Wednesday, February 27, 2013

{Blog Tour/Review} Dirty Rice by Dorothy K. Morris

ISBN #: 978-1621371571
Page Count: 500
Copyright: November 9, 2012
Publisher: Publishing


Dirty Rice, a novel set in the early 18th Century in the Low-Country of the early South Carolina Colony, tells of love, passion, adventure and cruelty with totally believable characters. It is the first prequel to the four books of the Mockingbird Hill series.

The early 18th Century saw vast expansion into the New World from England, the European Continent and from Africa, and the establishment of rice plantations in the coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia. Set against this background Dirty Rice sweeps us away to a bygone era of adventure, romance and brutal reality. This is the story of African rice and African people, their knowledge, expertise and their forced labor that made the Carolina Colony the wealthiest colony in colonial America. It takes us from the plush parlors of aristocratic English absentee land owners, who set policy in the Colony to maximize profit, to the swampy shores of Carolina amid the mud and muck of rice fields, where people kidnapped from West Africa because of their knowledge and expertise in the growing of rice, were forced to work to fill the coffers of the landowners with wealth. It is a story of exploitation by some and compassion from others.

In this, as in her four previous novels, Morris' emphasis is on the people who lived and were forced to cope with what life sent their way.

Charlene's Review:

This 18th Century novel focuses on colonial life in South Carolina. Set against a backdrop of rice fields, Dirty Rice focuses on its people, mainly the young Corrina, her husband's family, and her true love, Frederick. Rich in history, it paints a painful picture of the era and its struggles. Greenville Plantation is one of many that choose to import slaves from Sierra Leone in order to further their crops. As Reginald Upton, plantation overseer, must take in the slaves against his wishes and make money for the company, evil lurks in the form of a greedy nephew who stands to inherit it all.

I was a bit overwhelmed when I received all 500 pages of this novel. Having said that, it read quickly and captivated me almost instantly. While there is a plethora of historical significance, and the ugliness of slavery in most every page, her focus on the characters themselves makes this a highly intimate book. I would label this a love story above all else; the love of Corrina towards her cousin, Frederick, as well as a love for the coast of Carolina.

Ms. Morris has a gift for story and I highly recommend Dirty Rice for anyone interested in this time period. I will definitely be looking forward to the remaining books in the Mockingbird Hill series.

5 out of 5 stars!

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

{Release Day Review} Forbidden Sister by V. C. Andrews

ISBN #: 978-1439155059
Page Count: 387
Copyright: February 26, 2013
Publisher: Pocket Books

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Emmie Wilcox was only six when her older sister, Roxy, was thrown out of their New York City apartment. Their stern father's military-style rules left no room for rebellion, and Roxy was as defiant as Emmie - now an outstanding student at a private school - is compliant: a perfect daughter, un fille parfaite, as her Parisian-born mother lovingly calls her. Two sisters, total opposites - yet Emmie is secretly obsessed with the mystery surrounding Roxy: What had she done? Where is she now? And is there a hidden side to Emmie that resembles Roxy's spiteful nature? Knowing only that Roxy is a highly paid escort to the city's wealthiest men, Emmie goes behind her father's back to track down the sister she fears, despises, and inexplicably clings to ... and whose influence might run deeper than Emmie ever imagined.

Mandy's Review:

My love affair with V. C. Andrews began before I was even a teenager. My mother had the Dollanganger series and had forbidden me to read them. Unbeknown to her, as soon as she would leave to go somewhere, I'd grab one of the books and read until I saw her come home. It was easy to see why she didn't want me reading those books at such a young age, yet I was drawn into the story. There was no turning back for me. When asked if I would review Forbidden Sister, I just had to say 'yes!'

Emmie, or M, is the perfect child. Since Roxy was kicked out, Emmie always felt as if she had to be the perfect daughter. She feared losing her father's love and favor like Roxy did. Emmie's father even demanded that Roxy's name never be brought up in front of him ... ever. He seemed to be living by the "out of sight, out of mind" mentality. Emmie's mother, on the other hand, had hidden pictures and mementos of Roxy so she could pull them out and look at them on occasion. It irritated me a little that she was so subservient to her husband, but perhaps that was how she was raised. I just would've thought that having her own daughter banished from their home and, basically, existence would've raised the "mama bear" protection instincts in her and she would've fought for Roxy.

There are two things Emmie's parents should have realized: 1.) Even though a child may seem to be perfect in every way, they're not. The child will eventually find a way to circumvent the rules and lie about it. 2.) What's hidden in the dark always come into the light. And Roxy's presence is made known by an unexpected, thought to be trusted, source.

I liked Emmie's character. Although she was a bit naive at first, she grew up pretty fast when she had to. Roxy remained a mystery throughout the book, but I liked her anyway. She seemed sad and trapped, like she wanted to leave her current life but wasn't quite sure how she was going to do it ... and could she do it? Can she give up the fancy apartment, nice clothes, and limousines? What I enjoyed the most was how Roxy and Emmie finally went from being strangers to sisters.

Not since the Dollanganger series and My Sweet Audrina have I read a V. C. Andrews book that pulled me in and swept me away. I love the start to this new series and I cannot wait to read Roxy's Story this September! If you're a fan of V. C. Andrews, then Forbidden Sister is a must-have for you.

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

Saturday, February 23, 2013

{Review} Blood Money by Doug Richardson

ISBN #: 978-0984807161
Page Count: 297
Copyright: April 2013
Publisher: Velvet Elvis Entertainment

(Taken from back cover)

The disillusioned Marine's plan seems simple enough: steal a refrigerated tractor trailer loaded with frozen blood product; drive the pirated cargo from Reno, Nevada to the Port of Long Beach; collect a million dollars. Yet even the most deliberate plans can go sideways. On his campaign south, the Marine's "inner idiot" takes charge, leaving a smattering of dead bodies in his wake.

In the dark before dawn, a telephone rings. Kern County Sheriff's detective Lucas "Lucky" Dey, no stranger to being awakened with bad news, answers the call. But this time, the voice on the phone tells Lucky that his ill-fated younger brother has been gunned down on a blackened desolate highway.

As Lucky chases the former Marine and his black semi-rig into the bowels of Los Angeles, he's thrust into a landscape of competing agendas. Conrad Ellis, the multi-millionaire entertainment mogul, demands justice for the murder of his starlet daughter. Ambitious federal attorney Lilly Zoller is determined to turn any opportunity into her personal spotlight. Rey Palomino, the morally-challenged contractor, colludes with the former Marine hoping to crawl out from under a crushing debt. LAPD detective and dedicated single mom Lydia "Gonzo" Gonzales, reluctantly accepts her assignment to "babysit" the unrestrained Kern County detective hell-bent on avenging his brother's death at any cost.

