Thursday, March 31, 2011

Uncommon Grounds by Sandra Balzo Review

Meet Maggie Thorsen.  She's a divorcee with a son in college, just trying to get her life back together.  On the day that she and two friends have the grand opening for their new business, a coffee shop, she walks in to find one of her friends laying murdered on the floor.  Maggie can't keep her nose out of the mystery and has to figure out who has killed her friend.

As a cozy mystery series, this was a great beginning.  We start off in the beginning with the murder, so immediately you're sucked in.  We have a larger sized small town full of interesting, yet suspicious, people.  Sandra is a great storyteller who's created a wonderful setting for her mysteries to take place.  As a main character, Maggie is witty and bright, with a penchant for getting into trouble.  Just a hint of romantic suspense definitely adds to this story and I can't wait to see where Balzo goes with the romance line to the story. 

So, what makes this different from every other cozy mystery series out there and sets it apart from the rest?  That's a simple answer, as far as I'm concerned.  I didn't solve the mystery.  I went through the entire book, mentally filing away each suspect.  I added motive and opportunity and calculated who was the most likely.  Then I factored in the writer's ability to make the least likely suspect be the murderer.  Then I took a few moments to think about the back stories in an attempt to find someone's 'fatal flaw'.  Still, at the end of the book when everything starts wrapping up, I was shocked!  I've read a lot of mysteries and I'm sold on any book where the characters figure out what's going on before I do.

Cozy mystery lovers won't want to miss this one.  There are even a few 'laugh out loud' moments in the book.  Watch for reviews of the next two books in the series, Grounds for Murder and Bean There Done That

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Return of Black Douglas by Elaine Coffman Review

Magical time travel romance.

Isobella and Elizabeth are visiting Scotland whhen Isobella wishes she had her 'Mr. Darcy'.  When she touches a painting of Black Douglas, all three of them disappear and reappear in the year 1515.  Each of the sisters are 'picked up' by warring clans.  Will they be able to find each other, let alone their way back home?

Ah so much fun!  I love time travel and this one has such a great twist!  The ghost of Black Douglas transports them back and then decides to stick around and drive the girls crazy throughout the book.  Our ghost adds a much-needed humor element.

The romance portion of the story involves Isobella and Alysandir.  Thankfully, Isobella has done her homework, so she knows how to behave and what to expect of the time period.  Of course, they have the more than typical romance issues in coming together.  The romance portion is excellent with just enough of that 'I'm a high school kid and this is my first love' feel to keep you tingling all over.  There are a few sex sections, but they're easy enough to skip over if you like.  I didn't find anything spectacular about them.

What I loved most about this book is the phrasing.  There were some parts where I actually stopped and reread a section several times because it just sounded so beautiful in my head.  In places the characters make profound comments that are absolutely lyrical.  I've never read Elaine's work before, but if this is typical of her writing, I'm definitely a fan.  Most of the book is a fun, quick, and quirky read, but once you hit these choice morsels you realize that you've really hit upon something special.  I'm thankful the entire book isn't written this way, as I would never actually finish it (because I kept rereading so often!), but there's just enough in there to keep me coming back for more.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Recovery by Alexandrea Weis Review

Strong romance, suspense!

Set against the backdrop of recovering Louisiana, turned writer Nicci finds that her beloved David was murdered by someone in her background, not his.  An important figure from David's past turns up to ask Nicci to help uncover the murderer, along with the help of one of David's old friends. 

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first.  I don't like the main character, Nicci.  I find her flat and annoying and not someone that I would ever in a billion years want to be friends, or even acquaintances, with.  Also, you all know how I feel about editing.  Though it's not rampant with errors, it definitely became distracting in a few areas.

Though I haven't read the first book in the Nicci series, To My Senses, it really isn't necessary for this second installment.  Dallas, the hero in our book, is amazing, as are the rest of the cast of characters.  Weis has a real talent for creating strong, romantic heroes as well as outlandish and vibrant surrounding characters. 

There's a strong blend of romance, intrigue and a healthy dose of giggling.  I didn't solve the mystery until the end, along with the characters.  I was captivated by the story as well as the characters and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Currently, Weis's screenplay, Blood Will Tell, is in pre-production in the movie industry and rights are being sought to produce a movie for recovery.  I'd keep an eye on this author, as she has a definite flair for storytelling and with a few minor adjustments, could become a huge hit.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bullet Work by Steve O'Brien Review

Oh Steve, how I adore you!

You all heard me rave about Elijah's Coin, now I get to rave about Bullet Work.  O'Brien is probably my favorite new author of the year.  His writing sucks you in, regardless of the material.  The characters are heartfelt and true.  Best of all, there's a life moral in each work of art he creates that makes your subconscious sit up and take notice.  Steve produces an entertaining read and uses it to help you change your life for the better.  I can't wait until he publishes more.  Get busy, Steve!

