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

Monday, December 19, 2011

Book 282: DOWN THE DARKEST ROAD Review


Lauren Lawton is a woman on the edge. Her eldest daughter has been missing for four years, presumed abducted and dead. Her husband died in an automobile accident two years ago. She clings to life for the sake of her younger daughter Leah and strives to obtain justice for her missing daughter Leslie in Down the Darkest Road by Tami Hoag.

Life isn't always fair and the justice system isn't always just. Lauren knows this better than others because the man she knows is responsible for her daughter's disappearance has never been arrested or tried for his crime, Roland Ballencoa. To make matters worse he had actually been able to get a restraining order placed against her. All Lauren wants is to know what happened to her daughter and receive justice. If the system won't give it to her then she may need to get it for herself.

Leah's life has been hell for the past four years since her older sister Leslie disappeared. Leah isn't allowed to be home alone or even go anywhere alone. The only thing good to come out of their recent move to a new town is she is allowed to work at a horse farm a few days a week. This work brings a new friend into her life, Wendy. Finally she has someone that understands the trauma her family has experienced and doesn't consider her a freak because of it. But Leah knows that she isn't dealing with the situation in a good way, and maybe she is a freak after all.

Detective Mendez feels sympathy for Ms. Lawton. He knows that there may be little the system can actually do against the suspect in her daughter's case simply because there is no evidence. His sympathy is the impetus needed for him to delve a little deeper into Leslie's disappearance. The more he digs, the more he understands Lauren's feelings. Will he be able to find evidence to provide the abduction before things get out of hand?

Down the Darkest Road is a glimpse into the minds of a family torn apart by tragedy. Lauren is so focused on getting vengeance, if not justice, for her missing daughter Leslie that she neglects the needs of her remaining child, Leah. Leah has a lot of hostility against her missing sister and against her deceased father. Unfortunately she doesn't really have an outlet for these feelings and can't disclose them to her mother. Ms. Hoag even provides glimpses into the motivation and mind of the prime suspect, Roland Ballencoa. Much of the action centers on a cat-and-mouse like game between Lauren and Ballencoa, and even Ballencoa and law enforcement. This back and forth builds the tension and kept me on edge during most of the book.  Down the Darkest Road was a quick read but it is by no means an easy read due to the psychological tension and underlying darkness associated with child abduction and sexual predators. This may not be a book for everyone but if you want to read a good suspense/psychological thriller, this may well be the book for you.

Down the Darkest Road by Tami Hoag will be available on 12/27/2011.

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."





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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Book 281: THE BURNING EDGE Review


Lisa Palmer, a widow and single mother, just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She thought she was just stopping at a rest area to take a small break and grab a few items before heading back to her children. Unfortunately her stop on that particular day would put her front and center in an armored truck robbery gone awry. Witnessing this crime puts her on The Burning Edge, a new suspense thriller by Rick Mofina.

Lisa hated having to put the family's lakeside cabin up for sale. It had been in her husband's family for more than 60 years and had been a welcome vacation refuge for their family. It should have been a simple four hour drive back to the city after signing the sales papers, but nothing that day was simple. Lisa became a witness to a daring and senselessly violent armored truck robbery at a highway rest area. One of the robbers killed the armed FBI agent in front of her and would have killed her as well.

Frank Morrow has just been given a death sentence. He is an FBI agent and was just informed that he has a particularly aggressive form of cancer that will most likely kill him within 12-18 months. Frank isn't given much time to think about his choices in this matter before being pulled into an investigation that has ended with four dead, including one FBI agent. The highly organized crime becomes his sole focus for the next few days as he tries to track down the robbers turned killers. 

Jack Gannon is a reporter for a national wire service. His investigation into the armed robbery leads to information that even the FBI doesn't have and certainly doesn't want revealed. Jack's investigation leads him to a story that involves overseas ghost ops and rogue agencies. His investigation also leads him to Lisa and her story.

The Burning Edge is a fast-paced suspense thriller. The investigations by the FBI and Jack Gannon provide insight into the behind the scenes action of dual investigators: criminal and journalistic. Mr. Mofina also provides a glimpse into the motivations of the robbers by including a storyline that includes one of the robbers. All of the major characters are constantly on edge for one reason or another. Jack must deal with the constant threat of his story being one-upped by the competition. Frank is trying to find cop-killers as well as deal with the stress of his recent diagnosis. Lisa has to deal with the new stress of being a witness to a vicious crime and worry that she may continue to be a target for the killers. Ivan Felk, a robber and admitted killer, deals with stress of trying to complete his agenda before a deadline or more people will die, including his brother and several co-workers. All of the characters are well-rounded and realistic, including the bad guys. The Burning Edge combines action, suspense and subtle personal drama to provide a story that kept me engrossed to the very end. 

