Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society

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This book surprised me (I was expecting a light-hearted chick lit reading). And again brought home to me the truth that we southern women are not the weak, soft little old ladies that people usually like to portray (or infer from the writings of others). The first time I heard the term "southern belle" my mind immediately went to the tough, cast iron bell that used to hang on a post in front of my parents' house. This book by Augusta Trobaugh is a reminder never to cross a genteel southern "little old lady" and never attempt to come between one and her family or her land.

From the Amazon page:

Coconut cake, grits, poisoned turtle stew and bird-watching . . . the ladies of tiny Tea-Olive, Georgia share a lot of interests, including murder. Retired judge L. Hyson Breed, a Yankee, picked the wrong Southern woman to trick, bully and steal from. The members of the Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society plot revenge after the judge’s marriage to their friend, Sweet, turns out to be a greedy grab for her land and for control of their town. To the rescue: Beulah, Zion and Wildwood (all named after hymns, as is Sweet). The only problem? The wannabe murderers are southern matrons from a more civilized generation. How does one remain polite even while planning to kill a man and get away with it?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Stirring Up Trouble

I love magic. Tell me the protagonist in a book is a witch and I'm sold. Sometimes (a lot of times recently) I've been disappointed by people who threw a witch into a story just to be able to advertise it as a "paranormal" without giving magic center stage anywhere in the book. NOT the case with this book written by Juli Alexander. Magic sneaks in when least expected and fills every corner of every page. I even learned something about witches! Did you ever wonder why good witches are always beautiful and nasty witches have moles and green skin and wiry chin whiskers? Casting self-serving spells damages a witch's appearance. Doing magic that helps someone enhances your looks. Isn't that a cool factoid? And, you heard it here! I'm looking forward to reading the 2nd in the series, Trouble's Brewing, already waiting for me on my Kindle .

From the Amazon page:

Zoe Miller is a 15-year-old witch with a talent for potions. She's working hard to find a substitute for toad slime. Since fat-free margarine has been found to be a substitute for dead man's toe, she's hopeful that she'll find one.

Then there's all the so-called normal stuff. Like high school, her annoyingly selfish "friend" Anya, and her crush on Anya's ex-boyfriend Jake.

Now, Zoe's dad is dating Jake's mom, and things are getting more and more complicated. If only Zoe could brew a potion or two and set everything straight. Zoe can't. If she brews a self-serving potion, bad things will happen to her appearance. Like a crooked nose, giant wart, green skin, rotting teeth--the whole ugly witch stereotype.

Zoe's tired of fate interfering so cruelly in her life. Can you really blame her for putting her potions to not-so-good use and stirring up trouble?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War In Virginia

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Ha. Thought this was gonna be about the OTHER Shades of Gray didn't you? I haven't read about the 50 of them, but I read this one with absolute and total immersion. I was captivated, mesmerized and I can honestly say that this was the only book that has brought me to tears, and certainly the first one that kept me that way for an entire chapter, in many years.

I am a sucker for Civil War tales. Especially those that are well-researched, well-written and have women in nontraditional and important roles. Jessica James provided all three in a beautiful tale of the passion that existed both in the front lines and behind the scenes. Although we believe that women today have crossed barriers to become active members of our armed forces, in fact those barriers were crossed over a century ago when hundreds of American women with allegiance to both Confederate and Union sides donned uniforms and fought alongside the men. The only difference in the armed forces today is that the women who choose that life don't have to bind their breasts, hide their sex and know that if they are found out they will be court martialed.

If you enjoy historical novels, if you read Gone With the Wind and wished it hadn't ended, then you will be as delighted as I was to delve into these pages. My own Civil War novel will be on the shelves very soon, and I can only hope that I portrayed my heroine as earnestly and with as much knowledge and passion as Jessica James brought to Shades of Gray. I am told that the book has also been re-released under the name Noble Cause, with a happier ending (although this was in print before 50 Shades of Gray, obviously the name similarity is troubling, and it's not fair to this book to share the same name).

The Amazon description:
 
Honor & conviction clash with loyalty & love in this award-winning romantic Civil War novel that pits brother against brother. This is the tale of Colonel Alexander Hunter, a dauntless and daring Confederate cavalry officer, who, with his band of intrepid outcasts, becomes a legend in the rolling hills of northern Virginia. Inspired by love of country and guided by a sense of duty and honor, Hunter must make a desperate choice when he discovers the woman he promised his dying brother he would protect is the Union spy he vowed to his men he would destroy. Readers will discover the fine line between friends and enemies when the paths of these two tenacious foes cross by the fates of war and their destinies become entwined forever. Author Jessica James uniquely blends elements of romantic and historical fiction in this deeply personal and poignant tale that, according to one reviewer, “transcends the pages to settle in the very marrow of the reader’s bones.” Winner of numerous national awards, James has received critical acclaim for this page-turning story of courage, honor, and enduring love. Destined for an honored place among the classics of the American Civil War, Noble Cause is a book to read, and keep, and remember forever.

On a humorous note, I had ordered this book for my Kindle and was surprised when I was asked by a friend if I had purchased Shades of Gray yet. I said yes. Wondering to myself "when did Melinda become an avid Civil War buff?" A few days later I read the reviews for the "other" book and realized how very worlds apart are the two. (I started reading the "other one" but it didn't capture my interest.)


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Replica

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Wow.

Just. Wow.

I was NOT expecting to be entranced, captivated, entertained, wowed (Just. Wowed.) or enthralled....but I was. I didn't know who to root for, or how the tangle could all be unwoven, but author Lexi Revellian managed it all and made it look effortless. Excellent job!

Imagine if you were suddenly on the run and had to not only hide from your enemies, but also from those you consider your friends because you can't explain why you are who they think you are, but yet....you aren't. You have all of the memories of a lifetime, but were "born" yesterday. The only one that can get out of the mess is...you...but the other you doesn't know that this new you exists. And, now the original "you" has disappeared and is also in mortal danger. You see what I meant by "tangled?" Never fear however. As I said, you are in excellent hands for this particular ride. Just make sure you keep your hands and feet inside the car. It's going to get bumpy!

 Amazon describes the book like this: 

Beth Chandler, bright, attractive but unassertive, is accidentally replicated in a flawed experiment at the government research institute where she works. A second Beth comes into being, complete with all her memories. To Sir Peter Ellis, MI5 chief, the replica is an embarrassment that must be hushed up and disposed of. Overhearing him, Beth Two goes on the run. With no official existence, homeless, penniless and pursued by Sir Peter's agents, she has to find the inner strength and aggression to survive on icy London streets.

Meanwhile the original Beth, unaware of what has happened, becomes romantically involved with Nick Cavanagh, the spec op she believes is there to protect her. In fact, he's hunting her double. Nick refuses to face his moral doubts about Beth Two - as far as he's concerned, it's not his problem. As events unfold, and the situation grows more complicated, he has to decide whose side he is on.




A Witch's Tale

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I love witches. The good kind. The Wiccan and Pagan (capital 'p,' not the little 'p') kind. I love the idea of using herbs in the way that they have been used since man first stood upright and realized that if he rubbed a little bit of this weed on his neck he didn't have to wrestle with his woman so long before she agreed to mate with him. And that if he boiled a bit of that root to drink when he felt too sick to hunt, he was soon out of the cave and off to work. I don't see anything sacrilegious in using plants of the earth in charms and talismans.

So many witch stories disappoint me though. Either they portray witches as evil crones or as bumbling twits. Karolyn Cairns not only did not disappoint me, but she enchanted me from the title page to the final one. I disagreed with the way the story line went in a place or two, and I got confused about exactly how the love spell was working...or not working...on Gavin. But in the end I don't think I could have written it better (high praise indeed *smiling*) If you like a light historical (medieval) romance with a touch of paranormal, then buckle up and sit back to enjoy the ride!

