Monthly Archives: June 2015

Review: LOGAN AND THE MYSTICAL COLLAR

Note: 1) This book was provided by the author in return for an honest review. 2) My video review of this book is HERE.

A retired greyhound finds himself transported to ancient Egypt where his intelligence and bravery are put to the test.

Logan and The Mystical Collar: Adventures in Ancient Egypt (Greyhound Stories)

Logan and the Mystical Collar–Adventures in Ancient Egypt.

Logan is a pleasant point-of-view character, a lively mix of curiosity, intelligence and inner strength. Through his eyes we get an insider’s view of what palace life might have been like at the time of Cleopatra. Burke’s description of the city of Alexandria is a nice balance of historical fact bolstered by imagination.

The plot itself provides plenty of excitement as Logan tries to figure out how to fit in with the palace pack, and sneaks off at night to explore the city. At one point he and his rival Zeus face off for a big race. This changes their relationship in a way that becomes pivotal later on…when the Romans attempt to invade the city.

The illustrations are plentiful and well done, especially for being in black and white. There’s also a nice amount of informative endmatter–questions, vocabulary lists, historical facts.

One of my favorite features is the “cast” list at the end. Burke’s characters are based on real Greyhounds. She provides their photos and biographies.

A fun an exciting chapter book adventure for readers 8 and up.

Review: DISCOVERING DELILAH

*Author provided an ARC of this book in return for an honest review.

A young woman struggles with her sexuality while fearing she was a disappointment to her recently deceased parents.

Discovering Delilah (Harborside Nights, #2)

Discovering Delilah

We met Delilah Armstrong in the first Harborside Nights novel–Catching Cassidy. The hero in that book was Wyatt Armstrong, Delilah’s his twin. On the night of their college graduation, their parents died in a car accident. Delilah and Wyatt moved back to Harborside, a Massachusetts beach community, to take over their parent’s bar & grill. Two months on, Delilah has started to settle into her new professional role helping to run the business, but her personal life is in turmoil. Her grief over her parents’ death is compounded because of the shock she gave them when she came out to them that fateful night. Deep down she believes she may have caused the accident.

At the same time, Delilah struggles with growing feelings for her best friend Ashley. She’s afraid to act on them. First, because she isn’t sure Ashley would welcome them. Second, because she isn’t sure SHE herself will enjoy being intimate with a woman. Third, even if it turns out to be a resounding YES to the first and the second questions, she’s terrified of people around her finding out her secret. It’s this final issue–Delilah’s reluctance to go public when she and Ashley become an item–that proves the biggest obstacle to their relationship. Ashley was someone’s dirty little secret once before and ended up with a broken heart. She’s not willing to go through that again. Only, because of her feelings for Delilah, that’s exactly where she’s headed.

Melissa Foster presents Delilah’s struggle with honesty and sensitivity. At times this teeters a bit over the edge. We spend A LOT of time in Delilah’s head. All that internal angst slows the pacing at times, especially toward the end, when Delilah returns to her childhood home in Connecticut to clear out her parents’ belongings. I also found the resolution to her conflict over her parents a bit too convenient. I think Foster may have succumbed to the path of least resistance here in the interest of providing her character with complete closure. I would’ve preferred more ambiguity—allowing Delilah to CHOOSE to move on in strength, even with lingering doubts about her parents real feelings.

Still, Discovering Delilah is a touching romance that balances the spark between the couple with plenty of character development. There’s a nice supporting cast and, as always in a Melissa Foster novel, the setting is beautifully rendered.

A highly satisfying reading experience.

Review: FALLING IN (Vol. 4)

A short story focused on the development of secondary characters Saint and Jeanette in Riley’s Taking the Fall series.

Falling In: Vol 4

Falling In: Vol 4

Saint and Jeanette added a lot to the first three volumes of the Taking the Fall series, so I was glad to hear the author had penned an installment that delved into their relationship. We get a new perspective on both characters. Saint is still lovable, but his submissive behavior in this installment made me a little queasy at times. I know he was just giving Jeanette the control she craved after escaping her ex, but even there the logic was wobbly. We learn that most of the horrible things her ex did was to OTHER women before and after Jeanette. He was controlling, sure, but there was only one real episode of violence and it led to Jeanette running away.

