Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Out With The Old ...

Another year has wound down and a new one is about to begin. Our audience has grown over this past year and we have you to thank. We are committed to bringing you more reviews, more author interviews, more book spotlights, just more bookish stuff in general ... which we know you love.

Unfortunately, we were not able to finish all of our reading challenges this year. Below are the challenges we attempted in 2013 and our numbers. Over the next few days, we'll update our pages to include the 2014 challenges we're participating in. We hope you'll come back, check it out, and show your support as we begin this new year together.

2013 TBR Pile Challenge

Kathy: Finished 10/12
Mandy: Finished 9/12

Shut Up & Read's Winter Wonderland Spell Challenge for January 2013

Mandy: Finished 11/16

Shut Up & Read's Star Wars Yearly Challenge

Mandy: Finished 12/38 (Ugh! How horrible!!!)

Back to the Classics 2013

Kathy: Finished 7/11 (5 of the 11 were optional categories, of which Kathy read 2)

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge

Literary R&R: 196/200 (So close!!!)

Monday, December 30, 2013

{2014 TBR Pile Challenge} Mandy's List

Adam (aka Roof Beam Reader) is hosting the 5th annual TBR Pile Challenge! Below is Mandy's list for 2014, which are books that are also on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list. She didn't finish her 2013 list, but has high hopes for 2014. To view Kathy's list, click here or visit the 2014 Reading Challenges page link on the right (when it becomes available).

1.) The Unfortunate Traveller by Thomas Nashe

2.) The Golden Ass by Lucius Apuleius

3.) Love in Excess by Eliza Haywood

4.) The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe

5.) The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

6.) Hunger by Knut Hamsun

7.) News from Nowhere by William Morris

8.) A Room With A View by E.M. Forster

9.) Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

10.) Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

11.) Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

12.) The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho


1.) Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

2.) The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

Monday, December 23, 2013

{Review} A QUESTION OF GUILT by Frances Fyfield

File Size: 485 KB
Page Count: 288
Copyright: December 10, 2013
Publisher: Witness Impulse

Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

Cunning and evil, poisoned by a lifetime of love withheld, Eileen Cartwright has an unrivaled passion for revenge. When the rich, middle-aged widow falls in love with her lawyer, she goes to fatal lengths to make him hers. Prosecutor Helen West is assigned to the case, but when Eileen's extraordinary evil reaches out even from behind prison bars, the investigation reaches a climax of frightening and frenzied violence.

Kathy's Review:

I read this book as if I were drifting in and out of sleep. Some portions of it lost me; others pulled me in. In particular I enjoyed the love story between Bailey and Helen. Everything else? Just meh. Initially the plot seemed interesting but there wasn’t enough focus on Eileen for me to really be too invested in what was going on with her.

Unfortunately, this one fell flat for me as a whole. Maybe it was the rather dry writing style, maybe it was the fact that it was British, maybe it was something else entirely that I can’t quite put my finger on. The one plot was about all I could take away from this novel. I’m not even sure I could tell you for certain that Eileen was convicted.

And finally … this cover artwork. What in the what? This honestly doesn’t have anything to do with the story (as far as I remember). At the very least, it doesn’t represent the plot at large. So if you think you’re going to read something about this well-endowed woman clawing at the door … I am sorry, but she’s not in there.

*An ecopy was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

{Review} RECKONING by Kelly Cozy

ISBN #: 978-0985123482
Page Count: 384
Copyright: November 1, 2013
Publisher: Smite Publications

(Taken from back cover)


All Sean Kincaid wanted was to use his Special Operative skills to bring a domestic terrorist to justice. But he left a trail of bodies in his wake: foes, colleagues - and an innocent woman. Now he's pursued by enemies, while desperately searching for a way to make amends.


Deirdre Monahan was expecting a happy afternoon with her cousin Anna. But she found a corpse abandoned like trash - and no one who could tell her why. Now Deirdre's looking for answers, and bent on giving whoever killed Anna the gift of knowing Deirdre's pain.

In Ashes, Sean sacrificed everything. In this thrilling sequel, there will be ... a Reckoning.

Charlene's Review:

In Ashes, Sean Kincaid retired from the government "agency," but couldn’t stop himself from going after domestic terrorists that bombed a federal building, and left behind a survivor that Sean can't get out of his mind. He finds them and disposes of them, but at a heavy cost. As book 2 begins, Reckoning, we meet Deirdre, the cousin of Sean’s innocent victim. As Deirdre tries to come to terms with her cousin’s death, and seek out those responsible, Sean returns to the area, to make amends. Unfortunately, there is more danger ahead.

What I think makes Ms. Cozy’s books work is the emotion within her characters. There is strong suspense woven into her stories, but, more than that, each character has an inner life that we are given access to. We not only get to enjoy the storyline, but get to know them personally, which allows a deeper connection to the book. Using events similar to world events also plays a key role in readers empathy, as we all remember the terror of attacks within our country.

Although Reckoning can be read as a stand-alone novel, I highly recommend you read Ashes first, to better understand the background. You will find a hero in Sean Kincaid, regardless of his covert behavior, as his heart is always in the right place, even when his methods shock you. Absolutely flawless writing and attention to detail make Ms. Cozy a masterful storyteller. I have highly enjoyed her work and believe we will see a lot more from her. I, for one, will be watching.

5 out of 5 stars!

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

{2013 TBR Pile Challenge Review} A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD by Jennifer Egan

ISBN #: 978-0307477477
Page Count: 352
Copyright: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Anchor; 1st Edition

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

Kathy's Review:
(Reprinted with her permission from her personal blog, Grown Up Book Reports)

This was one of those really buzzy books from 2011. It won some awards – including some rinky dinky little award called the Pulitzer – and there was rumored to be some kind of HBO series in the works based off this novel. I don’t know if that is still going to happen, but at the time this book was high on my must-read list for those various and sundry reasons.

Finally got around to reading it two years later. Did it live up to the hype? Yes, mostly. The story itself was told in an interesting way. The central characters, Bennie and Sasha, weren’t necessarily the focus of the various chapters. Instead, different people from various periods of their lives had their own chapters in which pieces of either Bennie or Sasha’s pasts were revealed. Some were from early college days, some from adulthood, some from older adulthood. It all blended together in an amazing way.

Toward the back nine in the book, Egan got a bit experimental and told an entire chapter in power point slides (told by Sasha’s daughter, who journaled in slide format). That was interesting to me but probably my least favorite chapter. It just seemed thrown in there because, why not?

I really like the layers of history that are in this story, and how it all revolves around music, the music industry, and its aftermath on aging rock stars, agents and promoters. It’s a hip, fast-moving novel that isn’t afraid to take chances, and I can respect that.

P.S. This was part of my 2013 TBR Pile Reading Challenge, which I am scrambling to finish.

Monday, December 16, 2013

{Blog Tour - Review} AMANDA WEDS A GOOD MAN by Naomi King

ISBN #: 978-0451417879
Page Count: 336
Copyright: November 5, 2013
Publisher: NAL Trade

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Amanda Lambright loves Wyman Brubaker, and after four years as a single mother, she is grateful for his support and for this new chance at happiness as his wife. She's confident that their children will get along just fine. But once Amanda's clan moves into Wyman's home, the tight quarters and Wyman's reluctance to make changes to accommodate Amanda cause friction. The older kids are squabbling. The little ones are frequently in tears. Tiny Alice Ann isn't speaking at all. Amanda and Wyman can't find any privacy. And Amanda wonders if she'll ever have a chance to pursue the pottery making that means so much to her.

