Book 184: STILETTO 911 Review

There are numerous self-help books on everything from dieting to becoming a better person, parent, or friend, etc. There are even books written about becoming more successful in what you may want to achieve, but I wager none of them are as a delightful as Stiletto 911: The Makeover Manifesto of a Career Woman by Vivian Valtas Schmidt and Sue Publicover.


No, this makeover has nothing to do with cosmetics. This is the ultimate DIY makeover, a makeover of self. The authors provide great hints and cues for starting anew to achieve the goals you have set. These goals are provided in neat little footnote boxes accompanied by a shadowed stiletto shoe at the end of each chapter. The focal point of each chapter is the life and makeover of Morgan Demarest. Morgan is a 23-year-old that has been spoiled by life. She left her parents and moved in with her artist lover, Pavlo. Her parents provided for her every need and now Pavlo is doing the same thing by supplementing her income with his credit cards. Morgan is a woman that gets her fulfillment from retail therapy. She has a job but she still isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life. Needless to say she is not so pleasantly surprised when she returns “home” one day to endure a rant from Pavlo because she is focusing more on her shopping finds than him. This becomes the turning point in Morgan’s life, especially when her BFF is too busy with a new paramour to allow her to spend the night. She decides to turn to her father, only to find out that he has sold his apartment and moved out more than two months ago. 




As Morgan views and reviews her life and attempts to decide where to go, she ponders the question of what is she passionate about, what drives her. In this modern day pseudo-fairy tale, there is a fairy godmother, Divinity, to assist Morgan in her quest. Others that provide input and guidance include a mentor in the form of Elizabeth Tanner-Freitag, a small business owner, and a new love interest, Sam Baxter. 


The story doesn’t exactly end with a happy ever after but a hopeful ever after, which is much better. The “footnotes” provide a spotlight on each chapter’s message and provide the reader with questions to aid in a personal makeover quest. As I previously mentioned, I loved the idea of the chapter footnotes and highlights, such as don’t dwell on the past but always learn from it or happiness doesn’t come from others but from within . . . trite perhaps but very apropos. The authors have done an excellent job in providing guidelines for change and becoming a self-mentor in order to succeed. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book but I can say that I actually enjoyed reading it and appreciated the helpful hints throughout. Look for Stiletto 911: The Makeover Manifesto for a Career Woman on its release date of 09/18/2011. Until then you can check out www.stiletto911.com for tons of helpful thoughts and suggestions in starting work on the ultimate DIY makeover . . . you!


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Book 183: UNDER THE DOG STAR Review

Under the Dog Star by Sandra Parshall takes the sultry dog days of summer and adds in a healthy dose of intrigue around missing dogs, a pack of feral dogs, rumors about dog fights, and a wicked killing. The action takes place in rural Virginia and the mysteries are investigated by veterinarian, Dr. Rachel Goddard, and her significant other, Deputy Sheriff Tom Bridger.


The veterinary clinic has a wall filled with pictures and notices of missing dogs. There are numerous sightings of a pack of feral dogs that are attacking livestock. Now a local doctor, the owner of the local hospital, has been killed and the killing appears to have been committed by an animal, possibly a dog. It doesn’t help matters any that Rachel and her assistant, Holly Turner, are trying to rescue the “feral” dogs. During these hot and sultry dog days of summer, residents are fed up. Their fire is fueled by the notion that the pack of dogs attacked and killed Dr. Hall. Dr. Hall’s eldest son, Ethan Hall wants results and he’s decided those results include hunting and killing the feral dogs. But as Rachel and Holly begin to trap these dogs, they come to realize the dogs aren’t necessarily feral but starving. They’ve attacked local livestock in order to feed, nothing more. But what’s behind the missing dogs and is it possible that the killing of Dr. Hall was actually murder? Was the good doctor killed by an angry ex-coworker or unhappy patient or patient’s family member? Is there a link between the murder of Dr. Hall and the rumored dog fights? Rachel and Tom do their best to learn the answers to these questions while maintaining personal safety and building their relationship.


There’s a lot of drama as well as mystery in Under the Dog Star. Rachel gets involved in trying to salvage the lives of the adopted children of Dr. and Mrs. Hall, while racing to beat the clock and rescue the wild dogs before they are hunted down. Under the Dog Star is a quick-read mystery filled with interesting characters and tons of action. Look for Under the Dog Star to be released on 09/06/2011 by Poisoned Pen Press.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 182: THE STRANGER YOU SEEK Review

Take the city of Atlanta, mix in a serial murderer with an Asian-American private investigator who’s an alcoholic and former FBI agent that was adopted as a child by a white-bread Southern family and what do you get? You get Keye Street as the main character in the new suspense thriller The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams.


To say that Keye is not your typical Southerner is a bit of an understatement, at least if you base it on physical appearance. In actuality Keye is Southern to the core in so many ways and in others is quite rebellious . . . which is probably a Southern thing in and of itself. She has disappointed her mother because she isn’t married and providing grandchildren, which is possibly a Southern thing (or perhaps just a Mother thing). Keye also feels she’s has disappointed her family by being asked to leave the FBI due to her alcoholism, winding up divorced (definitely a good thing but disappointing still), and not living up to her true potential by becoming a private detective. But Keye is quite good at what she does and she has several true friends that she can depend on, including Atlanta police department homicide detective Lieutenant Aaron Rauser. Keye spends her time working for law offices and bail bond companies until she is pulled into “consulting” with Rauser on a serial murder case. The big question is can she provide the profile necessary to help in this investigation? Does she still have the necessary focus to help or will she be a hindrance? When Keye’s involvement is made public, the question soon becomes can she help the investigation before she becomes a victim?