Amazon says:

Madeline Farrand was condemned to burn for witchcraft when her spells go awry. A novice witch, she struggles to learn her craft on her own when her mentor dies. Sir Gavin de Mortaine swaggers to her rescue and stops her execution. Intent only on seducing his flame-haired enchantress, he refuses to believe she is really a witch. Unable to deny the reward he demands of her because of a strict code of witches, Madeline agrees to a fortnight as his companion at the coronation festivities for James Stuart.

Sir Gavin only seeks a pretty distraction during the tournament. His valiant struggle to right past wrongs ignites a desire in Madeline to be seen as a real knight's lady. She uses her spells and magic to bind Gavin to her, realizing painfully all he professes to feel for her can't be real. She vows to help him win the tournament and reclaim his birthright, even if it means he will marry another.


Madeline soon learns her magic can only create more mischief as her spells backfire with disastrous and often hilarious results. She finds herself in a disturbing position when she decides to spy on Gavin's rival, Sir Rohan de Warren. With the worst reputation in the tournament, Rohan is nothing like he is thought. Madeline is shocked to find herself drawn to him. Despite her loyalty to Gavin, she starts to gain real admiration for Rohan. His dark eyes taunt her claims to love Gavin. Rohan has never lost at anything. Driven and ambitious, the knight has no intention of losing the tourney, even when his sponsor demands it of him with his scheming and plotting. Rohan sees a prize far greater than a title and rich estates.Soon the prize worth winning becomes his rival's redheaded companion. Madeline learns through a twist of fate the greatest magic of all comes from the heart in this glittering tale of pageantry, chivalry, and witchcraft.


(I especially loved Rohan's horse! I want one of his daughters!)

Interview With A Jewish Vampire

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Being the sucker that I am for an interesting title, you know I had to add this one to my collection. Kudos to author Erica Manfred for a creative twist to an old idea.

Nicely written, a cute story line, certainly not an average tale. If you are "into" vampires or if you are Jewish (or would like to be) you're going to really enjoy the read. (If you don't like vampires and you grow quickly weary of Jewish kvetching then you may want to download and read a sample first). I was captivated immediately...between the title and the first paragraph of the description: middle-aged Jewish woman looking for a mate is contacted by a vampire and she says to herself, "he may not be alive, but at least he's Jewish." Her mother, the atheist, however is just happy if Rhoda has a man. Oy vey.

Amazon describes it thusly:

The last thing zaftig middle-aged journalist, Rhoda Ginsburg, expected when she signed up for JDate was to fall in love with a vampire. But when she meets drop-dead gorgeous Sheldon, a Hasidic vampire, she falls hard. She rationalizes that he may not be alive, but at least he’s Jewish.

She learns that back in the nineteenth century Sheldon was a rabbi who was turned into a vampire by Count Dracula, an anti-Semite who got his kicks from turning Orthodox Jews into vampires because then they’d have to drink blood, which isn’t kosher.

Soon after she meets Sheldon, she discovers her beloved mother, Fanny, is terminally ill, so she comes up with the crackpot idea of getting Sheldon to turn Fanny and her friends, known as “the goils,” into vampires. Once she becomes a vampire, Fanny tires of her boring life in Century Village, Florida, and, seeking thrills, she goes clubbing and disappears into the nightlife of South Beach in Miami. When Fanny and her goil posse “go rogue” and start preying on the young, Rhoda and Sheldon must track them down to keep them from killing again.

Interview with a Jewish Vampire turns vampire lore on its head, proving that not all vampires are young and beautiful and it IS possible to be undead and kosher.

The Red Gorilla of Oz

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Richard Capwell stepped into some pretty big shoes when he attempted to carry on where L. Frank Baum left off a hundred years ago as the official royal historian of the magical world of Oz. Apparently, Mr. Capwell's feet are almost exactly the same size as Mr. Baum's, because I totally lost myself in this newly penned tale and completely forgot that the words were coming from a different source than the original books.

Many other authors have attempted to continue reporting the news from Oz over the years, including several that were endorsed by Baum's family (I personally enjoyed many of the ones by Ruth P. Thompson). In my humble opinion, Mr. Capwell is probably the one who comes closest to capturing not only Baum's whimsy but also his ability to so cleverly weave a story combining flights of fantasy along with lessons for today, that children won't notice they learned something. (I didn't notice it either, honest!)

From the Amazon page:

Sebastian is the clumsy, heedless prince of the red gorillas. The Eternal Flame that protects his troop has inexplicably gone out, and the jungle is withering and dying. Sebastian must venture down Crimson Mountain to find Glinda, who he hopes will restore the flame. On his journey, the red gorilla makes good friends and faces dangerous enemies. Meanwhile, in the Emerald City, all of the wonderful animated characters such as Jack Pumpkinhead and Scraps have lost their spirits, and Ozma must discover why her dear friends can no longer move nor speak. Her investigation reveals previously unknown secrets about the early history of Oz. 

And, indeed, Capwell tied up a lot of loose ends for me. Am I the only one that wondered what happened to the Winged Monkeys when their mistress was killed? Did anyone remember to feed them?  Inquiring minds wanted to know.

And Richard Capwell told us. And did so in such a delightful way that I immediately went and purchased the 2nd of his Oz tales Santa Claus in Oz. We all know that many times writing in a series can be deadly for an author. The sparks that burned so brightly in the first tome die into embers that not even the most potent wind can blow into a flame. This was NOT the case for Capwell. I enjoyed the Santa book even more than the first. Very cute. Well written. No editing or formatting errors.

Keep 'em coming, Richard! 

Note: Wondering how many of you are Oz fans? I have "good" copies of all of the Baum-written ones. Still collecting on the others. Do you collect anything Oz-related other than the books? Do you play the RPG online Oz game?


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Crossroads Cafe

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I paid more for this book than I EVER pay for Kindle books. Something about it tugged at me, and I'm so glad it did. It was worth every cent. It is one of the very few books that I've read in the last year that I am sure I'll read again someday. Yes, it was a little schmaltzy. Yes, it was a romance. But, it was oh! so much more.

From the Amazon description:

A Hollywood actress known for her beauty flees to a secluded mountain cabin in North Carolina after being severely scarred in a car accident. There she finds unexpected love and a new life with a man who lost his family in 9-11.

With 4.5 stars out of over 300 reviews, it's obvious that this book tugged at a lot of people. And kept on tugging. Although a couple of reviews called it 'boilerplate' I thought it was anything but. I have not been a big fan of cookie cutter romance novels since I was a teenager. Although I can figure out that two people are attracted to each other and read about their romance without retching, I do not want their romance to be the star of the show. I want dialogue deeper than "oooh, I really shouldn't be attracted to him, but oh, I just can't help myself." Deborah Smith managed to weave a romance in between true angst (not the fake stuff they toss into Harlequins "oh no, I see him with another woman, he doesn't love me any more, woe is me") in a setting that anyone with Southern blood will recognize as "where real people live."

Crossroads Cafe was not only well written, but was well edited and nicely formatted. If I had three thumbs, they would all three be up for this one.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Threads That Bind

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I was not only pleasantly surprised (an understatement..."blown away" might be more apt) by this book, I enjoyed it so much that I immediately went and purchased the second one in the series. I was thrilled to find the second one equally well-written, with great well-fleshed-out characters that melded so well into an intriguing story line that I literally "couldn't put it down." Excellent character development and dialogue, written in my favorite style that allows me to run the movie in my head while I'm reading.

