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

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Book 173: HUSBAND AND WIFE Review


Imagine that you're preparing to attend a friend's wedding, the babysitter is downstairs keeping the children engaged, your husband is looking for a shoe and he decides to tell you that he had an affair a year ago while you were pregnant. So begins Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart. 


Sarah Price is forced to accept that her marriage is far from perfect. She also realizes that Nathan's newest book INFIDELITY has far-reaching implications now that he's admitted to his own infidelity. She has given up on her own creativity as a poet to work and support their family so Nathan could continue to write. Sarah thought she was happy but soon realizes that she has just become accepting of life changes rather than being truly happy. In an effort to regain her sense of self, she plays hooky from work, packs up the kids and travels from North Carolina to Texas by car. She stays with friends in Texas and starts a "relationship" with a college friend that seems to appreciate her for who she really is.


In many ways Sarah has to learn to accept that she is providing more restraints on her life than anyone else. She can't blame Nathan or circumstances on where she is with regards to being a poet. She decided that she couldn't write poetry anymore and that she had nothing more to offer creatively. When she realizes that marriage and life is about compromise as well as growth, she realizes that creativity is ultimately in the mind of the beholder. If she wants to write poetry she can, if she doesn't then she won't. Along with this realization comes the knowledge that you can't ever go back in time. 


Although I condemn Nathan's extramarital activities, I found that I could only sympathize with Sarah so far. Her reaction of "you had an affair so I should be able to have one too" is very childish. I found Husband and Wife to be a decent read, providing a credible and realistic story even with the juvenile attitudes and behavior.    




Book 172: HEART OF EVIL Review


What do an old Louisiana plantation, a civil war re-enactment and things that go bump in the night have in common? These are all elements in the second Krewe of Hunters book Heart of Evil by Heather Graham. (Yes I know I read the books out of sequence, but it didn't seem to make that much of a difference.)


Ashley Donegal is the co-owner/operator of a hotel in her family's plantation home. During a Civil War re-enactment a man is murdered. It just so happens that this particular man was portraying her forefather, Marshall Donegal, and the body is left in the family cemetery. Ashley's grandfather is concerned, seeks some favors from old friends, and before you know the Krewe of Hunters is on the scene to help with the investigation. The first to arrive on the scene is Jake Mallory, an old Donegal family friend and ex-lover to Ashley. What follows is an investigation into the past and present with a little help from some family ghosts. 


I rather liked the incorporation of past with the present in terms of the Donegal family history. Sorry to say but that was about all I really liked from this particular story. The characters seemed to be a bit flat, most of the action was expected, and even the romance seemed forced. I sadly found the ghosts to be more entertaining than anyone else. This particular series seems to be a hit-or-miss combo for me, as I found book one - Phantom Evil to be an okay read, book three - Sacred Evil to be a good read, and now book two -  Heart of Evil back to being an okay read.   


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."

Friday, July 29, 2011

More Ramblings and Weekend Plans

I haven't forgotten about you...I've been busy reading and will be posting reviews of Heart of Evil by Heather Graham, The Canary List by Sigmund Brouwer, and Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart over the weekend. I'm currently reading The Evil Inside by Heather Graham (release date 08/30/2011) and hope to have the review up this weekend as well.


Regrettably a series of migraine headaches slowed me down this week so the reviews are a little slower to post. I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts on these reads with you, especially The Canary List.


Other than reading and writing reviews, my weekend plans include a quick drive down to Beckley WV to visit the Library of Congress Gateway to Knowledge traveling exhibit. The exhibit will be available at the Raleigh County Public Library in Beckley from 9-5 today and tomorrow. This wonderful exhibit has traveled across the US and provided the opportunity to learn about the history of the Library, view facsimiles of a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, and more. If you're in the area don't miss out on this opportunity. 


What are your plans this weekend? Hopefully it includes reading!




Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book 171: COUNTING FROM ZERO Review


Your computer may be part of a global attack and you don't even know it. At least that's part of the premise in Counting From Zero by Alan B. Johnston. The problems begin and end with internet security. 


Most of us think we are prepared against viruses, worms, and malware with antivirus programs, etc., but there are those that use email encryption programs, change their passwords weekly, and use only open source software. Or at least there are in the fictional world of Counting From Zero and one such person is Mick O'Malley. To say that Mick takes paranoia to an extreme is a bit of an understatement, but it appears that he is justified with his paranoia. Mick works in computer security and knows exactly what havoc viruses, malware, worms, spam, etc. can wreak on a computer or on a computer system. His work takes him around the world, often on speaking engagements or conferences on computer security. He discovers a new attack while in Japan and thus begins the first zero day (initial day of attack). The intrigue in discerning why this attack has been launched and its purpose sends Mick traveling around the world and has others following his every move.


I'm not much of a computer person. I understand the basics and am quite happy in my ignorance . . . or I was until I read Counting From Zero. Mr. Johnston is known in the computer security industry and has combined fact with fiction to the point that I'm now paranoid about internet security. There was much that I didn't understand but Mr. Johnston did a credible job of explaining terminology and making things as simple as possible. The story does drag periodically from all of the computer terminology and explanations. In addition the secondary characters aren't as well-developed as perhaps they could be. Counting From Zero is one scary techno-thriller to the point that I was actually afraid to turn my computer on and log into the internet. 


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."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ramblings...

