Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bloodcurdling Blowout Begins!!

It's finally time!  We know you've been anxiously watching to see which authors and bloggers and prizes are added and we have a buuuunch of them!  Starting off with the Kindle Fire HD!  And, you know we wouldn't be involved without an authographed prize!  Weston Kincade has awesome authographed coffin keychains!  Very swag!  And books!  We've got books!  And books!

But there's more!!  Each website is going to be doing a daily giveaway as well!  Starting right here!  Our giveaway is pretty simple!  We're giving away a prize package of my favorite horror e-books!  Which ones?  I don't know since my mind changes every day!  But!  I do know that I'll give away 5 of them!  Five chilling tales to curl your toes!  How do you win the daily prize??  Simply comment below!  Say 'Hi'! Say 'Bye'!  Say 'Oily Mermaids!"  We don't care!  Just say something!  Then on Saturday morning, we'll draw the prize winner for our daily prize and post it.

Now, how do you win one of the BIIIIIG prizes?!  Simple! Enter the rafflecopter below!  I know it looks long and daunting, but each step is super easy and earns you another entry!  US only due to shipping costs, other than E-copies!  Those don't have a shipping cost so we can send them anywhere there's internet!  Why?  Because we're just awesome like that!!

Want more information?  Check out our main page.  Make sure to visit our next site for a daily giveaway Saturday!

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

MILK-BLOOD by Mark Matthews

By Shawn

Lilly is ten years old, born with a heart defect, and already addicted to heroin.  Her mother is gone from her life, and there are rumors that she was killed by her father and buried near the abandoned house across the street.  The house intrigues her, she can't stay away, and the monstrous homeless man who lives there has been trying to get Lilly to come inside.

For her mother is there, buried in the back, and this homeless man is Lilly's true father, and both want their daughter back. (taken from Amazon description)

I absolutely hated this book.  Until I read it.  Sounds a bit confusing, right?  Let me explain.

In the beginning, most of the chapters are begin with a note from the author.  I don't like the author.  He's a boring know-it-all and I wanted to slam him through a window.  So I stopped reading the author's notes and continued with the book.  Then I finished the book.  Um...where's the rest???  The story just sort of...stops.  No neat little bows.  No ribbons. Not even used up scotch tape to bind it together.

Then, the little light bulb above my head went off.  I went back and reread the story, including the author's notes.  The real author, Mark Matthews,is not a boring know-it-all. He's actually quite entertaining and likable.  The author is a character!  *Face palm*  Ok so I went back and read it again, this time taking the author as a character all alone.  I still didn't like him, but by the time I finished the entire story (including author's notes!)  I realized that this book is pure genius.  Not only is the author a character, but probably the most integral one in the story.  I won't tell you anymore, because I can't without giving you spoilers.

Though there are some graphic scenes in this book, it's mostly just sad.  Fascinating, but sad.  Life is pretty rough for these characters and they all tend to cope with it in different ways.  This is not a 'pretty' book.  It's dank and dirty.  But oh so much fun!

When you pick this up, don't forget to read the author's notes and integrate them as if he were part of the story!  This really makes all the difference.  If you do, you're in for the ride of a lifetime :)  As much as I hated this book the first time around, I loved it the second time.

On the Lips of Children by Mark Matthews

By Shawn

Meet Macon.  Tattoo artist.  Athlete.  Family man.

He's planning to run a marathon, but the event becomes something terrible.

During a warm-up run, Macon falls prey to a bizarre man and his wife who dwell in an underground drug-smuggling tunnel.  They raise their twin children in a way Macon couldn't imagine:  skinning unsuspecting victims for food and money.

And Macon, and his family, are next.  (taken from Amazon description)

When I realized Mark was associated with Books of the Dead Press, I jumped at the chance to read and review anything he had.  Imagine my complete joy and surprise when I found out this book has cannibalistic children!  Yes!  Cannibalistic children!  Say it again!  Cannibalistic!  Children!  This book was written just for me!

Let's start with the characters. First, they're all intricately carved and have plenty of depth.  From the very moment you begin reading you're captured by the character's strong emotions and situations. This builds a strong bond that holds you tightly throughout the book.  Even without the cannibals, I still would have enjoyed the characters. They also come in such a broad spectrum that you can tell Mark has done his homework as far as character studies.

The world is bright, sunny and hopeful and then turns to gritty, dark survival. It's the difference between night and day and the background of our world fits perfectly with what's going on with the story.  Scene setting is another strong suit here. We get enough description that we can see where we are when everything is unfolding, but not so much that it bogs us down.

There were some great spots in here that surprise me.  I was reading along and randomly had to stop and say 'Whoa!' a few times.  The horror isn't over-the-top graphic. It varies from delicious gore to allusion.  If you don't like a lot of graphic scenes, you can skip over the few that are in here.  If you're like me and lap it up, there's just enough to keep you satisfied.

If you read my first paragraph and said 'I want cannibal children in my books too!'  then this is the book for you!  Pick it up and you won't be sorry!  You do have to slog through a tiny bit of back story for the 'good characters', but it's worth it since it gives you their frame of mind and motivation.

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

By Sunshine
Reviewed for Minding Spot

Folks still whisper about Lucy Dane's mother, a bewitching young stranger who vanished years ago from the town of Henbane, deep in the Ozark Mountains. When one of Lucy's friends, slow-witted Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls-the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn't protect.  Lucy's search for answers, in this landscape where secrets are easily concealed, leads her to a discovery even more chilling than she imagined.  And with that revelation, she must grapple with the meaning of family:  the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths to which we will go to protect the ones we love.  (taken from the back of the book)

I was caught up in this story's drama and mystery in the very first chapter.  The characters were brought to life with vivid descriptions and I found myself pulled into their story and somewhat connected to these interesting, mysterious people.  I thoroughly enjoyed the way the story transitioned often between characters and two generations.  This definitely kept me interested and I couldn't read it fast enough.  I needed to know what happened next!  There was not a single paragraph of this story that I found boring or unnecessary to the plot.  I truly think this story would be a great beginning to a series about the Dane family.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Universe Builders by Steve LeBel

By Daena

All heard of the fabled perfect being, the Greek God

Well, how about a geek god?  Named Bernie, yet.