Amazon description:

At 16, Madison has accepted herself for who she is: smart and witty, but overweight with thick glasses and the social life of a Tibetan monk. Everything changes the summer before her junior year of high school when her eyesight inexplicably corrects itself, and she begins to rapidly lose weight. However, her new look comes with an unexpectedly expensive price. Madison’s first kiss with the boy she has had a crush on for years triggers powers she can’t control, almost killing him.

She discovers she is a Berserker, a powerful being chosen to guard the world from the Havocs, ancient creatures brought into our world by magic thousands of years ago. They cause destruction and death, but cannot be killed. Only the Berserkers’ life-blood can bind – and free – the Havocs. One Havoc is free and wants Madison’s blood to free another. Instead of enjoying her new look and popularity at school, Madison must now work with the Berserkers to master her powers and bind the Havoc before it kills her.

Oh, and if that weren’t bad enough, it turns out she is the first female Berserker since, well - ever.


As excellent as that blurb is, it can't come close to explaining the intricacies and surprises within the book's pages. I was reminded of the Twilight series, but in my humble opinion, this was better. Much better. I really liked the main character, Madison, who I think is an excellent role model for young teen girls...nothing weak and wimpy about this girl! She gets scared, but she holds it together and can kick major monster butt AND keep her grades up at school. (As enamored as Madison is with a guy, I can't imagine her thinking it was romantic to have him come and sit in her room and watch her sleep! Did that part of Twilight make anyone else's skin crawl?) Wonderfully described monsters, a smart, plucky girl with two, sometimes three admirers (it varies with whether or not Josh has been hazed yet, to forget Madison tossing him into a tree when his kiss brings out her unrealized and unleashed powers). What's not to love?

If you enjoyed Twilight pick up a copy of the first in this series. I'm pretty sure that, just as I did, you'll be going back for more! I'm now anxiously awaiting the next in line...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Amelia's Last Secret by Eric Wilson

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I have always been a fan of Amelia Earhart so I was thrilled to find this book on my "should read" Kindle list. It is fairly short, a novella, but packed with so much action and information that I would put it on anyone's "absolutely must read" list. Although no one will ever "know" what Amelia's last minutes were like, New York Times best-selling author Mr. Wilson certainly gives us a chance to imagine them, and to spend them with her. The inclusion of the "Windtalkers" (Navaho code breakers) in the book, especially allowing us to meet and get to know Oliver, was a stroke of genius in an already fabulous work of factual fiction. Although the storyline is fast paced, this is in fact an easy paced read...a great book for young adults or old.

The research for this novella was obviously done with care and a great love of history. As well as a love for intrigue and mystery. The characters he created are woven in with the real-life characters so easily that you forget whether you're reading fact or fiction (or as in this case, a talented blend of the two) and just fall deep into the story.

Amazon's description:

AMELIA'S disappearance stunned the world.
Her LAST SECRET will surprise you.

Amelia Earhart vanished 75 years ago while flying over the Pacific. Was she part of an American spy mission? Was she eloping to escape a suffocating lifestyle and marriage? Or did she die as a stowaway on a remote island? With Hillary Clinton's announcement that a team would be investigating new evidence in the Phoenix Islands, this story is as timely as it is well-researched.

Take flight in this fast-paced adventure, from a NY Times bestselling novelist.


I think they should have said a lot more, but perhaps to do so would have been a spoiler. If you're a fan of strong women who changed history, if you are an aviation bug, if you are an avid reader of American Indian history or if you simply enjoy a good story line with great dialogue and believable characters you'll agree with my thumb's up opinion of this one!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

This Little Piggy Went To The Liquor Store

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I was totally prepared to dislike this book. I figured it was time to review something that was poorly written, poorly formatted and with subject matter that I couldn't tolerate so I bought it. How could I go wrong on a book with a vodka bottle and a baby pacifier on the cover? How indeed? Must I count the ways?

A. K. Turner may not get the fundamental conservative vote for Mother Of The Year, but she sure has mine. I wish I'd grown up with her! I personally don't drink...I can get drunk reading the label on a bottle of wine, even if I did like the taste which I don't. Also, my childhood memories of alcohol and overdrinking were not pleasant ones, so the very idea of the words "liquor store" on a book about being a mom seemed to me to be the epitome of poor taste and symbolic of the decline of the American family.

Ha.

If I thought that putting a martini in the hands of every mom in America would create a home life such as Mrs. Turner describes theirs, I'd buy the bottles and the glasses!

I've read so many reviews and book descriptions that tout a book as "laugh out loud funny" that I don't take any of them seriously any more. I've become jaded to that whole "truth in advertising" thing, and firmly believe that just as Dr. House believes, "everybody lies."

Nobody lied this time. I actually had to get out of bed, where I was reading beside my snoring husband, and finish the book in the living room because I kept breaking out into giggles and even one big old horse snort which woke him up. Yes, she's that funny.

Normal family life is funny. Abnormal family life even more so. The Turner family is a nice blend of normal-dysfunctional. Not since Erma Bombeck have I been so anxious to read more about a family's trek through daily life. A huge thumb's up (and a blushing apology for my preconcieved notions) to the author who not only puts the "fun" in "dysfunctional" but makes me want to adopt her and the rest of her family.

PS: It was not only beautifully written, but I found just ONE (count 'em, one) error. That alone adds another star to an already full slate.

The Amazon description (also the book jacket) is woefully short. The book deserves more!

This Little Piggy Went to the Liquor Store chronicles what happens when a little girl who scorns the idea of marriage and children (in favor of becoming a stiletto-wearing, attache-carrying Secret Agent), majors in Russian, minors in Vodka, and then one day finds herself with child… and in-laws

Yes, there were dogs in the book. And that is the only part of the book that made me wince. Mrs. Turner was very brave to include the facts that they gave away family pets simply because they were inconvenient. I can't understand nor condone that, but it did appear that she did so in a very repsonsible and mature manner, with full admission of the wrongness of the action, and the pets in question were never endangered (kill shelter) nor placed without angst and full knowledge that the new owners would be more responsible.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Unicorn on Speed Dial by Jeanette Cottrell

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When I finished the last of the Harry Potter series I moaned over the fact that NOTHING would ever entrance me and delight me the way dear Harry had done.

I was wrong.

I almost didn't purchase Unicorn on Speed Dial because of the childish cover. Thank goodness I listened to my grandma when she told me you couldn't judge books by their cover ... silly me, I used to think she was making a metaphor about people, but anyway ... poorly designed cover or no, Jeanette Cottrell has written a book that will entertain, delight, absorb, mystify, daze and confuse readers who allowed themselves to fall deep into the folds of Harry Potter's cape.

In a way, (forgive me Ms. Rowling) I think I liked Unicorn on Speed Dial even better because the protagonist was a forty-two year old teacher/housewife/mother/animal trainer. I could identify with her problems a little better than teenage angsts. But, monsters are monsters. Sorcerers and sorceresses are sorcerers and sorceresses (OK, I only wrote that last sentence because it's so fun to read out loud...did you sound like a snake in a blender too?). Dragons will be dragons, unicorns will be unicorns and bugbears will be...wait! What's a bugbear? Read the book. You'll feel just like Dorothy saying gryphons and orcs and dwarves...oh MY!

Very well written with few formatting/typo errors this book captivated me from page one and I actually forced myself to slow down several times, and stop reading entirely a time or two because I didn't want it to be over too soon. A rarity for me. There certainly is enough fodder for a series from the main characters but whether it's stand-alone or Book #1 of 20, this book is an absolute must-read for fantasy lovers. Of all ages. Even us old gray haired curmudgeonly types.

