Friday, November 23, 2012

Welcome author James Hutchings

Hello, James, and welcome back! We'll keep this short but sweet. Tell us about your new story.

Here's the blurb:

With an innocent girl dead, America's finest superheroic detective agency must find and destroy a sinister cult!

You can read it at
James Hutchings' blog is at

Sounds great! I like the vintage cover.
Thanks again for stopping by.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Books around the world: Nigeria

Wandering in the library, I came across a book by an author from Nigeria, Chinua Achebe. His novel, Arrow of God, was an interesting one. It's a 1964 novel, the third novel following Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease. It is set amongst the villages of the Igbo people in Nigeria. Ezeulu, is the main character, a chief priest of some Nigerian villages. It is the 1920s. Ezeulu confronts colonial powers and Christian missionaries.[1] 

The plot unfolds with life among these villages. It's a great look into another culture and another time. Ezeulu sees himself as the image of an arrow in the bow of his god, hence, the title of the book. Traditional views versus Christianity comes into play here. A traditional leader finds his downfall.

The writing was realistic, and the characters and setting described well. One gets a sense of how it felt to experience what the characters did. Chinua Achebe is a talented author.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Welcome author, Deanna Jewel

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Whispers - Character Interview with Dana Kaster

Virtual location: an abandoned lighthouse tour!! Bring flashlights!

Thank you for joining us! We hope all of you have planned a spooky week for Halloween! I hope you’ve brought your flashlights with you. We’re about to tour the old lighthouse but before we do that, let’s head inside the keeper’s house and gather around to chat with my main character, Dana Kaster. For those brave enough, you can roam upstairs for a ghost hunt of your own!

Deanna:  Lara, thank you for having me this week on your blog. I love talking with readers so I hope they leave a question or comment for us. I’m also doing a giveaway at the end! I’ve brought with me my main character, Dana Kaster, from Whispers at Ghost Point. Since I have a love for lighthouses, I had to write about one and added a ghost to make it a bit spooky! Dana loves remodeling and decorating - who else love doing that? Tell us at the end if you love lighthouses and decorating!

Dana:  I’m excited to be here with both of you! I can’t wait for readers to jump into the book with all of us. I’ve always had a soft spot for decorating which is why I got my contractor’s license - it also allowed me to do more in the area of remodeling. Meeting other contractors and builders isn’t bad either! *wink* I moved to Wilmington NC a year ago after my divorce and found the abandoned lighthouse on the coast while I worked at the Cape Fear Historical Society. I was fortunate enough to get a job remodeling their lighthouse projects we took on, but I recently opened my own shop and I’m so excited.
Deanna: Taking on the entire remodel of a lighthouse that’s stood empty for hundreds of years won’t be easy. Have you run into any roadblocks?
Dana: The lighthouse in question is owned by an individual who I found through my research but he refuses to return my phone calls. That in itself is annoying. I want inside the place to see what might need to be fixed and put some plans together. I don’t understand why this man won’t call me back, but my guess is that he’s too old to care about the place being fixed up or is a recluse not wanting to be bothered. The lighthouse is begging me to fix it up though. Why can’t he sense that? LOL
Deanna: Does the lighthouse talk to you when you visit or is it the ghosts who talk to you? That would be spooky!
Dana:  I have an ability to sense the spirits in old places but I still need to work on that. It is scary when they come around and they usually visit when you least expect them to. If I were better at my psychic abilities, I could learn who they are faster but it still scares me so I need to get over that if I want to use my ability to the fullest. When I sit on my deck at night, I can see the lighthouse across the inlet. The tower light flashes and there’s no way the electricity still works there! It couldn’t for as old as it is, so what makes the lights come on? I also sense a spirit or two there and the pull they have on me is getting stronger but I just can’t learn who they are.
Deanna:  You’ve become good friends with a co-worker at the Historical Society who has the ability to sense spirits. Tell us about that. Everyone is always interested in people who talk to ghosts!
Dana: Sarah and I have really gotten close since I moved to Wilmington.  She doesn’t let very many people know that she can speak to spirits…they think you’re crazy when they learn that! Even with all the shows on television these days, but I love it. Personally, I just need to learn how to distance myself and set up my circle of light for protection. I visited the lighthouse a few times without telling Sarah…yet she knows! She has a way of knowing what goes on without me even telling her!
Deanna: How does she feel about the lighthouse?
Dana: Oh my gawd! She isn’t keen on it at all! She said the spirits there aren’t at all friendly and that I need to quit going over there alone before something happens to me. She’s sat with me on my deck at night and we’ve both seen the lights come on. I think she knows more than she’s telling me about the spirits over there.
Deanna: Well that would make anyone jumpy to sense a spirit is evil. Maybe you need to listen to her and quit going over there.
Dana: I’m too nosey to stop going so the owner just needs to give me permission to go inside. I did meet a man on one of my visits there once. He said he was just a friend of the owner but wouldn’t tell me who the owner was. Too bad he wasn’t the owner - his eyes alone distracted me! But anyway, if I were able to get that lighthouse restored, it would help boost my business in Wilmington and the residents would be able to see what I can do. The work I’ve done on our historical lighthouse remodels has really helped too, but…I want inside the forbidden tower!
Deanna: You’ve lived in Wilmington for almost a year now. Any men you’re interested in?
Dana: With all the work I do remodeling and researching for the Historical Society and now starting my own business, I haven’t had time for dating and I really haven’t missed it. Taking time after my divorce to get my life back on track is what’s important to me now. I have to make a name for my business here so I can get to know the residents. Many of them have stopped by my new shop and have taken my card, saying they’ll call me when they start their remodels. I hope they do, I love to be busy!
Deanna: Lara, thank you so much for allowing me to spend time with your readers! Dana, thanks for stopping in to chat with our readers. I can’t wait to finish your story so they can all read it.

