enough to read them.

I made it the whole way through Suitcase Pimp, but it's the kind of story I would never want to read again. If you're curious, feel free to check it out.

*An ecopy of this book was received by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kathy Reviews: Brunswick by Ann Haines

File Size: 302 KB
Page Count: 202
Copyright: March 1, 2012
Publisher: Ann Haines (1st Edition)

Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

When Jonathan wakes up beside a lake bruised and bleeding, he has no idea how he got there or where "there" really is. He must try to remember how he ended up in this place and why.

When he meets Grace and a group of people that seem to want to help him, he is thrown in to a world that he doesn't know. Haunted by visions and voices in his head, Jonathan soon realises that this world isn't as safe as he'd hoped.

Taken from his life and asked to save a land he knows nothing about, from a menacing hooded figure, Jonathan must learn quickly to survive. As he struggles to stay alive long enough to get home he is faced with a deadly choice, Join It or Die. And when it becomes clear that so many would do anything to kill him he must stay close to those who would kill for him.

To stay alive and get home he must face the one thing he never wanted to, the figure in black. And when the hood comes down Jonathan is faced with a revelation that could break him and destroy everything he has fought for.

Kathy's Review:

I had a reallllllllllllly hard time getting into this one. The summary provided by the author showed promise, and I was expecting kind of an eerie, thriller-type novel with some dark twists. Instead this is more of a YA fantasy fiction and just vanilla throughout.

The writing style is extremely dry and flat, and in general lacks correct punctuation. This book needs some serious editing work, although I do see a glimmer of light in the plot. It's got some good twists and creativity; it just really needs some polish. I'd also recommend thinning out the characters, at least the named ones. I had a hard time remembering who did what, what species they were, etc. It's hard to get invested in characters when they're spread so thin. There are a few standouts - Jonathan, the protagonist and the "creator" of Brunswick, Grace, a young girl who lives in Brunswick, Sebastion, a giant dog, and Dashana, a mysterious young woman. And, of course, the big Baddie of this story, the Dark Figure. I'd focus on these characters and maybe lose a few of the others.

Although I think this is a touching story, particularly at the end, I think it's a few edits away from being ready for prime time.

*An ecopy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Charlene Reviews: Jadoo by Missy Marianne Sevier

ISBN #: 978-1468182026
Page Count: 490
Copyright: May 14, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace

(Taken from back cover)

Secrets. A gift. An unimaginable world. This has become the life of Maggie York who is on a desperate quest to be just like everyone else, when she is anything but ordinary. After her mother dies in a one-car accident, young Maggie is quickly ushered into foster care under the very capable guidance of Clara Goodwin. In her new life, unhappy memories from the past quickly fade. However, new fears emerge when Maggie discovers she has a special gift. As anxiety turns to panic, a neighborhood boy, Peter Taylor pledges to be her ultimate protector, lifting her burden. These seemingly typical teenagers are catapulted into a whole new world where the extraordinary is ordinary. As their lives spiral out of control, they question Maggie's destiny and how to protect her from dark forces that will stop at nothing to control her. The truth, they will learn, is that Maggie's secret can't be kept forever.

Charlene's Review:

Maggie is just settling into her new life with her foster mother, Clara, when she learns she has a gift. At first, she explains it away, but as circumstances come and go, she realizes that this gift will define her future. Only her best friend and neighbor, Peter, knows, and he pledges to protect her and her secret at all costs. Unfortunately, as she uses her gift to help people around her, she attracts attention from those who seek to use her power for evil.

"Jadoo" means magic, and this story is full of magic. The magic of heavily developed and likable characters, the magic and mystery surrounding Maggie's gift, and the magical world of the Axiom, where the Children of Light come together. Without spoiling the entire theme of the book, it is difficult to do justice to this review. Suspense-filled, and balanced wonderfully between a "normal" teen girl's life and extraordinary supernatural abilities, Ms. Sevier takes the reader on an enjoyable journey.

Volume one in a series, the ending leaves you yearning for the next chapter in Maggie's journey, as the world learns her secret and she is faced with those who wish to control her abilities. This could very well be the next big book series.

