Tuesday, August 30, 2011


The world is full of truths, common phrases that we hear throughout our lives that we never take to heart. Taking what we have in our lives for granted happens to be one of those truths, unfortunately. We never know what we have until the threat of it not being there sounds off like an alarm in our head forcing us to cling to it as a lifeline.

In Edge of Grace by Christa Allan, Caryn pushes her brother to arm's length and refuses to let him come closer because he announced that he's a homosexual. The tables turn quickly when her brother, David, is the target of an in-home attack, because of his sexuality. Caryn is forced to see her brother in the hospital - beaten, bruised, and drifting in and out of consciousness. The guilt overwhelms her. Now that the worst has happened can she continue to cut David out of her life because of his lifestyle?

It's truly sad that it's in our nature to take things in life for granted. I know I'm guilty of it. And while emergencies are never expected and are horrible to live through, to be the ever-optimist, they do force us to realize what we have may not last forever.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


"And, as I said goodbye I realized the person questioning his church attendance was the very person who didn't attend church herself."

Christa Allan - Edge of Grace

As I finished another chapter of this novel, this specific line made me wonder if judgement has become a sort of blaming system. Do we judge others so that we don't have to judge ourselves? And if we can lay the blame on others in our life, do we do it to make ourselves feel better?

In the book, Caryn does nothing to try to help her brother through this hard time. He's just come out as a homosexual man and needs his family there for him, Caryn specifically. But she refuses to look at herself as a mirror - reflecting the good and bad. She judges her brother yet, doesn't want to accept the blame for what she's putting her brother through.

Is this what judgment has come to? Judging others so we can avoid judging ourselves?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sexuality as a Choice

It's a controversial topic across the United States: is sexuality a choice or genetic? Edge of Grace, by Christa Allan, forces the reader to consider this question while watching a woman's family life fall apart around her.

When David tells his sister that he's gay, she shuts down. Caryn ignores her brother and acts quite selfish throughout the beginning of this ordeal. She doesn't want her brother to be gay, as if she has any say (or that her wants for David's sexuality matter). Caryn acts like her brother's homosexuality is the worst thing to happen to her - worse than her husband's death. She can't realize that he's the same person, with a new perspective on which gender he finds himself attracted to.

Is this a common occurrence everywhere? Do family members and friends really veer away from those close to them whose sexuality doesn't meet their standards? Do we get so caught up in the labels that we give people that we can't just accept them for who they are?

Love is love is love. And bonds should be stronger than the words that threaten to break them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Error Free Please?

Editors and authors both have a responsibility to make sure the novel they release is error-free. Or as close as it can be. I just began Edge of Grace by Christa Allan, and I'm not even through the first chapter. What's keeping me snagged so long? The repeated error throughout the entire chapter. 

A paragraph has been repeated at least five times -- and it makes no sense what-so-ever. What I thought would be a good controversial novel to read has already turned annoying. 

The plot line I like. Caryn's brother, David, calls her first thing on her Saturday morning cleaning spree to announce that he's gay. Caryn isn't exactly excited about this, in fact, she's falling toward rock bottom. With no one to turn to because her husband and mother are deceased, she's facing this one by herself. Hopefully, the help of a long time neighbor can set her down on the ground gently. 

I'm committed to finish the entire novel, but this major error is driving me crazy. How is a reader supposed to connect with the characters when the description of a birthday present (bubble bath) is repeated five times and has no relation to anything around it? I wish I could say something more positive about this book, especially so close to the beginning. But I'm disappointed already. Wouldn't you be?

Monday, August 22, 2011

After the Hurricane

By the time my Kindle read 93% finished, Denise Hildreth Jones had me in tears wishing that I had bought tissues at the store yesterday. Hurricanes in Paradise not only opened my heart, it had me reveling in the friendship I felt with these characters.

Each of the four women in the novel had a different outlook on life and a different scar that marked their hearts. The healing waters of Paradise Island took these women in and changed their perception of what life was, and how you survived it. I struggled with heart break and guilt with Laine. I felt my life being thrown into mass chaos with Riley. I hid from the demons that grew with each breath that Tamyra took. And I fell in love with life all over again with Winnie.

