Archives for August 2014

Belinda’s Review: The Killing Game by The Black Rose

The Killing GameThe Killing Game: Part One of The Blood Negotiators
written by The Black Rose
published by Andrich Publishing

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
Yes.

There’s so much to say about this book, I’m not sure where to start. First, the cover is beautiful. The title is shocking. It’ll definitely grab the reader’s attention as they scan potential purchases – nicely done.

Then there’s the story: romance, lies, suspense, and high-level government cover-ups – Shew! How much more can you cram into one book?

The story is told from multiple perspectives and in a non-linear fashion. In the past, I’ve deducted stars for authors who do that because it’s not my preference. I’m changing my criteria going forward. If the author does it well, he or she should get credit, even if it’s not my personal favorite style.

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Would I recommend it: It depends.  If you’re looking for something quick and easy to read while sunbathing, take a pass on this one.  On the other hand, if you are planning a quiet evening with red wine and a good book, go for it.

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About the book – from Goodreads: As the Director of the New York Division of the FBI, Ives Andrich is confronted with investigating the woman he has waited a lifetime to find. Because of her more than accurate novel about an Italian crime lord, the Bureau, against Ives’ wishes, asks for her help in infiltrating the inner organization of the nation’s most nefarious Mafia don.

When the Bureau’s plan fails and she becomes dangerously entangled in the private life of the nation’s most wanted criminal, Ives’ tolerance for Bureau mishaps vanishes. No holds barred, he puts everything on the line to save the woman he loves in Part One of The Killing Game.

 

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Melissa’s Review: Lies by Bridget Harwell & Elizabeth Scott

liesLies: The Truth about Self-Deception that Limits Your Life
written by Bridget Harwell, PhD & Elizabeth Scott, PhD
published by iUniverse

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
There are now several new entries in my journal and a good number of useful insights post-it noted to my fridge.

I didn’t find every article relevant to my own life, but I tucked some tips into my knowledge banks for the future. Well done, ladies; you’ve saved me a therapy session.

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Would I recommend it: Sure!

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About the book – from Goodreads: 
We lie to ourselves every day, and these lies can lead to significant unhappiness in our lives. In Lies, authors Bridget Harwell and Elizabeth Scott present a collection of more than forty essays based on their daily interactions with clients who have suffered the pain of digging deeply and unearthing the self-deceptions that have limited their lives.

Harwell and Scott, two successful, practicing psychologists, compiled the essays to examine the various forms of self-deception, many of which are unconscious attempts at self-protection which can go unnoticed and yet lead to stress and unhappiness. Accompanied by whimsical and evocative drawings, Lies examines a variety of themes, such as guilt, worry, indecision, and the power of relationships. Each piece is followed by a conversation between Harwell and Scott that seeks to add clarity to the discussion.

Written in a conversational style that mimics a therapy session, this collection presents strategies for finding the truth beneath the lies we tell ourselves and gives us an opportunity to live a more integrated life, a life of authenticity that’s essential for any kind of true happiness.

 

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Summer Reading Challenge: In Bloom by Katie Delahanty (Chrissy’s review)

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In BloomIn Bloom (The Brightside #1)
written by Katie Delahanty
published by Entangled (Embrace)

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
Yes! It made me giddy throughout. I read it in about a day and a half.

At first, I was skeptical because it started off a bit slow. However, it picked up speed and got me interested. Once the author referenced the life-changing capability of a Primanti Bros. sandwich, I was sold! I loved the Pittsburghese, the Burgh references, and the mentions of Pittsburgh. It gave me an additional connection to Olivia.

The story is cute. It’s sweet. It’s romantic. It’s very hot. The New Adult steamy scenes were hot. I’m glad I wasn’t reading those as I was walking around my neighborhood. I was on the sweet and romantic scenes then. I was walking and giggling and smiling.

I wasn’t sure I liked Olivia in the beginning. She seemed too naive and clueless. But the more I got to know her, the more I liked her. She was sweet, shy, sometimes clumsy-ish, and a hard worker. She was also funny. I liked her attempts to ease the tension or change the subject. I liked Berkeley from the beginning. And I loved getting to know the real Berkeley as the story unfolded. He seemed genuine, kind, shy, and an all-around good guy who wanted to protect Olivia from the press games. I loved his South African accent slips, and I wished Olivia had a few more Yinzer accent slips as she got comfortable with Berkeley. That would have been fun to watch her explain, especially if she told him she had to redd up n’at before she could leave the office. LOL

All-in-all, In Bloom was a great read, and I can’t wait for the next book in the Brightside series.