Well fellow readers it was a strange and not-so-wonderful weekend here in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia. As with most of the US, we got hit with the heat wave and this was followed by severe thunderstorms. If you're not familiar with our beautiful state, it is quite mountainous and we have trees galore. There are homes along hillsides, atop hillsides and between hillsides throughout the state. And all along and beside those houses are trees, lots and lots of trees. Unfortunately when the winds are too strong or lightning strikes are a little too close to the ground this can make for disastrous situations with downed trees resulting in downed power lines. We jokingly say that in our area if too much rain falls the power goes out, if the wind blows the power goes out, if snow falls the power goes out... 


Now the storm came through on Friday evening but for some reason our power decided to stay on until mid-Saturday, during the middle of another heat surge. Then, adding insult to injury, our local electrical provider stated that the power couldn't be restored until Monday, 07/25/2011 by 6:00 PM ET (maybe earlier).  So long story short (I know - too late), we had no power, no breezes, 90+ temperatures with heat indices in the 100s and we're told the power would not be restored for 2 more days, so we hightailed it off to a hotel for a few days. This was pretty much a necessity since my parents are elderly (both are in their late 70s and my father is in frail health due to mini-strokes and stage 4 kidney disease) and they obviously couldn't stay home in those conditions. And with me being the eldest (and only daughter), it was decided that I should accompany them to ensure they had no problems for the duration. Thankfully, the power was restored before 6:00 PM yesterday and we were able to return to our homes. I could now enjoy the A/C in the privacy of my own home, listen to Vivaldi a little too loud, and get back online and in touch with my fellow readers (I missed you).


The good thing about this past weekend was that I got to read while elder-sitting. I hope to post reviews in the next few days for the books recently finished: Heart of Evil by Heather Graham (yes I read the books out of order...sorry) and Counting From Zero by Alan B. Johnston. I'm currently reading Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart. Upcoming reads include: The Evil Inside by Heather Graham, Shoe Strings by Christy Hayes and Divine Intervention by Cheryl Kaye Tardif. Until next time, happy reading!











Monday, July 25, 2011

Book 170: ONCE WICKED ALWAYS DEAD Review


Everyone has secrets, but there are secrets and there are Secrets! Once Wicked Always Dead by T. Marie Benchley is filled with secrets, some personal and others deadly. 


Phillip Madison is hiding one very big Secret and Molly Madison, his wife, is the last to know. After 20+ years of marriage to a legal mover-and-shaker, Molly knows that their relationship has changed but she assumes it is because of work. Little does she know that Phillip is living a double life...not with another woman but with another man. As soon as "the other man" outs Phillip, she trades in her car for a truck, meets with a divorce attorney and moves from Florida to Montana to take over her family's working cattle ranch. Her life has truly been turned upside down, but the problems are just beginning. Fortunately she has Clayton Leatherbe, the ranch foreman, to help her through the transition of society wife to ranch owner.


Once Wicked Always Dead starts off with a murder and then transitions to a society lunch. Doesn't seem like these activities have a lot in common but Ms. Benchley does a fine job of bringing it together. There seems to be a lot going on in this story: Molly O'Malley Madison and ranch life and her romantic interest in Clayton; Phillip being outed then accepting his new life and finding a new love interest; Gavin O'Malley's secrets that may be a threat to Molly; Evin the resident bad guy willing to go to any means to get Molly's property; and Swan - Phillip's former lover and personal assistant, who is out for revenge. Oops...I forgot to mention the murderer that is taking out child molesters and bad guys. But Molly isn't a "bad guy" so why is she being targeted? Are the ghosts of her father's past coming back to haunt her?


Once Wicked Always Dead may loosely be considered a romantic suspense thriller, light on the romance. (There seemed to be more romantic action taking place with Phillip and Jack, Phillip’s new love interest, than there is between Molly and Clayton.) Although all of the characters intersect due to Molly and her past, present and future, the action doesn't make much sense or become cohesive until the end. I found most of the action and the characters to be somewhat believable but it stretched credulity at moments (I guess people with money can do almost anything). All things considered, this was a decent read in the suspense thriller genre.


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."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book 169: LIFE FROM SCRATCH Review


When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, unless you're Rachel Goldman then you might make lemon custard or use the lemon to roast a chicken. Rachel Goldman is the main character in Life From Scratch by Melissa Ford. Rachel has just gone through a divorce and must decide what she wants to do with her life. 


Rachel is a 34-four-year old woman that was married for 12 years and has been divorced for less than a year. She has taken sabbatical from her job as a graphic artist working for the New York Public Library. She didn't hate her job but she just isn't quite sure what she wants to do, so she decides to learn how to cook and document it on a blog. Rachel thinks of her blog as a food or cooking blog but after she's nominated for and wins a Bloscar  (an award for various blogs in assorted genres), she realizes that her blog is basically an online diary and the best therapy available. Her other "therapist" and confidante is her best friend Arianna.


Post-divorce Rachel discovers that she enjoys being an aunt since she never had children. She also learns that she has been a lousy friend by ignoring what has been happening (or not happening) in Arianna's life. It was somewhat amusing to see Rachel fall in lust with Gael, the Spaniard with the gorgeous smile. At first glance they seem to be made for one another with their similar interests, but Gael isn't the man Rachel thinks he is or exactly what she wants. What she discovers she wants is her ex-husband...pre-law practice. Ultimately Rachel discovers that life goes on after a divorce, it may take awhile to grieve over the relationship but that's fine. Rachel seems to epitomize the average woman that has gone through a non-acrimonious divorce. You may not be able to go back and change the past but you can start from scratch using the lessons learned from past experiences and mistakes. Life From Scratch is a sometimes humorous but realistic look at life after divorce. A quick and good read for anyone...married or single!