In Bullet Work, we're on the race track circuit.  Our main character is Dan, an owner as well as lawyer.  Someone is attacking horses in the backyard and charging $20 per head (horse head, that is)  for 'protection'.  Those that don't pay the fee, are winding up with injured and dead horses.  When Dan's horse and his friend are attacked, he decides it's time to step up and do something about the problem.

I hate horses.  I'm terrified of them because they have no soul.  Feel free to argue with me!  Everyone does!  I know (knew)  absolutely nothing about horse racing or betting or the tracks or anything of that ilk.  I'm not a cowgirl at heart.  None of that mattered.  I was sucked into the horse racing world and became a part of it, and I didn't even fight it.  I was right there brushing down horses and cheering them on.  Not being a fan of horses didn't change how I feel about this book at all.  I think most horse lovers would be even more drawn to this book than I am.

You all know that I'm especially tough on mystery books.  I hate when I figure out who the culprit is before the characters and if the ride isn't interesting enough, then I don't even care.  As expected, Steve surpassed my expectations.  Dan and I were right in sync.  I figured it out at almost the exact same moment he did and waited right along with him until we had the proof.  The ride was definitely interesting enough.  Even if I hadn't had the mystery to keep me busy, the background kept me enthralled. 

Normally, I don't like to pick out characters and zoom in on them, but I can't help it here.  There's a character named AJ.  He's a sweet boy of about 20 that some of the other guys bully.  AJ is an autistic boy who has focused on horses.  We don't find out until the end more about him, but it doesn't matter.  All of the signs are there throughout the book and you can't help but sympathize with this boy.  I saw so much of my own son in him that it was heart breaking for me.  There were a few points in the book where tears streamed down my face because I just couldn't help it.

I strongly suggest this book for everyone.  Even if it isn't your normal cup of tea, I really think you'll find something valuable in it. 

showmecables.com Review

My dog eats everything!  What he doesn't eat, I lose :)  Recently, I needed a new camera cable and so I started the normal internet browsing to see if I could find the right one for the right price.  I ended up ordering one from showmecables.com.   The price was comparable with other places on the internet and the shipping fees were low.  I didn't have to register as a member or anything.  I simply told them what I wanted and gave them the shipping and payment information.

My cable arrived within three days.  Quick!  It was packaged nicely and in perfectly wonderful condition.  Best of all, it was exactly what I'd ordered!  Some of you internet shoppers know that mistakes do happen!  The icing on the cake for me, though, was a sweet little bag that thanked me for ordering from them with a few pieces of candy in it :)  Way to go showmecables!  Candy is the way to a girl's heart!  Any cables I need from now on will be ordered through them!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Alice in Zombieland by Lewis Carroll and Nickolas Cook

Ah, sweet deviant writing!  From Dusk til Dawn meets Alice in Wonderland!

As Alice falls down the grave hole, we expect to find much the same story as when she fell down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.  What's better, it is the same story!  Of course, the white rabbit has become a black rat.  Instead of a cast of interesting characters, we have a cast of interesting undead characters. 

Most of this read felt like I was reading Alice in Wonderland all over again, with a few twists and turns added.  Those twists and turns, slight though some of them were, definitely made this an entirely different story.  Cook's wording is fabulously matching to that of Carroll, so if you don't know the original Alice inside and out, you may not know where one begins and the other ends.  Even if you do know your Alice, you'll find yourself trying to remember if that was original or newly added. 

I'd like to say this book was full of whimsy, and it some parts it was, but mostly I found myself disturbed.  I love horror and gore and the more the better!  I have no problem imagining  playing croquet with a wriggling undead foot.  There are lines that shouldn't be crossed though and I found a few areas where it was just a little too unsettling for me.  Most of this book was a joy ride for a nightmare lover, but once we get to hacked up baby parts in a stew, I'm ready to exit. 

If you can handle the extreme, this is a great read.  I love it just as much as all the other classics I've read that have been remade into horror.  I can guarantee you that you've never read anything like this, and aren't likely to again. 

Final note:  The end is EXQUISITE!  The entire book I was wondering how a zombie Alice is going to wake up as if it were all a dream...and I was not disappointed!  The ending was better than anything I'd imagined and it was totally worth the stewed baby parts to get to it!  (As long as I keep reminding myself it's not real, anyway!)

The Answer by Allison Wynn

A thought-provoking insight.

I read this book a full 24 hours ago, but I've been thinking about it before writing the review.  My first instinct is to disagree with what the book offers, and upon reflection, I still somewhat disagree, but not wholeheartedly.

