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