Amanda believes that family lies at the center of any well-lived Amish life. Can she find the wisdom to guide the reluctant members of her new extended family toward the love that will bind them together?

Mandy's Review:

After her husband passes away, Amanda learned how to live and raise her children by herself. She dates Wyman for four years and agrees to marry him. What neither of them realize is the amount of changes and adjustments will have to be made between the two families. And, because Wyman lives in a different county, Amanda has to move her children and herself to her husband's house in his district. The bishop over Wyman's community is not the easiest person to get along with. He, his wife, and their children do not make it easy for Amanda and her children to acclimate themselves into the new community. It gets to be too much for Amanda and she reaches her breaking point, leaving her children at Wyman's home and heading back to her old home in her familiar, friendlier, community. Can Amanda and Wyman overcome their differences and make their marriage more compatible? Will they be able to live in Wyman's community under the oppressive bishop's ruling?

I enjoyed this book, but I didn't love this book. I appreciated the fact that Naomi depicted an Amish story where not everything was rosy and peachy between a married couple. I liked that she showed an Amish family who has the same arguments and obstacles as a non-Amish family.

Wyman was a little thick-headed for my taste and I don't blame Amanda for running away. I don't exactly agree with her leaving her children behind like she did, but I understand her just being fed up and needing some time away to think. It also gave Wyman the opportunity to see what it is Amanda has to deal with day-to-day dealing with the household and all the children.

Overall, I am happy with the way the book ended and would be willing to continue reading this series.

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

Sunday, December 8, 2013

{Review} MESSAGES FROM THE PASTOR'S DESK by Dr. Jerry L. Jones, Sr.

ISBN #: 978-1478706311
Page Count: 44
Copyright: July 15, 2013
Publisher: Outskirts Press

(Taken from back cover)

Everyone needs inspiration motivation encouragement and uplifting through life adventures This book gives the reader opportunities to reflect on their relationship, stewardship love and commitments towards God and each other. It allows them to remember the qualities and attributes of our God.

While it is a great resource for optimistic insight and a builder of faith that soars. The reader will learn God's love for them in an astounding way. Perhaps you need a little push in the direction of surrendering to his will, in this literature you will learn to appreciate submit and operate in the graces of consistency. If there ever been a time when we need to know and to recognize our identity, these writings makes no mistake in who and who's we are.

Life can seem to be so complexing, lonely, and a bit of a challenge, but the author assures that there is a available strength for all of life's chaotic moments. There is a great sense of reverence, honor and appreciation to be captured in how we express praise and worship to God our creator, for all he is, and has done. This book presents honest and everyday life experiences that one can learn to recognize and gain power, presence and assurance to become a victorious heir.

Charlene's Review:

Messages From The Pastor’s Desk is full of short, insightful vignettes of wisdom learned over 28 years of Dr. Jones’ life as a pastor. As simple as the gift of God’s love, for those that believe and receive, the quotes and thoughts within this book lead the reader into a deeper meditation on what God is, and has done, for us.

If I could offer one bit of constructive criticism, I would have liked to have seen Messages From The Pastor’s Desk as a devotional, with each thought featured with a story, or biblical basis, if only to have given it more "meat." Whether you read straight through, or ponder them one at a time, there is profound truth, and knowledge, contained in this very small package.

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

Saturday, December 7, 2013

{Review} RUSSIAN HILL by Ty Hutchinson

ISBN #: 978-1493540594
Page Count: 356
Copyright: October 27, 2013
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

(Taken from back cover)

A killer is loose in San Francisco, and he’s collecting body parts.

SFPD has no witnesses and no suspects, but FBI Agent Abby Kane believes a dead hiker found ten miles north of the city is the key to solving those crimes.

The detective involved with the case thinks Abby might be chasing a ghost down a rabbit hole, but the more Abby digs, the more she realizes she’s only scratched the surface of what is happening.

Charlene's Review:

Russian Hill is book one in a three-part Chasing Chinatown series. In book one, FBI Agent Abby Kane is finally relaxing into her low-key position after her last big case. When a young woman is found murdered, with an axe in her chest, Abby is pulled in to investigate, and the investigation quickly becomes a hunt for a serial killer. Teamed up with local SFPD Detective Kyle Kang, they set out to find the clues that will stop the killings.

Disclaimer: This is the 6th book I’ve reviewed for Mr. Hutchinson. I idolize him. I am totally biased by his previous books. Expect nothing less than a 5 star review. That being said, if Mr. Hutchinson is not on an FBI watch list yet, I’d be surprised.

If you are a reader of the thriller/crime genre, the Abby Kane series is the one for you. As in all of his previous novels, Russian Hill starts strong, and finishes even stronger. Abby Kane is a spirited, down-to-earth agent that uses her brain and intuition to tackle the cases before her. The crimes are well thought out, always with a twist, and often on the graphic side. While not usually my favorite thing to read about, Mr. Hutchinson has a way of getting into his characters heads and making them so realistic that the reader can actually visualize what is happening for themselves.

Balancing the crime aspect, and the personal side of his characters also adds to the readers pleasure. When the killing gets too much, there is just the right amount of wit, and familial interaction to keep it light. I can hardly wait for the next book in the series, and what his (possibly troubled?) mind comes up with next.

I cannot recommend Ty Hutchinson highly enough.

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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

{2013 TBR Pile Challenge Review} MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides

ISBN #: 978-0312427733
Page Count: 544
Copyright: June 5, 2007
Publisher: Picador

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license...records my first name simply as Cal."

So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

Middlesex is the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Kathy's Review:
(Reprinted with permission from her personal blog, Grown Up Book Reports)

I am in awe of this book. Truly.

If you are squeamish about its subject matter (after all, the main character, Cal/Callie, is a hermaphrodite), don’t worry. That is such a small portion of the book, and by the time you get to it, you will basically be an honorary member of the Stephanides family, and you will be overcome by curiosity.

This is not the story of Cal as much as it is of her family. Starting with her grandmother, Desdemona, who raised silk worms back in Greece, and who fled her war-torn village to come to America with her brother, Lefty and settle in Detroit, Michigan. I should probably mention that this brother and sister married each other, a family secret Desdemona only confesses to Cal years later.

Because of the years covered in the book, you get a full picture of the history of the Stephanides family through the three generations leading to Cal. First, her grandparents’ story, then, her parents’ and finally, hers. Her childhood, fairly normal. Her first inklings that she was different from other girls. Her coming of age and finally discovering the differences – and her choice to live as a male.

Eugenides writes masterfully; drawing you in to this compelling family that seems ordinary on the surface but is teeming with secrets. Well deserving of the Pulitzer it won, Middlesex lived up to the hype and I’m glad it was on my list this year for the TBR Pile Challenge.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


ISBN #: 978-1492241256
Page Count: 238
Copyright: October 6, 2013
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

(Taken from back cover)

If only they could hear her stories, everything would be different. Every day the recluse storyteller leans back against her wall, in a trance-like state, telling her tales to the receptive dead-air of her apartment, As her neighbors plot to put her away the eccentric recluse, her magical stories seep out of her apartment, forever changing the destiny of everyone who hears them. Part adventure, part tragedy, and part discovery, The Recluse Storyteller bridges genres, bringing hope, life, and redemption to the shattered relationships of modern society.

Charlene's Review:

Locked up in her apartment, by choice, Margaret weaves stories, out loud, that are inspired by her neighbors and loved ones. Margaret chooses to speak only to her aunt, Janice, and the young twins down the hall. While the adults label her "crazy", the twins are drawn to her stories. Before too long, the adults realize that the stories are capable of great healing, and link them all together, whether they like it, or not.