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."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book 168: THE HAIRDRESSER OF HARARE Review


Every now and again I read a book that makes me stop and appreciate all that I have. One such book was The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu. This isn't nonfiction and isn't filled with dark themes in general. It tells the story of two hairdressers in Harare, Zimbabwe and societal prejudices. One is a male and from a privileged urban family, Dumisani. The other is female, a single mother, and from a poor rural family, Vimbai. Theirs is a story of endurance, jealousy, friendship and betrayal.


Vimbai is a 26-year-old single mother. She works reasonably hard at her craft and considers herself the best hairdresser in Harare. Her goal is to eventually own and operate her own salon, but for now she plods away working for Mrs. Khumalo. Vimbai has her own personal issues to deal with, such as becoming a single mother at age 19, raising her daughter alone because the father is married, and an estrangement from her family because her elder brother died and left her his home in Harare. She, and everyone else in the working 10%, must also deal with the overwhelming inflation rate and search for basic staples like sugar and cornmeal not to mention flickering electrical service and exorbitant utilities. Vimbai's status and security is threatened when Dumisani walks in to Mrs. Khumalo's salon, requests employment and gets it. Most of the new clients and a few of the older established clients all vie for Dumisani to work on their hair. Dumisani goes out of his way to befriend Vimbai, eventually becoming a tenant in her home and before long a very good friend. He invites her to a family wedding and their relationship moves from friendship to an engagement. Dumisani's family openly embraces Vimbai and her daughter because they feel that the relationship between Vimbai and Dumisani means he is "cured" (this is the first reference to Dumisani's homosexuality). Dumisani has kept a secret and it is a secret that could get him killed and threatens Vimbai's new found security. 


I actually enjoyed reading The Hairdresser of Harare. I presumed it would be depressing given that it deals with prejudices, but it wasn't. Mr. Huchu incorporates the topics of racism, poverty, and prejudice in a very circumspect manner but he gets the point across. Vimbai isn't easy to like as a character but I think that's because of her flaws more so than anything else. Dumisani isn't as developed as Vimbai but he is likable. Both Vimbai and Dumisani have a certain naïveté about life and family that was actually refreshing. The only problems I had in reading this book was in understanding the names and foreign terminology (a personal hang-up...I like to not only understand but also know how to pronounce everything when reading). If you haven't read anything that might be classified as African Literature and want to start, then I recommend The Hairdresser of Harare. This was my first foray into this genre, as well as my first book by Mr. Huchu, and I hope it won't be my last for the genre and this author.


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."


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book 167: MEMORIES FOR SALE Review


Memories for Sale is a novella by Karen Fowler. This is a story about a mother with a cancer diagnosis, an estranged daughter, a grandchild that has never been seen and a desire to make amends. Like many parents, Eleanor thinks that providing money for her granddaughter will make amends for never having seen her, so she decides to sell her collection of ceramics. Each ceramic item is tied to a memory, so she truly is putting her memories up for sale. The basic premise for the story is nice enough. The only character that the reader gets any true insight into is Eleanor, but as the main character that is acceptable. I found Memories for Sale to be a decent and quick read but one that was quickly forgotten after completion.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author through LibraryThing. 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 166: THE SAINTS GO DYING Review


A serial murderer is on the loose in the City of Angels, Los Angeles. Unfortunately this murderer clearly aligns himself with evil and is out to kill people that do good or "saints" in Erik Hanberg's The Saints Go Dying.


Deputy Arthur Beautyman is the lead investigator and coordinator on the case. He is literally being overseen by the entire city thanks to a local television program called 'Watchdog.' Beautyman is definitely not a Hollywood or LA version of an investigator. He's rather short, has graying hair, and has an "average" pockmarked face. This is a case of Beautyman versus the beast, the serial killer. After fourteen months and numerous murders there isn't even a viable suspect, or is there? Is the killer really that good or is the Sheriff's department that inept? That is what 'Watchdog' would have everyone believe but is it true? Beautyman has his hands full juggling the investigation, public backlash and the ever-increasing popularity of the 'Watchdog' series. 


Mr. Hanberg has provided a nicely written suspense in The Saints Go Dying. The characters and the action are very believable, or at least until the end. I found the ending a bit far-fetched but fiction doesn't have to mirror reality. The Saints Go Dying is a quick read that packs a suspense-filled punch to the end.


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."

Book 165: HOTWIRE Review


Bizarre murders, cattle mutilations, and government conspiracies and suspected coverups are at the forefront of Hotwire, the ninth title in the Maggie O'Dell series by Alex Kava. Maggie, an FBI agent, is still recuperating from her last assignment and has been sent to Colorado to lecture at a law enforcement seminar. She is "asked" to look into some cattle mutilations in Nebraska and the story takes off.


Maggie doesn't just get to see some strange cattle mutilations, but soon spearheads an investigation into the possible electrocution deaths (or murders) and injuries of some teenagers in the Nebraska Sandhills. Both the cattle mutilations and the teens’ deaths were bloodless and have other similarities. While Maggie has her hands full with the investigation in Nebraska, her friends Dr. Benjamin Platt of USAMRID, Washington, D.C. Police Detective Julia Racine, and FBI Agent R.J. Tully are investigating what may be a terrorism case relating to food poisoning in the DC school system. 


