Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mandy Reviews: An Impossible Dream Story by J.V. Petretta

ISBN #: 978-1457506802
Page Count: 251
Copyright: February 15, 2011
Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

An accomplished, aging man is preparing for yet another dream - to conduct the first known bicycle-book tour (which will require peddling both miles and books). Who will believe 2,500 miles is possible for a man with gravely serious medical issues - at age sixty-five? Witnessing the lifetime spiritual journey of Vinny Pirelli, starting at age six with his very first bicycle, you track his development of being the only boy among many siblings, through growing pains of adolescence and teen years. He struggles with, and represses homosexual tendencies, putting his emotions into bicycling and writing songs. As a young adult, Vinny proves successful at whatever he attempts - even in building a family with the first girl he had sexual feelings for. As a ten-year Army leader, he learns hard lessons of losing friendships, love and trust, with the ultimate betrayal of his own father.


Mandy's Review:

This book provides an intimate look inside the author's past. With this type of writing, the reader is able to really get to know who he is, why he is the person he's become and feel a sense of closeness to him.

All children (or at least the ones I know) love bicycles, but Vinny's bike seemed to mean much more to him than to other children. Being the only son, Vinny was always seeking his dad's approval and recognition of Vinny's masculinity. Acquiring a bicycle at age six helped Vinny to feel "all boy, worthy to be Dad's one-and-only junior."

From childhood to present day, the reader follows Vinny on his journey through life. You will feel his joy (and relief) of falling in love, his pain of separation from close friends, his exaltation and pride from completing a 5,000 mile bike journey across the continent to, finally, his peace and overwhelming contentment at being with the love of his life.

There are some language and content issues that immature persons should not read. There are times when I felt the author went into too much detail, but that is the risk one takes when reading a book written with full disclosure. Overall moving and touching, An Impossible Dream Story will inspire and encourage struggling homosexuals.


Side Note:

Author's proceeds from the sale of this book will be divided among selected cycling and LGBT advocate groups, and his own future work in Africa.

Charlene Reviews: Pirate Therapy and Other Cures by Mark A. Rayner

ISBN #: 978-0986662782
Page Count: 168
Copyright: March 12, 2012
Publisher: Monkeyjoy Press


Description:
(Taken from back cover)

Ever wondered what might happen if your therapist was replaced by a pirate? Or how disquieting it would be to receive postcards from your future self? If William Shatner was elected President of the United States, what would his inaugural address sound like? Mark A. Rayner tackles these and stranger questions in his collection of short stories, essays and flash fiction that thrum with the absurd and hum with alienation, all to a humorous beat. Jesus contends with dinosaurs. Marcel Duchamp describes what happens to a Dadaist who has a monkey's tail grafted to his butt. Whether he is explaining how Anne of Green Gables destroyed the world, or outlining Thor's new PR strategy, Rayner entertains with wit, humor and an imagination that is one step short of certifiable.


Charlene's Review:

Mr. Rayner brings us wit, sarcasm, and a slightly deranged view of the world, as he sees it, in Pirate Therapy and Other Cures. From "wrap rage" which is "the rising anger and dementia that you feel when you are unable to open the shiny new thing you have just purchased" (e.g., CD's) to the "Thomas Kincaid Pop-up Christmas Tree and Santa Virus Dispenser" (which helps to increase holiday sales) there is no limit to Mr. Rayner's comic genius. Most of the vignettes are 2-3 pages, so this is light reading at its best. Satirical and sharp, entertaining and whimsical, Pirate Therapy is a collection of gems that will cure what ails you, or at least keep you entertained while you recuperate.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Charlene Reviews: The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

ISBN #: 978-1451657470
Page Count: 352
Copyright: February 14, 2012
Publisher: Gallery Books


Description:
(Taken from back cover)

Hannah Levi is renowned throughout Venice for her gift at coaxing reluctant babies from their mothers - a gift aided by the secret "birthing spoons" she designed. But when a count implores her to attend to his wife, who has been laboring for days to give birth to their firstborn son, Hannah is torn. A Papal edict forbids Jews from rendering medical treatment to Christians, but the payment he offers is enough to ransom her beloved husband, Isaac, who has been captured at sea. Can Hannah refuse her duty to a suffering woman? Hannah's choice entangles her in a treacherous family rivalry that endangers the baby and threatens her voyage to Malta, where Isaac, believing her dead in the plague, is preparing to buy his passage to a new life. Not since The Red Tent or People of the Book has a novel transported readers so intimately into the complex lives of women centuries ago or so richly into a story of intrigue that transcends the boundaries of history.


Charlene's Review:

Hannah Levi has been a midwife for many babies, but none as controversial as the Contessa's. The only thing pulling her towards attending the birth of the Christian baby, against Jewish laws, is the money promised that could pay for her enslaved husband to be returned to her. Using her secret "birthing spoons," crude forceps she designed to aid the birth of the baby, Hannah saves the infant and the mother. Unfortunately, the birthing spoons are found, and claiming Hannah is a witch, the Contessa's brother demands the money she earned, or he will turn her over to authorities. As she attempts to save her own life, and reclaim her husband, the events quickly escalate into murder, familial loss, and eventually, a new beginning.

Set in Venice, 1575, inside the Jewish ghetto, The Midwife of Venice transports the reader to a poor, dirty city. In a time when it was not easy to be Jewish, or a woman, Hannah must find the strength to take care of herself. Ms. Rich articulates fiercely the struggle of women of this era. The hysteria and fear of the times, especially concerning the Plague, are palpable. The imagery is simply spellbinding. This is a story of suspense and love, intermingled with a historical content. I enjoyed reading this novel, and would look forward to a sequel, just to see how things turn out for all the characters, especially the baby. I would definitely love to see more from this author.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Charlene Reviews: Perfectly Crazy by Mitzi Penzes

ISBN #: 978-1935547334
Page Count: 300
Copyright: September 1, 2011
Publisher: New Year Publishing


Description:
(Taken from back cover)

Sexy, stylish and successful, Nell always prided herself on her common sense. So why is she suddenly crazy for David, her married best friend of twenty years? With a single kiss, Nell's perfect Californian life turns upside down. All the safety of her well-adjusted marriage to a respected plastic surgeon and her growing fashion business pale in comparison to the passion experienced in that kiss. Can she go on as before, or will she make the biggest change of her life? Will she face disaster and tragedy, or perhaps adventure and a second chance? Or possibly both? Find out from this fast paced book where the sceneries are changing as fast as the movies. Life is full of surprises and challenges that anyone would call perfectly crazy yet they may become reality one day. Or will they?


Charlene's Review:

Nell and David have been best friends forever. Nell is happily married to Jack, and David is married to Julie, with a baby on the way. So when they share a kiss of fireworks proportions, why are they suddenly longing for each other? With lots of bumps in the road, Nell and David try to figure out what comes next, together or separate.