There is quite a bit of mystery surrounding Margaret and her abilities. Mr. Sasse, in his usual style, handles it gracefully, as the reader balances between the seemingly insane, and the truth. The many stories that weave together with the local residents are emotionally charged, and left me anxious to see how it would translate to the current timing of the story.

I appreciated, perhaps the most, the intricacy of the storylines, as well as the idiosyncrasies of the characters. While Margaret had the supposed "problem", she was also laying bare the others’ secrets and eccentric behavior. A far departure from Mr. Sasse’s previous novel, The Recluse Storyteller is a thought-provoking look at society and its need for "normal", as well as what we might learn from simply listening.

5 out of 5 stars!

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


ISBN #: 978-1462112098
Page Count: 176
Copyright: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.

(Taken from back cover)

Get out of the doghouse and back into the bedroom simply by swapping the TV remote for the toilet brush! Whether you’ve been married for three months or thirty years, failing to help around the house remains a major cause of discord. Following this book’s principles, a husband learns to decrease disputes and increase intimacy by:

owning his share of household work
listening to his wife’s needs and communicating his own
spending the time on chores now to make more time for love later

Using Marriage 101 for Men as a guide, you’ll be able to understand, alleviate, and ultimately eliminate the symptoms of stress in your relationship and be happier and more satisfied with all aspects of your marriage.

Charlene's Review:

Where was this book when I got married, and why isn’t it required reading in high school? Over her years as a hair dresser/chair-side therapist, Ms. Mills has heard it all, and is using that knowledge to explain the simple ways to "make love" to your wife, outside the bedroom.

I appreciated her insight into her own marital woes, as she admits to going on "strike" to get her own husband’s attention. Chapter titles, such as Housework - Your missing link to Sex, and Tip for Forrest Gump:"Listen", keep the advice light enough, yet pack a lot of advice. I, personally, think she gives men a pass by saying it "isn’t their fault" for not helping out, by blaming society and its roles, as really, how hard is it to realize your wife is struggling and lend a hand? But in the off-chance she is right, this leaves no doubt that they will "get it".

I enjoyed reading this book, and plan on sharing it with my husband, and perhaps my pastor, who counsels pre-marrieds. Lots of good advice in here for every married couple. Using a "contract" for her union husband to fully understand the terms she was insisting on was brilliant, as I am also the wife of a union man, and this is their language.

Hubby better watch out - I have new tools in my arsenal!

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

Monday, December 2, 2013


ISBN #: 978-1462725502
Page Count: 198
Copyright: March 8, 2013
Publisher: CrossBooks

(Taken from back cover)

Jesus had an intimate relationship with His Father. Jesus pointed out that "the Father and I are one" (John 10:30), and He prayed that His followers would have that same closeness with the one who loved them. Jesus desires that we all build a personal relationship with our heavenly Father.

Do you long for a closer walk with God? If so, then Perfect* can show you how to establish and develop an intimate relationship with Him. Join pastor and teacher David Rex Gosnell on an awe-inspiring journey through the Model Prayer, also called the Lord's Prayer, and learn why Jesus stressed this prayer as the key to communicating with God.

With warmth and grace, Gosnell uses experiences from his own life to illustrate why prayer is so essential to our relationship with God. He draws on key verses in the Bible to show the numerous times Jesus urged his disciples to turn to prayer, proving that there was a direct connection between Jesus' prayers and God's power. Each chapter includes a summary and questions for further reflection and personal or group study.
Experience God's kingdom, power, and glory by embarking on an intimate and enduring relationship with your heavenly Father. Let Perfect* lead the way!

Charlene's Review:

Through thought-provoking, Biblically-based writing, Mr. Gosnell writes a commentary on how Christians should focus their relationship with God. Using practical applications, and a solid Scriptural basis, the reader learns what true intimacy with our Creator entails.

In Part One, Gosnell states, "In it’s purest form, prayer is simply a conversation with God that is based on a relationship with Him." He describes the idea of being "perfect*" as being spiritually mature and wholly dependent upon Jesus’ efforts, not our own. The asterisk in "perfect*" is to remind us that "our perfection isn’t inherent, it’s inherited" by Christ’s sacrifice.

In Luke 11:1, the disciples asked Jesus how to pray. Mr. Gosnell answers that, and more, in Perfect*. I highly recommend this to anyone seeking a closer relationship with God.

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

Sunday, November 24, 2013

{Review} THE HEAVENS RISE by Christopher Rice

ISBN #: 978-1476716084
Page Count: 336
Copyright: October 15, 2013
Publisher: Gallery Books; First Edition

Book Summary:
(Taken from dustjacket flaps)

It's been a decade since the Delongpre family vanished near Bayou Rabineaux, and still no one can explain the events of that dark and sweltering night. No one except Niquette Delongpre, the survivor who ran away from the mangled stretch of guardrail on Highway 22 where the impossible occurred ... and kept on running. Who left behind her best friends, Ben and Anthem, to save them from her newfound capacity for destruction ... and who alone knows the source of her very bizarre - and very deadly - abilities: an isolated strip of swampland called Elysium.

An accomplished surgeon, Niquette's father dreamed of transforming the dense acreage surrounded by murky waters into a palatial compound befitting the name his beloved wife gave to it, Elysium: "the final resting place for the heroic and virtuous." Then, ten years ago, construction workers dug into a long-hidden well, one that snaked down into the deep, black waters of the Louisiana swamp and stirred something that had been there for centuries - a microscopic parasite that perverts the mind and corrupts the body.

Niquette is living proof that things done can't be undone. Nothing will put her family back together again. And nothing can save her. But as Niquette, Ben, and Anthem uncover the truth of a devastating parasite that has the potential to alter the future of humankind, Niquette grasps the most chilling truths of all: someone else has been infected too. And unlike her, this man is not content to live in the shadows. He is intent to use his newfound powers for one reason only: revenge.

Mandy's Review:

Well, boys and girls, if this wasn't one of the biggest mind-f@&!$ of all-time, I don't know what is ... and I loved it.

First, let me start by clarifying something for you. The book summary implies that Ben and Anthem knew about Nicquette's surviving the crash through the guardrail. They did not. They lived for eight years or so thinking that she and her family had died in the crash. They were heartbroken. Ben eventually begins to uncover the truth, but doesn't fully realize it until he comes face-to-face with her father.

Marshall (WE ARE ... MARSH-ALL! Sorry, I thought of that every time I saw his name) is a good-looking, well-to-do young man, but he has a violent streak in him that makes him cray-cray. His exposure to the parasite at Elysium enhances the craziness within him. Marshall uses his powers to seek revenge on Nicquette, her family and friends, and those who looked over his trust fund.

Eventually, good does win over evil, but at a cost that was never foreseen.

As I mentioned above, I loved this book. I loved the mental trip it took me on. I loved the imagination and ingenuity of the author. Christopher Rice is certainly someone whose books I will be reading more of ... as should you.

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

Saturday, November 23, 2013

{Review} ETERNAL DREAMS: THE CURSE OF MEMORIES by Christopher Compton

ASIN #: B00D02Z1G8
File Size: 543 KB
Page Count: 228
Copyright: May 24, 2013
Publisher: Virtualbookworm.com Publishing

Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

Eternal Dreams is a fiction fantasy tale about six teenage friends who escape into a dream world to hide away from the horrors of their own lives, only to find that reality is catching up to them anyway. Drephoria, the name of the stunning dream world created from their collective minds, will test the limits of their friendship, break the balance between good and evil and prove the true value of memories and the imagination.