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."










Saturday, December 17, 2011

Book 280: ALL FALL DOWN Review


Liesel is a happily married woman. She and Christopher have a good relationship and a good life, but Liesel is beginning to want more. She wants children. Sunny has only known the compound. She isn't happy, but she isn't exactly unhappy. The last thing she expects is to leave the only family she's ever known and start anew. Liesel and Sunny both struggle with new obstacles and strive to remain steadfast in All Fall Down by Megan Hart.

Liesel knows that her husband Christopher doesn't really want kids, but the last thing either of them expects is to have Sunny arrive on their doorstep with three small children in tow. Bigger surprise is that Sunny is Christopher's child from his first marriage. She's only nineteen years old and has three children ranging in age from four to eight months old. Liesel wants to make the best of an obviously awkward and bad situation and welcomes Sunny or Sunshine and her children, Happy, Peace and Bliss. Sunny isn't quite sure how to deal with these new changes and desires the simple family life she's always known. She didn't relish the punishments or lack of food, but she openly accepted having someone tell her what to do, at what time and where. She even allowed the leader John Second and others to use her sexually and father her three children. When Liesel, Christopher and Sunny realize the family at the compound has committed mass suicide, or "entering the gate" as Sunny puts it, they all realize there is no going back.

Becoming a mother, or even a stepmother and step-grandmother, overnight with little forewarning and preparation is a bit more than Liesel expected. She quickly becomes overwhelmed and stressed out. It doesn't help that Christopher isn't home much and she's run off her feet. There are major adjustments to be had on all sides with Liesel and Sunny making the major adjustments. Sunny must learn to accept her newfound freedoms, but she yearns for more. She's also feeling a certain amount of survivors’ guilt because she was left behind. 

After reading the first chapter, I presumed that this was not going to be a happily-ever-after book and was waiting for some major tragedy to occur. Ms. Hart keeps the reader twisted emotionally with the guilt and stress felt by Liesel as well as the guilt and bewilderment experienced by Sunny. Both women are trying to fit into some preconceived mold of what is normal. The stresses they both deal with are primarily stressors that they impose on themselves and they both find themselves lacking. This is the true tragedy. I found All Fall Down to be a quick read that, fortunately, does end on a hopeful note with both women learning from the other.

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, December 16, 2011

Book 276: UNRAVELING ISOBEL Review


It often isn't fair that the feelings of children aren't taken into consideration when massive family changes are about to take place. Isobel knows that her mother is making a big mistake when she marries a guy she's only known for a few months. If that isn’t bad enough, they have to leave the city and move to a small island. Isobel is sure her life will never be the same in Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook.

There's nothing quite worse than having to move to a new town, leaving behind all that is familiar. At least Isobel thinks there is nothing worse than having to move, except having to move to a small island town with her new stepfather and stepbrother. If that wasn't bad enough, she also has to contend with town gossip about the deaths of her stepfather's first wife and daughter. Isobel feels her life is coming unhinged and then she starts seeing things, or rather people that shouldn't be there. 

Isobel doesn't like Richard, or "Dick,” her new stepfather. The antagonism between Isobel and Dick continues to grow, as do the so-called hauntings. As a result of her behavior, Dick forces Isobel to see a local psychologist. In a small town where everyone knows everyone's business, this isn't helpful to Isobel fitting in. To make matters worse, the psychologist is the father of the school's resident mean girl and Miss Popularity, Nicole Percy. As hostilities continue to build between Isobel and Dick, her attraction to and subsequent "romance" with Nate, as well as her friendship with a local librarian are the only things keeping her sane. Is Isobel losing her mind like her biological father? Will her affinity for art be her way out or a continuing wedge between her and her mom? Is it possible that Dick or Nate had anything to do with the earlier deaths? Is Isobel being haunted or is there something more sinister at play? The more Isobel learns, the more she fears for her sanity and safety.

Unraveling Isobel isn't a typical ghost story. There are moments of moaning, groaning and complaining, but these are the normal "will I fit in and do I really care" issues that many teenagers (and some adults) deal with on a regular basis. Isobel faces issues and situations that are daunting for anyone, teen or adult. Isobel isn't happy with the situations she faces, but she tries to deal with them with very little support from her mother. Isobel isn't a super-hero, super-athletic or a genius, she's simply a teenage girl trying to make the "lemonade" out of the lemons life has handed her while maintaining her sanity. Unraveling Isobel is classified as a YA story, but like so many YA books, there's something that may appeal to readers of all ages. 

