Sunday, March 29, 2015

Featured Book: The Last Exit by Darlene Cox

About the book:
When children commit crimes, it is often the families who pay the highest price. Most parents wish the best for their children when they are born. That's what being a parent is all about. Unfortunately, that isn't always how things turn out. The lives of three families will forever be changed when a young teacher is found dead at a popular lakeside resort near the small town of Galvin, Texas. It was nearing the end of the school year for the senior class of Galvin High School; Senior Sneak was being held at Lake Winona on a sunny day in June. What started as a perfect day turned ugly when the battered body of one of the female chaperones was found dead in the woods abutting the lake. Lying beside her on the ground was Carl Marshall, Jr. ("Junior"), his body covered in her blood. Despite the absence of clear and convincing evidence that he was guilty of the crime, Junior was immediately taken into custody and charged with Homicide in the First Degree. No further investigation was conducted. Once the state had Junior in its sights, the game was over. Texas justice moved quickly. Junior was a minor child, barely seventeen years of age when a Mason County jury sentenced him to die. After fifteen years of appeals, all of which were rejected, his last chance to escape death by electrocution is commutation of his sentence to life imprisonment. Who will pay the highest price as this young man faces the last exit?

About the author:

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

2015 Popsugar Reading Challenge: February Update

Here's my challenge update for February.

If you don't remember Becca from I'm Lost in Books convinced me to at least work on the 2015 Popsugar Reading Challenge even if I don't finish it. So, here is my list so far.

A book with more than 500 pages
A classic romance
A book that became a movie
A book published this year
A book with a number in the title
A book written by someone under 30
✓A book with nonhuman characters (Flora & Ulysses - Ulysses is a squirrel)
A funny book
✓A book by a female author (Something Borrowed, Someone Dead by M.C. Beaton)
✓A mystery or thriller (The Lost Island)
✓A book with a one-word title (Screwed)
✓A book of short stories (More About Paddington)
✓A book set in a different country (Lost in London)
A nonfiction book
A popular author's first book
✓A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet (The Kill Order)
A book a friend recommended
A Pulitzer Prize winning book
A book based on a true story
A book at the bottom of your to-read list
A book your mom loves
A book that scares you
A book more than 100 years old
✓A book based entirely on its cover (Greenglass House)
A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't
A memoir
A book you can finish in a day
A book with antonyms in the title
✓A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit (Night Train to Memphis)
A book that came out the year you were born
A book with bad reviews
A trilogy
✓A book from your childhood (Baby-sitters on Board!)
A book with a love triangle
✓A book set in the future (The Eye of Minds)
A book set in high school
A book with a color in the title
A book that made you cry
A book with magic
✓A graphic novel (House of Odd)
✓A book by an author you've never read before (Jahnna N. Malcolm)
✓A book you own but have never read (The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict)
✓A book that takes place in your hometown (Hello, Mallory since it's a small town in Connecticut - as close as I can get)
A book that was originally written in a different language
A book set during Christmas
A book written by an author with your same initials
A play
A banned book
A book based on or turned into a TV show
A book you started but never finished

Featured Book: Ask Bob by Peter Gethers

About the book:
A wise, witty, sometimes heartbreaking love story about a pet doctor who discovers that the best relationships are often the most surprising 

Dr. Robert Heller is one of New York City’s leading veterinarians, and his “Ask Dr. Bob” advice column is hugely popular among pet-lovers. Yet Dr. Bob understands animals a lot better than people, and he definitely could use some advice of his own—especially when it comes to his family. His father is angry and controlling, his mother is nearly invisible, and his brother seems bent on destroying not just his own life but the lives of everyone around him. As for Bob’s wife, Anna, she is all but perfect, assuming one can ignore her own colorful but deeply dysfunctional clan. And then, just when Bob thinks he’s figured out what it takes to thrive in the human world as comfortably as he does among cats, dogs, and hamsters, tragedy strikes. How can he go on living when he is suddenly, soul-killingly alone? 

