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Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Christmas Candle

The Christmas Candle

Review of The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado

Overview from Imagine a Victorian England village in the Cotswolds where very little out of the ordinary ever happens . . . except at Christmas time.
This year, Edward Haddington, a lowly candle maker, is visited by a mysterious angel. That angel silently imparts a precious gift—a gift that’s bungled and subsequently lost. The candle maker and his wife, Bea, struggle to find the gift.
And when they do, they have to make a difficult choice. Who among their community is most in need of a Christmas miracle?
Join inspirational author Max Lucado and experience anew the joy of Christmas.

My Review:

Today’s review will be somewhat short due to the Christmas season. And appropriately the story centers on Christmas.
It begins in the 1600’s in a village called Gladstone located in England. I’m not sure if it is an actual village but that is the village it is set in nonetheless.

One year the candle is blessed by an angel and as the candle maker and his wife attend church one evening, the wife is touched by the story of a woman in village who has money worries. She gives her the candle and tells her to light it and pray.

The woman does that and the next night at the Christmas Eve service, as is tradition; the woman stands up to make an announcement when the minister invites the congregation to share their blessings. The woman announces that a distant uncle has died and left her the money she needed and then some.

She later thanks the candle maker and his wife for the miracle. Since that day every seventh year (at least I think it is the seventh) another candle is blessed by angel and another candle maker in the same family distributes one candle that creates the Christmas miracle.

One year however, in 18 something or other, the candle that is blessed gets accidently mixed in with other candles the candle maker has made. This leaves the candle maker and his wife confused. Add to the fact that most of the town has come to them begging to be chosen. What will they do?

The answer might surprise you as it did me. The story was a charming one though it was a bit short. Perhaps it should be called a novella. It is a great story to read as you lounging around still couch bound from your turkey or ham coma. Short and sweet in another words. A great story to read as you finish up your holiday.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Innocent in Las Vegas

Innocent in Las Vegas: A Humorous Tiffany Black Mystery (Tiffany Black Mysteries, #1) 

 Review of Innocent in Las Vegas by A. R. Winters

Overview from Cupcake-loving croupier Tiffany Black is determined to leave her job at the casino for good. She's one small step away from acquiring her Private Investigator license, and has her eye on the prize.
Accepting her first real case - investigating the murder of casino-mogul Ethan Becker - should be exciting. Instead, things spiral out of control and Tiffany finds herself in over her head, as she confronts secretive suspects, corrupt casino henchmen and her mysterious, ex-Special Forces bodyguard.
Tiffany's poker-hustling Nanna and pushy parents want her to find a nice man and settle down, but Tiffany just wants to track down the real murderer before he finds her first...

My Review:

I head back to the mystery genre this week and this time to what I think could be classified as Cozy Mystery. It’s the first in series, but aren’t they all?

If you’re wondering why I am doing so many lately it’s because I have so many of them on my Nook that I either got on Free Friday or for very little money (one was $1 for a 12 all in the same volume) that I am trying to get to them all. But I am trying to mix them in with other genres so that we don’t get too bored.

Our main character is Tiffany Black, a young lady who works at a casino by night and is studying to be Private Investigator by day. She is about to get her certification when she is offered her first case.

An old acquaintance from high school named Sophie has hired her to investigate her husband’s murder since the police seem to have already concluded that she did it. Of course it does not help that the murder weapon was found in her bedroom. Talk about a smoking gun.

Against her better judgment, Tiffany takes on the case and soon finds that there are many people involved who would rather leave the case as it is with Sophie as suspect #1 and they are also willing to kill Tiffany to see that it remains that way.

The mystery itself is unique, refreshingly so. But there was another aspect of the story that I didn’t like that sort of cropped up at the end that I wasn’t sure I would like. I suspect that the author is intending to go in the direction of a future love triangle and well, I am not sure that I want to read another one of those. I don’t know about you but I am really getting sick of love triangles.

I like the character of Tiffany Black. She is relatable and reminds me a little bit of Stephanie Plumb, the bounty hunter from one of Janet Evanovich’s novels. She is also funny and she makes the story a breeze to read as it is told in her voice. I literally read it in a few days even though I was also working those days. It went so fast I could hardly believe it when it was over.

Still not sure yet if I will continue with the series though but if I do, it will probably be a while before I get to it with all the other mysteries I have to read. I would recommend it to anyone who would like a light Cozy that doesn’t take much effort to read.

Contains: some F bombs at the beginning.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Christmas Train

The Christmas Train

Review of The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

Overview from Disillusioned journalist Tom Langdon must get from Washington D.C. to L.A in time for Christmas. Forced to travel by train, he begins a journey of rude awakenings, thrilling adventures and holiday magic. He has no idea that the locomotives pulling him across America will actually take him into the rugged terrain of his own heart, as he rediscovers people's essential goodness and someone very special he believed he had lost. The Christmas Train is filled with memorable characters who have packed their bags with as much wisdom as mischief...and shows how we doget second chances to fulfill our deepest hopes and dreams, especially during this season of miracles.
Tom Langdon, a weary and cash-strapped journalist, is banned from flying when a particularly thorough airport security search causes him to lose his cool. Now, he must take the train if he has any chance of arriving in Los Angeles in time for Christmas with his girlfriend. To finance the trip, he sells a story about a train ride taken during the Christmas season.

My Review:

Having just moved, I am attempting to get acquainted with people in this new town. I thought I might join a club and since I found a book club in the area I decided to try it, but first I have to read the book. The book assigned is, of course, the one I am reviewing today.

I doubt that there is much to add to the summary provided by the publisher but I will try my best to give it my own spin. Our main character is one Tom Langdon who is looking for a chance to turn his life back into the right direction after splitting up with the love of his life, Eleanor, years ago. He is also attempting to fulfill one of his father’s last wishes by finishing Mark Twain’s alleged goal of taking a train trip across the country and writing a story about it.

