Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

"Books have furnished, burnished, and enabled my life." Julia Keller

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Weekend Reads 2

I spent the weekend doing a lot of leisure reading in addition to reading for review purposes. All of my leisure reads were taken from books in my personal ebook stash. These weren't necessarily on my TBR list but simply remained unread on my reader. My best guesstimate is that out of the 1400 titles on my ereader, at least 350 are unread and about 235 are actually on my TBR list. Since my unread and TBR list seemed to be growing exponentially, I decided to whittle both down a bit.


This past weekend's reads included some romance reads and a few short stories: Here to Stay by Catherine Anderson, Ryder's Wife by Sharon Sala, Roman's Heart by Sharon Sala, Royal's Child by Sharon Sala, The Lake by Tananarive Due, Itsy Bitsy by John Ajvide Lindquist, and Hearts on the Run by Bonnie Humbarger Lamer. The last book was actually a review read and I hope to have the review posted within the next few days. 


I'm also hoping to have a review posted on A Crack in Everything by Angela Gerst by this weekend. I currently have plans to take my 14-year-old niece and 16-year-old nephew to see the UniverSoul Circus on Sunday (praying traffic won't be too bad this holiday weekend). I am hoping that I can spend Saturday reading more from my unread and TBR ebooks. (Monday is dedicated to continued unpacking...I didn't know I had so much stuff!) I don't know which titles I'll be reading but I'll keep you informed. Happy reading...



Book 185: MURDER IN THE 11TH HOUSE Review


Murder, politics, hidden political agendas, and astrology are not your typical mystery components. However, Mitchell Scott Lewis successfully combines all of these and provides a unique mystery with Murder in the 11th House


Joanna Colbert or Johnny is head-over in heels in debt due to gambling. This quick-tempered bartender has been recorded threatening the life of a state judge. Later when that same judge dies a gruesome death, Johnny is the prime suspect and is promptly arrested. Her court-appointed attorney is Melinda Lowell and she actually believes that Johnny is innocent. The hard part is going to be proving that innocence in court. Melinda promptly asks her father, David Lowell, a licensed private investigator and astrologer extra ordinaire to lend his assistance in uncovering the truth. As David delves deeper into Johnny's astrological history, he begins to believe her innocence. David, Melinda, and David's business partner, Mort Simpson – the go to computer guy, attempt to uncover the truth behind the judge's murder. The more they dig, the more they realize that there's much more going on than initially thought and regrettably this puts their lives at risk in addition to their client's life. Will they be able to uncover the truth in time to keep Johnny free, as well as keep everyone alive?


Murder in the 11th House is fast is a fast-paced read. At times it does get a little bogged down with astrological information but in the end the astrology plays a key role in unlocking the secrets to the murder and motive. The characters are likeable and realistic enough but somewhat lacking in development with the exception of David and Johnny. All things considered Murder in the 11th House was a quick and fun read. Look for Murder in the 11th House to be released on 09/06/2011 by Poisoned Pen Press.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book 184: STILETTO 911 Review


There are numerous self-help books on everything from dieting to becoming a better person, parent, or friend, etc. There are even books written about becoming more successful in what you may want to achieve, but I wager none of them are as a delightful as Stiletto 911: The Makeover Manifesto of a Career Woman by Vivian Valtas Schmidt and Sue Publicover.


No, this makeover has nothing to do with cosmetics. This is the ultimate DIY makeover, a makeover of self. The authors provide great hints and cues for starting anew to achieve the goals you have set. These goals are provided in neat little footnote boxes accompanied by a shadowed stiletto shoe at the end of each chapter. The focal point of each chapter is the life and makeover of Morgan Demarest. Morgan is a 23-year-old that has been spoiled by life. She left her parents and moved in with her artist lover, Pavlo. Her parents provided for her every need and now Pavlo is doing the same thing by supplementing her income with his credit cards. Morgan is a woman that gets her fulfillment from retail therapy. She has a job but she still isn't sure what she wants to do with her life. Needless to say she is not so pleasantly surprised when she returns "home" one day to endure a rant from Pavlo because she is focusing more on her shopping finds than him. This becomes the turning point in Morgan's life, especially when her BFF is too busy with a new paramour to allow her to spend the night. She decides to turn to her father, only to find out that he has sold his apartment and moved out more than two months ago. 