Look for Unraveling Isobel to be released on 01/03/2012 by Simon Pulse.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher. 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, December 15, 2011

Guest Post: Author Alma Alexander


We are human beings. Passionate, fallible, generators of wishes, dreams, regrets. We will, in the course of our lifetimes, fall in love many times – with people, with ideas, with passionately held beliefs. We will inevitably get our hearts broken when those people or those ideals break under the weight of our expectations, never quite living up to the  potential which we had envisaged for them.

That’s when the choices come, and make us face them. The choices that arrive after we shed our illusions and look the hard truths squarely in the eye. The choices that matter.

What if you were offered a fabulous and ideal job, everything you wanted in every way… but you had to move three thousand miles away to claim it, away from your friends, your family, everything you know, and you had to go alone? Would you have the courage? Is the dream that strong? Would you shy away from it, afraid, and then spent the rest of your life feeling hobbled by the fact that you had this opportunity and did not take it, that you could have grasped your dream but did not have the strength to try? Are you afraid enough of failure to turn your back on something that is not a guaranteed success? (IS there such a thing as a guaranteed success?)

If you were offered fame and fortune – would you take it? Could you handle it? Would it become onerous? Would it start to be a burden to you that you could not go out for a quick cup of coffee in the local coffee shop because if you tried there would be a mob of adoring fans kneeling at your feet, or following you home? Would you reject it – and then spend your days wondering what it would have been like, to be that famous? Do you truly covet the lifestyle of the rich and famous or do you just think you do? (Are you sure you aren’t just a titch grateful for the chance to have a bad hair day and that nobody would really notice or take an incriminating photograph which would surface on the Internet and haunt you forever more?)

If you had split from the love of your life when you were younger, but had since settled down with somebody else whom you might have come to care for – what would you do if your first love came knocking at your door and asking you to run away with him or her to live by some wonderful exotic waterfall in Hawaii? When do you stop loving someone – can you stop loving someone? Are you rejecting your heart and soul, or just temptation?

If somebody wronged you, once, and at the time you did nothing except take it – would you jump at the chance to do it over, to pay it back in kind, or to simply wreak an elegant revenge years later? Is there a statute of limitations on forgiveness?

We are human beings, you and I, and we’ve had our own choices to make along the line. Ones we were happy with, ones we regretted. We made those choices, and carried on. And yet, it is also ever so human to look back over our shoulder, to have second or even third thoughts, to remember, perhaps to grieve, perhaps to sigh in gratitude. It is human to choose. It is transcendently human to wonder – perhaps for years, perhaps forever – what would have happened had we chosen the OTHER path when we had come to our particular crossroads. And I think that most of us would find it almost irresistible not to take up an option of going back and walking a road again, coming up to the same crossroads, being given another chance.

Life doesn’t offer do-overs, and often we can only look at other people’s choices if we want to glimpse alternatives to the ones that we ourselves have made. Life doesn’t… but story does. And five people walked into my mind one day, sat down in a place which I remembered vividly from my own youth (yes, Spanish Gardens was a real place…), and demanded that I tell of their own choices, made at the end of the world, in a place where only truth could be told.

In their place, what would you have chosen?

And what, from where you stand right now in your own life, are YOU going to choose next…?

A year is ending, soon. A brand new year will begin, filled with new opportunities, new tragedies, new dreams and hopes and fears and catastrophes and disappointments and achievements – with new love, and new hate, and new understanding.
Choose wisely.



In closing – a few words about me, and a few more about the book -

My main website is at www.AlmaAlexander.com  (take a look at the bibliography page!) and I also have a website dedicated to my YA series, Worldweavers, at http://www.almaalexander.com/worldweavers/ , and you can find a book trailer there, as well as excerpts from those books and also ordering information.  I blog regularly at http://anghara.livejournal.com  and if people want to get to know the real me that's the more dynamic site right now. I'm also on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/alma.alexander , or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alma-Alexander/67938071280 ) and if you want to read more literary and writerly essaylets you might visit www.StorytellersUnplugged.com  on the 30th of every month and keep up with me there.

If you want to look into purchasing any of my books, you can go to several places:

(if you are after actual books) or

(if you're after a Kindle ebook)

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/anghara  for other ebook editions (and go there to keep an eye on the Alexander Triads project, themed collections of short stories…)

Or visit your friendly neighbourhood indie store and ask them to get my books for you if they don't have them...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book 275: HEART OF GLASS Review

Young, successful and alone...these words describe both Kate Donovan and Daniel Flannery. Kate is a successful journalist and Daniel is a successful builder. They should be happy and enjoying life, but the past keeps intruding into the present in Heart of Glass by Christy Hayes.