My face was tear-streaked and flushed, but my mouth spread into a smile with the final chapter of this fantastic book. I felt triumph wind through my veins. I had just climbed Mount Everest. I had taken the fear inside of me, Winnie, Laine, Tamyra, and Riley and faced it head on without a single backward glance over my shoulder. The healing waters came through the words on the page and washed over me as the tears fell, leaving behind a sense of peace and completion.


Hurricanes in Paradise on Amazon

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Healing Waters

Four women, who each have a scar from their past, attempt to vacate their memories by staying at Paradise Island in the Bahamas in Hurricanes in Paradise by Denise Hildreth Jones. Upon arrival, each of the women are told about the healing waters that the island possesses. And each woman denies the fact that the need any help.

Riley. A mother who survived a death sentence, but lost her husband during the fight.

Tamyra. A winner of a beauty pageant who fell in love with the football player. Now the doctor's tell her she doesn't have much time left.

Laine. (Not-so-very-nice) Author. She's on Paradise Island researching her new novel, but can't seem to get her mind off of the husband that she divorced.

Winnie. Sent to Paradise Island by her children so that she could enjoy the time away. She hasn't been on vacation since her husband Sam passed away, and she struggles with the memories the island holds.

Each of these women hold secrets, fears, and a shelf full of worries. Whether we, as readers, can connect with one of them, or all of them, this novel fights to hide the scars while the healing waters promise if we just open up to them - they can take the scars away.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Spelled Out

The end of Crossing the Bridge by Michael Baron (which I've discovered is a pen name) was happy, predictable, and a little bittersweet. I'm a tad bit disappointed that for three days I committed to this novel and at the end, you get exactly what you wanted. Which isn't always good.

The good thing about this novel was that I could really connect with the characters. What was going on between them and inside of them was something we all go through, something we all struggle with. And I was more than happy to hold Hugh's hand and drive with him to Lenox. I would have sat in the theater while Iris' production drove the crowd wild. My money could have been used to buy the chess book so that Hugh could reconnect with his father. I was completely ready to join sides with the characters in this novel.

The hopeless romantic inside of me was happy at the end. Everyone healed. Everyone let go. And everyone survived. And they all lived happily every after.

But the disappointment grew. Because not all things end with a cute smile and a lovely song full of inspiration. After a novel that forced the reader up and down emotionally, we hung on with a tight grip, our knuckles white. Then details fell into place and there was no question what would happen. The future of the characters beyond the pages was spelled out and perfect.


Crossing the Bridge on Amazon

Friday, August 19, 2011

Secrets of Skeletons

"It's anybody's guess what you'll discover, but the potential for discovery is always available." Crossing the Bridge - Michael Baron

It isn't easy bringing up that awkward conversation. Acknowledging the elephant in the room. In Baron's Crossing the Bridge, Hugh and Iris both take their time in allowing themselves to discuss Chase, the ghost that has been following them both around for the past ten years.

A brother and a boyfriend are not easily forgotten. An unexpected death can crush souls, especially when the heart is weighed down with "what ifs." While at the beach, Hugh breaks down and admits to Iris that he could have saved Chase. If only he wouldn't have left him alone at the bar, slurring words accompanied by beer in hand. Iris also breaks down and admits that she could have saved Chase too. If only she would have stopped him from going to the bar where he let himself become overly inebriated and then decided to drive himself home.

Feeling as if you could have changed the past is a hard obstacle to overcome. The idea of fate and destiny does nothing to alleviate the guilt that you feel, knowing in your chest that you could have changed it. It's a struggle to get through. A city with no map.

You, as a reader, can see that it wasn't either of their faults, but the characters don't know that. They don't know how to accept what happened without blaming themselves. And we know what it feels like. Baron takes us back there, the city without light, the words echoing around our skulls.

