Thursday, January 30, 2014

{Book Spotlight} TOUCHSTONE OF LOVE by Beth Barany

Page Count: 93
Copyright: January 5, 2014
Publisher: Firewolf Books

About the Book:

A time-travel romance by award-winning novelist, Beth Barany.

When a thunderstorm transports software expert Rose Waldman to thirteenth century France, she meets hunky stonemason Julien, who is secretly creating a gargoyle in defiance of his master mason. Can independent gadget loving Rose trust her life and heart to Julien, and can she really never go home again?

"...a unique take on gargoyles which I thoroughly enjoyed. I highly recommend!" -- Karysa Faire

"...The story was really romantic and the two of them together are just pure magic. It is rare that I find a couple rather than a single character really making a story worth while, but this one does just that." -- Kathy Horseman

"... recommend this novella to anyone who is looking for an entertaining read for the night or weekend." -- Lisa




Barnes & Noble: 



About the Author:

Based in Oakland, California, Beth Barany writes magical tales of romance and adventure to transport readers to new worlds where anything is possible.

In her off hours, Beth enjoys capoeira, travelling, and watching movies with her husband, bestselling author Ezra Barany, and playing with their two cats, Kitty and Leo.

Where to Find Beth Barany:



Facebook Fan Page: 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

{NetGalley Review} DISENCHANTED & CO., PART 1: HER LADYSHIP'S CURSE by Lynn Viehl

File Size: 1087 KB
Page Count: 161
Copyright: August 12, 2013

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

The first half of Disenchanted & Co. In a steampunk version of America that lost the Revolutionary War, Charmian (Kit) Kittredge makes her living investigating magic crimes and exposing the frauds behind them. While Kit tries to avoid the nobs of high society, as the proprietor of Disenchanted & Co. she follows mysteries wherever they lead.

Lady Diana Walsh calls on Kit to investigate and dispel the curse she believes responsible for carving hateful words into her own flesh as she sleeps. While Kit doesn’t believe in magic herself, she can’t refuse to help a woman subjected nightly to such vicious assaults. As Kit investigates the Walsh family, she becomes convinced that the attacks on Diana are part of a larger, more ominous plot—one that may involve the lady’s obnoxious husband.

Sleuthing in the city of Rumsen is difficult enough, but soon Kit must also skirt the unwanted attentions of nefarious deathmage Lucien Dredmore and the unwelcome scrutiny of police Chief Inspector Thomas Doyle. Unwilling to surrender to either man’s passion for her, Kit struggles to remain independent as she draws closer to the heart of the mystery. Yet as she learns the truth behind her ladyship’s curse, Kit also uncovers a massive conspiracy that promises to ruin her life—and turn Rumsen into a supernatural battleground from which no one will escape alive.

Mandy's Review:

I really enjoyed the steampunk setting. I wasn't aware, at first, that this was taking place in America because everyone (in my mind) seemed British or European. Once I got to the part of the story where it talks about Washington's surrender during the Revolutionary War, I realized that the book WAS in America but it never became the "United Sates" of America. An interesting twist.

Kit has struggled to get where she's at today and her struggles have made her a fiercely independent, opinionated young lady. Sometimes, though, her mouth can cause her more problems than what she needs. She believes it's her disbelief in magic, and a natural talent in deductive reasoning, that makes her a success at uncovering "magic" as fraudulent. What she doesn't at first realize is that magic is real but has no effect on her because of her genetics.

Every do-gooder has to have a nemesis and Kit's is Lucien Dredmore. The man is insufferable and is continuously trying to cause her problems ... or so she thinks. When Dredmore comes to her aid and rescue one night, her opinion of him becomes muddled.

Is it possible for the two to actually put aside their differences and work together on solving Lady Diana's curse? Well, we don't really know by the end of this book. The author stopped the story right as Kit and Lucien were joined together. The reader is left hanging at a point when you really, really want to know what's going to happen next.

Well played, Ms. Viehl. Well played. Now to get my hands on part deux.

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

Monday, January 27, 2014

{A Winter's Respite Read-A-Thon} Sign In Post

Mandy has decided to participate in A Winter's Respite Read-A-Thon hosted by Michelle at Seasons of Reading. The read-a-thon will last from January 27th until February 2nd. Since Mandy has to work during the read-a-thon, there's no guarantee on how many books she'll actually be able to finish, but she loves a challenge and is ready to give it a go! If you're interested in participating, you can still sign up (and read all the details of the read-a-thon) by going here.

Mandy will attempt the following:

I Am Abraham by Jerome Charyn (for blog tour & Eclectic Reader Challenge)
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (need to finish it)
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (TBR Pile Challenge)

If she can read more, she will ... stay tuned!

Good luck to all the read-a-thon participants!

Sunday, January 26, 2014


ISBN #: 978-0977727292
Page Count: 32
Copyright: June 25, 2013
Publisher: Oren Village, LLC; First Edition


Deep in the heart of Texas lies a small, charming, silly farm called OinkADoodleMoo. One day, a shadow is cast across the land when a huge, hungry grizzly bear appears. What will become of our barnyard friends? Well, let's just say you'll laugh, giggle and sing along as you discover their unique solution to the dreadful problem at hand.