Fresh with his diploma from God School, determined but unsure, bright but without confidence, Bernie faces the challenge of building his own universe.  If only it were that easy...

An old school rival will do whatever it takes to ensure Bernie's failure, even if it means destroying his world.

It's god vs. god, guile vs. goodness, where only one of them plays by the rules.  Bernie must find a way to outwit his evil foe.  If he fails, it will cost him everything.  (taken from the back of the book)

Reading this book was a true delight.  Humor, suspense, a sweet and lovable hero, a ruthless antagonist...this book has it all.  LeBel offers a creative spin on the age-old story of gods and goddesses.  Bernie, an underprivileged god, had a troubled star in life.  Coming from a split home, that he believes he caused, and poverty living conditions, it seems as though Bernie's struggles are never ending.  Not to mention his famous, but absent, father. He enters school, for gods and goddesses whom may have an advantage due to their lineage, on the fast track.  Bernie is average, at best, in his studies at school and labors with concepts other gods seem to naturally know.  His hard work pays off, however, and he finishes building school with hopes of becoming a professional builder.

The first day of work shows his life isn't about to get any easier when he is assigned to the same division his antagonist is in.  How will Bernie be able to overcome the evil plot his bully has planned?

I love the author's twist on what we typically consider the life and behavior of a god.  I found myself chuckling, realizing how silly life-forms must seem to a deity sometimes.  As the story develops, I not only became more aware of just who Bernie is and what he stands for, but also felt like a helpless onlooker.  While reading, I couldn't help but root for Bernie constantly.  Frustration came for me, knowing what was happening behind Bernie's back without being able to interrupt what he was doing and draw his attention to it.  LeBel has a knack for not just describing his characters, but making the reader feel as though a relationship has been established between themselves and the characters.  With every page, I felt closer to Bernie and more desperate to help him.  Bernie is the type of character you just hate to see lose.  I definitely am looking forward to reading future happenings in Bernie's life and can't wait to enjoy the ups and downs with him.  I recommend this book as a lighthearted, well-written, old-fashioned, yet innovative tale of good versus evil.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Annie's Third Wind by Wally Carlson

By Shawn

This is my first visit to Annie's world, but not the first book in the series.  In Annie's Second Wind, we meet Annie Perkins and her band of misfits that live on Seven Sisters Island. In this second book, we return to the island with Annie and meet some new people, as well as say good bye to some from the first book.  All the while, Annie and her posse serve up their own style of justice and just try to get by with a little love and a lot of hope.

Wally Carlson was an unknown to me until I read this book.  Honestly, I can't figure out why he hasn't been writing his entire life.  I did a little research, and couldn't find anything written before his Annie series.  Which doesn't make a lot of sense to me.  See, his writing is the perfect blend of Janet Evanovich and Jan Karon.  Seems like an odd combination,right?  Let me explain.  I fell in love with Jan Karon's Mitford series years ago.  She had this talent for building people and communities that just left me awestruck.  Janet Evanovich is one of the few authors that can describe an absurd situation so well that it is truly laugh-out-loud funny.  Combining both of those, Carlson builds this amazing island full of characters that you can't help but immediately love.  Not only that, you desperately wish you could be a part of them.  At the same time, you'll find yourself laughing so hard at the sheer absurdity of some of the characters and their situations that you'll have trouble breathing.  Add to that the immensity of emotion that hits you when things aren't going as they should, and you have the makeup for an incredible series.  Carlson is one of my new favorite writers and I can't wait to get my hands on more.  These are books for the keeper shelf that I will reread time and again.

Though I was really impressed with Carlson's writing style, as well as storytelling, what impressed me the most was his way of character captivation.  Several of the characters are from the first book,but I felt such a kinship with them that I didn't even realize I was missing their back story.  Having not read the first book (Please correct this oversight, Wally ;) ), I was expecting it to be a little rugged, but it wasn't at all.  It reads great as a standalone and even though you realize that the world has been previously built and standing, you don't feel like you're missing out on anything.  We also don't have paragraph after paragraph explaining to us what we may have missed.  It simply is.  Now, the flip side of that is that you desperately WANT to know what happened in the first book.  Not because you need it for the second, but because one you've finished the book, you have the craving to jump right back into Annie's island for another visit, and to stay as long as you can.

Cattle King for a Day by L. Ron Hubbard

By Shawn

Chinook Shannon shows up to collect his inheritance, only to find that if he doesn't come up with an insanely huge amount of money within 24 hours, he'll have lost it already.  With some gunslinger action and some good old-fashioned sleuthing, will Shannon be able to be the cattle rancher he's always dreamed of being?

We have a whole mess of crooked people here!  In typical Hubbard fashion, we have one character that really stands out amid a sea of old western craziness.  I have to admit, of all his westerns, I found this one to contain the most humor.  Chinook is tough and no-nonsense, but he does so in such a fashion that you can't help but giggle at him.  Of course, I wouldn't dare do that to his face, but since he's a character in a book and he won't see me do it, I think I'm pretty safe.

The story was actually pretty intricate. We get the pressing desperation over Chinook's situation, and we want desperately to help him in any way we can.  Oh the injustice of it all!  Then we start finding 'bad guys' everywhere!  Some are in pretty surprising places, the cowards!

This is a typical Hubbard western, but this one is memorable to me mostly because of the advanced storyline as well as the added depth of characters, versus some of his other books.

Gun Boss of Tumbleweed by L. Ron Hubbard

By Shawn

The sun was August hot in the searing blue bowl of the Southwest sky, but it wasn't the sun which  made Gar Malone jerk his hat lower to hide his eyes.

They sat their horses for a little, on the edge of the trail, neither one of them willing to let it drop without further venom-for they hated each other as the rattlesnake hates the gila, and they had hated each other for a long, long time.

Gar Malone was corpse-thin, hot for gain, killer-ruthless in his sway of range in four hugely unsurveyed counties.  His eyes were dark, his teeth were black, there was no light whatever to the flame of thirsty ambition which scorched within him, searing him on to further power, further wealth, further conquest.