As Morgan views and reviews her life and attempts to decide where to go, she ponders the question of what is she passionate about, what drives her. In this modern day pseudo-fairy tale, there is a fairy godmother, Divinity, to assist Morgan in her quest. Others that provide input and guidance include a mentor in the form of Elizabeth Tanner-Freitag, a small business owner, and a new love interest, Sam Baxter. 


The story doesn't exactly end with a happy ever after but a hopeful ever after, which is much better. The "footnotes" provide a spotlight on each chapter's message and provide the reader with questions to aid in a personal makeover quest. As I previously mentioned, I loved the idea of the chapter footnotes and highlights, such as don't dwell on the past but always learn from it or happiness doesn't come from others but from within . . . trite perhaps but very apropos. The authors have done an excellent job in providing guidelines for change and becoming a self-mentor in order to succeed. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book but I can say that I actually enjoyed reading it and appreciated the helpful hints throughout. Look for Stiletto 911: The Makeover Manifesto for a Career Woman on its release date of 09/18/2011. Until then you can check out www.stiletto911.com for tons of helpful thoughts and suggestions in starting work on the ultimate DIY makeover . . . you!


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."



Monday, August 29, 2011

Book 183: UNDER THE DOG STAR Review


Under the Dog Star by Sandra Parshall takes the sultry dog days of summer and adds in a healthy dose of intrigue around missing dogs, a pack of feral dogs, rumors about dog fights, and a wicked killing. The action takes place in rural Virginia and the mysteries are investigated by veterinarian, Dr. Rachel Goddard, and her significant other, Deputy Sheriff Tom Bridger.


The veterinary clinic has a wall filled with pictures and notices of missing dogs. There are numerous sightings of a pack of feral dogs that are attacking livestock. Now a local doctor, the owner of the local hospital, has been killed and the killing appears to have been committed by an animal, possibly a dog. It doesn't help matters any that Rachel and her assistant, Holly Turner, are trying to rescue the "feral" dogs. During these hot and sultry dog days of summer, residents are fed up. Their fire is fueled by the notion that the pack of dogs attacked and killed Dr. Hall. Dr. Hall's eldest son, Ethan Hall wants results and he's decided those results include hunting and killing the feral dogs. But as Rachel and Holly begin to trap these dogs, they come to realize the dogs aren't necessarily feral but starving. They've attacked local livestock in order to feed, nothing more. But what's behind the missing dogs and is it possible that the killing of Dr. Hall was actually murder? Was the good doctor killed by an angry ex-coworker or unhappy patient or patient's family member? Is there a link between the murder of Dr. Hall and the rumored dog fights? Rachel and Tom do their best to learn the answers to these questions while maintaining personal safety and building their relationship.


There's a lot of drama as well as mystery in Under the Dog Star. Rachel gets involved in trying to salvage the lives of the adopted children of Dr. and Mrs. Hall, while racing to beat the clock and rescue the wild dogs before they are hunted down. Under the Dog Star is a quick-read mystery filled with interesting characters and tons of action. Look for Under the Dog Star to be released on 09/06/2011 by Poisoned Pen Press.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book 182: THE STRANGER YOU SEEK Review


Take the city of Atlanta, mix in a serial murderer with an Asian-American private investigator who's an alcoholic and former FBI agent that was adopted as a child by a white-bread Southern family and what do you get? You get Keye Street as the main character in the new suspense thriller The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams.


To say that Keye is not your typical Southerner is a bit of an understatement, at least if you base it on physical appearance. In actuality Keye is Southern to the core in so many ways and in others is quite rebellious . . . which is probably a Southern thing in and of itself. She has disappointed her mother because she isn't married and providing grandchildren, which is possibly a Southern thing (or perhaps just a Mother thing). Keye also feels she's has disappointed her family by being asked to leave the FBI due to her alcoholism, winding up divorced (definitely a good thing but disappointing still), and not living up to her true potential by becoming a private detective. But Keye is quite good at what she does and she has several true friends that she can depend on, including Atlanta police department homicide detective Lieutenant Aaron Rauser. Keye spends her time working for law offices and bail bond companies until she is pulled into "consulting" with Rauser on a serial murder case. The big question is can she provide the profile necessary to help in this investigation? Does she still have the necessary focus to help or will she be a hindrance? When Keye's involvement is made public, the question soon becomes can she help the investigation before she becomes a victim?