Hotwire provides a lot of thrills and suspense but also asks some hard and socially pertinent questions, such as: Why is it the FDA can shut down a business due to tampering or contamination but the USDA can't do the same under similar circumstances? It doesn't appear that the food poisonings in DC have anything to do with cattle mutilations in Nebraska or do they? The action and investigations take plenty of twists and turns but kept my attention to the end. It was nice seeing a softer side to Julia Racine as well as seeing Dr. Platt in action once again. Regrettably Tully had only a guest appearance in this story. Hotwire features great characters, great action and a well-developed plot. There’s a lot going on in the story, but Ms. Kava neatly ties it together at the end for a great and quick read.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing. 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, July 18, 2011

Book 164: THE UNDERTAKER Review


The Undertaker by William F. Brown has been classified as a "fast-paced thriller" and as a "cliffhanger." Yes, these descriptions are accurate but they don't paint the entire picture. The Undertaker is a cliffhanger and a fast-paced thriller that incorporates self-deprecating and irreverent humor for a laugh-out loud enjoyable read.


Peter Talbott was erroneously classified as dead a few years ago when his car was stolen and he was being "held" in a Mexican jail. At the time Pete was in mourning for his wife. After returning to the US and clearing up the error he loses his job. His brother-in-law Doug saves him by offering him a job in Massachusetts. Pete packs his bags, leaves California behind and drives to Massachusetts. His life is basically work and more work until the day he is handed an Ohio obituary notice that he has died once again, alongside his already deceased wife. Well Pete knows that it isn't possible for his wife to have died recently in a car accident when she died three years earlier from cancer. He does what any self-respecting person does, he drives to Ohio and attends his own funeral. He also uncovers a mess, possibly a government covert ops mess and/or a mafia mess but a mess nonetheless. Pete's quest for the truth leads to Chicago where he encounters Sandy Kasmarek, a photographer and kick-ass woman. Sandy and Pete quickly bond over car chases and flying bullets.


The Undertaker is a quick read that captures the attention from the very beginning. Pete and Sandy may be an odd couple but their quirkiness and humor in the face of danger are what made this such an enjoyable read for me. If you're looking for a well-written, quick read that melds humor and thrills, then you need to add The Undertaker to your reading list.


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."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book 162: YOU'RE NEXT Review


Imagine being dropped off and abandoned at a playground as a four-year-old child. Now imagine that you spend the next fourteen years in the foster care system and the only "family" you now have is basically a juvenile delinquent. You don't know why your parents disappeared or even what your last name was but you are determined to turn your life around. This is Michael Wingate's life in You're Next by Gregg Hurwitz. 


This psychological thriller builds layer upon layer of intrigue by providing glimpses into Michael's past. But these glimpses only reveal the past after he was abandoned. Obviously abandonment leaves emotional and mental scars, and Michael has his fair share. As a result he is determined to never let down his daughter Katherine. Michael is now a successful contractor and is about to win an award for building green homes that aren't completely green. When Michael is confronted by a stranger at the award's party and basically threatened, he is first confused and then later angry. The anger builds when his daughter is threatened and his wife, Annabel, is seriously injured. What does all of this have to do with Michael? Could his unknown past be rearing its ugly head and intruding on his present? How much of a past could a four-year-old child have had? 


Michael embarks on a hunt for the answers. The only person he knows he can depend on is his childhood best friend and surrogate brother, Shep. When pushed to the edge Michael pushes back and uncovers a history of dirty little secrets that are best kept uncovered. How far is Michael willing to go? Read the book, trust me on this one. If you don't add any other book to your reading list, You're Next is definitely one to read. Kat is a lovable and precocious child with a core of inner strength. Michael is a man that wants to do right at any cost but realizes that lifetime sometimes has to be lived in the murkier gray areas. Shep is, well words can't describe Shep but he is the type of friend you want when backed into a corner and facing really bad guys. I enjoyed reading You're Next so much that I've promptly added many other works by Mr. Hurwitz to my TBR list. I've found another favorite author!


Disclaimer: I received this book free from BookReporter.com. 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 157: INSIDE OUT Review


I recently saw an ad for a book on Goodreads.com that piqued my interest and the result was the purchase of Inside Out by Grayson Cole. The theme of Inside Out seems to be an inside look at interracial dating in the South . . . not a lighthearted topic by any means. Biracialism, multiculturalism and interracial dating may seem to be in vogue but for people in the center there are often stigmas still attached. 


Tracey McAlpine is a graduate student in Alabama and a daughter of privilege. She is fortunate enough to be residing in her own home, inherited from a grandmother, and has a trust account. Tracey is also afraid to shake things up. She does what is expected and seeks to remain in the background. Garrett Atkins is the fair-haired boy (young man) in his family. He excelled at sports, is well liked and respected by his friends and peers, and is now in law school at the top of his class. Garrett is attracted to Tracey and their relationship takes off with an extremely rocky start. Garrett has his reasons for keeping his "friendship" with Tracey secret just as Tracey has her own. But when their relationship veers from "friendship" to "relationship,” Garrett is ready to bring it out into the open. Tracey is not. Garrett is ready to push when Tracey informs him that she's pregnant. What follows is somewhat akin to a mini-Shakespearean drama. Garrett's mother refuses to accept that she is going to have a biracial grandchild and ignores the situation, after having a meltdown. Tracey's parents are also extremely concerned when they learn that the father is white. 