He was no coward, Gar Malone, but he knew his man. (taken from the back of the book)

Mart Kincaid is such a fascinating character!  He's a hired gun and people far and wide wear a look of fear at just the mention of his name.  His actions, however, don't seem to match that.  He's also a hero to some.  I guess you could say he was one of the original lovable bad boys.  I had a great time hanging out with him and waiting to see what he would do next.

The story, is one of blackmail and double-crossing.  What do you do with your henchman when you no longer need him?  How do you get rid of him without becoming a target yourself?

In the true fashion of the old west, this book takes you through Mart's journey near the end of his career.  You get to know him both internally and externally.

Though I enjoyed reading it, I'll admit it was a little on the forgettable side.  I read the book last week but didn't get to writing the review until today.  In that time, I had forgotten what it was about and had to reread it.  Enjoyable, but it probably won't stick with you. The bright side to that is that you can keep rereading over and over and it's like you have a new book each time!

Billy and the Cloneasaurus by Stephen Kozeniewski

By Shawn
Reviewed for Minding Spot

In the world of William 790-6, clones live their life full of purpose for an entire year.  They do their assigned job and make sure they fulfill their duty as a consumer.  Then, on their first and only birthday, they step into the slurry machine to be replaced with the next iteration of their model.

When an accident keeps our William from being slurried, he becomes the first clone to ever lives past a year. As he begins to notice oddities surrounding him, he goes on a quest to figure out his purpose and the purpose of the world around him.  His journey leads him to a windmill between towns, where he finds a rebel character who shows him the path to the enlightenment he so seeks.  But,will William be able to make the transition into freedom?  Or will he choose the safe path he's always trod?  The other possibility, and the most likely, is that William will do what he was designed to do....step into the slurry machine and end his existence like a good little clone.

This is the third book by Stephen and I have to tell you, the second I was asked to review it, it wasn't even a question of when I would get to it, but how soon I could get my little eyes at those precious words.  Everything that he's written has been amazing to me.  He has a natural talent for storytelling, but it goes so much further than that.  Every idea he's put into print has been unique and a treasure.  And while you're reading, you can't help but wonder why someone hasn't done it before. Then, you realize you're just glad that someone finally did!

Billy and the Cloneasaurus follows in the great path that I've noticed Stephen beating down since the beginning of his writing career.  It's a fresh idea that will take you by surprise.  The light and dark in the book are equally balanced and you never seem to know whether you're going to find yourself in the dungeon in the middle of the night, or the middle of a poppy field at noon.  Every idea is easy to follow, but the ride is definitely full of twists and turns.  This is one of the few books that I was genuinely surprised when the ending came.  I was not only caught off guard, but I found myself saying 'NO! NO! NO!'  repeatedly for several minutes.  And that, dear readers, is the best reaction a writer can get from me.  When you can surprise me and shock me, you've done an amazing job.

Stranger at Sunset by Eden Baylee

By Shawn
Reviewed for Minding Spot

Vacation can be a killer.

Dr. Kate Hampton, a respected psychiatrist, gathers with a group of strangers at her favorite travel spot, Sunset Villa in Jamaica.  Included in the mix are friends of the owners, a businessman with dubious credentials, and a couple who won the trip from a TV game show.

It is January 2013, following the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  The luxury resort is struggling, not from the storm, but due to a scathing review from caustic travel writer, Matthew Kane. The owners have invited him back with hopes he will pen a more favorable review to restore their reputation.

Even though she is haunted by her own demons, Kate feels compelled to help.  She sets out to discover the motivation behind Kane's vitriol.  Used to getting what he wants, has the reviewer met his match in Kate?  Or has she met hers?

Stranger at Sunset is a slow-burning mystery/thriller as seen through the eyes of different narrators, each with their own murky sense of justice.  As Kate's own psychological past begins to unravel, a mysterious stranger at Sunset may be the only one who can save her.  (taken from Amazon description)

I delved right into this without reading the description, so in the beginning I was a little confused.  We had all these people showing up at a resort.  Evidently, the resort had received a bad review and the reviewer was going to be returning and the owners wanted as many friends surrounding them during the reviewer's stay as possible.  Well, that's not exactly much of a plot.  Right? So, I kept reading.  The characters weren't over-the-top amazing, but they were interesting enough.  So, for the first half of the book, I just sat back and watched the drama beginning to unfold at this little resort.

My patience paid off.  Somewhere in there, we start to see the dark side of the hotel's patrons.  It seeps out like light through a tiny door crack, until the door suddenly bursts open and we're struck full force with violence.  It's sort of like a slow simmer in the beginning with the differences between the characters and then it just explodes in your face.  It's great fun!

For me, I love a good mystery and it's always a challenge to figure it out before the author tells me whodunit.  In this book, there really wasn't a lot of opportunity for that.  Once the situations turn dark, there are only a few chapters before you find out for sure who did what. Most of this book is about the build up and the leading to the final climax.

On a personal note, the romance in the book was really annoying for me.  I didn't find some of the situations believable in the least and I felt like the author used them as a means to an end to receive the ending that she wanted.  For me, I just blocked this part out and ignored it.  I feel like a little tweaking in this area could have taken this from a good book to a great book.

If You Were Me and Lived In....Series by Carole P. Roman

By Tina

Carole P. Roman did a great job creating a book series that children can learn from.  Each book is centered around a different country.  Roman takes the stance of a child and shows what life is like through their eyes in a fresh new way.

For example:

If you were me and lived in America, your name might be Billy or Bob or Dale.  If you were me and a girl and lived in America, your name might be Heather or Erica or Ava.

This is a wonderful series for teaching about different cultures.  Elementary school aged children find a great way to relate to other countries.  It's also an invaluable tool if planning to visit another country so that the child has an idea ahead of time what to expect.  The fun preparation could make the difference between a good trip and a headache.

As usual, for kids it's all about the illustrations.  These are great!  They're childlike, but not to the point that the children didn't enjoy them.  They're bright and fun and creative.

Billy and the Cloneasaurus by Stephen Kozeniewski

By Daena

Six billion identical clones make up the entire population of Earth, and William 7906 (57th iteration)  is exactly like everybody else.  In his one year of life he will toil in suburban mediocrity and spend as much cash as possible in order to please his corporate masters.  When 790's first birthday (and scheduled execution) finally rolls around, a freak accident spares his life.

