Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Destruction by Sharon Bayliss

David Vandergraff wants to be a good man.  He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything.

Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn't a choice.

Eleven years ago, David's secret second family went missing.  When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse.  Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can't imagine living without.

Keeping his life together becomes harder when the new children claim to be dark wizards.  David believes they use this fantasy to cope with their trauma.  Until, David's wife admits a secret of her own-she is a dark wizard too, as is David, and all of their children.

Now, David must parent two hurting children from a dark world he doesn't understand and keep his family from falling apart.  All while dealing with the realization that everyone he loves, including himself, may be evil.

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first.  The magic.  It wasn't poorly written or even poorly researched.  Everything seemed to be pretty sound.  The problem I had was that it's overdone and I really wish it had been a bit more original.  It takes up such a huge part of the story and there are just so many things that could have been done with it, that I felt like it was just tossed in there instead of being the true meat of the story it could have been.

Actually, this was a pretty fascinating 'what if' story.  What if you had an affair and children and then they disappeared and suddenly reappeared years later?  What if you didn't have the courage to tell your wife, but you still needed to be there for your children?  Not just from Dave's perspective, but from the entire family's,  not to mention the poor children.  Not only did Bayliss run the gamut of possibilities, but she did so while exposing some pretty serious character studies.

The most fascinating part for me was just how much I despised one of the main characters.  We have bad people and good people and bad people who think they're good and good people who think they're bad.  Those that we know are 'bad', honestly, they sort of faded into the background for me.  It sucked that they weren't nice people, but they didn't really have any impact on me.  Dave, the main character, means well, but he's such a coward that I found myself having a hard time really caring about him either.  His wife, however.  Wow!  My jaw dropped several times at her.  I hate her with a fierce intensity that I worried would set my Kindle aflame.  She is so evil and horrible that I found myself ashamed to be a woman.

This is the first book in a series and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.  I feel like this one did a great job of putting the 'family' into perspective for future adventures/mysteries.

Minstrel's Gambit by Nance Bulow Morgan

By Ed

Minstrels' Gambit is the first in the Minstrel's Tale Mysteries Series.  Saeede knew that Behlanna was not going to be a good city.  She knew it the moment she saw the dark tower looming over the sleek dark wall.  She and her partner Andreas needed to rest after a long journey.  They would stay long enough to rest and perhaps play a tune or two for the locals but then they would be off again to more pleasant surroundings.  Upon their arrival in the city the two tired friends; minstrels and adventurers, are soon caught up in a murder investigation and find that they are the prime suspects!

Their investigation leads them to discover that an ancient riddle is at the center of their problem.  Evil forces are at play against them and they must solve the riddle, and foil the unleashing of evil upon the world, to clear their names.

The keys to the riddles are hidden within four musical scores.  As adventurers they must retrieve the scores from their protections within the elements.  As minstrels they must decipher the keys hidden within the scores.

Thrust into an epic adventure, the friends learn how deep and unwavering is their friendship-how deep and unwavering is their skills with sword, music, and magic.

Minstrels' Gambit is Bulow Morgan's second novel.  Sprung from the setting of her first novel Legend Destiny.  This epic adventure attests to her story telling ability.  The reader will be hooked from the very beginning of this gorgeous adventure.  (taken from Amazon description)

At first glance, this book looks like either a paint by number picture, or the box to an 8 bit video game, and it was about as much fun reading this book as the code for one.  And this book is looooong, and I don't just mean many pages.  Sentences and paragraphs blur into each other.  Though the book only has ten chapters, it's still 453 pages long!  It was like trying to read the credits at the end of a movie, just no break.

The title of the series, A Minstrels' Tale Mystery, I found to be grossly misstated, as they solved the whodunit before the third chapter.  I wasn't expecting CSI Dungeons and Dragons,but save the big reveal for the last couple of chapters!

The author is way too descriptive.  I don't need to be told about every inch of every building they come across.  As for the minstrels themselves, I call BS on their relationship.  In such a setting, fraught with danger, where lives are often short enough as it is, there would be no time for Ye Olde Friend Zone.

While I did appreciate some of the humor, and slight modernization of the writing style, there's some terminology that just does not fit in a fantasy setting.  She even misnamed a common mythical creature.  What she describes as having an eagle's head with a lion's body is actually a griffin, not a hippogriff.

Over all, this book was a pain.  She should either switch to modern time writing or do a little more research into how fantasy is written.  I, for one, will not be finishing this series.

Note from Shawn:  We did have two other reviewers who attempted to read the book, but were unable to enjoy it as well, to the point that they did not finish it.

The Surrogates by Consuella Harris

By April

The deaths of two prominent businessmen on the same day of heart attacks is at first declared to be of natural causes.  No investigation happens until a former law clerk hires an investigator to check into those murders, and the connection to the Lake Shore Parenting Group.

Three women became surrogate mothers through this group and their children were adopted by five couples.  Once the information about their births is revealed to them, it sets in motion events none had anticipated.

The investigation into these families, their lives, and those behind the events changes everything they believe.  Yet, there is still a murderer on the loose, unless the intrepid investigator can bring that person to justice.  (taken from the back of the book)

I really enjoyed reading this book.  It made me feel like I was the one telling the story.  As someone who has had difficulty conceiving, this topic really interested me.  I got so wrapped up in each woman's story that I forgot that the book was a mystery.  I loved how the author told each woman's story and made you feel the way each one felt upon making her decision, for whatever reason.  I did not see the twist in the story coming that caused the two men to die.  I remember audibly gasping when I discovered what the motive was and who did it.  I felt connected with each of these women, families, and the surrogate children.  It just showed me how ultimately powerful greed can truly be.

The Horse That Haunts My Heart by Deborah Smith Parker

By April

Set against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, Deborah Smith Parker's coming of age memoir takes place in the 1950's during three transformative summers she spent on a horse ranch.  As a young girl growing up in the Midwest, she longed for the life of a cowboy, but the closest she could get was to watch TV Westerns and play with a toy ranch set while other girls played with dolls.  Finally, when her parents allowed her to go west to live her dream, she met her first love-a horse nick-named Tank.

She spent her summers riding, wrangling, and sleeping out under the stars while her extraordinary relationship with Tank developed, shaped by the poignancy, hilarity and drama that tested relationships undergo.  (taken from the back of the book)

This book made me smile and remember growing up riding as a child myself.  I learned some cowboy language that I didn't know.  I also learned different kinds of tack and different names for horse colors.  Seeing how Deborah felt about horses made this a very uplifting and heart-felt story until the huge twist at the end.  Even though Deborah didn't like Tank in the beginning, she soon realized that she could count on him to protect her and was glad that she had such a wonderful friend the length of the time that she did.

Though this book appears to be mostly a children's book, we consider it more of a young adult book due to the 'adult nature' of one of the happenings in the book.

Welcome to Our Tailgating Party!

We've got nine different bloggers with nine different projects to make this the most fun year yet!