Garrett and Tracey may be living in the New South but there are still problems to be faced as a biracial couple. I found Inside Out to realistically portray the inner turmoil faced by Garrett and Tracey and their decisions. Neither are villains nor heroes in this saga, but they both bring drama and issues into their relationship that require work for a successful relationship to be had. The reality is that no relationship lives in a vacuum. Our families and friends impact our decisions. The realism of the situations and the depth of the characters made for a truly enjoyable and memorable read. I'm really glad that I noticed the ad for this book and even happier that I bought it.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Books 160 and 161 Reviewed


Inside is the first in the Bulletproof trilogy by Brenda Novak. Virgil Skinner has just spent fourteen years inside the prison system for a crime he didn't commit. Virgil may not have committed the crime he was charged with, murder, but he hasn't come out of the system an innocent man. Virgil joined a gang for protection while inside and cannot freely leave. Once you're in a gang you're in for life . . . or until death. It's bad enough he has the gang issue hanging over his head, but while inside he protected himself from deadly violence with deadly violence. As a result of these actions he has been "asked" to assist the California Department of Corrections in deterring another gang in the worst prison in the state, Pelican Bay, for a chance at a truly clean slate.


Enter Peyton Adams, the Chief Deputy Warden at Pelican Bay. She is adamantly opposed to Virgil going undercover. She feels that it isn't possible to protect him from possible gang-related violence and she doesn't trust him. In a few short days Peyton learns that there is much more to Virgil than meets the eye and she begins to admire and respect him. Virgil only wants to protect his family, his sister and her kids, from possible gang retaliation and maybe get a fresh start in life.


Gangs, prisons and undercover work apparently don't mix, at least not in a small town. It isn't possible to keep a secret, especially in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. What ensues is a rush to beat the clock and get the information that CDC wants while protecting Virgil and ensuring he gets what he wants. Throw in some not-so-honest correctional officials, a gang on the hunt for retaliation against Virgil, a family on the run and the suspense gets knocked up a few notches. Inside starts this series off with a bang and makes for a great weekend read.












Book 159: SACRED EVIL Review


The Krewe of Hunters is at it again in Sacred Evil by Heather Graham. This time the Krewe is in New York working with the NYC Police Department on a series of Ripperesque style murders. The question arises is this work of a homicidal, possibly crazy, Jack the Ripper fan or are there supernatural elements at work? Whitney Tremont, one of the Krewe, is working beside Jude Crosby to make this determination. Whitney, as a Krewe member, has some paranormal abilities but will this help her in this particular investigation? Jude Crosby is a talented investigator but he is stumped by these murders because of the lack of evidence. The only thing on their side is that the police department has initiated a task force and given Jude carte blanche and the assistance of the FBI team, referred to as the Krewe of Hunters, to help solve these crimes. 


Ms. Graham has provided a great backdrop with New York City. The murky history of the city at the end of the 1800s adds to the overall mystique. The story is aided with theories that Jack the Ripper migrated to the US as Jonathan "Jack" Black at the turn of the century. This migration is the reason why the murders ended in London, but appeared to begin in New York. All of the present day murders are exact copies of each of the Ripper's murders. Everyone becomes a suspect: a movie director, an actor, another detective, the medical examiner and even Jude's father. 


While I enjoyed reading Sacred Evil, it seemed almost formulaic at times. The romance was expected and the mystery and suspense just weren't as mysterious or suspenseful as other books by this author. There were some surprises with the plot and this, ultimately, saved the overall reading experience. If you're looking for a quick romantic suspense read with some dark, paranormal elements, then add Sacred Evil to your summer reading list.


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."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guest Post: Author Amy Lichtenhan


Thank you to The Book Diva’s Reads for having me on today! 


Since I’ve just starting working on the outline for my third release, I thought it would be fun to talk a little bit about the first steps of my writing process.


I’m sure many of you are writers or perhaps you have wanted to pen your own novel, but just haven’t known exactly how to get started. 


Many times, the idea is the easy part.  For me, it’s usually out of the blue when the images of new characters and a vague sense of their circumstances pop in my head.  I spend quite a bit of time thinking about and developing the characters and their stories in my mind.


But how to get it on paper? 


Once I have a mental grasp on my story line, an outline becomes essential.  I have a thick, spiral notebook for each book (and of course a pencil – we can’t be afraid to erase and revise).


First of all, I start with my characters and their traits: What do they look like?  What are their mannerisms, attributes, temperaments? Why are the characters important to each other?  Now is also the time to think about the setting and how it affects my characters.


Next, I work on the outline. I know there are successful writers out there who work completely without an outline and allow their characters to take them where they want to go, but for most of us, we need direction.  It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but a basic guide for where we want our story to go. 


Start simple.


Think about your introduction, rising action, climax, and resolution.  Jot a few sentences down about each.  What happens during each of them? 


Then take those and expand. Here you can begin to break your story up into chapters.  If your plot is time specific, be sure to also write a time-line so the passage of time over your chapters is clear to your reader. If you want to get really detailed, you can write a mini-outline for each chapter.  Personally, I write just a few paragraphs to outline each chapter:  What happens in the chapter (beginning, middle, and end), what do my characters feel, and what needs to be said?  I also leave space to go back and jot things down later on as thoughts, ideas, and dialogue come to me.


With a plot and characters in place, I now have somewhere to start.  


My outlines aren’t perfect and changes are always made, but they are essential to keeping me organized and on track.