Kate Donovan used to be known as Kat Fordham. She was spending the summer in South Carolina at the request of her sister, Julia. The intention was for her to be the unpaid nanny to her twin nieces. Kat didn't exactly fit Julia's idea of a well-bred young woman. Julia wanted Kat to hang out with people from the country club, wear the right clothes and be seen with the right people. Kat wanted to enjoy herself as much as possible and even got a job on the "wrong side of town" at a local bar. To make matters worse, she developed a friendship then a romantic relationship with one of the construction workers on Julia's new home, Daniel Flannery. Danny was definitely not Julia's idea of the right type of boyfriend.

Weeks pass and Julia forces Kat into making a heartbreaking decision, she either leaves Danny or Julia will see to it that Danny gets fired from his job and never has the opportunity to succeed with his green building ideas. Kat loves Danny but sees no way to protect him from her sister so she leaves.

Fast forward six years and now Kat Flannery is Kate Donovan. Kate has learned that her past was all a lie. Julia had deceived her for her entire life. Kate has broken ties with Julia and dedicates herself to her career as a journalist. Danny is now a partner in an eco-green building company and Kate has been assigned to write an article about their company. To say that sparks fly is a massive understatement. Will Kate be able to explain to Danny why she left? Will Danny be able to forgive Kate? Can they build a new relationship without trust even if there is love?

Heart of Glass is a fast-paced romantic read. Kate and Danny's relationships have their normal ups and downs. They have their misunderstandings, some small others huge, and ultimately must face an issue of trust. In this respect the story was very realistic. Julia Fordham is someone we despise for her actions and then pity because of the repercussions she suffers as a direct result of these actions. There are issues of deception, secrets, and trust at the core of this story and these are deftly woven to create a sensitive and romantic tale. If you're looking for a good romantic read, then Heart of Glass may just be the read 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."








Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Guest Post: Author Larry Kahn "Buried Treasures"

Buried Treasures: Treats for the Watchful Reader

For me, writing is a lonely sport, thousands of hours invested in a novel with only sporadic feedback from my critique group and beta readers. In early drafts, when I'm focused on building characters and weaving plots together, solving the puzzles that make a novel sizzle provides its own thrill. The grind of revising later drafts can become tiresome, though, and I find myself yearning for more entertaining tasks. One I particularly enjoy is planting buried treasures for watchful readers to find. (I'm easily entertained--ask me the capitol of any state!)

Some of these little Easter eggs are identifiable only to a limited audience (like significant dates, meaningful numerology, and "coincidental" character names or descriptions), but others take the form of homages, themes, and trivia I hope will intrigue others.

For example, movie fans will like the way Frank Paine, my protagonist in King of Paine, thinks. He's a former Hollywood stud who's joined the FBI in search of redemption for his excesses. He draws inspiration from his old acting mentor and the way respected actors have handled various predicaments on film. In one scene, Frank throws a punch at an armed adversary and then has immediate regrets:
Hand stinging, Frank bounced on his toes like a boxer, poised to deliver another blow if Zack wanted to duke it out. The big guy’s surprise showed in his blue eyes, the only feature he shared with his kid sister. He looked like a denim gorilla. An angry denim gorilla with a forty-five caliber, FBI-issued Glock.
Frank recalled the famous scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where an Arabian swordsman dazzles Indiana Jones with his ferocious blade work until Harrison draws his pistol and slays him with a smirk and a single shot. Maybe we should’ve thought this plan all the way through, old man. His mental image of Lee Fields shrugged. That’s why we have rewrites, Frankie Boy.

I love movies, and these homages to notable actors and films are littered throughout the story. Frank's status as a former insider also created some irresistible opportunities to poke fun at the Hollywood scene. I crack up every time I re-read his troubling flashback about Jack Nicholson in a Speedo at a Playboy Mansion party. (As mentioned earlier, I'm easily entertained.)

Tributes to authors who have inspired me also dot my writing. While my novels read at contemporary thriller pace, some themes and devices are drawn from surprising sources.