There is little way to fully explain the complexities of this book without ruining some of the surprises. Let's just say, one way or another, Nell and David find themselves in a very heated relationship. While I enjoyed the story, the characters were not all believable in their actions, especially Jack and Nell's children, in accepting the love affair between her and David. There is also a whole lotta sex going on in these pages, so, be warned. A love story about following your heart, but with a soft porn influence, Perfectly Crazy is a perfectly fun read.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Charlene Reviews: In Leah's Wake by Terri Giuliano Long

ISBN #: 978-0615608327
Page Count: 334
Copyright: March 27, 2012
Publisher: In Leah's Wake


Description:
(Taken from Amazon)

The Tylers have a perfect life - beautiful home, established careers, two sweet and talented daughters. Their eldest daughter, Leah, an exceptional soccer player, is on track for a prestigious scholarship. Their youngest, Justine, more responsible than seems possible for her 12 years, just wants her sister's approval. With Leah nearing the end of high school and Justine a seemingly together kid, the parents are set to enjoy a peaceful life ... until Leah meets Todd, a high school dropout and former roadie for a rock band.

As Leah's parents fight to save their daughter from a world of drugs, sex, and wild parties, their divided approach drives their daughter out of their home and a wedge into their marriage. Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Justine observes her sister's rebellion from the shadows of their fragmented family - leaving her to question whether anyone loves her and if God even knows she exists.

Can this family survive in Leah's wake? What happens when love just isn't enough?


Charlene's Review:

In Leah's Wake is the story of the Tyler family. The oldest daughter, Leah, has always been the star soccer player, but feels the pressures of her father taking over the enjoyment of the game. As her life revolves around practices, the next game, and scholarships, Leah meets Todd, and a whole new life opens up. As she begins to see more of him, she slowly spirals into a life of parties, drugs, and lies. When her parents attempt to step in, they can't agree on the right approach and their family begins to fracture. Younger daughter, Justine begins to feel invisible, and eventually begins to emulate her sister. A near-death experience may be the only thing that saves Leah, and her family.

In reading this story, my heart really went out to the parents. For all their good intentions, they just couldn't seem to stay out of their own way. Being a parent of teenagers, I completely identified with their feelings of love, anger, and helplessness. To quote my favorite passage in the book, where Will, the father, is remembering the words of his mother, "Your children will bring you the greatest joy in your life," she'd said. "And they'll break your heart." It was truly saddening to watch as Leah fell further away from her family, and they couldn't bridge the gap.

Full of emotion, realistic family relationships, rebellion, and most of all the love of not-quite perfect parents, who despite setbacks, never gave up, In Leah's Wake is a must read for parents who feel lost, teenagers who feel misunderstood, and pretty much everyone who has ever loved a good ending.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kathy Reviews: THEM by Adrian Deans

ASIN #: B0079LSQRM
File Size: 1395 KB
Copyright: February 10, 2012
Publisher: Really Blue Books


Book Summary:
(As given by the publisher)

Rob Lasseter is the great grandson of a legendary explorer. His prized possession is an old parchment, which is thought to be a map showing the location of the fabulous reef of gold. Unfortunately, however, there are no points of external reference on the map. The only words are 'You are here,' next to an X, but Lasseter doesn't know where X is - he doesn't know where to start looking. Inspired by the strange disappearance of the White Haired girl, and the receipt of a letter addressed in his own handwriting from a place he had never been, Lasseter (with his friend Miles, who claims to be dead) embarks upon an odyssey into the centre of Australia and has some very strange adventures. Lasseter thinks he is looking for gold, but instead he finds something far more interesting. An Australian story of pan-cosmic enormity.


Kathy's Review:

THEM has an intriguing premise - Rob Lasseter, a bit of a loser at life, possesses a map his family has had for generations - it promises a treasure, shows an "X" that says "You are here" but no one knows where "here" is. After losing his girlfriend, being passed over for promotion at work, Rob's life takes a turn when he meets up with his "dead" friend Miles at a bar (he's not really dead - he was going to kill himself but then the phone rang so he's still technically alive although he intends to finish the job), and they get sucked into something very weird. Rob's map gets stolen and he and Miles board a train to Thule, a new city in Australia, though they're not exactly sure why.

Rob gets pulled into this network of powerful and famous people, and becomes the Chief Spin for the leader of the new government. Part One of the story ends with Rob and Miles possibly being shot at when they are close to uncovering a huge secret.

And then Part Two gets weird. First of all, the perspective changes. Part One is mostly told from the first person of Rob, with short interjections of government correspondence reporting on their take on what's going on with Rob, and there's a small portion where it seems like it shifts to Miles and then back to Rob. Honestly, when I read it I thought it was a mistake on the author's part because it seemed so arbitrary.

But then in Part Two, the line gets blurred even further and I don't think it was a mistake at all. Sometimes it's Miles, sometimes it's Miles inhabiting Rob's body (?) and sometimes it shifts to other characters. Are they dead? Are they in some kind of LOST sideways world?

I'm not sure I understood at all times what was going on, to be honest with you. I read this whole thing, with interest, but there were times when I was all, HUH???? I kept reading and reading, wanting to understand. At last, I think I kind of understood, but I'm not sure I fully ever grasped what was going on.

There are some big philosophical ideas the story centers around. First, there's the notion that the government, and the people who call the shots in the government, are the ones who benefit from the hard work of the working class (e.g. the farmers, tradesmen, etc.). Then there's a sort of call to action about the individual self, which is summed up nicely in this phrase: "Some of us are stepping stones, and all others are but the grains of sand between them ... It is up to you where you cause the path to lead." Early on in the book, Miles identifies some people as "Gunnas" - meaning, they are always claiming they're "gunna" do something, "gunna" go somewhere, "gunna" make changes ... and never take any action. It made me think about myself - how many times have I said I was "gunna" write a book, or "gunna" lose weight, etc.? Have I done those things?

Although sometimes confusing, THEM is an interesting ride that is thought-provoking and hits upon many issues facing humanity, from the political to gender issues to the personal quest for happiness and fulfillment.

I will recommend this one with a few caveats: first, as I said, it will confuse you. You will have no idea what is going on. The author does this on purpose, so hang on for the ride. Second, there are f-bombs. Lots and lots of them. If this offends you, don't read. Third, there's sex. Lots and lots of sex. If this offends you, don't read. However, if you're ok with all three of those, then I think you will enjoy the humor, characters (even though at times you'll have no idea what character you're currently reading), innovative writing style, and interesting twists and turns.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cover Reveal: Back to Bataan by Jerome Charyn

I am ecstatic to say that this is my first cover reveal! Thanks goes to Nicole at Tribute Books for offering me this opportunity.


On July 1, 2012, Jerome Charyn will be releasing his newest young adult novel, Back to Bataan. Are you ready to see the cover? Here you go ....




Book Summary:

Hiding out in Riverside Park after lashing out at the boy who stole his girlfriend, Jack joins ranks with a group of vagrants and is soon under the sway of a man called the Leader, a charismatic ex-convict.


Being the huge Jerome Charyn fan that I am, I cannot wait to read this book! Why not join me in adding it to your Goodreads To-Read list? You can click here to do just that.


Thanks for stopping by on my first ever cover reveal. Have a great day! =)

Monday, April 23, 2012

~ Bookmark Giveaway ~


So, my wonderfully gorgeous friend is an artist. She has her own webiste, FabFunkyDiva, and is uber talented. She surprised me with the above bookmark. Five were given to me, but I'm only giving four away right now (I need to keep one!).

If you would like to have one of the four remaining bookmarks, just click here to be taken to the form.

Thanks ya'll!

Kathy Reviews: Star Child and 13 More Twisted Tales by Frank G. Poe, Jr.