      The book will release in mid-Nov, 2012. The characters in Whispers at Ghost Point are pulled into the present from my historical novel set in England 1778, No Turning Back. To know a bit more about the characters, you may want to read that book - it’s still on sale for .99. I’m giving away a $10 gift card so get your entry into Rafflecopter to be in the drawing to be held on Monday, Nov 5th.

Be sure to enter my Grand Prize drawing by clicking HERE and sending me your entry. There are three prizes that will be picked for this contest! Good luck!
     Please check my blog, website and my newsletters for more info. By subscribing to my newsletter, readers are automatically included in one of my monthly drawings and by following my blog, you’ll be included in that drawing. Both drawings win gift cards and the newsletter winner also gets a goodie bag and tee shirt!
     Thank you all for stopping in to meet Dana from Whispers at Ghost Point. I hope I’ve piqued your interest just a bit and if so, you can read Chapter One and watch the book trailer by clicking HERE.


Author Biography &Links

Deanna Jewel lives in the Pacific Northwest and has been writing since 1991. She is married to a retired captain of the fire department. He’s also owned his own businesses for 23 years. They have two Siamese cats: Zoie and Sinbad, who keep them entertained. Deanna has enjoyed reading historical romance novels for over thirty years, camping with her family, and traveling.

Her writing goal is to draw the reader into the story to experience what the characters feel, to show both the hero's and heroine's points of view, and to take the reader away from their every day stress to a place not yet visited.

She has completed one time travel and one historical novel and has several others in the works. A trip to Dubois, Wyoming, south of Yellowstone, inspired her time-travel novel. The landscape and town locations described in NEVER SURRENDER are real.  Jon Daley, a professor at Boise State University, translated the Shoshone language that you will find in the book.

 NEVER SURRENDER, her time travel romance, was released in 2008 in print, e-book and iBook for download to e-Readers and i-Pads. This novel won an Honorable Mention in the 2008 Quill Awards at

NO TURNING BACK, her second novel, an historical taking place in England, 1778, was released in April 2010, and is also in print, eBook and iBook for download to your electronic readers.

Hard at work on her next novel, Whispers at Ghost Point, which she hopes to have available in late fall, 2012. Whispers takes place at an abandoned lighthouse in Wilmington, NC and her main characters from No Turning Back are reincarnated into the present. Join Dana as she learns about her past while working toward her future. The dangers that lurk at an abandoned lighthouse pull her into a past she was unaware of but also involves a man she's never this lifetime! Follow the book’s progress on her website.

Her site links:

Twitter!/DeannaJewel (@deannajewel)
An Avid Readers Haven

*See her site for more places to find Deanna Jewel!