This book takes the meeting and friendship of Allison and Eric and uses it to show where anger comes from and how to control it, or better, dissolve it.  I like that it's a short book and that it's segmented into journal entries.  I also like that it shows different sides of the scale of anger, as well as going into great detail about the way that even though we rationally know what's going to happen next, we feel we can't control it.  What I don't like is the premise that anger comes from being made to feel insignificant.  Yes, that definitely is a trigger, but I don't believe it's the only one.  Also, the methods they suggest for dealing with this anger don't work for me.  I'm not saying they wouldn't work for someone else.  Both characters began with severe anger issues that were affecting their lives.  The solution worked for them and their surrounding relationships.

If you're suffering from anger issues, this might well be a book to give a try.  If you're not, there's still a sweet friendship story to be found inside.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Conair Wet*Dry Straightener Review

Put your credit card away and keep shopping.

After my dog ate my straightener this morning (Yes, I said it!), I ran straight to the store to replace it.  Let's face it, a good needs all the beauty help she can get, and I'm addicted to my straightener.  I chose the Conair for one reason alone, the wet/dry.  At first glance, it seems great.  It was on sale for even less than the one that I had previously owned.  I wouldn't need to blow dry before using this one.  It's a cute purple color and has a strange design that is supposed to be more comfortable for your hands.  It's ceramic with cool touch tip.  It has 30 second heat up and 25 heat settings as well as a turbo button and automatic shut off.  Sounds awesome, right?  Wrong!  Here's what I actually found!

I started with freshly clean, towel-dried hair.  The straightener heated up quickly like it said.  No complaints so far.  After 45 minutes, I had hand cramps (comfortable, my butt!) and wet hair that was no straighter than when I started.  Once I dried it and tried again, I did end up getting straight results.  The hand cramps and fact that the wet/dry option takes forever to work (I'm pretty sure if I'd have kept at it a few hours it would have dried), make this a poor option for me and I'm going to be replacing it as soon as possible.

The bonuses to this straightener:  It's a cool color.  It's inexpensive.  It does work well on dry hair (if you can get past the hand cramps).  Best of all, when you're attempting to straighten damp hair, you get this really cool 'ssssssssssssh' sound like sizzling hamburger :D  That alone make this worth a try for me. 

How Dare You Say How Dare Me! Pat Cooper

Hysterical autobiography with amazing photographs!

This is the story of comedian Pat Cooper's life.  It's my understanding that he told the story, and then Rich Herschlag wrote the book and Steve Garrin was in charge of the photography.  If I'm wrong, hopefully one of them will post and let us know. 

I have to admit, if you'd have asked me who Pat Cooper was two days ago, I would have responded with a shrug.  Then again, the only comedians I can name off the top of my head are the two that I know personally.  Most people will remember Pat from Howard Stern or as the friar in the Friars Club episode of Seinfeld.  He's so much more than that, though!  I found myself captivated by his life, as well as the storytelling.  It felt like I was sitting in a big, cozy room with a fireplace, on a plush rug, looking up at a dear friend as he told me a story. 

If Pat's fascinating life isn't enough to make you pick up this book, you'll also be entertained by stories of Jerry Lewis, Tony Martin, Frank Sinatra and Lisa Lampanelli to name a few. 

The most interesting part of this book for me had to do with a theater scene.  Recently, I reviewed Palm Trees on the Hudson.  In both books, they described going to the movies.  Though both loved the movies, what really struck me was that the movie theaters used to give out dishes.  There were about 250 pieces in the set and each time you went to the movies, you got one.  Evidently both mothers, from both stars of both books, were collecting them!  Yes, it's a trivial little thing, but I found it fascinating that something I'd never heard of occurred in two books back to back!

The Thirteenth Gift by Charlene Costanzo

Sweet fable with important message.

What is the attraction of stones?  Simple stones.  The thype we come across on hiking trails, country roads, beaches, and city sidewalks.  What instict urges us to stopp for them?  Hold them in pockets?  Save them in jars?


A little-known fable offers an explanation.  According to this story, even the appeal of gem stones is rooted in something deeper than dazzle...something we are all trying to remember.  (taken from the back of the book)

I loved so much about this book.  First, it's a quick, quick read.  You can read the book in under an hour, even if you're a slow reader.  The fable is medieval, although it's set in today's current times.  Best of all, for me, the book holds an important message about seeing the 'good' in others. 

Charlene is also the author of The Twelve Gifts of Birth, The Twelve Gifts for Healing, The Twelve Gifts in Marriage, and A Perfect Name.  Be prepared if you meet her!  She'll reach in her purse and hand you a stone, a reminder of the twelve gifts for you to keep.  Charlene travels all over the country to schools, shelters, prisons, anywhere she can think of to spread her message.  Charlene, I'd love to meet you and count the stones in your purse! 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Palm Trees on the Hudson by Elliot Tiber

A witty, fascinating memoir.

Elliot grew up the only son in an interesting Jewish family.  Fighting to find his own way, he left for college in the hopes of getting into the design business.  No matter what he did though, he couldn't get his mother's approval.  Add to that the fact that Elliot grew up a homosexual in the 50's and 60's and the fact that he was pretty naive when it came to others.  This book takes us through Elliot's life until the late 60's, at which point he continues in Taking Woodstock.