*A physical copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mandy Reviews: The Word Gang by Mark McKenna

ISBN #: 978-0983105534
Page Count: 255
Copyright: December 8, 2010
Publisher: Precipitation Press

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Kalisha Jackson is a student with a stomach-churning secret - she cut school for a year and never got caught.

A new year begins. Kalisha decides to return to school. While waiting for the bus she sees an old man struggling with a heavy grocery cart. She stops to help and meets Albrecht Spinoza, a man who can speak seventeen languages, but who's had no one to talk to since the death of his beloved wife, Rosa.

Kalisha is late the first day setting off a conflict with her teacher, Jack Ralston. She's been stuck in something called "Project Restart," a strange new program in which the penalty for not doing well is a special classroom in Juvenile Hall.

Mr. Spinoza gives Kalisha a copy of the Compact Oxford dictionary. But the more 'big' words Kalisha learns, the less everyone understands her, and the madder Jack Ralston seems to get. Which to Kalisha and her new friends sounds like fun - and a great way to destroy Project Restart.

That is, if they can avoid getting trammeled, proscribed, or incarcerated first!

Mandy's Review:

This book almost seemed like a step back into time. First of all, how can any child cut a whole year of school and not get caught? Nowadays, the school would've sent truant officers to your door.

There was another part where the characters mentioned recording the news with their VCRs. I know people still have VCR/DVD combos in their houses, but most people nowadays would've recorded the news on their DVRs.

I don't recall the year ever being mentioned, but it does make me wonder if this was intended to reflect the early- to mid-1980s.

Kalisha is the daughter of an African-American mother, who is a nurse, and a Caucasian father, who is a writer. A few years before the novel begins, her father fell in love with his editor, divorced Kalisha's mother and moved to California with his beloved leaving behind three children. Kalisha, being the oldest, helps her mother with her two younger siblings every chance she gets, especially at night while her mother works on the ICU floor of the local hospital.

Kalisha seems very capable of handling a household. She knows how to cook, clean and supervise children. She takes other people's feelings into consideration and changes her intentions to accommodate them and make them feel comfortable. Where she's not so capable is in school.

Her new class, Project Restart, is headed by the school's vice principal. Mr. Ralston is selfish, arrogant and extremely judgmental. He automatically dislikes all the children in his class, but especially Kalisha due to her being late on the very first day of school. When two other students begin sticking up for her, Mr. Ralston expands his dislike to both BD and Sahmbaht. It doesn't help when the three of them start using words Mr. Ralston doesn't know the meaning to. It makes him feel belittled and angers him even more ... which he, of course, takes out on the students in his class.

BD, Sahmbaht and Kalisha's use of obscure words gives Kalisha the ammunition to call their little group the Word Gang. The three of them study dictionaries to find old words and use them during class time in order to purposefully anger Mr. Ralston. Kalisha's mother makes her promise to behave and to be respectful of Mr. Ralston, even if she doesn't like him. Her mother tries to tell Kalisha that there will always be people in life we don't like, but sometimes you still have to respect them.

Kalisha didn't really learn this lesson.

Eventually the Word Gang's actions get them expelled which fuels a national media coverage and threatens Project Restart's viability.

Overall, this novel was extremely well-written. The characters were relatable and familiar. Told in the third-person, the reader gets the chance to see how all of the main characters think and feel. It's an intriguing story that will have you rooting for the underdogs.

*A physical copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Blog Tour - Mandy Reviews: Tuesday's Child by Jeanette Baker

File Size: 409 KB
Page Count: 233

Book Summary:
(As provided by Pump Up Your Book)

Possessed of a luminous beauty and a delicate grace that belied her spirit and fierce intelligence, Tess Bradford left Maryland for London on a mission of greatest importance. Her husband, a devout patriot, had been seized by the British navy, and only one man could help her secure his release. He was James Devereaux, Duke of Langley, and former aide to Wellington. But Tess wasn't prepared for the passion that burned beneath Devereaux's implacable demeanor.

Wealthy and powerful, Devereaux could choose any woman he wanted to provide him with an heir. But Tess sparked in him a raging duel of loyalties. She was an American - and someone else's wife. Yet she aroused a desire that could destroy his reason ... or ignite a love as strong as the winds of battle that raged around them - a love too powerful to resist.