Little does he know that Eleanor is on the same train and when they bump into each other on the train, he seems to have gotten his second chance. There is one small problem however. Eleanor aka Ellie wants nothing to do with him in spite of being cajoled into working with him by her boss, the famous movie director Max somebody. (Sorry but I have already forgotten the last name.) The question than is can they survive the journey or will they end the journey with more regrets than they started off with.

My overall impression of this story was positive, despite the fact that it is basically a feel-good drama. It has a nice tone. The story itself is touching and the way that Baldacci creates this Christmas themed story works well. It doesn’t feel too hammy like many other Christmas dramas do.

The characters were likeable and funny, even some of the bad ones, and there is a lot of detail about Amtrak and the trains they use as well as what some of the routes are.

It is a great story to tackle for the holidays and when I say tackle I mean it in the lightest possible way. Sure it is deeper than the breezy summer read but not overwhelming like a lot of other holiday stories are.

I recommend it as a great way to pass the time while you’re waiting in line at the local department store to buy massive quantities of gifts that you really don’t need anyway. It will help keep things in perspective.

Contains: some language

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Spymistress

The Spymistress

Review of The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini

Overview from Born to slave-holding aristocracy in Richmond, Virginia, and educated by Northern Quakers, Elizabeth Van Lew was a paradox of her time. When her native state seceded in April 1861, Van Lew’s convictions compelled her to defy the new Confederate regime. Pledging her loyalty to the Lincoln White House, her courage would never waver, even as her wartime actions threatened not only her reputation, but also her life.

Van Lew’s skills in gathering military intelligence were unparalleled. She helped to construct the Richmond Underground and orchestrated escapes from the infamous Confederate Libby Prison under the guise of humanitarian aid. Her spy ring’s reach was vast, from clerks in the Confederate War and Navy Departments to the very home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Although Van Lew was inducted posthumously into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame, the astonishing scope of her achievements has never been widely known. In Chiaverini’s riveting tale of high-stakes espionage, a great heroine of the Civil War finally gets her due.

My Review:

This week’s story is actually based on a true story according to information found inside the book. The protagonist is one Elizabeth Van Lew, an erstwhile Union sympathizer living in Richmond as the state of Virginia sides with the Confederacy and makes Richmond its capital.

Cut off from the country that she loves Lizzie is determined to do what she can to help. It is not long before she gets her chance to prove her loyalty. A group of Union prisoners, some of them civilians, captured during battle are kept in the most deplorable conditions. Lizzie used flattery and home-cooked food to worm her way into the Confederate prison guard’s confidence so that she can tend to their needs at her own expense.

She uses that opportunity to smuggle out messages from the men to their Union counterparts north of the Mason Dixon line. As her usefulness to the Union grows, so does the danger to herself and her family. She must find a way to appear to be in favor of the Confederacy in order to avoid jeopardizing her undercover activities. After all, her life, as well as her mother’s, could be on the line at any moment.

Our heroine is one of my favorite things about this book. She is kind and circumspect as well as courageous. I can’t imagine what it would be like to suddenly find yourself ostensibly living in a new country without having the chance to leave peacefully and join up with the country that you really consider to be your own. Yet Lizzie handles it with grace even when she is threatened by some Confederates who don’t like her politics or her money.

The story of how she not only survives the war but manages also to secretly help the U.S. government is amazing. By the time the Union troops arrive in Richmond, she is recognized as the true hero that she is and is even given a special appointment by the President Grant.

I can’t name anything that I didn’t really like about this story. There was not any bad language, or a lot of sex and only mild war violence. And it was truly a captivating story. I suppose the only reason a potential reader might not like it was if he or she didn’t like Civil War stories or he or she prefers the type of stories that I mentioned earlier.

Have you read this book or any other Jennifer Chiaverini’s books? What did you think?

Saturday, November 29, 2014



Review of Daimones by Massimo Marino

Overview from Could Dan Amenta be the last man alive on the planet? Death has swept away the lives of billions of people, but Dan and his family were spared. By whom, and why?
Surviving, to give meaning to their lives, and looking for other survivors lead Dan to discover the truth about the extermination of the human race.
The encounter with Laura, a young and sexy girl of Italian origin, raises ethical and moral questions that had never touched the Amentas family before.
Other survivors force Dan to confront his past to find answers to the many questions.
The past and the present come together and upset the fragile balance, physical and mental, which allowed the Amentas to find a new meaning to their existence.
Dan discovers his final role in a plan with million years roots. Planet Earth is in the hands of an ancient power, and the survivors have to choose a future that has no past, or remain in a past with no future.

My Review:

The world ends not with a bang but with a whimper, or has it? Our main character Dan and his family wake up to find that everyone around them has inexplicably died. After driving back home, he must go in to survival mode and figure out the best way to take care of his family.

Miraculously, the Internet and other forms of technology still seem to be working so he attempts a Facebook ad campaign to see if any other survivors are around. He also conducts sweeps of the area while out looking for supplies to sustain his wife, himself and his daughter.

When he finds that there are in fact a few other survivors is he ready to deal with the consequences of an encounter with any of them? And what about the strange beings seen walking around the areas that seem to take an unnatural interest in the dead bodies?

The story is a first book in a trilogy and though I think I enjoyed this one, I really can’t see myself reading the whole series. I was somewhat disappointed in the ending to this one. I didn’t understand a lot of the scientific thought process that went behind it.

On the other hand, there was at least more closure in this story than you might find in my other novels in a series. I guess I just didn’t really get it. I won’t say more than that because I don’t want to give the ending away.