Living past his expiration date changes 790 profoundly.  Unlike other clones he becomes capable of questioning the futility of his own existence.  Seeking answers in the wilderness, he discovers a windmill with some very strange occupants, including a freakish, dinosaur-like monstrosity.  Which is especially strange since every animal on earth is supposed to be extinct. (taken from Amazon descriptions)

Billy, the hero of the book, found himself in the middle of a fantastic and mysterious mistake.  Unlike each and every other clone before him, Billy was not slurried on his first birthday.  Since he is the first clone to ever survive 366 days and beyond, he has the unique opportunity of realizing a lot more than humans were being cloned.  From news stories to announcements from The Corporation, it seemed the same stories were being repeated year after year. After a friend informed him of a huge windmill found outside of town, Billy desires answers.

With his new role, as a conspiracy theorist of sorts, Billy sets out on a journey that is sure to change his life and the lives of those he trusts as his friends.  He becomes enlightened, in a way no clone had before,regarding the world he lives in (including parts he had never been courageous enough to visit). However, an unforeseeable fate awaits Billy and his new found friends.

This book gripped me on the very first page and it never let loose.  I was constantly looking forward to the few moments I could steal away to read more about Billy's adventures and see where his curiosity would lead him.  In a world of capitalism, greed and bred consumerism, I had to wonder if a fresh idea could survive.  I wondered if these ideas would be able to survive the ramifications of what he was discovering.  The Corporation was sure to want to squash any unique thoughts that may be troubling to their profits.  Billy's adventures led him to unique discoveries and an unlikely ally.  He believed he had embarked on a new type of world, one that returned to many of the ways of old.

This novel reminded me of America and what can happen when a corporation's concern of money takes over.  People become merely a means to an end and are viewed as revenue.  I thoroughly enjoyed the author's ability to create suspense throughout the book.  I couldn't wait to find out what Billy would discover next and how he would react to it.  This book is wonderful for anyone who appreciates a little nostalgia and enjoys an adventure in rediscovery.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life

By Tina

In this story of Captain No Beard, the children will go on an imaginary journey as a pirate.  They have an adventure on the high sea when a storm blows in.

If you're like me and you have younger children that like "Jake and the Never Land Pirates", they will enjoy the many books in this collection.  The colorful illustrations were also helpful in keeping the attention of the children.  Let's face it, kids like to look at pictures!

Captain No Beard: Strangers on the High Seas by Carole P. Roman

By Tina

Captain No Beard and the crew of the Flying Dragon welcome a new crew member when Cabin Girl Cayla joins the ship. Responsible for his little sister, Captain No Beard is not very happy because he finds his newest charge a distraction.  When faced with danger, the captain must find a way to escape.  While learning valuable lessons about strangers, the crew realized not to judge somebody because they are young or small.  Strength comes in all sizes! (taken from Amazon descriptions)

This book does a great job of teaching children not to talk to strangers.  It also teaches the importance of not marginalizing a person because of their size or ability to keep up.  In the end, they find help in the tiniest and and most unlikely of the crew.

This book, as well as all the others in this series, has great illustrations that the children loved.

The Hanging Tree by Michael Phillip Cash

By Carrie Anne

Seventeen year old Arielle is at a crossroads in her life.  Disenchanted with her father, she is testing the boundaries of his trust by dating someone he does not approve.  Under the moonlit sky in Long Island, Arielle and her boyfriend meet under the infamous hanging tree.  The couples'destiny is rooted too the five spirits in the tree whose lives and deaths are determined by an ancient curse. Will her future be determined by the past or will Arielle's choices alter the course of her life?  (taken from the back of the book)

For Arielle and her boyfriend, it's that time in their relationship; will they or won't they?  Chad's ready to take their relationship to the next level, but Arielle isn't as sure.  Taking all of this in are spirits in the trees, who eventually start telling their own tales of life and death.  Each spirit is from another time period, from the 1600's through the early 1900's, making their stories all the more interesting.  They've spent the time since their deaths together in the tree, and we can tell they've developed friendships over the years; I enjoyed the banter between them.  As always, Cash has one character, the Gibson girl, whose story has to be put together from clues.  Though they're easy to pick up and jump into, I always have something to think about when I read his books!

Yes, there's an ongoing story about a curse that ties everything together and provides a suitable ending, but I think the 'good stuff' comes from their individual stories.  A short book at just 75 pages, it's the perfect introduction to Michael Phillip Cash.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Bling Fairies of Junkett Falls by Maureen Sky

By Tina

Who likes fairies?!

This book is about fairies that live in our jewelry boxes!

I had some skepticism from the time I looked at the front cover.  Author Maureen Sky came up with the idea to inspire children between the ages of 8 and 12.

In my own opinion, it could have been done better.  But I'm not a child, so I tried it out on my own children as well as the children of the daycare center where I work.

They didn't care for it either.  All of the children based their experience on the illustrations as much as the reading.  The children felt that the illustrations looked like a two-year-old drew them.  Sort of as if things were being 'babied down' for them.  This detracted from the story so much that they couldn't enjoy it.  I found it difficult to get past the illustrations as well.

Different illustrations could have made this book much more enjoyable.

The Dance of the Caterpillars by Caroline S. Fairless

By Tina

This book is about a boy named Fisher.  He always gets into some sort of trouble.  But in this book,  he finds out he's going to live with his dad and it upsets him.  He thought that it was his dad that chose to leave, but it turns out Fisher may not know everything.

Let me start by saying that the author has a great imagination.  I liked how she had the main character, Fisher, have normal, yet not so normal, kid problems.  This book is definitely for an older age group.  Fourth graders would do fine understanding its content.  All in all, I would say it's a better read than I originally thought it would be.  If your child is going through a difficult time, it could be of encouragement to them.  If Fisher can make it through, so can they!

The Universe Builders: Bernie and the Putty by Steve LeBel

We've all heard of the fabled perfect being, the Greek God.

Well, how about a geek god?  Named Bernie, yet.

Fresh with his diploma from God School, determined but unsure, bright but without confidence, Bernie faces the challenge of building his own universe.  If only it were that easy...

An old school rival will do whatever it takes to ensure Bernie's failure, even if it means destroying his world.