Mandy's Review:

I was grateful to have been asked by Tracee at Pump Up Your Book to participate in this tour because I've read Ms. Baker's work before and rather enjoyed it.

Tess isn't like the other women in London. She's straightforward, speaks her mind, doesn't like to play emotional games and believes marriage is sacred. Her differences stem from her being an American. She's in London, though, to try and collect her husband from the British navy. She employs the help of her friend's brother, James Devereaux.

James falls in love with her at first sight and is bound and determined to do everything in his power to have Tess be his wife, despite their political and cultural differences. Will he result to lying? Will he use manipulation? Will James and Tess ever come together as husband and wife, Duke and Duchess of Langley?

I enjoyed that his novel was written during the beginnings of America's colonization. If I'm going to read a fictional romance, I like for it to be historically written. Not only did I appreciate the setting of the novel, but the characters were vivid and lively. Every time I read a well-written historical piece (fiction or no), such as this one, it makes me wish I had lived back in those times. I absolutely adore it.

About three-quarters of the way through the book it would have appeared that everything interesting that could happen did. That was not so. Ms. Baker presents twists and dilemmas in her novels with the ease of a seasoned writer. You have a feeling you know what's going to happen, but when it does it still takes you by surprise.

This novel was a highly entertaining read that I would recommend to all you historical fiction romance lovers out there.

*An ecopy of this book was provided to me by the author as part of my participation in her virtual book blog tour. An honest review was expected in exchange.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Blog Tour/Giveaway - Particle Horizon by Selso Xisto

For this tour, Literary R&R is participating by posting a book spotlight, author bio and a link to a giveaway!

Book Info/Blurb:

ISBN #: 978-1781762714
Page Count: 344
Copyright: April 16, 2012

From the blood and dust of New Jerusalem, the Legion of the LightBringer wages a galactic war against those who would replace their god. Now, the time has come for the Union of Free Worlds to make a stand. The front line is the idyllic asteroid world of Angelhaven, where the greatest mind in human history has discovered an elemental power with far-reaching implications. A power that both sides will do anything to harness. Marine commander Gomes leads the crack Union task force. An unrelenting warrior driven by revenge and a need for answers, he hides a strange ability neither science nor religion can explain. On the other side of the war, Aja is forced to fight for a cause she doesn't believe in to protect her own secret. Caught between them is Una, a living machine who battles for her humanity as her world falls apart. Outnumbered ten to one and stalked by a mysterious nemesis, all three will play a role in unraveling Angelhaven's enigma. As the Legion invasion begins, unknown eyes watch with interest ...

Author's Bio:

Graduated from King's College London longer ago than seems possible, and went on to work in kid's TV for over 10 years making promos for Disney and Cartoon Network. Perhaps as an antidote he writes gritty, epic science fiction; forever his first love.

Surviving his ongoing obsession with fast motorbikes and flirtation with the underrated virtual worlds of video games, he somehow found time to put to paper his long-gestating scifi epic. Influenced by the great space opera of Peter F. Hamilton and Yokinobu Hoshino, as well as a lifetime of digesting the classics of Greg Bear and Arthur C. Clarke, he lives and breathes SciFi in all its forms.

He lives in London with his wife and cat. Though the cat would phrase that quite differently.


You now have the chance to win an autographed printed copy of Particle Horizon.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway will close on July 10th. Winners will be selected randomly and contacted via email.

Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Mandy Reviews: Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer

ISBN #: 978-1451635751
Page Count: 352
Copyright: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Emily Bestler Books

Book Summary:
(Taken from dust jacket)

What happens when happily ever after ... isn't?

Delilah hates school as much as she loves books. In fact, there's one book in particular she can't get enough of. If anyone knew how many times she has read and reread the sweet little fairy tale she found in the library, especially the popular kids, she'd be sent to social Siberia ... forever.

To Delilah, though, this fairy tale is more than just words on the page. Sure, there's a handsome (well, okay, hot) prince, and a castle, and an evil villain, but it feels as if there's something deeper going on. And one day Delilah finds out there is. Turns out, this Prince Charming is real, and a certain fifteen-year-old loner has caught his eye. But they're from two different worlds, and how can it ever possibly work?