 

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Would I recommend it: Yes.

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About the book: 
My name is Olivia Bloom and I. Am. Free.

I left for LA with everything I owned piled into my old Volkswagen and dreams of becoming a costume designer. Little did I know I’d wind up designing for a lingerie company—yeah, not sure how I landed this gig—and taken under the wing of two young Hollywood insiders. The fashion shows and parties were great, but life really got exciting when the hot lead singer of my favorite band started to fall for me.

How does someone like me, an ordinary girl from Pittsburgh, wind up in the arms of the world’s sexiest rock star—surrounded by celebrities, fashion, and music—and not be eaten alive? Berkeley is everything I’ve ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, but the paparazzi, the tabloids, the rumors, it’s all getting a bit too crazy. My life has become every girl’s dream come true, if only I don’t blink and lose it all…

 

 

About the author: Katie Delahanty never knew she was a writer. Her childhood obsessions centered on old movies, costumes, fashion, playing dress up, and books. Lots of books. On her quest to play make believe for a living she decided she wanted to be a fashion designer and after satisfying her practical parents by graduating from UCLA with a BA in Communication Studies. She went on to pursue her design dreams with a Professional Designation in Fashion Design from FIDM. Now in charge of the ecommerce business for In Bloom Lingerie, she was asked to start the company blog. Not knowing what to say about lingerie but needing to use bridal keywords, she decided to start a fictional serial about how a girl named Olivia Bloom, who worked for In Bloom Lingerie, became engaged. And that’s when Katie fell in love with storytelling and the path to make believe became clear. She hasn’t looked back since.

Find Ms. Delahanty here: web, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

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Spotlight: A Pinch of Ooh La La by Renee Swindle (giveaway)

A Pinch of Ooh La LaA Pinch of Ooh La La
written by Renee Swindle
published by NAL/Penguin Random House

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads:  Abbey Ross, who runs her own bakery in Oakland, California, is known for her visually stunning wedding cakes, but lately, Abbey’s own love life has become rather stale. According to her best friend, Bendrix, Abbey’s not the spontaneous young woman she was when they were teenagers listening to the Cure and creating attention-grabbing graffiti. Of course, her very public and humiliating failed relationship with a womanizing art forger might have something to do with that. Nevertheless, it’s time for Abbey to step out of the kitchen—and her comfort zone—and Bendrix has even handpicked a man for her to date.

Samuel Howard is everything Abbey’s dreamed of: handsome, successful, and—most important of all—looking to raise a family. But a creamy icing might be needed to hide a problem or two. When Samuel complains about disrespect for the institution of marriage, Abbey’s reminded of her nontraditional family, with thirteen children from various mothers. And when Samuel rails about kids having kids, Abbey can’t help but think of her twenty-year-old sister who’s recently revealed her pregnancy.

Soon Abbey is facing one disaster after another and struggling to make sense of it all. Her search for love has led her down a bitter path, but with the help of her unique family and unwavering friends, she just might find the ooh la la that makes life sweet.

A story about how amazing a “nontraditional” family can be, along with jazz and the ever-embarrassing quest to find true and perfect love in our thirties; A PINCH OF OOH LA LA will have readers salivating over peach and goat cheese tarts while tapping their feet to the thoughts of jazz classics.

 

Renee SwindleAbout the author: Renee Swindle is a California native. She grew up in Vallejo and Lynwood and then went on to earn her BA in English from University of California, Irvine and her MFA in Creative Writing from San Diego State University.

Renee is the author of several novels including Please Please Please (Random House/The Dial Press, 1999) which was an Essence Magazine/Blackboard Bestseller; and also Shake Down The Stars (NAL-Penguin Random House/August 6, 2013).

Renee has been featured in Essence Magazine and has also been interviewed on KPFA, Blog Talk Radio and various local radio shows and local cable shows. Her writing group, The Finish Party, was featured in O Magazine. Renee’s work has also been published in Germany and Japan.

Renee currently works as a professor of English at Diablo Valley College at the San Ramon Campus and also at Solano Community College. For the last fourteen years she has lived in Oakland with her dogs and loves it.

Find Ms. Swindle here: web, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

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DNF: Blood Lilies by T.A. Miles (Melissa’s review)

Blood LiliesBlood Lilies
written by T.A. Miles
published by Raventide Books

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Smashwords, Book Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Where I stopped reading: Location 311 of 1229 on my Android Moon Reader app (24.1% of the way through the book).