Buy Links:

All Romance E-books:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Books around the world: America (Native American)

In my search for new authors, I came across a book by a Native American author, Sherman Alexie. The book I read was "Flight." It's an interesting one. A troubled Native American teenager with a tragic past gets drawn into some dark circumstances. He ends up shooting innocent people in a bank then gets shot himself. He gets pulled through time and experiences life in the bodies of other people who lived in the past. He ends up as a cop in the 1970s, a soldier in the 19th century, and other places, dealing with Native Americans through different viewpoints. The kid learns a lot through his travels. The characterization in this book is great and is presented in an entertaining way. This is a book of substance but also a page turner.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book review: The Catalyst

Set partially on a riverboat casino, The Catalyst, by Sandra K. Marshall is an exciting romantic suspense novel involving a murder mystery. Carolyn Madison and her family receive a shock: her ex-husband, the father of her children, is murdered. Could someone Carolyn loves be involved? Walt, head of security, a family friend, and a love interest to Carolyn, is one of many possible suspects. Carolyn’s children, Alan, Jolene, and Melanie all have something to say about what happened, and they strongly disagree.

Carolyn and Walt are great characters. They are developed well during the course of the suspenseful action. Melanie is a real brat, very hard to like. She can make a reader cringe. These characters are so real. Some you love. Some are infuriating.

Carolyn was going to fire her ex-husband as the figurehead of the company. Then he’s found dead. There’s a lot to keep a reader wondering here. If you like suspense with a bit of romance, why not check out this well-written story?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Books Around the World: Ireland

I finished an interesting novel by Irish author, Carolyn Jess-Cooke. It's a book called The Guardian Angel's Journal, published in 2011. A middle-aged woman is killed then wakes up in the afterlife. She is told that she's going back to earth as a guardian angel, but here's the catch: it's as her own guardian angel. She goes back in time to the moment of her birth and watches her own difficult birth. Her mother dies, and she goes through a series of foster situations, ending up in a nightmarish orphanage. It's cool to see how the guardian angel tries to help this troubled girl--herself. Can she change her hideous life and the terrible end she came to?

This is a supernatural tale where anything can happen. The characters are well-drawn, and the drama is high. The fast pace keeps things moving along nicely. I couldn't wait to see how this book ended. It offers much food for thought as well.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Books Around the World: Russia

Shadows and Light is a collection of 9 stories by Anton Chekhov, selected and translated by Miriam Morton.  Chekhov, a 19th century Russian author, was also a doctor. He had a gift for describing different types of people, and his compassion for humanity comes through in his writing. His characters are so realistic, human and animals as well. Their point of view brings to light their sad condition, their difficult state of life.

These glimpses into the lives of rich and poor, young and old alike make a reader feel for others. This collection of short stories is a fast read, and I’m glad I picked it up.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Cerberus Rebellion

The Cerberus Rebellion
by Joshua K. Johnson



One hundred years of peace and prosperity. War changes everything.

On the world of Zaria, Elves, magic and mythical beasts coexist beside rifles and railroads. The futures of two nations hang in the balance as rebels and revolutionaries trade gunfire with loyalists and tyrants.

Eadric Garrard was raised to believe that as the rightful King of Ansgar, his loyal nobles and fearful subjects answered to his every whim, no matter the cost or consequence. His decision to send his troops thousands of miles away will test that fear, and loyalty.

Raedan Clyve was ordinary until an Elven ritual involving a griffin’s heart turned him into something more. Twenty years later, he still struggles with the magics that rage through his body. His mentor holds him back from his full potential and he faces pressure to find a suitable wife and father an heir.

Hadrian Clyve has picked up where his father left off and works to expand his family’s influence amongst the Ansgari nobility. His aggressive negotiation of alliances and shrewd choice of marriage agreements has earned him respect, and resentment. When his King calls his troops to arms, Hadrian has other things in mind.

After a century of scheming and decades of preparation, Magnus Jarmann is ready to bring his family’s plans to fruition by launching a war of independence that will free his people and return his country to its rightful place among the nations of Zaria. The King’s call to arms creates an opportunity that Magnus cannot afford to miss.

In a war, little is held back; in a revolution, nothing is safe.


The crackle of musket fire drifted up from the trenches; only a few quick shots at first, but quickly followed by full volleys. Flashes of light marked the battle in the trenches and Raedan listened carefully for the command to push his troops forward. He glanced behind him quickly.