Umberto Eco's Foucalt's Pendulum can be dense at times, but the story is amazing (spoiler alert). When an intellectual's research unearths a medieval list which could be interpreted to describe a centuries-long conspiracy, or not, a group of pseudo-conspirators take up the ancient cause with tragic consequences. In my first novel, The Jinx, a young lawyer inadvertently discovers a cryptic poem hinting at a 140-year conspiracy against the American presidency. In case Eco's influence was not apparent, a character in my novel recognizes the similarity of the presidential conspiracy to Eco's contrivance and speculates that the poem may be the work of pseudo-conspirators like in Foucalt's Pendulum. This uncertainty whether the scheme is real or imagined propels the suspense in the early going.

King of Paine more subtly honors another favorite, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. While that story rants against the alienation of wealth producers who ultimately rebel against over-taxation by fleeing to a hidden free market commune, King of Paine suggests that focusing on achievement and greed at the expense of family and tradition can lead to alienation of a different sort. Lonely seniors are drawn to another secret haven where a reclusive biochemist is either curing or killing them with a mysterious new drug. See if you can spot my own take on Rand's classic "Who is John Galt?" line, a literary device that creates suspense without any action or threat whatsoever.

Another understated theme in King of Paine takes cues from classic fiction. I've been running a contest on my website in which a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift certificate will be awarded to the first reader to correctly identify all three literal and figurative references to a legendary novel buried within King of Paine. One is easy, but no one has found all three yet. Can you?

Hiding Easter eggs in books may seem trivial (okay, it is trivial), but few things give me more pleasure than when a reader gets excited about finding one. After I left my first law firm in 1992, I lost touch with several valued colleagues. A few months after The Jinx came out, a senior lawyer called me out of the blue after recognizing an expression he invented (look for my hero's "clong"--the sickening feeling of one’s stomach accelerating into the throat--and the stunning twist that prompts it). My old friend's joy in being honored this way was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had as a writer.

So if you read one of my books and discover a buried treasure that makes you smile, drop me a note. Maybe I'll name a character after you!

I hope you'll join me tomorrow when I visit Alive On The Shelves for a guest post entitled “When Eye Candy Fights Back: Adding Depth To a Love Interest.” It's about Jolynn Decker, Frank Paine's feisty ex-girlfriend, who alternates among suspect, tease, lover, sidekick, and victim in King of Paine with the ease of a more experienced actress. Speaking of teases, would you like to win a Kindle Touch 3G before Christmas? Check out the contest on my website!


Book 274: KING OF PAINE Review

Armani suits and Hermes ties probably aren't considered traditional wardrobe items for most FBI agents, but then Frank Paine isn't a traditional FBI agent. Frank is a former Hollywood actor turned FBI agent. Not even Hollywood could script that type of change. Frank's life has undergone some obvious changes since his Hollywood days. Now Frank has to determine how far he's willing to go to support the one he loves in King of Paine by Larry Kahn.

Frank isn't proud of his past and he can't let go of the idea that he let down the only person that he really cared about, Jolynn Decker. He and Jolynn had met online in a BDSM chat room and shared their lifestyle choice. Their online meetings eventually become real-life meetings until Jolynn happened to be outed by photographs taken on a clandestine trip to Mexico. Her career was destroyed, but Frank was protected simply because of the hood he wore. Frank is still feeling guilty over the fact he didn't protect Jolynn and even gave her money to never mention his participation. Frank probably wouldn't be thinking about Jolynn so much if it weren’t for the fact that she lived in Atlanta and he's been assigned to Atlanta. Well, that and a suspicious email directing the FBI to a suspected pedophile. Someone obviously knows about Frank's past and is using it to get the FBI involved. 

Reporter Roger Martin has had better years. An off-and-on recovery alcoholic, he is still grieving the loss of his girlfriend from 9/11. Just when he thinks he can't possibly sink any lower, he is tossed a lifeline by a mysterious woman named Angela. She gets him to embark on an investigation on the abandoned and dying elderly. Roger isn't sure how this ties into a missing 70s rock star, but he quickly found that there are a number of elderly persons from across the US that have sold their assets and simply disappeared. Then Angela disappears.

Unknowingly both Roger and Frank's investigations intersect. Roger wants to be with Angela at all costs and uses all of his know-how to track her down in Atlanta. Frank knows that Jolynn can't really be a suspect in his ongoing investigation. He also realizes that he wants to be with her because he has feelings for her. Things then go from bad to worse when Roger disappears and Jolynn is abducted under the noses of several FBI agents.