Why I stopped reading: I actually really liked the story, but the writing was so full of errors, typos, and generally awkward word structure that I found myself re-reading things two and three times just to figure out what the author was trying to say.

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What others have rated this book: According to Goodreads, the average rating for Blood Lilies is 4.07 stars.  It looks like a majority of readers gave this book 5 stars. There were 3 5-star reviews on Amazon.  At Barnes & Noble there were no reviews listed.  Just because I didn’t finish this book doesn’t mean you won’t.

About the book – from Goodreads: For Korsten Brierly, life already seemed complicated enough. Disinherited from a young age, helping to govern a town of strategic significance to warring countries, keeping his affair with the local governor’s son a secret….

When a demon hunting mage arrives at his doorstep at the same time gruesome murders begin, Korsten finds himself quickly swept away by a tide of events and discoveries beyond his darkest dreams. Caught up in a war much deeper and far more dangerous than he ever would have believed it to be, Korsten is forced to abandon the life he knew and everyone in it. Summoned to a duty that terrifies him, by powers he can’t ignore, he begins a journey into understanding his own soul and how to protect the souls of others from demons bent on possessing, poisoning, and devouring them through methods that are gradually decaying the world they live in. Struggling to stay afloat in a maelstrom of ancient forces, his own emotions, and dangerous political games, Korsten commits himself to the task, for the sake of his soul and his sanity, and for the sake of the lover he was not supposed to have…a man possessed by ambition and by a demon with goals of its own.

Blood Lilies is the first in a series.

 

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Belinda’s Review: Destiny’s Anvil by Steven Wells Hicks (excerpt, giveaway)

Destiny's Anvil Book CoverDestiny’s Anvil
written by Steven Wells Hicks
published by Steven Wells Hicks with partial funding through Mississippi Arts Commission

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazonBook Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
Yes.

Mr. Hicks has a wonderfully distinctive writing style. His material is original, his characters are dynamic, and his setting is unique. I feel like I’m going down a list of crucial literary elements and checking off each one. He’s covered them all and done so nicely.

I don’t suggest you read the opening scene late at night if your only companion is your overactive imagination. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. To describe it as cringe worthy doesn’t do it justice.

From there, the story takes you through plot twists and rapidly developing characters to a firework’s explosion of an ending.

So, why not five stars? There is so much I love about this book. However, the part in the story where they’re making legal motions and selecting a jury runs on too long and is too slow for my taste. I caught myself skimming to get to the next exciting scene.

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Would I recommend it: Don’t let my half star complaint stop you. It’s a long book but well worth the time spent reading it. If you’re a fan of originality and creativity, Destiny’s Anvil is the book for you.

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About the book – from Goodreads: Will Guidry’s career as a backwater lawyer is going nowhere until he has a couple of beers with up-and-coming political operative Tucker Callahan, whose family’s petrochemical fortune instills in him a confidence bordering on hubris. As Tucker explains to his rudderless brother, Carter, “Guidry and I made a deal because he needed a miracle and I wanted to play God.”

Guidry rides Tucker’s political horse sense into the office of Louisiana’s Attorney General, while Tucker capitalizes on Guidry’s victory to bolster his own political reputation. But what should become a powerful alliance deteriorates into a bitter feud when Guidry tries to flex his political muscle and Tucker suspects he may have maneuvered a calculating sociopath into the marble halls of power.

Caught in the crossfire is Carter, the story’s narrator. Devastated by betrayal at the hands of his brother and the woman he loved for a lifetime, Carter watches the power struggle between Tucker and Guidry from the sidelines. Everything changes when he stumbles on the charismatic attorney general committing a monstrous crime, and finds himself drawn into the vortex of his brother’s private war.

Racing from a bungled execution through ruthless political payback, before culminating in a no-holds-barred courtroom showdown, the stakes continue to rise and Carter finds his small-town naiveté peeling away. Replacing it is a mounting dread of what will happen when the hammer of justice meets destiny’s anvil.

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THE MERCURY WAS STILL HOVERING ABOVE NINETY when the three of us rolled up to the first set of gates at the state penitentiary in Angola. Climbing out of my car, I glanced toward the sun dropping over the cotton, bean and sweet potato fields that stretched unbroken toward the horizon. I wondered if the hapless bastard who had fewer than fifteen minutes left was gazing out a window, watching the last day of his life ebb toward eternal darkness.

I didn’t want to be there. I was twenty-six years old, secure in the prospect of at least fifty more years of a generous life, and didn’t want to see a man put to death before my eyes, no matter what he did. My brother Tucker had tried to worm his way out of witnessing the execution as well, but he couldn’t come up with an excuse that Will Guidry might buy. We both knew that over the previous fourteen years Will had worked up a hankering for blood that eclipsed any reverence he ever may have held for justice.