It's god vs. god, guile vs. goodness, where only one of them plays by the rules.  Bernie must find a way to outwit his evil foe.  If he fails, it will cost him everything. (taken from the back of the book)

I was really intrigued by this book, simply for the ingenuity behind it.  I love when someone has an idea that's new and just runs with it.  Plus, Steve is just a really nice guy! And you all know how I feel about authors that are nice!

So, Steve has this unusual talent in his character creation.  He forces a primitive reaction towards the character from you.  It's not like you're in the book, you're a third person watching from another world, but you feel such intense emotions towards the characters.  Seriously, there were several times I nearly threw my copy of the book against the wall out of sheer frustration.  I wanted to take a weed eater and give someone an all over body shave with it.  More specifically, one of the characters. I don't normally get that involved, but I seriously despised this character with a depth that surprised me.  On the other hand, there were other characters that I simply adored, and I can't pinpoint why. At the end of the book, I actually felt like I was saying good bye to some dear friends.  However, I have faith that this is just the beginning of the Universe Builders and Bernie and the rest of the cast will return.

This is a fresh fantasy with some wonderful new species never before seen.  Not only that,Steve's concept for universe building and the god world, though simple, is magnificent.  As I was reading, I kept wondering why nobody has done this before.  It all makes complete sense.

Strange Circumstances

This compilation of short stories contains authors Weston Kincade, Marshall J. Stephens and David Chrisley.

I actually enjoyed these stories, while one of my other reviewers didn't.  We had a beautiful discussion about it and I'm going to share with you what we found.

First, most of these stories are dark and wonderfully thrilling, but they're also obscure.  They don't just come right out and tell you exactly what's going on.  You have to stop and think and put all the jigsaw pieces together after you've finished reading in order to grasp the entire story.  This isn't for everyone.  For those that read the stories and their  mind quickly clicks on what's going on behind the story they've just read, they'll find an enjoyable and compelling experience.  For those that just don't seem to get it, well it can be confusing and seem a little pointless.

I'll be honest, a few of the stories I wasn't overly fond of, but mostly because they reminded me of some previously read stories in certain aspects. However, this book is worth picking up even if you only read the first story, Undetermined Fate.  I absolutely loved this story!  Like the others, it doesn't come right out and tell you everything, but once the entire story hits you, it really packs an emotional wallop.

Stillwell: A Haunting on Long Island by Michael Phillip Cash

By Carrie Anne

Paul Russo's wife just died.  While trying to get his family's life back in order, Paul is being tormented by a demon who is holding his wife's spirit hostage on the other side.  His fate is intertwined with an old haunted mansion on the north shore of Long Island called Stillwell Manor.  Paul must find clues dating back hundreds of years to set his wife's soul free.  (from the back of the book)

With a subtitle 'A Haunting on Long Island,' I expected a true ghost story. What I found was a profoundly sad story of loss.  The descriptions of Allison's battle with cancer and how her death affected the family brought me to tears.  I can't imagine how a husband pulls himself together to be both mother and father to his kids.  How do you go on??

A realtor by trade, part of 'going on' for Paul is getting back to work.  He finds himself listing a so-called haunted house.  At the same time, he starts having dreams that his wife's spirit is in the grips of a demon, leaving her unable to move on.  Sure enough, the ghost in the home resembles his dead wife and we find out they were distant relatives.  Hannah (the ghost)  died a tragic death, and I expected the demon to be related to that part of the story.  No, we find the demon is something more, something unexpected.  Something sad.

As always, Cash's characters are easy to relate to and the story quickly draws you in. And, true to form, the story will linger long after you've finished.

Smoking Springs by Robert C. Mowry

By Carrie Anne

"Ain't gonna die,"  Judah Ward repeats over and over. The surgeons want to amputate his festering,wounded foot.He's been shot in the shoulder by one of his own officers.  Then too, his skull is ravaged by shrapnel.  Frostbite and sheer exhaustion plague even the healthiest of these Confederate soldiers after their invasion of New Mexico Territory has been ingloriously halted at Glorieta Pass and they forge a hasty retreat out of this rugged wilderness.

"Ain't going back to Texas," Judah also often asserts.  "Hate you, Pa-your God, too,"  he bitterly proclaims.  But for the tenacity of his cousin, Sam Houston McCoy; the affection of Ramona, a kind-hearted Mexican girl and her trader uncle; the help of Bones, a semi-free slave; help and protection from some fellow Confederate deserters and a tropp of compassionate Union spies; and especially for the aid and wisdom of an outcast Apache woman he names Red Bear who uses the healing of a steamy, mineral spring and other indigenous remedies, Judah wouldn't survive.

Fleeing his mountain sanctuary, now all alone, his body is on the mend.  But, what about his confused mind and tormented soul?  (from Amazon descriptions)

I have to say, I had a really hard time getting into this book.  One of my favorite books growing up was a story of the Civil War (Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt) and I was hoping for a similar experience.  No. These characters weren't very well developed and I just didn't really care what happened to them.  The first half of the story was mostly told through dialogue I found very hard to follow, and the battlefield scenes didn't get my heart racing.  I forced myself to keep reading.

Ultimately, I'm glad I did.  The second half was much  more entertaining to me, having less to do with the war and more to do with his life away from it. We learn about friendships made and lost, how people survived in those times, and how unsettled a soldier may have felt away from war, wondering what's next.  Though it didn't especially appeal to me, we also follow his search for answers about God.

All in all, if you decide to pick this book up, give it a little time.  It just might be worth it!

Note from Shawn:

I also read this book.  Since I retain little history, I wasn't sure how accurate it was for the time period, which is why Carrie Anne did the main review, since this is her area of expertise.  Wonderful review, Carrie Anne!

From my perspective, having no clue about anything, I rather enjoyed the story.  I really admired the tenacity of most of the characters.  I agree that the characters could have been more developed in the first half,but there was enough for me to want to keep reading.  There were even a few shockers tossed in there for me.

If you're not a 'history person', you still may find some value here,as I did.  If you are a history person, Carrie Anne's review is spot on.