If only, if only.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tiptoeing the Line

The lines of morality and loyalty are skewed when it comes to the past lovers of close friends. For most of us, exes of our closest companions are off limits when it comes to dating. Hugh, the main character of Crossing the Bridge by Michael Baron, tiptoes this fine line with his brother's last girlfriend, Iris. When his brother, Chase, was still alive, Hugh knew that Iris and Chase had the kind of relationship that would last forever. But with Chase's death, their relationship was eternally severed.

Now, ten years later, Hugh and Iris reconnect as old friends. Hugh finds his romantic interest piqued by Iris' fun personality and loving nature. They find themselves spending more and more time together. And when Hugh and Iris share a sensuous kiss outside of a local bar, Hugh begins to wonder what it would be like to put down some roots. Until Iris insists that they remain friends.

As readers, we can connect with what Hugh is going through. He's falling for his younger brother's girlfriend. The last girlfriend that Chase ever had. The struggle to remain loyal to his brother, even in death, is respectable, but when does that line disappear? Is it wrong for Hugh to "chase" Iris? Do we, the reader, side with Hugh who is representing a forbidden love? Or do we side with Iris and Chase and realize that loyalty to a family member, even in death is the most important?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hiding in Your Own Shadow

Crossing the Bridge, by Michael Baron, is a novel of the story after the story. Hugh's brother Chase died ten years ago when he drove his car off of a bridge. Since then, Hugh has been hopping from city to city across the United States. Running away from everything that threatens to become important.

When his father has a medical emergency, Hugh goes home to face the truth. His family is drifting apart, he has nothing in his life worth having, and the woman he's in love with just so happens to be in town.

Chapter 3 
When I didn't comment on this, he added, "It had to do with a girl."
I nodded. "An explanation that works for just about anything."

This is a novel that brings the reader back to their self. Family life isn't always a clear blue sky. Love isn't always reciprocated. And things you run away from tend to hide in your own shadow, daring you to peek over your left shoulder.

Baron quickly sweeps you in with Hugh and makes you face the questions you pretend not to ask.

The Woman Beneath the Vampire

Hope. One word that sums up the end of Moon Dance, the first book in the Vampire for Hire series. Throughout the novel, Samantha struggles with her biggest secret, being a vampire, and the hurdles that she must overcome in order to save herself, a handsome werewolf, and most importantly her family.

Being a mother brings about a world of struggle all its own. Samantha does everything she can to ensure that she is the best mother possible. Everyone knows how much she cares about her son and daughter, but she is a vampire, and with that comes some danger for the people around her. Danny, her husband, recognizes these dangers and his feelings toward his wife change, dramatically. The most prominent change born out of fear. He fears his children are in mortal danger, at times he fears himself in danger, and refuses to sit back and allow his wife to lose control so that they can become her blood banks. (A little extreme - I know, but you can't trust a hungry vamp.) 

The reader connects with Samantha, gaining an inside look at obstacles she faces in her daily life. The first person narrative puts the reader in the front seat of the roller coaster, so they can see everything through their own eyes, even the terrifying free fall. This helps strengthen the bond between reader and main character. And Rain does it nicely. With the vampire label pushed aside to see the real woman underneath. By the end of the book, through the constant tug of hearts strings, Ran leaves her readers with a definite sense of hope, promising happiness for Samantha in the coming novels of the series. Not to mention, the love of a rather dashing werewolf.

Moon Dance On Amazon

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reality in a Fictitious World

Samantha Moon, the main character of Moon Dance and the Vampire for Hire Series. A snarky, sarcastic, wonderful, vampire mother. I admitted that I let the teenager inside of me pick this novel, but the adult that I am is the one who's connecting with Mrs. Moon.

Everyone has their own little quirks or experiences in their past that they don't want others to know about. We fear the embarrassment and the judgment that that knowledge might lead to. So we struggle to keep it a secret and hope that it doesn't escape into the freedom of the echoing air.