Together with her daughter, Samantha van Leer, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult has written a classic fairy tale with a uniquely modern twist. Readers will be swept away by this story of a girl who crosses the border between reality and fantasy in a perilous search for her own happy ending.

Mandy's Review:

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, let's all admit it: We read books because we love how our imaginations light up and play the story our in our minds. We give the characters voices, we give them personalities and we give them life (with the help of the author, of course) inside of our imaginations. We become familiar with the characters and start to feel as if we really know them and understand them.

But, what if, when we close the books we read, the characters came to life inside the book and began talking to each other about their world and the things they know instead of the words the author has given them? What if the characters could see the readers' faces? What if one of us, a reader, felt like we knew a particular character so well we started to have feelings for the character ... and vice versa?

I believe these were some of the questions that passed through Samantha's mind and sparked the idea for this novel. Thankfully, she pitched the idea to her mom, Jodi, and they agreed to sit down and write this book together.

And I am so glad they did ...

The first thing I noticed, and liked, about this novel was the beautiful illustrations throughout. I've posted one below. This one is opposite the title page at the beginning of the novel. I promise you: pictures do not do these illustrations justice. You have to see them for yourself.

Not only are these colorful illustrations interspersed throughout, but there's also black and white drawings on the edges of many of the pages. I've included one of those below as well.

Now to the actual written contents of this novel...

Three stories are being told at one time: A fairy tale (titled Between the Lines), Oliver's story, and Delilah's story. I enjoyed reading the fairy tale while reading Oliver's and Delilah's viewpoints of their situation. The fairy tale portion was in black lettering, Oliver's portion was in a purplish-blue lettering (depended on the light I was under), and Delilah's portion was in green lettering. I loved the originality of the novel being set up this way. I don't think I've ever seen that done in other novels.

The fairy tale started out like most fairy tales do with "Once upon a time..." and went into a Prince needing to rescue a damsel in distress. Along the way, the Prince encountered many situations meant to endanger him, in which he was able to quickly outwit his opponents. After many trials, the Prince reaches the tower where the evil villain is holding the damsel captive. Fighting ensues and the Prince defeats the evil villain, wins the damsel's hand and they live happily ever after.

Oliver is the Prince in the fairy tale. Seraphima, the damsel, is actually an airhead and seemingly dim-witted. She easily confuses the lines of the fairy tale with the characters' reality. Oliver doesn't want to hurt her feelings, but he cannot stand her and doesn't want anything from her other than friendship. Oliver just wants to be free: Free of the kingdom, free from the fairy tale, free from having to kiss Seraphima at the end of the fairy tale every time someone opens the book to read the story. Can he exist outside of the book? Is it even possible? If so, is there a reader who can hear him and help him?

Delilah hates school. She's pretty much a loner. She really only has one friend, Jules, that she hangs out with. Books are her life. She loves to read. When she came across the fairy tale, Between the Lines, in her school's library, she received a shock as soon as her fingers touched the cover. Right then she knew the book was something special.

From the first page, Delilah was hooked and read the book every chance she got. So much so that her mom thought her depressed and wanted to take her to see a psychiatrist. What her mom didn't understand was that Delilah and Oliver could talk to each other. A human and a character in a fairy tale were able to converse every time Delilah opened the book. They began caring for each other and trying to figure a way for Oliver to leave the fairy tale permanently.

This novel took me back to my pre-teen days when I loved reading fairy tales. It was like a literary portal transporting me back in time when I felt those feelings of swooning over the prince, gasping at the perils he faced and laughing at his trickery over his opponents. It was absolutely wonderful!

I cannot gush enough about Between the Lines. I already liked Jodi Picoult as an author, but when Jodi and Samantha get together to write a novel, the effect is truly magical. I highly recommend this novel to all you YA book lovers out there!!!