The description from the book's Amazon page:

With a wry sense of humor, this adult urban fantasy pokes fun at American culture. Warmth and offbeat humor are the rules of the day.
Kathryn Koldwell is a suburban housewife, mother of four. She and her family live in a small Oregon town where every family has a two-car garage, Internet access, and the occasional great-uncle who practices a bit of magic. Kathryn has a unicorn named Freckles, and a back yard filled with migrating dragons. She volunteers her time to retrain abandoned ex-familiars with bad magical habits.

Her idyllic life suffers a setback when her son sights a bugbear, a dangerous beast hailing from Galdesyat, a South American country. Then she finds feathers from a gryphon nestling—but no gryphon. Bugbears and gryphons rarely set foot out of Galdesyat. Is there a conspiracy in the offing?

Kathryn and Freckles set out to investigate this mystery, and stumble through a portal to Galdesyat, taking baby Joni with them. Defending her baby with her swinging diaper bag, Kathryn must fight gryphons, trick dwarves, and outthink an orc sorcerer to go home. And reach it she must! Somewhere in her home town, an evil sorcerer lurks with a horrific army, intent on world domination.

Can she possibly manage it? Even with a Unicorn on Speed Dial?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mango Bob...my first Thumb's Down review


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Like everyone else, I don't like everything I read. So far I've only reviewed the books I really did like, or could understand why someone else might like them. Today, I'm in a really bad mood, so I chose the Book Du Jour to be Mango Bob by Bill Myers.

First of all, the description from Amazon...

Walker's task should be simple: drive the Love Bus 1,200 miles cross-country to Florida and deliver a cat named Mango Bob to a woman he's never met. But things are never really as simple as they seem. An unsolved murder involving the Love Bus and the Mexican mafia, along with a major case of mistaken identity, complicate Walker's efforts. Add a crazy gun-toting senior citizen, Mango Bob's escape attempts, and the hot kayak chick, and you get a rollicking travel romp through the Sunshine State.

Sounds fun doesn't it? Another description I read online likens this book to those of Carl Hiassen and Janet Evanovich.

Someone wishes.

In fact, *I* wish it had been even somewhat reminiscent of either (excellent) writer. It wasn't. And that's six or seven hours I'll never get back.

I couldn't be sure whether I was reading an RVer's manual, a WalMart ad or a "what not to do" for writers. As a writer myself, I hate to give a nasty review, but come ON. I've heard more emotion in the dialogue between a lima bean and a turnip than in any part of this book. The only portion that had any sort of spark at all was in the page after page after page describing how to get the sewage out of an RV, or how to park an RV or how to....do a dozen other things with an RV. OK, already, we get it. The author of this book has written a very popular and well-acclaimed book on RVing. He obviously not only "knows RVs" but he is passionate about them. He is a fabulus non-fiction writer. And he shouldn't quit his day job just yet.

Case in point: The protagonist gets a note from his wife out of the blue one day telling him she wants a divorce, thanks for the memories, "I'm a better person for having known you" and instead of ranting and raving or crying the man just shrugs and says "Hmmm, it might be awkward if I went home, so I'm just going to WalMart and buy a blue tent and camp at a campground until I decide what to do." And that's what he does. In boring detail. Soon after, he is told that the company that has been his bread and butter for years is closing and instead of showing any emotion at all, he shrugs and says "Good thing I've got a cheap roof over my head." (Those are paraphrased 'quotations' by the way, I saved you the tedium of reading the cut and pasted pages it took to make a short story long). He is told that he is getting a huge settlement from the company, very unexpectedly and instead of being tickled, we're shown the same amount of emotion we got for a divorce and a job loss. *yawn*

About half way through the book, I'm wondering who the heck is Mango Bob. We eventually find out it's a cat, and so I'm thinking 'Hallelujah! maybe this cat is going to spark things up'. *yawn* Not hardly. Even the Grandma Mazur (if you read Janet Evanovich you know who that is) wannabe couldn't spark up this with her gun in hand...I don't think it would have helped if she'd stripped nekkid and whistled the Star Spangled Banner while twirling the gun and six sparklers.

By the time I read the last page, I was almost drumming my fingernails wanting to be done. Between the lack of emotion, the tasteless dialogue and the weak story line, I honestly would have preferred to have been getting the colonoscopy my doctor keeps advising.

So, there you have it. My very first "Thumb's Down." And, like giving a child a spanking, it's really true that it hurt me more than it hurt them.

Really.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Synthetic:The Rise of the Siren by Shonna Wright

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Original. Compelling. Unique. Creative. Mysterious. Romantic. Spellbinding.

None of those words, or even the combination of all of them can come close to describing this book.

From its Amazon page, we learn:

Kora hates vampires and swears she'll never make one. Using artificial cells, she synthesizes pleasant, harmless creatures like mermaids and gnomes for wealthy clients who want mythical creatures roaming their grounds and swimming in their private lakes.

When trillionaire Ruby Lazar buys Kora's masterpiece, the Siren, Kora leaps at the opportunity to deliver her marvel in person. She rushes off to Ruby's Gothic castle on the cliffs of Point Dume only to end up imprisoned in a Victorian monkey cage. To save her own life, Kora must transform the Siren into the very creature she loathes.

To make matters worse, Ruby already has a synthetic vampire boy toy named Vaughn who's the most vicious, arrogant, gorgeous thing Kora has ever laid eyes on. She hates every strand of hair on his blood-sucking head but can't stop thinking about him.

But everything about the castle—including Vaughn—is oddly familiar to Kora. She soon learns that in order to truly escape, she must uncover secrets from her own forgotten past. Only by discovering her true identity can she prevent Ruby from destroying her life all over again.


Even that intriguing description didn't prepare me for what I found in the pages of Synthetic:The Rise of the Siren.

If you think about the story of Frankenstein's monster, mixed into the Twilight series, with a dash of Rocky Horror Picture Show and a pinch of Nancy Drew all combined into the worst/best B-movie you ever saw, you might get an inkling of what's in store for you. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. I admit to a few "huh?" moments (mostly due to formatting and editing errors) but I was intrigued enough to not let it distract me from the story. I would give this book five stars for originality and creativity (even though there was no dog in the story). If you're a sci fi or fantasy fan, this should definitely be on your "must read" list. I guess I am now officially a member of Team Vaughn.

SPOILER ALERT:

The Goodreads.com description is a little more indepth, but might spoil some of the surprises for you. If you like to be kept guessing, don't read below this line. :)

Playing God is a lonely job. Kora created twin mermaids, a gang of gnomes and even a replica of Brigitte Bardot for her wealthy clientele, but what she really wants is her own family.

Forget pregnancy. Kora synthesizes full-grown creatures from artificial cells. Thanks to this unique talent, she’s enslaved at Mirafield Labs where she’s forced to pump out synthetic bimbos twenty-four hours a day, leaving her no time to design her own companions. But when a Mirafield bigwig named Ruby Lazar summons her for a house call, Kora leaps at the opportunity to escape her captors.

Kora is shipped off to a Gothic castle on the cliffs of Point Dume where meets Ruby, an ancient horror actress turned mad scientist, who she is shocked to learn is her long-lost mother. Ruby rules over a family of her own creations including a walrus man, a tiny troll, and her vampire boy toy, Vaughn. He wants nothing to do with Ruby, but she hopes to seduce him and resurrect her acting career by transforming herself into a gorgeous vampire.