In previous books, Peter Gethers has written charming true tales about what a man can learn from a beloved cat. Now he ventures into new territory with a funny, touching novel about a pet doctor who finds out what it means to be human, and what a family must do to truly become a family. Full of unforgettable characters, Ask Bob will remind everyone that sometimes we need a lot more than love to make the world go around—but that love is an awfully good place to start.

About the author:

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: Legally Tied by Chelsea Dorsette

**Mature Content Warning** Recommended for ages 17+ due to language and sexual content. 

When prosecuting attorney Nick Olson meets interior designer Lyndsay Welch, both of their lives are turned upside down in ways they would never have imagined. 

Not long after Lyndsay is introduced to sex parties and erotic lingerie shops by her best friend, she finally submits to her sexual desires for Nick which she had been vehemently trying to deny since they met. 

While being breathlessly swept away by this handsome and powerful attorney, little did Lyndsay know, her life would soon be turned upside down by a senseless murder, a violent kidnapping, a tragic death, and a devastating break up. 

Unable to face any more grief, Lyndsay moves to the quiet little seaside town of Bristol, Rhode Island to get a fresh start. Just as things are starting to finally quiet down, an unexpected visit from someone in her past comes knocking at her door, changing the course of her life...forever

Received for review.

This was really one of the more depressing "erotica" novels that I've ever read.  While it certainly was saturated with sex it also had some frankly bizarre moments with a kidnapping and beating.  It was just so strange.  Erotica is supposed to be light and fun and this just dragged me down.

What brought this from three stars to two though was the pregnancy issue.  

Spoiler Alert!

The couple breaks up because the woman says she does not want children - for some complicated reason due to losing her mother at an early age.  Then the guy decides to get back together with her anyway, resigning himself to never having children only to discover that, oh my god, the girl has changed her mind and is now pregnant.  Her pregnancy was her wedding "gift" to the guy.  Um, yeah.  The whole thing is just so screwed up I was ready to throw the damn book against a wall.  So, like every other author (and 99.9% of women), the author just had to ruin everything by having the girl change her mind about children.  It would have been infinitely better had the story just played out without the pregnancy.  It was just that depressing.  It was seriously just as disappointing to read about as when you saw Diane Keaton hook up with Jack Nicholson instead of Keanu Reeves in Something's Gotta Give.  I really found myself hoping that I had fallen asleep and that the horrible plot twist had never happened.

Overall, if you want standard chick lit mixed with lots of sex then this is for you.  If you're looking for actual erotica then you may want to look elsewhere.  I really cannot recommend this at all.

★★☆☆☆ = Just Okay

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Review: Rules for Riders by Natalie Scott

Rules for Riders is a fast and furious coming of age novel set in the world of equestrian riding. After a near fatal riding accident, Bebe Barkley is banned from riding and sent off to boarding school. There, she meets her roommate and fellow equestrian rider, Finn Foxley. The girls devise a scheme to get themselves kicked out of boarding school in order to return to the world that they love. Once back on the circuit, former friends become deadly rivals. 

Enter Bebe's handsome trainer, Billy O'Reilly who will reinforce seven rules for riders in order for her to successfully compete. Through a series of tragic events, both girls are forced to abandon their dreams of Olympic gold. Bebe ventures down a dark road of self-destruction as she breaks every rule Billy taught her, only to be forced to relearn them in order to reclaim her life. Rules For Riders is a tale of lost dreams and the struggle to create new ones.

Received for review.

I started this thinking it was going to be a rather upbeat book about a girl who loved horses but that was not the case.  Bebe does not love horses.  She loves the thrill of riding but not the horses themselves.  She just likes the adrenaline rush, which she could get from doing anything else.

The chapters are fairly short - just a few pages at most - which make for nice pausing points, but they also make for extremely choppy reading.  There are seriously 75 chapters in just over two hundred pages.  It's a bit much.

The characters are annoying at best and vile at worst and remind me of the nasty characters in Gossip Girl.  It's a world of money, luxury, and beautiful people feeling sorry for themselves and hurting others.