This is what the main character of Moon Dance faces. She's a vampire - not by choice. Her husband is deathly afraid of her. She has two kids and is always scared that as a mother she's failing because of her situation. The reality that comes from the fictitious world held in these pages is heart wrenching.

Readers can connect with Samantha Moon because of the whole picture she's a part of. We don't have to be a vampire to understand what it's like to have the person you love not love you back. Disguised as a vampire mystery novel, I began reading a book in which the main character really touched my heart. From here on out, never judge a book by it's title.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Succumbing to Vampires

Yes, I was one of those 16 year old girls who read all the Twilight books. I remember waiting on Breaking Dawn to be released and then going to the release party at my local Hastings in order to snag a copy.

Once again, I am giving in to the 16 year old inside of me and starting a novel about Vampires. I've just begun Moon Dance by J.R. Rain. It's the first book in the Vampire for Hire series and at chapter 3 I'm already enjoying it.

With Mrs. Moon, a seemingly normal mom who picks up her kids from school lathered in sun screen and donning a wide brimmed gardening hat, acting as the main character the novel promises to get straight to the point. Working as a private investigator, formally a Federal Agent (a six-year recent vampire), a Mr. Fulcrum meets his appointment time with Moon and lays out the job he wants her to do.

Chapter 2
"How exactly can I help you, Mr. Fulcrum?" I asked again.
"I need you to find someone."
"The man who shot me," he said. "Five times."

With a vampire as the main character uncovering other people's secrets and Mr. Fulcrum who can be shot five times and live... I have succumbed to the teenager inside of me.

A Novel Full of Gypsies

As I've traveled from India to England and back to India in the past five hours, I realized that Patricia Watters is not only spinning a tale of lies, deceit, and (to be expected from a romance novel) love. Watters delicately proves through Damon and Eliza(beth) that what you think is best with your mind isn't what your heart will ultimately lead you to.

It connects with the age old saying, the grass is always greener on the other side. If I could just reach goal A, then I could finally be satisfied. When, to reference another cliche, if I would just stop and smell the roses, then I would discover that what I have is exactly what I want.

"Her Master's Touch" not only shattered my usually dependable radar for predicting what will happen by the final word of a novel, but spun me around so many times that I began doubting everything I believed. The characters in this novel did fit the usual archetype of a romance novel character, yet, they broke the molds with their realness. The minute details set you up to be deceived with the best part being that you end up liking it.

But then again, with a novel full of gypsies, what the eye takes in cannot (always) be trusted.


Her Master's Touch On Amazon

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Not Who They Seem

The beginning prologue and first chapter of "Her Master's Touch" by Patricia Watters sets up much to be desired from this racy novel. Two main characters, each trying to obtain their own definition of fortune, set up a ploy to use the other as nothing but a means to an end.

Enter Damon, living in India after being banished from England he wants nothing more than to be able to return. That means one thing. Having something to bargain with so the Queen will have no choice but to invite him back to his home country with open arms. Buying jewels, Damon's hobby, leads him to be in possession of a stone with a history. The Black Opal named The Burning of Troy. With this much sought after stone in his hands, he is almost prepared to return to England, the trials of his past - a mere memory.

Enter Eliza, an Englishwoman turned Gypsy who wants to keep it that way. Yet, to earn her honor after being deemed a half-breed (half-gypsy and half-English) she must do something for the tribe. Steal the opal and return it to its rightful owners, the gypsies. She begins her mission by weaving a delicate cloth of events that unfold rather quickly and she finds herself traveling with Damon to his home. The home that used to be hers. All she has to do is keep the memories at bay, steal the opal, and disappear. Simple enough right?

Beginning of Chapter 2 and neither one of these characters are who they seem to be to each other. Yet, even knowing that as the reader - we still question who they really are? Watters doesn't let us in on why they hide their true identities, motives floating like auras in the background. Why is Damon banished? What are the memories that Eliza struggles with and why has her mind chosen to block some of them out? Watters has my interest piqued as I begin to turn the pages more swiftly.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Unanswered Questions

Although for the past 35 hours or so, I've been completely consumed with the latest read, Late Rain by Lynn Kostoff, the ending was a complete disappointment. I feel like I climbed a mountain only to realize that at the peak it was a virtual simulation that left me unsatisfying-ly still on the ground, the dust climbing my feet. Perhaps, even asking myself why I began climbing the words in the first place.