Charlene's Review:

The Legend of OinkADoodleMoo is a rhyming tale as told by Farmer Walter’s crazy chicken, Doodle. Doodle tells us the story of the day a fearsome grizzly comes to the farm looking fora meal. With Oink the Pig on Banjo, Doodle on the harmonica, and Moo the Cow at the piano, the barnyard tunes soon calm the wild beast.

Mr. St. Jean, originally in Business Administration, has found his niche in childrens’ fiction. The storyline is simple, entertaining, and yet polished just enough for adults to enjoy, as well. Libby Carruth Krock’s illustrations are beautifully done, with lots of detail and the animals are adorable. This is a visually appealing book for youngsters, and adults.

Accompanying the book is a CD that follows along with the story. My only criticism would be that the reading sounded too serious, where I expected a more animated voice. The song, itself, was a lot more fun to listen to. Kids will enjoy the book, and CD, regardless of my critique because it is just, simply put, a lot of fun.

*A hardcopy of the book was provided by the author's publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

{Book Spotlight: New in Paperback} THE SOUND OF BROKEN GLASS by Deborah Crombie

From New York Times Bestseller Deborah Crombie comes her latest mystery, featuring London detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, where sins of the past lead to a powerful danger in the present. 

ISBN #: 978-0061990649
Page Count: 384
On Sale: February 25, 2014
Cost: $13.99
Publisher: William Morrow

Book Summary:
(Provided by the publisher)

When a thirteen-year-old boy, the son of an alcoholic mother with few acquaintances, befriends his next door neighbor, a young widow, he feels—for the first time in his life—as if someone cares about his future.  The pair forms a special relationship, but one shocking act of betrayal causes the young woman to lose everything she’s worked so hard to accomplish and shatters the young boy’s innocence, changing both their lives forever.

Years later, Detective Inspector Gemma James has been assigned to lead a Murder Investigation Team and assisting her is newly promoted Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot.  They are called to a crime scene to find a well-respected barrister naked, trussed, and apparently strangled in a seedy hotel room.  And when a second victim, a junior barrister, is found murdered in the same way, Gemma and Melody fear they have a serial killer at work.

Meanwhile, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, Gemma’s husband, has taken leave from Scotland Yard to care for their three-year-old foster daughter, Charlotte.  Duncan has been following the investigation with increasing concern and when he realizes he has a personal connection with one of the suspects, he interviews the young man who admits recognizing the second victim, a childhood friend.  Duncan and Gemma now know the killings are not random, and that the young man may be the link between the victims.  Could he be the killer—or is he the next victim?

An ice storm traps detectives and suspects in the steep streets of Crystal Palace and only the revelation of the past can stop the killer, and only the young man holds the key. Will he face the truth in time?

About the Author:

Deborah Crombie is a New York Times Notable author and has been nominated for and won many awards including the New York Times Book of the Year. She is a native Texan who has lived in both England and Scotland. She lives in McKinney, Texas, sharing a house that is more than one hundred years old with her husband, three cats, and two German shepherds.

Friday, January 24, 2014

{Review} WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'? by Gale Martin

ISBN #: 978-1620151976
Page Count: 252
Copyright: January 16, 2014
Publisher: Booktrope Editions

(Taken from Amazon)

In Gale Martin's newest novel, Ellie Overton is a 28-year-old rest home receptionist with a pussycat nose who also happens to be gaga for the pop singer Tom Jones. Regrettably single, she is desperate to have a white-hot love relationship, like those she's read about in romance novels. Following an astrological hunch, she attends a Tom Jones Festival and meets an available young impersonator with more looks and personality than talent. Though he's knocked out of the contest, he's still in the running to become Ellie's blue-eyed soul mate--until he's accused of killing off the competition. It's not unusual that the handsome police detective working the case is spending more time pursuing Ellie than collaring suspects. So, she enlists some wily and witty rest home residents to help find the real murderer. Will Ellie crack the case? Must she forfeit her best chance for lasting love to solve the crime?

Charlene's Review:

Ellie is looking for love. Working, and living, at the assisted living center, she decided to take some of the residents along to a Tom Jones concert, in search of her one true love. When she meets a suitable suitor, who just happens to be an impersonator, she thinks she has found the perfect man for her. Unfortunately, one of the fellow impersonators ends up dead, and her true love is the last one seen at the crime scene. Fighting for her job, and to find out the truth, Ellie, with a little help from her friends, begins an investigation.

I was enraptured by this novel. Not only did I find myself singing along to the chapter titles that were named after Tom Jones’ songs, (telling my age, perhaps) but the assisted living residents stole the show, for me. What a bunch of crazy, sassy senior citizens! They made the book, above and beyond, the actual storyline. I would love to see Mr. Harvey, Mrs. Peachey, and Mrs. Hand featured in further adventures. I simply fell in love with them! Ellie was an enjoyable character, as well, from her love of a puffy shirt and skin-tight pants to her down-to-earth struggles, and quirky misadventures.