To save her own neck, Kora must perform the impossible task of transferring Ruby’s brain into the body of a synthetic vampire. But making a monster while falling for Vaughn puts Kora in a tailspin. Is she morphing into her detestable mother? Desperate to get free, Kora searches for remnants of her past and discovers a monster genocide Ruby ordered ten years before that ripped Kora from everyone she loved. Now Kora must battle her mother before Ruby destroys her life all over again

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Enchanting the Lady

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Luckily, Enchanting the Lady by Kathryne Kennedy was one of the very first e-books I read after I purchased my Kindle. This book impressed me so much with not only a vividly flowing storyline but also beautiful formatting and editing...if my first purchases had been some of the poorly written and edited e-books I've read recently, I would likely have abandoned hope and put my Kindle on eBay.

I was never a big fan of the "Regency romances" that are popular with so many, so I purchased this with great trepidation, hoping that the paranormal aspect of a were-lion courting a shy Duchess who couldn't find her magic would make it more unique. "Unique" doesn't come close to describing what I found within these pages.

I love fantasy stories and Kennedy's Victorian era world of magic kept me absolutely enthralled from first page to last. I look forward to reading the others in her "Relics of Merlin" series although I actually didn't know when I purchased and read this book that it was in fact the start of a series. It had a lovely ending that, although you were left wanting more because you loved the characters, you didn't feel as if you were left hanging and needing more closure.

Amazon's description was far too short to give any kind of feeling for this book. It deserves better.

In a Victorian London where titles are based on the inheritance of magical powers, a were-lion's obsessive quest for Merlin's relics will threaten his love for a disinherited duchess--as well as their very lives.

Yes, that sums it up neatly, but it doesn't do justice to the book at all! It doesn't make you feel the helplessness of a young orphan girl who realizes that if her ability to do magic doesn't surface quickly she will lose her immense inheritance and become homeless. Or the craftiness of a handsome baron shapeshifter who serves Prince Albert to protect him from black magic...the most intense magic of which are the 13 Relics of Merlin, black magic created by Merlin himself, too dark and deadly for even the most magically inclined to possess. It doesn't do more than hint at the sexy love story between the young Duchess and the were-lion baronet that is entwined through the pages amongst the magic, the treachery and the Victorian life vignette. If you enjoy fantasy stories, if you thrill at a warm romance (think Beauty and the Beast revisited, with a twist), if you like a happy ending where the bad guys end up on the bottom...you simply must read this book!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Green Series, by Judy Christie

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This series was a very (!) pleasant surprise for me. Having been told that this was one that should definitely be read in order, I obediently started out with Gone to Green, immediately ordered Goodness Gracious Green when I was finished with the first book, and then delved right straight into The Glory of Green. And want more, more, more! Covering laughter and tears, weddings and deaths, blue skies and tornadoes, these books are a vignette into life in a small Southern town, Green, Louisiana, that could easily be mistaken for most of the small towns in my part of rural Alabama. Well, except for the alligator. I loved being part of a newspaper family for a while and, the mark of an excellent writer, Ms. Christie made me feel every one of their triumphs and disasters as personally as if I were truly there with them. I didn't want any of the books to end...

The characters were incredibly real and the stories were well-written; the dialogue was superb and all three books were easily played in my head like a movie as I read. There are quite a lot of references to religion and personal faith and beliefs, but not so much that it should ruin the story for someone who isn't religious and enough that it should be uplifting for readers that are. There are two additional books in the series (so far), and I expect them to be equally interesting, thought provoking and well-written. If you read and enjoyed the Mitford series by Jan Karon, you're sure to love these books. (Personally although I enjoyed the Karon series immensely, I felt more a "part" of Green than I ever did of Mitford, perhaps it was just the setting? Closer to my own home?).

Amazon describes the first book of the series thusly:

In Gone to Green, Lois goes from being a corporate journalist at a large paper in the Midwest to the owner of The Green News-Item, a small twice-weekly newspaper in rural North Louisiana. The paper was an unexpected inheritance from a close colleague, and Lois must keep it for at least a year, bringing a host of challenges, lessons, and blessings into her life.

When Lois pulls into Green on New Year’s Day, she expects a charming little town full of smiling people. She quickly realizes her mistake. After settling into a loaned house out on Route 2, she finds herself battling town prejudices and inner doubts and making friends with the most surprising people: troubled teenager Katy, good-looking catfish farmer Chris, wise and feisty Aunt Helen, and a female African-American physician named Kevin.

Whether fighting a greedy, deceitful politician or rescuing a dog she fears, Lois notices the headlines in her life have definitely improved. She learns how to provide small-town news in a big-hearted way and realizes that life is full of newsworthy moments. When she encounters racial prejudice and financial corruption, Lois also discovers more about the goodness of real people and the importance of being part of a community.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Elvis and the Dearly Departed

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If you are always delighted to find a new series of zany, chick lit "cozy mysteries" then your face should be sporting a wide grin right about now. If you find it more interesting when those stories are set in the Deep South, then this is your lucky day indeed. Goodreads describes this series as "Fried Green Tomatoes meets Stephanie Plum." A screwball comedy that you shuld just dive into and enjoy rolling your eyes at the bad Southern parodies or shaking your head at the quirky characters without trying to be anything other than entertained. I was entertained. I have however noticed in the reviews that this is definitely one of those stories/series that you either outright love or you throw the book across the room in disgust thus the middle-of-the-road rating of 3.5 stars on Amazon. Lots of 5 star and a few 1 star reviews. Although I got a little exasperated with parts of the book, how could you not love a storyline that includes narrative from a flop-eared Basset named Elvis?

From Amazon.com's description:  

They say you can't get to Heaven without passing through the Eternal Rest Funeral Home. And no one gets into Eternal Rest without passing muster with Elvis--the basset hound who's convinced he's the reincarnation of the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Brewing up a big ol' pitcher of Mississippi mystery, Peggy Webb's delightful new series is as intoxicating as the Delta breeze.

Normally, Callie Valentine Jones spends her days fixing up the hairdos of the dead, but when the corpse of local, prominent physician Dr. Leonard Laton goes missing, it's bad for business. So Callie and her cousin Lovie (Eternal Rest's resident wake caterer) have no choice but to go in hot pursuit of the recently embalmed, last seen bound for Vegas by way of downtown Tupelo. In Vegas, Callie and Lovie hit the jackpot when they find the dearly departed inside a freezer owned by his showgirl mistress, Bubble Malone. But their luck runs out when Bubble decides to join her man in the afterlife. With the poisonous Laton family tree providing plenty of rotten suspects, Callie, along with some help from her basset hound, Elvis, is determined to crack this case--and have a killer singing "Jailhouse Rock" in time for her next haircutting appointment. . .

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Summer Of My German Soldier

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Although I am told that this book is now considered a "classic" and is on many required-reading lists, I admit I had never paid any attention to it (just a vague memory of a TV-movie in the 70s) until my fourteen year old friend was given the assignment of reading it over summer vacation. Although this is a very bright kid, he was having trouble forcing himself to keep reading and he asked if I had ever read it. Since I hadn't, I downloaded it the next day from Kindle to see if I could help.

The experience of reading this book was one that reminds me again of how we should always reach outside of our comfort zones and our personal preferences to take chances. I tell myself that I enjoy reading "all" genres of literature. Good and bad, fluff and deep, from history to mystery. But if I'm honest with myself there is an entire world out there that I don't experience because it requires some effort. So it was with the Summer of My German Soldier.

Definitely not a book I would have expected to enjoy, I'm now very glad that I used the excuse of "doing it for someone else" to make the effort to go outside my comfort zone. I will say that although I was engrossed in the book from start to finish, I found the story disturbing on a lot of levels. The book is beautifully written with characters so vivid and well-drawn that you find yourself aching to feel their warmth as you hug them...or feel their nose crush against your fist.