*A hardcopy of this novel was provided by Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

Charlene Reviews: Been There, Noted That by Stephen Geez

ISBN #: 978-1936442051
Page Count: 292
Copyright: February 12, 2012
Publisher: Fresh Ink Group

(Taken from back cover)

The simple lives of everyday people in a mundane world prove extraordinary in this collection of 54 personal-experience essays by novelist Stephen Geez. The eclectic mix of memoir, commentary, humor, and appreciation covers a wide range of topics, each beautifully illustrated by artists and photographers from the Fresh Ink Group. Geez catches what many of us miss, then considers how we might all share the most poignant of lessons. Been There, Noted That aims to reveal who we are, examine where we've been, and discover what we dare strive to become.

Charlene's Review:

In the 50+ essays that make up Been There, Noted That Mr. Geez focuses on the very things that most of us take for granted, or imparts what the world could be like if we took notice of the small things. A natural storyteller, he left me with a comforting glow, like I was curled up, snug, in front of a fire, listening to a beloved grandfather tell me about his life. Mr. Geez offers up a wise gem one moment, and a laugh out loud vignette in the next.

With an observant and open heart, these essays open up new insights to the world around us, such as in "What We Leaf" where he describes the ever changing leaves, their beautiful patterns, and the vastness of the differences in each one, even though they are seen as all the same, and then ponders how people are so very much like the leaves in that "... most ... somehow manage to fulfill our destinies; but then toward the end, we begin to change, show our age, find our true colors, blaze brilliantly in those final moments before we must inevitably let go." Such beautiful imagery!

There are so many light-hearted essays, as well. "Skunk Skool" and the slightly risque "Fungus Among Us" were two of my favorites, as well as a fun look at politicians in "Cotton Dandy." There are too many highlight to mention, but I will say it is definitely worth reading. He has his own website, where you can sample his work, and even send it to others to brighten their day.


*A physical copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mandy Reviews: Serpent's Kiss by Melissa de la Cruz

ISBN #: 978-1401323967
Page Count: 316
Copyright: June 12, 2012
Publisher: Hyperion

Book Summary:
(Taken from book jacket)

The beguiling Beauchamp family, introduced in the New York Times bestselling Witches of East End, returns in Serpent's Kiss, with dizzying plot twists and spellbinding magic.

Joanna and her daughters, bookish Ingrid and wild-child Freya, are just settling into the newfound peace that has been cast over their small, Long Island town of North Hampton. With the centuries-old restriction against practicing magic lifted, casting spells, mixing potions, and curing troubled souls has never felt so good. That is, until everything gets turned upside down - from Joanna's organized kitchen to Ingrid's love life to Freya's unshakeable faith in her sexy soul mate, Killian Gardiner.

When Freya's twin brother, Freddie, suddenly reappears, professing innocence for a long-ago crime, Freya should be ecstatic. The golden boy can do no wrong. Or can he? Freddie blames none other than Freya's fiance, Killian, for his downfall, and enlists Freya's help to prove it, leaving Freya confused about whom to trust.

And for the first time in, well, forever, Ingrid is also busy in love. Matt Noble, the handsome and charming police detective, has won her heart. But can romance work between a virgin witch and a mortal who doesn't believe in magic?

To add to the chaos, a dead spirit is attempting to make contact with Joanna - but does it mean to bring harm or help? As the witches pull together to discover the serpent within their midst and the culprit behind Freddie's imprisonment, everything sacred is thrown into peril. Will the discovery come too late to save those they love most?

Mandy's Review:

I know some reviews start off rehashing what the book summary states plus a little extra. I'm not going to do that this time. The book summary perfectly explains what takes place between the covers of this book. What is doesn't express is the hold the story has on you while you're reading it. It's almost as if Melissa herself has placed an enchantment spell on the words she's written.

Oh yeah ... The one thing the book summary didn't mention, that I adored in this book, were the pixies. They are a group of good-hearted robbers who have forgotten where they're from and why they've been banished from their home. Despite her budding romantic love-live, Ingrid has agreed to help them figure out how to get them home.

I love the world Melissa has created in North Hampton with the Beauchamp family. With the perfect mix of reality and magical creativity, the reader is transported into the lives of the Beauchamps. They are a tightly knit family who are there for each other despite the consequences of that loyalty.