The color guard stood resolute, the banners of Arndell and the North Griffin Cliffs at the front of the formation. A half-company of infantry had been assigned to protect the flags should they come under attack.

Wounded began to drift back out of the trenches. Some retreated under their own power; others were carried between two of their fellows. Raedan tried to count the men fleeing the battle, but quickly lost count.

Finally, the trumpets sounded again, ordering him forward.

“How's it look in there?” he asked a retreating officer. The man wore the gaudy orange of Sea Watch and the stripes of a captain. He had taken a round through his shoulder and was supporting a corporal that had taken a shot to the leg.

“The artillery did a job on them,” the captain said. “But they've still got some fight left.”

“All right, men! Let's take it to them!” Raedan started toward the trenches at the double time and his men started to trot after him.

The earthworks twisted and zagged one way and another, slowly leading the infantry closer to the fortress that loomed large above. The sun had finally set and flares were exploding high overhead.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Joshua Johnson is the author of "Gunpowder Fantasy" The Cerberus Rebellion (due to release in early July) and the creator of the Griffins & Gunpowder universe. When he isn't working or spending time with his family, he writes novels, short stories and novellas.

He currently lives in Northern Illinois with his wife and young son. 

Joshua will be awarding .mobi copies of his short stories (details available at to one commenter at every stop. Grand Prize for one random commentor: The Chesian Wars collection (all published 3 short stories and an additional prelude short story exclusive to the collection).

Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Book review: The Wanting Heart

The Wanting Heart, by Rionna Morgan:

The Wanting Heart is a lovely story. Kate is a beautiful young woman who competes in rodeos. Blake broke her heart years ago, but he’s back, and so are her unwanted feelings for him.

Luke is sophisticated and handsome, and he takes her out. They have a great time. Then something happens…

The story turns suspenseful, filled with danger. Luke is not who he appears to be.

This is a tale filled with lots of action and excitement. The writing is descriptive and at times poetic with plenty of charm. The rodeo/Western scenes are so realistic, a reader feels pulled into this world. With danger, the pace quickens and doesn’t let up until the end. I recommend this story for those who love modern-day romances with a Western bent.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Please welcome author James Hutchings

Hi, James. Thanks for  being my guest today here at my blog. Tell us about yourself and your work:

I think I've wanted to do something creative since I was a teenager. But I've tried several different things, such as music and film making, before I finally settled on writing. To be honest, if it turned out that I was actually better at, say, painting than writing, I think I'd be happy to change. So in a sense I still haven't decided.

'The New Death and others' is a collection of stories and poems, 63 pieces in all. It's only a bit over 41,000 words in total, so most of them are quite short. Most of the stories are fantasy, but there's some 'general fiction' in there as well. The style ranges from funny to very grim.

My main influences are JRR Tolkien and Jack Vance for the elaborate dialogue. Robert E Howard for the general atmosphere. Terry Pratchett for the humour. and Lord Dunsany for the use of Fame, Time and so on as characters.

Most of my stories are set in a made-up world (and the world isn't intended to be based on medieval Europe or any particular period of history). So I don't need to do research. However I do do a kind of research, in that I write down interesting things from history or fiction that I find, usually on wikipedia. For example, these are curses from the front of two medieval books, that I intend to use one day:

If anyone take away this book, let them die the death; let them be fried in a pan; let the falling sickness and fever seize them; let them be broken on the wheel, and hanged.

Should anyone by craft of any device whatever abstract this book from its owner may their soul suffer, in retribution for what they have done, and may their name be erased from the book of the living and not recorded among the Blessed.

Here's an excerpt (it's the first story):


In the beginning of the world the gods considered all those things which did not have their own gods, to decide who would have responsibility and rulership.

"I will rule all flowers that are sky-blue in colour," said the Sky-Father.
"I will listen to the prayers of migratory birds, and you all other birds," the goddess Travel said to him. And so it went.

At last all had been divided, save for one thing.
"Who," asked the Sky-Father, "shall have dominion over the poor?"

There was an awkward silence, until the Sky-Father said,
"Come - someone must. Those with no gods will grow restless and cunning, and in time will cast us down, and we shall be gods no more."

"Not I," said blind Justice, and her stony face flashed a momentary smirk at the thought. "Why not Fame or Fortune?"
"Darling I _don't_ think so," said the sister goddesses together.