If I were a teacher of early teens, this is definitely not a book I would have put on the required list. I think many nuances and lessons in this book are going to be a little dark and deep to expect a young adult to learn from, much less enjoy. If forcing kids to read this book was supposed to be an exercise in learning the history of the times, there are certainly many other books that would have done the job just as well and would have been easier for kids to relate to.

The idea of a twelve-year-old girl befriending and spending hours of alone-time with a 20-year-old man "because he made her feel pretty" has an undertone that I think could be disturbing to some early teen girls that are likely feeling the pressure of not measuring up in today's society that focuses so much on appearance.

I'm not sure if hard-copy books, especially earlier copies, include the information that this is not a work of fiction as it was first claimed, but instead is the memoir of the writer. Knowing that made me enjoy the book a little more.

If your teen has been given the project of reading the book, there is a study guide available on Kindle. Also, the book was made into a TV movie that is still available on VHS.

Amazon describes the book thusly:

In Bette Greene’s award–winning debut novel, a young Jewish girl in the postwar South finds herself drawn to a German prisoner of war
When the Army delivers a batch of Nazi prisoners of war to an internment camp in Jenkinsville, Arkansas, Patty Bergen is as anxious as any of her neighbors to get a glimpse of the monsters. The eldest child in the town’s sole Jewish family, Patty is lonely and isolated, spending most of her time in the company of Ruth, her parents’ black housekeeper.
Then she meets Anton Reiker, an inmate in the camp. Even though he fought against the Allies, Anton seems to understand Patty in a way even her parents never have. When Anton escapes from the camp, Patty risks everything to keep him safe—but following her heart may come at a terrible price.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Bette Greene including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.
 
Although they say "postwar" the setting is during the war.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Taking Out the Trailer Trash

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As you may have noticed, I just can't pass up a clever title or a cool book cover. The covers for this book (there have been two so far) have both been bland, amateurish and uninteresting besides having absolutely zip, nada, nothing to do with the story. But, you have to admit the title makes up for that.

This cozy mystery by Janice Ivy is very cleverly written, has a great cast of characters and a story line with well-orchestrated twists and turns that kept me guessing all the way. I've thought about running away from home sometimes to write...but this book proves that trouble will follow you sometimes no matter where you go. A very fun, witty read that would be a perfect beach or backyard hammock read. Quite a few errors, possibly formatting, but definitely worth the read.

Living in rural Alabama, I've met my share of trailer trash and apparently Ms. Ivy has spent some time among them as well. She nailed the characters beautifully, in both dialogue and description. I'm not sure the "safe house in the swamp" is believable, but hey, this isn't War and Peace and the book did exactly what is was designed to do. Cheap entertainment!

Amazon's description:
People are dropping like flies at the Happy Times RV Park and Charlene is afraid she might be next if she doesn’t figure out why. The gig as manager of the park in a small town on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi seemed perfect for a writer trying to find time to write her second book, until a resident is found with his brains splattered on his tacky old couch.

Charlene is not alone, she has people to help her out or maybe get her killed. Gus is a good looking cop with a secret past. Maggie looks like everybody’s idea of a perfect grandma, but Charlene finds out she was once the richest madam in the Dixie Mafia. Dave, who may or may not be on the FBI’s most wanted list, is a ZZ Top look alike with the hots for Paula Deen.

Will secrets from past be the death of her or will Charlene along with Boo, Loretta, and Jinx, her trio of neurotic animals make it out alive?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Carved In Bone

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"The Body Farm" in Knoxville, TN has intrigued me ever since I learned of it in the pages of Patricia Cornwell's book by the same name (Body Farm, #5 in her Kay Scarpetta series). I found it interesting to note that this book is dedicated to Ms. Cornwell. In case you're not familiar with "The Farm", this small wooded patch of land near the University of Tennessee is the home of modern forensic science. When you watch TV or read a book or follow a real-life crime that relies on forensics to determine facts about what has happened to a body that is discovered in an outdoors situation, they are using information that was compiled while watching numerous bodies in various stages of decay when exposed to the elements under the watchful eye of Dr. William Bass. (To learn more about "The Farm" click HERE)

Now Dr. Bass and Jon Jefferson, using the psuedonym of Jefferson Bass, combine their talents and knowledge gleaned from years tending "the Body Farm" to create a spine tingling mystery series. I was absolutely enthralled from page one to the last one. It was a book that I wanted to never end. I wanted to step right into the next mystery and never step out. Intriguing, well-written, fascinating information and interesting characters combined into a story that tingles the spine as well as the mind.

From Amazon:

Renowned anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton has spent his career surrounded by death at the Body Farm. Now he's being called upon to help solve a baffling puzzle in a remote mountain community. The mummified corpse of a young woman dead for thirty years has been discovered in a cave, the body bizarrely preserved and transformed by the environment's unique chemistry. But Brockton's investigation is threatening to open old wounds among an insular people who won't forget or forgive. And a long-buried secret prematurely exposed could inflame Brockton's own guilt—and the dangerous hostility of bitter enemies determined to see him fail . . . by any means necessary.

A little pricier than some other Kindle books, this series (and I would be willing to assume anything by this "writing team extraordinaire") is definitely worth it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Kindle Book Collection App

If you read on a Kindle Fire you know how exasperating it is to try to scroll through dozens or hundreds (or in my case, thousands) of books for one particular one...or just for something that fits your mood of the day for a good read. I have no idea why the designers of the Kindle Fire (Fire-men?) didn't take the very basic design of the first Kindles and include a way to put books into folders for organization. To me, it seems that anyone who reads knows the importance of having some sort of system in your library. Even if you space your books on a shelf according to the order of height, it's rare to find a home library that doesn't have at least some sort of organization.

I used to find myself reaching for my old keyboard Kindle for reading, simply because of its folders which allowed me to keep my fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks, read, to-read next and others separate.

FINALLY! The folks at Digital Media Revolutions came up with an app for the Kindle that allows you to organize your ebooks into folders. At $2.99 it's a huge bargain, in my opinion.

Amazon says:

Click HERE to order
Book Collections is the app that every Kindle Fire owner has been waiting for!

Now you can organize your books into customizable folders that you can create and rename. You can also edit your book's data and location to keep track of how much you've read. And you can access your books to read directly from the Book Collections app!

Keep in mind that the Kindle Fire's e-reader is unable to remember your location when accessed from third-party apps. Use the BACK arrow button when finished to return to our app and quickly record your location number so you can get return to where you were next time. Also note that books with DRM prevent the app from automatically displaying title and author information, which can be manually added using the Edit function.

Your entire library can be sorted just the way you want it. Visit us at our blog or Facebook page to find free Kindle books and apps!
(Note: I have yet to find Digital Media Revolutions on Facebook OR to be able to find their blog.)

50 Shades of................Romney

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Catching the wave of the popularity of the 50 Shades of Gray trilogy, Tim Young, with tongue firmly entrenched in cheek, titled his expose book on Gov. Romney 50 Shades of Romney: Hint, They're All White. Lest you think I'm making a personal political statement by including this review on a presidential candidate, rest assured that the one focusing on President Obama will be read and reviewed as soon as it's completed. Young says, "I want to let you all know that I'll also be writing one of these on President Obama as well. I actually don't like either one of the candidates."  He adds, "This Presidential election literally pits a President who hasn't accomplished much (insert your excuse here) with the worst challenger in the history of man."

In this election, for the first time since I took that first important step into a polling place with my voter card clutched tightly in hand, I am at a loss as to where to cast my vote. Mr. Young describes my feelings exactly as he sums up his own by saying: "To use a sports analogy, it is like the two worst teams in history are playing each other in a Tuesday daytime game, and it's not free bobblehead day. Those teams could essentially leave the billion-dollar stadium and play on the street and no one would watch."