Everyone loves tailgating!  Food!  Football!  Friends!  It doesn't get much better than that!

Make sure you stop by each site and check out the entire party!

Karen at Bakinginatornado: A recipe for Kielbasa and vegetables marinated, skewered, grilled and served on a roll.

Stacy at Stacey Sews and Schools:  Sewn fleece headband/earmuffs in favorite team colors

Eileen at Eileen's Perpetually busy: A seat cushion with built-in handle for carrying ease.

Robin at Someone Else's Genius: Book review on The System:  The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football

Diane at Canning and Cooking at Home:  Using up all of your green garden tomatoes into a wonderful relish

Shellybean at Follow Me Home: Simple tutorial on making 'to-do' bags for kids

Lydia at Cluttered Genius: Make a garland for your tailgate or mantel out of products you already have in your house

Melissa at Home on Deranged:  Use technology and cool gadgets to ensure you are master of tailgating time

We're going to show you how to make SnapCaps!  They're super quick and easy and I'm going to give you several shortcuts so that you can toss these together quickly!  You'll be able to make it in time for Sunday's game!

For me, the only downside to tailgating is that I don't like the cold!  I'm a total cold wussy!  It's just not my thing!  Also, I tend to be a little picky about what I wear.  These hats can be made to be cute or manly and they're so versatile!  Each one can be made in the colors you prefer and then embellished with thought bubbles.  Then in the large thought bubble, you can switch out pictures to show everyone what's on your mind!  We chose our smiley face because we're super happy right now!  You can put in your favorite team's name, a hot dog, a drink, or whatever happens to be on your mind!  Since they thoughts don't take up much space, they're easy to stow in a bag or pocket and swap out as you'd like.  These are a great conversation starter, or, they can just let people know you're unhappy and they should back off!

Making your SnapCap:

I'm going to be showing you several time-savers here.  If you can crochet, and choose to, you'll find the pattern listed below.  It's a beginner's pattern and quite easy.  You can swap out colors for a striped effect or simply make it all in your teams favorite color.  For those of you who want something a little quicker, grab any old soft hat you want!  Knits and crochets work best because they're easiest to sew through.

We used Red Heart Pattern LW2730.  Though this shows a young girl's hat, the instructions actually make an adult size.  We also left off the cuff, because we can!

Next, we'll start our thought bubbles.  We did three different sizes and then the largest one.

Ch 2
6 single crochet in first loop.
Fasten off and weave in ends.

Next Smallest:
Ch 3
9 half-double crochet in first loop.
Fasten off and weave in ends.

Next to Largest:
Ch 4
9 double crochet in first loop.
Fast off and weave in ends.

Large Thought Bubble:
Ch 6
Row One:
In fourth chain from hook:  3 double crochet
In next chain: 1 double crochet
In last chain: 7 double crochet
(continuing around bottom) In next chain:  1 double crochet
In beginning chain: 3 double crochet, join to first stitch

Second row:
Ch 3
2 double crochet in next stitch
Next stitch: half-double crochet, single crochet
Next stitch: half-double crochet, double crochet
Next stitch: 2 double crochet
Repeat around 5 times
Next stitch:  half-double crochet, single crochet
Next stitch: 2 double crochet
Next stitch: half-double crochet, single crochet
Fasten off and weave in ends.

Now position your thought bubbles onto your hat and pin them in place.  Next, simply stitch them where you want them.  Most of your SnapCap is finished! All that's left are the embellishments!

The snaps can be purchased for a few dollars at your local store, but most likely you have a few laying in your sewing box already.  You can design your own embellishments through crochet, knit, or sewing.  I've found the easiest thing to do is to go to my local store and purchase small 'patches'.  They come in a great variety and you can usually get them on clearance.

Sew one side of the snap onto your largest thought bubble, right in the center.  Next, sew the opposite side onto your embellishment.  It's that simple!  Simply use the same side of the snap and sew it onto all of your embellishments and you can swap them out within a matter of seconds!

We've actually had a lot of fun with these!  We set up an experiment had teenagers use these as their sole communication and it was hysterical!

Now go make yours and make a huge splash at your tailgating party!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell Inserts Giveaway

If you know who Boris and Julie are, then you know how freakin' sweet this giveaway opportunity is!!

If you don't know who Boris and Julie are, you may not be all that interested, until you go look at their work.

They're giving away ten limited edition art prints!  I've been a fan of their work for years and I'm definitely entering!

Go here to check it out!!

You must be 18 to enter and the last entry will be accepted on October 8th.

Agency Rules by Khalid Muhammad


   Welcome to the Virtual Book Tour for Agency Rules by Khalid Muhammad. This critically acclaimed political thriller is an action-packed page-turner!

  agency rules   touraoutthebooka

Agency Rules

Celebrated as a ragtag force that defeated and broke the Soviet Union, no one predicted the Mujahideen would bring with them a plague that would spread like wildfire through Pakistan in the years to follow. When the battle-worn fighters returned with no enemy or war to fight, they turned their sights on the country that had been their creator and benefactor. From the same battlegrounds that birthed the Mujahideen, a young Kamal Khan emerges as a different breed of warrior. Discarding his wealthy family comforts, Kamal becomes a precision sniper, an invincible commando and a clandestine operative bringing intimidation, dominance and death with him to the battlefield. Ending the plague is his prime directive. Shrouded in political expediency, hampered by internal power struggles, international espionage and doublespeak that makes Washington’s spin doctors proud, Kamal’s mission is a nightmare of rampant militant fundamentalism that threatens to choke and take Pakistan hostage. For him, the fight is not just for freedom, but the survival of a nation.
You can buy Agency Rules at the link below:



 Khalid Muhammad

Khalid pic
By day, Khalid Muhammad is a mild-mannered business executive keeping himself busy running a marketing and brand management company. He takes someone else’s product and creates concepts, ideas and brand stories—things that make consumers want to buy, invest and save their hard-earned money.
By night, his alter ego emerges; one that has a penchant for sadistic retribution towards those who have wronged him, and that spends its time devising intricate and detailed plans for a nefarious end. If he hopes to continue to have friends and family, though, he has to keep his alter ego under control. So, Khalid chooses to write novellas, novels and short stories to let the wickedness escape; the other option means a great deal of blood, numerous torture implements and…well, infinite ways to dump a body. The writing is better for everyone involved and less dangerous for the guilty… until he writes them into another story.
 You can find Khalid at these links:

Website  | Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon



This Giveaway is open internationally. Must be 16+ to enter.
There will be five winners each of a $10 Amazon Gift Card
This tour is brought to you by
Please check out the other hosts on the tour for chances to enter the Giveaway!

Excerpt from Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office

Standing in the hall of the abandoned warehouse, blood dripped from his body, leaving a trail on the grimy floor. A body was slumped in the chair in the middle of the hall with a singular light hanging above, illuminating a small radius around it. Another lay in the doorway propping the door open. The fight inside had been more than expected from the three days he spent surveying the warehouse. By his count, there should not have been more than five men both inside and out. Instead, he had found almost seven men around the facility.