Free Copy of Experiment of Dreams by Brandon Zenner

First, Brandon gets my thumbs up in the 'awesome guy to work with' category :)

Secondly, I loved this book!  It's a little off the beaten path and gives you a little thinking time, while being wildly entertained and mystified.

Brandon is currently giving away free copies in exchange for an honest review.  If you're not a reviewer and don't have your own website, no problem!  You can download the book, read it and post reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Goodreads.  Just make sure you're honest with your opinion!

All you have to do is go to

Enjoy!!  And if you get a chance, find Brandon on Linkedin and say 'Hi' to him!

The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

By Carrie Anne

From the author of the acclaimed suspense novels Creep and Freak and whom Jeffery Deaver has praised as a "top of the line thriller writer," The Butcher is a high-octane novel about lethal secrets that refuse to die- until they kill again.

A rash of grisly serial murders plagued Seattle until the infamous 'Beacon Hill Butcher' was finally hunted down and killed by police chief Edward Shank in 1985.  Now, some thirty years later, Shank,retired and widowed, is giving up his large rambling Victorian house to his grandson Matt, whom he helped raise.

Settling back into his childhood home and doing some renovations in the backyard to make the house feel like his own, Matt, a young up-and-coming chef and restaraunteur, stumbles upon a locked crate he's never seen before.  Curious, he picks the padlock and makes a discovery so gruesome it will forever haunt him...Faced with this deep dark family secret, Matt must decide whether to keep what he knows buried in the past, go to the police, or take matters into his own hands.

Meanwhile Matt's girlfriend, Sam, has always suspected that her mother was murdered by the Beacon Hill Butcher two years after the supposed Butcher was gunned down.  As she pursues leads that will prove her right, Sam heads right into the path of Matt's terrible secret. (from Amazon descriptions)

I hesitated even sharing this much of the story with you.  I hadn't read the description, but loved the cover and its quote from Jeffery Deaver "Top-of-the-line thriller writing."  Within fifteen minutes, I had hit the first twist of the book, and I was hooked. A dark story, but fast read, I sat in one evening and read it start to finish.  By the next day, I had loaned it to a friend.

Not a whodunit, it's more of a 'wonder how this will turn out' kind of story.  But I wondered until the very end!  If you're looking for a great summer read, this may be the one.

Samantha Grace Giveaway!

Welcome to the celebration for Samantha Grace's upcoming release of In Bed With A Rogue!  It's slated to hit stores September 2nd and if you're a fan of historical romance, you've probably already heard of Samantha.

So, what can you win??  Sourcebooks is giving away a six-pack bundle of her books!  You'll receive:

Miss Hilary Schools a Scoundrel
Lady Amelia's Mess and a Half
Miss Lavigne's Little White Lie
Lady Vivian Defies a Duke
One Rogue Too Many
In Bed with a Rogue

So, how do you enter??  Just check out the rafflecopter below!  Then continue reading for more information about both Samantha Grace and her new release!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In Bed With a Rogue by Samantha Grace
Sourcebooks Casablanca
Historical Romance
September 2, 2014
ISBN:  9781402286612
Mass-Market Paperback

He's the talk of the town.
The whole town is tittering about Baron Sebastian Thorne having been jilted at the altar.  Every move he makes ends up in the gossip columns.  Tired of being the butt of everyone's jokes, Sebastian vows to restore his family's reputation no matter what it takes.

She's the toast of the ton.
Feted by the creme of society, the beautiful lady Widow Prestwick is a vision of all that is proper.  But Helena is no angel, and when Sebastian uncovers her dark secret, he's quick to press his advantage.  In order to keep her hard-won good name, Helen will have to make a deal with the devil.  But she's got some tricks up her sleeves to keep this notorious rogue on his toes....


Historical romance author Samantha Grace discovered the appeal of a great love story when she was just a young girl, thanks to Disney's Robin Hood. She didn't care that Robin Hood and Maid Marian were cartoon animals.  It was her first happily-ever-after experience and she didn't want the warm fuzzies to end.  Now Samantha enjoys creating her own happy-endings for characters that spring from her imagination.  Publishers Weekly describes her stories as "fresh and romantic"  with subtle humor and charm.  Samantha describes romance writing as the best job ever.

Twitter: @SamGraceAuthor

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Building a Lasting Marriage by Sharael Kolberg

Carrie Anne-
Building a Lasting Marriage: A Couple's Guide to Happily Ever After provides spouses with 50 tips to help them work towards a stronger marriage.  From things like writing a vision statement for your marriage to doing volunteer work together, couples will learn ways to strengthen their bond in fun and loving ways.  Each tip includes a "Take Action" item to encourage couples to bring the book to life by taking specific steps to work on their marriage.  Author Sharael Kolberg shares personal stories of how the tips have helped her marriage.  This book is a must read for any husband and wife looking for advice on how to make the most of their marriage. (from the back of the book)
    Let me start off saying, I've been married as long as the author, and wonder if we've had an easier time of it?  In thirteen years, we've had our ups and downs, but some of her suggestions seem to be the work that would be necessary to get back on track when a couple has truly drifted apart.  At that point, you might need more than this book.  Or maybe it would be better suited for a couple just starting out, to be sure you're on the same track at the beginning?  I will say, though, that I totally agree that the good parts of our marriage coincide with other suggestions, so I wouldn't just write them off!
    A few things that might be helpful at the beginning: Set goals, such as a timeline for the big events such as buying a house or having children. If you're not on the same page in the beginning, that's a situation that probably won't resolve itself. Another idea that can go hand in hand with this is having a couple's journal, where you each write down how you think and feel about certain things.  When we were dating, we did this on a whim and it's nice to have it to look back over.   It's a way to reconnect with the person you fell in love with.  And remember, there is no Mr./Mrs. Right! We all have our faults and no one person is perfect. We each have to decide just how much we can live with.  It helps to be reminded of what you loved about your spouse in the first place.
    The no brainers that have been the best part of our marriage?  Having fun, laughing together, being romantic, complimenting each other, truly appreciating what your spouse brings to the marriage, having pet names for each other, holding hands.  There are also the tried and true: don't go to bed angry and have a date night.  The time we spend laughing together bring us closer and I never love my husband as much as I do then. And I always tell him!
    I've only touched on a handful of ideas in this book.  There are many more, some that will work for us, and some that won't.  But it's such a slim, easy to read book, I'd recommend everyone pick it up, flip through, and see what works for you!