The first book in the trilogy, "The Curse of Memories," focuses on the central character Kail and his dark past, told through memories, while simultaneously introducing the rest of his friends (known as The Inseparable Six) and the other strange and deadly inhabitants of Drephoria. Pitted against the dark queen Malise and her legendary allies known as The Forgotten Four, Kail and his friends must rid their world of evil before they lose themselves forever. Nostalgic, thrilling, heart-breaking, and consistently memorable, Eternal Dreams is a fantasy at its finest.

Kathy's Review:

I know I’m jaded from having read so many of these YA-type stories, which all seem to begin in the same fashion … a group of friends stumbles upon something magical, and of course our main character has major powers he never knew about. So forgive me if I’m not impressed with the premise.

Going into a world of dreams that is created by their own minds is kind of cool, but really fails to deliver in any sort of meaningful way.

This book also suffers from Too Many Character Syndrome. Six friends are the center of this book. The author does a much better developing the male characters than he does the female, so my suggestion would be to lose the girls. Or make it two boys and two girls. Having exotic names such as Kail, Cora, Thalia and Kanoa doesn’t really help me distinguish them in my mind.

Not surprisingly, this book leaves a lot of loose ends at its conclusion, which suggests a sequel, if not a series. It’s not one that I would continue with because I haven’t invested in any of the characters, except perhaps Kail and Kanoa, at the book’s end.

I will say that the author’s writing itself is solid, but lacks some of the basic elements of a good novel. Cool idea, but just ok on the execution.

Friday, November 22, 2013

{Blog Tour: Excerpt, Review & Giveaway} CORRELATION by Mia Grace

File Size: 473 KB
Page Count: 200
Copyright: November 6, 2013
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing, LLC

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

When the past and the present collide…

Hailey Kent knows how she wants to spend the summer before her junior year in high school: hanging out at the pool with Jenna, her BFF; riding her new trail bike on Vermont’s country roads; and flirting with Jenna’s hot older brother, Cody.

Hailey’s plans are shattered when a post-graduation accident puts her brother into a coma. Feeling guilty for not stopping him from going out that night, she seeks solace in exploring an old house and its overgrown gardens.

A mysterious correlation of events propels her back in time to the Vietnam War era, where she realizes she can use her knowledge of one boy’s fate to save his life.

But first, Hailey needs to convince him of her sanity.

Book Links:

Red Adept Publishing (Includes book tour page)

About the Author:

Mia Grace grew up in the Midwest and now resides in the beautiful state of Vermont. Her young adult novels include FOUND DAYS, a coming of age story with a surprising twist, and CORRELATION, a young adult time travel that takes the reader back to the tumultuous Vietnam era. She's currently working on a young adult time travel series.

Book Excerpt:

Chapter One

“I can’t believe how bad we were!” Hailey Kent stood on the sidelines of the sunny playing field and brushed the loose dirt from the front of her Fenton High T-shirt. On the expanse of trampled grass before her, the two remaining pairs of sophomore girls moved in perfect synchrony toward the finish of the three-legged sack race.

Hailey swiped sweat from her forehead with a gritty forearm as she watched the lead couple. “Look at Lexie and Jess. They’re speed demons.”

“They’re coordinated,” Jenna Wells answered. “And they have a system.”

“We had a system. You just don’t know your right leg from your left.” Hailey rubbed the grass stains from her knees. “We’re going to have to hit your pool after this.” She stood up and shaded her eyes with one hand, peering toward the baseball diamond in the distance.

A familiar figure stepped up to bat in the softball game in progress between the seniors and the faculty. Cody. He stood poised over the plate, his practice swings confident as he faced the faculty pitcher. Her heart flip-flopped. “Is that Cody?”

Jenna followed the direction of Hailey’s gaze and scrunched her cute little pug nose at the sight of her older brother. “Yep. The weirdo was all psyched this morning about this game. Is David playing?”

Hailey’s delightful vision of Cody at the breakfast table faded at the mention of her own brother. “No, he’s skipping school today.”

Jenna’s chocolate brown eyes went wide in mock disbelief. “Skip a field day? His last one ever?”

“Don’t remind me.” Hailey turned back to the grassy field in time to see the last of her sack-racing classmates lurch across the finish line. “I have to give up my birthday so we can celebrate his stupid graduation. He’d skip that, too, if my parents would let him.” Just talking about it made her teeth clench.

Jenna picked up the sweatshirt she had tossed on the grass. “What did your mom say about the taco party?”

“I can do it next weekend.” Hailey mimicked her mom’s voice, “‘David’s only going to graduate once, but you can have a birthday party any time.’ Like turning sixteen is no big deal.”

“Maybe it’s for the best. More kids’ll be able to come next weekend.”

Hailey couldn’t resist smirking at her impish friend, who’d recently dyed a streak of ruby red in her long blond hair against her mother’s wishes. “Plus maybe you won’t be grounded by then.”

Their classmates were coming in from the sidelines to meet at the finish line, a clump of rowdy teenage girls in short shorts and Fenton tees celebrating the end of the school year with cheers and high-fives.

As she and Hailey strolled across the sunny lawn to join them, Jenna asked, “Do you think your folks’re going to get you that off-road bike?”

“I hope so. We’ve got to stay in shape so we can kick butt next year.”

Jenna gave her a playful grin. “Uh, we?”

Hailey grinned back at her. “Yeah, we—you and me, sister. We’re biking every day this summer. And next year, we’re smokin’ this race.”

Mandy's Review:

This book was a tad slow-going for me in the beginning, but once it got a couple chapters in it picked up and kept my interest. Although, I must say, I didn't understand why Ms. Wells would get so irritated so quickly when Hailey was asking her about the abandoned house and the family that lived there. She seemed like a nice lady who liked to talk about the "old days" but would then become disturbed whenever Hailey kept coming up with off-the-wall questions. Maybe that was just her personality ...

I do love a good time-travel novel (i.e. BID TIME RETURN by Richard Matheson) and CORRELATION fit the bill. It was a little jarring going from Part I to Part II, but once I realized what was going on I got back into it. The author did a good job of integrating the characters into past and present. I did hate that a particular character died at a young age (twice). I was looking forward to "meeting" him as an old man, but then that would've changed fate just a little too much, wouldn't it?

If you love time-travel stories that are a quick, easy read, then I think you would enjoy CORRELATION.

*An ecopy of this book was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this tour and in exchange for an honest review.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

{Review} MR LYNCH'S HOLIDAY by Catherine O'Flynn

ISBN #: 978-0805091816
Page Count: 272
Copyright: October 8, 2013
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

(Taken from back cover)

A holiday to visit his son promises more than one man bargained for...

This fortnight’s trip to Spain is the first time Dermot Lynch, a retired bus driver and recent widower, has left Birmingham in many years. When he finally arrives at the gates of his son Eamonn’s crumbling development, it is not what he had imagined. But despite its faltering exterior, Dermot finds something beautiful and nostalgic in the development’s decline - reminiscent of his childhood in Ireland. Soon he is the center of attention in the tiny clan of expats where paranoid speculation, goat hunting, and drinking are just some of the ways to pass the long, sunny days in this strange paradise. As the happenings within the gates take a peculiar turn, father and son slowly begin to peel back their pasts, and they uncover a shocking secret at the heart of this ad hoc community.