Unlike other reviewers I didn’t find the fact that the characters were scared of encountering other survivors when they hadn’t actually encountered any to be unbelievable. With all the looting and fear that would have accompanied these mass deaths I don’t think it would be unreasonable for the main characters to think someone might want to take the things that they had stored up in an effort to make sure that they too survive.

If you like science fiction or dystopian this book just might be for you. However if you are put off by sexuality or bad language you might want to give it a pass. I’d appreciate any comments you might have, particularly after you’ve read it.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Budapest House

The Budapest House: A Life Re-Discovered

Review of The Budapest House by Marcus Ferrar

Overview from A Hungarian Jew traumatised by the loss of half her family in Auschwitz returns to Budapest to retrace her roots. She discovers a dramatic personal history that enables her eventually to shed the burden of her past and move forward to a new life.
This is a true story of human beings caught up in the maelstrom of 20th century history – the Nazis, genocide, Cold War, dictatorship, and the struggle to make new lives after the fall of Communism.
Told with great sympathy and warmth, this well researched book brings history to life by recounting the experiences of ordinary men and women confronted with daunting challenges.

My Review:

The Budapest House is the story of Frances Pinter as well as the author, Marcus Ferrar. I think I picked this book up a few weeks ago and thought that it was going to be something else entirely.

It was nonfiction rather than fiction and it starts out a little slowly. The preface, I think, tries to explain the who mostly. It answers the question: Who is Frances Pinter? What is she like? I meanwhile kept wondering about the why and what. What is the Budapest House and why is it important? More importantly, why did I even pick up this book?

I confess I skipped over this part initially when I realized it wasn’t going to answer my question and went straight to chapter one. It seemed more interesting.

I discovered that The Budapest House is so much more than the story of a house; it is the physical embodiment of Frances’ quest to connect with her Hungarian and Jewish ancestry. We are told that she feels most at home in England though she spent much of her childhood years in the United States and Switzerland.

Somehow that lack of knowing leaves an ache in her to know more, to understand, what life was really like in Hungary for her family—both those who left the country and the ones who stayed behind. When she inherits the house of her grandparents made possible by her mother’s early death, she decides that now is the time to look, to ask, and to find out.

She finds out that she still has a cousin of two in the country and decides to ask them when she arrives in Budapest. She learns more that she bargains for while also being forced to deal with the house’s most notorious (and I think the only) resident, a man called Berkesi. He worked for the secret police during the years of Communism as well as writing Cold War spy novels that the Communists presumably approved of.

While Frances tries to complete the projects assigned to her by George Soros, she must now deal with his demands as she is forced to become his next door neighbor, a neighbor who is unwilling to move out.

She travels all over Eastern Europe for Soros but never forgets her beloved house. It may not be much to others but to her it is her history. She continues to return, year after year, hoping for the day when she will have that moment when something important dawns on her and she at last feels like she belongs.

There are parts of this book that intrigued me a lot but there were some that bored me. I don’t remember which chapter it was but it was somewhere in the middle. I had to force myself to pay attention. So I recommend this book only to those who don’t need constant action in their narratives. I learned more about Hungary in this book than I have known about it my whole life.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Reason to Live

A Reason to Live       

Review of A Reason to Live by Matthew Iden

Overview from In the late nineties, a bad cop killed a good woman and DC Homicide detective Marty Singer got to watch as the murderer walked out of the courtroom a free man. 
Twelve years later, the victim's daughter comes to Marty begging for help: the killer is stalking her now.
There's just one problem: Marty's retired...and he's retired because he's battling cancer. But with a second shot at the killer--and a first chance at redemption--Marty's just found A Reason To Live.

My Review:

Retired Detective Marty Singer of the D.C. police has settled down to a quiet life of early retirement due to his recent cancer diagnosis when he is once again thrust back into the police work he left behind. First he ends up smack dab in the middle of a fight outside of a coffee shop. Then he is approached, immediately following the fight, by former victim Amanda Lane.

Ms. Lane tells him that she believes she is being stalked by the man who killed her mother years ago and got away with it. That’s when he knows that she has him. This case has been eating away at him for years. He had always wanted a second chance at it and now it seems that he has it.

Against his better judgment, he agrees to take it on. Only he can’t do it as a cop. It is strictly protection detail only. While he’s at he’ll do a little behind the scenes detective work. The sooner he finds the killer, Michael Wheeler, the sooner his job as a body guard/unlicensed private detective is done.

But is he up to the job? He enlists the help of a few detectives on the force but after his first chemo treatment wipes him, he wonders how he can protect young Amanda if he can’t even stay awake during the day. He gives Amanda the choice to keep him on or get someone else and she chooses to keep him. He continues investigating and hopes that he won’t let her down.

The plot is the strongest feature of the story. It was engaging and kept me turning the pages wanting to know what happened next. The ending was also not what I was expecting but didn’t seem too much out of left field.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes suspense coupled with believability. I lived in the D.C. area for a while and from what I know about it most of it seems to be accurate, especially the part about the terrible drivers. The only caveat is that there is some of strong language in here. If the story weren’t so good, that might have stopped me. Readers who don’t mind this so much would probably like this book.