They had prepared well for his arrival.

On his approach, he saw one man guarding the entrance. There were usually two… where’s the other one? Kamal shook off the thought and sized up his enemy, noting that he was a scrawny soldier that didn’t fill his uniform. He ducked into the shadows where he could use the darkness against the soldier, catching him by surprise. He rushed the guard, knocking him to the ground before he could set himself or draw his weapon. With a quick strike to the head, the first guard was neutralized. Before he could get up, he heard the door to the warehouse open. Jumping to his feet, Kamal saw the second guard emerge, finding Kamal hovering over his partner’s incapacitated body. The guard, surprisingly, dropped his AK-47 and rushed at Kamal, driving him into the concrete wall of the warehouse with a shoulder block. As he pulled back from Kamal, he landed two solid right crosses to his jaw stunning Kamal and giving himself time to set for the fight. Kamal pulled himself up from one knee, gasping for air and taking the time to assess his opponent. The guard didn’t wait for Kamal to position himself and struck again with a swift kick to his midriff, bring the taste of blood to Kamal’s mouth. Oh, that is just unacceptable.

Kamal spat the blood onto the ground and spun around, taking the guard’s legs out with a vicious kick to his knees. As the guard hit the ground, Kamal launched himself onto him, grabbing his neck in a chokehold. The guard threw elbows behind him, and kicked helplessly in the air as Kamal increased the pressure on his throat. Within minutes, his body stopped fighting and he was down.
Kamal stood, spitting a few times to clear the blood that had filled his mouth, finally using the sleeve of his shirt to wipe the remaining away. He smirked, admiring his work. Not as tough as he looked.
Standing over both bodies, his plan rapidly changed. Grabbing the second guard by the legs, he dragged him around the corner and pulled his uniform off. Silently and rapidly, Kamal undressed and pulled on the FC garb. Wow, this fits well. The guard had seemed so much larger than himself. He ripped his own shirt in half, using half to tie the guard’s hands together and the other half to seal his mouth, in case he came to and tried to warn the others. Kamal laughed silently, giving the guard another hard kick to the head. Just for good measure, you son of a bitch.

He entered the warehouse corridor, looking for the other guards. Spotting one about fifty feet down, he straightened his shoulders and called to him, “Did he come through here?”

The guard was surprised by the question. He hadn’t heard or seen anything. He strolled over to Kamal to find out what his colleague was talking about. “What?” Kamal waited till he was close enough, and casually raised his arm, as if to indicate towards the door. Gun in hand, he brought his arm down in a vicious swipe to the guard’s head, knocking him out cold. He fell hard into the wall from the blow and as he slid down, his gun clattered to the ground noisily. The commotion alerted another guard who came rushing around the corner, sidearm in hand. Seeing his compatriot laid out on the ground, with a fellow soldier standing over him, he slowed down.

“What happened to Ayaz?”

“I don’t know! I came in looking for the guy that knocked Sheraz out and found him like this,” Kamal said, quietly pulling his sidearm from the holster. “We should warn Faheem that we have a guest,” the soldier said, turning to warn his superior. Kamal waited for him to get a safe distance away and fired two rounds into his back, dropping him to the ground like a wounded deer. The guard tried to roll himself over to fire back at Kamal, but the round had damaged his spine badly, leaving him face down on the floor. Kamal went over and fired another round into his head, and almost like a second thought, changed his sidearm with the guard’s.

Kamal moved a few yards down the corridor when another soldier jumped from behind a crate hitting him with the butt of his AK-47, stunning him. What the fuck? Kamal thought, reaching up to find blood coming from just above his eye. “What’s your problem soldier? Don’t you recognize your own?” he said, glaring at the attacker. The guard hesitated for a moment but something must have alerted him, because he drew his weapon back again. Kamal used all his body weight to jam the weapon and soldier against the wall; he could feel his eye swelling up already, and he preferred not to expend any more energy than he had to.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Black Magic Woman by Eric Wilder

Burdened by spring floods, malaria and yellow fever, citizens of old New Orleans often turned to voodoo practitioners-African Rosalie, Sanite Dede, Bras Coupe-for protection.  None were more powerful, or feared, than Doctor John and Marie Laveau.  After P.I. Wyatt Thomas encounters a ghost during a hospital visit, he tells his sometimes business partner voodoo mambo Mama Mulate.  She places him in a trance and channels the ghost, soon learning a curse connects him and a long-dead French aristocrat.  They are doomed to remain connected forever unless Wyatt can return to old New Orleans and lift the curse before midnight on New Year's Eve.

Though this is Wilder's eighth book, and the fourth in the French Quarter Mystery series, I'd never heard of him before this.  I took a few minutes to judge this book by its cover before delving in.  The colors and font alone make you think there's going to be something dark and mysterious about this book.  Then, we have a very serious looking voodoo woman with a snake coiled around her neck, holding a gris gris bag.  Now, I know there's some serious trouble in this book!  I eagerly jumped in head first.

The characters are colorful and it was plain to see that Wilder has done his research.  Of course, growing up in Louisiana around such tales, I'm sure there wasn't a lot that he didn't already know!  It's a lot of fun though, these characters.  We have good guys and bad guys and in between guys and they all swap around!  The people we're supposed to be most afraid of have these wonderful soft centers and those that we begin feeling all sentimental towards end up to be the ones that frighten the bejeepers out of us!

Next we throw in some serious voodoo and hoodoo and magic and a little time travel.  Not to mention an intriguing side mystery!

My only issue with this story is that it wrapped up a little too neatly at the end.  It's kind of like when your favorite team is down by 30 points with only seconds on the clock, and all of a sudden they magically score 31 points to win.  The odds of that are astronomical.  I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but the unrealistic nature of it was a bit of a turn off for me.

This is a great serious, however, and I strongly suggest it to anyone who enjoys mysteries and knows anything at all about Louisiana lore.

The Confessions of Jonathan Flite by Matthew J. Beier

By Carrie Anne

Jonathan Flite claims to have memories he can't explain.  Seven layers of them, to be exact, all belonging to a group of teenagers who disappeared from a place called Idle County in 2010-ten years before his birth.  Seventeen years of anxiety, violent outbursts, and refusal to admit he is lying have landed him at Crescent Rehabilitation Center, a seaside juvenile center for rich kids, and nobody has ever dared to believe his memories might be real.

Until now.  On a blustery November day just three months after a nuclear terrorist attack in Geneva, Switzerland, ex-CIA psychiatrist Thomas Lumen arrives at Crescent to interview Jonathan for a book about Idle county.  Fueled by his personal connection to the disappearances three decades earlier, he asks Jonathan to share what he knows-anything and everything.