Some of the problems with the plot may have to do with so much story being squished into so few pages. It felt rushed. It didn’t help that the epilogue (as unnecessary here as it was in the earlier parts) steals space from the main narrative.

This fourth volume didn’t deliver what I was hoping for based on the first three.

Review: CLICK–AN ONLINE LOVE STORY

* I received this book in return for an fair and honest review.

In a novel carried out exclusively through email, unlucky-in-love Renee Greene is convinced to look for love through an online dating site.

Click

Buy this book on Amazon

Renee, Mark, Shelly and Ashley are friends living in Los Angeles. They’re all single, flirting with thirty, and their busy professional lives mean that they keep in contact via email. Mark convinces Renee to jump into online dating with him, though he doesn’t even dip his toe in the water until near the end of the book. In the meantime, Renee suffers through one online humiliation and heartbreak after another. When she does finally meet a man who’s as wonderful in real life as he is in bits and bytes, there’s an unexpected twist that threatens to end her happily ever after before it even begins.

I was surprised at how well the characters and plot points developed since the whole book is essentially “telling” rather than “showing.” Normally this is a fiction no-no, but Becker’s epistolary novel for a new millennium is funny and moving. Each character’s distinct voice and personality carry the narrative.

The only place I feel the story fell short was the rock star subplot. It stretched my suspension of disbelief a bit too far. The rock star’s voice wasn’t strong enough to convince me that he really was serious about Renee.

Overall, though, CLICK is a warm, fun book. I’m looking forward to the other two books in the series.

Review: Chergui’s Child

Upon her aunt’s death, a young woman learns information about her own troubled past that changes the course of her life.

It’s almost impossible to talk about CHERGUI’S CHILD without revealing pivotal details, but I’ll try. Olivia, the heroine, is a complex character. Life has been a struggle for her on many levels. As the book opens she seems confident and capable, but we learn bit by bit that her appearance of control masks deep psychological wounds and an ongoing struggle to maintain a normal life. Her efforts are hampered by her overbearing, intrusive mother. Matters are forced to a head when Olivia’s aunt’s death leads to a huge revelation centered on what appears at first to be a simple failed romance but, as we learn through flashbacks, is actually much more. Olivia has a choice–she can go on with her rather empty life or act upon what she’s learned and possibly reclaim something precious. She decides to act and in the process transforms her life and that of several others.

CHERGUI’S CHILD is an emotionally rich story full of complex characters and unexpected plot twists. Riddell excels at two things in particular–a evoking a wonderful sense of place and populating it with fascinating individuals. The people we meet here aren’t necessarily likable, there’s too much infidelity for my taste, but they are REAL. That’s important. You pay attention to Riddell’s characters. You want to understand them.

I would have preferred a more linear narrative. The flashbacks are well done, but I don’t think they were necessary and found them a drag on the story’s forward momentum. I was so invested in Olivia’s quest, I didn’t care to be interrupted and dragged back in time five years. Also the plot turns on three separate letters. Here I may be tiptoeing too close to spoiler-land, so feel free to skip to the next paragraph. The first one, written by Olivia’s aunt, initiates the main conflict. The second one (written by her ex lover) is fairly benign and offers Olivia some sense of closure. The third (also by the ex-lover) seems too convenient and ends up letting the air out of what should have been the most suspenseful event in the book, the one that decides whether or not Olivia will be granted what she’s fought so hard for. The ending is still satisfying, but that third letter robs it of some of its power.

CHERGUI’S CHILD is a powerful exploration of how the past and the stories we tell ourselves about that past both shape our present.

Finding Your Natural Audience

A review of Intentional Practice & the Art of Finding Natural Audience ( a framework for artists and professionals) by Marc Zegans.

Intentional Practice & The Art of Finding Natural Audience: A Framework for Artists and Professionals (Intentional Practice in the Arts and the Professions)

Buy this book on Amazon

Artists and professionals don’t have to choose between their integrity and making a living.

In this article, Marc Zegans offers a thoughtful approach to facing market realities while maintaining artistic/professional ideals. Since it is relatively short, I can’t go into as much depth as I normally might or readers could be tempted to take the summary in place of the article. That would be a shame. Zegans sets out a clever program for using one’s core beliefs to both create their best work and reach those who will be most receptive to that work.