Contains: strong foul language, including f bombs; some sexuality, violence

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Hornet Flight

Hornet Flight       

Review of Hornet Flight by Ken Follett

Overview from "It's June 1941, and the low point of the war. England throws wave after wave of RAF bombers across the Channel, but somehow the Luftwaffe is able to shoot them down at will. The skies - indeed, the war itself seem to belong to Hitler." "But on a small Danish island across the North Sea, Harald Olufsen, a bright eighteen-year-old with a talent for engineering, stumbles upon a secret German installation. Its machinery is like nothing he has ever seen before, and he knows he must tell someone - if he can only figure out who." "With England preparing its largest aerial assault over, what Harald has discovered may turn the course of the war - but the race to convey the information could have terrible consequences for everyone close to him: For his older brother Arne, a pilot in the grounded Danish air force and already under suspicion of the authorities. For Arne's fiancee, Hermia, an MI6 intelligence analyst desperate to resurrect the foundering Danish resistance. And most of all, for Harald himself, because as the hour of the assault approaches, it will all fall to him and his friend Karen to get the word to England. And the only means available to them is a derelict Hornet Moth airplane abandoned in a ruined church, a plane so decrepit that it is unlikely ever to get off the ground." Pursued by the enemy; hunted by collaborators with almost no training, limited fuel, and no way of knowing if they can even survive the six hundred-mile flight, the two will carry with them England's best - perhaps only - hope to avoid disaster.

My Review:

I am happy to say that I am back with a Historical Fiction offering this week. Although I like to read a wide range of genres, Historical Fiction is my favorite. The only way to make it better is when authors sometimes combine the two.

However, that is not the case in the Hornet Flight by Ken Follett which is what I am reviewing this week. Our story begins in June of 1941 when it might have seemed that Britain stood alone against Hitler’s Nazi party which was bent on world domination.

The story seems to give almost equal time to all of the main characters therefore it is hard for me to pin it down to one protagonist. We start however with Digby Hoare. He works on the staff of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. And he along with the Prime Minister is trying to figure out how it is that the Germans have been able to annihilate them with such precision recently.

Enter the mission. The mission begins with Hermia and Poul. Hermia works in England while Poul is in Denmark, the country Hermia had just escaped from when the Nazis invaded. But when Poul is discovered Hermia must find someone else to take his place and she can think of no one else other than her fiancé Arne who she previously thought to be too happy go lucky for the job.

Arne’s younger brother Harald discovers the plot and realizes he can help since he has seen the German installation that the British are interested in. He demands to be included and gets his wish at great cost to himself and everyone he trusts.

Meanwhile Peter Flemming, a Danish policeman out to make a name for himself under the new regime, discovers the brother’s involvement. Having borne a grudge against the family for years, he is elated to now have a reason to strike his revenge. But will he stop them in time to prevent the British from gaining the upper hand in the war?

My verdict on the story is mixed. The main plus of course besides the interesting characters is the plot itself. The action kept me turning the pages and anxious to see if each character will live as the baton is passed to the next as Hermia herself scrambles to try to figure out who has it. It was very entertaining.

On the negative side, I had my doubts about the historical accuracy of the story and a quick Internet search did not help.  I am however still recommending it to those who are ok with a few f bombs and the sexuality that was in it. For me it was a bit much but not enough that I stopped reading the story.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Goddess Legacy

Goddess Legacy       

Review of The Goddess Legacy by M. W. Muse

Overview from Legacy Kore is an average seventeen year old with your basic insane crush on the hottest guy in school... rather Adin Shepard was the hottest guy in school before he graduated a couple of weeks ago. Now it's summer vacation and she's not sure when she'll get to see him again. Until he shows up at her surprise seventeenth birthday party. Cue saliva glands--it's time to drool.
But her giddiness is cut short when her guardian delivers an emotional blow, telling Legacy her mother hadn't died when she was baby, but that she'd left for Legacy's protection all those years ago. After the initial shock, she expects some story about how her mother was in the Witness Protection Program or something else just as crazy, but when she's told that her mother is a Greek Goddess and that Legacy is changing into one too, she thinks her guardian needs a trip to a mental hospital. Legacy a goddess? Um, yeah. Right. And her BFF is the Easter Bunny.
While trying to make sense out of something that was impossible to believe, Adin asks Legacy out on a date. She is thrilled that her fantasy might become a reality, but when she meets the new guy in town, River, she discovers everything isn't always as it seems, and the legacy she wants just might not be the legacy she is destined to have.

My Review:

Goddess Legacy is the story of one young girl’s journey on her way to become a goddess. Legacy Kore is seventeen years old when she hears the strange story from her guardian that she will become a goddess by her eighteenth birthday.

Dismissing it as crazy at first, Legacy, tries her best to continue on with her life, especially now that dreamboat Adin has asked her out. But when she meets River, another soon to be Greek god, things get even weirder. She also begins to wonder whether her parents are actually alive after all.

The story is an unusual entry into the Fantasy genre since we are dealing with deities rather than dwarfs, elves and fairies. It does however; feature the typical love triangle that we saw in Twilight and many others.

Legacy seems to have admired Adin all her life and thought her feelings were not returned but after her birthday she discovers that she was wrong. He confesses that he has liked her for a long time and so it seems that they might live happily ever after until River comes into the picture. He is the son of Legacy’s boss who also professes love for her and after realizing that she and River do share a bond, she wonders whether she will ever be sure about choosing Adin.

Meanwhile she is trying to work out what her role as a Greek goddess of the future will be and wonders whether or not she will ever she her mother again.

The plot of the story is a good one, even with the love triangle. I know it sounds weird but I am really sick of love triangle. I don’t know many people who are one so they often seem unrealistic and I keep wondering who are these women that can seem to make up their minds about who they want?

There are however, a few things that I don’t like. Some chapters, particularly the first one, seem to be too heavy with the backstory. I really don’t want to know the protagonist’s every thought, especially when they seem mundane.

Plus I agree with other reviewers that there is just too much about Legacy’s dates with Adin. I mean every minute detail is in there practically and it gets a little boring. I found myself skipping over those parts. I liked that they decided to take it slow in their relationship but we readers don’t really want to hear exactly how slow it is either. There should have been more emphasis on the Greek mythology, especially the part about Legacy’s boss trying to kill her, and less on every little touch between the lovers.