A little mystery, a little mayhem, a little romance, and a whole lot of humor, Who Killed 'Tom Jones'? was entertaining from first page to last.

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

Thursday, January 23, 2014

{Review} CRECHE by Karin Cox

File Size: 390 KB
Page Count: 170
Copyright: November 9, 2013
Publisher: Indelible Ink Press

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

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, Amazon Bestselling 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.

Kathy's Review:

In this follow-up to Cruxim, we learn more about Amadeo’s past – and he does, as well. Another Cruxim, Skylar, finds him almost immediately where book one ends, where he is reeling from the loss of his Sphinx lover, Sabine, at the bottom of the ocean, encased in gold. (oops, book one spoiler alert!!!) She brings him to the stronghold where the Cruxim live, and he learns who he is, who his parents were, and that he has been betrothed to marry someone. After centuries of living alone, it’s hard for him to swallow.

I really loved the first book which introduced Amadeo, Sabine and bad guy Beltran, and this one was enjoyable as well but I had a hard time following some of the names of the Cruxim strongholds and rituals, as they were all foreign-sounding words. Also some of the names of the Cruxim themselves became confusing to me.

However, as far as the plot and character development are concerned, it was a superb follow-up to the first novel. The addition of Skylar as a main character and potential love interest for Amadeo was welcomed, and the continuing love story between Amadeo and Sabine was interesting as well.

At the end of this novel, without giving too much away, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Can he rescue Sabine? Will he confront Beltran again? How will he help stave off the impending war between the various Creche (segments of Cruxim)? I guess I will have to wait to find out …

If you haven’t read the first book yet, and you are looking for a supernatural thriller series that has a little bit of romance, a little bit of violence, and a lot of action, I highly recommend you get Cruxim and Creche!

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

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

{Review} THE VAMPIRE AFFAIR by Vivi Anna

File Size: 260 KB
Page Count: 70
Copyright: April 1, 2013

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Makayla Bradley risks everything including her first job as a journalist to get the goods on billionaire playboy businessman Jonathan Devane. A man who enthralled her from a single passionate kiss months prior in a Toronto nightclub. A man who makes her blood race and her insides throb. A man with dark secrets...

Mandy's Review:

It's true what they say: "Big things come in small packages." Although this novella is 70 pages long, it packs a sexual wallop that'll get your libido kicked into gear. The author is obviously a master teaser. The novella ended at a perfect place leaving me wanting more.

Jonathan is a sexually attractive bad boy that any girl would dream of spending, at least, one night with. Makayla is the perfect flirty temptress trying to get Jonathan's attention so she can eek an interview out of him. Her editor has promised that if Makayla can get the dirt on Jonathan she can pretty much write her ticket to a writing job at any magazine she wishes to go to. Makayla uses that as motivation in her quest to get the interview out of Jonathan ... as if getting Jonathan in bed wasn't motivation enough.

I don't know how many parts there are to this story, but I want to read them all. I like a little naughty bedtime story before hitting the sheets with the hubs. I think you would, too. *wink wink*

*An ecopy of this novella was provided by the author's assistant in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

{Review} LOVE UNEXPECTED by Anne Glynn

File Size: 487 KB
Page Count: 306
Copyright: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Blackpool Press

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Love Unexpected offers six very different novellas. There is a story set in 1870, about a mail order bride, and another about the Zombie Apocalypse, set sometime in the near future. There are stories about a Hollywood producer and her Southern sheriff, about Area 69, and one about love’s instruction book, Sun Zu’s The Art of Whore. Love Unexpected even provides the startling tale of a woman’s obsession with her teeth and the sexy men who clean them.

Because romance is supposed to be fun!

Mandy's Review:

This is the "nicely wicked but not explicit version," to quote the author. The "somewhat kinkier assortment" is published under the title Love Unexpected: Nighttime Tales. There are six novellas in each book of which I'll give my brief opinion about:

One Bride for Seven Brothers
Area 69
Sun Zu's Art of Whore
To Protect and Service
World War Me: Love in the Time of the Zompocalypse
Carole's Christmas

One Bride for Seven Brothers was a little longer than what I thought it should be. Don't get me wrong, I liked it. I just wished it was a tad bit shorter. The girl was a tad bit naive, but that's how most young girls were back then I suppose. I just know I would've found something fishy and suspicious before she did.

Area 69 was a bit odd, but I suppose it would be when dealing with a secret government mission. I think the gardener was used to throw the reader off. I'm curious how the story could've ended had the gardener been omitted. The heat of the book definitely picked up with this novella. No, it's not smutty or explicit, but it does start one's juices flowing ... or maybe I'm just into weird stuff. *wink wink*

If Area 69 picked up the heat of the book, then Sun Zu's Art of Whore doubled or tripled that. Still not explicit, but one's imagination can run wild with this novella. I may be using some of this story in my own life. The hubs won't know what hit him. Definitely a fun and playful read.