Charlene's Review:

When Dermot decides to holiday at his son, Eamonn’s, neither he, or Eamonn can foretell the changes about to take place in their lives. Living in a state of depression, Eamonn is pining away for his love, who left to think things over, and Dermot, still adjusting to the death of his wife, is searching for a deeper connection to his son. The deserted, neglected community cause both to take a long look at the past as they grow into an awareness of themselves and each other.

I loved the idea of this book. The interpersonal look into a man and his grown son, awkward at interacting, yet both in need of each other. Using flashbacks from both perspectives, we see how the men have reached the point in their lives and how they learned to cope. The community’s neighbors throw in a bit of color to the narrative, although I didn’t quite feel how they added to the overall storyline.

I felt the nostalgia and longing within the pages, but wrestled with the back and forth of the time line, along with less than necessary additions. Some of the plot seemed superfluous, as it had nothing at all to do with the relationship of the two men. I finished the book with more questions than answers, but Dermot’s personality shined through as the saving grace of this story. I’d say, overall, it was enjoyable enough, but a little too hurried in the end.

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

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

{Review} THE FEMALE VETERAN by Ty Will

ISBN #: 978-1478705895
Page Count: 126
Copyright: June 20, 2013
Publisher: Outskirts Press

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

On the heels of the Oscar-nominated documentary, "The Invisible War," comes a story that everyone who has a mother, daughter, aunt, sister or grandmother in the Armed Forces should read.

Over 3000 female veterans file MST (Military Sexual Trauma) reports every year. In 2010, a survey was sent out to all Armed Forces, the results showed more than 19,000 female veterans had been sexually harassed. That is more than 50 veterans a day!

About the Author:

Ty Will served in the Army Reserves from 1987-1989. She went into active duty from 1989 - 1992 then returned to the Reserves until she was honorably discharged in 1995. She served on a secret Drug Interdiction Mission and was awarded the Army Achievement Medal in 1991. Despite receiving this achievement, she has never actually received the medal, like so many other soldiers.

Mandy's Review:

Let me start my review by saying that I believe MST to be a real problem in the military, especially with the influx of women soldiers over the years. Granted, you piss a bunch of men off by invading the boys' club and things like this happen. I'm not making excuses, but something like this should have been anticipated and prepared for. Of course, with the military being previously testosterone-driven, I can see why it wasn't anticipated and why it needs to be remedied now.

Also, I agree that women veterans suffering from legitimate MST problems need a viable venue for receiving help. Throwing a woman suffering from MST in a room of men will only set her healing back. However, I also believe that you can only help people who want to be helped. People only going to therapy to seek attention aren't doing themselves any good and they're wasting people's time and money.

All of that being said ... I didn't like this book.

First of all, the "author" didn't write this book. She simply copied notes and reports from her various therapists, sometimes adding (what I'm sure she thought was funny) notes at the end of each. The comments weren't funny and I didn't laugh ... once.

Personally, I think this lady's issues began way before she joined the military. Her mood swings, cursing, and general personality just made me want to scream. For every rape story you hear about where the lady can't deal with, there's other rape stories you don't hear about where the lady dealt with it, moved on, and is living a happy life. I should know. I'm one of them.

Your life is what you make of it. If you choose to dwell in pain and misery, then that's what you're going to have in your life. If you choose to deal with your situation and problem and actually heal, then you can move forward and be happy again. It's YOUR choice. I don't feel pity for those who CHOOSE to dwell in their pain and misery. You can call me heartless if you want to, but I won't lose any sleep over it. After all, we are supposed to write honest reviews, right?

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

{Review} MOTHERLINE by Lisa Rosen

ISBN #: 978-0989370103
Page Count: 256
Copyright: September 1, 2013
Publisher: Morgan and Dawson Publishing; 1st Edition

(Taken from back cover)

You know those days in a family--weddings, funerals, births--when everyone comes together and all that history and garbage fester and boil and sometimes explode?

Well, this is one of those days. Maggie is in labor. When the first contractions ripple across her belly, she has no idea what to expect. She knows what she wants. She wants that perfect birth from the movies, with her family gathered around, welcoming her baby, helping her become the perfect mother.

More than anything, though, she wants her mother to be there for her, but relationships between mothers and daughters are often complicated. Her husband Sam would do anything for Maggie, but as their families converge on the hospital for this birth, he can't keep the craziness at bay.

Through a series of flashbacks, as well as events in the labor room, Maggie digs more deeply into her painful past. Memories bubble to the surface, forcing her to re-examine the tragic accident that killed her baby brother. Relationships between mothers and daughters are often complicated. But in order to learn what it means to be a mother, Maggie finally has to face her own mother, and find a way to both forgive and be forgiven.

Charlene's Review:

Already past her due date, Maggie has a plan on how her labor and delivery should go. When she finds herself in actual labor, things quickly take a downward turn as she realizes she is not in control, and she has a lot of her own mother baggage to overcome before she, herself, can welcome a baby into her life. As she prepares her body to deliver, Maggie’s mind flashes back to the pivotal moment in her life that changed her relationship with her own mother.

In Motherline, Ms. Rosen introduces us to the ambivalence, fears, and ultimate joy of childbirth.While focusing on the birth experience with great detail and insight, she also manages to weave in the personal relationship between mother and daughter, that defines most women’s own parenting. I was drawn into the book by the honesty and raw emotion shown in Maggie’s struggle to forgive, as well as her fears that she might not be the kind of mother she feels she should be.

Any woman that has given birth, or is thinking of giving birth, will appreciate the emotions expressed. This is not a feel-good, fairy tale birth. This is real, raw emotion that many women experience. The flashbacks complete the story, flawlessly, as the past reconciles with the present, and future. Ms. Rosen’s exquisite writing style is refreshing. I highly recommend this book.

5 out of 5 stars!

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

Sunday, November 17, 2013

{Review} ROCK MY WORLD by Sharisse Coulter

ASIN #: B00B67IGV6
File Size: 490 KB
Page Count: 270
Copyright: January 25, 2013

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Jenna Jax-Anders hit rock bottom in high school. Or so she thought. From rock star heiress to knocked-up has been, she turned it all around, marrying the punk rock baby daddy love of her life. The perfect Hollywood fairytale. Until the day she walked in on him kissing her best friend.

As she struggles to find herself and redefine the world around her, she faces the challenges of raising her over-achieving teenage daughter, the heartbreak of losing her best friend (backstabbing aside), and emerging from the shadows of two famous last names to find her own identity. Oh, there’s also the tiny issue of her husband’s record label, backed by an anonymous mogul whose morally ambiguous creative direction may ruin them all.

But she doesn’t know about that yet.

Mandy's Review:

I have a problem with women being oblivious to their internal instincts. We (women) all have them. Jenna had little warning signals going off in her head since HIGH SCHOOL and she ignored them. Then, when her life falls apart, she is so confused how it happened. Ugh!!! I cannot stand weak-willed women. And, ladies, for those of you who may be a little bit oblivious, let me give you a clue: usually if your man and your best friend "hate" each other, it is usually caused by some sexual tension from one or both parties. You'd better get that mess straightened out from the get-go!

Anyhow, now that I've stepped down from my soapbox ... Jenna's husband was mostly innocent of the misunderstanding that happened. I say mostly because he did allow another woman to kiss him at one point and he did agree to hide something that happened during high school. Other than that, though, he's a good guy and deserves to be happy.

Their daughter is independent and is, surprisingly, well-rounded and level-headed. Although, she would rather spend more time at her grandparent's house than her parent's.