If you want a good, fast-paced, well developed story uses Greek mythology as a base; I would recommend the Sweet Venom series. I have already reviewed two of those books. I just discovered that the third has come out as well so I will have to check it out too.

So in summary, I would recommend this one only if you like Greek mythology or teen romances that are mostly a tease. And, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under fifteen. Let me know what you think.

Contains: some language and sensuality.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Tidewater Sisters

The Tidewater Sisters: Postlude to The Prayer Box       

Review of The Tidewater Sisters by

Overview from Tandi Reese and her sister, Gina, have always been bound by complicated ties. Amid the rubble of a difficult childhood lie memories of huddling beneath beds and behind sofas while parental wars raged. Sisterhood was safety . . . once. But now? Faced with legal papers for a fraud she didn’t commit, Tandi suspects that her sister has done something unthinkable. With Tandi’s wedding just around the corner, a trip to the North Carolina Tidewater for a reckoning with Gina was not part of the plan. But unraveling lies from truth will require confronting strained sibling bonds and uncovering a dark family secret that could free Tandi from her past or stain her future forever.

My Review:

The Tidewater Sisters is the first contemporary non-genre fiction that I have read in a few months. I wasn’t expecting much from it. The only reason I picked it up was because it was set in North Carolina, not far from where I am now living and I thought it might be interesting to read about some of the people who live in the places that I am just now getting acquainted with.

I wasn’t expecting all that much from it since I am not a huge fan of contemporary, non-genre fiction. It definitely exceeded my expectations.

Our main character, Tandi Jo Reese, tells the story from her point of view. It begins with Tandi Jo napping and dreaming of her first love, Luke Townley, only to be awakened by the here and now. She is at an historic house on Hatteras Island waiting for the third time for an electrician to show up.

Her fiancé, Paul, wakes her up. Shortly afterwards someone finally does come up the drive but it is not who she was expecting. A process server informs her that she is being sued for some type of false promises on the sale of a property. Since she doesn’t own any property that she knows of, she now has to find out what this is all about and deal with it before her upcoming wedding. She doesn’t know much but she is sure that it must have something to do with her estranged sister Gina.

The story follows her journey to the alleged property and on the trail to find Gina and find out what is going on as well as what really happened in the past that she thought she’d left behind. But maybe some things are better left in the past.

The story was surprisingly intriguing. Yes, there’s something of a mystery to it but I don’t think that was what drew me in. It was the emotions.

Tandi Jo was someone I could relate to. Her conflict emotions about her past as well as her hope for the future drew me in.

And the story was not preachy, the way a lot of fiction, Christian and otherwise, is. I felt invested in the outcome. So much so that my only disappointment in this story was that it was too short. It could, and should, have been a novel. There were areas of Tandi’s life that I felt could have been explored more.

Still, this would be a great summer, beach read. Even with some of the major issues that she deals with. I don’t know if Tandi Jo’s story continues but if it does, I’d really like to read it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Pedigree to Die for

A Pedigree to Die For (Melanie Travis Series #1)

Review of A Pedigree to Die for by Laurien Berenson

Overview from The apparent heart attack that killed kennel owner Max Turnbull has left his wife Peg suspecting foul play. But the only evidence is their missing prize pooh--a pedigreed poodle named Beau. Then, Melanie travis, a thirty-something teacher and single mother, is talked into investigating her uncle's death. Hounding Connecticut's elite canine competitions, she's soon hot on the trail of a poodle-hating neighbor and one elusive murderer who isn't ready to come to heel.
When her Uncle Max is found dead in his championship kennel, surrounded by his prize-winning poodles, it's up to Melanie to investigate. Posing as a poodle breeder in search of the perfect stud, Melanie hounds Connecticut's elite canine competitions, and finds an ally in fellow breeder, Sam Driver. But her affection cools when she gets wind of Sam's questionable past.

My Review:

It is hard to believe that this is the first time that I have heard of this series and it has been out there since 1995 apparently. I knew about the cat murder mystery series. I see it all the time at the bookstore but never saw this one.

This was a freebie from Barnes & Noble and I have to say I think it did its job. I am hooked. I loved the protagonist, Melanie Travis, a single mother who appears to have nothing to look forward to during summer vacation since she will be without a paycheck. I do keep wondering what will bring her to her next dead body since her role as a teacher doesn’t usually provide them but I think that’s also half the fun of reading a series like this one.

Of course, the plot itself is also entertaining. To set the scene, Melanie is looking for something to do to keep her mind off of her not so great situation (her failed marriage, her crappy car, and her lack of a summer job) when an beloved uncle dies.

Everything seems cut and dried at first. The authorities conclude that it is a simple heart attack. But Aunt Peg, Uncle Max’s wife, thinks otherwise and she asks for help but not Melanie’s. Instead, she wants Melanie’s brother Frank to help her solve the mystery but Frank declines.

And then she reveals something else. One of their prized poodles, Beau, is also missing. Aunt Peg is desperate to get that poodle back, so desperate that she agrees to work with Melanie instead to find out where the poodle is and thus, who the killer is.

Looking for a distraction, Melanie takes up the challenge to pretend to be someone who is looking for the perfect stud dog to breed with her female, counting on Aunt Peg’s belief that whoever has the dog will want to breed him as soon as possible.

And thus begins her voyage into the land of dog shows and dog breeders. Yes, they love their dogs and would do anything to get their hands on their hands on the perfect specimen but would they kill for it? Apparently, yes.

When another breeder is killed things get really serious. The police, however, don’t think much of Aunt Peg’s missing dog or Uncle Frank’s death so they are on their own with almost no one to trust. No one except possible a breeder named Sam Driver but Melanie doesn’t trust him. What will she do about her growing attraction to him? And can she find the dog and the killer before someone else winds up dead?