A knee-breaking private detective, some unwitting feds, and a coterie of gang-busting L.A. Sheriffs deputies further complicate the scenario and round out the cast of characters in this explosive and unpredictable thrill ride.

Charlene's Review:

The plan seemed fail-proof: Steal refrigerated blood products, transfer them at a shipyard, and start a new life with lots of money. Unfortunately, Beemer is about to embark on a crazy ride fraught with mishaps, and leaving dead bodies in his wake. When Sheriff Detective Lucky Dey receives word that his brother is one of the victims, a cross-country chase begins.

This was a very intense thriller with lots of backbone. Mr. Richardson has a keen eye for what readers of crime drama are wanting, and does not disappoint. A solid storyline with background characters that stand out as sharply as the main character, Beemer. I found it gripping from the first through the final pages.

My only drawback was, what I felt, was unnecessarily frequent and vulgar language. It's addition did nothing to add to the storyline and I felt it made it a bit less palatable for some readers that would otherwise enjoy this book. I would have also loved to see a bit more background of Beemer's service in the Marines. Having said that, Mr. Richardson is obviously a very talented writer with an engaging story that begs to be read.

4 out of 5 stars.

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

Friday, February 22, 2013

{Blog Tour - Review/Giveaway} Knowing by Laurel Dewey

ISBN #: 978-1611880496
Page Count: 394
Copyright: December 4, 2012
Publisher: The Story Plant

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

After the life-altering ending in the third Jane Perry thriller, Revelations, Jane Perry takes time off from the job to find the missing part of herself she never knew existed. But her journey is quickly hijacked when a wanted criminal, Harlan Kipple, steals her car. Kipple - accused of the heinous murder of a prostitute in a seedy motel - is on the run and desperate to stay that way. Jane's personal plans take a back seat as she tracks down her stolen ride and discovers through an unusual source that Kipple may be innocent and is being framed by a nefarious group. When she trails Kipple and confronts him, every belief she ever had about this world and the next is put to the test.

Kipple, who by his own admission is not the "brightest bulb in the box," received a heart transplant nineteen months ago. His life changed from the moment he woke up in the recovery room. In fact, he's not so sure where he ends and his heart takes over. As strange as that sounds to her, Jane cannot deny what she witnesses after spending just two days with Kipple. It becomes clear that nothing is what it appears as Jane is drawn into a deep rabbit hole with dark webs and darker crevices that force her to operate on the other side of the law. With the police hot on Kipple's tail and a devious faction intent on finding him first, Jane is caught in the middle and realizes that solving this crime could have fatal consequences.

With themes as diverse as immortality, regeneration, resurrection, transformation and death, author Laurel Dewey tackles this latest Jane Perry novel with originality and plenty of suspense. "Finding yourself" takes on a whole new meaning in Knowing.

Author Info:

Laurel Dewey was born and raised in Los Angeles. She is the author of two nonfiction books on plant medicine, a Silver Spur nominated Western novella, hundreds of articles, and three other novels in her Jane Perry suspense series, Protector, Redemption, and Revelations along with the Jane Perry novelettes An Unfinished Death and Promissory Payback and the story collection Unrevealed. She is also the author of the novel Betty's (Little Basement) Garden.

Mandy's Review:

I'm about to tell you something in all honesty ... every time Jane Perry comes back in a new novel her story gets better and better. You'd think that eventually a character's story would fade and fizzle away. I have a feeling that Laurel Dewey is just getting started with her Jane Perry novels.

Here's what we know so far about Jane: she's a homicide detective, she's found out she has a half-sister in New Mexico, she's (finally) taking a vacation from her job, and she's recently found a man who loves her for who she is. Doesn't seem like a lot to learn from four novels does it? Well, these weren't written by your ordinary author.

Each novel progresses, not only, Jane's story, but also Laurel's skill as an author. She will have you thinking outside of the proverbial box and make you want to stay there. I cannot get enough of her Jane Perry series. Laurel Dewey will forever have a permanent place on my bookshelves.

By the way, you can read each of the Jane Perry novels as stand-alone novels, but I would really recommend that you start at the beginning and work your way through. I promise that the journey of getting to know Jane from the start is well worth the read.

P.S. - I know this is a short review, but I really cannot say enough good things about the author or her work. So, instead of continuing on and on or regurgitating the summary, I thought I'd just tell you how I feel and leave it at that. =)

*A paperback copy of this novel was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this tour in exchange for an honest review.


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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

{Review} The Darlings by Cristina Alger

ISBN #: 978-0143122753
Page Count: 338
Copyright: December 24, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Books

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Now that he's married to Merrill Darling, daughter of billionaire financier Carter Darling, attorney Paul Ross has grown accustomed to all the luxuries of Park Avenue. When Carter offers him a lucrative, high profile position at his hedge fund, Paul is thrilled with his good fortune. But Paul's luck is about to change: A tragic event will catapult the Darling family into the middle of a regulatory investigation and a red-hot scandal. Suddenly, Paul must decide where his loyalties really lie.

The Darlings is an irresistible glimpse into the highest echelons of New York society and a fast-paced thriller of epic proportions.

Mandy's Review:

Let's start with the title: The Darlings. Not only is that the last name of the family we're reading about, but it's also synonymous with how the family is treated within New York social circles. They're the favored among the elite. They're invited to all the VIP events. They are New York society's darling and are treated very favorably.

Be careful while at the top though, because the only place you can go is down.

People at the top often forget to be careful: about relationships, about communications, about the law. They almost feel as if they're untouchable. When a huge wrecking ball, in the form of a nation's financial crisis, shatters the crystal tower they live in, the Darlings begin to realize they're not invincible. It's hard to feel sorry for a family that did what it took to get where they were. It's hard to feel sorry for them when they trusted others to do what they should have done. The only people I felt any sympathy for were Merrill and Paul. They were actually the two honest people of the family and didn't deserve to go through the stress and emotional upheaval.

I found it a little difficult to keep all the characters straight at first and whom was married to whom. As long as I kept reading the story and didn't stop to take breaks, I found it easier to keep up with. The novel is well-written and the progression of the story is flawless. It read like an insider's expose. If you enjoy reading about celebrities' private lives and their problems, then I think you'd enjoy reading The Darlings.

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

Friday, February 15, 2013

{Review} Dancing on the Inside by Glen C. Strathy

ISBN #: 978-1462018710
Page Count: 236
Copyright: July 7, 2011
Publisher: iUniverse Publishing

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Sidelined by a paralyzing anxiety, a twelve-year-old girl uses determination and friendship to pursue her dream of becoming a ballet dancer in this uplifting middle-grade novel.