The Stranger You Seek is a great suspense thriller that kept me on tenterhooks until the very end. I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of subtle humor and laugh-out loud moments with the more serious, investigative scenarios. Ms. Williams' descriptions of Atlanta and its various neighborhoods made me nostalgic (I lived in Atlanta for 18 years and miss it daily). This was a book that I simply had to read cover-to-cover without putting it down. It grabbed hold and didn't let go until the last page. If you enjoy excellent writing and the suspense thriller genre then run out and pre-order The Stranger You Seek today, release date is 08/30/2011. And when you finish reading it don't despair, there's more Keye Street coming; look for Stranger in the Room in Fall 2012 and Don't Talk to Strangers in Fall 2013. I've added both titles to my "got to have it" list . . . can you tell I liked this book?


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley and ShelfAwareness Pro. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book 181: CALL ME PRINCESS Review


A brutal rape and beating, online dating and a criminal investigation, these are the primary components in Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel. Although this story doesn't provide extreme graphic descriptions of the rape, it does start with a graphic description of the beating. This was just a bit off-putting but it does set the tone for the story. All at once we're forced to view a situation that puts us off balance while immediately becoming sympathetic with the victim and despising the perpetrator. We're brought back to an even keel when introduced to police inspector Louise Rick. Louise is called out to investigate and feels for the victim as she walks her through the initial interviews and physical examinations. Louise continues her investigation and quickly realizes that this is a serial rapist finding his victims online. Regrettably the next victim is murdered before the rapist can be caught. 


While Louise battles for her victim and pursues her investigation she must also deal with co-workers, family, friends and her live-in significant other. Louise is also concerned for the safety of her best friend Camilla because she's made a foray into the world of online dating and is meeting her new "friend" at her home. Camilla is a journalist familiar with the hazards of online dating but feels she's savvy enough to know when someone is trying to take advantage. As the police continue their investigation they realize that the only way to catch the rapist is perhaps to catch him online using Louise as bait. 


All of the characters, dialogue and scenes in Call Me Princess seem quite realistic and credible. The investigatory process and politics were actually quite interesting to read about. Ms. Blaedel starts the story off with a jolt and continues with a high-energy criminal investigation. Call Me Princess is a good suspense read with lots of intrigue and heartfelt emotion.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

       

Monday, August 22, 2011

Book 180: MERCY COME MORNING Review

Imagine growing up as an only child, never really knowing your father and having an older mother with an undiagnosed mental illness. Fast forward a few years and your mother is beginning to show signs of Alzheimer's and you're in college. You do the best that you can but as the disease progresses and your studies continue you realize you can’t do it by yourself and you don’t want to for much longer. Fast forward a few more years and now your mom has congestive heart disease and is dying. You haven't visited in a few years but now you have to go for one last visit. This is the premise of Mercy Come Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren.


Krista Mueller is now in her late thirties and a college history professor. She has left all that is familiar from New Mexico behind, including her mother, as she tries to make a life for herself in Colorado. She's comfortable with her life until she receives the phone call stating that her mother is dying. Krista realizes that there are unresolved emotions with regard to her mother. She felt that her mother never loved her and left her alone to fend for herself and was hypercritical of her with respect to her dancing skills. The last thing Krista wants to do is return to New Mexico but she knows that she must. 


As Krista tries to resolve her feelings about her mother, she must also confront her feelings about Dr. Dane McConnell. Dane is a childhood friend, her first true love and the director of the nursing home that cares for her mother. She also has a surrogate mother in Elena, an old family friend. Krista is someone trying to do the right thing, initially for all the wrong reasons. But as time progresses she realizes that her mother didn't have an easy life and that she tried to do the best she could. 


I found most of the characters realistic in their actions if not somewhat flat. Krista comes across initially as a childish and somewhat selfish woman. It's hard to imagine someone in their late thirties being so self-absorbed and spoiled. I also found it somewhat unrealistic to expect that the joy of holiday celebrations is the impetus to get Krista to accept her mother as is and begin to "heal her heart." This seemed a little trite and overly simplistic in my opinion. Mercy Come Morning seems to ultimately be about second chances and acceptance. Krista learns to accept and love her mother with all of her faults. Krista also learns to accept her own personal limitations and the knowledge that she cannot control everything and everyone. The ending was a bit trite but overall this is a decent story about self-discovery, self-acceptance and family . . . especially the necessity to accept our family members as is.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from WaterBrook Multnomah (Blogging For Books). I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Early Weekend Ramblings

I'm happy to report that the recent reading and writing block have passed. Of course the blocks could have been due to a series of seriously severe migraine headaches. Thankfully the headaches appear to be diminishing in severity. Now that school has begun and I've finished helping my niece and nephew prepare, I can also relax from the recent back-to-school shopping frenzy. Now on to the fun stuff...reading updates.