There was a long pause. The gods shuffled their feet and avoided one another's gaze. At last a voice broke the silence.

"I will," said Death.


here's the blurb:

Death gets a roommate...

An electronic Pope faces a difficult theological question...

A wicked vizier makes a terrible bargain...

44 stories. 19 poems. No sparkly vampires. There's a thin line between genius and insanity, and James Hutchings has just crossed it - but from which direction?



my blog:



Barnes & Noble:


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Books Around the World: Haiti

Haitian author Edwidge Danticat has written a novel giving a wonderful look into her native land. Breath, Eyes, Memory has characters of strength and courage who have faced tragedy with grace.

The main character, Sophie, lives in a poor village in Haiti; then at age 12, she goes to New York to be with her mother. Life is strange there, but Sophie is tough. She discovers terrible secrets about her mother. Her mother has nightmares and passes some of her unwanted ways to Sophie, traumatizing the girl.

Sophie meets a much older man, a musician, and her mother doesn’t approve. What will Sophie do? She does something rather drastic to free herself, but it comes with serious problems.

Sophie goes back to Haiti, to her grandmother and the aunt who raised her. All through the novel, the reader is treated to Haitian details of life and culture, and watching characters of courage overcome difficult circumstances. Get a little taste of the wisdom of a different culture in a book that is well written with emotional depth, and have a look at Breath, Eyes, Memory.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Please welcome author Rionna Morgan

Hello, Rionna, and welcome! Congratulations on your book release. Let's hear a little about it:

Katherine White, a barrel racer from Colorado, lives in a fast-paced world where rhinestones shine, hooves pound, and dreams come true.  She plans on winning World Champion Barrel Racer and being with her friends until she graduates from college.

She doesn’t plan on the man who broke her heart strolling back into her life.  She doesn’t plan on finding solace in a charming stranger’s smile or falling victim to his knife. 

Blake Spencer, the man who broke her heart, is all cowboy—from the hat on his head to the dust on his boots. He thought it’d be easy, coming back to town, bowing his head a little, saying he was sorry, and all would be forgiven.  But what he didn’t know, what he didn’t plan on, was that the girl he thought he loved had become the woman he couldn’t have. If he doesn’t succeed in changing her mind, it won’t only cost him Kate’s love—it will cost Kate her life.

Will Kate survive the stalking of a serial killer and find what her heart truly wants?

This sounds exciting! Now for an excerpt:

“It’s late, Blake.  I’m tired.”
“Not too tired to be kissing that city feller.”  Blake could’ve kicked himself.  He wanted to talk to her not fight.

“That’s none of your business.  You have no right to be spying on me.”

“I wasn’t spying.  I was watching Cathy.”

Kate stepped into the full light.  “Well, you should have taken her home and been on your way!”

Seeing dark circles beneath Kate’s eyes, Blake studied her.  He saw sadness and fatigue.  “Jesus, Kate.  Did you drive home last night?  Have you even been home?”

“What do you care?”

Blake grabbed her arms.  “Are you trying to kill yourself?”

“No.  I’m living my life.”

“I’ll tell you what you’re doing.  You’re going home and going to bed.”

“Don’t use that range boss voice on me.  You have no right.”

Blake couldn’t listen to another word.  Holding her body, even in anger, was too much for him.  Her words were crushed against her mouth as his lips covered hers.  He lifted her off her feet, molding her body to his.  She’d been nineteen the last time he kissed her.  Her body had grown and filled out since then.  But, he wasn’t thinking of that.  He wasn’t thinking of anything, but how damn good it felt to just hold her, kiss her.  Begging for her surrender, he stroked his hands

over her hips, up her back and fisted them in her hair.

New York Times Best Selling Author, Kat Martin says this about Rionna Morgan: “The Wanting Heart is a  sexy, intriguing, modern-day western romance.  A fun summer read.” 

Nice. :) Now, about the author:
Growing up out West, Rionna Morgan followed her love of horses to the rodeo arena and her love of English to the classroom and to writing.  She has been looking forward to sharing her stories with you her whole life.  Rionna is a founding member of Montana Romance Writers; she reads as much as she can possibly hold, and she loves most of all combing the chilling edge of a knife with the sweet surrender of romance. Rionna shares her home in Missoula, Montana with her husband, her four children and the mountains outside her window. Please be invited to stop by loves the company.