ISBN #: 978-0741473608
Page Count: 159
Copyright: March 9, 2012
Publisher: Infinity Publishing


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Poe's stories aren't just good reads. They're thought provoking experiences. Poe's introduction, Beyond the Bright Light, as heard on radio is a must read for the curious. Discover what lies beyond and fourteen entertaining tales. Poe delivers another crop of twisted stories. Disturbing, weird and rich with dark humor, his tales examine our relationships, society, religion and even politics with alternative histories and flat out science fiction. Hags, trolls, djinn, knights, bears, aliens, this book has everything. Readers sit back and enjoy the wild ride. It's easy to see why reviewers compare Frank to Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe.


Kathy's Review:

Let's just get something out of the way. Frank's twisted tales are in need of a twisted editor. Or just a regular editor. By the second page, I had my red pen out and was editing as I went along. That's not a good sign. I won't waste any space going into the details of what needs editing. Just read my post, Editing Is Your Friend, and we'll move on.

Despite the fact that this book bears many markings from the Red Pen of Grammarsmack, I found all of these twisted tales to be engrossing. Disturbing, but engrossing. Definitely not for the easily offended or easily weirded-out. There's some graphic sexual content in here, as well as violence, rape, murder, cannibalism and bestiality. This is a collection of short stories, poetry and artwork (some is the author's and other artists are also featured) that feature some everyday people, and some historical and fictional figures. Poe takes simple ideas (for instance, two rival actors at a Medieval Times-type show) and weaves them into intriguing tales.

I particularly liked "Dreams of Djinni," a story-within-a-story about a mysterious not-for-sale broken pearl ring on display at a store, "The Brothers Chi" is an interesting telling of the history of China with a bit of political satire thrown in, and "Tolkien Revisited" offers a spin on how the story "Lord of the Rings" came to be. Each offers something unique and, as the title suggests, twisted.

A note on the author: he is a survivor of MS and is donating partial proceeds of his book sales to charity. He is to be commended both for his personal triumph and his generosity.

Support a good cause and check out some twisted tales - as long as you have an open mind and don't get turned off by the weird stuff.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Blog Tour/ Mandy Reviews: Terminal Value by Tom Waite

ISBN #: 978-0985025809
Page Count: 230
Copyright: March 1, 2012
Publisher: Marlborough Press; 1st Edition


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

When Dylan Johnson sells his mobile computing business to Mantric Technology Solutions - a red-hot technology firm about to go public - he thinks he and his partners will realize their wildest dreams. But, before the deal is even completed, Dylan senses that something isn't quite right. The very night of Mantric's wildly successful public offering, Dylan finds his best friend dead - and is convinced he was murdered. Dylan forms a close alliance and romantic relationship with his former partner Heather, and the two follow an electronic trail into Mantric's secrets, only to discover a betrayal they never could have imagined.


Mandy's Review:

Cover/Title

Terminal value, a financial term, of a security is the present value at a future point in time of all future cash flows when we expect stable growth rate forever (thank you, Wikipedia!).

Knowing that, I feel the beginning of understanding on why the author chose this title, but it hasn't fully hit my brain yet. I think, instead, the author took a financial term and played with it a little bit. Instead of Terminal Value meaning what it means financially, I think the author took the finance term and broke it down.

Terminal: Leading ultimately to death or fatal (i.e. terminal cancer)

Value: Relative worth, utility, or importance

These two definitions causes the title to make more sense to me after reading the book. An ingenious move on the author's part to write a book dealing with some finance issues and using a finance term for the title that ultimately needs to be broken down to get the actual meaning of the book.

By the way, if you didn't want to go through all of that to figure out the meaning of the title, the author puts the definition of Terminal Value within the first few pages:

Terminal Value: The value of an asset at the end of its useful life.

Plot

The reader enters the lives of the characters at the beginning of the MobiCelus acquisition. The founders of MobiCelus are four friends: Dylan and Tony went to college together and met Heather and Rob at a party some years later. MobiCelus had become successful on its own, but the four friends had bigger plans for the company. Thus the CEO's reasoning behind accepting Mantric's offer to buy them out.

When a small fish suddenly enters an ocean, they tend to get swallowed up by the sharks. That's what happens with MobiCelus. All of a sudden, they're now part of this huge corporation and things begin happening that don't seem quite right.

Then the CEO's, Dylan's, best friend winds up dead. Tony was one of the co-founders of MobiCelus and a technology genius. Dylan knows that Tony was murdered, but can he prove it?

With the help of Heather, another co-founder of MobiCelus, Dylan searches for clues to Tony's life right before he was killed trying to find some shred of evidence proving Tony was murdered. What he finds, though, is more than he bargained for.

Will he be successful in bringing down Tony's killers? Or will he wind up dead like Tony?

Main Characters

Dylan - MobiCelus' CEO - Dylan has the gift of gab. He's the perfect salesman. He can talk anyone into giving his small company a shot to make them money. Whereas most salesman tend to blow smoke, Dylan actually cares about his clients and he delivers on his promises.

Heather - Smart and sexy, she is Dylan's ideal dream girl ... but she's with Rob. Heather tends to think things through before acting, but can be impulsive when needed. She doesn't have a mean bone in her body. She seems to be the perfect human.

Art - Mantric's CEO - Art is manipulative, but he's also easily controlled by his CFO. He gave me the sense of being unsure of himself when dealing with employees yet authoritative and demanding when needed ... almost like he was hiding behind a facade most of the time so nobody would get to know who he really was.

Overall

From the beginning to the end, I was easily drawn in and carried along. While I don't think Thomas Waite has John Grisham's experience, I believe with time he will be called the John Grisham of the murderous technology novels. This is an excellent beginning to, what I hope is, a long writing career for Mr. Waite.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Blog Tour/Mandy Reviews - Until Next Time: The Angel Chronicles, Book 1 by Amy Lignor


April wraps up the 3-month virtual book blog tour of Amy Lignor's Until Next Time: The Angel Chronicles, Book 1. My love of fictional novels containing angels began with Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness and it hasn't stopped. I was excited to see how Ms. Lignor's book would compare to Mr. Peretti's ... Now you know why I chose to participate in this tour. Are you ready to see what it's about?!




Amy Lignor began her career at Grey House Publishing in northwest Connecticut where she was the Editor-in-Chief of numerous educational and business directories.

Now she is a published author of several works of fiction. The Billy the Kid historical The Heart of a Legend; the thriller, Mind Made; and the adventure novel, Tallent & Lowery 13.

She is also the owner of The Write Companion, a company that offers help and support to writers through a full range of editorial services from proofreading and copy editing to ghostwriting and research. As the daughter of a research librarian, she is also an active book reviewer.

Currently, she lives with her daughter, mother and a rambunctious German Shepherd named Reuben, in the beautiful state of New Mexico.


ASIN #: B0071LLL2M
File Size: 404 KB
Page Count: 221
Copyright: January 24, 2012
Publisher: Tribute Books


Buy Links:



Book Summary:

How does a girl choose between the one who steals her heart and the one who owns her soul?

Matt and Emily were created for a specific job. Raised and trained as the ultimate angel/warrior team, they are sent down to save, defend, judge and forgive, depending on the 'life' they've been assigned. What they don't realize is that the power of human emotions, such as love, anger, passion and fear can take over even the best of souls, causing them to make mistakes and follow paths that lead to confusion and heartache.