Mandy's Review:

If I were a middle-school-aged child, I would have fallen in love with this book immediately. It has a sense of tragedy to it that ends in triumph and self-empowerment, which would inspire any little girl reading this story. Since I am an adult reading a middle-grade novel, my review is going to be somewhat different.

First of all, Jenny's paralyzing anxiety is a little much. Granted there are genetically-transferred anxieties passed from parents to children. However ... Jenny's anxiety was a little over-the-top for my taste. And the fact that the adults somewhat coddled her by allowing her to stay in the class seemed a bit far-fetched. Although, if I had Jenny's mother, perhaps I'd be a little like Jenny. Her mother is extremely negative and unsupportive. It grated on my nerves to see how she talked to Jenny.

I loved Ara, Jenny's friend. She was free-spirited and wonderful. She did a wonderful job helping Jenny to try and get over her anxiety. There were a couple times that she made Jenny mad by going a little too far with her "help," but I thought she did the right thing.

As an adult, I had a couple issues with scenes in this book. I thought Jenny's actions were a little extreme and her mother too negative. I thought the ballet teachers a little too accommodating. When I allow my younger inner-self to take over, I found this book to be exciting and imaginative. I don't remember the last time a novel had my two selves arguing with each other. As long as you allow your younger self to have control, Dancing on the Inside is well worth the time to read.

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

Thursday, February 14, 2013

{Blog Tour - Excerpt/Giveaway} Edie and the CEO by Mary Hughes


Edie Rowan is passionate about workers' rights, wanting her Sixties protester grandparents to be proud of her. But championing the little guy gets her in trouble with sexy CEO Everett Kirk. Kirk is Mr. Ultra-Executive with his expensive hand-tailored suits and his eyes the steel blue of a finely tempered sword - but for the intriguing contradictions of his neat ponytail and square workman's hands.

Edie's latest disaster, a teambuilding exercise gone facepalm wrong, leads to a knockdown drag-out with rival manager Bethany "The B" - or add the "Itch" - Blondelle. The incident is the last straw for Kirk. He sends Edie to management camp and to her shock, announces he will drive her there himself. She wonders why he would want eighteen hours of enforced intimacy with her, even as she's dazzled by his sparkling white smile and killer dimple.

Everett walks away from the confrontation with a headache. For years he has protected Edie from the fallout of her righteous crusading, but this may be the last time. A corporate backstabber is trying to eject Everett from his job. Even so, he's looking forward to spending time on the drive with Edie, attracted to her sunny red curls, fiery personality and fine dark eyes.

Then a snowstorm forces them to seek shelter in an empty mountain cabin. Edie thinks she will take the lead in wilderness survival but Kirk proves more durable than his Italian loafers and silk sweater would suggest. The extended stay rubs them together in all sorts of ways, kindling emotional and physical flames. But when their corporate shells burn away, what secrets will be revealed?


Chapter One

Smack in the middle of the workday, because her brain was friend, Edith Ellen Rowan made her computer chirp Old MacDonald. Naturally that got her into trouble with The Bitch.

At first, Edie didn't even register the problem. Four sunny bars bee-booped before it hit her - her computer was playing a children's nursery song in an office full of conservative, nitpicky ears. Houghton Howell Enterprises was staid like an insurance company's gray suit (fun was something you had on the golf course, or once a year at the Christmas party, but never ever on the job).

"Suck it to shell." Edie hit the escape key. As ee-eye-ohhh died, she braced against the proverbial fan scattering the proverbial manure in the form of Bethany Blondelle, known to most of the company as The 'B' if they were feeling kindly, adding the 'itch' if they were not.

Shoulders hunched and breath held, Edie waited. She'd only been trying to motivate her people. Managing a team of programmers at HHE, a firm that sold innovative (read: expensive) solutions in accounting for large companies (read: deep pockets) wasn't easy. Her team  members were getting as fried as she, and so she'd proposed the music-writing contest.

Nothing happened. Edie gradually relaxed.

The Star Spangled Banner burst lustily from Jack's cubicle next door. Edie groaned.

"What the HELL is that NOISE?" Bethany had her vocal caps lock on again. This would be bad. "Who's making all that racket? Edie? Edie!"

Edie face-palmed. The contest was supposed to be a bit of fun, not cause for Armageddon. She'd have preferred to ignore The B, but "Bethany" and "proactive" were so synonymous they were hyperlinked on Wikipedia.

Sure enough, a long leg popped through the opening of Edie's cubicle, followed by the lady herself in eye-bleeding red. Bethany's fashion sense was from the DoMeHard channel. Her snappy skirts were hemmed just below her panty line. Today's suit also featured a plunging sweetheart neckline, a chunky citrine necklace getting suffocated in her Wonder-enhanced cleavage. Her long, sleek hair was dyed crayon yellow #6.

Edie looked down at her own lacy teal tee, navy pants and wool blazer and wondered if she was underdressed.


"What is the meaning of this racket?" Bethany leaned on Edie's desk, looming over her. Invading personal space - "A" in the ABCs of corporate dominance.

"Project Pleiades. We had a month to deadline - until your good buddy Junior chopped that to a week."

"Respect, Edie. Mr. Howell, not 'Junior.'"

"I'll respect Mr. Pharaoh Howell when he respects the workers. That deadline is a nightmare. My team has been working twelve-hour days and more. I've tried to push back, but you know Junior. Only the Evil Overlord can buck him."

"Stop it." Bethany tossed her head, a fleeting remnant of the girl Edie once knew. "The issue is not our executives. The issue is that ... racket." She waved her hand toward Jack's cubicle, where the anthem was on its final verse.

"Handling Stress 101, Bethany. Work on something else."

"Playing music on company time?" Bethany glared down her high-bridged nose. "Stupidity 101. You should listen to me if you want to go anywhere in this company." She pointed to her cleavage, fingertip disappearing to the first knuckle. "After all, my team's twice the size of yours."

"Bigger isn't better. It's all about how you use it." Edie grinned. "How about you run your team and I'll run mine?"

"You don't run your team." Bethany sneered. "They run you."

"It's called empowerment." Edie took pride in her outspoken team. She wanted her grandparents, hard-core sixties protesters, to be proud of her. They'd raised her from a little girl when her parents had died, and she loved them to pieces. "It's a proven management style."

Jack's computer shifted to A Hundred Bottle of Beer.

"Management?" One corner of Bethany's perfect lips curled. "The only management I see is mis-management."

"Ba-dum-bum." Edie was suddenly tired of the whole conversation.

And, as Jack's computer continued to tweet bottles down, doubt gnawed at her. It was quite a racket.