Two guards checked our names against their clipboard, opened the back doors of a cruiser and we got in. Without a word, they drove us through the prison compound to the no-frills building where Louisiana’s executions were carried out. We were led through several sets of barred doors until we reached a stark room with two rows of wooden chairs at one end and the electric chair at the other, maybe fifteen feet apart, maybe less.

The drifter who had raped and smothered Will’s kid brother Robby in the clearing of a cane field was already strapped into the chair and an electrode was being attached to his left calf. He watched the process, showing no emotion beyond detached curiosity. His expression didn’t change as his shaved head was straightened and a man wearing a threadbare black suit put a moistened sponge on the crown of his head and covered it with a metal skullcap. His eyes never wavered as he declined to buy final seconds with last words.

Father had told Tuck and me about how the dog, after nosing the sneaker around the drainage ditch, took off through the canebrake, how the three men looked at each other and started working their way into the thicket behind the dog, their hands and forearms collecting nicks and scratches as they hacked through the stalks of cane, how they were barely twenty yards into the cane when they heard the single bark followed by whimpers. I was later told that my father had been the first of the three to make it into the clearing, and that once he realized what he had stumbled upon, the only thing he could whisper was, “Oh, Jesus.” The dog’s chin was between its forepaws, and inches from the tip of its nose lay the second sneaker, still on the foot of Robby Guidry’s lifeless body. Even in the rose light of fading afternoon, the sock on the boy’s other foot glowed white, in stark relief from the blue jeans that had been yanked down to his ankles. A rivulet of blood had seeped out of his rectum, and was drying halfway down his left thigh. Once his face was pulled out of the mud into which it had been pressed, the parish coroner said he wouldn’t be able to tell if Robby had been strangled or forcibly drowned in mud until he got the body hosed off for the autopsy.

While the warden read the sentence in a bland monotone, the drifter’s eyes scanned across the faces on our side of the room. I felt myself shudder when his eyes locked on mine. He looked at me for an eternity that lasted less than a second, and my eyes followed his as he shifted them to his left and into the steady eyes of Will Guidry. Will’s face was stone except for the slightest movement of his lips, and I heard him whisper, “Fry in hell, dickhead.” Even though I knew there was no way the drifter could hear Will at that distance, I swear I saw him smirk at Will as a sweating guard stretched a black blindfold across his eyes before knotting it against the back of his skull.

The warden nodded his head and the electricity rocketed through the convict with the hiss and crackle of bacon in a dime store skillet. His hands tensed into claws as he dug his nails into the arms of the chair and his body thrashed against the leather restraints until thirty seconds had passed and the current was switched off. The silence was thick and underlined by the stench of smoldering flesh.

A doctor with a stethoscope moved toward the convict, but stopped once he realized the body would need a few seconds to cool down enough to touch. I let my held breath release and was gulping for any whisper of sweet evening air when the doctor looked at the warden and said, “He isn’t dead.”

Robby Guidry was only the murderer’s first victim. Three months after her son’s desecrated corpse had been discovered in the cane field, a disconsolate Marie Guidry had shoved her head in the family oven and turned on the gas. Having lost his wife and younger son within less than one hundred days of each other, Frank Guidry’s drinking ran away from him until the day that an increasingly withdrawn Will showed up at school with a shiner everyone couldn’t help but notice. The news of Will’s black eye hit my father particularly hard. Father was a good neighbor, the kind of man who always kept jumper cables in his trunk or saw to it that your garden was watered if you’d gone out of town and forgotten to ask anyone for help. I knew for a fact that Father felt acutely sorry for Will Guidry when he stepped up his regular prodding of both Tucker and me to spend more time and behave like brothers from the womb with Will. But Tuck was better at being an openhearted brother than I ever was, and as Tuck and Will became more like actual brothers, Tuck and I became less.

The second jolt was set to last a full minute, but I doubt thirty seconds had gone by when tongues of orange flame blazed from beneath the skullcap, followed by billows of steam and acrid smoke. A urine stain spread across the front of his pants, his skin bloomed scarlet as the temperature rose, and his body swelled to the point his flesh began to split. Blood streamed from his nose and mouth, and the smell of sizzling flesh mixed with the stink of where he’d fouled himself. I was ready to scream for someone to cut off the power for God’s sake when the room went silent except for the retching coming from Tucker as he lurched forward and vomit spattered on the waxed linoleum floor.