When the reason for their training is finally revealed, the angel/warrior team find themselves thrust into a world they know nothing about. Matt takes over the life of Daniel, a young man with a great deal of baggage. Emily becomes Liz, a girl living in a remote village who relies on nothing more than her own strength to survive. A violent storm erupts one night, and framed in the window of Liz's establishment is a frightening face. Let in by the soul of a Good Samaritan, the two visitors bring with them a past full of secrets that could literally change an angel's path and a warrior's plans.

From murder to redemption, this angel/warrior team must find a way to keep the faith they have in each other in a world that's ripping them apart.


Mandy's Review:

Cover/Title

When I was first approached about joining this tour, I looked at the cover first and was immediately drawn to the darkness of it. The lady on the front could be a stone angel that graces cemeteries, except for her human face and hair.

The title intrigued me ... Until Next Time ... Did that mean until the next life? Next relationship? Next situation? With a title so open to interpretation, I eagerly read the book summary and decided to give it a shot.

Plot

In Heaven, there are pairs of souls that are together for all eternity. They are the other's opposite. One thinks with and is ruled by their heart, while the other has a warrior mentality. Once the pair has been trained in their chosen fields, they are called to join with a shell on earth to fulfill that shell's life journey. Once they join with their shell, they forget everything they knew about Heaven ... including each other. However, being soul mates, they "recognize" each other when they meet on earth.

The souls are able to leave the shells periodically and return to Heaven to discuss their findings with their teachers. Their teachers are allowed to give them guidance, but cannot tell them what choices to make as that would potentially alter any information they can gain from the souls' earthly life experiences. Basically, the teachers are trying to gain knowledge on why humans act as they do. Perhaps if they can understand that, they can know better on how to help.

Main Characters

Emily - A soul in Heaven whose teacher is Mark. She has chosen the path of the angels and is ruled by her heart and feelings.

Matt - A soul in Heaven whose teacher is Gabriel. He has chosen the path of the warrior and is ruled by his warrior's heart. Matt and Emily are soul mates.

Liz - An orphaned girl in Ireland who is running the local pub, which is the gathering spot for all the locals. Liz is withdrawn, even though she's sociable with the locals. She suffers from nightmares that she barely remembers when she wakes up. During her nightmares, bruises and cuts appear on her body. She keeps these disturbing occurrences to herself and worries that people will find out.

Faith - A runaway girl who Liz agreed to help out. They become fast friends and both work the pub owned by Liz. Faith is flirtatious and teasing, which can cause her some trouble with the drunken patrons. Faith is also the only person to know and help Liz during her nightmares ... which is kind of hard to hide when two people live together.

Daniel - A local Irish boy who has a hatred for all women thanks to his mother's treatment of his father. His hatred abandons him when it comes to Liz. He is drawn to her and feels an instant connection to her. He falls in love with her and is determined to be there for her no matter what.

Jason - One of two strangers that shows up at Liz's pub one dark and stormy night. He is traveling Ireland with his best friend visiting cities and towns he wouldn't have seen otherwise. He has a deep, dark secret that he wants to keep hidden from everyone.

Charles - Jason's best friend who is traveling with him across the great land of Ireland. They have dreams of going to America one day. He is with Jason when they come across Liz's pub. He's as boisterous and flirtatious as Faith. As he gets to know Faith, they fall in love and Charles' romantic, gentlemanly side begins to show. Charles, too, has a secret he's hiding and doesn't wish to reveal to anyone at all, including Faith.

Overall

When I first began reading this book, I thought it was mostly based on Christian ideals with the mention of angels, Heaven and God.

Then Saint Francis is introduced. For those that aren't aware, Saint Francis is known as the patron saint of animals and is honored among Catholics.

Reincarnation was the next religious element that came to my mind. The title, Until Next Time, signifies the next assignment, or next life, that certain souls meet each other in. This introduced an additional religion that reincarnation is a central tenet of: Hinduism. The Buddhist concept of rebirth is also often referred to as reincarnation.

With all of these religious elements one would think that the story would become confusing and lose a reader. That is not true. The author deftly combines and intermingles these religious aspects to create a thought-provoking yet highly engrossing story. This introductory book into a new series is one that has caught my attention and has me eagerly awaiting for the sequel.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Charlene Reviews - The Mitosis Hegemony: Techno-Politics in the 21st Century by Arthur van Kaseman

ISBN #: 978-1466269644
Page Count: 126
Copyright: February 10, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace


Description:
(Taken from Amazon)

A science-fiction thriller. A novella about an Earth that is under 20 feet of Global Warming rain and sea-level rise and searching for answers in the year 2020.


Charlene's Review:

When I received this book for review, I immediately pondered whether I would even understand this novel. Luckily, Mr. van Kaseman must have foreseen this problem and included definitions for Mitosis and Hegemony in the front of the book. I must also state that the cover of the book is not at all indicative of what fills the pages. Within a chapter, I was immersed in another world, not too far removed from ours, in which decisions have to be made for the continuation of our planet.

The answer to the universal problem of Global Warming, it seems, is Direct Democracy. This is a form of democracy in which the people themselves, rather than elected officials, determine the laws and policies by which they are governed. The issue of implementation is in the hands of aliens called Magla, who offer a clean energy source that will stop the effects of Global Warming, offer free housing, healthcare, and education, and financially benefit all who support the energy source, if only the people of Earth accept the Declaration of Universal Human Rights. The only catch - governments must dismantle and surrender all weapons and live in peace.

While this is a sci-fi thriller, it also touches on many political issues within our world today. The Mitosis Hegemony entertains while it provokes new insights into where our world is headed, and what the cost will be to get there. Mr. van Kaseman has obviously put a lot of thought into this story, and brought a whole new government to life. It also addresses the world governments continual fight for power, at any cost.

Fiction ... ? Politics ... ? Nonfiction ... ? You decide, but my suggestion is that you keep an eye on Mr. van Kaseman. He may know more than we think!

5 out of 5 stars!!!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Charlene Reviews: Guestlist by Jay Fingers

ISBN #: 978-0615575513
Page Count: 258
Copyright: March 27, 2012
Publisher: Be Cool Entertainment Holdings


Description:
(Taken from back cover)

Juliet Feliz moved to New York City, leaving an unfulfilling life and uncertain future behind her. However, despite her new surroundings and social circle, Juliet's life threatens to fall into the same rut as before - that is, until she meets successful party promoter Napoleon Fey.

Napoleon introduces Juliet to an exclusive world of VIP nightclubs, luxurious parties, celebrity friends, and sparkler-adorned bottles of champagne. But when Napoleon begins to show romantic interest in Juliet, that raises the ire of a beautiful, and intimidating, ex-model named Ava.

Add to the mix Marcel Swann, a down-on-his-luck young man smitten with Ava; Byron Lord, an NBA player with an affinity for nice suits, cognac, and video vixens: Sharane and Mare, Juliet's bickering roommates; and a host of other unforgettable characters, and you've got the story of a bunch of beautiful people doing some very ugly things.

Guestlist, the debut novel from Jay Fingers, is a spectacularly sexy, funny, and, at times, shocking tale of what goes on once you've made it past the velvet rope.