By reigniting this thirty-year-old mystery, however, Jonathan inadvertently becomes a target of the very same religious terrorists who attacked Geneva, and they'll stop at nothing to keep the secrets of Idle County under wraps.  Jonathan must then make a choice:  to continue telling his story, or risk the safety of everyone he loves.  (taken from Amazon description)

I have to say, the synopsis doesn't do this book justice.  Yes, there is political intrigue, but I found it was only at the back of my mind, seemingly not important to what I was reading.  Instead, it's a great mystery/thriller/ghost story.

Why does Jonathan have these memories that aren't his own?  What really happened that day in the woods?  Why are there so many other strange evens in Idle County?  What does any of it have to do with the bombing in Geneva?

This book tells about Molly Butler's last summer before she disappeared.  How did she end up with the other kids in the woods, kids she didn't apparently know?  Molly strikes up a new friendship with the local librarian.  What's her story?  Molly goes on ghost hunts with her friend that summer.  What did they really see?

I couldn't read this fast enough.  The chapters alternated between Jonathan's time and Molly's constantly propelling the story forward.  Unfortunately, when it was all said and done, I still had more questions than answers.  That's when I looked up the author and found there are six more books.  I can hardly wait!!

Inca's Death Cave by Bradford Wheler

By Carrie Anne

Adventure, archaeology, technology,and mystery mix to form a breathtaking action-packed tale. A 500-year-old puzzle catapults an archaeology professor and his brilliant grad student into the adventure of a lifetime.  What happened to a band of Inca rebels who journeyed north in Peru to seek the fabled cave of the true gods-and escape the disease and destruction brought by Spanish conquistadors?  They were never heard from again.  Did they just melt back into their villages or was something more sinister involved?  What trace or treasure did they leave behind?  The ingenious plot of this thriller is full of twists and turns, excitement and adventure, archaeology and technology.  Readers will meet fascinating characters they'll never forget:  a high-tech billionaire, a quick-witted professor, his beautiful young student, and her still-tough grandfather, a retired Marine gunny sergeant. Cornell University professor Robert Johnson and his star PhD student are hired by a billionaire entrepreneur to solve a 500-year-old archaeology mystery in norther Peru.  But first, they will have to survive corporate skullduggery and drug-lord thuggery.  And why, 6,700 miles away in Vatican City, is the old guard so upset?  What dark secrets could centuries-old manuscripts hold?  This assiduously researched, fast-paced novel brings the Incas and their ancestors to life against the backdrop of the Peruvian Andes. (taken from Amazon description)

I really wanted to like this book, after having enjoyed such titles as The DaVinci code.  I love historical fiction, learning more about the past in an interesting way.  Add in a mystery and some action, and I'm there!  Unfortunately, this book brings back all the feelings of history classes in school:  boring, boring, boring.

I will agree it was thoroughly researched and I can tell the author has a love for what he was doing, going so far as to include pictures to further illustrate his ideas.  The problem is, the book gets so bogged down in the technical details, the characters are never really developed and the plot feels secondary to the author showing off his knowledge.  There are some humorous lines along the way, but, again, not enough to keep my interest.  At one point, the main character comments that his eyes glassed over during a presentation by another character.  I have to say, I know exactly how he felt!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Minstrel's Covenant by Nance Burlow Morgan

By Carrie Anne

Mareese was still recovering from a two year old rebellion and a one year old battle with demons from the gates of hell.  Saeede and Andreas lived there, happily compsoing songs about their last great adventure.

While across the sea in Nagrom, a young king sought to change the culture of war amongst the kingdoms of his continent.  He sought a trade treaty with the people of Crystalier and sent his friend and ambassador to Mareese to promote his idea.

At the reception to introduce the ambassador to the leaders of Crystalier, everything was going superbly, until the ambassador was stricken with convulsions and died-the victim of poison!

The ambassador's men broke diplomatic protocols and arrested a local shopkeeper; an apothecary, and Saeede's mother!  Saeede and Andreas launch a secondary investigation behind the scenes.

The investigation is nearly botched when the ambassador's man realizes who Saeede is to the apothecary.  This creates a delicate diplomatic dilemma.  Saeede would not be swayed and discovered an imposter afoot-an imposter who looks like the ambassador's daughter!  When they are about to close in, the imposter gives them the slip, and the chase takes them across the sea to Ahnges.  There it becomes apparentthat political gain is at the root of the problem.

Thrust into a tangle of mistrusting kings the two friends are called upon to apprehend the ambassador's assassin and uncover the instigator behind the murder.

Minstrel's Covenant is Bulow-Morgan's third release.  A mystery adventure that spans two countries with very different cultures. The reader will be hooked from the very beginning of this intricate tale.  (From Amazon description)

This is the second book in the Minstrel's Tale Mystery series, and in my mind a better one than the first.  It's easy enough to pick up and jump in, with jus enough of a review to bring you up to date without retelling the whole first book.  The mystery at the beginning draws you in and the characters are entertaining.

For some reason, though, the book just doesn't hold my interest.  I'm not sure why.  The first few chapters were interesting and I had high hopes, but I just felt like I was slogging through after that.  The political intrigue went over my head and the long descriptive passages weren't as interesting to me as the sections with conversation.  I felt sometimes that the author made leaps in understanding that I wasn't able to follow.

Morgan is currently writing a third book in this series.  Continued improvement gives me hope that one of these days, I'll be able to say I really loved one.  Now if we could just do something about the 8 bit graphics on the cover :)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Exigency by Michael Siemsen Release Day Tour!

exigency banner sept

~ Synopsis ~

From Michael Siemsen, creator of the #1 Sci-Fi Bestseller, The Dig, and the award winning (a demon's story) series, EXIGENCY transports the author's singular, visionary approach to world-building to its next pivotal juncture. Nine brilliant scientists travel light years on a one-way trip to an Earth-like planet. Their mission is to study from orbit the two species of intelligent lifeforms on the surface. The first: an isolated people embarking on civilization and building their world's first city. The second: a brutal race of massive predators, spread thick and still growing across the dominant landmass - destined to breed and eat their way to extinction within a few centuries. After eight years of observation, disaster strikes the orbiting station and only two crewmembers eject successfully. Drifting down through a dark alien sky, the pair realizes their escape pod launched not toward the safety of the city, but to the other side of the planet, touching down deep within a land no human could possibly survive.

~ Interview ~

Welcome Michael Siemsen! Thank you for taking the time to humor me and answer some of my questions. After reading your latest book, Exigency, I have some questions that I would love answered! Let’s get started. Thank you for having me. I love what you’ve done with the place.  