Another interesting fact about Melissa's writing: She has a talent for gently weaving in events, people and places that will progress the story into the next book. Not many authors I've read can do that so seamlessly. Quite a few just try to rush everything in at the end. Not Melissa and that is one of the things I enjoy most about reading her work.

If you've not started Melissa de la Cruz's Witches of East End series and you enjoy fiction with a twist of magic, then I highly recommend you pick up both Witches of East End and Serpent's Kiss. I guarantee you'll be hooked.

FYI - The third novel in this series, The Winds of Salem, will be out June 2013!!!

*A hardcopy of this novel was provided by Goldberg McDuffie Communications in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Kathy Reviews: The Cinderella Blues by Obren Bokich

ISBN #: 978-1470160678
Page Count: 294
Copyright: April 12, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace

Book Summary:
(Taken from book jacket)

The Cinderella Blues (Thuh Sin'dur-rel'uh Bluze)
The phenomena whereby otherwise intelligent, capable, successful professional women are convinced they need rescuing by a prince.

Kathy's Review:

OK, first of all, prospective authors: this is how it's done. This book is right up there with some of the best I've read in the past few years. Seriously. It's that good. The book summary above just doesn't do this book justice, so here's a brief synopsis. Kat is a heroine for the modern day. She's young, has a great career going, has two best friends who will do anything for her. Her boss is a little demanding, and she's got a little problem with driving, but it's L.A. Oh - and she doesn't have the best luck with men. In a very funny, very realistic and witty story, Kat, a die-hard romantic, must separate the fantasy from the reality and choose her path in life and love. There. I think that's a more proper book summary than the one above.

This is definitely a "chick-lit" kind of book, and reminded me of the Janet Evanovich novels in a way - at least in that the character of Kat reminded me of Stephanie Plum. Also, Kat's penchant for baking reminded me of Kristin Wiig's character in Bridesmaids. But those characters seem to be down on their luck - Kat has a lot going for her, which makes me like her character even more. Yes, some rather unfortunate (and hilarious) things happen to her, but for the most part she has a good head on her shoulders and doesn't get down in the dumps when things go wrong.

I highly, highly recommend this book for women who needs a good laugh. Guys, you'll laugh too, but the characters are definitely more relatable for the ladies (which is interesting - the book was written by a man!). This one is a keeper.

*A physical copy of the book was provided by Blackbear Media in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Kathy Reviews: The Faustian Host (Apocalypse Signs) by Dave Becker

File Size: 309 KB
Page Count: 221
Copyright: March 14, 2012
Publisher: Dave Becker

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Plymouth Rock is bleeding. Day has turned to night. Hundred-pound hailstones level buildings. The small town of Clement seems cursed, and the residents know who's to blame: the new kid, Tony Marino.

After losing his family and his home, 14-year-old Tony is forced to move from Florida to Massachusetts to attend Kalos Academy, an unconventional school for gifted children. Strange things begin to happen the day he arrives, and soon stories of plagues, monsters, and mystical objects surround him. Refusing to believe superstitions, Tony struggles to explain the occurrences logically, until he comes face to face with a satanic cult determined to bring about the end of the world.

Kathy's Review:

I've read a few of these types of books so far for review ... seemingly normal kid has some traumatic event happen to him/her, finds himself enrolled in a school for special kids, discovers he has powers he never knew he had. Makes friends with a few misfits, tries to catch the eye of the popular girl, another kid is out to get him for no apparent reason. Yep, here we go again.

Tony's uber-religious grandma passes, leaving him an orphan - oh and then his house is destroyed by a meteor. (Traumatic even? CHECK). He's taken to Clement, Massachusetts by his godparents, the Browns, whom he has never met to this point. He's accepted into Kalos Academy, which is highly prestigious and has very high standards for their students. Tony appears to be an average kid with average intelligence but he is accepted nonetheless. When he starts school, he befriends Jubie, described as a nerd, Erica, who is a bit out there, and admires Katie, the beautiful popular girl (CHECK and CHECK), but seems to have an immediate enemy in jock Dan (CHECK).