Charlene's Review:

Guestlist revolves around the story of Juliet, and her ambition to surround herself with the "pretty people" of New York. When she first meets Napoleon Fey, she dismisses him, but after learning of his connections, takes an interest. Running parallel is the story of Marcel Swann, a man instantly captivated by a high society lady named Ava. Both are in for the ride of their lives, as they try to tame their intendeds.

I would classify this as an urban fiction novel. Never shying away from sex and profanity, Mr. Fingers paints a realistic picture of the lives of his characters. We see clearly the ulterior motives behind each characters behavior, and never more so than in the last few chapters as things speed up and fall into place. The intensity of the drama plays out and catches you by surprise, as you realize things aren't always what they seem in the glamorous life. After an exhilarating culmination, Fingers leaves you with the hope of new beginnings for both Juliet and Marcel. A sequel, perhaps?

I initially was discouraged by the language used, but as the story went on, found myself turning pages with a new intensity. Not the most beautiful book, as far as imagery, but entertaining. I would definitely read a follow-up story.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book Spotlight - Dear Michael: The Michael Jackson Book Monument



The world today offers unprecedented opportunities for collaboration and co-creation as people across the globe share their views, feelings and personalities online. Now Bungalow Publishing, a specialty publishing house, is tapping this potential to involve people worldwide in a monumental off-line expression of human creativity: The Michael Jackson Book Monument.

For the first time ever, fans will have the opportunity to co-create "a unique monument of historic proportions" to Michael Jackson and his impact on their lives in a personalized work of art celebrating the legendary performer.

The Monument consists of a strictly limited edition of 5,000 copies of a bible-like book, each copy containing 1,000 stories by fans on the impact of Michael's music and personality on their lives. Each numbered book will feature a cover portrait of Michael created from over 3,000 Swarovski crystals. Each will come with two cases, one made of stone and one made of walnut, which together create a unique way to exhibit the book, as well as a specially designed and numbered MJ medal. In addition to the limited edition, Bungalow Publishing will offer regular editions available to everyone.

All Michael Jackson fans will have a chance to participate through a contest Bungalow Publishing has launched. Visit http://dear-michael.com/participating-is-easy/ in three easy steps: Sign up, create an account and log in. Write your personal story to Michael. Save it, preview what it would look like on a page from the book, and share it on Facebook - all at no charge.

Submit your story for $10 USD to be entered in the contest to win one of 1,000 chances to have your story published on a page in both the regular and limited edition of the monument (both editions feature the 1,000 winning stories).

Story submissions must be in English. The 1,000 winners will be chosen by judges selected by Bungalow Publishing.


About Marisa Garau

Marisa Garau (SAY Ga-row as in "wow") is co-founder of Bungalow Publishing. The specialty publishing house is pioneering a new art form with the Michael Jackson Book Monument. The memorial consists of a strictly limited, luxury edition book crafted from wood, stone and crystals that will contain 1,000 personal fan farewells to The King of Pop.

Marisa worked for 10  years as a creative director, copywriter and journalist within her Amsterdam-based advertising agency. She is a bestselling author whose books include From Stress to Strength - Enrich Your Life With The Power Of Mindfulness and ABBA - The Inner Circle Interviews.

Learn more at www.dear-michael.com


About Arjan van Woensel

Arjan van Woensel (SAY Ar-yan van Woon-sol) is co-founder and creative director of Bungalow Publishing. The specialty publishing house is pioneering a new art form with the Michael Jackson Book Monument. The memorial consists of a strictly limited, luxury edition book crafted from wood, stone and crystals that will contain 1,000 personal fan farewells to The King of Pop.

Arjan is an award-winning Creative Entrepreneur, self-proclaimed magazine fetishist, tech aficionado, designer, surf enthusiast and aspiring adventurer.

Learn more at www.dear-michael.com

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Launch Celebration: The A-Men Trilogy by John Trevillian



3 FOR 1 OFFER NOW ON!


To celebrate the launch of the final novel, for a limited period, the entire trilogy of The A-Men is available for an unbeatable knock-down price.




Quotes:

"Wow ... just wow!"
UK Arts Council

"... a futuristic action-lover's must read ..."
Literary R&R

"... half Mac Max and half Warhammer 40,000 ..."
Nostalgia For Infinity

"... action packed and exciting ..."
True Science Fiction

"... a punk rock wet dream ..."
The New Podler Review of Books


Author/Novel Links



Charlene Reviews: The Fitzy Resolution by A. D. DeSena

ISBN #: 978-0984767601
Page Count: 182
Copyright: March 6, 2012
Publisher: Dogged Publishers


Description:
(Taken from back cover)

As conflict builds between the Central Canine Government and the Wilds, Senator Labrador-Casey is called to investigate the mysterious disappearances of canines in her district. Meanwhile, Juniper, a shrewd veteran Senator, seeks to exploit every political opportunity, including Casey's investigation, for his own personal gain. As her investigation leads her snout-to-snout with disturbing facts about her government and her world, Casey must race against time to stop Juniper from achieving his ultimate political goals. The result is a battle that pits two political philosophies against one another and threatens the very existence of canine society!


Charlene's Review:

Senator Labrador-Casey is the head of the Committee of Inter-Canine Communication. Using "scentimas," Casey and the other Dogs of State can receive information regarding the happenings around town. When Yorkies start disappearing, the Committee is forced to investigate, and Casey finds herself learning things about her world that disappoint her. Thinking the "Wilds" or the "fananas" are responsible, Casey soon finds that the humans that dogs have been so loyal to may also be a great danger to them. Eventually, a bill is passed called the "Fitzy Resolution" that seeks to end their canine oppression.

The Fitzy Resolution is a very different type of reading. Written in the voice of the animals; dogs, cats, birds, rats, squirrels, etc. Based largely on a government model, I found it to be a bit too involved. While there was some information regarding dog fighting and animal cruelty, the majority of the book dealt with the dogs running the streets, fighting wolves, and the prerequisite "bad dog." I love books about dogs, and have read a few from their point of view, but this one was a little too technical for me. I did, however love the personalities of the animals, and occasionally laughed at their perceptions of other species. All in all, I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Charlene Reviews: + One by Brian Baleno

ISBN #: 978-0615524320
Page Count: 356
Copyright: February 17, 2012
Publisher: Brian Baleno


Description:
(Taken from back cover)

In + One, Brian Baleno has rendered in vivid contours and colors the age-old human struggle between love and work, a conflict made all the more acute when one happens to love one's work, as well as one's romantic partner. Jake, our protagonist, finds himself wedged into an impossible predicament, and what endures most within the reader - besides the sheer, smooth skill of the language - is this man's valiant attempt to navigate between the Scylla and Charybdis of his existence. This novel will stand as an emblem for all those whose life course takes them down the road less traveled, a road not meant only for couples.


Charlene's Review:

Jake, a self-professed workaholic, struggles in + One to strike that delicate balance between his working passion, and the passion for his girlfriend. Ultimately, he is unable to do so before she calls it quits, and we watch him move forward into a new chapter in his life. Although Jake moves cross-country, loves his new location and job, has immeasurable income and a flashy lifestyle, he still finds it difficult to live in a world where relationships seem to define the man. + One follows his road to acceptance and maturity as he learns to live his life, exactly as he chooses, without regret.