Thanks again to Vivian for having me on The Book Diva’s Reads today! It’s been an honor. Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win an eBook copy of Pulled



Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book 158: PULLED Review


Are you into contemporary romance? Do you like reading HEA books? If so, then Pulled by Amy Lichtenhan is just the book for you. True love supposedly doesn't run a smooth course, and neither does the action in Pulled.


Melanie Winters and Daniel Montgomery met when they were teenagers and it was love at first sight. Melanie became a much-loved member of the Montgomery family. She considered Julia and Patrick Montgomery surrogate parents and Erin Montgomery was more than her best friend, she was a sister of the heart. Melanie and Daniel knew that their love would last a lifetime. They were much more than in love.  They were soul mates. Their relationship undergoes a trial when Melanie becomes pregnant during her senior year of high school. But their unborn child is an unexpected gift and they make plans to marry and raise their child together. Unfortunately tragedy strikes when a drunk driver hits their car. Melanie is severely injured and their child is born too early. Melanie's parents aren't as forbearing as Daniel's and Melanie is whisked away to recuperate and no contact with Daniel is allowed. What follows are a series of events that result in years of unhappiness for them both.


Fast forward nine years and Melanie is married to an overbearing, pompous and abusive man. Daniel has made it through medical school and is in practice with his father but knows that there is something missing in his life. On one fateful evening Daniel and Melanie are reunited at a business dinner meeting between Daniel, Nicholas and Shane (Nick's business partner). Regrettably Daniel is there with a friend (and I use the term "friend" loosely), who just happens to be pregnant with his child. It's obvious there's still a spark between the two. How can they move forward with Melanie being married and Daniel expecting a child from another woman? Is their love doomed to failure once again? Well, I could tell you but you really should read the book. Ms. Lichtenhan has created a modern romance with fairy tale undertones. Pulled definitely isn’t all goodness and light and there are dark forces and dark personalities at work, but if you enjoy romance then this may be just the book for 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, July 11, 2011

OUTLANDER 20th Anniversary

If you haven't read any of the Outlander series from Diana Gabaldon, then now is the time to start. This summer marks the 20th Anniversary of the release of Outlander, the first in this historical/romance series. 


I was introduced to the Outlander series last summer as part of the Kanawha County Public Library's summer reading program. I only had to read one book, which I did, but I was hooked. I went on to read almost all of the books in this series between August and October. I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Gabaldon at the WV Book Festival in October of 2010 during an author meet-and-greet and hear her speak about her books and works-in-progress. (If you ever get the opportunity to hear Ms. Gabaldon then run and grab a seat because her books are phenomenal and she is a captivating and highly entertaining speaker!).



You can order the 20th anniversary book directly from the publisher, Random House by clicking here OR from a variety of other online sellers including Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.


Publisher's notes on this edition:



Twenty years ago, Diana Gabaldon swept readers into her mesmerizing world brimming with history, romance, and adventure. In celebration of the series that has captured the heart of millions, here is a special 20th anniversary edition of the novel that started it all—including a new essay, a new map, a CD with Outlander the musical, and more.
OUTLANDER
The year is 1945. Claire Randall is traveling with her husband when she touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is hurled back in time to a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord 1743. Catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, she soon realizes that an alliance with James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, might be the only way to survive. Thus begins a work of unrivaled storytelling that has become a modern classic.


Coming This Week...

Coming up tomorrow is a review of Pulled by Amy Lichtenhan. And Wednesday, July 13th will feature a guest post by author Amy Lichtenhan. 


Don't forget you still have until 12:00 AM ET on 07/13/2011 to enter for your chance to win an ebook copy of Pulled by Ms. Lichtenhan. Don't have an ereader? Don't worry...you can read the ebook on your computer. The winner of the ebook giveaway will be posted on 07/14/2011.














Additional reviews coming up this week will be for Sacred Evil by Heather Graham, The Undertaker by William Brown, and In Seconds by Brenda Novak.






Book 156: TENDERFOOT Review


Amy Tupper has provided a slightly different coming-of-age story in Tenderfoot. Julianna, or Jules, is starting college when she notices that her sight has changed. She can read the text in a book from across the room. She can also hear through walls and her sense of taste has gone completely wild (she can actually picture the surroundings of an animal when eating meat and diary products). If that wasn't weird enough, she can also "hear" the thoughts of others, okay not everyone but just one person . . . Nicholas "Nick" Grimm. Jules learns that Nick is a troll or faery and basically her protector. He was also her mother's protector and her grandmother's protector. Nick has been protecting the special women in her family for generations. 


College is hard enough without throwing all of the faery items into the mix but add some romance and Tenderfoot raises the ante. Jules learns to handle college, even the boring aspects. Jules also must come to grips with her "romance" with Andrew, another freshman and fencer extraordinaire. Tenderfoot realistically explores the drama and angst of college while adding first love and Swedish faery lore into the mix. Jules doesn't weave spells, she can't fly, and she doesn't have superhuman strength. She does have grit and determination and is a likable character. 


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."

Book 155: MERCILESS Review


Can you keep a secret? Are you willing to lie in order to maintain that secret? Joceline Perry must do just that in order to protect her secrets in Merciless by Diana Palmer.