I've just finished reading Mercy Come Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren and Call Me Princess by Sarah Blaedel. Reviews for both books will be posting soon. I'm currently reading Reign of the Nightmare Prince by Mike Phillips and The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams (to be released on 08/30/11). I hope to have these completed and reviews posted by early next week. Other books to be read over the upcoming week include: Under The Dog Star by Sandra Parshall (to be released on 09/06/11), Murder in the 11th House by Mitchell Scott Lewis (to be released on 09/06/11), A Crack in Everything by Angela Gerst (also to be released on 09/06/11), and more.





Under the Dog Star



Murder in the 11th House: A Starlight Detective Agency Mystery (Starlight Detective Agency Mysteries)



















I hope you'll take a moment and share what you're currently reading and/or your weekend reading plans. Happy reading...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book 179: DIVINE INTERVENTION Review


Divine Intervention by Cheryl Kaye Tardif begins with mysterious fires and murders that are obviously arson and Gemini lighters being left at the scenes of the crime. Initially these are all the information that Canadian Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Jasmine McLellan and her team have to begin their investigation. Well that is all they have until they arrive at the scene and use their psychic skills to gain additional knowledge. 


Jasmine, or Jasi, is a pyro-psychic. She is capable of discerning information psychically about a fire, its origins and the arsonist. Her partners include a psychometric or touch empath, Benjamin Roberts, and Natassia Prushenko, a victim empath capable of receiving information from victims (living or deceased). All three work as Psychic Skills Investigators or PSI's in Divine Ops under the guidance of Matthew Divine. Their current case is potentially volatile and highly sensitive because it involves the father of the British Columbian Premier, Allan Baker.


As with most national investigatory agencies, these CFBI agents are stepping on toes with their investigation, especially those of Arson Investigations or AI Chief Brandon Walsh. Sparks fly (pun intended) between Jasi and Brandon, as they do between Natassia and Ben. As this quartet embarks upon their investigation, they begin to realize there is more going on than a potentially politically sensitive murder. The current murder reveals medical malpractice, a for-profit and highly illicit abortion clinic, a previous murder, attempted murder and child abuse within the foster care system and all were covered up. Unfortunately these are secrets that won't stay hidden. 


The story seemed quite realistic and not at all farfetched given the psychic abilities of the main characters. However, Ben and Natassia seem to have limited secondary roles and are, at times, relegated to doing minor background investigatory work rather than working with Jasi as full partners. The prickly and somewhat off-putting behavior by Jasi takes a bit of getting used to but is accepted as a facade that keeps people away. If she doesn't have people close then she doesn't have to worry about them, or so she thinks. To say that Jasi is a bit of a control freak is a major understatement. The arsons, investigations, action and characters (major and minor) provide for a really good story. I would classify Divine Intervention as a mystery-suspense with a slight paranormal and romantic slant. 


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book 178: SAINT'S GATE Review


A missing painting, a Viking Saint, lost treasure, a murdered nun and a former novice turned FBI agent investigating the painting and murder with the help of an undercover FBI agent. Strange combination but these are the basics at the center of Saint's Gate by Carla Neggers.


Emma Sharpe is a former novitiate with the Sisters of the Joyful Heart. She realized that she was not suited to life as a nun prior to taking her final vows and was ultimately recruited into the FBI working as an investigator in art theft and fraud. She is called by Sister Cecilia to return to the convent to provide an opinion on a painting. Unfortunately when she arrives to inspect the painting it disappears and Sister Cecilia is brutally murdered on the convent grounds. When her FBI boss turns up and an undercover FBI agent she begins to suspect that there is more going on than she may realize. Her investigation takes her to Ireland and back and she still is having difficulty grasping the connection, if any, between her life and that of Colin Donovan, undercover FBI agent. 


I wish I could say I enjoyed reading Saint's Gate but regrettably I can't. The action and dialogue were literally all over the place. At times it felt as if I was dropped into the middle of the story without knowing much about the plot or characters. As a romantic suspense story the romance was expected yet appeared forced and there was little suspense to be found. Although I generally enjoy reading Ms. Neggers' books, this one seemed to miss on so many levels (plot, characters, and dialogue). 