Overall, if you enjoy reading about obnoxious people a la Gossip Girl you will thoroughly enjoy this.  If not, then give it a pass as you will find it more than a bit frustrating.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: Plus One by Christopher Noxon

“Plus One is a smart and funny novel about Hollywood, but where it truly shines is in Noxon's stunning and painfully accurate depiction of the complex rhythms and growing pains of a marriage.” — Jonathan Tropper, author of This Is Where I Leave You and One Last Thing Before I Go "

Well observed, honest, and laugh-out-loud funny, Plus One tells a story from the inside of show business about being on the outside."— Matthew Weiner, creator of Mad Men

Christopher Noxon's debut novel Plus One is a comedic take on bread-winning women and caretaking men in contemporary Los Angeles. Alex Sherman-Zicklin is a mid-level marketing executive whose wife's fourteenth attempt at a TV pilot is produced, ordered to series, and awarded an Emmy. Overnight, she's sucked into a mad show-business vortex and he's tasked with managing their new high-profile Hollywood lifestyle. He falls in with a posse of Plus Ones, men who are married to women whose success, income, and public recognition far surpasses their own. What will it take for him to regain the foreground in his own life? 

Christopher Noxon is an accomplished journalist who has written for such publications as the New Yorker, Details, Los Angeles Magazine, Salon, and the New York Times Magazine; his first book, Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-Up (Crown), earned him interviews on such shows as the Colbert Report and Good Morning America and generated features in USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and Talk of the Nation; Ira Glass of This American Life called the book "an eye-opener." Noxon happens to be married to a top TV writer/producer and does the school chauffeuring for their three children, so he knows whereof he speaks regarding Plus Ones. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Received for review.

Very, very rarely do I come across a book that makes me laugh so hard that my Starbucks comes out my nose but this managed it.  Once scene involving a medical procedure had me laughing so hard I actually had tears flowing down my face.  Seriously, it was that funny.

From the very first page you can't help but love Alex.  He's such a great character.  He's just so incredibly real and fun and someone you'd actually like to know in real life.  He actually reminded me a bit of Marshall on How I Met Your Mother as played by Jason Segel.  Crazy stuff just seems to happen to Alex on a regular basis and you just enjoy seeing how he's going to resolve the latest situation.

This is the guy equivalent of Bridget Jones's Diary.  It was seriously that good.  I want another book by the author and I want it now!  I definitely highly recommend this pure awesomeness!

★★★★★ = Loved It

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Author Interview: Judith Haimes and NanC Hensley authors of The Hand of Karma

Judith Haimes and NanC Hensley, authors of The Hand of Karma, stopped by for an interview.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Despite an eleven year age gap, my sister NanC and I are best friends and always have been. We have shared all of the ups and downs that families experience and supported each other through the good and the bad.

What do you do when you're not writing?

When we're not writing, NanC and I are involved in the entertainment industry. NanC produces Rock N Roll shows, and I work more behind the scenes. Nanc is a licensed hypnotherapist and enjoys helping her patients overcome their adversities. We both love to travel, and over many years have been involved in police work as professional psychics.

When did your first start writing?

I published my first article in Fate Magazine when I was sixteen years old, and have been writing ever since. I was a columnist for Creators Syndicate on Recovering from Grief. NanC has been writing for most of her life.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

For me, it is Margaret Mitchell. She paints vivid pictures with words. NanC has so many favorites, to name one would be like picking a favorite child.

What inspired you to write this particular book?

We began writing Hand of Karma after NanC received the news that she had stage 3 breast cancer. The women in our family are very strong, but we needed a diversion from concentrating on the negative aspects of cancer. We decided to write a book based on what we know. The extensive work we did with several police agencies gave us a wealth of source material.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

My favorite part of the book is the ending because it shows the reality of karma. Everything you do comes back on you one way or the other, for good or ill.

What is best writing advice you can give?

Don't give up your dream or the passion to write. Sometimes the hardest part is writing that first rough draft. Focus on getting your ideas on paper. Write from your heart and use your past experiences.

Is there anything else you'd like your readers to know about the book?

We hope that you'll enjoy reading this book as much as we enjoyed writing it. Hand of Karma is a fast read; you can pick it up at the airport in New York and be finished by the time you land in California. However, it also makes you think twice about how your actions ripple out into the world, and how those ripples will find their way back to you.