Joceline works as an administrative assistant at the FBI and is a single mom. Her boss is Jon Blackhawk, an FBI agent, lawyer, and handsome and wealthy young man. Jon knows that he'd be lost without Joceline's assistance and their work relationship is a strange dance in comraderie and teasing. Joceline does her best to protect Jon from his mother's matchmaking and keep him on schedule and well-informed on his cases. Things are going reasonably well for both until a bad guy is released on bail. This is unfortunate because this particular bad guy was arrested for participating in the murder of Jon's sister-in-law and niece a few years ago. Of course the bad guy has threated Jon's life and now Jon winds up being shot. Then the bad guy threatens Jon's family and co-workers so Joceline and her son must be protected. And of course, nothing remains a secret forever.


Regrettably I must be a little "merciless" about Merciless. The story was somewhat formulaic and nothing that happened was really a surprise. I didn't like the wealthy boss and penniless and subservient but hardworking worker scheme and felt it was overdone (perhaps my cynicism is showing). Having said that...if you prefer a light, romantic HEA quick read then Merciless may work for you.


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."


Book 154: DARKHOUSE Review


Is it normal to have had imaginary friends and an overactive imagination? Perry Palamino lives with these questions in the paranormal/horror story Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror #1) by Karina Halle.


In some ways Darkhouse seems to be a coming-of-age story with Perry learning to deal with her differences. The problem is that Perry apparently sees dead people and always has. Her younger sister, Ada, the fashionista, makes reference to Perry scaring her with this ability as a young child. Although Perry is 22 years old and gainfully employed -- as a receptionist at an advertising agency, she feels unsure of herself and where she needs to be and go in life. To make matters worse, she was an extremely troubled teen and dabbled in drugs, alcohol and even cutting to help deal with her inner pains. Perry now feels that she owes her parents some normalcy. But Perry isn't "abnormal" she just has an ability that others don't have and can't quite understand . . . the ability to see ghosts.


During a trip to the coast to visit family, Perry decides to explore an old, defunct lighthouse. Of course she's exploring it late at night and no one knows where she's gone (wouldn't be as dramatic otherwise). She's spent the day photographing nature and still has her camera, which is a good thing, because her dreams (or rather nightmares) have just come to life. Fortunately she is able to film some of her ghostly encounters but she also encounters Declan "Dex" Foray, a cameraman/producer of webcasts. Perry has the opportunity to write about this incident when Ada is down-and-out due to a virus and unable to post to her fashion blog. Perry's ghostly encounter video becomes viral and Dex returns with the offer to host a webcast on ghost hunting. 


What follows are a series of unfortunate encounters with an elderly woman that only Dex and Perry can see, and this serves to heighten the fear factor when they return to the lighthouse. Is the lighthouse haunted or is it simply evil? Are Dex and Perry "crazy" or simply in touch with energies other's can't see or feel? Where will these abilities lead them? Ms. Halle has crafted a dark story filled with horrifying moments. For me this was simply an okay read (I didn't connect to this story). Darkhouse is well written and the characters are believable with all of their idiosyncracies and eccentricities. If you've read Darkhouse and are looking for more paranormal/horror, then note that Red Fox (Experiment in Terror #2) is now available.


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."


Book 153: THE ORPHAN SISTER Review


I think that there are periods in our lives when we all may feel out of step with our siblings and/or family. We simply feel as if we don't fit in for some reason. This appears to be the underlying theme of The Orphan Sister by Gwendolen Gross. 


Clementine Lord feels out-of-step with her sisters, even though she is a triplet. It doesn't help that they are identical twins and she is simply the "sister." Or at least that how it feels to her at times. Clem's sisters are high achievers and have beautiful names, Odette and Olivia. Their mother's name is Octavia so of course Clem feel's left out with something as simple as just her name. The twins were accepted to Harvard and went to medical school, ultimately specializing in obstetrics and pediatrics. They got married at the same time and even had their children within days of one another. Clem fell in love first but her boyfriend died during college. As a result of his death, it took Clem three years to complete her final year of college. She's unsure of what she wants to do with her life but thinks she wants to become a vet...which is as close to medicine as she'll get. 


Clem loves her sisters, as well as her mother and father but she just feels that there's something that puts her out of sync with the rest. All three sisters desperately want the approval of their father, and seem to subconsciously compete for that approval. Just when Clem is starting to feel comfortable with her life and where its heading her father disappears. Then it is revealed that he had another wife. The drama quotient is upped tremendously by this news. Clem is at first worried about her father's absence and then just pissed that he would leave and remain incommunicado. 


Ms. Gross has provided characters that are recognizable and likable because of their faults and blemishes. The Orphan Sister is a delightful story about learning to like your family not just love them and about accepting our individual differences. 


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from Simon & Schuster's Galley Grab. 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, July 8, 2011

Reviews Coming Soon...

I know...I'm a little behind in posting reviews, but thankfully not behind in my reading. I'll be posting reviews of the following titles over the weekend: Darkhouse by Karina Halle, The Orphan Sister by Gwendolen Gross, Merciless by Diana Palmer, Tenderfoot by Amy Tupper and possibly Sacred Evil by Heather Graham (told you I've been reading.)






























Of course next week will feature a review of Pulled by Amy Lichtenhan posting on 07/12/11. Ms. Lichtenhan will be providing a guest post on 07/13/11. Don't forget to enter for your chance to win the ebook version of Pulled (you can read the ebook on a computer even if you don't have an ereader); winner will be announced on 07/14/11.















Here's a sneak peek at books I'll be reading over the next week: The Undertaker by William Brown, The Saints Go Dying by Erik Hanberg, In Seconds by Brenda Novak, and You're Next by Gregg Hurwitz.


