Thanks so much for being my guest here, and the best of luck to you!!/RionnaMorgan

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Books around the world: England

The Man Who Turned Into Himself was written by David Ambrose, a British author. This is a supernatural story, one of those that makes you think. The main character, Rick, arrives at the scene of a car crash and watches his wife die. Before he knows it, he travels to an alternate universe where his wife is still alive, but things are strange. His consciousness is in the body of his counterpart, but the man is not so much like him.

When Rick opens up to his wife about his situation, she has him committed. Rick, now Richard, meets an interesting psychologist named Emma. He wonders whether or not he can trust Emma with the truth.

This book is full of suspense and sci-fi concepts like alternative universes, but the presentation is more in the style of a fantasy. There are twists and turns and deep, fundamental questions to ponder--an interesting book.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Book review: Bleed For Me

Hello, I just finished a murder mystery book called Bleed For Me, by Michael Robotham. At the beginning of the book, the best friend of a man's teenage daughter shows up at his home, covered in blood. The blood turns out to be her father's. She's accused of his murder.

The main character, Joe, is a psycholgist. He investigates things to help his daughter's friend, not believing she's guilty. His search for information brings him around Britain. He finds danger at many turns, and someone ends up killing his dog, hurting him, and poisoning his friend.

The author has done a good job making a reader feel for the characters. Tension is high, and the mystery deepens. It's an unpredictable tale with a surprise at the end. The subplot is woven into the story well and adds greatly to the major plot. Fans of murder mystery books should check out this author.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Books around the world: Austria

Hello, I just got through a short novel called Night Duty, by Melitta Breznik, an author from Austria. The good thing about reading books by foreign authors is that I never know what to expect. It's so unpredictable.

Well, this book was okay. It's from the point of view of a female physician and opens in an operating room. The story was not what I expected. I thought this would be totally about life as a doctor. It was not. Sure, there were scenes set in a hospital, but the majority of the story covered the doctor's childhood in Austria, growing up in difficult circumstances.

The style was very stream-of-consciousness, floating from one scene to another without transitions. It gave a very immediate effect. Reading about Austria after WWII afforded new and interesting insights. Also, reading about the doctor's shifts, as they unfolded, up close, gave a sense of how tiring it must be to be a doctor. The overall mood was sad. I learned some things reading it, saw points of view that I was unfamiliar with, and that was my goal, along with being entertained.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Books around the world: New Zealand and Canada

Hello, I just finished a book called The Piano, by Jane Campion, a native of New Zealand, and Kate Pullinger, who is originally from Canada.

It's set in Victorian times, partially in Scotland and partially in New Zealand. A woman and her young daughter move to New Zealand because the mother is contracted into a marriage. Ada McGrath meets her new husband for the first time there. Ada is mute and has a passion for playing the piano. Her husband refuses to transport the piano to their new home, so she strikes a bargain with the neighbor, Baines, to get her piano back.

With Baines, Ada comes out of her shell. He awakens her to new possibilities. Then her husband finds out and does something terrible.

This is a short novel and interesting. I haven't seen the movie. Ada is a passionate character, and her ways reflect this. The storyline is presented in a fresh way. For those who like dark, Victorian tales of love and inner strength, this would be a good story to read. At the end of the book, Ada has to make a serious decision and comes to a striking discovery. The book is also interesting in weaving cultural aspects of New Zealand in with the plot. The reader gets dashes of the native people, the Maoris as a bonus.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book review: The Ten Best Days of My Life

Hello, I just finished a novel called: The Ten Best Days of My Life, by Adena Halpern. In it, a young woman dies and goes to heaven. Everything up there is great, of course, until she gets some disturbing news.

She may not be able to stay where she is and has to write an essay about the ten best days of her life on earth. Did she live life with purpose? As she writes this essay, she analyzes her past and comes to some surprising realizations.

The story is fun. The main character is spunky and makes interesting observations. Set partly in heaven, partly on earth, this supernatural tale is a quick read. However, entertaining as it may be, it makes a reader ponder some profound questions. What's really important, and are we not seeing the whole truth? I'm glad I picked up this book. If you'd like a different type of paranormal/supernatural book that's quirky yet has depth, why not give this one a try?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The letter "C" in English

The letter “C” of course doesn’t have a sound of its own but borrows from “K” and “S."