Daughters of the Dragon by William Andrews

Carrie Anne-
During World War II, the Japanese forced 200,000 young Korean women to be sex slaves or "comfort women" for their soldiers.  This is one woman's riveting story of strength, courage, and promises kept. (From the back of the book)
    For two years, fourteen year old Je-hee was forced to be a "comfort woman," serving the Japanese men, sometimes as many as thirty a day. In between, there were beatings.  Many young women were killed or committed suicide.  At the end of the war, she had to make a new life for herself, hiding the shame of her past.  We all know how hard it would be to put something so traumatic out of our minds and move on.  It colored every interaction she had for the rest of her life.
    Though this is a fictional story, it reads like a biography.  I absolutely believed everything could have really happened.  Set against the backdrop of World War II and the Korean War, I learned about the different political beliefs of the time, and it gave me a greater understanding of our history. It also taught me some about the Korean culture and how proud they are. In fact, Ja-hee is torn between wanting to tell, shout from the rooftops, what happened to her and the Koren way of yi--the duty they have to their families, ancestors, and country first. At one point, she is told it would have been more honorable to refuse and be shot by the Japanese, rather than continue to serve them. Unbelievable to me, and to her.  She survived and was stronger for having done it.  Her story, and that of all the comfort women, needs to be told.

A Life of Death: The Golden Bulls by Weston Kincade

Carrie Anne-
Detective Drummond traces his steps in the years since his childhood, but a mysterious serial killer who evaded the police for over fifteen years is still on the loose, annually performing ritual sacrifices and burning the victims.  Alex's skills at reliving the brutal murders are put to the test when  so little is left of the victims.  (From Amazon)
    In the first book in this series, Alex Drummond was still reeling from the loss of his father when he realized when he touched objects owned by people that died, he could relive their death.  In this book, he's come to terms with his ability and knows he'll have to use it to solve a series of unsolved murders before another one can happen.
    Along the way, he discovers all the victims have ankh tattoos.  This leads him to research Egyptian folklore and history, and produces terrific flashback scenes. 
    I loved the first book in the series and looked forward to reading this one, too.  Unfortunately, I found the story was hard to follow, and I was confused where some "facts" in the case came from.  Having said that, I would gladly read another volume if it becomes available.  The characters and premise are that compelling to me.

A Life of Death by Weston Kincade

Carrie Anne-
Homicide Detective Alex Drummond is confronted with the past through his son's innocent question.  Alex's tale of his troubled senior year unfolds revealing loss, drunken abuse, and mysterious visions of murder and demonic children.  Is he going insane?  With the help of his close friend Paige Kurtley, Alex must find the source of his misfortune and ensure his sanity. (From Amazon)
    I saw this book described as "paranormal coming of age,"  and I can't think of a better description.  As Alex is dealing with the loss of his father and learning to deal with his mother's new husband, The Drunk, he's also handling the pains of high school.  To make matters worse, he realizes then when he touches objects that belonged to people that have died, he relives their deaths.
    This book pulled me in from the beginning.  I could easily relate to the characters and a lot of what they were going through. The sequences going into the past were also easy to follow, not so far fetched as to be off-putting.  Alex did a project for school involving the Civil War and the corresponding visions were especially interesting to me, and a great use of the idea.
    There's a second book out now, The Golden Bulls, and I'm hoping to see even more in the future.

Fulcrum Gallery

When I was first approached about doing a review for Fulcrum Gallery, I was hesitant at first.  This isn't my normal review genre and how do you review a gallery?  As soon as I looked at the website, though, I knew I was in.

I spent several hours looking through the possible pictures and finally selected a Wizard of Oz picture  I've been an Oz fan all of my life and both of my children are as well. It's a picture that suits our home beautifully.  So then I started looking at framing and matting options.  My goodness!  I ended up choosing a gallery framed canvas with heavy brush strokes.

When I received it in the  mail, my package was huge.  The picture is tightly secured to a huge cardboard framework so that even if you get an angry postal worker having an extraordinarily bad day, your picture will end up in your hands without a single scratch or dent.  I was really impressed with the packaging.

Upon opening, I had to go visit several people to show it off.  It's just breathtaking!  The colors are vibrant and the added texture from the brush strokes actually make it look like a hand-painted masterpiece at first glance.

As I was going through the website, I was really struck by just how many uses there are for paintings from the gallery.  Not only that, but how surprisingly inexpensive they are. I know lots of people who have pictures hung up in their homes.  Lots of people have home offices and media pictures set up in their living rooms and home theaters.  If you think Fulcrum Gallery isn't for you, let me show you some of the more practical uses in your home.

For the comic book lover-  Check this out!  Several pictures of your favorite heroes!  Not only that, there are some vintage comic book covers.  You can get the sheet and frame it yourself.  You can have the frame it like a poster. Better yet, have it set up like a painting!  What better way is there to spruce up a teenager's bedroom?!

For the home office - Are you a Harry Potter fan?  Alice in Wonderland?  Are you a book reviewer or just an avid reader?  Just want something awesome to brighten up your office?  Check out the huge book cover selection!  Frame it!  Have it painted!  Show off your mad decorating skillz and add some exciting and unique decor to your work space!

For the home theater - Buzz Lightyear!  Dancing Popcorn!  Jimmy Stewart!  If you can think it, you'll find it!  Have a huge poster made!  Have it made into a decadent painting!  Seriously, who doesn't want a quality Zombieland painting in their home theater?

Why go to your local Wal-mart and spend a fortune for a poster that you're just going to poke tack holes in or ruin by taping up? That's a lot of money for a picture that you're going to ruin by putting it up!  These are long-lasting quality pictures that you can design and frame any way you want.  They'll be directly mailed to you and in quality packaging.  Not only that, but it's a one of a kind conversation piece that you won't want to miss.  Me?  I think I may be a junkie.

Stateline by Dave Stanton

When a tycoon's son is murdered the night before his wedding, the enraged and grief-stricken father offers investigator Dan Reno (that's Reno, as in no problemo), a life-changing bounty to find the killer.  Reno, nearly broke, figures he's finally landed in the right place at the right time.  It's a nice thought, but when a band of crooked cops get involved Reno finds himself not only earning every penny of his paycheck, but also fighting for his life.