I was a little let down with To Protect and Service. Reading this type of book, when you see a title like "To Protect and Service," your mind just automatically goes to certain sexual acts. This story was more sweet than savory. I would've liked it to have had more oomph.

Zombies are everywhere and this book has not been left out. World War Me: Love in the Time of the Zompocalypse definitely has a twist. The zombies are used as more of a back story. It was the zombie cure that cause the real hoopla. Someone please create and send me a bottle of this! I could have some real fun with this stuff!!!

The final novella, Carole's Christmas: The Dental Version, annoyed me. In order to keep this story clean for this book, the authors changed all of the smutty words and phrases to dental versions. I would rather have read the smutty version.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, but I think I would've enjoyed the Nighttime Tales version more. What can I say? I'm a naughty girl.

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

Monday, January 20, 2014

{Cover Reveal & Giveaway} HIDDEN MAGIC by Melanie Crouse

Releases on January 24, 2014

When Jenny has the opportunity to spend the summer with her sister, a small slice of freedom is all she's really hoping for. Instead she finds something else altogether: electricity. That's what Jenny feels when she looks at Arram. She knows he's drawn to her too, but the mage-in-training does his best to hide it. Stung, Jenny turns to Arram's former best friend, Jack. But Arram and Jack's rivalry is much darker than Jenny suspects, and so are Jack's intentions. Soon she's caught in a mystery of old murder, ancient prophecies, and magic hidden where no one has thought to look. When Jenny uncovers a secret magic, she is offered two choices. Arram wants to keep her safe. Jack wants to show her the easy way out. Whatever Jenny decides, her life will irrevocably change. Either way, freedom may be the one thing Jenny can never have.


About Melanie Crouse

Melanie Crouse lives in the gorgeous state of Maine with her (usually) delightful family. Look for her next novel Hidden Magic, coming soon. For more information, see

Sunday, January 19, 2014

{Review} HOMESPUN HUMOR by David R. Yale

ISBN #: 978-0979176678
Page Count: 116
Copyright: September 27, 2013
Publisher: A Healthy Relationship Press

(Taken from Amazon)

This winning combination of very funny puns and clever satire is the latest collection of wordplays from Champion punster David R. Yale, whose earlier book, Pun Enchanted Evenings, won the 2011 Global eBook Award for humor.

Yale's collection of 823 wildly original word plays includes droll daffynitions that turn your understanding of common words insight out, and playful pun stories with priceless PUNchlines. Covering almost every subject from airplanes to zoology, Yale's puns about doctors, relationships, cats & dogs, lawyers, teenagers, food, knights, Greek gods, writers, farmers, bankers, politics -- and lots more -- guarantee a full 1,000 gigglebytes of belly laughs.

In addition to Yale's puns, and information on new scientific studies proving the mental superiority of punsters, HomesPun Humor showcases the work of 16 of the world's best punsters, including O. Henry Pun-Off, Punderdome®, and Punsr champs! In addition, HomesPun Humor reveals confidential insider information you won't find anywhere else: * The secret of efficient hay farming? (Slow mow shun!) * The name of an opera about smiling cows. (Low-and-grin!) * Why the army won't serve second helpings of ice cream. (That would be re-treating!) * What must you never plant on a green roof. (Leeks!) * Leading doctor's secret for getting over the grippe. (Study French. You'll soon become flu went!) * What do you call a stolen Venetian boat? (Gone-dola!).

Punsters and language lovers will find it hard to put this book down. But Yale's entertaining style makes it impossible to overdo wit!

Charlene's Review:

Including a preface that proves the mental superiority of the "punster", Mr. Yale takes his word play seriously. However, that may very well be the ONLY thing he takes seriously, as he spews forth over 800 original puns that will leave you amused, or face-palming, from beginning to end. Light-hearted, and occasionally adult oriented, there are few topics that are not covered.

I found HomesPun Humor entertaining, and truly enjoyed Mr. Yale’s obvious intellect. The diversity and scope of his humor knows no bounds, and if you are looking for a fun read that will stretch your mind, this is your book.

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

Saturday, January 18, 2014

{Review} THE OTHER ROOM by Kim Triedman

ISBN #: 978-0983476474
Page Count: 334
Copyright: October 8, 2013
Publisher: Owl Canyon Press

(Taken from back cover)

Three years after the sudden, mysterious death of their 1-year-old daughter Lily, Josef Coleman, a high-strung New York surgeon, and his editor wife Claudia Macinnes remain mired in anguish and grief. Their mourning has left them reaching out for different things in different ways: Josef for a primal, physical connection that Claudia can no longer bear, and Claudia for a connection of the soul that Josef has never really known how to offer.

To numb his pain and attempt to fill the gaping hole of loss, Josef turns to a young surgical nurse named Kiera; Claudia, meanwhile, is drawn into what seems like an unrequited fantasy about her psychotherapist, Stuart. The time she spends in his office -- this sole "other room" where she can allow herself to project into the future -- becomes a rare bright spot in her weeks.