Read the book and find out. I don’t think you will regret it.

Contains: the word “bitch” is used throughout the novel but this is about dog breeders so I don’t think that counts as foul language.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sole Mates, a short story by me

I am taking leap of faith here and posting my fiction that I don't intend to publish here. This is partly to give readers a flavor of stories that I have written but I am also hoping for constructive feedback. Most of it will be from assignments and writing prompts that I decide to take on. Please let me know what you think.

Below is my first story. Keep in mind it has very minor editing. It came from a writing prompt on Twitter put out by @pauvetibete. Here it is: I always thought I'd meet my soul mate in a coffee shop or a tiny café or something. Not in the back of a cop car.

Sole Mates:

I always thought I'd meet my soul mate in a coffee shop or a tiny café or something. Not in the back of a cop car. But looking at him, I couldn’t deny that he was the one.

I had just been picked up for grand theft auto when the albino cop with no hair threw me in the back seat. I mean he literally threw me in there. Can’t a girl make a mistake, or two once in while without getting roughed up like an ax murder? Okay, maybe it was five, mistakes but give me a break, I needed a car and since I was on parole I had no job I had few options.

Anyway, back to the point. I was in the back of the Crown Vic for no more than two seconds when I saw him, my seatmate, for the first time. He had greasy blond hair that had been combed back though I could still see where it was thinning on the top. He was wearing a gold chain and a puke green t-shirt that said: “I did the time, not the crime,” along with a leather jacket that would make the Fonz jealous and black jeans. But on his feet were the most gorgeous black Italian suede boots I had ever seen. It was then that I knew. The smooth surface of the suede was everything to me.

He rolled his brown eyes at me and groaned after the albino cop slammed the door shut, locking us in together. I smiled and licked my lips. Could you be any more obvious? The other me wondered why I was letting these handcuffs stop me from wrapping my arms around him and kissing him.

The albino cops eyes glared at me through the rear view mirror. He laughed. “Cons in love. That’ll make a great topic for the next Jerry Springer. Save the porn show for the lock-up. I am sure your fellow cell mates will appreciate the entertainment.”

My seatmate snarled loudly, barring his teeth. It was scary and exhilarating at the same time. I scooched over to right as best as I could which made him turn my way and glare. I winked back and that’s when I saw. It lasted only a nano second but I saw it—a smile.

And then, I went for it. I couldn’t help myself, leaned right and kissed him. A funny thing happened, he kissed back. Well, sort of. My lips touched his and he didn’t pull away but then he rubbed noses with me, like an Eskimo kiss. Weird.

Still I was into it until Albino Cop opened the rear door of the cop car and yanked me out. “Oww,” I cried. How was it that I hadn’t even noticed that we had come to a stop?

“Time to go booking Grand Theft Auto,” he said.

“I love your boots,” I yelled in the general direction of my recent acquaintance. “Where’d you get ‘em?”

Another cop had now arrived and was escorting him into the same building. We were walking side by side, each being pushed along by our own personal cop escort when he said it. “I stole them.”

“So they’ve got you for boot theft then?”

“No, murder. I stole ‘em off the guy I killed this morning.” He winked.

My cop took me off to the booking area for female inmates, separating us. I never saw him again.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Space Junque

Space Junque (Apocalypto, #1) 

Review of Space Junque by L. K. Rigel

Overview from The DOGs want to destroy the world. The gods want to make a new one. The trick is to survive both.
At the end of the 21st century, civilization is at the brink of collapse. When hydroponics agronomist Char Meadowlark is warned of an impending attack by the eco-terrorist group Defenders of Gaia, she flees to the airport hoping to get off planet. The DOGs strike in the midst of Char’s escape, and pilot Jake Ardri offers her only hope of survival. He takes her to the orbiting Imperial Space Station, the seat of world government.

When the conflict goes global and the planet threatens to implode, ancient gods return to take control of humanity and impose a new world order. Char and Jake are caught up in a divine plan to save the world - but first they have to get through the apocalypse alive.

My Review:

I had a close encounter of the weird kind just now when I sat down to write this review. Though I got it for free as a Barnes & Noble e-book on their website, it is no longer listed on their website. I am not sure why but I did find a listing for it on Good Reads so I can thankfully still post a photo here. Sorry if the size is different.

This story is a novella introducing the Apocalypto series. Space Junque is named after the space ship that one of the main characters, Jake, drives a ship with that name and apparently likes to use it as joke.

“He winked and said, ‘See you at the junk, Tyler.’”
“She ran to catch up with Tyler. ‘What did Jake mean, see you at the junk?’

‘J-u-n-q-u-e. He takes private pays up to Vacation Station on the Space Junque. His shuttle. He use that line on everybody, man or woman.’

‘Ah. You want to see my Junque? Got it.’” P.13

The story begins however with Char Meadowlark’s attempt to get “off planet.” But leaving the Pacific Zone will not be easy. She barely escapes with her life though it cost her new friend Tyler his.

 I don’t want to give away too much of the story so I will skip most of the plot description and talk about characters. Char is our most developed character and the only one I felt that I got to know well during this little jaunt.
She is one of a few “natural born” people currently alive some one hundred years into our future. She also has a twin sister engaged to man who Char basically believes is just a mid-level government official. Her sister Sky has vanished but the fiancé, Mike, is looking out for her and gets her when he senses danger or does he know more than what he is telling?

Then there’s Jake, the cocky pilot who likes to make jokes, but takes his devotion to his friends seriously.
But I think my favorite character of all is perhaps Rani. An unusually tall woman with a slight Hindi accent who is tough enough to look out for herself but nevertheless cherishes her connection with her boss Jake. When she runs into trouble though, she must ask some unusual strangers for help.