I know this sounds terrible, but I love gay writers.  Yes, that's totally prejudiced, but in general they seem to have such an open and honest sense of humor.  I'm not saying straight people don't.  *sigh*  My political incorrectness will be my downfall.  Anyway, Elliot has a sparkling wit and snarky sense of humor.  He uses these constantly to paint a comical look at his life...most of the time.  It's not all comedy.  Even when things are at what seems to be the worst, Elliot has a way of 'keeping it real' and giving us the best imaginable picture.  Normally, with memoirs, I find them interesting, sometimes humorous.  With this one, I really want to meet Elliot's family.  It's almost like a tiny piece of interesting history.  I want to see the bungalows they invested in and see a picture of his penny-pinching mother.  Hmm....Hey, Elliot?  Can you e-mail me a picture of your parents???  Pleeeeeeeeease?!  I won't post them unless you say it's ok!

For memoir lovers, this is a must.  The best scene in the book (for me, Miss Wizard of Oz), was a tete a tete Elliot and Judy Garland participated in.  I was mesmerized by the scene!  For those who aren't into the whole 'factual story' thing, don't worry.  Most of this book is so outlandish (No offense, Elliot!)  that you'll forget you're reading a true story and just have fun with it.  Full of humor and depth, this is a great quick read for anyone.

Elijah's Coin Winner

Due to some pretty severe changes in my life right now, I'm a little late in announcing the winner.  My  most sincere apologies to those who have been waiting :)

And the winner is.....................littlelatina who runs I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.  If you get a chance, go check out her blog.  She has some great reviews as well as giveaways and hops!  Congrats!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Case for Falling in Love by Mari Ruti, PhD

First, let me say that I'm a cynic, no longer a romantic.  This is important because I'll probably view this book differently than someone who believes in, and is searching for, love.

This book is separated into two sections.  The first section is mostly an attack on other self-help books out there.  Using several pop culture media references, Ruti draws out her reasons, as well as her own research, as to why these other self-help love gurus are antiquated and wrong.

The second half of the book is more geared towards understanding why we love, how we love, and how to make love successful.  Complete with more references, this part makes a little more sense to me as a book.  There's a bit of actual helpful information for those seeking it rather than just tearing apart someone else's work.

Over all, the book is nicely put together, entertaining and easy to read.  Personally, I found the first half of the book interesting, but useless on the whole.  The second half contains quite a bit of good material on figuring out who you are and what you're looking for.  Regardless of whether you're looking for love, there are some really good tidbits about dealing with other people and relationships in general.

I'm There for You, Baby by Neil Senturia - Review

The most entertaining 'nonfiction' I've ever read!

I picked up this book expecting to find a dry, step-by-step as to how to become a successful entrepreneur.  That's not what I found at all.  Senturia shares his mistakes and successes in a vivid, hilarious way, allowing the reader to learn from his mistakes.  I kid you not, I snorted tea out of my nose 3 times before I even hit page 27.  Although the entire book isn't laugh out loud funny, most of it is.  Senturia's style kept me reading what would otherwise be a boring account of business ventures. 

In all fairness, if you know nothing about lending institutions or real estate, you may find parts of it a little boring.  Though Senturia's snarky attitude goes a long way towards brightening everything, there are some things that you just can't make entertaining if the reader isn't into it.

If you're thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, this book holds several valuable rules that you might find helpful.  If you just want a book that will make you laugh until your nose bleeds, this is it.  I look forward to seeing what Senturia has planned for Volume 2.

Note:  This book is schedule to be released April 1st, 2011.

Shift by Takumi Yamazaki - Review

Excellent self-help book!

This book isn't just about finding your motivation.  It's about learning who you are and teaching you how to be who you want to be.  Motivation will take care of itself from that point.

I love that abstract ideas are presented in concrete manners.  Yamazaki uses everything from bowling to being in love to create lasting metaphors for the truths he's trying to pass on.  Everything is simply stated, but this is no simple book.  Each message forces you to take a good, hard look at yourself.  While reading, there are 13 exercises presented for you to accomplish either by yourself or with a partner or group.  I won't lie to you, some of these were quite difficult for me.  Alright, most of them were quite difficult.  Being honest with yourself is never an easy task, especially when it concerns who you are. 

I don't feel like I walked away a different person from this book, but I do feel like I walked away crisper and clearer.  It's almost like I can visualize life an in easier, more palatable manner.  I'm not a fan of negativity to begin with, but this book helped me look at some of my mannerisms and how they affect my life in a different light than I had before.  It's like the day you get new contacts and you notice leaves on the trees.  This wasn't another step in my quest for the meaning of life, but it created an entire new staircase for my quest in the meaning of me. 