I can remember my pacifist grandmother standing in her living room door and looking at the wreck that we five grandkids had made of her home while she was in the garden picking peas. Instead of screaming at us, she just stood there shaking her head sadly and saying "Lord have mercy," over and over. I know how she felt when I think about this upcoming election. Have mercy, what a mess.

Although the title makes it sound as if this book is one-sided slanted to the left, it is actually written in a very straight-forward "just the facts" outline. Every fact that is stated is backed up with easily researchable documents (and is dosed with a dash of humor which, just like sugar, makes the medicine go down a bit easier).

Very well-written, this is an easy read, and in my personal opinion,  whether you bow to the donkey or the elephant gosh (neither deserves to be called a "god" the way they've been behaving recently), it should be required reading.

Amazon's description: In his own self-review of this book, the author Tim Young says, "BRILLIANT! This is the snarky, intelligent, and hilarious look into the inconsistencies throughout Mitt Romney’s political career that both Democrats and apathetic Republicans have been waiting for."

Comedian and pundit Tim Young tears apart the 2012 race and analyzes the statements of Mitt Romney in this no-holds barred commentary. He dares to take stabs at everything from Romney’s religious views to his forgetting that he owns guns. In the end, you’ll question why the Republican Party chose Romney as their candidate and even more so, why he is even a Republican
.

I couldn't have said it better myself. If you plan to vote in November, I strongly suggest you "buy" (it's free at Amazon.com) a copy of this book (AND of the Obama one to follow) for a dash of humor along with the bitter dose of necessary truths.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Update

I haven't posted in a couple of days. Am at the hospital with my husband who is in ICU after suffering a "heart event." I don't have my book list with me and am posting from my phone. Will hopefully be back in the zone soon. Until then, keep reading!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pagan Moon

Another chilling thriller. This one by William Davis. I was a little leery of this because of the title. Many people don't realize the importance of capitalizing a letter. Huge difference for the word "pagan."  Describing someone as pagan (little p) can mean the presence of devil and Satanic worship. The Pagan religion (capital P) however is a "do no harm" religion of love, peace and tolerance. Pagans do not believe in the Christian God nor do they believe in Satan, so certainly they do not engage in devil worshipping. Anyway, hoping I wasn't paying to have a religious agenda poked down my throat, I followed the advice of a friend and purchased Pagan Moon.

They were right. It was an awesome read. Very chilling. Although I was fairly certain at the begining of the book that it would eventually end well, as things progressed the main characters started going to hell in a handbasket (pardon the pun). Mr. Davis created a macabre setting and filled it with interesting, well-fleshed characters with a complex plot that continued to surprise me until the final pages. I was very entertained. Edge-of-your-seat (or in my case bed) reading. An intriguing twist to the cookie-cutter "serial killer" theme. Add in cyrogenics, terrorists planning to take over the world and the teeniest touch of paranormal and I can't think of a better send-off for a first-time-published writer.

Amazon describes the book as:

Click HERE to order
From the savage Everglades to opulent Palm Beach, sheriff’s detective Mike Gage pursues a death cult no one else believes exists. Gage knows they do—his former lover was one of its ritually sacrificed victims. Obsessed with her murder, Mike becomes a homicide cop. Throughout his career more women’s bodies turn up throughout South Florida, all the same mutilation—the brutal extraction of the heart.

When a pretty coed eventually escapes the cult's bloody altar, Gage is shocked when powerful philanthropist and financier Quentin Van Eck is exposed as the group’s high priest. After Van Eck’s mysterious death, his body is cryogenically preserved. That’s when Gage begins to unravel the truth behind Van Eck’s Virilian Foundation and the sinister evil lurking beneath its respectable facade. Assisted by Van Eck’s beautiful widow and a mysterious Frenchman with ties to the ancient Templar order, Gage uncovers the cult’s apocalyptic objective. Cryonic suspension, human sacrifice and satanic worship formulate the alchemy to incarnate a malevolent spirit that will enslave mankind.

Battling the embodiment of evil, Gage challenges a power that could not only take his life but his very soul. James Patterson meets Stephen King.
It did bother me that there were so many formatting errors. Blank pages, loooooong blank spaces in sentences and between paragraphs. It is a credit to the exquisite writing that my eyes soon learned to block out the spaces to avoid the distraction. I would suggest that the author reformat ASAP. This book deserves to go into the fray dressed to the max.

Daddy's Home

Although the title sounds like a Leave It To Beaver episode, in this case "daddy" is the polar opposite of Ward Cleaver. When this guy said Daddy's Home it didn't end well for anybody but dear old dad.
Although you learn the name of the killer in the first few pages, it isn't until near the end that it all ties up in a neat (albeit bloody) bow and you figure out who he really is. This "psychological thriller" storyline was somewhat reminiscent of an episode of Criminal Minds...and just as thrilling and well-written. There was a very warm fuzzy romance threaded through the novel, nicely done. Not too cloying, with enough angst to keep you rooting for the good guys. Characters were well-written and fleshed out nicely and the dialogue and imagery was interesting. Certainly having the protagonist use her mouth (in a, ahem, creative way that would take any man's mind off his driving) to crash a plane as a ploy to remove herself from the hands of a serial killer was unique. A.K. Alexander is the pen name for bestselling mystery author Michele Scott (The Nikki Sands Mystery Series).

From Amazon:
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A KILLER STALKS HIS PREY...
A calculating and deadly killer is in search for what he terms as his perfect family. Preying upon single mothers and their innocent children, the police have dubbed him "The Family Man."


HE WATCHES THEM...HE TAKES THEM...
He plays out his role as the perfect father. When things don't go so perfect in his insane fantasy world, the family man kills.

HOLLY JENNINGS IS ON THE CASE...
Crime Scene Investigator Holly Jennings of the San Diego Police Department is determined to track him down and see that justice is served. With Holly being a single mother herself, this man's crimes are deeply personal to her, and turn more so when a friend and her daughter become the latest victims of "The Family Man."

Along with tracking an evil killer, Holly is dealing with her own internal demons. She is raising her daughter Chloe alone after the death of her husband--a death she feels guilty for.

To complicate her life further, Holly is doing her best to avoid possibly falling in love again with charming veterinarian Brendan O'Neil. As Holly delves deeper into solving the murders, she finds herself being sucked into a game of cat and mouse by "The Family Man," that may lead her down a dark path too horrible to bear. One that may cost her gravely-her family, her new found love, and even her life.


This wasn't a quick read, but was very enjoyable...if you enjoy being privy to crime scenes so descriptively written that you can almost smell the blood and hear the screams. If you're a fan of James Patterson or John Sanford, you'll probably enjoy this a lot.

Oddly, for some reason the cover to The Lion, The Lamb, The Hunted is what showed up on my Kindle. (There was a preview to this book at the end of Daddy's Home.) Very confusing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Desperate Housedogs

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Straight up I'll tell you, if you're not an animal lover you're probably going to be in the group that gave this book just a star or two. If you're an animal lover, or more specifically a dog lover and you enjoy cozy mysteries with a sprinkling of humor then you're going to definitely 'see stars.' Lots of them.

I thoroughly enjoyed the read and found myself nodding my head along with Caro Lamont, dog psychologist, as she explained to clients what their dogs were trying to tell them by their actions and how to answer positively in a way the dog would understand. With over 30 years in the dog community as a breeder-exhibitor and working in rescue, I firmly believe that the only answer to the overwhelming need for rescue is education. This book, authored by "Sparkle Abbey" does an excellent job of educating and informing all while entertaining. A tough job. By the way, I put "Sparkle Abbey" in quotation marks because she doesn't really exist. "Sparkle" is the name of Mary Lee Woods rescue cat and "Abbey" is the rescue dog of Anita Carter, two friends who co-write this Pampered Pets mystery series under the pseudonym of Ms. Abbey. And they do it so well!