"Other people are trying to work." Bethany went for the kill.. "Keep your hooligans under control or I'm going to have to tell Mr. Kirk."

Edie suppressed a moan. Of all the straight-laced overbearing big shots at HHE, Edward Everett Kirk, president and CEO, was the biggest, straight-laciest. Like laced corsets ... naughty corsets in Kirk's competent hands -

"The way you two fight, it's only a matter of time before he gets fed up and fires you." Mme La B'itch drew a red-enameled nail across her slim throat.

Edie winced. "It's called 'corporate unfriending' now. And I couldn't help the janitor incident. Or the thing with the Super Soaker. Look, I'll talk to my people. Just cut us some slack, okay? We've been working ridiculous hours."

"Edie, you idiot. Has it ever occurred to you that your ridiculous hours are because of you?"

Them's fightin' words. Edie raised narrowed eyes. "I beg your pardon?"

Bethany leaned knuckles on the desk. "Only one kind of project manager confuses effort with efficiency: a bad one."

"Enough." Edie jumped to her feet, nearly head-butting Bethany. "Outside. Now."

"And freeze my butt off? Hardly." Bethany's nose was inches from Edie's. "You have absolutely no decorum, do you? That shouldn't surprise me, considering the hippies who raised you."

Edie lost it. "My grandparents were heroes! They fought for what they believed in, rallied at protest marches -"

"Pretty stories. Your grandpa was a long-haired unwashed bum. Your grandma wasn't much better than a free love hooker."

Edie snarled. "Now you listen here, you b-"

"If Mr. Kirk were here -"

"Mr. Kirk," a deep voice rand with power, "is here. And I want to know what, precisely, is going on."

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

{Review} Fires of Alexandria by Thomas K. Carpenter

ISBN #: 978-1463653705
Page Count: 388
Copyright: July 7, 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

The greatest mystery of the ancient world remains the identity of who set fire to the Great Library in Alexandria. One hundred years later, Heron of Alexandria - the city's most renown inventor and creator of Temple miracles - receives coin from a mysterious patron to investigate the crime. Desperate to be free of the debts incurred by her twin brother, she accepts and sets in motion a chain of events that will shake the Roman Empire and change the course of history forever.

Mandy's Review:

Heron, whose real name is Ada, has assumed the identity of her twin brother. He had been killed due to the enormous amount of debt he owed to one of the tax collectors. Heron is often commissioned by the Temples to create "miracles" that dupe the audiences yet causes them to revere the wonderment of the priests. She has always been the brains behind the inventions, but she cannot conduct business as herself due to society considering women as lowly, ignorant humans not meant for more than spreading their legs.

Heron's "miracles" often fall short of their intended performance and have caused the rumors of her being cursed by the gods to flit about the city. It becomes so bad that none of the temples wish to give him (her) any more business.

Along come Agog ...

Agog is a Northman, all of whom are considered barbaric and ignorant. Agog, however, is well-spoken and intellectual ... not to mention he has plenty of coin to finance many new inventions in Heron's workshop. Despite her immediate distrust of Agog, Heron's need of his coins does not allow her to turn his jobs away. Over time, the two grow companionable and start to forge a tentative trust of each other.

Agog seeks revenge against the Roman Empire and becomes eager for Heron to finish the jobs given to him. Heron wishes the Roman society to change, but is leery about what Agog will do once the inventions have been completed. Will their bond withstand the necessary duplicitiousness that is often involved in battle? Or will they fight on opposite sides?

Fires of Alexandria is a well-written, thought-out, engaging story that will keep you flipping the pages as you wonder what will happen next. To be honest, when I first received the book for review I didn't think I would enjoy it. I'm glad to see that I was wrong. If you enjoy period fiction based in some actual facts, then I'd recommend you read Fires of Alexandria.

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

Monday, February 11, 2013

{Review} 13, Tallent & Lowery: Book One by Amy Lignor

ISBN #: 978-1481136075
Page Count: 294
Copyright: December 1, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

(Taken from back cover)

In 1902, in a dark room on the fifth floor of Carnegie Hall, thirteen people came together to continue a tradition that had been set in stone thousands of years before.

In 2012, Leah Tallent is Head of Research at the New York Public Library. Stoic and stable, brilliant and cynical, she has forever enjoyed her existence among the book stacks. But even with her unparalleled intellect, there was no way to know that on the historic steps between America's famous lions, she would become involved with a crazy man on a fanatical quest.

Gareth Lowery has spent his life searching for the ultimate artifact that he is certain exists. His life's pursuit has been to retrieve twelve keys hidden by men whose job it was to protect the single biggest secret ever kept. To find the keys he must enlist the help of an unwilling guide who, unfortunately, knows much more than he bargained for.

From the first page to the last word, this fantastic duo become immersed in a whirlwind treasure hunt with historical and passionate repercussions. From the strange and eerie Winchester House to the blustery darkness of Loch Ness, Gareth and Leah will quickly learn that the theory of duality is correct: For every bad there is a good and, for Heaven, there most assuredly exists ... Hell.

Charlene's Review:

No-nonsense Leah Tallent works as a researcher for a prestigious library. When Gareth Lowery kidnaps her and demands she follow along on a spiritual quest, Leah must forgo her cynical ways and embrace the unknown, as she and Gareth search for the gates to Heaven. Unfortunately, to get there, they must face the evils of the past and quite possibly, the devil himself.

Written in reminiscence of the National Treasure movies, Leah and Gareth embark on a thrilling journey of riddles and high-tech clues in search of historical documentation that leads to the very gate to Heaven. Richly descriptive throughout, and with compelling dialogues and interactions with the past, this is a top-notch mystery/romance/adventure story that ends entirely too soon.

There is a certain amount of "play" in regards to religious happenings and astrological signs, but if you are not easily offended and take this as the novel it is, Ms. Lignor's sheer imaginative skill is very impressive. Factoring the number 13 and its significance to the world of good and evil makes this just the right amount of supernatural to satisfy the most superstitious. The edge-of-your-seat climax will catch you holding your breath and by the final pages, you will be hooked on the series. I know I am!

5 out of 5 stars, which isn't quite adequate for this tremendous story.

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

Sunday, February 10, 2013

{Review} My Status Update Journey by Marcus Matherne

ISBN #: 978-1432789190
Page Count: 168
Copyright: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Outskirts Press

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

The author of this book also wrote the next paragraph. I wonder if you'd be able to pick up on that. If not, you might not be qualified and/or prepared to read the inside of this book. Seriously, if you read the next paragraph and you fail to consider that I'm purposely trying to over-hype the book for the potential sale, don't buy the book. Oops, let me rephrase that. Don't buy the book for yourself - buy the book for someone else.