After letting the lifeless body cool, the doctor listened to his stethoscope, nodded and read the time off the wall clock in the death chamber. Two guards wheeled in a wobbly cart, on top of which was a state-issue coffin covered with a cheap, nubby fabric, while a third guard started to absentmindedly whistle between his teeth as he unbuckled the restraints. We were herded out with the other witnesses and taken back to our car at the prison’s main gate as the evening’s first stars pierced the twilight.

The emotional canyon separating me from Tuck had widened during our time at LSU, and I was neither surprised nor disappointed, in fact I was relieved, when Will Guidry realized he’d find more butter on my brother’s side of the bread than he ever would on mine. Hell, Will glommed so close to Tucker that people on campus started to snicker that Tuck was having the devil of a time trying to figure out how he might ever separate himself from his Siamese twin.

Following graduation, Tucker and Will had set off in search of stars beyond their reach while I returned home to New Acadia, a house that had grown empty during my time away and no prospects for any kind of meaningful work.

None of us had said the first word to each other since we pulled up at Angola, and I didn’t think any of us knew what to say after what we’d just witnessed. I glanced at the rearview mirror expecting to see a brooding Will Guidry, only to find one who was downright chipper as he said, “That was great. Let’s go find us someplace to eat.”

Steven Wells HicksAbout the author: Steven Hicks came to Mississippi in 1974 and spent the next quarter century writing for various advertising agencies, including his own. He wrote commercials and print ads about hot dogs and other baloney, used cars, barbecue shacks, sunscreen, banks galore, white bread, undertakers, churches, casinos, turkey calls, finger-lickin’ chicken and symphony orchestras. Some of the work was thoughtful. Some was funny. Most was neither.

During that period of time, he earned the enmity of his competitors and peers by being named Mississippi’s top copywriter nine times, winning six certificates of excellence in the International CLIO Awards, over 150 ADDY Awards, Radio Mercury honors and being included in Who’s Who in American Advertising.

A major portion of his advertising and marketing income came through his work as a political consultant, engineering the media and messaging efforts for more than six dozen campaigns, culminating with the POLLIE Award for best statewide/national commercial from the American Association of Political Consultants in 1989.

While the embarrassing abundance of honors mean next to nothing to Hicks, the education he got through the process meant everything. He learned how to write what people like. He learned to write with economy and clarity, because consumers won’t buy things from long-winded peddlers of perplexity. He learned when words have to be polished and when they’re best left plain.

Through it all, people kept telling Hicks he should write books and he kept saying, “Maybe one day,” until the day came when a near-fatal stroke in 1997 forced him into an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with his own mortality, and he realized he wanted to be remembered for something more consequential than gimmicky commercials.

There was only one hitch. The stroke had taken away his ability to read.

For the next thirteen months, Hicks stubbornly stared at newspaper letters until he could form words, read sentences, then paragraphs, and finally had the ability to once again read novels, albeit at a far slower pace and with cognitive problems enhanced by lingering reading difficulties stemming from alexia, an aphasia problem caused by brain lesions.

It made the headstrong Hicks more determined than ever to take a shot at those novels people had been encouraging him to write for years.

Ten years and eleven revisions later came his debut novel, The Gleaner, a trans-racial romance set in a sleepy Mississippi whistle-stop. In a competition of 5,000 entries, The Gleaner was named a quarter-finalist in Amazon.com’s prestigious “Breakthrough Novel” competition. Upon its heels came two comic novels in 2009, The Fall of Adam, a satire of Deep South advertising, and Horizontal Adjustment, a farce about sexual escapades among competitors for a news anchor position in a tank town television station along the Florida Panhandle.

Deciding to take a breather from novels, Hicks started publishing New Orleans restaurant guidebooks on an annual basis in 2011, all of which have become mainstays on Amazon.com’s list of the 100 top-selling books about world dining.

In May of 2014, Hicks published his fourth novel, Destiny’s Anvil, which marked a stark departure from the breezy style of his earlier works.

“The final product is the polar opposite of the novel’s original intent. It is dark, violent bordering on savage, as it strips away the veneers of not only politicians, but the entire American political system. At the same time, it moves with the furious pace of a thriller overflowing with cliffhangers,” says Hicks.

Steven Wells Hicks currently resides in Jackson, Mississippi but is in the process of moving to New Orleans. To learn more, go to http://stevenwellshicks.com/.

Find Mr. Hicks here: web, Goodreads

 

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Boost It Tuesday!