Divide & Conquer by R.L. Geerdes - Review & Giveaway

One of the best fantasies I've read!

This is the third book in the Mistress of Beasts saga as well as the first book that I've read (in the series, not of all time).  Honestly, I'd never even heard of these books before and I can't figure out why!  Unlike most fantasies, this one isn't dry and filmy.  It's action-packed and full of adventure!  I can't get enough!  I laughed.  I cried.  I clapped my hands with glee.  I mourned the end of the book. 

So what's it about?  Well...there's just too much to sum it up in a small paragraph!  Even the back of the book doesn't do it justice.  We have this group of people....sort of people...they're the good guys.  We have an evil sorcerer and a few other guys with him who might be the bad guys...but we don't really know who the bad guy is until the end.  We have bad guys being good guys.  Anyway, so the bad guys have decided to divide & conquer all the good guys in order to take over the 'world'.  Will all the good guys survive?!  OK, seriously this doesn't do the book justice.  Magic, mayhem, romance...it's all here.  Best of all, one of the main characters is a GRIFFIN!!!  YES!!!  There are not enough griffins in books! 

This was a quick, engrossing read that I strongly suggest to all my friends.  I couldn't put it down and I was so sorry to see it end.  I've already put the first two books, Wizard's Secret and Chasing Demons, on my wish list.  Geerdes is definitely a new favorite author and I'm so thankful she was brought to my attention!

Want your own copy to check out?  I'm giving away my review copy!  Why?  Because I want the full set!  How do you win?  Be a follower on Google, Networked Blogs and/or Twitter and leave me a comment letting me know where you follow.  The other option is to leave me a comment telling me you want to win.  You'll get one entry for each comment left.  I'll announce the winner on March 25th!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Quicksilver by Joy Spraycar - Review

You've read Charlaine Harris.  You've read Terry Spear.  You know your werewolves, right?  Maaaaaaaaybe!

Quicksilver definitely has it's ups and downs.  Through most of the book I was riveted and applauding.  However, about halfway through the book, the crux of adventure had come and gone and the second half was spent taking care of the loose ends.  The premise of the book is that Quinton is a werewolf who's been given a second chance with his true love, Serenity.  He wants nothing more than to end his were curse so that he can live happily with her.  The problem is that the first plan of action fails, even though it's the more exciting one, so we find ourselves in this grand adventure and having a wonderful time, gripping to the edge of our seats to find what will happen next.  Then we plummet over a cliff and feel like the book has ended, only to find that we still have several chapters left.  It felt sort of like the story was too short and so Joy felt like she had to keep adding.  Honestly, if you read the book and stop at the point I'm talking about, you'll walk away with a satisfying read.  If you continue on, you feel a little cheated.  Joy does a great job of attempting to pull a mystery from the first half and bring it to fruition, but it really falls short of the initial energy the book has.

One of my favorite parts of Joy's writing is that she isn't afraid to put in a little gore.  Instead of sugar coating, she gives you some graphic stimulation.  Honestly, I could do without the sex scenes, but I'm sure you guys expect that from me by now.  My biggest issue is that I never got to find out if the guy in the forest ever got his hacksaw back.  Hopefully, that won't be an issue for you other readers.

Werewolf lovers will love the way that Joy has portrayed them here.  Familiars and witchcraft with a little genetics tossed in make this a unique read.  If you happen to be suffering from lycanthropy, I definitely expect you to pick up this book since the cure is published within!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Party for Two by Bruce Cadle - Review

This ain't your mama's recipe book!

This book was established with one main purpose in mind.  Bruce and his wife want to help other couples see how important a weekly date night is.  No, there's no preaching, but they do combat every argument you can come up with.  'We can't afford it!  We can't get a babysitter!'  The only problem not solved in this book is how to have a date night when one party is unwilling, but they do give enough good reasons that you might be able to persuade them.  Bruce and his wife have been happily married for over 35 years and both attribute a large portion of that to date night.  They get the chance to fall in love all over again.

The recipes in this book are tasty!  All of them are set up so that they take minimal kitchen time for your date night.  It's organized into different courses to make meal prep easier.  Simply go through and choose one item from each category for a tasty, romantic dinner.  Personally, I'm down for some Grilled Pina Colada! 

I think couples could really get a lot of great ideas from this book.  Not part of a couple?  That doesn't mean you can't try some of the great recipes :)  My only complaint with this book is that I would have liked to see the food photos in color.  They still look delicious and they're presented well, but I really think color would have made them mouth-watering and the book a bit more entertaining to read.

I am the Chosen King by Helen Hollick - Review

England, 1044, Harold Godwinesson, a young, respected Earl, falls in love with an ordinary but beautiful woman.  He marries Edyth despite her lack of pedigree, pitting him against his turbulent family and his selfish King, Edward.


In France, William, the bastard son of a duke, falls in love with power.  Brutal and dangerously smart, william sets his sights on England, finding ambition a difficult lust to conquer.