The last thing I want to point out here is that this story has elements of both Science Fiction and Fantasy which was a little different for me. I was all settled in for Sci-Fi when suddenly we have a goddess thrown into the mix for good measure. Weird.

 Still overall, it was an interesting book and, mostly, a good read. I am still undecided yet though about whether or not I’ll read the sequels.

Contains: scenes of sexuality, violence, a few words that may not be for children

Saturday, October 4, 2014



Review of Terminus by Joshua Graham

Overview from Having witnessed one too many senseless deaths, Nikolai, a disillusioned Reaper 3rd Class, resigns his commission with the Angel Forces after a tedious century of gathering souls.
Immediately, another division recruits him with the promise of a more rewarding career, and issues his initial assignments: To bring down a few very dangerous threats to the human race. In the process, Nikolai falls in love with one of his targets-Hope Matheson, a woman who will lead thousands astray.
Caught between conflicting agendas, Nikolai chooses to "fall" from his celestial state and become mortal in order to circumvent angel law and be with her. But for angels and humans alike, things are not always as they appear. Still a target, the threat against Hope's life intensifies.
Now, in order to save her, Nikolai must rally the last remnants of his failing supernatural abilities to prevent her assassination, as well as the destruction of an entire city by a nuclear terrorist strike.
But his time and power are running out...
Terminus is a perspective-altering saga that delves into ageless themes of redemption, destiny, and the eternal power of love.

My Review:

The title of this one comes from the name of the “construct” where the main character, an angel named Nikolai, or sometimes Nick, takes the souls that he ushers into eternity. It is constructed as a duplicate of Victoria Station in London as it would have appeared in 1910. Nick thinks it makes it easier on the souls who pass through there if they can think of their journey as just another train trip.

This Thriller was unlike any that I had ever read before. As I already mentioned we have an angel as a main character. We are introduced to him as he takes a little girl to the construct and puts her on the train.

He then decides that he is tired of being a reaper and wants a job that makes more sense. That is when he ends up in Angel Resources and is recruited by an angel by the name of Morloch for a more top secret assignment. His first job is to stop a preacher from reading his Bible and following his usual routine.

But when the man’s child is about to be hit by an oncoming car, Nick can’t help himself. He jumps into the street to save the boy. And thus begins a series of jobs where Nick seems to do the opposite of his assignments because they just don’t make any sense but when he stops Hope Matheson rather than encouraging her to commit suicide, everything changes.

The stakes get higher and higher as Nick finds himself falling from grace and falling for Hope. She becomes a target of Nick’s new boss and Nick must find out why so that he can protect her from the angel Lena who still wants Hope dead.

The positives on this one are this one are many. The characters are great, even if they are not always Biblically accurate and yet the author does manage to keep remarkably close to the verses in the Bible that speak of this subject. The plot is not at all predictable. In fact, it is quite engaging. And the supernatural setting is interesting.

As for negatives, I had a tough time coming up with any. So there are none listed here. If you do read this, I suggest that you also read the final note from the author as it explains the thought process of our author. I found it very interesting and informative.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Stallions at Burnt Rock

Stallions at Burnt Rock (West Texas Sunrise Book #1): A Novel           

Review of Stallions at Burnt Rock by Paul Bagdon

Overview from Lee Morgan dreams of raising the ideal ranch horse-one that has speed, stamina, and heart. On her Texas spread near the town of Burnt Rock, the high-spirited woman heads her own horse ranch operation. It's an unusual occupation for a female in the 1870s, but as an expert horsewoman and a crack shot with a rifle, she's quite adept at taking care of herself.
Determined to gain fame for her fine horses, Lee agrees to enter her magnificent coal-black stallion in a match race, never dreaming she's about to set into motion a string of events that will threaten herself, her ranch, and her friend-town marshall, Ben Flood. As gamblers, gunslingers, and shysters descend on Burnt Rock to bet on the now-famous race, Lee comes face-to-face with sinister men who seek to destroy her plans. Her true courage and strong faith shine through when she embarks on the most thrilling ride of her life.
The first in a series of western novels, Stallions at Burnt Rock is a masterfully spun tale of a strong, virtuous heroine. It will captivate romance novel enthusiasts as well as fans of westerns and adventure.

My Review:

Lee Morgan, a young woman living in Texas in the late 1800’s, is an oddity for her time. She runs a horse ranch where she dreams of breeding the perfect ranch horse.

This book is also an oddity, a Western with little graphic violence, no profanity, a female protagonist and minimal shooting.

The plot was a little slow getting starting. It seemed like the beginning served mostly as an introduction to our main character, her staff and friends, and her horses. When Lee hesitantly agrees with her old friend and fellow horse breeder, Jonas, to conduct a horse race that pits their best stallions against each other in an effort to attract buyers for their horses, things start to pick up.

The promise of a race seems to attract all kinds of low-life's, gamblers, and even murderers to Burnt Rock. Soon Lee’s friend Marshal Ben Flood is in over his head trying to talk Lee into being more cautious and keeping the rest of the town safe.

When Jonas is killed, Lee wonders whether or not it would be best to just cancel the race. But Ben convinces her that it is too late. With her trust in God leading her on, she hopes to get her horse Slick across the finish line and the gamblers out of town before anything worse happens.

So the story did get better. We had a little more excitement and lots of horses. In fact, the novel seems to center mostly around the horses and the sinister plot that got Jonas killed. There is a hint of romance though.

The characters were a little off to me somehow. I liked the marshal but the others somehow didn’t seem quite right. Lee seemed a little too perfect for me. The only mistake she seems to make is trusting people too much and that seemed odd to me.

I like the fact that is a clean story but it seemed a little long to me, despite having only 136 pages. I would recommend this one if you really like horses a lot or are looking for short, clean Western to read. Otherwise, it might not be that interesting. On the plus side, it was free for the e-reader on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s website the last time I checked.