The couple’s extended families soon become implicated in the unraveling of their lives. Bit by bit, haunting pasts and their impact on the present are revealed, as is the chilling truth about Lily’s death. Interwoven with Claudia’s meticulous journal entries offering glimpses of a sunnier future, the story ultimately takes a surprising turn reaffirming that in tragedy’s wake lie redemption, reckoning and peace.

Charlene's Review:

After Claudia and Josef lose a child, Claudia turns inward, towards a journal, and emotionally, towards her therapist. Josef turns toward the physical, first with Claudia, and after being rebuffed, a mistress. As they both struggle to find peace amidst the tragedy, deeper struggles emerge and a shocking reality is revealed.

Ms. Triedman has written an emotionally compelling novel that haunts you after the final page is read. Told from both sides, Claudia’s and Josef’s, the loss grips you like a hand around your throat, so palpable is the pain. As the distance grows between them, Ms. Triedman does a commendable job of exposing the emotions behind the pain; blame, anger, and disappointment. I felt as if I knew this family, personally, just by the way she delves into their inner thought lives.

Perhaps the biggest secret of all is how their child died, although that is but a small portion of the whole dynamic. The most beautifully, heartbreaking aspect of the story is the sacrifice and love that was required to protect a mothers broken heart. This is a multi-dimensional book that lives and breathes emotion. I was deeply affected by the story and would highly recommend this.

5 out of 5 stars!

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

Friday, January 17, 2014

{Cover Reveal & Excerpt} THE BOOK OF LIFE by Deborah Harkness

All Souls Trilogy, Book 3
ISBN #: 978-0670025596
Page Count: 592
Copyright: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Viking Adult

Book Summary:
(Provided by the publisher)

After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchant­ing series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they re­unite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its miss­ing pages takes on even more urgency. In the tril­ogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowl­edge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close.

About the Author:

Deborah Harkness is the number one New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night. A history professor at the University of Southern California, Harkness has received Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships. She lives in Los Angeles.

Book Excerpt:

Ghosts didn’t have much substance; they were composed only of memories and heart. Atop one of Sept-Tours’ round towers, Emily Mather pressed a diaphanous hand against the spot in the center of her chest that even now was heavy with dread.
It had been her witch’s sixth sense that someone was in mortal peril that had steered Emily down the path leading to this moment. But the death she had foreseen was her own.  
Does it ever get easier? Her voice, like the rest of her, was almost imperceptible. The watching? The waiting? The knowing?
Not that I’ve noticed, Philippe de Clermont replied shortly. He was perched nearby, studying his own transparent fingers.
Emily’s face fell, and Philippe silently cursed himself. Since she’d died, the witch had been his constant companion, cutting his loneliness in two.
Perhaps it will be easier when they don’t need us anymore, Philippe said more gently. He might be the more experienced ghost, but it was Emily who understood the metaphysics of their situation. What the witch had told him went against everything Philippe believed about the Afterworld.
Diana’s warm alto floated up to the battlements. Diana and Matthew, Emily and Philippe said in unison, peering down on the cobbled courtyard that surrounded the château.
There, Philippe said, pointing at the drive. Even dead, his vampire sight was sharper than any human’s. He was also still more handsome than any man had a right to be, with his broad shoulders and devilish grin. He turned the latter on Emily, who couldn’t help grinning back. They are a fine couple, are they not? Look how much my son has changed.
Vampires weren’t supposed to be altered by the passing of time, and so Emily expected to see the same black hair, so dark it glinted blue; the same celadon eyes, cool and remote as a winter sea; the same pale skin and wide mouth. There were a few subtle differences though, as Philippe suggested. Matthew’s hair was shorter, and he had a beard that made him look even more dangerous, like a pirate. She gasped.
Is Matthew—bigger? . . . Diana looks different, too. More like her mother, with that long coppery hair.
Diana stumbled on a cobblestone and Matthew’s hand shot out to steady her.
It’s not just Diana’s hair that has changed. Philippe’s face had a look of wonder. Diana is with child—Matthew’s child.
Emily examined her niece more carefully, using the supernatural grasp of truth that death afforded.
What will happen now, Philippe? Emily asked, her heart growing heavier.
Endings. Beginnings, Philippe said with deliberate vagueness. Change.
Diana has always resisted change, Emily said.
That is because she is afraid of what she must become, replied Philippe.

From The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House company. Copyright © Deborah Harkness, 2014.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

{Review} THE RITALIN ORGY by Matthew Dexter

File Size: 514 KB
Page Count: 206
Copyright: February 4, 2013
Publisher: Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

"If you want to understand a society, take a good look at the drugs it uses. And what can this tell you about American culture? Well, look at the drugs we use. Except for pharmaceutical poison, there are essentially only two drugs that Western civilization tolerates: Caffeine from Monday to Friday to energize you enough to make you a productive member of society, and alcohol from Friday to Monday to keep you too stupid to figure out the prison that you are living in." -Bill Hicks

As a young teacher trying to inspire and save advisees from expulsion, Nick Neary immerses himself into the secret rituals and lives of his students, entering a world of excess beneath the campus that threatens everything, including himself. As a dorm parent, Mr. Neary battles his obligations to inform the deans about the ills he has witnessed with his visceral urge to crawl deeper into the clandestine underbelly to learn more. The Ritalin Orgy is the unmitigated truth of decadence, degenerates, and the debauchery which encompasses America's most prominent prep schools.