Airika, who is supposed to be Jenna's best friend, is the biggest self-centered person I know. She usually doesn't do anything for anyone unless there's something in it for her. When her problems with Jenna start, she realizes that she actually misses Jenna and their friendship. She even begins to feel an emotion she's never felt before: guilt.

Eventually all things work out for those involved, but not without some heartache, drama, and backstabbing. Overall, this is an interesting, although somewhat unrealistic, read. I just found Jenna too much of a drama queen for my liking.

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

Saturday, November 16, 2013

{Review} TURNING THIS THING AROUND by Keith Maginn

ISBN #: 978-1481276184
Page Count: 134
Copyright: December 22, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

(Taken from back cover)

Turning This Thing Around is a brutally honest, deeply personal account of redemption takes readers on a moving spiritual journey.

Confronted with a myriad of obstacles–a debilitating arthritic disease, narcolepsy, anxiety and depression–the author was outwardly happy, but inwardly miserable. Pushed to the lowest point of his life, Maginn shares how he gradually turned things around and used his experiences to grow as a person.

Supplemented by heartfelt poetry by the author and with quotes from Gandhi to Dr. Wayne Dyer to Eckhart Tolle, Turning This Thing Around has universal themes that speak to nearly everyone, as we all must face challenges as part of being human. It is a self-help memoir of sorts: the author discusses not only what he overcame, but also how he did so–and how others can, too.

Unlike many popular memoirs on the market, this is a story that more people can relate to. Maginn was not raised in an eccentric family (Jeannette Walls in The Glass Castle, memoirs by Augusten Burroughs), nor did he travel to Italy, India and Indonesia, as Elizabeth Gilbert did in Eat, Pray, Love. Rather, Turning This Thing Around is a story of a normal young man’s resiliency when battling extraordinary circumstances.

Charlene's Review:

Mr. Maginn bares his very soul inside the pages of this book. This no-apologies memoir gives the reader insight into his life and mind during the course of several years, and a myriad of health issues, and personal loss. There is nothing fancy here, only a true desire to speak the truth as he knows it.

Sharing how he sunk into despair, and ultimately rose from it, Mr. Maginn explains in simple terms, and occasional quotes from other well-known authors, how he made the choice to overcome his pain, and the exact steps he made to achieve healing.

I read this in one sitting, not only because of its brevity, but also because of the sheer heart with which it was written. I could feel the empathy he has for others, as well as his desire to become a better person. Anyone suffering with illness or self-esteem issues will benefit from reading this book. I wish Mr. Maginn luck in his future endeavors. I do not believe he is done trying to make the world a more whole, healthy place.

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

Friday, November 15, 2013

{2013 TBR Pile Challenge} Checking In

For this being the next-to-last check-in, we're not in as good a position as we'd like to be. Kathy has four books left on her list and Mandy has three. We're hoping to finish them, but with the holidays literally right around the corner ... who knows. Below is what we've finished so far. You can check out our complete lists by clicking on the 2013 Reading Challenges link to the right.


11/22/63 by Stephen King
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
by Michael Chabon
Life of Pi by Yann Martel


11/22/63 by Stephen King
Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
The Godforsaken by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
A Time to Kill by John Grisham
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Falling Under by Gwen Hayes
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Thursday, November 14, 2013

{Review} AUNTY LEE'S DELIGHTS by Ovidia Yu

ISBN #: 978-0062227157
Page Count: 288
Copyright: September 17, 2013
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

(Taken from back cover)

After losing her husband, Rosie Lee could have become one of Singapore's "tai tai," an idle rich lady. Instead she is building a culinary empire from her restaurant, Aunty Lee's Delights, where spicy Singaporean meals are graciously served to locals and tourists alike. But when a body is found in one of Singapore's tourist havens and one of her guests fails to show at a dinner party, Aunty Lee knows that the two events are likely connected.

The murder and disappearance throws together Aunty Lee's henpecked stepson, Mark, his social-climbing wife, Selina, a gay couple whose love is still illegal in Singapore, and an elderly Australian tourist couple whose visit may mask a deeper purpose. Investigating the murder are Police Commissioner Raja and Senior Staff Sergeant Salim, who quickly discover that Aunty Lee's sharp nose for intrigue can sniff out clues that elude law enforcers.

Wise, witty, and charming, Aunty Lee's Delights is a spicy mystery about love, friendship, and food in Singapore, where money flows freely and people of many religions and ethnicities coexist peacefully, but where tensions lurk just below the surface, sometimes with deadly consequences.

Charlene's Review:

Aunty Lee, a widowed, wealthy busybody runs a restaurant that pairs wine and Singaporean dishes. When a body washes up on the beach, and two diners go missing, Aunty Lee knows there is a connection. While the authorities question the dinner party guests, Aunty Lee works on her own investigation.

I looked forward to reading this "foodie novel" for various reasons. Learning more of a new culture, and its cuisine is always enjoyable for me. Aunty Lee came across as a real sassy heroine, but I didn’t feel the connection with the characters as much as I’d like, or gain enough insight into Singapore and it’s dishes to satisfy. There were far too many undertones happening that didn’t help fill out the plot, although I assume that Ms. Yu was setting the reader up for future Aunty Lee mysteries.

All that being said, I wasn’t completely dissatisfied. There was a grace and humor to Aunty Lee that I enjoyed, and the food, while not thoroughly described, sounds amazing. I would have loved to learn more through this novel. The accompanying publicity pamphlet I received with the book held quite a bit more information than the novel, about "All Things Singapore."

I would be open to reading any follow-up mysteries, just to see if the characters are more fleshed out, and more culture revealed. Perhaps, with this novel, I was expecting too much. This is a mystery for those that like their mysteries light. Pleasant enough reading, but left me hungry for more.

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

{2013 TBR Pile Challenge - Review} 11/22/63 by Stephen King

ISBN #: 978-1451627282
Page Count: 849
Copyright: November 8, 2011
Publisher: Scribner

Book Summary:
(Taken from dustjacket flap)

In this brilliantly conceived tour de force, Stephen King - who has absorbed the social, political, and popular culture of his generation more imaginatively and thoroughly than any other writer - takes readers on an incredible journey into the past and the possibility of altering it.

It begins with Jake Epping, a thirty-five-year-old English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching GED classes. He asks his students to write about an event that changed their lives, and one essay blows him away - a gruesome, harrowing story about the night more than fifty years ago when Harry Dunning's father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a sledgehammer.

Reading the essay is a watershed moment for Jake, his life - like Harry's, like America's in 1963 - turning on a dime. Not much later his friend Al, who owns the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958. And Al enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession - to prevent the Kennedy assassination.

So begins Jake's new life as George Amberson, in a different world of Ike and JFK and Elvis, of big American cars and sock hops and cigarette smoke everywhere. From the dank little city of Derry, Maine (where there's Dunning business to conduct), to the warmhearted small town of Jodie, Texas, where Jake falls dangerously in love, every turn is leading eventually, of course, to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and to Dallas, where the past becomes heart-stoppingly suspenseful, and where history might not be history anymore.

Time-travel has never been so believable. Or so terrifying.

Mandy's Review:

Oh my God - THIS is why I love Stephen King's work. When people say that he is a master storyteller, they are not wrong. This man's mind is overwhelmingly amaze-balls! I know many of you do not like Stephen King because when you hear his name you automatically think of horror. 11/22/63 is the perfect exemplification of King's genius in a non-horror setting.