 1 – I know how you came up with the idea for your Matthew Turner books, but I’d like to know about your ideas for this science fiction book and where they came from. I actually wrote about this recently, so sorry if any of it ends up duplicated… The first traces of Exigency came to me a couple years ago, though it wasn't so much the premise of a story as it was a feeling – the emotions one might experience in a particular situation. People can feel alone, desolate, and/or invisible, even while in their own home surrounded by family. I tried to imagine being truly alone - say, lost in Antarctica. But even there, one might hold out hope for a rescue party. It had to be further, more alone, more desolate. How about another planet, light years from another human being? That’s pretty alone. I didn’t start writing anything at that point, as there was nothing to write, but the idea would come back to me now and then, and one day I was thinking (unrelated to the first idea) about context. Context is everything, right? Example: On your screen you see a video of a coyote limping along, injured. Maybe you feel sad for it. But the view then shifts to a woman running off with her crying baby, and she’s yelling for help. She just stopped a coyote from dragging her baby away. Our outlooks and judgments are based upon what little we see and/or hear. Somehow, this line of thought progressed to a group of scientists on a space station, orbiting an Earth-like planet teeming with intelligent life. The researchers’ technology is remarkably advanced, but how much can they truly know of this planet and its people from such a distant, disconnected perspective? And would they be conscious of their limitations, or assume that they see all? And what happens when this accrued knowledge is suddenly put to the test, first-hand?  

  2 - The aliens in this book are very unique and so is the planet. How did you come up with the intricacies of their personalities and their world? The planet’s intelligent races took a very long time to develop, and the vast majority of their respective evolution, histories, and spirituality are never mentioned in the book. It’s exhausting even thinking about it, actually, and would probably be less-than-thrilling information to digest. But I’ll tell you this much: I began with a lifeless planet and a primordial soup in which the successful base ingredients of life differed from earth (arsenic won out over phosphorus), and I went on from there for billions of years (though not in real time). As for personalities and culture, I modeled the Threck on Early Romans, stripping away and replacing elements based upon environment, anatomy, the advancement pace of Threck civilization, and the core brain physiology of Threck after they’ve officially matured. Riveting stuff, right?  

  3 – Generally, you research the place you are going to write about in your books by going there. Unless you know someone that works for Space X, how did you research for this book? Yeah, sadly I couldn’t find a cost-effective way to do a research trip on this one. In terms of time investment, this book was 9 parts research, 1 part writing. If I’m going to be making up technology and biology, they both need to be plausible and impervious to scrutiny from actual experts. After The Dig, I was particularly gratified to receive messages from archaeologists and paleos with only positive remarks. For Exigency, I read countless books, listened to many podcasts, and spoke with some experts who were highly generous with their time. I discovered in my early outlines a number of mistakes I’d made based upon assumptions, and had to adjust parts of the greater story around this information. For instance, to send a team of nine people to orbit another planet for the rest of their lives—light years away—it would cost upwards of $30 Trillion per year to deliver a constant supply at the dollar’s (and food’s) current value. And that’s only the beginning of the expenses. And so I studied what would be required for a person to stop eating solid food, receiving their nutrients through supplements in the drinking water (which, btw, must be siphoned from the planet’s atmosphere), and all the front-, back-, and side-effects of such a change. And there are little tidbits of real funfacts/science sprinkled throughout the finished book that readers may appreciate. For instance, if you don’t consume solid food for an extended period, your taste buds sort of disappear, making your tongue smooth and slimy.  

  4 – My husband loves Dale Brown and his books. One of the things that he said about his stuff is that he has been pretty good at predicting the military weaponry/strategy, etc over the years. Do you think any of your scientific & space related technologies will come about? What technology would you like to see? Absolutely. Ionic propulsion, interstellar travel, medicine, and in particular, the fone. The robot’s perspective view you see in movies like the terminator is the next logical leap from iPhones and Google Glass. It will begin with the early adopters receiving implants, and then will rapidly spread. Everything you can do on a smartphone will be possible through this implant (be it an actual prosthetic eye as in Exigency, or an unseen implant). Imagine the ability to snap photos with a thought, or to have captured some huge event like an always-on dashcam/DVR that keeps the last 5-10 minutes of your vision buffering. Rewind and save as needed. Play games during boring work meetings without anyone knowing (or caring, because they’re doing the same thing). We’re talking about a know-it-all’s fantasy world here. Someone says, “Oh yeah, did you know dogs are colorblind?” and know-it-all instantly pulls up Wikipedia, replying “Actually…” and spouts off a bunch of stuff verbatim as if it’s off the top of their head. Or consider the usefulness of true night vision, thermal imaging, mag, etc. Predictable privacy/big brother concerns aside, this is where we’re heading. Just a few weeks ago, I grinned as a headline appeared on my screen: Researchers Invent Interface to the Optic Nerve.  

  5 – Where does the inspiration for your characters come from? Are they based on anyone you know? ;) Sometimes they’re based on people I know, or combinations of multiple people. Often, they’re as fictional as the world they live in, though psychologists might refute such a claim, suggesting that, like in a dream, every character I create is some piece of myself. I’ll just be sure to keep said psychologist away from Frederick of A Warm Place to Call Home (a demon’s story).  

  6 – Are there any plans to write any more about this world and these aliens? A spin-off perhaps? A prequel maybe? I wrote it as a stand-alone, and still see it that way. If a really compelling story occurs to me in the future, I’m not opposed to returning to it. You never know…  

  7 – This is technically your first science fiction story. What made you decide to try this genre? Did you enjoy writing it more, less, or about the same as your other books? I feel like I’ve always been a Sci-Fi writer, and if you didn’t know any better, and saw my ever-growing idea and work-in-progress list, you’d probably be surprised to discover how much of what I’ve put out has not been straight Sci-Fi. The Dig is pretty Sci-Fi-ey (if I may), if you look at it as the story of a non-human civilization. Exigency is definitely my first “hard” Sci-Fi, and it’s uber-satisfying when you finish writing a beast like this. It may be just because it’s the newest, but I think it’s tied with A Warm Place to Call Home for the most enjoyable to write award. Though I’m aware that that’s a very hindsight perspective of Exigency. Frederick definitely wins out in terms of ease and fun, beginning to end.  

  -Now some general questions about you- That’s not a question.  

  8 – There are a lot of distractions around, especially with social media and this new-fangled site called Reddit. How do you block it all out and write? I’m sure I could find on Reddit a hilarious and apropos gif that perfectly expresses “a day in my life”, but instead I’ll simply say: Distractions are the devil. Espresso is my friend. Oh, and here’s a gif I found on Reddit that perfectly expresses “a day in my life.”  

  9 - What do you enjoy doing outside of writing?  I’m into camping, lakes, hiking, travel, and when I’m around the house, unable to focus on writing, I usually end up fixing stuff or making something out of something and hanging it on our walls. I like to make stuff out of stuff. Because making stuff out of no stuff is beyond my power.  