The best thing about this novel was the language. The quotes that I saved from this novel were wonderful and are great additions to my small (but quickly growing) list. The plot line was fantastic and well planned. It dared the reader to guess what the next page would hold. Up until the last two chapters. Not only were they a bit scarce on information to what actually happened to the characters, they left me questioning the entire novel. Yes, the main plot line that Kostoff wrote about had all the loose ends tied in multiple knots. No leaks there, just like Croy's story to the police. However, I dare pass judgment on the ending by asking: Did Kostoff run out of things to say by chapter sixty-eight? I have been going over the end trying to piece together what happened to Jack Carson exactly. Also, where did Anne disappear to? Has Ben accepted his role as patrol and let go of the demons his wife's death brought to life?

I could go on further asking these questions and fumbling for any sort of explanation that would haphazardly resemble an answer. I don't regret reading the novel, it was worth it. But the salty, bitter, metallic taste that forms in my mouth after a disappointing read feels like it's stuck to my taste buds.


Late Rain on Amazon

Times When Solemn

Still making my way through Late Rain by Lynn Kostoff. This book has its claws underneath my skin and refuses to let go until I've reached the last page. And its claws are sharp. I'm afraid the scratches will leave their scars behind.

The story centers around three people, common with the last book I read, Corrine, Ben, and Jake. Corrine sets a murder in motion and it's all fighting tooth and red-polished nails from there. From the lovely wording to the spine-tingling quotes, Kostoff's writing style shines in this gruesome thriller. When everyone becomes a murderer through various connections, the reader has no choice but to accept the consequences as motive and reason become entangled. Inseparable.

As Kostoff says, "There were times you were expected to be strong. Times when you were supposed to give in to grief and break down. Times when you were supposed to be upbeat. Times when solemn. Times that called for a collection or reactions, a shading of grief and loss."

Little do we know, Kostoff was talking to us, the reader. The force with which Kostoff injects the meaning of these words into the reader demands the elicit reactions that the author predicts, and promises.

Friday, August 12, 2011

With Blunt Force

Have just started Late Rain by Lynn Kostoff and all I can say is "Goodness." Not the type of goodness that has you smiling and wondering where the bad stuff starts, but the type that has you substituting the word "goodness" for other not-as-pretty words. Not to mention, reading certain parts out loud to make sure I'm not misreading any of these well crafted conversations.

It isn't just the fact that Kostoff is outrageously blunt. But it's the way he's blunt that has me so enticed.

Chapter 12:
"This impediment, what will be necessary to remove it? In short, how badly do you want this person hurt and for how long?"
"Six feet and forever," Corrine said.

Next chapter? Oh, yes please.


Pam Hillman kept me up until 2:25 this morning reading her first novel, Stealing Jake. It was a delightful book that filled me with worry that the main characters wouldn't survive. And when a main character deserves a happy ending, you really want them to have it.

In this novel, Hillman made it a point to form a connection between the reader and each of the main characters that appeared in the web of plot lines. Livy, a pick-pocket from Chicago, ran from her past to the small town of Chestnut, Illinois. She kept her past a secret from everyone almost everyone around her, until it comes back to stake its claim and ruin her new life as a Orphanage director. We all have a past, and whether we choose to run from it or not, there are often more than a few things we're not proud of. This past brings Livy to life for the readers, allowing them to compare their past to hers.

Jake, a sheriff deputy, is doing all he can for his family. Ever since a mining accident killed his father, it's up to him to take care of the family and see to it that they survive. Every family has a member like this - the one that is responsible, or who makes it their responsibility, to ensure the family stays together. Whether or not the reader has that role in their own family, the connection tugs at more than one heart string. The reader finds him/her self struggling to make sure that Jake makes the right decisions for his family.