With Edward old and dying, England falls vulnerable to the winds of fate - and the stubborn will of these two powerful men.


In this beautifully crafted tale, Helen Hollick sets aside the propaganda of the Norman Conquest and brings to life the English version of the story of the last Saxon King, revealing his tender love, determination, and proud loyalty, all shattered by the unforgiving needs of a Kingdom.  Forced to give up his wife and risk his life for england, the chosen King led his army into the great Battle of Hastings in October 1066 with all the honor and dignity that history remembers of its fallen heroes. (Taken from the back of the book)

First, this is not a light read.  I'm a quick reader and it still took me several days.  Believe me, it's worth it!  This book is absolutely epic.  This isn't just a book.  It's a reading experience.

The characters I found fascinating.  Every one is imbued with realistic faults and flaws.  Though we find ourselves despising them one moment, the next we find ourselves realizing where their thought process is coming from.  Sometimes this even brings us to the point of empathizing with the 'villain'.  It seems as though Hollick took years to perfect each character and then bring them together in one story.  You really know and care about the characters. 

Normally I'm not excited by politics.  I'm even less excited by history.  Those are character flaws, I'm aware, but I am what I am.  That being the case, I was expecting to find myself bombarded with several historical and political passages in the book that I would have to muddle through.  To my great delight, this never happened!  I think I might have even accidentally learned something! 

What I really enjoyed about this book is that it was able to be historically accurate, without having to result to child porn, as another book so recently did.  Everything was tastefully portrayed and I appreciate it. 

This is a definite must-read for serious readers.  It's definitely not a beach read, but it's really worth the time invested.  You'll find yourself sucked into a world from the past where everything is different, yet nothing is.

The Daughter's Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick - Giveaway

Vera at Luxury Reading is currently giving away 3 copies of The Daughter's Walk until March 24th.  Hop over and enter!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pondering Grapefruit Spoons

About a month ago, I was talking to someone and they mentioned grapefruit spoons.  I know what you're thinking.  Why was she having a conversation where grapefruit spoons were mentioned?  Well, welcome to my life!  Isn't it grand?!  Stick to the point!  They were mentioned!  Anyway, I started thinking about grapefruit spoons and realized I've never owned any.  That was a problem that must be remedied!  I stuck my happy butt in my computer chair and started with the online browsing.  I ended up ordering some really adorable ones that were all yellow with little pictures of grapefruits on them.  Once they arrived, I was all excited to try them until I remembered that I'm not really a huge fan of grapefruit.  Don't get me wrong, it's ok, but not something I wanna eat every day.  So...what to do with the spoons???

They're awesome for digging in dirt!  They have these great little serrated edges that slice right through tougher sections and they're strong enough that if you come up across a nasty rock, you can use some leverage and flick those suckers right across the yard!

They're great for jello fights!  It works just like a normal spoon for flicking, but the awesome triangular design allows your jello to fly further!

They're darn cute :)

They're great for flicking kids in the head :)  They work like a normal spoon except they look a lot scarier!

They make really cool tracks in play dough :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

World from Rough Stones by Malcolm McDonald - FREE e-book

For a limited time, Sourcebooks is offering a FREE e-book copy of World from Rough Stones.  I haven't read any of McDonald's work, so I can't tell you how it is.  This is the first novel in the Stevenson Family Saga.  Give it a shot!

Darcy's Voyage by Kara Louse - FREE e-book

For a limited time, Sourcebooks is giving away Darcy's Voyage for free in e-book format! 

'In this retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth sets out for the new world aboard the ship Pemberley’s Promise. She’s prepared for an uneventful voyage until a chance encounter with the handsome, taciturn Mr. Darcy turns her world upside down.' (Taken from Sourcebooks site)

Kara is the author of Only Mr. Darcy Will Do, which I just recently reviewed.  Definitely worth checking out!

The Liberation of Alice Love by Abby McDonald - Review

An alright read, but not amazing.  I'd wait until it's on sale somewhere.

Ah, poor Alice!  She's worked so hard and been so responsible, only to become a victim of identity theft, leaving her stranded with nearly 100 grand in debt.  The betrayed feeling is doubled once she finds out who the culprit is.  Is this necessarily a bad thing, though?

The back of this book billed it as 'refreshing, fun, and sexy...a perfect beach read.'  I don't know about the refreshing or sexy, but it would be a fun read for the beach, unless there happen to be a lot of hot guys walking around.  In that case, I'm sure I could think of something better to do.  Seriously, I don't have any problems with the book other than that it's mediocre.  I didn't hate it enough to say anything bad and I didn't like it well enough to say anything good.  Let's see what I can come up with though, shall we?

Good:  There was one character that I actually cared about.  Of course, she was one of the villains, but I actually found myself having a strong reaction to her.  It's a brilliant character study. 