“C” is more common than “K” by the way. I know that from my job at a reading school and my own research. “C” is most often pronounced like “K” but borrows from “S” when it’s followed by “I, e,” or “y” (an exception being the word soccer). Really the only unique contribution “C” makes to our language is when it’s paired with “H” as in “ch” (but can sound like “K” in words of Greek origin: anchor, or “sh” in words of French origin: chef). Occasionally it breaks the rules when paired with “E” or “I” as in “ocean” or “glacier”.

Sometimes it’s silent: muscle.

“C” and “G” are very closely related. Not just in shape, of course, but in sound as well. Physically, the tongue moves the same way to produce both sounds. The difference is that “G” is voiced, and “C” is not (the vocal chords vibrate to produce the noisy “G” sound). “G” also can turn soft (make the “J” sound) when “I,e” and “Y” come after it (but it doesn’t have to).

Friday, April 20, 2012

Books around the world: Lebanon

Hello, I picked up a book called The Story of Zahra by the female author Hanan Al-Shaykh. It was different than things I've read in the past, as expected. It's a novel and covers such themes as personal struggle (the heroine in the book is a bit unstable), political happenings (the war happening right outside of Zahra's front door in Lebanon), romantic/sexual relationships (Zahra is involved with different men, one being the man she marries while living in Africa), and other things.

In the Arab world, many consider this author to be a leading female novelist. The writing is very effective in making a reader feel the torment her character goes through. At times I cringed, sensing Zahra's troubled feelings. She really does some bizarre things at times; it was quite unexpected and added to the interest of the book. What will Zahra do next? I often wondered. Her family's behavior partially explains Zahra's odd personality. Despite her oddness, it was easy to feel for this character. As civil war rages outside, Zahra makes the decision to seduce the neighborhood sniper to draw him away from his ugly tasks.

The book gives an interesting look into this culture as well, but the main character and her intense emotions drive the story. Will her dreams come true? Will her painful past ever stop haunting her?

I'm glad I read The Story of Zahra even if I couldn't personally relate to Zahra. Hannan Al-Shaykh has done a wonderful job with character development.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Books around the world: Chile

Inés of My Soul by Isabel Allende is a passionate novel set in Spain, Peru, and Chile of the sixteenth century. This is historical fiction based on fact, and is both educational and romantic. It reads like an adventure novel, but the characters were real people.

Inés Suárez and Pedro de Valdivia were Spanish conquistadors who struggled to build the country of Chile. Danger surrounded them at every turn, and horrible hardships.

This book gives a fascinating look at life in the 1500s in Chile and is from Inés’ perspective, including her fiery romance with and later betrayal by Valdivia; though it also presents the viewpoint of the other side, the indigenous people who fight with all their heart against the foreign invaders.

The characters are vivid, as is the plot, rich in historical detail and feeling. Such heroic bravery is colorfully drawn.

Tragic at times, victorious at others, it’s a moving novel. I learned a lot reading it and would search out this author’s other work.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Books around the world: Japan

I just finished reading a 925 page book by the popular Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami. The book, 1Q84, is different than anything I have read before. It's a best-selling novel in Japan, hugely successful.

I read a lot, but I've never read this author before. It was a good story, quite interesting, and kept me engaged. To describe the genre, I'd say it was a fantasy, modern-day (unless you count the year 1984 as vintage), mystery, love story, and tale of self-discovery.

The story is set in Japan, in an alternate 1984, with chapters that switch off between the two main characters, a man and a woman who are trying to find each other. The characters enter this strange world and see discrepancies all around them.

Aomame and Tengo live in this bizarre parallel world and try to make sense of things. Tengo is a math teacher and author who ghostwrites a novel. This action sets off a dangerous line of events. His life unravels. Aomame does something bad but with good intentions. She also gets dragged into a perilous situation. Other characters include an overly insistent television-fee collector, a weird private investigator, a religious cult leader, bodyguards, killers, and other colorful characters.

Many things happen in the story that cause a reader to have to read between the lines. It's a thinking novel but has a lot of action. I enjoyed it but thought it was a little long. There is a lot of repetition in it, especially with repeated dialogue. I wasn't sure if that was the author's style of writing or if the characters just felt it necessary to make sure they heard others right, constantly parroting back what they heard.