Generally speaking, all the events that happen are every day, normal events. King has a knack for taking the every day situations and using them in an overall stunning way. He tweaks each situation, each event, just enough to make it still seem believable. I think that's what I love about King's writing; that he can do that yet make the overall story have an otherworldly or supernatural essence.

I also loved that he incorporated Derry, Maine into this story. It excited me to no end to see Bevvie and Richie again, although I did miss seeing the rest of the gang. For those who don't know what I'm referring to, Bevvie and Richie were two of the seven friends in King's book It. I felt like I was visiting friends again. It was bittersweet.

If you're curious about King's writing, but don't want to be scared half out of your gourd, then please read 11/22/63. I promise you I wouldn't steer you wrong.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

{Review} The Secret Eater by Ros Jackson

File Size: 247 KB
Page Count: 86
Copyright: July 12, 2013

Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

Kenssie is a demon who feeds from secrets. Lately pickings have been slim, and she has grown so weak that her shield of invisibility is slipping. As the servant of a demon who eats embarrassment she already feels like she's the laughing stock of the demonic world. But the scorn of someone who thinks that Hawaiian shirts are the height of cool is the least of her worries.

A powerful fear demon is dead set on making her his slave, a position that carries seriously short life expectancy.

She has no friends.

No powers.

No clue.

Her only hope of escaping a life of terror lies in stealing a grimoire she's never seen from the clutches of a vindictive group of master demons.

Kathy's Review:

The last book I read was way too long, and The Secret Eater has the opposite problem. More like an extended short story, The Secret Eater left me hungry for more. The main character, demon Kenssie, has some sass and smarts. She's easily likeable, and the world of demons is a new territory in an oversaturated supernatural genre of literature. There are so many possibilities for Kenssie's story. How did she come to be the thrall of Rakmannon? What are the different types of demons and why do they feed on different emotions? I'd love to know more.

I'm hoping this is just the beginning of Kenssie's story, or that the author can go back and fill in some of the gaps. I think it was written well, with humor and imagination, and I look forward to seeing what's next.

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

Sunday, November 10, 2013

{Book Spotlight: First Chapter Reveal & Ebook Giveaway} Creche by Karin Cox

Release Date: November 11, 2013

Book Blurb:

Still grieving the loss of Joslyn and the Sphinx Sabine, and craving revenge upon Beltran, his Vampire nemesis, Amedeo the Cruxim is destined to learn more about his past in the sequel to Karin Cox's critically acclaimed gothic paranormal romance Cruxim.

When he meets a female of his own kind, Skylar, who takes him to the hidden stronghold of Silvenhall Creche to learn Cruxim lore, the secrets revealed in the holy book of the Cruximus, and the lies told to him by his own kind, force Ame to question who he is really is, where his loyalties lie, and whether there is anything he desires more than vengeance.

About the Author:

Karin Cox edits and writes in her "spare time" while being a fulltime mum to a toddler and to a black cat with the improbable name of "Ping Pong."

She is the author of more than 30 trade-published natural history books, biographies, Australian social history books, children's picture storybooks, and travel guides, several of which have won awards. Karin has had poems and short stories published in anthologies worldwide and her ebooks CRUXIM, GROWTH, CAGE LIFE, HEY LITTLE SISTER and PANCAKES ON SUNDAY are available on Amazon.

Thankfully, the busier she gets, the more creative she is (and the more likely to afford to hire a housekeeper). Karin and her partner live in sunny Queensland, Australia, where she writes from her back deck overlooking the pool, her study (overlooking her messy desk) or her couch (overlooking Dr Phil, who gives her a lot of inspiration). You can follow her on twitter @Authorandeditor or visit her fanpage on Facebook www.facebook.com/KarinCox.Author. Also, feel free to email her on cruxim@hotmail.com.

First Chapter Reveal:

“Come.” The female Cruxim put out her hand to me, but I made no move to take it. I shrank away, as if her touch might scar me, even as some force greater than myself seemed to tug me toward her.

“Why should I follow you?”

She shrugged. “Why would you not?”

I passed my hand over my face, the sand scratching at the makings of a beard. That I felt it at all—that I felt anything—hurt me. I wanted nothingness, to be as blank and empty and ephemeral as a wave that might turn and roll far back out to sea, where the tortured statue of my Sphinx love, Sabine, had yesterday plummeted to the ocean’s depths. I half wished that instead of diving for her, I had flown at my enemy Beltran, the Vampire orchestrator of all of my sorrows, and had plunged my fangs into his neck. That I had ended it, and him, for good. Instead, once more Beltran had beaten me. Once more, he had escaped me. Once more, he had destroyed me.

“I don’t know you.” I vomited saltwater into the sand, but when I looked up, she was still standing, watching, her face a beautiful but indifferent mask.

“Leave me!” I flung one arm toward the sea. “I do not wish to know you.” But the eyes I turned on her were as curious as her own.

Her mouth quirked up a little at one corner, and then she answered. “You may … one day. I already know you.”

“Stalking is not knowing. Being Cruxim is not knowing.” I snorted. “You know nothing of me. You think you know me from seeing me once, in a circus—on a cross and in a cage. Why did you not come to poke and wonder at me then, like all of the others?”

“Very well.” The grace of her stride, as she turned away, highlighted the litheness of her body. Her hair swung like silver silk over her shoulders, catching the sparkle off the ocean.

My grief craved her departure, longed for loneliness, but the thought of having nothing and no one—not Sabine nor Joslyn, nor this mysterious female with eyes that shone like a mirror—terrified me.

Almost as much, it terrified me that she might know me.

She was the only one of my own kind I had ever seen, outside of my dead mother, my infant sister and her sullen father, and Monsieur LeRay: the mortician I had watched from afar in Paris. When I had approached him, brimming with questions, LeRay had simply hissed at me, drawing his black cloak in tighter around his wings, and vanished. I had followed, but he was quick and he did not wish to be found. We were solitary creatures, so it seemed. But if so, why was she here?

I shook my head again. Was everything I thought I knew about Cruxim a lie? Could she tell me why, after the exultation of the boy’s blood, I was still here, alive, on a beach with human blood still coursing through me.

“How?” I raised myself to a crouch and shouted, “How do you know me?”

“Come,” she answered, turning back to me and holding out one hand again, “and find out.”

Standing, I shook the sand and shellgrit from my clothes and swiped at my face again with one salt-specked hand. My hair was crusted stiff, my body sore from the long night on the beach. My senses felt taut, crackling with exhaustion and loss. I wondered what I was doing. Then again, what did I have to lose?
They were both gone: Joslyn and Sabine. The two women I had loved, each differently, each equally, or at least I thought, were lost to me. Beltran had left me nothing to live for but revenge. A sharp, hopeless pain shot through me, far worse than the hunched cramp of my shoulders.

I took a tentative, lurching step toward the Cruxim on the beach.

She extended her hand further and assessed me with a squint.

“You have been following me.” I accused. “Haven’t you?”

“Yes.” The answer came too simply, dismissing my accusation.

“Yet you did nothing!” Salt and sand and sea foam spat out with each syllable. “You could have helped, could have stopped them. You could have helped me save Joslyn … but you did nothing.”

“For what?” It was just a question matter-of-factly stated, but its coldness formed a fist.

“For love.” I set my jaw, biting back angrier words.

“Your love.” She blinked and then turned her eyes away from me. “She was a Vampire.”

“She was a human being ... once.”

“Yes. But you never were. And nor was I.” Her gleaming gray eyes held a question. “Why does it matter to you so that she was human?”

“She had her soul.” I sank to my knees again and retched into the sand. “In a soulless world.”