Bad:  There really isn't anything bad.  It's just mediocre.  It's readable, sure, but not something that I read and went 'Wow!  I'm glad I read that!'  It's not boring.  It's also not exciting. 

I have to apologize.  This has to be one of the worst reviews I've written.  It's nearly impossible to take several hundred words to write, 'This book was blah.'  Honestly, if you have nothing else to read, this will pass the time.  However, if you have something you know you want to read, definitely grab that first.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick - Review

I would rather be repeatedly bashed in the head with a moldy 2x4 than read this book again.

The adored and spirited daughter of England's greatest knight, Mahelt Marshal lives a privileged life.  But when her beloved father falls foul of the volatile and dangerous King John, her world is shattered.  The king takes her brothers hostage and Mahelt's planned marriage to Hugh Bigod, son of the Earl of Norfolk, takes place sooner than she expected.  Mahelt and Hugh come to care for each other deeply, but Hugh's strict father clashes with the rebellious Mahelt.  When more harsh demands from King John threaten to tear the couple's lives apart, Mahelt finds herself facing her worst fears alone, not know if she - or her marriage- will survive. (taken from the back of the book )

Sounds pretty exciting, doesn't it?  I thought so too until I started to read.  In fact, I had planned to put in this review in the morning, but I just can't sleep with this book rattling around in my head.  I have a few things that I need to get off my chest.

First, this book is boring.  I'm sorry, but it is.  It may be historically accurate, but I can write a historically accurate depiction of me stepping in grape jelly this morning.  That doesn't mean it's going to be interesting.  There's a huge difference between carrying the reader with you to watch a beloved character being viciously kidnapped by an unjust king and a girl getting a letter that says 'Oh!  By the way, the King took your brother!'  Please!  What a cop out!  And this is a huge book!  All those wasted words just make me angry! 

Secondly, I don't care how historically accurate it is, I do not, DO NOT, care to read explicit sex scenes starring a 14 year old CHILD!  I do not care that it was acceptable back then, it is not acceptable now and I for one want no part of it.  I will admit that there are times when a sex scene can be necessary, sometimes enjoyable.  In this book, it's simply there to show the progression of their relationship.  It's portrayed as a loving scene and invites the reader to simply forget that this is a child bride and think of her as a fully grown woman, especially when shortly thereafter she becomes pregnant.  Again, I realize this may be historically accurate, but it definitely could have been told without being told in the manner it was.  I do NOT want to be told exactly where and how this child was being touched!

I was expecting an adventurous, romantic read and I ended up disappointed and angry.  For once, I can't even cite flawed editing as my point of anger.  I can tell you this:  I'll never read another Elizabeth Chadwick book.  And now, having purged my views on this book, I'm off to slumber :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Elijah's Coin by Steve O'Brien - Giveaway!

Thanks to the Cadence Group for sponsoring this giveaway. 

Elijah's Coin is one of the best books I've read in the past year.  Though originally intentioned for young adults, I believe it holds an important message for everyone; the meaning of life. 

Now, I get to give one of you a free, brand-spanking-new copy!  It's sitting right here on my desk as we speak!  So, how do you win?  It's simple!  Just leave a comment.  You can tell me why you want to win.  You can tell me your favorite color.  You can just say 'Boo!' if you'd like!  Please make sure you leave a way for me to contact you if you win, though.  Good luck!  I know this is a book that you'll treasure!

I will randomly draw the winner on March 12th.

Only Mr. Darcy Will Do by Kara Louise - Review

A nice twist added to this Austen fiction.

Poor Mr. Bennett has passed, leaving Elizabeth and the rest of the family with no home and no prospects.  Elizabeth is forced to take a position as a governess.  While watching a budding romance unfold between Mr. Darcy and a relative of the family she works for, she begins to see the man that she turned down in a new light.  Now it's too late to even change her mind though.  Her position is even lower than it was.  Just as she realizes her heart's desire, she realizes it's too late to ever obtain it.

At this stage in the game, there are two major items that I judge Austen fiction on.  First, is it readable and enjoyable or is it dry and a nightmare to read through?  What has the author done to make this book stand out among the rest?  We all know and love the characters and the settings.  That doesn't normally change.  Basically, it comes down to flow and creativity for me.  With this book, Kara did extremely well.  I can't say it's the best Austen fiction I've read, but it's right near the top of the list.

Once I began reading last night, I wasn't able to put it down.  Kara kept me guessing at how everything would unfold.  We have all the major beloved characters, but some of the more annoying and gruesome ones have been replaced with new ones.  These new characters are created in such a way that you love to hate them.  I'm not a revenge person, but I kept praying for a horrible accident to take care of these nasty creatures. 