I can't say that this was a book that had impressive language, exotic locales, or even climactic details, but I loved it. In its simplicity, you see the raw character and get to know him personally. As the story progressed, Jake became a friend, and even though I wished for a long-term relationship for him (being the romantic I am), I loved the fact that he didn't sacrifice his true self for the supposed "right thing." This is a light, addictive read that shows that the road less traveled isn't necessarily a bad thing. The writing style is such that I felt a connection with the story that I normally don't feel, as if I was actually witnessing it, not reading about it. I would love to see a second book that continues Jake's story, as I became attached to his contemplative ways.

I highly recommend this book!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mandy Reviews: The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

ISBN #: 978-0061579684
Page Count: 400
Copyright: April 26, 2011
Publisher: HarperTeen


Book Summary:
(Taken from dustjacket flaps)

Fourteen-year-old Karl Stern has never thought of himself as a Jew. But to the bullies at his school in Nazi-era Berlin, it doesn't matter that Karl has never set foot in a synagogue or that his family doesn't practice religion. Demoralized by relentless attacks on a heritage he doesn't accept as his own, Karl longs to prove his worth to everyone around him.

So when Max Schmeling, champion boxer and German national hero, makes a deal with Karl's father to give Karl boxing lessons, Karl sees it as the perfect chance to reinvent himself. A skilled cartoonist, Karl has never had an interest in boxing, but as Max becomes the mentor Karl never had, Karl soon finds both his boxing skills and his art flourishing.

But when Nazi violence against Jews escalates, Karl must take on a new role: protector of his family. Karl longs to ask his new mentor for help, but with Max's fame growing, he is forced to associate with Hitler and other Nazi elites, leaving Karl to wonder where his hero's sympathies truly lie. Can Karl balance his dream of boxing greatness with his obligation to keep his family out of harm's way?


Mandy's Review:

This book begins a year after Hitler's rise to power and focuses on Karl's growth from naive boy to responsible, worldly young man.

When the novel first opens, Germans are just beginning to join Hitler's army. And even though Karl does not look like a "normal" Jew, his schoolmates still find out about his Jewish blood and beat him up because of it. At his father's art gallery that same night, Karl meets the famous boxer Max Schmeling. Despite needing the money from an art sale, Karl's father agrees to have Max give Karl boxing lessons as payment.

Through the lessons, Karl learns discipline and a confidence he never knew he could feel. His body also changes from the scrawny kid to a well-toned, muscled young man. He uses his newfound strength to help protect his family from the German soldiers determined to destroy his family's life.

This story is a wonderfully written coming-of-age novel based in the horrible reality of Hitler's reign and the suppression of the Jews. I've read other novels that told about this time period, but The Berlin Boxing Club brought this sordid past to life more for me than any of the other novels I've read. Although the novel was already 400 pages, I wanted it to continue on. I wasn't ready to leave Karl behind and I ended the book having more questions than answers. What became of his parents? Did Karl and Hildy ever reunite in person? Did Max ever return to the U.S. and get his rematch against Joe Louis?

I loved this book. There are many subtleties to this novel that will cause you to think about it long after you've finished.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Charlene Reviews: Six Weeks to Yehidah by Melissa Studdard

ISBN #: 978-0984651702
Page Count: 170
Copyright: August 2, 2011
Publisher: All Things That Matter Press


Description:

Annalise of the Verdant Hills is one of the most delightful protagonists to skip through the pages of literature since Dorothy landed in Oz. Join Annalise and her two walking, talking wondersheep as they travel to ever more outlandish places and meet outrageous and enlightening folk on their journey to discover interconnectedness in a seemingly disconnected world. Discover with them how just one person can be the start of the change we all strive for. A book for all ages, for all time: wonderful, wacky, and bursting with truth!


Charlene's Review:

Annalise is a young girl who travels through a dreamscape to learn about the possible connectedness that is missing, but obtainable, in our world. Full of whimsical characters, brilliant imagery, and incredible imagination, Six Weeks to Yehidah takes the reader through an other-world where anything is possible, if you only choose your path correctly. While this book is about spiritual awareness, the poems and songs, together with Annalise's innocent outlook, make this a delightfully fun read for all ages.

I believe the basis for most of the book comes down to this one quote, "Always remember, that the most beautiful and authentic worlds are inside your very own self, and you can always find them." Six Weeks to Yehidah is about truth and clarity. It is about the voice inside us that gets silenced as we age, and is a reminder to step back and re-imagine the world around us.

I was also sent the journal that accompanies the book, and found it to be creative and thought-provoking. It just begs for a fresh box of crayons and a lazy afternoon. I recommend this book, not as a spiritual awakening as much as for a reminder of what it means to see the world through a child's eyes.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Guest Reviewer Sarah Reviews: Hellhound on My Trail (Rock Band Fights Evil) by D. J. Butler

ASIN #: B006YEK5HE
File Size: 276 KB
Page Count: 107


Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

Heaven doesn't want them. Do they stand a chance in Hell?

Bass player Mike Archuleta is down on his luck in a major way. The shattered survivor of a misspent youth, he is haunted by the ghost of his dead brother, and is now driven to planning his suicide.

Halfway through the show that's supposed to be his last; a hellhound bursts into the club and attacks the band. The band members pull out karate moves, guns, and even a sword ... and then things start to get strange.

Can Mike survive the show? What can he do about his brother's ghost? And what kind of band is this, anyway?


Sarah's Thoughts:

Pulp fiction is not a genre that I usually read however the blurb of this novel drew me in and I just had a feeling that this was going to be a great read.

This story is action packed right from the word go. I never knew what was going to happen next and this is one of the many aspects of this novel that I loved very much. However at times the story was going too fast for me to keep up and I found myself re-reading passages in order for me to understand what was going on.

All the characters were smart, witty and funny and these characters help bring the story to life. They all contribute to what is a wonderful read.

This was a fast paced enjoyable short story, which you will be able to read in two hours or less. I am looking forward to reading the next installment in the series.

A copy of this book was received for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own through reading this book.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kathy Reviews - Image of a Man: A Novel of the Shroud of Turin by V. G. Bortin

ASIN #: B005B1AN8C
File Size: 575 KB
Page Count: 293
Copyright: July 6, 2011
Publisher: Cambria Publishing; 2nd Edition


Book Summary:
(Taken from Smashwords)

The beautiful, skeptical young American Reporter, Molly Madrigal:

"Since the beginning, so many people have confronted the relic - soldiers and saints, kings, fools, and lovers. And central to all their encounters has been the image of a man."

The old Italian priest, Monsignor Vittorio Monti, Keeper of the Shroud:

"The real miracle is quite clear. Not the image of a man, and how it got there. But the Shroud itself, surviving two thousand years of man against man, not as an object - but as an inspiration. Now and for time yet unrealized ..."

One man wanted to steal it - to hold Christendom's priceless relic for ransom.

One man wanted to test it - to learn the secrets that had been written in its folds for centuries.

And one man wanted only to protect it ...

It is the Shroud of Turin. In Image of a Man is the cornerstone of two powerful dramas: a twentieth-century story of romance, suspense and faith - and a richly detailed account of the Shroud's own journey through two thousand years of man's history - from first century Jerusalem through the triumphs and tragedies of the ancient and medieval worlds; from events in Constantinople, Venice, and Paris, to Poitiers and Chambery - wherever those who protected the Shroud lived, loved, fought and died.