About the book:

“The Hand Of Karma”  a thriller written by sisters NanC Hensley and Judith Haimes was an idea born from a devastating life event.  Hensley had just found out she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer, when she broke the news to her sister, the pair decided to write as a form of therapy.  Started during Hensley’s chemotherapy sessions, under the pen name “Haimes Hensley”, the two sisters and best friends journeyed through the ordeal of cancer together and created a serial killer by proxy thriller that has left readers begging for more.

The book has been hailed as a “must read” and “hard to put down” by readers and critics alike.  The story takes readers through the skillful manipulation of a psychotic man by a brilliant and emotionally warped woman. Allison Rogers, a psychic, picks up clues through contact with a place where one of his crimes was committed, but she is unable to convince the unbelieving police that her vision represents real events. Angered by the refusal of the police investigators to accept what she tries to tell them about the killer, she resolves to put the crime out of her mind and concentrate on her project of exposing false psychics who prey on gullible people eager for easy answers to their problems. But that project crosses the killer's trail, and Allison is caught up in a web of events that make her a target of the killer.

About the authors:

Judith Haimes worked with law enforcement as a consultant. She is a member of the National Society of Arts and Letters, and the national writer's organization--Sisters in Crime. She was a syndicated columnist and is the subject of the book, Judith. She resides in Clearwater, Florida with her husband.

Nan C Hensley is a member of Sisters in Crime--a national writer's organization, worked as a consultant with law enforcement, and has been aClinical Hypnotherapist since 1992. She has published numerous articles on the topic of metaphysics. She currently lives in Pinellas County, Florida.

Review: Five Days by Matt Micros

After a particularly frustrating day at work, high school math teacher, Mike Postman's afternoon walk along the Connecticut shoreline is interrupted by the screams of a boy who has fallen in off the pier and can't swim. Mike dives into the cold waters, saving the boy, but drowning himself in the process. And yet, because of the heroic way he died, he is given the opportunity to go back and re-live any five days of his life. They can be days he enjoyed and wants to re-experience, or days in which he had regrets and wants to make amends. The days he chooses, end up not being just days that impacted his life, but also days that had an impact on history. Reminding us where we were during events both inspiring and tragic, Five Days forces you to ask yourself, "Which days would you choose?"

Received for review.

This was an incredibly deep and touching book and certainly very thought provoking.  The main character's choice of days (including 9/11) was genuinely interesting and made me think of which days I would choose if given the chance.

This beautifully written book is full of emotion and heart and alternately leaves you smiling and brings you to tears.  It's truly a must read and I definitely highly recommend it.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson

Fiction. Mystery. Ben Jones, the protagonist of James Anderson's haunting debut novel, THE NEVER-OPEN DESERT DINER (Caravel Books, 2015), is on the verge of losing his small trucking company. A single, thirty-eight-year-old truck driver, Ben's route takes him back and forth across one of the most desolate and beautiful regions of the Utah desert. The orphan son of a Native American father and a Jewish social worker, Ben is drawn into a love affair with a mysterious woman, Claire, who plays a cello in the model home of an abandoned housing development in the desert. Her appearance, seemingly out of nowhere, reignites a decades-old tragedy at a roadside café referred to by the locals as The Never-Open Desert Diner. The owner of the diner, Walt Butterfield, is an embittered and solitary old man who refuses to yield to change after his wife's death.

ARC received for review.

I wasn't sure at first what to expect of this novel.  I was, frankly, expecting a rather run of the mill fluffy cozy mystery with a male main character instead of the usual female but this was so much more.

There is a mystery component, and certainly more than bit of romance, but there's also a deep, quite beautiful story of a man's struggle in life.  You really feel for Ben as he worries about his livelihood and future.  There's just something about him and the way he is written that makes you really connect with him and genuinely care about him.

Overall this was a very well written book full of heartbreak and struggle.  It's not happy, upbeat, or light but it's definitely an engrossing and fulfilling read and I certainly recommend it.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

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