Luke, a little boy caught in Chicago and sold to the highest bidder to work in a sewing factory, escapes his fate but lives on the streets of Chestnut so he can try to save his brother, Mark, from the evils of the factory life. He's so scared to trust anyone that it's a struggle to find help in the city of Chestnut. All he has to do is ask, and he will have a warm bed and delicious meal. His past experience with trusting people ensures that he can't take this chance if he wants to save Mark. Trust is a huge part of any person's life, without trust any kind of relationship is doomed to fail. The reader can connect to Luke because of their own experiences with trusting someone who turns out to be less than they seemed.

This novel has many avenues in which the reader can draw comparisons into their own lives. It leaves them questioning if, in the character's shoes, they would make the same decisions? Do we dare accept our past and move into the future, knowing that their could be judgement? Do we gamble with the responsibility we hold in our family life? And do we learn to be open and trust those around us? Further so, if we do, then how?


Stealing Jake on Amazon

Thursday, August 11, 2011

New Nook Released

It was brought to my attention today that Barnes and Noble has come out with a new and improved Nook in order to compete with Kindle. It it supposed to be lighter, faster at loading the electronic ink, have a touch screen, a battery life of 2 months, and have access to over one million books. WOW.

This is going to be a really tough competitor for the Kindle. For people who haven't invested in an e-reader yet, this one will be the one to get! (I'd get it if I didn't already have a Kindle) But in my opinion, I've had my Kindle since February and I absolutely love it. I've had no problems with it, at all. The battery lasts a month, the loading isn't slow by any means, and books that one can access is more than enough.

I feel that Amazon got it right the first time, unlike the Nook. While the Kindle has been enhancing their already-great attributes, the Nook has been re-vamping theirs in order to be better than the Kindle. I'd have to say, let's wait and see what Amazon comes out with in the Kindle 4 before we all become nook-fiends. Then we'll really have a competition. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Running From the Past

I can't help but see a strong connection between the main character of the book I'm reading now, to the main character of the book I finished yesterday. Nellie (Beyond All Price) and Livy (Stealing Jake) are both women who run away from things, especially their past.

Nellie ran away from her life as a wife of a gambler and into the army in order to give meaning to her life. Livy runs from her past in Chicago that was full of pick-pocketing and living on the streets. She begins to work at an Orphanage to give abandoned children an option other than the streets. An option that she wasn't given as a young girl. Both women try to attain meaning for their lives by helping others but also try to hide their past from the people in their "new" lives.

The connection is astounding and forces the reader to wonder about the past of the people in their own lives. Do we all run away from unsavory events in our lives? And if we do, then what are we running toward?

A Squirrel Reality

I get so absorbed in the books I'm reading, it's as if I'm in a completely different world! This morning, outside on the back porch with my Kindle (and a cup of coffee, of course), a squirrel climbed down the side of the house with his little paws scratching and caused me to leap, literally, out of my chair. The disturbance brought me back to reality in a heartbeat, tearing me away from the coal mining days and the love story blooming in Chestnut, Illinois. Pam Hillman obviously has me more than hooked me with her novel, Stealing Jake.

Does this happen to every reader? Is becoming lost in the words on the page (or screen, in some cases) a sign that the book you're reading is indeed a good one?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The First Cup

Hello there readers!

I just finished a fantastic book today entitled "Beyond All Price" by Carolyn Poling Schriber. Taking the view of Nellie Chase, a real life Civil War nurse, Schriber follows Nellie's life in the military during the war that wracked our beloved country. I fell in love with Nellie, almost as if she was serving me beef tea while I laid ill in a make shift military hospital.

This novel does more than touch your heart, it warms your soul and each breath you take. It exemplifies a life that was lived in order to make the world a better place for all. At the end of the book, Schriber explains that Nellie and her husband are buried in a cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky. What I wouldn't give to see the monument they erected in remembrance of her!

How far is it to Louisville!?

Beyond All Price on Amazon