Kathy's Review:

The story jumps between 1978 when a Molly Madgiral, a reporter, is asked to travel to a public display of the Shroud and encounters an old flame as well as a former racecar driver turned archaeologist, both with interest in the Shroud, eventually finding herself in the middle of a plot to steal the Shroud; and also goes back in history to the time when Jesus lived, the origin of the Shroud, and those who are entrusted with the relic's safekeeping (the guarding of Shroud was to stay in the same family line and handed down from generation to generation). The story travels through the centuries with each keeper of the Shroud and the struggles and sometimes treachery that go along with the desire for such an important piece of Christianity.

Familiar historical names come in and out of the story, so those who enjoy history will especially like this story. Honestly, I am neither a historical fiction fan or particularly religious, but I have heard of the Shroud and was curious to see the author's take on its authenticity. Although this is a fictional account, I think the author did a fine job of depicting the time periods, as well as the characters.

Some of the historical depictions interested me more than others. I liked the story of Marguerite, a woman who grows old with no children, and of Jacques, whose hands were burned saving the Shroud from a fire. I also really liked the story of the time of Christ, of Melchi, the original keeper of the Shroud, who saw Jesus crucified, then saw his tomb empty, and later in life followed St. Peter. The present day (1978) story wasn't that interesting to me, as it reminded me of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. I think I would have rather spent more time in the past with some of the guardians of the Shroud.

Those are just my reservations. I thought this book was well done, and would wholeheartedly recommend to historical fiction lovers, as well as anyone interested in this topic.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kathy Reviews: Oracle - Sunken Earth by C. W. Trisef

ASIN #: B0053ZJU8U
File Size: 435 KB
Page Count: 203
Copyright: June 1, 2011
Publisher: Trisef Book LLC; 2nd Edition


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Fall, current day, Atlantic Ocean. Another hurricane tears through the Bahamas, headed for Florida. Among the wreckage: a U.S. Coast Guard rescue boat, one survivor (Ret Cooper) and a spherical object of curious design (the Oracle).

Ret Cooper is a simple young man with mysterious origins, unique physical features, and no memory of his past. His new family and friends discover he is truly extraordinary, with supernatural powers and strange scars on the palms of his hands. But what is his destiny?

The Oracle is the key to Earth's unity and full potential, too perfect to be man-made. Legend claims it can unleash limitless power when filled with Mother Nature's six, pure, original elements. But where are the elements? And which of our planet's ancient secrets will be explained in the process of locating them?

The first book from new author C. W. Trisef will have you cheering for Ret as he travels a submerged road, discovers a lost city, climbs an electrifying mountain, and begins to unravel the mystery of the Oracle ... all during his first year of high school.


Kathy's Review:

Definitely meant for teens or tweens, Oracle: Sunken Earth uses humorous characters and bumbling bad guys to further the plot. It's a familiar tale - at least I feel like it is - boy with elemental powers has to navigate high school landscape as well as discover a huge secret to saving the planet. Ret, the protagonist, seems clueless about most of what is going on, including a girl with an obvious crush on him, and the weird stuff that happens when the marks on his hands start glowing. I think young people will like this book and the eventual series, but I had a hard time getting into it. I felt like in some places the humor fell flat, the characters' names were too forced, and there seemed to be a need to cram some 8th grade vocab words in as many places as possible. I think the author did a nice job of establishing Ret's character, his mysterious past, and the eccentricities of his friend's father and kajillionaire mad scientist Ben Coy, who will hopefully be back in the next installment. The table is set for finding the other elements, too, so if you make it through this book, you'll probably want to read on! Pass it along to a young person in your life and see what they think.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mandy Reviews: The End of the World Playlist by Dan O'Brien

ISBN #: 978-1469976587
Page Count: 86
Copyright: March 17, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

The world as we knew it had ended. Deep in the mountains of the west coast, six men survived. In the town of River's Bend, these six friends continued on with their lives as zombies inherited the Earth. As they navigated the world that had been left behind, the soundtrack of life played on.


Mandy's Review:

Zombies seem to be the ever-growing popular monster of choice in many stories. This was another one of those books.

There was an apocalyptic event in which the mass population has turned into zombies. The story introduces the reader to six men who, somehow, survived said event. They continue to survive by covering each other's backs while in town. It also helps that there's a zombie in the main stores they frequent, chained up to the main desk/counter.

All good things must come to an end.

The zombies surround the six surviving men and attack them. It's survival of the fittest and two of the six men get away ... or do they?

The title, The End of the World Playlist, misled me somewhat. I wanted there to be more music references, or songs, or an actual playlist ... but, alas, there wasn't really one.

I wanted to know what would happen to the zombies when all the normal humans became extinct. Would they turn cannibalistic? If so, what happens to the one remaining zombie? How would the earth repopulate? Would it just grow jungle-like?

The story was entertaining, but not gripping or thrilling.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Book Blog Tour/Mandy Reviews: The Kingdom on the Edge of Reality by Gahan Hanmer


Welcome to Gahan Hanmer's virtual book tour of his book, The Kingdom on the Edge of Reality. Below you will find the author's bio, book info, book summary and review. Hope you enjoy!


Gahan Hanmer enjoyed a colorful career in the theater as actor, director, designer and technician, and also wandered extensively searching for love, happiness and truth. He unintentionally became a grown-up raising two beloved daughters and now lives in the high chaparral desert of California.


Book Info:



ISBN #: 978-1937293642
Page Count: 360
Copyright: April 2, 2012
Publisher: Two Harbors Press
Price: $14.95



Book Summary:

Sometimes it's funny how fast things can change, and sometimes it's not ...

Welcome to Albert Keane's beautifully designed medieval kingdom nestled in a completely isolated river valley in the Canadian wilderness. Peaceful, happy, and prosperous, it takes nothing from the modern world, not so much as a single clock.

There is a castle, of course, and a monastery. There is even a pitch dark, rat-infested dungeon - because you simply have to have one if you are trying to rule a feudal kingdom!

Farmers work the land, artisans ply their trades, monks keep school and visit the sick, and nobody (well, almost nobody) misses the modern world at all.

So why has Jack Darcey - actor, wanderer, ex-competitive fencer - been tricked and seduced into paying a visit? And why hasn't anyone told him that the only way to leave is a perilous trek across hundreds of miles of trackless wilderness without a compass or a map?

Because a tide of fear and violence is rising from the twisted ambitions of one of King Albert's nobles, and Albert's fortune teller believes that Jack could turn the tide - if he lives long enough ...


Mandy's Review:

Cover/Title

If I were to see this book on the store bookshelf, I would not pick it up based on the cover art. The title would be the draw for me in picking up this book to see what it's about.

Plot/Main Characters

When the book opens, Jack is talking to the police about a house he has inherited, but has not gone to see in many years. He encountered a ragtag group of men who were using his house as a base of operations. After the men have been evacuated and the police leave, Jack sits on his porch and reflects back over his life.

During his reflections, a man shows up and asks him to come with him to Albert's old homestead. Albert is a man that Jack went to school with and accidentally befriended. Albert's parents were extremely wealthy and left it all to Albert when they died. Jack wasn't wealthy, but was accepted by Albert's parents as one of the family. Jack hadn't seen Albert in many years so he is not inclined to accept this man's offer of visiting Albert. The man doesn't take no for an answer, though, and Jack finds himself in the back of the car heading to Albert's.