Silence passed between us, but thoughts swarmed thick in my head. Since my sister’s birth, all those centuries ago, never had I met another Cruxim. So why now?

I shook my head to clear the hammering of a headache. “You did nothing to help me—to help them, either of them.”

“I am helping you now.”

“You call this helping? You did nothing!” My fist, pounding the sand again, sent missiles of tiny shells into the air.

“She was a Vampire,” she said, softer this time. “They will all die, Amedeo … eventually. It is our mission. Have you forgotten that?” She put her hand on my shoulder and I looked up at her.

Her face was still free of emotion, her brow unwrinkled, her pillowed lips full. Neither frown nor smile tugged at her noble features. She was blank, as unmoved as the ocean had been at dawn when its stillness had mocked the tumult of my anguish.

I stumbled to my feet. “You think I can forget? You think I can just put aside what he did to them? Or what I mean to do to him?” The bite of my nails puncturing my clenched palms was nothing compared to the pain of knowing Beltran still lived. I turned away from her again, sick with the knowledge that perhaps no one could have helped them. The only help for Joslyn and Sabine would have been never to have met me. I was the cause of their damnation! Part of me wished neither had ever known me—not the blue-eyed child who had believed me her guardian angel until the Vampire Beltran had his way with her, nor the brave, golden-haired Sphinx who had loved me yet thought herself my pet. Yet the thought of never having known either of them drew bile up from my stomach.

What point is there in following this Cruxim, or even in going on? I thought.

Nausea overtook me again and I fell to the sand, curled like a shell, my back to her.

“There is Sabine.”

It seemed she had read my thoughts.

I felt the growl forming before it even left my lips. “What do you care?”

“She fought valiantly. I had hoped she might free herself from Beltran.”

“You hoped.” I raised myself again and glowered at her.


I passed my hands over my face, swiping away tears. “And Joslyn? What did you hope for her?”

“Must we argue again?” She sighed, as if she had hoped my love for the woman who had given her life for mine might have already faded. Then she kneeled beside me. Her pale skin gleamed argent up close.

“I mean you no harm, Amedeo. Nor her. I did not save Joslyn or Sabine, because…” Her eyes reflected the luminescent strip of the horizon. “Because…”

“I know.” My thoughts were as dull as my words. “They were not Cruxim.”

“No, they were not. But … there are many things you do not know. Many things I might teach you about yourself if you come with me.”

My eyes were dry, but my heart still cried for them both. “Now? Now, you wish to teach me these things. Why not before? Why not then, when such knowledge might have helped me save them.”

“It was not the time. It was never the time before.”

“Before!” I let out a bitter laugh that my throat was too hoarse to give life to. “How long have you known of me?”

Her silence was heavy with secrets I knew she would not divulge.

“Since I was a child.” She stood and put a hand down to help me up. “But I did not know where you were, not until the rumors began. All of France had heard: a winged being in a circus and with him a Sphinx, half female, half lion. All of Europe questioned what monsters Gandler was parading, and whether they were real. Did you think such things would not reach the ears of another Cruxim, or of Vampires?”

I nodded, considering it, my eyes on her still outstretched hand.

“Come with me. It is not safe here.” She glanced around. “It is too open, too exposed for us to hide ourselves and our wings from humans easily. And look at you.” For the first time, I saw warmth in her silvery eyes. “You are exhausted.”

What harm could there be in it? She was right: I was exhausted, weak, and stricken with grief. What harm could she do me, a Cruxim like myself? And if she could, would I care? If she possessed the honor of our kind, she might protect me until my strength returned.

“Follow me,” she pleaded, “and we shall talk.”

“I have had enough of talk.” I shrugged off her hand. “All I need is vengeance.”

“Where did revenge get you? There will be time enough to make the undead pay for their sins. First, you must atone for your own, as all of our kind must.” She glided over the sand towards the water’s edge.

“Come.” Her gentle wing flaps became a flurry as she rose up over the water.

I felt sure I would be too weak to fly, but as I watched the air currents stroke her feathers, I knew all I wanted to do was flee far from here, feeling the weightlessness, the lightness, the clarity of nothing but air.
I rose into the air after her, catching the wind’s breath in my wings. Then, with a last look at the mercurial gleam of the only Cruxim I had met in hundreds of years, I spun and flew as fast as I could away from her.
I would find Sabine, even if it meant kissing every stone on earth.

* * *

Hours passed in a whirr of tired wingbeats. I traveled far and fast, a willing Icarus shooting up towards a reluctant sun, craving the heat that might plummet me down into the ocean, where Sabine waited for me. She had not deserved the fate that found her. A Sphinx, with the head and breast of a woman and the lithe, winged body of a great cat, her only vulnerability had been the anchorstone her spirit returned to by day. With the stone safe, like me, she was otherwise immortal. We had found allies in each other, companions, and kindred souls, and lovers, too, had not the impracticality of our love stalled my passion. She had waited for me, searched for me, the forty years I had spent imprisoned in a tower in France, considered some kind of superhuman devil by the townsfolk. Unable to find the anchorstone, Beltran had cast her body, encased in molten metal, deep into the sea, but still she would be waiting for me.

“She is loyal, just like a lioness.” The thought came too easily into my head, and it was some seconds before I realized it was not mine.

“Why are you following me?” I snapped, thinking I should have asked instead how it was that she had come to know my thoughts. Perhaps it was a thing between Cruxim, although I could not read hers when I tried.

“Yes, it is.” She answered my second question aloud as soon as I had thought it. “You cannot read my thoughts if I do not wish you to. At least not yet.”

“And yet you would read mine uninvited.”

I felt the wind of her wings as she shrugged in mid-flight. “I imagined you might be less prickly, Amedeo.”

Her expression hardly changed; I could not tell if she was hurt or angry.

“I told you—you did not know me.”

They were words to wound, but the serene face betrayed no hint of a frown.

We flew on in silence for some time. Then a voice, softer than the wind in the Cypress pines, entered my head again. “She is not dead, remember, only sleeping.”

“Sleeping!” I swooped away from her, Beltran’s mocking words ringing in my head: Think of her as just asleep, Cruxim. A very long, very cold sleep. Such a shame cats just hate water.

“A sorry euphemism. Sleeping on the ocean’s floor,” I spat.

“But living. Still living. Just like you.” With a great flap, she shot forward to face me, and this time her expression was of pity. “Do you know where her anchorstone is? Is it safe?”

I tried to keep any surprise from my features. She knows of anchorstones. What else does she know? I wondered.

“Would I be here if I did?” I answered her, above the wind. “But I will find it, and I will wake her. Alone. What can you offer me now that I have lost everything while you stood by and watched it slip away?”

“That, I can’t tell you. Perhaps I can offer you only fate, if that is what draws me to you.”

“Fate!” I spat. “What is fate?” Get out of my head, I screamed internally.

She smiled. “You can hear me now, as I hear you. You are a fast learner. Perhaps you should have more faith in fate.”

It was not the time for novelties. The pounding of my wings and muscles had become a dull throb that matched the numbness of my heart and mind. “Enough of fate, and of flight. I need rest. Leave me!”

She fell back a little. “Don’t you want to know who I am?”

“Leave me!” I screamed. “Leave me! I care nothing for fate, or for you, or for life.”

“Skylar,” she said softly.

I thought I detected a brief smile before the sharpness of the wind tugged it away.

“My name is Skylar Emmanuel.”

She spun in the air like a sparrow, rising on a draft before plummeting headfirst down towards the earth, her wings creating a magnificent silver V as she dove.


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