It's a profound story, written by a talented author, but so long. However, many things that were written out in great detail were interesting. So much of the book includes minutiae. It's a great look into Japanese culture as well. As an American, I enjoyed the insights.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

murder mystery book review

Splattered Blood is a fast-paced murder mystery by author Michael A. Draper.
A man named Johnny used to work for the state police then became security chief for a professional basketball team. When he’s murdered, his wife, her brother, and a friend decide to do some investigating of their own. Roseanne, Graham, and Randy start digging to get information, and they run into plenty of trouble.

Certain players on the basketball team become victims in one way or another. Is the team cursed? Why would so many bad things happen to this team?

The investigation raises the stakes as more and more terrible things happen; more people die.

There’s a sense of immediacy to the writing style, the present tense. It’s a suspenseful tale, and the characters are well written. A reader can really sympathize with them and worry for them as they come across interesting clues and fall into a world where danger stalks them.

They cooperate with the police and get basketball players to help out. The tension is high, and there is lots of action. It’s gritty and realistic, and surprises arise as the story races toward an exciting ending. Fan of thrilling murder mysteries should give this book a try.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Review for Eternal Knot

The Eternal Knot by T.K. Toppin is the third in an excellent sci-fi trilogy. It starts out with a nice summary of the two other books to aid the reader in understanding and getting one up to speed.

Josie is an interesting character. She’s from just a little past our time but sleeps in a pod for more than three hundred years, finding herself in the future. Married to the world president, she deals with daily, deadly threats. Josie’s husband, John is a self-controlled, private man, and Josie’s match. The two make a great couple. They can fight exceptionally well and are forced to, once again, fight for their lives. Josie swears a lot and wears weapons, even at formal dinners.

The other characters in this book really come alive for a reader, too. John had a fling years before, and the woman is back, with an agenda. Elena wants him back and will do wicked things to get her way, creating great tension with Josie. The other supporting characters move the plot along just as well as the main ones. They are all complex with equally complex relationships. A strong plot causes a shift in certain relationships.

This is quite an adventurous story with dashes of humor. The dialogue between Josie and Simon, head of security, is often funny.

Josie is on a mission to find her niece, Fern, who is also a pod survivor. Suspense moves the plot along rapidly. What will happen when Josie finds Fern? (Some wild things, that’s for sure.) There is lots of action and long fight and chase scenes that are exciting. Frantic emotions are clearly drawn.

Those who like action-packed sci-fi, futuristic stories with intricate fighting techniques and well-described world details should check out this book; in fact, check out the trilogy!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book review for Start Shooting

Start Shooting by Charlie Newton is an exciting, fast-paced story that never lets up. It starts quickly and keeps going to its thrilling conclusion. The reader gets the nitty gritty description of Chicago, the toughest parts, a hell on earth. Life in this area is short. Tragic characters living in such horrible conditions are very brave and prove this daily.
    Bobby Vargas is a cop, a good one, just trying to make the streets safer. His brother, Ruben, is a different story. He’s a street legend but not all he appears to be.  It’s infuriating what happens to Bobby. The villains in this book inspire such disgust.
    Arleen Brennan is a hard-working waitress wanting to make it as an actress. She gets the big audition. Throughout the book, her agonizing suspense is gripping. Her twin sister was murdered as a child, and that comes back to haunt everyone. Accusations are given that ruin lives. Ruben involves Arleen in a dangerous sting, and this plays right alongside Arleen’s big audition. Arleen and Bobby are close, and this makes for interesting interplay, considering she wants his brother dead for the evil he’s doing.
Arlene and Bobby both have courage. Bobby also has integrity, and Arlene is quite clever, constantly in survival mode. Both are streetwise.
    Though Bobby is a gang cop, it turns out there is something much bigger than the antics of street gangs going on here. International mystery is woven into this thriller, and one constantly feels the desperation of the characters.
    The writing is direct and immediate. Short phrases make for intense emotion, filled with street slang. It adds poignancy but is sometimes confusing. The chapters alternate points of view. There are many surprises in this story and tension that goes for miles. A theme of dreams in life is prevalent.
    For those not in the mood for a light read who would prefer an action-packed, raw, vivid story of harsh reality, this would be a great book to read. At first it comes across as a downer, but there’s so much satisfaction to be found in its pages. The end, well, I won’t give that away.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Hello, everyone, I want to wish you a happy, prosperous, blessed new year. :)