Arriving at Albert's home, Jack sees all the old familiar faces and some new ones. There's an auction going on that is confusing to Jack since the wealth Albert's parents left him should have been enough to cover him until he passed. Nobody will tell him what is going on and Albert is nowhere to be found. Instead, Jenna, Albert's girlfriend, offers to take Jack horseback riding to help get his mind off of what's going on.

Jenna is a free-spirited woman who loves to shock people out of their humdrum lives. Despite her relationship with Albert, Jenna seduces Jack and they become intimate that night. The next morning, upon Albert's return, Jack sneaks off to his bedroom so Albert is unaware of their lovemaking.

At breakfast that morning, Albert tells Jack enough about what's going on to entice him, but not enough for him to refuse to go. Albert has created a kingdom in the Canadian wilderness. A kingdom full of peasants, servants and knights. Albert is king and Jenna will be queen as soon as they return to the kingdom and her coronation takes place. Jack agrees to visit Albert's kingdom since he has been told he will be allowed to leave if he wishes.

Once they arrive on the outskirts of Albert's kingdom, a bonfire is created to burn all of their modern clothes. New ones have been crafted inside the kingdom and are available for them all to put on. Jack is amazed at the transformation from modern world to an old-fashioned kingdom. The shock of going back in time, without the use of a time machine, is mind-boggling to Jack. The more time spent in the kingdom, though, the more the modern world passes away.

Jack becomes knighted and begins his role as a fencing instructor. He meets the people of Albert's kingdom and learns the real reason why he's there: He is there to defeat the evil Duke.

Overall

I love the twist on an old fantasy story. To have a modern-day kingdom that is ruled and ran as the original kingdoms of old is ingenious. This is a captivating fantasy story that I would recommend to all fantasy-lovers.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mandy Reviews: Leftovers by Arthur Wooten

ISBN #: 978-0985052928
Page Count: 205
Copyright: April 2012
Publisher: Galaxias Productions


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Vivian Lawson's fantasy of being the perfect 1950s suburban housewife is shattered when a uncontrollable event changes her life forever.

Destitute and left to fend for herself in a man's world, she searches her New England town unable to find a job. With nowhere to turn, Vivian takes the advice of her wisecracking best friend, Babs, and reluctantly becomes a Tupperware lady.

Vivian struggles with low self-esteem as well as stage fright but with the support of Bab's lovesick brother, Stew, and the creator of Tupperware's Home Party Plan system, Brownie Wise, she may just find the strength to conquer her inner demons and take control of her life.

A story of empowerment, Leftovers is a delectable romantic dramedy with an inspirational journey that reveals to us what can be achieved by using one's guts, determination and a little bit of a self-deprecating humor.


Mandy's Review:

I'll be honest ... When Mr. Wooten requested a review from me of this book, I was a little hesitant because of the cover. Admittedly, I am one of those who likes to be drawn in by the cover and then I'll read what it's about. If not for the quality of work that I am familiar with from Mr. Wooten, I don't know that I would've agreed to read this book.

I am glad that I did.

Vivian fell in love with a guy in high school. He was the ultimate girl's dream. Miraculously, Paul fell in love with her, too ... or so she thought. A marriage based on lies doesn't tend to last very long. Vivian and Paul's marriage lasted longer than it should have, but Vivian is still devastated when it ends.

For several months, Vivian is in daze: not paying bills, barely eating, smoking constantly, not answering the door, not answering the phone and staying inside her house. During her marriage, Paul took care of all the bills. Vivian hasn't a clue on how to even write a check. And, even though Vivian comes from a wealthy family, she doesn't have any inheritance left to support herself with. Asking her mother for money is no longer an option.

Penniless with no job and no home, Vivian packs a suitcase with some clothes and begins looking for work. Everywhere she goes does not need help, so she goes to sell her car for some money to survive on. She gets a little bit, but not nearly enough.

As she's sitting on the railing of the bridge over the river, contemplating suicide, her best friend and best friend's brother drives past. Taking her in, Babs and Stew introduce Vivian to the Tupperware industry. Hesitant at first, Vivian decides to give it a go since she has nothing else to lose.

What happens from there transforms Vivian into a self-confident, self-sustaining woman. She learns that there is life after divorce and, if one is willing to work hard enough, it can be a good life.

A story of survival, Leftovers is a book that I would recommend to all readers.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mandy Reviews: Reluctant Queen by Geraldine Evans

ASIN #: B0054SDUPA
File Size: 606 KB


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Mary, the beautiful, younger sister of English king, Henry VIII, reluctantly agrees to marry the aged and sickly Louis XII of France for reasons of state. But before agreeing, she extracts Henry's promise that she may please herself for her second marriage. Mary is deeply in love with the low-born Charles Brandon, her brother's boon companion, and is determined to wed Brandon should King Louis die.

Unhappy at the French court, blonde Mary makes friends with the charming, but debauched, Francis, her aged husband's heir and son-in-law. But Mary is dismayed when her friendly overtures are taken as encouragement for something more than friendship. Too late, Mary finds that, even at twenty, Francis is a practised seducer. He pursues her relentlessly. And with the death of her husband and Francis's elevation to the French throne and absolute power, her situation becomes desperate. Unprotected, Mary is a captive prey to Francis's lust for her.

Will she ever be free to go to her lost love? Because since Louis's death, Mary has become increasingly anxious about the rumours she hears concerning her brother's plans for her future. Did Henry intend to push her into another loveless marriage to suit himself and the State?

King Henry sends Charles Brandon to the French court on a diplomatic mission. Desperate, Mary persuades him to go through a secret marriage with her. Then they confess to Wolsey and ask him to intercede with King Henry.

Fearfully, they await King Henry's reaction, aware that no one, not even his much-loved younger sister, defies him with impunity.


Mandy's Review:

Fictional books set in a historical period are some of my favorites, especially when you're not sure if what you're reading is factual or fictional. It allows your imagination to get lost in the story effortlessly.

This book focused on Mary, Henry VIII's youngest sister, and her life from her first marriage to her death. It also included Henry's infatuation with Anne Boleyn, which I thought was an interesting addition.

From Mary's younger days until years after her second marriage, she is an impetuous and selfish person. I cannot stand women who manipulate men with tears and a twist of words. That's exactly how Mary was. Then, only after she got what she wanted, did she realize how her actions may affect others. Her selfishness did not endear me to her at all.

Her marriage to Louis XII was brief due to his advanced age. During her marriage, Louis' womanizing son-in-law was determined to woo Mary and have his way with her. Fortunately, Mary never gave in, even after Louis' death when Francis offered to make her Queen again. Instead, she coerced Charles to secretly marry her. After their marriage night was over, reality set in on the newlywed couple and fear for Charles' life was the main concern.

Over time, Charles' life was secured and life proceeded on as usual. Debt and Charles' ambition to ascend at the English courts quickly put a strain on their marriage. Charles spent the majority of his time at Henry's side trying to curry favor while Mary remained at their country home. Over time, Charles' love for Mary seems to wane while Mary stays steadfastly in love with Charles.

Aside from Mary's selfishness, I enjoyed reading the progression of her life. It was historically entertaining and informative. I would recommend this novel to all of you who are fans of historical or period fiction.
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