Mandy's Review:

Is this supposed to be a factually-based account of how life is like at a prep school? If so, I find it hard to believe. I do believe that there is drug use at a prep school and probably quite a bit of it, but the level of debauchery depicted in this book is on the verge of unbelievable.

I also believe that there are advisors who are more than willing to become involved in the drug use and become their advisees' friend rather than their mentor. Nick, however, seemed a little too eager to become involved in the "clandestine underbelly." He encouraged them to stop by his room any time during the day or night. He'd buy food for all of them and host parties, where black lights and drug use was accepted. He kept their secrets. He helped them perform pranks or covered for them when they did it. I just don't see where he even tried to act like the adult. I think he was too caught up living vicariously through the students that he easily became like them.

I understand what the author was trying to portray with this story, but I wasn't feeling it. I became quite bored with this story. It just seemed to be different variations of the same thing happening over and over again for a little over 200 pages. Not a fun read.

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

{U.S. Giveaway} NORTH OF BOSTON by Elisabeth Elo

ISBN #: 978-0670015658
Page Count: 400
Copyright: January 27, 2014
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Elisabeth Elo’s debut novel introduces Pirio Kasparov, a Boston-bred tough-talking girl with an acerbic wit and a moral compass that points due north.

When the fishing boat Pirio is on is rammed by a freighter, she finds herself abandoned in the North Atlantic. Somehow, she survives nearly four hours in the water before being rescued by the Coast Guard. But the boat’s owner and her professional fisherman friend, Ned, is not so lucky.

Compelled to look after Noah, the son of the late Ned and her alcoholic prep school friend, Thomasina, Pirio can’t shake the lurking suspicion that the boat’s sinking—and Ned’s death—was no accident. It’s a suspicion seconded by her deeply cynical, autocratic Russian father, who tells her that nothing is ever what it seems. Then the navy reaches out to her to participate in research on human survival in dangerously cold temperatures.

With the help of a curious journalist named Russell Parnell, Pirio begins unraveling a lethal plot involving the glacial whaling grounds off Baffin Island. In a narrow inlet in the arctic tundra, Pirio confronts her ultimate challenge: to trust herself.

A gripping literary thriller, North of Boston combines the atmospheric chills of Jussi Adler-Olsen with the gritty mystery of Laura Lippman. And Pirio Kasparov is a gutsy, compellingly damaged heroine with many adventures ahead.

U.S. Giveaway:

The publisher has graciously offered one copy to a lucky winner in the United States only. Another condition is that the winner cannot have a PO Box for an address. If you're chosen as the winner and you're out of the U.S. and/or have a PO Box, you will be disqualified and another winner will be chosen in your place.

This giveaway will end on January 22nd. A winner will be chosen on January 23rd and will have 48 hours to respond with their mailing address. If the winner fails to respond within the allotted time, another winner will be chosen in their place.

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

{2014 TBR Pile Challenge: Review} THE TIPPING POINT by Malcolm Gladwell

ISBN #: 978-0316346627
Page Count: 301
Copyright: January 7, 2002
Publisher: Back Bay Books

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.

This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.

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

This book had been recommended to me by a work colleague, and then references to Gladwell’s works started popping up everywhere. I felt like I should probably be familiar with some of his writing in order to sound smart at work, so I added this book to my 2014 TBR Pile Challenge.

The Tipping Point is the study of why epidemics start. It can be a viral epidemic such as the eruption of AIDS in the 90s, or a crime epidemic. Or even fashion trends and how they start. Gladwell seeks to explain how epidemics can be started by a small number of well connected people, and fueled by others who are also highly influential in their social sphere. He gives many examples throughout as to the factors which caused the various epidemics to spread.

It’s an interesting read filled with many examples you will recognize: Airwalk shoes, Sesame Street, Blues Clues, the NYC Subway system, AIDS, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and much more. He reveals that one cause does not necessarily lead to the intended effect. It might be a number of causes that lead to the epidemic, something as simple as removing graffiti off the subway cars, for example, leading to a decrease in crime. It’s those fascinating little facts that make The Tipping Point compelling reading.

Monday, January 13, 2014

{2014 TBR Pile Challenge: Review} THE PURLOINED LETTER by Edgar Allan Poe

ISBN #: 978-1492251279
Page Count: 36
Copyright: August 25, 2013
Originally Published: December 1844

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

"The Purloined Letter" is a short story by American author Edgar Allan Poe. It is the third of his three detective stories featuring the fictional C. Auguste Dupin, the other two being "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt". These stories are considered to be important early forerunners of the modern detective story. It first appeared in the literary annual The Gift for 1845 (1844) and was soon reprinted in numerous journals and newspapers.