This book is so captivating! You'll be on the edge of your seat from the first word all the way through to the last. You'll be guessing with each turn of a page. What topic will Marcus cover next? Every page is incredible! You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll be touched, moved, and inspired. This book will bring back memories that have long been buried. You'll want to read this one again and again. Or not. How am I supposed to tell? I don't even know you. Maybe you've recently been in an accident. Maybe the act of laughing causes horrible pains and spasms and causes stitches to burst. In which case, you should consider healing fully before embarking on my journey through three years of social networking status updates.

Follow my journey as told by my status updates and the intriguing commentary from the voices in my head. On this trip you find stories of a family man, growing children, delicious cereals, malfunctioning toilets, park benches, awesome soldiers, birthday parties, adorable puppies, on-line games, winter storms, roller coasters, slugs, and a high profile celebrity party. This book contains a topic for everyone! If you can't find a situation or something to relate to in this book, you are either dead or you're that person that no one wants to be around. You owe it to yourself to read this book in order to confirm that you're alive and that you are not "that guy." Seriously, what if you are a loser and you don't know it? Let me help you. Read my book. Help me, help you. Really.

About the Author:

Marcus gets a sharp agonizing sensation in his leg muscles when he attempts to place his foot behind his head. Oh, wait a minute. I guess that's not the kind of thing we're looking for here. Let me try again. Marcus lives with his wonderful wife of over fifteen years and his two awesome boys in Mason, Ohio. Better? Good, now start reading the book.

Kathy's Review:

Say what you will about Facebook; sometimes it gives really funny people an outlet to make other people laugh. Through status updates, we can share how we're feeling, what we're eating, our views on life, or something truly random.

Marcus Matherne, who is a humor blogger, has taken his collection of status updates and turned it into a book. After each status update he provides witty, sometimes self-deprecating commentary about the status. It pokes fun at Facebook, as well, and the things all we FB addicts do online. (Farmville, quizzes, etc.)

I enjoy Matherne's sense of humor and I like the idea of telling a story through Facebook status. I'm not sure this was really a "story" per se, but rather a chronological look back through his life as seen on Facebook. To be honest, I kind of like this idea for myself. I'd like to take some of my funnier FB statuses (because I fancy myself as a bit of a humor writer myself at times) and put them into some kind of more permanent collection. If, for nothing else, for my own benefit. I like to go back and see my own personal history, or chuckle at something I wrote back in 2010.

Reading this is like reading a friend's Facebook wall in a creepy, stalker-like fashion, without the distraction of Bubble Witch Saga requests popping up from time to time. Except Matherne doesn't mind you being creepy or a stalker. I don't think, anyway.

The writing lacks some polish - it seems like Matherne just sat down and wrote some commentary after each of his statuses without going back and editing. It seems very "stream of consciousness" although he does come back to some common themes and tie certain statuses together (e.g. clipping toenails in a hotel room - you'll hear about it more than once!)

I'd recommend this for avid Facebookers with a sarcastic sense of humor.

I'm just sad he's not going to invite Hall and Oates to his party. (I'm a big fan.)

* As a side note, I found Marcus through Wordpress, where he writes funny stuff at: He sent me a copy of his book in exchange for an honest review. And a donut. Just kidding about the donut. I'm still waiting for it.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

{Review} Mindfront by Dave Becker

ISBN #: 978-0985365325
Page Count: 428
Copyright: September 22, 2012
Publisher: Dave Becker

Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

After uncovering a universal code in the brain waves of all living things that could revolutionize psychology, Martin Keller wakes one morning to find himself covered in blood, surrounded by his butchered family. Convinced he's being framed by a diabolical organization set on stealing or sabotaging his work, he dodges a multi-agency manhunt that pursues him from the seediest corners of DC to the highest offices of government. Struggling to stay alive and find his family's killer, Marty soon finds himself lost in a maze of conspiracies and paranoia, and eventually begins to doubt his own sanity. How can he find the truth when he doesn't know what's real?

Kathy's Review:

Marty's mind is messed up - and yours will be too while you are reading this thriller. Marty's brain has been manipulated and some of what he sees and experiences is not real. But, some of it is. It's hard to discern which is reality and which isn't. But that's what makes this book interesting. Because you have an unreliable perspective from Marty, this book will keep you guessing until the end.

Author Dave Becker does a great job of switching back and forth between Marty's messed-up brain and scenes of Marty's professor friend, Ben, as well as FBI agents Alan and his partner, Karen, to add to the mystery. Just how much of the story takes place inside Marty's mind?

This is my second review of Dave Becker's work. The Faustian Host, a YA novel, was his first. This is definitely more for adults, as it is quite violent. But it's an excellent read for those who enjoy psychological thrillers. Good stuff from Mr. Becker. I hope he keeps it coming.

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

Friday, February 8, 2013

{Author Interview} Kris Kramer

Hi Kris, it's wonderful to have you with us on Literary R&R today. We hope you enjoy your time here. Let's begin with a little background:

Where are you from?

I'm from the Dallas, TX area, although I lived in Houston until I was 12.

When and why did you begin writing?

I had an overactive imagination growing up, and because of that, I always had stories rolling around in my head that I wanted to tell. But I never thought of myself as a good writer. Or even an average one. I really wanted to share these stories, though, and any future ones I came up with, too. So one day, I guess I just decided to tackle it, and figure it out. Having ZERO training or experience in writing at all, I went to my software development roots and took some existing books and of reverse-engineered them to figure out how they were written. And that process actually kind of worked for me.

What inspired you to write your first book?

Having a kid and getting laid off from my job. Those were two moments that made me think about what I wanted my life to be going forward, and being a writer, despite how tough it can be, was what I wanted.

What books have influenced your life the most?

I'm not sure which ones influenced my life, but I can tell you which ones have influenced my writing. I read a bunch of James Clavell novels when I was younger, starting with Shogun. Those books introduced me to the sprawling, detailed epic that I really enjoyed. Some other books and series that also had an effect were the Death Gate cycle, some early Tom Clancy books, and the Foundation series. More recently, I've really enjoyed Bernard Cornwell's Saxon and King Arthur books, and I recently got into Ender's Game and the sequels along with Old Man's War.

Now that we're acquainted, can you tell us about your current project(s)?

I'm working on two main series at the moment. The first is Dominion, for which I've already published the first book, Sanctuary. Dominion is a fantasy series set in 9th century Britain that dives into the mythology of that tumultuous time period. For those of you who don't know the history of the late 9th century, Britain was invaded and nearly overrun by Vikings.