  10 - What's something about you that most people don't know?  That I write books. Ha! Zing! … against myself.  As for those few random souls scattered across our great planet (I sold a couple books in Brazil last month. Go figure.), I don’t know how many are aware that I’m a do-it-yourselfer from beginning to (almost) end. Besides my virtuoso editor (shout out to the fastidious Kristina Circelli of Red Road Editing, my go-to since Samuel Beauchamp), I do everything from cover design and web coding to physical book layout and marketing materials. As much as a traditional publishing deal would relieve me of operational tasks, I say nay. A) I saw the samples of horses**t covers they wanted to slap on The Dig, and B) How lazy would I have to be to justify giving up lifetime rights to my books, a 90% pay cut, and losing all say into how my books are packaged, just to avoid a couple weeks extra work on each book. Seems kind of like paying a live-in chef to select and make all of my food for me, and then he eats most of it before serving it. Not to say I’ll never again consider a traditional publishing deal, but I’ve yet to see a compelling case for it (that there’s the caveat for when I announce a couple years from now that I went with NY on some new book, so no one can throw it back in my face “Nnehnh! You said never!”).  

  11 - Who is your favorite character that you've written? I’m a little partial to Angela in Exigency. She’s a pretty cool chick and a total smart ass. She’s pretty awesome, but I’ve sort of already called out Frederick, soooooo…  

  12 – Have there been any scenes in your books that were difficult for you to write?  Difficult as in writerly struggles? Countless scenes. Difficult as in emotionally? The Many Lives of Samuel Beauchamp (a demon’s story) has some pretty rough subject matter. The Opal, as well, contains a fair bit of personal parallels. And then, of course, those scenes in A Warm Place to Call Home were probably as awkward to write as they were for some to read.    

  13 – In all of your spare time, what are you currently reading?  This isn’t usually the case, but right now I’m in the middle of way too many books. Generally I’d have a single fiction book I’m reading for pleasure, and often bounce back and forth with non-fiction, sometimes overlapping. At present … [sigh] … here’s the mess I’ve created in my head: The Bone Clocks  -  David Mitchell What We See When We Read  -  Peter Mendelsund Extreme Medicine  -  Kevin Fong, M.D. Empress Zenobia  -  Pat Southern Joyland  -  Stephen King  

  14 - What is are your favorite books?   As a voracious reader, I’m sure you, too, would be hard pressed to identify a single, above-all-others book. So I have secretly and deftly transmogrified your question into one that suits me. Most recent notables: Sand by Hugh Howey – (this book is how it’s done) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – (the most fun I’ve had reading a book since … since … I guess just the most fun)   Less recent favorites: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (I think this is her best book, even though Gone Girl made her famous) The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell (greatest writer of this generation IMHO) The Road by Cormac McCarthy (also the greatest writer of this generation, if I’m allowed to do that) The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (another single greatest writer of this generation) Redshirts by John Scalzi (hilarious, clever, must-read material for Star Trek fans) Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (like David Mitchell, Ishiguro elevates the entire Sci-Fi genre) If I were to go back any further, we’d be here into next week.  

  15 - Who is your favorite author?   David Mitchell  

  16 – If you could collaborate with an author and write a book with them, who would it be, what genre would it be, and why? At first thought, a bunch of names pop into my head, but then I think about this prospect realistically and cower beneath my desk for fear of being found out by a “real” writer.

  Thank you Michael Siemsen for your outstanding and hilarious answers and for humoring me with these questions. I'm sure it's helped offer a little insight into your world and hopefully given them some reasons to check it out. 

~ Purchase Links ~


~ About the Author ~

michael Michael Siemsen grew up in Venice, California, the second son of a Vietnam veteran turned policeman. Initially focusing on performing arts, Michael attended the prestigious Alexander Hamilton Academy in Los Angeles. After serving in the U.S. Army as a tracked vehicle operator, he returned to civilian life and began writing short stories and screenplays, and directing short films and music videos. Moving to Northern California in the late '90's, Michael met his future wife, Ana. The two now live near the San Joaquin River Delta, with their three equally-adventurous children and Brody, the ever-gaping Lab. Michael's 4th novel, EXIGENCY, will be released September 16, 2014, and he is currently at work wrapping up the third book in the Matt Turner series, RETURN. It should be released in late 2014, depending upon Brody's seemingly endless need to urinate or engage in exercise.

~ Author Links ~






Anthony Ant Goes to France by Julie Bettendorf

By April

Join Anthony Ant as he travels around the world!

Hi, my name is Anthony Ant, and I love to go places.
When I travel, I can fit into some pretty small spaces.
Once I curled up in a suitcase, as snug as could be.
When I came out, I was in beautiful France.  Whoopee!

These are the tales of Anthony Ant, a child's travel companion and all-around great adventurer.  Anthony travels in style, comfortably lodged in a suitcase, and he never knows what strange, new country he will find himself in.

In Anthony Ant Goes to France, he travels to Paris, where he meets Lulu Ladybug.  Together they explore the food, culture and sights of the city.  Anthony visits the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral, eats French pastry, and gets to know the French people, all with his new friend Lulu. (taken from Amazon description)

I really enjoyed reading this book.  I learned about some of the famous landmarks in France.  It was easy to read, with the story written in a poetic form.  The pictures were bright and caught my attention rather easily.  I think this book would be great for story time so that children will sample a taste of what France has to offer without over-stimulating the mind of its young readers or listeners.  I would happily read all of the Anthony Ant books!

 Welcome to the Official Blog Tour for Yakimali's Gift by Linda Covella. This Young Adult Historical Romance takes us back in time to late 18th Century Mexico and California and a spirited adventure for one young girl.
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 Yakimali's Gift

It’s 1775 in Mexico, New Spain, and 15-year-old Fernanda Marquina, half Spanish and half Pima Indian, can’t seem to live up to her mother’s expectations or fit into the limited female roles of her culture. A tragic accident sets her on a course for the adventure she longed for but at a greater cost than she could ever have imagined. With her family, Fernanda joins Juan Bautista de Anza’s historic colonization expedition to California. On the arduous four month journey, Fernanda will find not only romance, but she’ll discover truths that will change the way she sees her ancestry, her family, and herself.  
You can buy Yakimali's Gift at these retailers:

Amazon     |     Barnes & Noble


 Linda Covella

Profile Picture_Charlie Cut

Linda Covella’s varied job experience and education (associate degrees in art, business and mechanical drafting & design, a BS degree in Manufacturing Management) have led her down many paths and enriched her life experiences. But one thing she never strayed from is her love of writing.

A writer for over 30 years, her first official publication was a restaurant review column in a local newspaper, and as a freelance writer, she continued to publish numerous articles in a variety of publications. But when she published articles for children’s magazines (“Games and Toys in Ancient Rome” and “Traveling the Tokaido in 17th Century Japan,” in Learning Through History magazine, and “Barry’s Very Grown Up Day” in Zootles magazine), she realized she’d found her niche: writing for children. She wants to share with kids and teens her love of books:  the worlds they open, the things they teach, the feelings they express.