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Book 177: THE LANTERN Review


Every now and again you read a book and think, wow . . . excellent writing, realistic and incredible characters, wonderful settings and a great plot. Don't get me wrong, there are great books written and read every day. But there are also plenty of good books and not so good books as well. The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson is one of the great books.


The writing is not only beautiful but beautifully evocative. Ms. Lawrenson paints pictures with words that capture the imagination and allow the reader to step inside of the story and walk alongside the characters. And we step inside the present with the story of Eve and Dom, and then we step into the past with Benedicte. Eve is a French to English translator. She falls in love with Dom and they relocate from the UK to France, pastoral northern France. Dom is, apparently, independently wealthy and they purchase and rehabilitate a farmhouse. Benedicte was born and raised in this farmhouse and the reader is invited to see the past through her story and memories. Eve isn't exactly naive but she does have a certain sense of naïveté about her, especially when it comes to Dom. She has the sense that something from his past is haunting his present and that it most likely is related to his ex-wife, Rachel. It doesn't help that the local realtor evidently met Rachel and suspects that something untoward happened to her. Her fears overshadow Eve's love and longing to build a life with Dom. 


Benedicte is a typical farm girl. Although she longs for more, she knows that she must stay to help her family, especially since her older sister is blind and no longer living at home and their brother cannot be relied upon to help out. Over the years Benedicte has worked the land and kept up the farm/estate as best as she can but she has also suffered major disappointments (hopes for a career that never came to fruition and a lover that . . . disappointed her). In her old age, she reminisces and fears that she is losing her mind as ghostly visages torment her. She questions what really happened to her sister and why has she deserted her? 


The Lantern is filled with psychological horror that gradually builds throughout the story. The reader and characters begin to question what is and isn't real, and suspect what has and hasn't happened to people from the past. As I've previously stated, the writing is truly beautiful and captures the reader from beginning to end. If you can appreciate beautiful prose, great scenery, and credible characters accompanied by subtle psychological horror, then The Lantern is just the book for you.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Weekend Ramblings 2

I've been suffering from both reader's and writer's block over the past week. I finished my reading (yeah!) but have had difficulty starting anything new or writing the reviews for what I've read. This is due in part to the fact that I LOVED The Lantern and feel that my review just won't do it justice...it's also (possibly, probably, highly likely -- take your pick) due to the series of migraine headaches suffered over the past week. Since I generally have a migraine (or two) each and every day this shouldn't have been anything out of the norm but add in a sinus headache component along with severe allergies and it made for a doozy of a headache for a few days.  On the plus side, I had a few hours of sinus and allergy respite yesterday and went to see The Help movie with some family members. I've got to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was and how closely the movie followed the book. For those of you that have read the book, go see the movie! For those of you that have seen the movie, go read the book!


The West Virginia Book Festival made an exciting announcement earlier this week: Jerry West will be speaking at the festival on Saturday, October 22nd at 6:00 PM on his book West by West. Mr. West will also be signing autographs after his talk. Another author of note at the festival is Bonnie Stewart, No. 9: The 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster. Ms. Stewart's book is scheduled to be released in November by the West Virginia University Press. This year's festival looks to be just as exciting and interesting as previous years. Don't forget to mark your calendars for October 22-23 to attend this year's West Virginia Book Festival!


I guess I should spend some time writing reviews and get back to some reading. My TBR list is huge so I can't say I don't know what to read...  Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend. 


If you're spending a few hours reading this weekend please share your reads with us.






Sunday, August 7, 2011

Weekend Ramblings


I currently have two books that I'm reading, or rather supposed to be reading. For some reason I just can't get in the mood to read. Of course this could be due to current family situations which include a recent death, funeral planning, and multiple birthday celebrations.


The past 12 days have included: my birthday, youngest brother's birthday (his 41st -- celebrated among immediate family), two cousins' birthdays (recognized but not celebrated), death of an aunt (early Friday morning), and ends with the birthday celebration of an ex sister-in-law today. Thankfully birthdays as adults aren't as big a deal as when we were children, but my mother insists on a family dinner followed by cards and gift giving. Fortunately I don't celebrate birthdays, or at least my own for religious reasons, and can usually get out of the mandatory family dinner. However, since my recent birthday was for the big 5-0 I was informed that I HAD to attend. In my family we know that you don't upset Momma (think of Tyler Perry’s “Madea” without the violent tendencies) so I went. It was kind of funny because there were no cards, gifts or singing but it was a great excuse to get the family together again during the middle of the summer. 