Their Norse beliefs, combined with the growing power of Christianity and the fading followers of the old Celtic gods, created what I like to think of as a little bit of a holy war. So I took that concept, and made the mythology of the three belief systems (Christianity, Norse, Celtic) real. The first book, Sanctuary, is about a priest named Daniel, who begins to see the first hints of something greater at work, and we see things from the Christian PoV. The second book, Vengeance, features a Viking main character, while the third will star an Irishwoman who is also a Banshee. After the third, the characters will all be brought together to deal with the long-term plot lines of the series.

My other main project is called Olympia. I'm trying to finish up the first book now, and hopefully it will be out by the end of 2013 or beginning of 2014. Olympia is a science-fiction novel that takes place about 500 years in the future. After humanity spends most of the 21st century devolving into an endless cycle of war, famine, and economic collapse, the Greek gods return to Earth and remake human society into a new pseudo-utopia called Olympia. The first book takes place about 500 years after that event, in the new nation of Athens, where an army soldier named Anthony begins to move up the ranks, and learns that the utopia he's been born in isn't what it seems.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

All of it. =)

Who designed the cover(s)?

I have a few different artists I work with for cover design and promo artwork, but two of the big ones are Bill Harkins and Jordan Grimmer.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Hopefully I learned how to become a better writer. And hopefully, writing my next book will do the same. I consider myself a student of this art form, and hopefully I will continue to be so for a long time.

Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

Other than a customary plea to buy my books, I'd like to say that writing is an art form, and like all artists, writers crave feedback. So tell us how we're doing. Tell us what you like and what you don't. We don't write in a bubble, ignoring criticisms and trying not to worry about what people think. Our entire profession is designed to draw readers/consumers in, and our efforts are only enhanced by your participation in that process.

Can you please tell our followers what The 4th Realm is?

The 4th Realm is essentially a brand. I started the site with a few writer friends of mine, basically as an attempt to foster collaborative writing projects, of which our Rise of Cithria series is a prime example. But as it grew, it evolved into something else. We only do digital distribution - ebooks - and looking at the existing ebook market, and the ease of publishing it provides, we're noticing that even though just about everyone can get their books to market pretty quickly, the quality isn't always what it should be. So at, we try very hard to hash out our ideas amongst other writers and editors. We pass our manuscripts back and forth for critiques and editing. We share feedback, and provide artist contacts, all in an effort to provide better quality books. I like to think of as a tiny little Pixar wannabe, where we work with each other very hard to provide quality books and stories that will make people want to come back, not only to see additional books in that series, or by that author, but from other authors at the site as well.

What are the long-term goals for The 4th Realm?

My dream is that readers come to knowing that they'll find great books, great stories, wonderful characters and authors who know how to give them that. The ebook industry right now is a little bit of a wild west. We're looking to tame that, or at least to provide an oasis in that desert.

Is there any additional information related to the site that you'd like our followers to know?

Yes. We not only publish books, we also have an online writer's group in our Forums. If you're a writer looking for some feedback, or other authors to chat with or to share ideas, drop on by. Also, we dabble in screenplays, film and comic books as well.

Well, Kris, this has been very interesting and informative. What would you say about us letting loose for the final questions?

Lets do it.

These next questions are just for fun, so we hope you have fun answering them ...

Are you a person who makes their bed in the morning or do you not see the point?

Don't see the point. Although, having said that, I tend to keep my bed simple, so I can just throw the sheets/comforter back up and have it look presentable. I don't get the whole 'lets have eighteen pillows on the bed because its decorative' thing.

Do you get road rage? What pisses you off the most about other drivers?

I DO get road rage, usually in traffic, or when another driver fails to show proper driving etiquette. =)

What's your favorite line from any movie?

I'm a comic book geek, so I got a little pleasure from the following line in The Avengers:

Captain America: Hulk ... smash.

You have multiple personalities. Describe some of them.

I'm a little bit obsessive or a control freak about things that are important to me.

I love goofy kid shows and cartoons.

I'm a bit of a romantic.

I'm incredibly absent-minded.

I'm into sports and I'm a serious gamer, with a crazy competitive streak, but I haven't had any time to play anything at all for the last couple years ... which is kinda depressing.

Tell us about a unique or quirky habit of yours.

Instead of drinking coffee in the morning, I drink orange juice ... and I feel 'off' in the mornings if I don't have it.

And finally, if you dare, tell us one thing nobody else knows about you.

When I play Viva Pinata with my daughter, I secretly enjoy it.

Thank you so much for participating in this interview, Kris. We've enjoyed having you here today. We wish you all the best in your writing career.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

{Review} Angelina's Bachelors: A Novel with Food by Brian O'Reilly

ISBN #: 978-1451620566
Page Count: 355
Publisher: Gallery Books
Copyright: August 9, 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Far too young to be a widow, Angelina D'Angelo suddenly finds herself facing a life without her beloved husband, Frank. Late one night shortly after the funeral, she makes her way down to the kitchen and pours all of her grief and anger into the only outlet she has left - her passion for cooking. In a frenzy of concentration and swift precision, she builds layer upon layer of thick, rich lasagna, braids loaves of yeasty bread, roasts plump herb-rubbed chicken; she makes so much food that she winds up delivering the spoils to the neighbors in her tight-knit Italian community in South Philadelphia.

Retiree Basil Cupertino, who has just moved in with his kindly sister across the street, is positively smitten with Angelina's food. In a stroke of good fortune, Basil offers Angelina (not only husbandless but unemployed) a job cooking for him - two meals a day, six days a week, in exchange for a handsome salary. Soon, word of her irresistible culinary prowess spreads and she finds herself cooking for seven bachelors - and in the process discovers the magical power of food to heal, to bring people together ... and maybe even to provide a second chance at love.

Mandy's Review:

Angelina's Bachelors grips your heart from the beginning and doesn't let go ... even after you've read the last page. It begins with the tragedy of Frank's death, which is sad, but then a short time later, Angelina loses her job ... with a severance pay of $100. With her mind numb and not knowing what to do, Angelina takes a few days to sit around the house and grieve. Her mother-in-law does her best to get Angelina out of her funk, but Angelina is one of those types that just needs some time to get herself together, then she's okay.

Angelina's turning point turns out to be a blessing in disguise. After her all-night session of baking and cooking, Angelina has enough food to feed an army. With the help of her mother-in-law and niece, Angelina distributes the food throughout her neighborhood. A few days later, opportunity comes knocking on her door in the form of one Mr. Basil Cupertino. Recognizing a present-day miracle for what it is, Angelina agrees to his proposal.

From there on out the story is about food, redefining the term "family," love, hope, new beginnings, and fond memories of the past. This is a beautiful story grown from a seed of tragedy. I would highly recommend this to everyone who reads fiction.