I had problems getting into King of Paine at first, primarily because of the BDSM aspects (I'm not exactly prudish but it was a bit much for this country girl to handle). Once I got past that issue and read a little further, I become more invested in the story and wanting to see what was going to happen. Although Frank is now an FBI agent, on many levels he's still an actor playing a role. Every character seemed to have a duality of nature to them. Frank describes Jolynn as a good "Christian" girl but she works part-time in a strip club . . . I had difficulty reconciling the two ideas. Frank wants to be the good agent but he's constantly going off half-cocked in an effort to prove himself, possibly to himself as well as to the other agents. Then there's the underlying agenda that our society as a whole now longer reveres but possibly reviles the aging. Mr. Kahn has provided an insightful and adventurous suspense read with King of Paine


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."






Also available at: Smashwords

Monday, December 12, 2011

Book 273: THE KURE Review

John Tyler is a simple, God-fearing farmer. Sarah Sheridan is a simple, God-fearing woman. Both are caught up in a tale of disease, cures and ancient rituals that will test their faith and notions of respectability in The Kure by Jaye Frances.

John wakes one morning to find that he has lesions on and around his genitalia. As the lesions worsen and the pain grows, he goes into town to see the doctor. To his deep regret, the only treatment the doctor prescribes is the use of leeches, huge apparently mutant leeches. John is quite reticent to use this treatment and presses the doctor for alternatives, any alternative treatment. After much discussion the doctor pulls out an old book titled KURE and relates a treatment that is morally offensive, as it involves having a virginal girl on her 18th birthday take the offending member into her mouth. As wild as this "kure" seems, John briefly considers it and even postpones his treatment with leeches.

Finding a virginal girl close to her eighteenth birthday is apparently not as hard as one presumes, even in a small town in the mid-1800s. Using local registry records, John finds two girls that are possible candidates, and one is Sarah Sheridan.

Sarah Sheridan lives on a small farm with her father. Not thinking clearly, John heads out to the farm and tries to invent a reason for his visit. He quickly comes to his senses and realizes that he can't ask a respectable woman, especially an innocent, to participate in the kure ritual. Sarah presumes that John has come calling and simply became too flustered to follow through and invents an excuse to go into town together. Will John reveal the true nature of his visit? Will Sarah assist him in his search for a cure?

I had a lot of problems with this story. First, the doctor states that the only people that normally suffer this disease are sailors or people in tropical climates and neither of these descriptions fit John. Second how can a relatively benign ritual involving a form of fellatio cure some type of infectious disease? I can suspend belief with the best of them but I couldn't with the basic premises of this story as it was simply too farfetched to be believable for me. Finally, Sarah is supposed to have lived such a sheltered and protected life but she is quite bold in her thoughts of helping John, who is basically a stranger to her. As I read, all I could think was where in the world was the story going and once it got to the end I could hardly figure out how it got there. The Kure is one story that simply didn't work for me on any level.

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, December 11, 2011

Book 272: THIS SAME EARTH Review

I enjoyed reading A Hidden Fire so much that I promptly bought and read the next book in the series. Giovanni and Beatrice's story continues in This Same Earth, book two in the Elemental Mysteries series by Elizabeth Hunter. Beatrice has been abducted by Lorenzo and was held captive for several weeks before being freed by Giovanni, Caspar and Tenzin. Although she wasn't tortured or hurt physically, the emotional torture has left its mark, primarily because she thought that Giovanni had willingly traded her for a book.

It takes awhile for Giovanni to convince Beatrice that this was not the case, but he gradually gets her to see that Lorenzo was going to abduct her no matter what so he simply played along with him. To give Beatrice time to heal from the emotional trauma of her abduction, not to mention witnessing the horrific fight between the two different vampire factions, Giovanni takes to the mountains of Chile. Beatrice and Giovanni are given the opportunity to show their feelings for one another and their relationship becomes much closer, or so Beatrice thinks. Regrettably their lives cannot be put on hold forever and Beatrice must return to the States to attend graduate school. So off they go, Beatrice to LA for school and Giovanni to try and track down her father, his errant son and to amass allies in the ongoing battle with his son.

Beatrice spends an enjoyable few years in graduate school and makes friends. She returns to Chile each summer but her time there is spent without benefit of Giovanni's company. She knows that she loves him and tells him so in a series of journals. Each year she says she's not going to return to Chile but her ticket is mysteriously left at her home and she returns. Fortunately she is afforded the opportunity to read through some of Giovanni's journals and learns a bit more of his past lives. 

Fast forward a few more years and Beatrice is twenty-eight years old. She is an accomplished young woman, fluent in several languages, a homeowner, an employee at the Huntington Library in California, and in a relationship with a loving man, Mano. It has been six years since she saw Giovanni and she's trying to move on with her life, or so she thought until Giovanni mysteriously reappears. Giovanni is now the legal guardian and "uncle" to a precocious, street-smart twelve-year-old named Ben. 