Yakimali’s Gift, a historical novel for young adults published by Astraea Press, and middle grade paranormal The Castle Blues Quake published by Beau Coup Publishing are her first novels.
She’s a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
No matter what new paths she may travel down, she sees her writing as a lifelong joy and commitment.
You can find Linda at these links:

Linda’s Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter

Goodreads     |     Pinterest



This Giveaway is open Internationally. You must be 13+ to enter.
2 Winners will each receive a $5 Amazon Gift Card
1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card
This tour is brought to you by
Please check out the other hosts on the tour for chances to enter the Giveaway!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Dybbuk's Mirror by Ali Goldenberg Review and Giveaway

Today is the release day extravaganza and we're so excited to be taking part!!

The Dybbuk's Mirror is the second book in the Hadariah series.  Strings of the Violin is the first, and introduces us to Carrie.  She's a teenager who just wants to take the summer off and relax, but when a fox introduces himself to her, she knows she's in for an odd summer.  Along with her two best friends, she embarks on an epic journey like she's never known.

In The Dybbuk's Mirror, Carrie's friends are missing.  After slaying Asmodeus, the Dybbuk king, she can't imagine what's going on.  Through dreams and a new friend, she's returned to her beloved 'fairy tale' land and finds that all of the Dybbuk clans are fighting for the position of king.  In doing so, they've caused chaos throughout the realm.  Royalty has requested her aid, but first and foremost, Carrie needs to find and rescue her friends.

This is a very 'Alice in Wonderland' type series.  As I was reading, I kept thinking how much my niece (eighteen)  would enjoy it.  It's simple and captivating, but has an air of magic to it.  Carrie, as a character, is a typical teenager.  She's likeable and brave one moment, and the next she just wants to breathe.  She's unpredictable.  You know she has a heroine deep inside her, but sometimes her humanity and child-like nature want to win out.

The world that has been created so that you get a general sense of the layout, but you still get to use your imagination to color it in.  There are no long chapters full of nothing but description.  Goldenberg gives you what you need to create this place for yourself.

Personally, the only trouble I've had with this series are Carrie's parents.  I find them unlikable and unrealistic and I'm thankful I don't know them in person.  I think they were written this way to portray the average teenager's view of what their parents are like, but it really pulled me away from the story every time there was a scene with them in it.

Alisse Lee Goldenberg is an author of horror and Young Adult fantasy fiction.  She has her Bachelors of Education and a Fine Arts degree, and has studied fantasy and folk lore since she was a child.  Alisse lives in Toronto with her husband Brian, their triplets Joseph, Philip, and Hailey, and their rambunctious Goldendoodle Sebastian.

Now for the super fun part; The Giveaway!  Simply enter the rafflecopter below!  They'll be giving away a $20 Amazon gift card as well as an e-book copy of The Dybbuk's Mirror!  You don't want to miss this!  Also, be sure to stop by the main page and follow the tour!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 8, 2014

Blue Lily!!

Maggie Stiefvater received a box of Blue Lily ARCs today!  I so want one!

The Raven Cycle series really captured me. It's unique and the characters are simply astounding!

Pick me, Maggie!  Pick me!

The Blood Guard by Carter Roy

By Mike

When thirteen-year-old Ronan Truelove's seemingly ordinary mom snatches him from school, then sets off on a high speed car chase, Ronan is shocked.  His quiet, nerdy dad has been kidnapped?? And the kidnappers are after him, too??

His mom, he quickly learns, is anything but ordinary.  In face, she's a member of an ancient order of knights, the Blood Guard, a sword-wielding secret society sworn to protect the Pure - thirty-six noble souls whose safety is crucial if the world as we know it is to survive.

Now all those after-school activities- gymnastics, judo, survival training-oshe made him take, make sense.  For suddenly Ronan is swept up in a sometimes funny, sometimes scary, but always thrilling adventure-dashing from one danger to the next, using his wits to escape the Bend Sinister, a posse of evil doers with strange powers.  Falling in with two unlikely companions, Greta, a scrappy, strong-willed girl he's never much liked and Jack, a devil-may-care teenage pickpocket, Ronan is left with only his wits and his mom's last words of advice:  Trust no one.

That's a lot for an ordinary kid to deal with.  But then again, maybe Ronan's not ordinary at all.  (taken from Amazon description)

This is an excellent book geared more towards younger readers.  Ronan goes from an average, ordinary 13 year old to a member of a protection squad.  His mom trained him all his life for this, he just didn't know it.  This book keeps you on the edge of your seat.  There are some really great surprises in this book that brought me great joy!  Brilliant!

The Lady of Arlington by John Perry

By Mike

Many know about her husband, Robert E. Lee, and her great-grandmother, Martha Washington many have visited the cemetery that now occupies her family estate.  But few today know much about Mary Custis Lee herself.  Chronically ill and often in excruciating pain, Mary raised seven children, faithfully witnessing to her husband for years before his conversion.  She retained her dignity and faith throughout a fruitless, heartbreaking attempt to win compensation for the confiscation of her home and possessions.  History is never more powerful than when it provides a role model for enduring hardship with sturdy and radiant faith.  Mary Custis Lee is such an example.  (taken from Amazon description)

Being from the south, I have studied Robert E. Lee.  I have family buried in Arlington.   So, going into this book, I already knew a lot of the history of the place.  It was great getting Mary's perspective.  We always hear about the men going to war, but this book gave us a look into the family side.  We all seem to forget that when the men go to war, there is always someone waiting at home for them to come back.

This book is one for my keeper shelf.

Mike's personal note:  The Lee family took the government to court over the handling of Arlington and was awarded $150,000.00

Bloodmark by Aurora Whittet

By Mike

Sixteen-year-old werewolf princess Ashling Boru is different from other wolves- she was able to shift to a wolf at birth.  Rather than bringing pride to her family, it brings fear, and she is sent to live in Ireland's secluded countryside.  Ashling's reputation is further blackened when she refuses her betrothed, defying the ancient laws.  When her pack's oldest rivals being to hunt her, she finds herself in the small town of York Harbor, Maine, far from everything she's known.

When she crosses paths with dark and rebellious Grey Donavan, something ignites within her sould.  There's just one problem; Grey is human.  Their instant connection turns into a passionate romance, and Ashling begins to believe she can create her own life outside of wolf laws.  When she uncovers long-buried pack secrets that threaten to destroy all she holds dear, Ashling's courage and tenacity are tested.  Will she choose her deep and enduring love for Grey or will she follow Old Mother's path to her destiny?  (taken from Amazon description)

What a great book!  I couldn't put it down!  The only problem I have is that I don't have any of the other books in the series.

This book is like a roller coaster ride.  It's up-beat when Ashling and Grey are together, but when they're apart you can feel the pain.  But as you read how they fell in love, you though about the loves in your own life.

This is a great book and I'll be looking for the follow ups.

Shawn's Note:  This is the second review of Bloodmark.  If you'd like to read our other review, it's posted here.

The Living by Matt de la Pena

By Mike

Shy took the summer job to make some money.  In a few months on a luxury cruise liner, he'll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom and sister out with the bills.  And how bad can it be?  Bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two- every cruise has different passengers, after all.