Who committed the murder, and why?  And what of the dark sexual deviations that keep surfacing?  Haunted by his murdered father and a violent, hard drinking past, Reno wants no more blood on his hands.  But a man's got to make a living, and backing off is not in his DNA.  Traversing the snowy alpine winter in the Sierras and the lonely deserts of Nevada, Reno must revert to his old ways to survive.  Because the fat bounty won't do him much good if he's dead... (taken from the back of the book)

This book was so full of action that I breezed right through.  Though Reno may not be the most moral of people, he has a charisma that just keeps you coming back for more.  You can't wait to see what he does next and the odd situations he finds himself in only add to the fun.  He's that friend that we all have where we don't understand how he could possibly live the way he does, but we still want to hear all of his horrid and naughty stories.  He's not us, but he sure is fascinating.  In this book, we get a few hours to live vicariously through him and at the same time, remind ourselves why we're not like him.

Each character is so well created.  The only way I can describe it is that you're watching a black and white movie and a character in full color comes out.  They really stand out from everything else.  Each and every character in this book has that feeling about them.  And even though they're all in full color, they don't blend.  They're so distinct and realistic that you feel like you really know these people.

Shadows from Boot Hill by L. Ron Hubbard

Brazos, the color and texture of sunbaked brick, was not generally given to nerves.  In fact, Brazos could generally look at an opponent and find bravado enough to grin a bit between shots.  Brazos had been raised in a very dark school wherein a man dead was a man safe.  And now all he had to do was use his expert skill to the end of putting three shots into three men and he would collect two hundred dollars and be able to hie himself southward, over the border and beyond the reach of those who had objected so surprisingly to the demise of a mere banker.

But somehow, cat-footing down the street through the predawn dark toward the marked stable, Brazos did not in the least feel like grinning.  His fingers, time and again, sought for the little silver cross at his throat. (taken from the back of the book)

I had so much fun with this book!  It's a western, but with a dash of paranormal thrown in.  As a character, Brazos is bold and colorful.  However, he's in the middle of a rough time in the west.  Things are changing.  Bankers and peaceful men are taking over the town.  Not only is Brazos in a difficult position, he's in a world that's different from the one he's always felt safe in.  Well,as safe as any gunslinger could possibly feel.  At least he understood that world.  This new one is incomprehensible to him.

This book is full of action and shooting and a good measure of self-discovery tossed in.  Brazos is a bright man and you'll see some of the surprising antics he pulls off.  Brazos is a unique character in that he realizes it's his world and so it's up to him to protect it.

The No-Gun Man by L. Ron Hubbard

As a young man Monte Calhoun thought the measure of a man was how hard he could drink and how straight he can shoot.But, as principled as a young Jimmy Stewart, several years back East have changed him.  He has become The No-Gun Man.  Monte's civilized now...even if that means refusing to avenge the murder of his own father.  But in a land of outlaws and ambushes, it's only a question of how far Monte will be pushed before he pushes back...with a vengeance. (taken from the back of the cd case)

I can't give this an amazing review, but I put the blame for that on myself.  I'm not an audio book person and that's what I had to work with.  The audio CD was actually quite well done.  Each character has a distinctive voice and the narrative is nicely done.  There are great little sound effects in the background.  For me, I can't sit still which is why books work so much better for me.  I'm constantly turning pages so that both my mind and body are busy.  With the audio CD, I kept falling asleep.  This is NOT a reflection on the story itself but rather my own personal issue.

Now, on to the story!  Once I was able to listen to it several times and get the entire story, I actually really enjoyed it.  Had this been a movie, I'd have been popcorning my way through it!

Monte is quite the interesting character.  When he comes back from East, he doesn't quite fit in with his family and friends and the atmosphere he grew up in.  His own brother can't understand him.  The law keeps looking for him to flip out and get all gunhappy on someone, but Monte just finds the whole thing humorous.  Until he's pushed too far.  Then it's all bets off.

The interesting part for me was trying to decipher whether Monte was actually better off or worse off for his time in the east.  Once he snaps, I can't tell if it's the same behavior he would have had before or if it's actually worse because he's sort of 'refinding' himself.

If you enjoy westerns, this one is pretty fun.  The characters are what you'd expect from most westerns but the actions are a little different.  It's sort of like watching your favorite ninja film when all of a sudden an ex-ninja turned clown enters the scene.  Things get heated and unusual.

Perverse Wonderland by Jennifer Harrison

In this perversely funny wonderland gone horribly wrong, discover how to move forward when a fairy tale gets turned on its head and kissing Prince Charming turns him into an 'arse.'  The novel will have you swiftly flipping pages to keep up with the ongoing conflicts between the redheaded anti-heroine's heart, mind and libido as she searches for the one man who can bring them all together.  (taken from the back of the book)

Sounds great, right?  I was all about this book and super excited to read it.  Then as I began reading, I kept waiting for the above described book to show up.  On the last page, I finally realized it wasn't going to.

What actually happens is that an American girl, who's rather full of herself, moves to England to be closer to the man she's had a long distance relationship with (who lives in Wales).  Upon getting there, she realizes that he isn't who she thought he was and then spends a couple of months throwing temper tantrums as she attempts to get over him.

I do completely agree that we have an anti-heroine instead of a heroine.  Personally, I couldn't stand her.  Her heart, mind and hair having distinct personalities were novel, but not enough to save this character.  She's unlikable and rude.  Honestly, I was so fed up with her that I couldn't muster up any dislike for the 'bad guy' here.

I also didn't find myself flipping pages.  Sadly, this one took me over a week to read.  I kept putting it down and forcing myself to pick it up.  The writing is captivating, but I didn't like or dislike our main character enough to care what was happening next.  This just wasn't my thing.

If you realize what you're getting into, this could be a book that you enjoy.  Just don't expect what the first paragraph promises.  This is mostly about a girl learning that things don't always go her way while she's in a foreign country with no safety net.  It's about her learning how to pull herself back together and move on with her life.  There's a little romance tossed in with a lot of drama.

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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.