Contains: some violence

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Persona Non Grata

Persona Non Grata (Gaius Petreius Ruso Series #3)       

Review of Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie

Overview from "When a mysterious note arrives in the mail consisting only of the words "come home," Gaius Petreius Ruso is forced to give up his career as a military doctor in Britannia and head back to his family in Gaul." "But all is not well on the home front. No one will admit to having sent for him, and his companion Tilla is neither expected nor welcome. With the family teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and the town's leading politician, Gabinius Fuscus, breathing down his neck, it's hard to imagine an unhappier reunion. That is, until Severus, the family's chief creditor, winds up dead, and the real trouble begins." Plunged unwillingly into the investigation, and struggling to help his family's financial situation, Ruso is entrusted with the welfare of the household. But no one seems able to stop meddling in his affairs, and with the pressure mounting, Ruso will have to count on his wits, his girlfriend, and perhaps - for once in his life - a little good fortune.

My Review:

This week’s story takes us back all the way to the Roman Empire during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. It is a murder mystery with a doctor in the Legion stationed in Britannia as the protagonist and detective. Ruso is his name.

His partner in crime solving is a young British lady named Tilla. I wasn’t exactly clear on their relationship but we are told that at some point Ruso bought Tilla from some other owner yet she seems remarkably independent for a slave, even at one point during the novel, leaving to go off with a stranger so I am guessing that she might no longer be a slave to him or at least a slave who is given a lot of freedom. She still refers to him as “Medicus.”

Our story opens with Ruso hurting his leg in attempt to save a young local boy. Right after that, he receives a mysterious letter, presumably from his brother that simply reads, “Urgent. Come home.”

He manages to get leave to do just that. But that’s when his real troubles begin.

He finds his family deep in debt, a debt that is likely to go to court and prove the ruin of them all. While his brother Lucius denies having ever sent the message and to top it off the guy he owes money to (Severus) dies from an apparent poisoning. His last words are, “The b***** has poisoned me.”

Ruso suspects that the woman Severus is referring to is his wife, Ruso’s ex, Claudia but who will believe him. He owed the man a lot of money and the fact that they were reaching an agreement to settle the debt before it went to court was a moot point since there were no witnesses to their conversation. Now he must find the killer on his own before the inevitable investigator arrives from Rome and his convicted of murder.

The verdict on this one is overwhelmingly positive. I like the main characters, both Tilla and Ruso. I am now hoping to go back and read the first two books so that I can discover how they met and learn more about the nature of their relationship. I did have a little bit of difficulty with Marcia, Ruso’s spoiled sister but I did like the way he handled her which made him all the more likeable to me.

The reference to the followers of Christos and his teaches as well as the popular misconceptions Romans of this time period had about Christianity were intriguing. All in all, I think the authors’ coverage of this religion was more than fair.

I also found the story itself compelling. I always wondered how they would have investigated a crime like this during the Roman period. And having the would-be detective as a suspect made his motivation to find the killer seem all the more believable.

Contains: some foul language

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Shadows Wake

Shadows Wake       

Review of Shadows Wake by Robyn LaRue

Overview from Gold Hill is a peaceful place with a dark secret and forgotten calling. In ancient times, a native tribe trapped evil inside the mountain. That prison is now weakened, and the tribal blood line responsible for its maintenance is dangerously diluted. One girl and her friends are all that stand between the mountain demon and the outside world.
Lillian, a social outcast with secrets of her own, will learn about love, friendship, and loyalty, but can she save Gold Hill and all she holds dear?
And if she does, can she then save herself?
Shadows Wake is a coming of age story with supernatural elements and is set in historical 1952.

My Review:

Once again I will review a lesser known author after at least two weeks of interviewing NYT Best-Selling Authors. I came across Robyn LaRue, author of Shadows Wake, on Twitter, the same way I have met at least one other author whose work I have reviewed on this blog. I am not really sure exactly how we met but I wanted to explain that as well as get the whole self-disclosure thing out of the way.

Ms. LaRue gave me a copy of her book for review on this blog and I believe it is her first. Her genre is the Thriller genre which is interesting but not my favorite so imagine my surprise when I start reading only to find out that it takes place in 1952. Thus it could also be considered Historical Fiction which is my favorite. And I really like the way she combines it.

Lillian, a young teenager with a bad reputation, is our main character. She lives in Northern California and is not well-liked in town but not because of anything she’s actually done. It is her family name that provides her with her undeserved reputation. That and the fact that she lives above a bar with her uncle since her parents are both dead and her grandfather is in prison.

Lately Lillian’s life has been changing in ways that she can’t entirely understand.  A bear dies near the famous mine/mountain and Lillian is determined to tag along with some other students to find out what exactly is going on up there.

Along the way, she manages to make friends with one of the town’s most popular girls and two other guys. They decide to meet at the mountain to try to see if it might be the thing that is causing all the nightmares they have been having as well as figure out if it is the reason for the angst and anger among the townsfolk.

The story has its set of twists and turns but most of them are different from the ones I am used to seeing in thrillers. The evil lies beneath the surface of the mountain. There are some scary characters but we get the sense that the mountain is behind their behavior and perhaps there is not some kind of sinister plot to sell the land cheap or murder someone who is standing in someone else’s way. But what is this evil?

I can only suggest that you read it for yourself to find out. I don’t like to give spoilers in my reviews, especially those with a mystery so I won’t tell you what it is. But it is definitely worth reading. The characters are well-drawn, the writing is good, and the story is not what you’d expect. Plus, I loved reading more about life in the 1950’s and did I mention that it is overall a good, clean read? Well, it is.

Contains: some violence