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Have you noticed that despite ALL of your Facebook “Likes” you are only “reaching” a very small portion of those followers? Does that bother you? It bothers us, and we want to boost each other up. Link up with Every Free Chance, Candace’s Book Blog, and Gin’s Book Notes for Boost It Tuesday.

 

What is Boost It Tuesday, you ask? Well, we want to help each other out. We are a great community of bloggers and authors, and we should be supporting each other. Share your Facebook address below, then visit the Facebook pages, like 3-5 posts, share or comment on 1 or 2 posts. That’s it. You don’t have to “like” the page if you don’t want to, just “like” some posts. Let’s help expand each other’s page reach. Who knows! You may find a new blog or author to follow along the away. Please be aware that any non-Facebook links will be deleted.

 

As an added bonus, Candace, Ginny, and I will be hosting a giveaway each week just to say thanks for the boost!

 

For this week’s giveaway, head over to the Every Free Chance Facebook page and answer the question in the Boost It post!

 

Remember: Like, comment, and share!  Let’s all give each other a boost!


Gin's Book Notes
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Blog Tour: The Solus Series by Devri Walls (spotlight, excerpt, giveaway)

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Wings of ArianWings of Arian (Solus #1)
written by Devri Walls
published by StoneHouse Ink

find it here: (affiliate link Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooksGoodreads

About the book: Kiora thought she had never heard a lie until she was sixteen. But she was wrong. Her entire existence was based on nothing but. She thought that evil did not exist. Lie. That magic was not real. Lie. And that the land of Meros was all there was. One more lie.

With Aleric telling her that evil is knocking on the door and that she is the only one who can stop them she has a choice to make. Refuse, or start the wildest most painful ride of her life.
She reluctantly dips her toe into her new existence of magic and threads, dragons and shapeshifters, and the person who wants to take control of it all: the evil Dralazar.

However, this journey was never meant to be hers alone. She will be accompanied by a Protector. To her disbelief, and utter irritation they name the hotheaded, stubborn, non -magical, (albeit gorgeous) Prince Emane. They will have to trust each other with their lives, but right now Kiora would settle for a non hostile conversation.

And now it comes down to this, If you had never heard a lie, would you kn

Wings of TaveaWings of Tavea (Solus #2)
written by Devri Walls
published by StoneHouse Ink

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Goodreads

About the book: Kiora is rapidly learning that evil and lies come in shades of black and white and swirling greys, but nothing could have prepared her for the shock of leaving Meros.

Kiora and her protector Emane step through the pass into a world they never knew existed but were always meant to save, only to find it far worse than they could have ever imagined. Good has been forced into hiding for its own survival, while the rest of the land bows to the Shadow, a force that pushes any remaining thoughts of Dralazar from Kiora’s mind. This land is full of new creatures, each more dangerous than the last. Her visions have taken on a deadly twist, and magic, or what comes of it, was never so real. And then there is Alcander: a Tavean, their guide, and an entirely different kind of trouble.



NestorWings of Nestor (Solus #3)
written by Devri Walls
published by StoneHouse Ink

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooksGoodreads

About the book: Kiora needs answers. Who is the Shadow? Who is Jasmine? Are they connected? And even more pressing: how can she stop Shadow from using Kiora’s dreams as a map to find them? They have escaped three times, but are living on borrowed time—and everybody knows it.

Her search for help will push her closer to Alcander, send her to the dragon mountain of Toopai, and straight back to Meros—where magic will finally return to the land of no magic. Answers will be uncovered and plans unearthed that have been waiting for thousands of years.

But with the Shadow’s forces gathering, it looks like the land’s path is hurtling towards one outcome: war with the Shadow and death to all rebels. Armed with knowledge and hope, Kiora is determined to change that path. But will fate allow it? Or will it deal her a hard lesson about following ones own destiny?

LomayWings of Lomay (Solus #4)
written by Devri Walls
published by Stonehouse Ink

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Goodreads

About the book: Kiora needs answers. Who is the Shadow? Who is Jasmine? Are they connected? And even more pressing: how can she stop Shadow from using Kiora’s dreams as a map to find them? They have escaped three times, but are living on borrowed time—and everybody knows it.

Her search for help will push her closer to Alcander, send her to the dragon mountain of Toopai, and straight back to Meros—where magic will finally return to the land of no magic. Answers will be uncovered and plans unearthed that have been waiting for thousands of years.

But with the Shadow’s forces gathering, it looks like the land’s path is hurtling towards one outcome: war with the Shadow and death to all rebels. Armed with knowledge and hope, Kiora is determined to change that path. But will fate allow it? Or will it deal her a hard lesson about following ones own destiny?