The unnamed narrator is discussing with the famous Parisian amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin some of his most celebrated cases when they are joined by the Prefect of the Police, a man known as G—. The Prefect has a case he would like to discuss with Dupin. A letter has been stolen from the boudoir of an unnamed female by the unscrupulous Minister D—. It is said to contain compromising information. Danton was in the room, saw the letter, and switched it for a letter of no importance. He has been blackmailing his victim. The Prefect makes two deductions with which Dupin does not disagree: 1.) The contents of the letter have not been revealed, as this would have led to certain circumstances that have not arisen. Therefore Minister D— still has the letter in his possession. 2.) The ability to produce the letter at a moment’s notice is almost as important as possession of the letter itself. Therefore he must have the letter close at hand. The Prefect says that he and his police detectives have searched the Ministerial hotel where D— stays and have found nothing. They checked behind the wallpaper and under the carpets. His men have examined the tables and chairs with microscopes and then probed the cushions with needles but have found no sign of interference; the letter is not hidden in these places. Dupin asks the Prefect if he knows what he is looking for and the Prefect reads off a minute description of the letter, which Dupin memorizes. The Prefect then bids them good day.

Mandy's Review:

I've called myself a fan of Poe's. I don't know that I can say that confidently now. I've heard of, and read, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," but I never knew it was part of a 3-story series featuring a fictional detective! How could I not have known that?! I hang my head in shame.

"The Purloined Letter" is an extremely quick read. For a short story, though, it has the intensity that is so familiar to Poe's works. The detail he's able to incorporate into the story is, of course, above par because, let's face it, it's Poe and he doesn't do much of anything sub-par.

I do wish there would've been just a little more action in this story. As it stands, it's mainly two to three gentlemen sitting down discussing what has happened. It can be kind of boring to read, but I'm willing to overlook it for one of my favorite authors.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

{Review} WHAT NEXT? by Jeffrey M. Daniels

ISBN #: 978-1621418412
Page Count: 138
Copyright: January 15, 2013
Publisher:, Inc.

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Once you have the power to make anything you draw become real, what do you do next?

In What If?, the first book of the Jeremy Shuttle Adventures trilogy, a mysterious shopkeeper gave Jeremy a sketchbook. Jeremy soon found everything he drew in it became real. After going on fantastic adventures, he tried to use the book to bring back his missing Dad. The attempt went terribly wrong and Jeremy, along with his Mom and best friend Natalie, barely survived. At the last, a message was uncovered that hinted Jeremy's Dad was still alive.

What Next? begins with Jeremy, his Mom and (almost) girlfriend Natalie, trying to find the answers to three questions: Why did the shopkeeper give the sketchbook to Jeremy? Why each new use of the sketchbook places Jeremy in greater danger? What secret does the sketchbook hold to finding his missing Dad?

The answers begin to unfold, as does the fact that there are others searching for the sketchbook. Their desire for the book means danger for Jeremy and his companions. From Washington, D.C. to Southern France, Jeremy faces more challenges and greater peril in his quest to find his Dad. The quest will ultimately separate the three travelers, as Jeremy ends up in a fantastic land that turns out to be both familiar and deadly, leaving his Mom and Natalie to face the threat of their pursuers.

What Next? continues the journey started in What If?, as Jeremy gets closer to his long-lost Dad and finds himself on a quest filled with peril and surprises.

Mandy's Review:

Jeremy is a very inquisitive teenager who sometimes allows his imagination to run wild. As he finds out, that can sometimes lead to the demise of others.

What Next? begins where What If? left off. Jeremy received a message in his sketchbook that is believed to be from his father. So Jeremy travels, via the sketchbook, to where he believes his father to be. Who he meets is someone like his father, but not really his father. They set off together in search of his real father.

Different from What If?, What Next? is told as a narrative from Jeremy's viewpoint. It's the story he tells his non-Father as they travel towards his real father. His narrative is often interrupted, either by questions from Will or because the scenery has changed and they now have to deal with the situation.

The adventures Jeremy become involved in are extremely imaginative and entertaining. They include a bit of danger to keep the suspense going. This series would be a great introduction to reading for those pre-teens who haven't yet found a book they like.

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

Friday, January 10, 2014

{2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge: Review} THE VANISHING by Wendy Webb

ISBN #: 978-1401341947
Page Count: 304
Copyright: January 21, 2014
Publisher: Hyperion

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Recently widowed and rendered penniless by her Ponzi-scheming husband, Julia Bishop is eager to start anew. So when a stranger appears on her doorstep with a job offer, she finds herself accepting the mysterious yet unique position: companion to his mother, Amaris Sinclair, the famous and eccentric horror novelist whom Julia has always admired - and who the world believes is dead.

But when Julia arrives at Havenwood, the Sinclair's enormous estate on Lake Superior, she begins to suspect that the reason this position is "too good to be true" is that something very sinister, and very close to Julia's own family history, is quickening out of the past.