Zegans process of intense practice manages to meld intuition with practical method. The bridge between art and audience is a series of diagnostic questions that keep the artist in tune with the message/intention his art conveys and aware of those who share the intention and are therefore the “natural” audience for that message in the form of a book, painting, or music CD. Further, readers learn how even their natural audience is made up of distinct types of individuals. Zegans calls them champions, collectors, and visitors. Understanding the differences between these “fans” helps the artist further hone and direct her message.

I will say that the language Zegans employs is a bit more formal and academic than some artists might be used to. Artists and professionals are so used to getting marketing tips in bite-sized, bullet-pointed blog posts and newsletter features where they can scan the sentences in bold type and glean the major points in a minute or two. This article requires close reading and focused attention. Further, putting the advice it offers into practice is an ongoing process. So, it’s good that the article is short–since you’ll likely have to come back to it multiple times as you fine tune your audience-finding efforts.

A somewhat demanding but valuable primer for artists and professionals preparing to face the marketplace.

Review: JUMP THE LINE by Mary McFarland

A young criminal justice student working her way through school as an exotic dancer finds romance and danger when she becomes embroiled in the search for a serial killer.

Jump The Line (Toein' The Line Book 1)

Buy Jump the Line on Amazon

Alaina Colby has worked hard to distance herself from her family and their criminal activity. It’s been a struggle to put herself through college, especially when she’s also responsible for her younger brother whose drug addiction has already landed him in a heap of legal trouble. Now she’s nearing graduation and an end to her days wasting her dancing talent swinging topless around a stripper pole.

Only the universe has decided that it’s not playing nice.

Fellow strippers keep turning up dead behind the club where Alaina works. Not just dead. Chewed to pieces. Law enforcement is sniffing around. What’s worse, Alaina’s brother, who once dated the latest victim, has gone AWOL. Clearly, she needs to find out what she can about the killings…if only to protect what’s left of her family.

Jump the Line grabbed me from page one. Alaina is an intriguing character. She’s had a rotten life and has thrown up some thick walls. Yet her soft heart and…well…innocence shine through her gritty exterior. Her big dream is to make “Jump the Line” audition video for the Rockettes, though she knows a physical handicap has put professional dancing out of her reach. It’s such a childlike ambition, like the short girl entering the modeling competition or the kid with two left feet trying out for cheerleading. It makes her lovable and vulnerable. The sort of person who ignores her own well-honed instincts when the odd behavior of a friend sets off warning bells.

Detective Aidan Hawks certainly appreciates Alaina’s finer points. Another engaging character, Aidan talks like the worst sort of man-whore, yet he generally behaves like the gentleman his mom and two fathers (long story) would wish him to be. Aidan is determined to catch the killer. At first it’s a professional thing. Then he becomes convinced it’s a race to save Alaina. He has plenty of obstacles. This murderer is clever and closer to the action than anyone realizes. Aidan also has trouble within his own ranks. His chief can’t stand him. And his attractive new partner is after his collar–and his body.

There’s considerable violence in this book. The killer’s victims go through hell. So do Aidan and Alaina. By the climactic final showdown, both of them are at their physical and emotional breaking points. But there’s also forgiveness and the chance to heal old wounds. Light to balance dark. Sanity to balance madness.

McFarland uses an alternating first-person point of view that could have resulted in a disjointed narrative. However, though the POV shifts, it is always tightly controlled. We get a peek at how Alaina, Aidan, and the killer’s minds work without becoming muddled or learning so much about what’s going on that the story is spoiled. In fact, “delayed discovery” is used to keep the characters on the go and us readers frantically turning the pages. We may know more than any single character, but it’s exquisite torture as we wait for one of the gang to discover an important point or for a meeting/confrontation that we know is coming.

Jump the Line is chilling and fun and left me checking and rechecking that my door was locked.

Sneak Peek! Debra Presley’s FINDING US

Finding us sneak peek.1

Sneak Peek

6x9Template

Book Title: Finding Us (A Nucci Securities Novel)
Author: Debra Presley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: Summer 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

Goodreads Button with Shadow

Book Blurb

Pop star Abby Murphy has fame and fortune and handsome boyfriend and guitarist, Sean. That changes the night she finds him in the arms of another woman. But Sean won’t accept the breakup, and she soon finds out he’s working with her mother, who’s also her manager, to keep him in her good graces.