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Emane came to her after dinner with two swords and handed her one.
“What is this for?” she asked, as the weight of the sword jerked her arm to the ground.
“I have decided you need to learn how to fight,” he said, laying his blade across his hand,examining it.

“You have, have you?” She grunted, trying to wrench the sword back up.
“Well, Aleric and I decided.”

Emane shrugged, dropping the sword back to his side. “If I do get separated from you and you happen to run out of magic, you need to be able to defend yourself. I have already spoken to the Guardians and they have promised to make you a sword that is your size. But for now, we will practice with these.”

“Emane, I don’t even know how to hold one of these things.”

“Lesson number one, it is called a sword.”

“All right, a sword,” she said, placing a hand on her hip. “Problem number two, I can’t liftit.”

“Try,” he said, jerking his head towards her sword.

Rolling her eyes, she grabbed the hilt, struggling under the weight of it, managing to pull itup a few inches before the weight dragged her back down to the ground. Emane burst out into laughter, taking it out of her hands.

“Well worth it!” he grinned, shouldering her sword. When she looked at him confused, Emane leaned forward as if telling her a secret, “I really just wanted to watch you not be able to do something.”

“Are you serious?” she sputtered. “You gave me that sword just to laugh at me? Did you even talk to Aleric?” Her face flushed.

“Of course I talked to Aleric.” Emane was trying to stifle his laughter but it wasn’t working. “And I am going to teach you to fight.” He buried the swords into the ground so that they were standing straight up. “But we normally don’t start with those. He pulled out two wooden swords he had stashed behind a tree. “Normally we start training with these,” he said, spinning them around in an arc before presenting her with the much smaller, much lighter wooden sword.

She snatched it out of his hand. “You really are a jerk, you know.”

“Hmmm,” he said smirking, tossing his sword from one hand to the other. “I’m happy with jerk. It’s much nicer than what you used to call me.”

“You’re that too.” She half grinned.

“Nope, we have downgraded to jerk and I am keeping it.” He started circling around her.“First things first, you need to protect yourself. I will try to get past your guard. If you block me, you win. If I get past your guard, I win. And,” he drug out. “I will expect to be paid with a kiss.”

“What do I get if I win?” she asked.

Emane took advantage of the question and jabbed in quickly, connecting with her arm. “One kiss for me,” he winked, backing out again.

“That was cheating!” she objected.

Emane swung around the blade, lightly connecting the flat side of the sword between her shoulder blades.

“Two kisses for me.”

“Oohhh,” she growled. “You are an arrogant horse’s ass!” She took a protective stance and blocked the next blow.

“Nice job.” He danced around her and connected with her opposite shoulder. “Three kisses for the horse’s ass,” he gloated. “Come on, Kiora, you have to move your feet.” His eyes glinted mischievously.

She started to move and circle, following his lead. She blocked blow after blow, but missed at least one out of every three. “Come on, Emane,” she complained. “Take it easy on me. It’s my first day.”

“I am taking it easy on you,” he laughed. “You’re terrible!”

“Thanks a lot,” she said, trying to force a glare at him. “You’re not exactly encouraging.” She lifted her sword to block another shot.

Pushing his sword down over hers, he leaned in, “I actually like the fact that you’re terrible, more kisses for me.”

Kiora heard a few snickers from behind her and noticed that the camp was turning up to watch the training session. Pushing back, Emane jabbed in and caught her in the stomach.

“Hey!” she yelled, doubling over.

“That’s at least fifteen kisses, I am losing count.” Spinning in a wide lazy circle, he asked the spectators, “Anyone want to keep track for me?”

“You…are, such a…”

“Uh-uh,” he said, shaking his finger at her, “we have little ears amongst us, watch your language.”

“Jerk” she yelled.

“That’s better.” Emane swung again and she soundly blocked.

It went on like this for longer than she had wanted. The crowd cheered when she blocked a shot and they counted kisses when Emane made it past her guard. And they laughed at every joke he made, which only encouraged him.

“Please,” she gasped. “I am dying, can’t we take a break?”

“Breaks are for girls!” He taunted her, dancing around her with the stupid, albeit gorgeous, grin plastered on his face.

“I am a girl, Emane.” He moved in to take another shot, which she barely blocked. “I mean it, Emane, I am going to cheat if we don’t stop.” He raised his sword over his head. With a flick of her wrist she swept his feet out from under him. He reached for his sword, but with another flick of the wrist, the sword slid across the ground out of his reach. She dropped to her knees, putting her sword to his neck, “Do you yield?”