As for creativity, this is the first book I've read where Mr. Bennett dies.  I'm not saying it's the only one out there, but it's the only one I've read.  I can clearly see Kara sitting at the dinner table one night and her mind saying 'But...what if Mr. Bennett dies?  That changes everything....'  and her rushing from the table to start putting everything on paper.  With one simple creative change, Kara has produced a new story from a tale retold repeatedly.

Austen fiction fans will love this.  If you've not read any Austen fiction, this is a good place to begin.  You don't have to know the characters to love them and delve right into the story.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March Book Of the Month

J.R. Ward fans are celebrating!  This month marks the next Black Dagger Brotherhood installment!  I'll admit it, I'm a naughty girl and haven't even finished Crave yet, but I've already pre-ordered my copy of Lover Unleashed.

Payne, twin sister of Vishous, is cut from the same dark, seductive cloth as her brother. Imprisoned for eons by their mother, the Scribe Virgin, she finally frees herself-only to face a devastating injury. Manuel Manello, M.D., is drafted by the Brotherhood to save her as only he can-but when the human surgeon and the vampire warrior meet, their two worlds collide in the face of their undeniable passion. With so much working against them, can love prove stronger than the birthright and the biology that separates them? (Taken from Amazon)

I'm a huge J.R. Ward fan, and that's why Lover Unleashed is March's book of the month. 

It Happened One Bite by Lydia Dare - Review

Highlander vampyres that will make you tingle!

The witches!  The vampyres!  The lycans!  With a magnificent writing team that tosses these back into the Scottish Highlands, this book is a winner.

Anyone who's read any of my reviews knows how I feel about sex scenes.  Usually they're tossed in and annoy me rather than entice me.  I'm a typical romantic girl.  What good is a sex scene if I'm not feeling the romance?  This book is a perfect example of where sex scene excel.  Before everybody's getting nekked, we're filled with that hunger and passion that make your skin vibrate and your senses heighten.  Few books have held me captive as a romance, but this one definitely succeeded. 

My goodness!  I completely forgot to tell you what the story is about!  Basically, James is a vampyre that's been trapped by a coven of witches because one of the witches believes that in the future he'll harm her daughter (who's unborn at the time of entrapment).  So, they put him in a sleep stasis and leave him in the middle of nowhere, locked in a castle.  Twenty years later, he awakens.  On the other side of the story we have Blaire, who's a warrior witch.  Her brother just inherited the castle, supposedly haunted, and she hears this strange 'ghost' talking at her from the basement (ok probably a dungeon).  After setting him free, she has to find out what the story is because, like most of us women, she's darn nosy.

There's a great abundance of emotion, excitement and the paranormal.  Although I haven't read the previous books in this series, they're now on my wishlist.  Dare fans will love the switch from lycans to vampyres while those who haven't tried out Dare will feast on this book.  This is a must read for paranormal romance lovers.

Lydia Dare is the writing name for Tammy Falkner and Jodie Pearson.  It was fascinating to me how they work.  Every 1500 words they swap the manuscript, editing and adding as they go.  In my opinion, it works great for them! 

March Gift Card Winner

It's March!  This hopefully means Spring is on it's way!  It was 80 here yesterday and I definitely enjoyed the nicer weather.  It's time to get out of that wintery blah feeling and move on to the blooming rain.  What does this have to do with this month's gift card winner?  Nothing!  I just like to talk!  On with the real post.....

Every month I fill out little pieces of paper with names of those who follow this blog on Google, Networked Blogs and Twitter.  Every month I add those pieces of paper to a little bin that holds all the pieces of paper from previous months in there.  I've been doing this for a few months now, so some of you have quite a few entries into the drawing.  You get one entry for each place you follow me, and every month I add to that.  This month, lovely March, the winner for the $5 Amazon card is Daena!  I'll be contacting her shortly to let her know she's won.  Congrats, honey!!!

If you didn't win this month, you're still entered in for every future drawing.  Good luck!

To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick - Sale!

Sourcebooks has announced that until Monday, March 7th, To Defy a King will be available on e-book for just $2.99!  Check out Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Books-A-Million or BooksOnBoard to order your copy!

Not an e-book fan?  To Defy a King has just been released in paperback today!

Sins of the House of Borgia by Sarah Bower - Sale!

Sourcebooks has announced that until Monday, March 7th, you can order Sins of the House of Borgia in e-book format for only $2.99!  This offer is good through Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Books-A-Million and BooksOnBoard.  Get your copy while it's on sale!

Not an e-book fan?  Sins of the House of Borgia has just been released today in paperback!

Giveaway Notice

All winners of giveaways will be notified as soon as their name has been drawn. Each winner will have two weeks to respond in order to receive their prize. Prizes cannot be delivered without an email/physical address. Any prizes that are not claimed within a two week period will be forfeited.

Notice

All books (unless otherwise specified) belong to me already, have been borrowed, or are sent to me by the author, publisher or review company for review. I do not receive any monetary rewards for reviewing books. The opinions expressed in my reviews belong solely to me.