As Sean ratchets up his threats against her, Abby turns to her bodyguard, Danny Nucci, who will do everything in his power to keep her safe.

But when Abby realizes her feelings for Danny run much deeper than she’d like, she pushes him away as much to keep her own independence as to protect him from Sean’s machinations.

When Abby finally finds the strength to confront all that is wrong with her life, she seeks refuge with Danny, but is it too late? Has she pushed him away one too many times for him to trust her now? Or can he put his own demons aside to help repair them both?

Teasers

finding us teaser.1

finding us teaser.2

Book Trailer

playlist

Inspired By

Follow The Book Enthusiast – Book Enthusiast Promotions’s board Finding Us by Debra Presley on Pinterest.

Meet the Author DebraPresleyButton.3 Debra is a native New Yorker who made her escape to the suburbs. She often visits her hometown to enjoy a bagel with butter from her favorite deli, because there’s no better bagel than a New York bagel. When not in search of bagels, Debra spends her time running Book Enthusiast Promotions, an online promotions company that helps indie authors spread the word about their books. She’s also the owner of The Book Enthusiast blog. She started writing lyrics in her wall-to-wall NKOTB bedroom at the tender age of thirteen while dreaming of the day she’d become Mrs. Jordan Knight. That dream never came to fruition, but she has continued to write. Now she’s working on her first novel. Social Media
websiteblognewsletter signuptwitterFacebooktumblryou tubepinterestinstagramGoogleGoodreads
JOIN THE STREET TEAM

 

BEPRectangle

Bonds of Blood & Spirit Book Signing

All week I’ve featured The Bonds of Blood and Spirit paranormal saga and its talented creators Wendi Kelly and Deborah Dorchak. Now meet them in person!

Deborah Dorchak

Deborah Dorchak

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wendi Kelly

Wendi Kelly

On Saturday June 20th, Wendi and Deborah will be at the Henderson Barnes & Noble at N. Stephanie (just south of the intersection of Stephanie and Sunset) from 1pm to 3 pm. Click HERE for directions/map.

WANT TO READ MY DETAILED INTERVIEW WITH WENDI AND DEBORAH?

Part I

Part II

Bonds of Blood & Spirit #4: LEGACIES

NOTE: A video version of the following review, which goes into more detail about the entire Bonds of Blood & Spirit saga can be viewed HERE.

Pack and Pride test their physical and spiritual boundaries in preparation for a final battle that will shape the future for both shifters and humans.

Legacies is the fourth book in the Bonds of Blood & Spirit saga. This series is a great mix of character and suspense. The books do need to be read in order–each one digs deeper into Kelly & Dorchak’s unique fictional universe and into the characters as their knowledge of themselves and bonds with one another are constantly tested and transformed.

By the time we get to Legacies, the bad guys (who’ve dogged our heroes from book to book to book) have assembled an evil alliance that seems impossible to defeat. At the same time, Regina, Harry, Cole and the rest of the Pack are still reeling from the events in book three (Reclamations). Now the packmates must face personal fears, petty jealousies, and desires they’d rather keep buried. Things are changing. Each shifter needs to learn where they fit. IF they fit. And NOT fitting would be devastating. Pack membership is a lifelong bond…you can’t walk away without serious emotional and spiritual ramifications.

On the surface it’s the worst possible time to deal with interpersonal drama. The shifters know this. They understand that there’s a clock ticking over their heads and when it strikes the hour, all hell will break loose.

As it turns out, it’s the personal stuff that provides the key for the Pack to have at least a chance of surviving the upcoming battle.

The end? It’s satisfying. Overwhelming. Exhausting. All major questions are answered, but enough tantalizing threads remain to lead us forward.

If you want gripping suspense and characters you’ll never forget, this is the series for you.

WANT TO MEET THE AUTHORS OF THE BONDS OF BLOOD & SPIRIT SAGA?

On Saturday June 20th, Wendi Kelly and Deborah Dorchak will be at the Henderson Barnes & Noble at N. Stephanie (just south of the intersection of Stephanie and Sunset) from 1pm to 3 pm. Click HERE for directions/map.

WANT TO READ MY DETAILED INTERVIEW WITH WENDI AND DEBORAH?

Part I

Part II