So what have you been reading and what's next on your TBR list?


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Goodreads.com and a Good Cause...Literacy

Goodreads.com is promoting literacy by offering to give away a minimum of 5000 books through the First Book literacy program. How can you participate? Simple, join GoodReads.com (if you haven't already), join the GoodReads Book Club and pledge to read A Visit From the Goon Squad to your shelves (read, to be read, or currently reading) by August 2, 2011. GoodReads.com will be donating 1000 books to children in need for every 10000 members that add A Visit From the Goon Squad to their shelves. Want to learn more? Visit GoodReads.com for more information. A great book, a great website and a great cause.

Ebook giveaway and coming soon...

I'm pleased to announce another giveaway! I will be giving away the ebook of Pulled by Amy Lichtenhan. To enter this giveaway please click here and fill out the form. Entries are allowed through 12:00 AM ET on Wednesday, July 13th. The winner will be announced and posted on July 14, 2011.


Now for the really big news...author Amy Lichtenhan will be providing a guest author post on Wednesday July 13. My review of Pulled will be posting on Tuesday, July 12th. 


Make sure you mark your calendars and come back on Wednesday July 13th and enter today for your chance to get Pulled in ebook format.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Book 152: RELEASING GILLIAN'S WOLVES Review


There are many cliches that can be applied to crooked politicians and their antics, such as politics makes for strange bedfellows or, my personal favorite, "in politics, stupidity is not a handicap." The sad truth is that politicians (business moguls, professional athletes, and other celebrities) often think that they can do whatever they want, especially if it’s illegal or immoral, and no one will ever know or say anything. When the dirt comes out, whether its about fiscal improprieties, adultery or both, the question arises as to why the wives stand by their men. Isn't that taking "for better or worse" a little too far? That is the question that Tara Woolpy asks, and answers, in Releasing Gillian's Wolves.


Gillian Wolf Sachs is a 49-year-old socially inept (her words) wife, mother, grandmother and artist. Her husband is a 53-year-old Congressman running for reelection, Jack Sachs. Due to Gillian's social ineptitude she usually hides behind food, no not eating herself into oblivion, but providing food to others. Gillian is a nurturer at heart. She has put up with her husband's escapades for years and tolerated it because she didn't want to cause a media frenzy. She also thinks that she's protecting her children . . . her grown children. Her daughter Aurora no longer even has a relationship with her father because of his sexual escapades. Her son John is a little more forgiving and even comes home to help with the reelection campaign. This is when things get dicey. John falls for a campaign intern that is younger than he is and apparently this intern had a relationship with his father. When this is confirmed, John has a meltdown and Gillian decides to leave town. The truly sad part is that Gillian's friends and even Jack's mother, Gillian's mother-in-law, are all advocating her divorcing Jack and moving on with her life.


Releasing Gillian's Wolves seems to be about self-discovery and discerning one's self worth. Gillian must find that she is worthy as an individual, not only of love and affection, but simply as a human being. That might sound simple when you're relatively young, but it is often a difficult message to grasp when you're more than 40 and have never worked outside of the home. Ms. Woolpy's characters are all too believable in that none of them are without human faults and insecurities. All of the characters are searching in their own way to find happiness or to hold onto it for as long as possible. It is this all-too realistic struggle that provides one possible answer as to why these women stay . . . and better yet, why they may leave. Look for Releasing Gillian's Wolves to be released in August 2011.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from 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, July 4, 2011

Book 151: THE SILENT GIRL Review


There are a few authors (okay does 25 count as a few) that I try to read on a regular basis. I've read most of these authors previous writings and greatly look forward to new books, Tess Gerritsen is one such author. I recently had the opportunity to read The Silent Girl and am I glad I did.


The Silent Girl is another story in the Rizzoli & Isles series, one series that I follow (sorry I don't watch the TV show but I'm diligent about reading the books). This was a little different or at least it felt different for me. Perhaps it’s because Jane and Maura are moving on with their lives and even though they work in fields that are closely aligned they are growing apart in this stage of their friendship. Of course it might have something to do with Dr. Isles testifying against a police officer responsible for killing (subduing) a prisoner that was responsible for another police officer's death. Maura knows that she did the right thing with her testimony, after all she only provided the facts. But not many police officers see it the same way so she has become persona non grata at crime scenes. The first time this happens is when she is called out because a severed hand was found along with a nearly decapitated body. Evidence leads to a retired Boston PD detective, a martial arts school, and reveals that the body was injured with a sword. The link is a 19-year-old Chinatown murder-suicide case. As Jane, her partner Frost, and newcomer Tam, investigate further they realize that this particular case may not have been solved and perhaps wasn't as cut-and-dry as it initially appeared. Did the accused murderer, Mr. Wu, really commit these crimes before killing himself? What was the motive? And what exactly does the Chinatown murder case have to do with the disappearance of two teenage girls? And what does the Chinatown murder case have to do with the current murders?


There are minor storylines that appear throughout, such as Maura's ability to see things as black and white when the police department wants shades of grey, or Jane's family's reaction to her mother's engagement. Ms. Gerritsen has provided a tale that is intriguing and alien. She brings in ancient Chinese myths, tales and legends into a current homicide and makes it work. Her characters are strangely exotic and unique but wholly believable. This may not be a traditional mystery/suspense thriller but it works and works quite well. 



Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing. 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."