Just when I thought I was free from the birthday celebrations, this upcoming week has another aunt's birthday [her 72nd] and my great-niece's birthday [her 10th]. In between and around all of these upcoming "celebrations" our family is also preparing for a funeral. I guess it will serve as a reminder that with life comes death. Something none of us want to think about but none can avoid. 


Now that I've depressed you as much as I am (sorry), I'm off to try and do some reading. Okay I'll be doing some reading, out for some shoe shopping (a woman can never have too many shoes or handbags or too much jewelry!), then back to reading. I hope to have reviews of The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson and Saint's Gate by Carla Neggers posted within the next few days. Until then happy reading . . .  



Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book 176: SHOE STRINGS Review


One of the absolute best things about reading is the discovery of new-for-me authors. Sometimes these discoveries happen by chance and others by introduction. I was recently introduced to Shoe Strings by Christy Hayes and I've got to say I'm glad I had this opportunity.


Angelita Barros is an up-and-coming shoe designer from Atlanta. Her business started under unusual circumstances when she was only a teenager. Since then her business has grown, she has a business partner and a booming retail storefront. Things are looking up when her business is spotlighted in a local magazine. Angelita considers her business partner her family and has not had a relationship with her father, Davi Barros, for many years. Although she is scheduled to go on vacation after a business meeting, she opts to go to the mountains of North Carolina rather than the beaches of Florida. She's hopeful that the beauty, peace and quiet will afford her an opportunity to catch up on designing and return to Atlanta refreshed and stress-free. All is going well until a near-naked man exits her rental cabin's bathroom. What a way to meet a man? The man is Jesse Bloodworth, the son of the cabin's owner and a business owner. Both Jesse and Angelita are fighting demons from their past. Angelita's father is intruding into her life and trying to force her to make him a business partner of sorts to save not only his job at the Brazilian Consulate in Atlanta but perhaps his life. Jesse is trying to mend broken bridges with his ex-wife, Kerri Ann, his son Ty, and his father Cal. 


Kerri Ann is dealing with her own set of issues and is in love with the town's resident lawyer, Bryce Jenson, but she doesn't think she's good enough for him since she got pregnant as a teenager. Jesse had left his wife and young child after his mother's death because he knew that his marriage was a mistake and he needed to break free. He returned home when he realized what he had left behind and has been working on strengthening his bonds with his son and his father. Unfortunately his father couldn't understand Jesse's decision and can't understand or accept that Kerri Ann has forgiven him for his actions. Meanwhile Angelita is fighting her own inner demons. She is attracted to Jesse but doesn't feel that a relationship can progress so quickly after only a week or so and she doesn't trust her feelings.


The central theme to Shoe Strings seems to be that everyone has feelings of inadequacy to overcome at some point in their lives, or in the words of one of my friends "everybody got issues." Will Kerri Ann be able to overcome her feelings of inferiority and accept the love being offered to her? Can Angelita see her father for who he really is before forcing her to do something that is wrong for her business and possibly dangerous if not illegal? Will Jesse be able to make amends with Cal? Can he get Angelita to see that love isn't an either-or situation?


I truly enjoyed reading Shoe Strings (could have been better if there were pictures of the shoes included . . . just kidding). Angelita and Kerri Ann are strong, independent and savvy women. Their inner weaknesses aren't as masked as they would like and make for some interesting exchanges between themselves and others.  Bryce and Jesse are lightly flirtatious but Southern Gentlemen to the core. Jesse is not as carefree as he initially appears and is remorseful for his past mistakes. He realizes that you may not be able to go back in time and change things but you can definitely work to make things better from each day forward. Although classified as a romance, and yes that fits, it is slightly more in my opinion. Shoe Strings is a great and quick read filled with romance, a little bit of intrigue and a touch of fun.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book 175: THE EVIL INSIDE Review


Salem, Massachusetts has a rich and strange history. It is a beautiful coastal town that is now best known for its history with the Salem Witch Trials. Centuries ago the mass hysteria led to numerous accusations of witchcraft and many innocents died. Now a series of heinous murders, Lizzie Borden style murders, may lead to the lifelong incarceration of a true innocent. Jenna Duffy, a member of the Krewe of Hunters, is asked by her uncle to come to Salem and investigate and perhaps save Malachi Smith, the accused murderer. Is there an old evil lurking in Salem or is this just another case of people judging what they don't understand? The Evil Inside by Heather Graham is the fourth in the Krewe of Hunters series and seeks to answer these questions.