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

{Review} It's Nothing Personal by Kate O'Reilley

ISBN #: 978-0988663312
Page Count: 386
Copyright: January 18, 2013
Publisher: Kate O'Reilley

(Taken from back cover)

On a chilly January morning, anesthesiologist Dr. Jenna Reiner made her daily drive to St. Augustine Hospital, completely unaware that her life was about to change forever. One of the surgical technicians has been stealing syringes and infecting patients with hepatitis C. The battle against the thieving surgical technician was only the beginning. Jenna Reiner was about to begin the fight of her life - the fight for her reputation, her pride, and her sanity.

Beautifully composed, and inspired by true events, It's Nothing Personal is a riveting, suspenseful, and emotional thriller which chronicles the story of faith and fortitude when an innocent woman finds herself surrounded by corruption and greed.

Charlene's Review:

Dr. Jenna Reiner, an anesthesiologist at St. Augustine Hospital is blind-sided by a lawsuit when, unknown to her, a scrub tech replaces a drug with hepatitis-laced saline during one of her surgeries. Jenna is caught up as justice quickly spirals into greed, corruption, blackmail, and money-hungry lawyers. As she fights to reveal her innocence, she is forced to contemplate just how much she, and her family, can handle.

This fast-paced medical drama will leave you questioning just how much you actually know about your healthcare system. Based on the author's own malpractice nightmare, the details are stunningly real, and lead to a compassionate look into the bureaucratic red-tape that follows malpractice allegations. It also touches on the seclusion that occurs as facts are distorted, and the lives affected by the greed of litigation.

Dr. O'Reilley takes us on a behind-the-scenes look at an OR, and leaves nothing to the imagination. The litigation proceedings are equally as detailed and enthralling. The portrayal of Jenna and her emotional stability throughout is a touching, deeply personal portrait of a doctor that vowed to "do no harm" and her struggles with guilt, fear, and ultimately, anger.

It's Nothing Personal is a riveting depiction of a justice system gone wrong, and the doctors that must pay high malpractice costs in order to practice. It also highlights the dilemma of the medical communities in offering/protecting a standard of care in a litigation-hungry world. This is an immensely powerful book that will open your eyes to things you did not know you needed to worry about.

5 out of 5 stars!

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

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

{Review} Demon's Curse by Alexa Egan

ISBN #: 978-1451672909
Page Count: 370
Copyright: December 26, 2012
Publisher: Pocket Books

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

One of the mythical race of shape-shifting Imnada and a member of an elite military unit, Captain Mac Flannery suffers under a ruthless curse. As the result of a savage massacre on the eve of Waterloo, he and the men he served with are forced to live the hours of darkness trapped as their animal aspects. Now one of them has been murdered, and Mac suspects the existence of the Imnada may finally have been discovered. His only link to unearthing the truth - Bianca Parrino, the beautiful actress whom every man desires.

Forging a new life for herself after escaping the clutches of her abusive husband, Bianca is again drawn into violence when a dear friend is brutally murdered and she becomes a suspect. Forced to place her trust and her life in Mac's hands as they flee a determined killer, Bianca cannot deny she is falling for the mysterious soldier. But will his dark secrets tear them asunder? Or will love be the key to breaking even the cruelest of spells?

Mandy's Review:

This is a classical romance in that it has the main basic elements:

  • Girl in trouble who is independent and determined to stay that way due to past hurts
  • Sexy man alone and determined not to become entangled in love affair due to hidden secret
  • A potentially dangerous situation forces the two to come together, work together, and, eventually, fall in love

Now, take those basic elements and throw in shape-shifters, faes, magic, murder, and the anger of a clan and you've got yourself one potent brew of danger, sex appeal, and romance. The sexual magnetism between Mac and Bianca is a little slow-started, but once it gets going you may need to take a cold shower. I know this man is a fictional character, but I'd do so many naughty things to him he wouldn't be able to leave the bedroom for a while.

Bianca tended to get on my nerves just a wee tad. In the beginning she's stoic and tough-as-nails, but throw her in a locked basement room, honey, and she falls to pieces like a magnolia tree shedding its petals. I understand she endured a traumatic situation during her first marriage ... and she's an actress ... but, gracious ... I am glad though that once Mac put some shape-shifting hoo-doo on her behind, she calmed herself down right-quick-and-in-a-hurry. Maybe that's all she needed was some good lovin' to reign her in.

Demon's Curse is book one of three in the Imnada Brotherhood trilogy. Since Mac was part of a specific group of men, I'm suspecting that the other two books will be about de Coursy and Gray. I really enjoyed this novel and am looking forward to seeing how the other two stories will play out. If you like a little paranormal romance to start your day, perhaps you should try Demon's Curse?

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

Monday, February 4, 2013

{Meme} It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Well, hello there Literary peeps!

We apologize for being a little absent on this meme. Mandy was focusing on reading and reviewing books for the January 2013 Winter Wonderland Spell Challenge. Unfortunately, she didn't meet her goals of 16 books. If she would've read a little faster a little sooner she probably would've made it. Ah well ... things happen. =)

There are two books that Mandy's going to try and finish up this week: Demon's Curse by Alexa Egan (review should post tomorrow) and Angelina's Bachelor's by Brian O'Reilly (review should post Wednesday). Both were books she was trying to finish last week for the January 2013 Winter Wonderland Spell Challenge. As soon as she finishes those, she'll begin reading Fires of Alexandria by Thomas K. Carpenter.

Kathy is still working her way through A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin and Mindfront by Dave Becker. She has started reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and Good Harbor by Anita Diamant.

One of the mythical race of shape-shifting Imnada and a member of an elite military unit, Captain Mac Flannery suffers under a ruthless curse. As the result of a savage massacre on the eve of Waterloo, he and the men he served with are forced to live the hours of darkness trapped as their animal aspects. Now one of them has been murdered, and Mac suspects the existence of the Imnada may finally have been discovered. His only link to unearthing the truth - Bianca Parrino, the beautiful actress whom every man desires.

Forging a new life for herself after escaping the clutches of her abusive husband, Bianca is again drawn into violence when a dear friend is brutally murdered and she becomes a suspect. Forced to place her trust and her life in Mac's hands as they flee a determined killer, Bianca cannot deny she is falling for the mysterious soldier. But will his dark secrets tear them asunder? Or will love be the key to breaking even the cruelest of spells?

Far too young to be a widow, Angelina D'Angelo suddenly finds herself facing a life without her beloved husband, Frank. Late one night shortly after the funeral, she makes her way down to the kitchen and pours all of her grief and anger into the only outlet she has left - her passion for cooking. In a frenzy of concentration and swift precision, she builds layer upon layer of thick, rich lasagna, braids loaves of yeasty bread, roasts plump herb-rubbed chicken; she makes so much food that she winds up delivering the spoils to the neighbors in her tight-knit Italian community in South Philadelphia.