Beatrice must deal with renewing her relationship with Giovanni and building a relationship with Ben, her eventual breakup with Mano, and an introduction to her great-great-great-grandfather (I think I left out a few more greats but you get the idea), who just happens to be a water vampire that oversees LA. What follows is a series of fast-paced incidents including the abduction of one of Carwyn's sons. Beatrice and Giovanni wind up going to Ireland, England and France trying to track down leads on the whereabouts of Lorenzo and Beatrice's father, Stephen. Through it all Beatrice must confront her feelings for Giovanni and ultimately decide if she wants to have a relationship with him as a human or be turned. 

This Same Earth is another fast-paced paranormal, romantic suspense read by Ms. Hunter. There's slightly more action and intrigue in this story, and more background information is given providing insight into Giovanni, Carwyn, Tenzin and even Lorenzo. The story ends leaving the reader hanging, wanting and waiting for more. Regrettably the third book in this series, The Force of Wind isn't due out until February/March 2012, and I'll definitely be putting it on my TBR list.


Book 271: A HIDDEN FIRE Review

Giovanni Vecchio is the proverbial mysterious, tall, dark and handsome stranger. He is reportedly doing research on an ancient document found in the university's library. Beatrice de Novo is studying library sciences and works part-time in the evenings at the university's library. Giovanni and Beatrice don't have much in common other than a love in books, or so it appears in A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter, the first in the Elemental Mysteries series.

Giovanni may look the quintessential professional but he is so much more. Giovanni Vecchio happens to be more than 500 years old and is searching for books from his old library. He happens to be a vampire with a special gift, an affinity for fire. Due to this elemental affinity he can light candles, kindling to start fires and unfortunately short out most electronic equipment including cell phones, appliances, and cars. Currently residing in Houston, Texas, Giovanni lives a quiet life assisted by his friend/butler/chauffeur, Caspar. Caspar takes care of the tedious parts of Giovanni's life. He also maintains contact with other vampires around the world, including two of Giovanni's oldest friends: Carwyn, a one thousand-year-old Welsh priest, and Tenzin, a four thousand plus year old Asian woman. Carwyn is an earth vampire and can manipulate soil and rock, and Tenzin is an air vampire and can manipulate the wind and fly. These are not your run-of-the-mill vampires.

Beatrice, or "B,” is a hard-working student. She's in her senior year and wants to graduate and continue her studies with a graduate degree. She is currently residing with her only known relative, her paternal grandmother. Her father disappeared and was presumed dead more than 10 years ago. Her grandfather died just a few years ago and her mother hasn't been in her life since her birth. One would presume that these hard knocks would cause B to feel sorry for herself or worse, but she is a rather level-headed young woman. Or at least she thought she was until confronted with the reality that Giovanni is a vampire. If that wasn't hard enough to swallow, she must also accept that she wasn't crazy during her teen years and that she had seen her father - a newly turned vampire. 

Long story short, Giovanni feels that B's father may try to contact her and wants to be readily available. To say that B has a lot to deal with is a massive understatement. It doesn't help that she is attracted to Giovanni and that he seems to share her feelings. Weeks pass and it seems that things aren't as bad as feared but then B is abducted by the man she and Giovanni feared. Lorenzo was turned by Giovanni and is the one that turned B's father. He is ruthless, amoral and completely without feeling. Will Giovanni be able to save B before she can be harmed or turned? Will Giovanni and B ever be able to have a relationship other than friendship?

I kind of liked the notion that Giovanni is an antique book dealer and that B is a librarian, a research librarian but hey . . . books! Their relationship goes through many different changes including wary acquaintances, employer-employee, and then friendship. B feels as if she is caught between a rock and a hard place because she wants more from Giovanni than he is prepared to give (sounds like a lot of male-female relationships). There's a lot more going on in this story than the subtle male-female attraction between B and Giovanni; there's also the completely dysfunctional father-son relationship between Giovanni and Lorenzo, Giovanni's familial relationship with Caspar and even Carwyn, B's love-hate relationship with her father (primarily due to his disappearance), and the budding romance between Caspar and Isadora de Novo, B's grandmother. Whew, told you it was a lot but it works. A Hidden Fire is a fast paranormal-romantic suspense read and a surprisingly good read at that.  

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."