Amazon describes the book as:

When Caro Lamont, former psychologist turned pet therapist makes a house call to help Kevin Blackstone with his two misbehaving German Shepherd dogs, she expects frantic dogs, she expects a frantic dog owner, she even expects frantic neighbors. What she doesn’t expect is that two hours later the police will find Kevin dead, his dogs impounded; and that as the last person to see Kevin alive (well, except for the killer) she is suddenly a person of interest, at least according to Homicide Detective Judd Malone.

What Amazon doesn't describe is the sideline story of an ongoing feud between Caro and her cousin  as they battle to steal an antique brooch back and forth from each other. Thanks to a cryptic clause in her will, Caro and her cousin each believe that their great-aunt left them brooch. After all, she said "to my favorite niece...." Their antics do add a nice fun sideline that is carried through the series.

Not only was it a well-laid-out story line, I actually was kept guessing until the very end "whodunnit." Rare for me, as I can usually tell after the first fourth of a book or movie what the ending will be.

If you enjoy Susan Conant, Carol Lea Benjamin, Laurien Berenson and similar writers of cozy dog mysteries, you'll want to add Desperate Housedogs to your reading list.

(Every time I see the author's name, Sparkle Abbey, I think of a stripper. Great pseudonym!)



Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Elvis Has Not Left The Building

If you are one of the thousands who think you've seen Elvis at the Laundromat and the Dairy Queen or at the local Dollar General you might be right. As it turns out, as so many devoted fans have said all along, Elvis did NOT die. He just left the business and is alive and well, making a living as California's oldest (probably, he'd be something like 75 years old now) private detective. Having walked away from his singing career and all his millions (seems as if he'd have put at least a coffee can of hundreds under the bed) Elvis has been forced to make money in unorthodox ways. Luckily, he has found that he's good at it. As good as life is though, he is as melancholy as you'd expect anyone to be that sees his daughter regularly on the pages of newspapers and magazines but knows he can't ever reach out and touch her.

This was the first book I'd read by J. R. Rains, but it won't be the last! I already have a couple of others waiting in my queue. Can't wait! To take such an unusual premise and make it not only work but be exceptionally entertaining takes talent. I could hear the words I read spoken in Elvis's voice and even though I was never a huge Elvis fan (forgive me, mama) I found the book absolutely delightful. The plot was well-written and well-thought-out. When it comes to this book, I really "can't help falling in love..."


Amazon's synopsis:

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It's tough being the King.

Which is why in 1977 Elvis faked his own death and endured massive facial reconstruction surgery, and disappeared from the limelight to live a normal life as the unassuming Aaron King. Unfortunately, leaving fame behind also meant leaving his fortune behind, too, and now Elvis finds himself broke and living in near poverty in a small apartment in Los Angeles. Luckily for him, it turns out he's a pretty good private investigator.

Now in his seventies and contemplating a return to music (discreetly, of course), Elvis is hired to solve a baffling missing person case. The King digs deeper, and soon finds himself surrounded by the seedier elements of Los Angeles, from nefarious Hollywood producers who prey upon the young, to twin brothers with a very dark secret.

And as Elvis pieces the bizarre puzzle together, he slowly makes his singing comeback—and will be reunited on stage with someone even the King himself never dreamed possible.


There was no dog featured in the book. Except a couple of mentions about someone being "nothing but a hound-dog."

Thank you. Thank you verry much.

Monday, July 23, 2012

She's Gotta Be Mine

Sorry guys...today's winner is another "chick" book. Although it does have a mystery element I admit it also does have romance. However, since the romance is well sprinkled with sex (and this author's 'day job' is writing erotic romance, so she knows her stuff) you might still enjoy it.

Jennifer Skully/Jasmine Hayes hit another one out of the park with this one. She's Gotta Be Mine was a very fun read. Most reviews I've seen give it a middle-of-the-road review for just being "entertaining" but I would have to give it a star higher for being so well-written. (It has a four-star rating on Amazon, and a four-and-a-half on Goodreads, which means it had to have an awful lot of five stars in the mix).

The Amazon description is way too short in my opinion:
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Dumped? For her husband’s high school sweetheart he hasn’t seen in twenty years? Roberta Jones Spivey isn’t going to lay down for that. Instead, she reinvents herself and the new Bobbie Jones—new haircut, new name, new attitude—follows her soon-to-be ex to the small Northern California town of Cottonmouth.

What better way to show him—and his sweetheart—what he’s missing in the brand new Bobbie Jones than taking up with the town’s local bad boy—who’s also reputed to be a serial killer. Nick Angel is devilishly handsome and sexy as all get-out. In a word, perfect.

It’s all going exactly according to plan...until a real murder rocks the little town of Cottonmouth. Of course, Nick didn’t do it...did he?


Previously published as "Sex and the Serial Killer" I found myself rooting for the "serial killer." It was also nice to find out that the "pretty blonde from high school" was lying about more than her dark roots and although I won't give anything else away, just let me say that I always like a happy ending. This was a pretty much a "cookie cutter" plot, but the situations, the dialogue and the well-fleshed-out characters made it very enjoyable quick light read. Excellent choice for reading at the beach or in the hammock with a big glass of iced tea with mint.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

All That Jazz (Tremaine)

It's really tough these days to come up with a premise for a paranormal book that will be a "fresh breath" among all of the Twilight-wannabes. Linda Wilson has proven that her lungs are in great working condition as she continues to provide readers with 'fresh breaths' in every book.

50 Ways to Hex Your Lover was the first of the books I'd read by Wilson featuring the main character of Jazz Tremaine, a witch with an attitude. Jazz lives with three other witches who were tossed out of the witchy world because of transgressions some 300 years ago. As they continue to get in trouble and get called on the carpet, their exile appears to be permanent. Since I read 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover I've rollicked through Hex Appeal, Hex in High Heels and am anxiously awaiting another. No, they're not great literature, but they do exactly what they're meant to do. Entertain me. And they do. (The story starts slow, so give it a chance.)

Amazon's description of 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover:

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Jazz can't decide whether to scorch him with a fireball or jump into bed with him. Jasmine Tremaine, a witch who can't stay out of trouble. Nikolai Gregorivich, a drop-dead gorgeous vampire cop on the trail of a serial killer.

The sizzling love affair between Jazz and Nick has been off-again, on-again-for about 300 years. Mostly off, lately. But now Nick needs Jazz's help, and while Jazz and Nick try to figure out their own hearts and resist their ever-increasing attraction, they must steer clear of a maniacal killer with super-supernatural powers. They are surrounded by a hilarious cast of oddball paranormal characters, including Irma, the chain-smoking ghost who haunts Jazz's sports car, Dweezil, her ghoul of a boss, and Fluff and Puff, a pair of bunny slippers with sharp teeth and short tempers (watch your ankles)!

Most readers agree that Fluff and Puff, the monster bunny slippers, are the cutest characters in the book. Although they have a nasty temper, they're easily cowed when Jazz simply lifts her foot (they're afraid of heights). Personally, I think I liked Irma the ghost the best; destined to haunt Jazz's car forever with cigarette smoke and backtalk. Since Jazz is in her car frequently for her job removing hexes from her clients, Irma and Jazz's conversations fill up quite a bit of the book. Of course her conversations (and romantic interludes) with Nick take up quite a few too.

The title was misleading. Jazz never hexes anybody. Much less Nick. And although there's a cat on the cover, there wasn't one in the book. If you're up for a fun read without a lot of brain cell involvement pick up a copy!