Retiree Basil Cupertino, who has just moved in with his kindly sister across the street, is positively smitten with Angelina's food. In a stroke of good fortune, Basil offers Angelina (not only husbandless but unemployed) a job cooking for him - two meals a day, six days a week, in exchange for a handsome salary. Soon, word of her irresistible culinary prowess spreads and she finds herself cooking for seven bachelors - and in the process discovers the magical power of food to heal, to bring people together ... and maybe even to provide a second chance at love.

The greatest mystery of the ancient world remains the identity of who set fire to the Great Library in Alexandria. One hundred years later, Heron of Alexandria - the city's most renown inventor and creator of Temple miracles - receives coin from a mysterious patron to investigate the crime. Desperate to be free of the debts incurred by her twin brother, she accepts and sets in motion a chain of events that will shake the Roman Empire and change the course of history forever.

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells - taken without her knowledge - became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they'd weigh more than 50 million metric tons - as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb's effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Good Harbor is the long stretch of Cape Ann beach where two women friends walk and talk, sharing their personal histories and learning life's lessons from each other. Kathleen Levine, a longtime resident of Gloucester, Massachusetts, is maternal and steady, a devoted children's librarian, a convert to Judaism, and mother to two grown sons. When her serene life is thrown into turmoil by a diagnosis of breast cancer at fifty-nine, painful past secrets emerge and she desperately needs a friend. Forty-two-year-old Joyce Tabachnik is a sharp-witted freelance writer who is also at a fragile point in her life. She's come to Gloucester to follow her literary aspirations, but realizes that her husband and young daughter are becoming increasingly distant. Together, Kathleen and Joyce forge a once-in-a-lifetime bond and help each other to confront scars left by old emotional wounds.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

{Review} Blast from the Past by Lauren Carr

ISBN #: 978-0985726775
Page Count: 258
Copyright: January 10, 2013
Publisher: Acorn Book Services


In this fourth mystery on Deep Creek Lake; Mac Faraday finds himself up to his eyeballs with mobsters and federal agents. After an attempted hit ends badly with two of his men dead, mobster Tommy Cruze arrives in Spencer, Maryland, to personally supervise the execution of the witness responsible for putting him behind bars - Archie Monday! Mac Faraday believes he has his work cut out for him in protecting his lady love from one of the most dangerous leaders in organized crime; but when bodies start dropping in his lakeshore resort town, things may be hotter than even he can handle.

Charlene's Review:

Blast from the Past is the next in a series of Mac Faraday mysteries. Mac, a retired homicide detective, and his new love interest, Archie Monday, along with their crime-busting kleptomaniac canine, Gnarly, are once again in the thick of a crime-spree. When Archie's true identity and her involvement with the witness protection program surfaces, Mac and company are kept busy with hit men, mobsters, and people who aren't who they appear. All the commotion is eerily reminiscent of a Keystone Cops episode, but in true Lauren Carr style, the truth is soon revealed.

With all the clandestine encounters occurring on all sides, there is ample intrigue and although a continuation of Mac Faraday novels, the complexity of the story and the constant building on the characters makes this a separate and original work. The long cast of characters seems a bit off-putting at first glance, but the continuity and graceful transitioning keeps you grounded. Ms. Carr's carefully planned plot leaves much to ponder as the story slowly unravels and all the seemingly disjointed murders start making sense. Blast from the Past is another hit for mystery master, Lauren Carr!

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

Saturday, February 2, 2013

{BintoM Giveaway} Winners Announced

As you may know, we finished two BintoM Giveaways last week. One for Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl and one for Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks. Below are the winners for each giveaway. Their books have been ordered and are on their way to them.

Our next BintoM Giveaway will be announced on Friday, March 8th. We hope you come back and participate ... Do you know which book will be given away next?

{Review} Beauty Rising by Mark W. Sasse

ISBN #: 978-1481211284
Page Count: 246
Copyright: January 12, 2013
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing


"My heart sank. I dumped my father's ashes in the heart of communist Vietnam - over a thousand miles from the death of his comrades - over a thousand miles from the smile of that girl. How could I have been so stupid?"

Only the bumbling, overweight, thirtyish, stay-at-home Martin Kinney could have mistakenly flubbed his dying father's request with such gusto. This thousand mile mistake awakens the ghosts of long-held family secrets and puts Martin on a fateful course with an unlikely romantic interest - a young, beautiful, yet troubled Vietnamese woman named My Phuong.

Charlene's Review:

Martin Kinney, Jr. is a 30+ year old living in his parents' home, with a job at a local retailer. On his father's deathbed, Martin finally hears the secret that transformed his family into a bitter, angry existence. His father's last wish is for Martin to go to Vietnam and leave his ashes in a field where the memory of a beautiful woman haunted him and he lost his buddies to the war. So begins Martin's journey of redemption from a past he didn't know had dictated his life until this point.

When Martin arrives in Vietnam, he is immediately robbed of his wallet in a busy street. Left stranded with no money, he is befriended by two men, a Vietnamese and an American, who help him finish his duty to his father, and return home. After several years, Martin is surprised to see a beautiful woman at his door, with his long-lost driver's license, and the key to his future.

Let me say, this was a one-night read. The flow of the story and the emotional stakes were so high, I had to finish it in one sitting. Mr. Sasse puts a spotlight on the effects of the Vietnam War on the men who fought, and ultimately, their families. This is a tragic story, and yet it was written so beautifully. The peoples of Vietnam are described richly and with such spirit, I felt as if I was there on the streets among them. The emotional toll the War and its aftermath took on Martin's family is devastating, and while a dark, tragic tale, is a story people need to hear and understand if we can relate at all to the men that returned from that era.

I want to give nothing away to the ending, as it is explosive, but at the same time, tied up as neatly as a life can be. I will say only that I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Vietnam Era. The culture and land of Vietnam are given much attention, and the story just resonates with redemptive beauty.

5 out of 5 stars!

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

Friday, February 1, 2013

{Grand Opening} BestSellingReads

The best authors in New Fiction are celebrating the grand opening of with a February promotion:

Best Selling Read's February Deal

Prize for winning reader entry: iPad Mini with Wi-Fi 16GB plus 1 eBook from each BSR author


$300 Amazon gift card plus 1 eBook from each author (if winner received eReader holiday gift)

2nd & 3rd place winners: $25 Amazon gift card

Winners will be chosen February 28th by Rafflecopter. No purchase necessary.

If you are using, you can simply drop the html below in a widget in the footer or at the bottom of the sidebar.