The difference here is The Faustian Host is well written, the dialogue is appropriate for the teenaged characters, and it's actually entertaining to read. There are unexpected twists, some historical and biblical flavor, and the plot moves at a quick pace. The characterization is also quite good. Tony's character is a bit of a smartass, but deep down he is lonely and wants to fit in at his new school. When the finger of blame is pointed at him for the disturbances around town, he is isolated and wondering about his past.

Like the other books I've read, The Faustian Host is intended to be the first in a series, and leaves many unanswered questions for the reader to ponder until book two. This is definitely a series I would continue with, and I think teens and adult readers of the fantasy genre alike would find this one right up their alley.

*An ecopy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mandy Reviews: The Gentle Wind's Caress by Anne Brear

ISBN #: 978-1908483324
Page Count: 354
Copyright: June 7, 2012
Publisher: Knox Robinson Publishing

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Halifax, 1876.

On the death of her mother and sister, Isabelle Gibson is left to fend for herself and her brother in a privately-run workhouse. After the matron's son attempts to rape her, Isabelle decides to escape him and a life of drudgery by agreeing to marry a moorland farmer she has never met. But this man, Farrell, is a drunkard and a bully in constant feud with his landlord, Ethan Harrington.

When Farrell bungles a robbery and deserts her, Isabelle and Ethan are thrown together as she struggles to save the farm. Both are married and must hide their growing love. But despite the secrecy, Isabelle draws strength from Ethan as faces from the past return to haunt her and a tragedy is set to strike that will change all of their lives forever.

Mandy's Review:

First of all, I must say this ...


I love the colors, the picture, the sentiment it portrays ... I just adore it.

Now that I got that out of my system, let's get down to the nitty gritty: The book opens with Isabelle and Hughie standing at their sister's open grave as she has just died. Their father left them a few years before and their mother died soon after that. Now that it's just the two of them, Isabelle is determined to get them out of the workhouse they've been in since their father left. The matron's dislike for Isabelle and the matron's son's continuous (unwanted) attempted advances are more than enough to spurn Isabelle into deciding that a marriage is the best way out of their situation.

Thanks to the matron's deceitfulness, Isabelle is married to a drunkard and an abuser. She determines to make the best of her situation and stays with him. It takes a year or so for Isabelle to realize the mistake she's made as she looks at her brother and realizes he has become sullen and pessimistic thanks to living with Farrell, Isabelle's husband.

Enter the brave knight on a white horse: Ethan Harrington. He actually owns the land Farrell lives on. As these stories go, Ethan and Isabelle fall in love. There's just one ... okay, maybe two ... problem(s). They're both married ... to separate people. Both of their marriages, though, seem to be a marriage of convenience. Ethan and Isabelle decide that divorces are needed as soon as possible so they can be together.

Will their separate divorces be granted? Do Ethan and Isabelle get their rose-colored future they dream about?

There is a lot of action in this story. I read this whole book through in one day. I didn't want to put it down. The plot twists kept my interest as I continued reading to find out what happened next.

My only issue with the book (other than some slight editing issues here and there) is that, like most romantic fictions, every male wanted the main female character. I can understand one, two, maybe even three at the most, but there were four male characters that wanted Isabelle. All for slightly different reasons, but still ... it becomes a little redundant after awhile. I mean, come on, is she really that intriguing and sexy? Is she really so different from all the other females of Halifax?

Despite my one issue, I am curious to know if there is a sequel in the works. Isabelle's story doesn't feel finished to me and I'd like to see how she ends up. I would highly recommend this novel to all fiction lovers out there, especially those who enjoy romantic, historical, English novels.

*An ecopy of this novel was provided by Knox Robinson Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Charlene Reviews: Shades of Murder by Lauren Carr

ISBN #: 978-1470082444
Page Count: 230
Copyright: May 8, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace

(Taken from back cover)

Question: What do you get the man with everything?

Answer: When that man is the heir of the late mystery writer Robin Spencer, retired homicide detective Mac Faraday, you get him cold case to solve.

In Shades of Murder, Mac Faraday is once again the heir to an unbelievable fortune. This time the benefactor is a stolen art collector. But this isn't just any stolen work-of-art - it's a masterpiece with a murder attached to it.