The crowd was in hysterics. Emane stretched his neck looking around. “How many kisses am I owed?” he shouted to the crowd.

“Seventy-two,” the answer came.

“Hmmm, seventy-two kisses,” he put both arms behind his head. “That should be enough. Yes, I yield.”

“Thank heavens!” Kiora collapsed on the ground next to Emane as the crowd cheered and laughed with approval.

Emane rolled over and leaned on his elbow, looking down at her through half-open lids. “I think the Lady should pay up.” He leaned down and kissed her “One down, seventy-one more to go.” Emane jumped to his feet and offered her a hand up. “All right, folks, that’s it for today.” There were some moans and groans as the crowd dispersed.

“You are shameless, you know that?” she said, brushing off her pants.

“So you tell me.” He threw his arm over her shoulder. “Let’s go get something to drink.”

devri wallsAbout the author: Devri Walls lives in Kuna Idaho with her husband and two kids. She has worked as a music teacher and currently, a preschool teacher. She majored in theater and her love of a story still drives her today. Thankfully, she has finally found an outlet for all the voices in her head.

Find Ms. Walls here: web, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

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Summer Reading Challenge: The Curse of Van Gogh by Paul Hoppe (Chrissy’s review)

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The Curse of Van GoghThe Curse of Van Gogh
written by Paul Hoppe
published by SparkPress

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
Sure. It was a fast, exciting read for the most part.

I finished The Curse of Van Gogh in an afternoon; however, I skimmed over a lot of the preparation details for the heist. It got to be too much for me and a bit too repetitive. This book reminded me a bit (tiny bit) of the Ocean’s Eleven etc movies and of Entrapment. It wasn’t a big reminder, but those movies were brought to mind.

I was expecting more history about the curse, more intrigue. But it was mentioned briefly, just not focused on. The proposition of Tyler by Imasu set the tone for the book. It had me interested. The heist was exciting and had me on the edge of my seat to see if Tyler would pull it off. The event at the end made the book worthwhile to me.

That ending is what make me give this book 3 stars instead of 2.

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Would I recommend it: Sure.

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About the book: 
Tyler slides into a simple life of bartending in New York City, living his life day to day. And then at the hottest art opening of the season he meets Kommate Imasu, a Japanese billionaire and famed art collector, who seems to know more about Tyler than his own mother does.  With serious threats against his family and friends, Tyler has to decide how much risk he’ll take to protect them. He quickly learns that gambling against a billionaire is never a good idea. Tyler plunges headfirst into a world of art forgers, hit-men, Yakuza, a femme fatal named Chanel No. 5, and the legendary curse of Van Gogh, in order to pull off the greatest art heist in history.

 

paul hoppeAbout the author: Paul Hoppe worked as a lobbyist in Washington DC, a stockbroker on Wall Street, and a screenwriter in Hollywood before writing his first novel.  He has lived on four different continents and currently splits his time between the High Sierras and the beaches of Australia.

Find Mr. Hoppe here: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

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Spotlight: Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn (giveaway)

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing GoodBurnt Toast Makes You Sing Good
written by Kathleen Flinn
published by Viking Adult

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: A delicious memoir from the author of The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry

In this family history interwoven with recipes, Kathleen Flinn returns readers to the mix of food and memoir beloved by readers of her bestselling The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You CryBurnt Toast Makes You Sing Good explores the very beginnings of her love affair with food and its connection to home. It is the story of her midwestern childhood, its memorable home cooks, and the delicious recipes she grew up with. Flinn shares tales of her parents’ pizza parlor in San Francisco, where they sold Uncle Clarence’s popular oven-fried chicken, as well as recipes for the vats of chili made by her former army cook Grandpa Charles, fluffy Swedish pancakes from Grandma Inez, and cinnamon rolls for birthday breakfasts. Through these dishes, Flinn came to understand how meals can be memories, and how cooking can be a form of communication. Brimming with warmth and wit, this book is sure to appeal to Flinn’s many fans as well as readers of Marcus Samuelsson, Ruth Reichl, and Julie Powell.

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I’m looking forward to trying this recipe and reading this book!

 

About the author: KATHLEEN FLINN and her books have been featured in PeopleELLEBon AppetitThe Wall Street Journal, and on NPR and CBS Morning News. Her first book, The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry was a New York Times bestseller. Her acclaimed second book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School was named a 2012 Nonfiction Book of the Year by the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Learn more atwww.cookfearless.com.

 

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