Guest Post: Author Abria Mattina


Pages:  727
Published September 22, 2011
ISBN:  9780986957
Eighteen isn’t too young to run your life into the ground, but it’s not too old to fix it, either. The desire for change drives Willa Kirk from St. John’s, Newfoundland back to her hometown of Smiths Falls, Ontario, away from her mistakes and the place where her sister died. She’s looking for a place to settle and rebuild, but Jem Harper just wants to get out of town, back to the life he knew before cancer. By letting the tragedies in their lives define them, they are both dying a little more every day. Welcome to the wake.


Writing the Beginning

Beginnings are sometimes harder than endings, and I usually end up rewriting the beginning of a story once I've finished the whole piece. Some writers suggest opening a story with an action boom and using that to sweep the reader into the world of the story. I find those beginnings a little jarring, and it's easy for a reader to feel excluded from the story if it's impossible to tell what's really going on.

Then there are the types of beginnings that most people will tell you not to write--the main character alone, thinking; the character in the middle of attending to a bodily function; the penultimate moment before climax; etc.

I like to start stories in the quiet, unremarkable moments that, when we look back on our days, don't merit remembering or reflecting upon. The character is in a situation that most of us wouldn't associate with being watched, unselfconsciously going about his or her day. It introduces an intimacy between reader and character by making the reader a fly on the wall as soon as the book begins.

Take the opening scene of Wake, for example. Jem is sitting in the back of a mostly empty classroom, slouched in his seat, waiting for the bell to ring and class to begin. It's a moment that's not worth reporting on, one where he is alone and the only interaction he has is indirect interaction with the reader.

Similarly, Willa's first chapter opens during a quiet morning at home without her brother, and then moves to the mundane, everyday task of parking a car and walking across a lot. She observes people without interacting with any of them. Simply put, she's inhabiting one of life's "filler" moments in between memorable events.

I like to narrate moments like these because they're very good at revealing character. What is this person like when they are alone and think themselves unobserved? How do they react to a situation without interacting with it? A lot of information about a character's personality and mentality can be conveyed through the way these scenes begin.

Abria Mattina's Links: Website / Twitter / Facebook


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book 270: DIAMOND IN A HAYSTACK Review

To say that Diamond is not a typical young woman is a massive understatement. At the tender age of seventeen she had not only graduated from high school but also from college . . . with several degrees. She was orphaned as a child when her drug addict parents were in an accident and then raised by her grandmother (who regrettably dies when she is seventeen). Although now in her early twenties, Diamond is just as lost now as she was as a child in Diamond in a Haystack by B. Rene Cole.

As previously mentioned, Diamond is not a typical young lady. She is a computer genius and hacker extra ordinaire as well as a thief. She rationalizes her thefts because she is in need or want. These rationalizations began early with her stealing a computer and lock-picking supplies while attending a boarding school because she was limited by the capabilities of her current computer. As a hacker, Diamond is known as Phantom and befriends another hacker, Blaze or Eric. Diamond and Eric become co-workers in a series of bank robberies and gem heists of, what else, diamonds.

A brief meet in a coffee shop provides a pseudo-romantic interest with Jeremy, an FBI agent. Diamond and Jeremy's relationship is limited to the weekends and/or times when she is not out-and-about robbing banks or stealing diamonds. She feels that he is a bit obtuse and doesn't really understand her full capabilities, until he arrests her for all of her thefts.

Diamond's arrest isn't as traumatic to her as her loss of time and memory due to blackouts. She has these vivid dreams featuring an all white swan (even the feet and beak are white). The swan seems to be a manifestation of another personality and gradually makes its foray into her waking life. She imagines seeing the swan out of the corner of her eye, seeing feathers float in the air and then she begins to hear voices of her other personality.

I could accept the split-personality issues, the vivid and strange dreams that seemed prophetic, and the apparent boredom with the nine-to-five desk jobs. I could also handle the idea of having a snake as a pet; a snake named Kevin. The relationship between Eric and Diamond was quirky and bordered on co-dependency but even that was relatively realistic. Diamond is supposedly antisocial and doesn't like groups, but heads out with Jeremy to go clubbing with great ease. I also had difficulties with the notion that Diamond is a genius when dealing with computers, but she is also adept at martial arts, a skilled gymnast, can pick locks with ease, yet she remained completely oblivious to an obviously ongoing investigation into the robberies and thefts with her as the key suspect and her "boyfriend" is the primary investigator. Of course this may have been the intention of the author to leave the reader just as clueless as the main character and if so, it worked. I had too many problems trying to accept and then rationalize Diamond's behavior to be able to fully enjoy the story. Diamond in a Haystack is a story that just didn't work for me.

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."