But everything changes when the Big One hits.  Shy's only weeks out at sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits California, and his life is forever changed.

 The earthquake is only the first disaster.  Suddenly, it's a fight to survive for those left living.  (taken from Amazon description)

What a great book!  It's one of the best I've read in a long time.  First, it's the combover guy as he jumps overboard and the fight Sky has to keep a hold of him...and loses!  What a rush! Then we have days in the lifeboat with Addison, a woman he hates!  Their battle to survive the seas and sharks was outstanding.  Then we meet Shoeshine (who also worked in special ops), who saves Shy.  Then to find out, the earthquake isn't the only issue, but there's a sickness sweeping America.  And then when I found out why everything was happening!  I'm amazed!

I'm looking forward to the next book called The Hunted, which is currently scheduled to be released May of 2015.

The Long Love by John Sedges

By Mike

This book was first published in 1975 and is set in the late 1800s.  It follows the love story of a couple through each stage.  We begin with courtship and then marriage and children, and all that goes along with that.  John is a bit of a workaholic, and Margaret has some issues of her own.  Can they make their marriage work?  Not only that, but can they live happy lives with each other?

This is a great American love story.  It isn't all love and happiness, but the love and pain of family as well.  It was a different time but it's still the same now.  Edward and Margaret could be any one of us.  This book shows the love and laughter of life, love and death.  It's a great story about life.

Shawn's Note:  This book is no longer being printed and is only available used.  We, however, believe if you can find a copy, you should snag it!  I personally loved this book as well.  Also, this book was originally written under the name of John Sedges, and later has been revealed to be a pseudonym.  The author's name is Pearl S. Buck.

Stuck in the Doldrums by Carole P Roman

By Tina

Stuck in the Doldrums is another Captain No Beard story.  In this story the crew is at it again, but when the wind stops blowing, The Flying Dragon gets strandedon a desert island!  With his First Mate, Hallie; Linus the Lion; Fribbet the Frog; Mongo the Monkey; and Polly the Parrot, Captain No Beard has to find a way to use teamwork and understanding to get through the p roblem at hand.  However, when Captain No Beard gets bossy and makes playtime miserable for the crew, he soon finds himself alone and helpless when a giant squid attacks.  Just when it seems like the captain is in over his head, his faithful crew reunites and teaches him an important lesson.  (taken from the back of the book)

As with all the other stories in the Captain No Beard collection, it is a thoughtful way to help teach young children how to share.  It has great illustrations and my own children like to put the story into words with just the pictures.

The Crew Goes Coconuts by Carole P Roman

By Tina

In The Crew Goes Coconuts!, Carole P Roman has turned out yet another great book.  As the imagination of cousins Hallie and Alexander bring their stuffed animals to life, the crew of critters is stranded alongside a desert island.  The friends wish to refresh their thirst; however, the newcomer to the ship makes a critical error that draws the negative attention of the other shipmates.  Miffed by Matty the Goat's mistake, the parched crew turns on the hapless greenhorn with cruel taunts and personal attacks.  Captain No Beard steps in and expertly navigates the rough waters of bullying with sensible leadership that leave everyone with a good taste in their mouths.  (taken from the back of the book)

The children that I have read this story to have been enthralled in its pictures as well as the story.  I also like the fact that once I read the book, I can interact with them about what happened in the story.  In doing so, I think it helps them understand the  meaning of the story a little better.

Pepper Parrot's Problem with Patience by Carole P Roman

By Tina

Carole P Roman has done it again in the story of Pepper Parrot's Problem with Patience.  Captain No Beard, his First Mate Hallie, and the crew of the Flying Dragon pirate ship are excited to welcome a new crew member, Pepper Parrot, today!  But the drills are a major problem for Pepper Parrot to complete correctly, since she does not know her left from her right.  Her new friends show her some understanding, patience, and a special trick that encourage her to have confidence and to become a real crew member.  Her new discovery makes her look at herself in a more positive, confident way.  (taken from the back of the book)

I love the Captain No Beard stories and this one is no exception.  In this story, Captain No Beard and his crew try to help children learn how to deal with issues as dyslexia.  It is also very easy to get young children engaged in the story, which is the best part of all.

The Race Underground by Doug Most

By Daena
Reviewed for Minding Spot

In the late nineteenth century, as cities like Boston and New York grew larger, the streets became increasingly clogged with horse-drawn carts. When the great blizzard of 1888 brought New York to a halt, a solution had to be found.  Two brothers - Henry Melville Whitney of Boston and William Collins Whitney of New York - pursued the dream of his city being the first American metropolis to have a subway and the great race was on.  The competition between Boston and New York was played out in an era not unlike our own, one of economic upheaval, job losses, bitter political tensions, and the questions of America's place in the world.

The Race Underground is peopled with the famous, like Boss Tweed, and Tomas Edison, and the not-so-famous, like the countless 'sandhogs' who dug and blasted into the earth's crust, sometimes losing their lives in the process of building the subway's tunnels.  Doug Most chronicles the science of the subway, looks at fears people had about traveling underground and tells a story as exciting as any ever ripped from the pages of U.S.  History.  The Race Underground is a great American saga of two rival American cities, the powerful interests within, and an invention that changed the lives of millions.  (taken from the front of the book)

It was a time of change and innovation for the United States.  Many inventors were rushing to have their creations patented and entrepreneurship seemed to be the trend of the times.  With so much happening and exciting times ahead, the United States was growing at a magnificent rate.  Two major cities felt the weight of this growth the most.  These were the cities of Boston and New York.  The streets were riddled with people and horse-drawn carriages and were nearly bursting at the seams.  Traveling the streets was treacherous, often with the choice of standing or running for your life.  Two brothers, one in Boston and one in New York, recognized that the growth of their city would not soon end and set out to relieve the crowded streets.

In this novel, Doug Most takes the reader on an adventure filled with frustrations, heartbreak, devastation, political wars, defeats and championship.  If Mr. Most had been my instructor during my school years, perhaps history would have appealed to me.  The author brings history to life with insights in to the feelings of the men who were filled with passion and urgency to bring a subway to their towns.  He give life to all of the characters, from the workers who spent many tedious hours chipping away at the underground tunnels to the corporate giants who provided funding.

I found this book surprisingly fascinating.  Doug Most displays an excellent writing style which made the book nearly seamless as it changed to different years and characters.  The book has, obviously, been thoroughly researched, which paves a way for the reader to feel as though they have been plopped right  down in the middle of the late 1800s to early 1900s.  I not only enjoyed the story, I learned quite a bit about the history of the United States from a unique standpoint.  This was a story of hard times, of frustrations and crushing disappointments.  It was a victory and a tragedy rolled into one.  Mostly, it was a fantastic tale of perseverance and believing in our dreams.  I would recommend this book to anyone with even a slight interest in the building of capital America and the sheer genius of the human mind.

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