Jenna begins to work unofficially with her uncle to investigate these bizarre murders. Is it possible that Malachi may have killed his family, a neighbor and a former school teacher without knowing it? What was his motive? Jenna and Uncle Jamie feel that Malachi may be railroaded because of his family's unconventional religious beliefs (hard to believe that a town can embrace Wicca but have a problem with a fundamentalist Christian faith). Malachi's father wasn't loved or understood and was inordinately strict but, were these grounds for murder? Fortunately Jenna and Uncle Jamie are assisted by a well-known Boston attorney, Samuel Hall. Their investigation starts with the house that was the scene of several historical murders just like the Smith family's murders. What follows isn't really a paranormal thriller than a basic whodunit mystery. As a mystery, The Evil Inside keeps the reader on the edge with the story twists and turns. The initially antagonistic relationship between Jenna and Sam quickly devolves into the expected love-fest. This story doesn't involve as many of the Krewe of Hunters, Jackson, Angela and Will make appearances and play secondary roles in the investigation. Jake makes cameo appearances by phone consultations. The ghost of Rebecca Nurse, the first to die as a result of the Salem Witch Trials, makes periodic appearances as well.


The Evil Inside does a great job of weaving the factual history of the Salem Witch Trials into the fictional story line. The inclusion of the ghost of Rebecca Nurse is a nice touch. As a romantic suspense-thriller, this falls a little short. This may be because it has more focus on the sexual aspects of the relationship and not so much on the romance. But as a suspense thriller it excels, with the thrills and mystery front and center. Ms. Graham has taken fact and fiction and woven them into a great story. The Evil Inside is a great suspense-thriller with paranormal elements and a light romance thrown in . . . a perfect read for the weekend. The Evil Inside is scheduled for release on August 30th.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Book 174: THE CANARY LIST Review


Imagine that there is true evil in the world in the guise of demons. These demons have the capability of possessing humans and perverting them to suit their needs. Now imagine that these possessed humans have infiltrated government and world religions including religious hierarchy. This is the world that 12-year-old Jaimie Piper and her teacher Crockett Grey have been pushed into in The Canary List by Sigmund Brouwer.


Jaimie knows that there is someone or something after her and seeks protection from the only adult she feels she can trust, a teacher. Unfortunately that teacher is an unmarried male and he lives alone. Someone uses this to exploit the situation and remove Jaimie from Crockett's protection under the guise of him possibly being a pedophile and in possession of child pornography. It doesn't help that the one person that can attest to Jaimie staying outside of the home under the supervision of a woman, Crockett's elderly neighbor Nana, has disappeared. Throw a very restrained child psychologist (Dr. Madelyne Mackenzie) into the mix along with an exorcist (Father O'Hare), the foster care system, Satanism, a crazed stalker, add in the Catholic Church and a comatose Pope and you've got a mess.


The underlying premise to this story is that Jaimie is genetically predisposed toward being sensitive to the demon-possessed. She is, in effect, the "canary" in detecting evil. Although there are others like her around the world, they are few and far between. These women have been used by the Catholic Church for centuries to ensure that evil does not gain a hold on the church, especially its cardinals or would-be popes. The intrigue involved in uncovering who is and isn't evil within the church and their individual motives and power struggles made for some interesting reading. I had difficulty accepting the author's premise (yes I know it is fiction) that demons are using priests to exploit children as the excuse for the church-related pedophilia cases. The action was all over the place, much like a rollercoaster ride. At times it was hard to keep track of all of the scheming as well as plot twists and turns. I won't tell you how it ends but the ending left me saying "what?" and wondering what exactly had happened. The only characters that seemed realistic were Jaimie and Crockett. They had their flaws and frailties and weren't afraid to show them. This, in my opinion helped to show their humanity. The others were somewhat flat and seemed to be more caricatures than characters. The Canary List isn't a bad story nor was it badly written but there was just something that kept it from being little more than a decent read.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher through Blogging For Books. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."