Mandy's Review:

This makes the second book of Ms. Webb's that I've read. Just from these two books, I believe she has a slight obsession with old castle-like dwellings that may have potential ghosts living in them. I must confess, though ... I do, too.

When the book opens, the reader meets Julia who has just recently lost her husband to a suicide after he was caught stealing people's life insurances. All of her "friends" have abandoned her and won't return her calls. She has nobody to turn to for help; not even her lawyer, who is refusing to take her calls. When Adrian shows up on her doorstep, it's as though he's God-sent to rescue her despite her trepidations.

Meeting Amaris is almost mind-blowing for Julia. To be able to talk to her favorite author about writing and hearing her stories first-hand were glorious for her. It's the stories that are started and not finished by Adrian and Drew that play on Julia's mind. Are there ghosts at Havenwood, or something more sinister? What really happened when Seraphina was here all those years ago? Why is the east salon kept locked? Why is everyone so friendly to her as if they've known her for years instead of days?

The twists and turns in Wendy Webb's stories are genius. The books she writes are the perfect cozy mysteries for any day of the week. They have just enough intrigue to get you hooked and give you goosebumps, but not enough spookiness to scare the daylights out of you. I adore Wendy's writings and imaginations and look forward to many more stories from her.

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

** This book also counts as my 'Published in 2014' selection in The 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

{Review} THE RAVENHOE CAULDRON by Rebecca Yount

File Size: 673 KB
Page Count: 401
Copyright: June 30, 2013
Publisher: Independent Publisher; 1st Edition

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

The garotted corpse of a notorious antiquities thief and forger is discovered in an excavation pit at an archeological site near Colchester, on England's east coast. Despite being on parental leave to care for his four-month-old daughter, Detective Inspector Michael "Mick" Chandra is put in charge of the case, his family leave suspended by New Scotland Yard's commissioner.

The victim is identified as Stanislaw Janus, a former curator of pre-Roman British artifacts at the British Museum, who turned to crime by fencing his forgeries on the international antiquities black market. Prior to the murder, Janus had engineered the theft of the priceless Ravenhoe Cauldron from the Colchester Museum,. The nearly 2,000-year-old solid gold vessel had been unearthed by archeologists in the very pit where Janus' corpse was later dumped.

Mick must find Janus' murderer as well as locate the missing cauldron, but his task will not be easy. Interpol reveals that Janus assumed multiple identities and remained out of reach of law enforcement agencies. Nathaniel Wyatt, his former colleague at the British Museum, descricribes Janus as the "Steppenwolf" -- charming one minute, vicious the next. Mick calls upon he Yard's Arts and Antiquities Unit for help in this complex case.

As it turns out, he will need all the help he can get, as the case becomes increasingly fraught with danger and risk.

A diverse cast of characters illuminates and obscures Stanislaw Janus' past: Dr. Cassandra Palmer, Chief Curator of the Colchester Museum, who had known Janus for more than a decade; Dr. Gil Matcalf, director of the archeological dig, who openly disdains Janus; Alissa Woo, Metcalf's beautiful graduate assistant, who originally discovered the caludron at the Colchester sitre; Nathaniel Wyatt, Janus' former collesgue; and Anderson Peale III, noted wealthy collector of Celtic artifacts, who may not be as reputable as he seems.

Familiar faces from the two previous Mick Chandra books return as well: Jessica Beaumont, the American-born pianist who is now Mick's wife; Mick's friend and chief informant, Jamie Geller; and Mick's no-nonsense partner, Sergeant Elizabeth Chang.

The plot of The Ravenhoe Cauldron takes many u-turns and detours, often landing Mick and Elizabeth back to square one and exposing them to danger.

And what is the meaning of the mysterious rust-encrusted key sent through Mick's home mail slot bearing a note that reads: "The key to the Ravenhoe Cauldron?"

Kathy's Review:

This is the third Mick Chandra mystery that I’ve read, and I have enjoyed all of them. While I don’t think you need to read the first two to enjoy this one, it might help to understand the characters of Mick and Jessica more. In the first novel, the relationship between Mick and Jess is the focus. In the second, they are newlyweds. In this book they now have an infant daughter, Sarabeth, and gain another addition to the family in cat, Pickles (who joins faithful dog Nessie). In getting to know this family, it deepened my appreciation for the characters in each installment of the book.

In Ravenhoe, a notorious art forger is murdered and a priceless artifact is missing – and Mick Chandra is put on the case. As he investigates, a long list of suspects is revealed, and someone is trying their best to keep Mick off their tail. Who is guilty? Is more than one murderer on the loose? As the body count rises, Mick must work to uncover the mystery behind the Ravenhoe Cauldron.

I am impressed with Ms. Yount’s research in this novel. It is obvious she did her homework about art forgery and fakebusting. And again, this installment just made Mick and his wife, as well as friend Jaime Geller and Mick’s partner, Elizabeth, more endearing. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and well-written series of mysteries and as always, I look forward to Mick’s next case. If you haven’t already read the first two books in the series, A Death in C Minor and The Erlking, do yourself a favor and pick up all three.

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