Ilysa Ramsay was in the midst of taking the art world by storm with her artistic genius. Hours after unveiling her latest masterpiece - she is found dead in her Deep Creek Lake studio - and her painting is nowhere to be found.

Almost a decade later, the long lost Ilysa Ramsay masterpiece has found its way into Mac Faraday's hands and he can't resist the urge to delve into the case. A world away, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; former JAG lawyer Joshua Thornton agrees to do a favor for the last person he would ever expect to do a favor - a convicted serial killer.

The Favor: Solve the one murder wrongly attributed to him. Joshua finds an unexpected ally in Cameron Gates, a spunky detective who has reason to believe the young woman known to the media only as Jane Doe, Victim Number Four, was the victim of a copycat.

Together, Joshua and Cameron set out to light a flame under the cold case only to find that someone behind the scenes wants the case to remain cold, and is willing to kill to keep it that way. Little do these detectives know that the paths of their respective cases are on a collision course when they follow the clues to bring them together in a showdown with a killer who's got a talent for murder!

Charlene's Review:

Shades of Murder begins in Maryland with the murder of an up and coming artist. Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, JAG lawyer, Joshua Thornton, makes a promise to a convicted serial killer that he will find who really murdered the one lady he was wrongly accused of killing. As the plot develops, many twists and turns occur, and soon, the detectives are working together to solve what may or may not be all the same crime.

Lauren Carr could give Agatha Christie a run for her money! This hypnotic page-turner is a whirlwind of romance, murder, and espionage. Lots of creativity went into the unforeseen twists, and culminated in a climactic ending that tied the multi-faceted story into a nice little package. I also appreciated the special attention paid to the animal characters, which were every bit as developed as their human counterparts. This was an absolutely delightful read that is sure to be a hit with mystery readers. I look forward to reading her other books, as I am now a fan!

*A physical copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Charlene Reviews: Crashing Eden by Michael Sussman

ISBN #: 978-1477444894
Page Count: 220
Copyright: May 11, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace

(Taken from back cover)

For one boy and his friends, the path to Paradise comes at a cost - one they may not be prepared to pay.

When a biking accident leaves 17-year-old Joss Kazdan with the ability to hear things others can't, reality as he knows it begins to unravel.

A world of legends exists beyond the ordinary life he's always known, and he is transported to the same Paradise he's studying in World Mythology. But the strange gets even stranger when his new friends build a device that delivers people through the gates of the Garden of Eden.

Now Samael, the Creator God, is furious. As Samael rains down his apocalyptic devastation on the ecstasy-seeking teens, Joss and his companions must find a way to appease Samael - or the world will be destroyed forever.

Charlene's Review:

Joss, 17 years old, and fresh from juvenile detention, hates his life. He can't seem to stay out of trouble, his younger brother committed suicide, and his mother blames him. After hitting his head in a bike accident, Joss suddenly hears music that changes his life. It takes away the pain and depression that have plagued him, and makes him want to be a better person. Coinciding with his accident, Joss is learning about mythology in school, and the fall of man. He also meets a woman that promises him the soothing freedom he has found can last. As things unfold, Joss realizes that they have found the way back to the Garden of Eden. The only thing standing in the way of human happiness is Samael, who Joss and his friends must confront if they want to continue feeling bliss.

Crashing Eden is marketed as a YA fantasy novel. I, personally, found it intoxicating. Who has never wished for an escape from the pain and suffering on earth? Mr. Sussman delights his reader with vivid imagery, realistic human interaction, and a sense of hope. There are some very profound topics covered, and I must say, a certain level of controversy. Using mythology as a base, Mr. Sussman gives us an angry god who needs intervention from his own creation. A little unnerving to someone who has strong religious convictions, but seeing it as fiction, I was able to put it aside and enjoy the story. There's plenty of action as apocalyptic plagues and signs fall on the world as more and more people succumb to the "primordial vibrations."

Crashing Eden is written with much intelligence and sprinkled with great humor. It is ultimately a feel good story of the possibility of a nearly perfect existence in a badly scarred world. Beautiful, lyrical, and endearing, it will stay with you long after you're finished reading.

*A physical copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
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