The Stranger You Seek is a great suspense thriller that kept me on tenterhooks until the very end. I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of subtle humor and laugh-out loud moments with the more serious, investigative scenarios. Ms. Williams’ descriptions of Atlanta and its various neighborhoods made me nostalgic (I lived in Atlanta for 18 years and miss it daily). This was a book that I simply had to read cover-to-cover without putting it down. It grabbed hold and didn’t let go until the last page. If you enjoy excellent writing and the suspense thriller genre then run out and pre-order The Stranger You Seek today, release date is 08/30/2011. And when you finish reading it don’t despair, there’s more Keye Street coming; look for Stranger in the Room in Fall 2012 and Don’t Talk to Strangers in Fall 2013. I’ve added both titles to my “got to have it” list . . . can you tell I liked this book?


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley and ShelfAwareness Pro. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 181: CALL ME PRINCESS Review

A brutal rape and beating, online dating and a criminal investigation, these are the primary components in Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel. Although this story doesn’t provide extreme graphic descriptions of the rape, it does start with a graphic description of the beating. This was just a bit off-putting but it does set the tone for the story. All at once we’re forced to view a situation that puts us off balance while immediately becoming sympathetic with the victim and despising the perpetrator. We’re brought back to an even keel when introduced to police inspector Louise Rick. Louise is called out to investigate and feels for the victim as she walks her through the initial interviews and physical examinations. Louise continues her investigation and quickly realizes that this is a serial rapist finding his victims online. Regrettably the next victim is murdered before the rapist can be caught. 


While Louise battles for her victim and pursues her investigation she must also deal with co-workers, family, friends and her live-in significant other. Louise is also concerned for the safety of her best friend Camilla because she’s made a foray into the world of online dating and is meeting her new “friend” at her home. Camilla is a journalist familiar with the hazards of online dating but feels she’s savvy enough to know when someone is trying to take advantage. As the police continue their investigation they realize that the only way to catch the rapist is perhaps to catch him online using Louise as bait. 


All of the characters, dialogue and scenes in Call Me Princess seem quite realistic and credible. The investigatory process and politics were actually quite interesting to read about. Ms. Blaedel starts the story off with a jolt and continues with a high-energy criminal investigation. Call Me Princess is a good suspense read with lots of intrigue and heartfelt emotion.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

   
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Book 180: MERCY COME MORNING Review

Imagine growing up as an only child, never really knowing your father and having an older mother with an undiagnosed mental illness. Fast forward a few years and your mother is beginning to show signs of Alzheimer’s and you’re in college. You do the best that you can but as the disease progresses and your studies continue you realize you can’t do it by yourself and you don’t want to for much longer. Fast forward a few more years and now your mom has congestive heart disease and is dying. You haven’t visited in a few years but now you have to go for one last visit. This is the premise of Mercy Come Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren.


Krista Mueller is now in her late thirties and a college history professor. She has left all that is familiar from New Mexico behind, including her mother, as she tries to make a life for herself in Colorado. She’s comfortable with her life until she receives the phone call stating that her mother is dying. Krista realizes that there are unresolved emotions with regard to her mother. She felt that her mother never loved her and left her alone to fend for herself and was hypercritical of her with respect to her dancing skills. The last thing Krista wants to do is return to New Mexico but she knows that she must. 


As Krista tries to resolve her feelings about her mother, she must also confront her feelings about Dr. Dane McConnell. Dane is a childhood friend, her first true love and the director of the nursing home that cares for her mother. She also has a surrogate mother in Elena, an old family friend. Krista is someone trying to do the right thing, initially for all the wrong reasons. But as time progresses she realizes that her mother didn’t have an easy life and that she tried to do the best she could. 


I found most of the characters realistic in their actions if not somewhat flat. Krista comes across initially as a childish and somewhat selfish woman. It’s hard to imagine someone in their late thirties being so self-absorbed and spoiled. I also found it somewhat unrealistic to expect that the joy of holiday celebrations is the impetus to get Krista to accept her mother as is and begin to “heal her heart.” This seemed a little trite and overly simplistic in my opinion. Mercy Come Morning seems to ultimately be about second chances and acceptance. Krista learns to accept and love her mother with all of her faults. Krista also learns to accept her own personal limitations and the knowledge that she cannot control everything and everyone. The ending was a bit trite but overall this is a decent story about self-discovery, self-acceptance and family . . . especially the necessity to accept our family members as is.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from WaterBrook Multnomah (Blogging For Books). I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Early Weekend Ramblings

I’m happy to report that the recent reading and writing block have passed. Of course the blocks could have been due to a series of seriously severe migraine headaches. Thankfully the headaches appear to be diminishing in severity. Now that school has begun and I’ve finished helping my niece and nephew prepare, I can also relax from the recent back-to-school shopping frenzy. Now on to the fun stuff…reading updates.


I’ve just finished reading Mercy Come Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren and Call Me Princess by Sarah Blaedel. Reviews for both books will be posting soon. I’m currently reading Reign of the Nightmare Prince by Mike Phillips and The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams (to be released on 08/30/11). I hope to have these completed and reviews posted by early next week. Other books to be read over the upcoming week include: Under The Dog Star by Sandra Parshall (to be released on 09/06/11), Murder in the 11th House by Mitchell Scott Lewis (to be released on 09/06/11), A Crack in Everything by Angela Gerst (also to be released on 09/06/11), and more.





Under the Dog Star



Murder in the 11th House: A Starlight Detective Agency Mystery (Starlight Detective Agency Mysteries)



















I hope you’ll take a moment and share what you’re currently reading and/or your weekend reading plans. Happy reading…

Book 179: DIVINE INTERVENTION Review

Divine Intervention by Cheryl Kaye Tardif begins with mysterious fires and murders that are obviously arson and Gemini lighters being left at the scenes of the crime. Initially these are all the information that Canadian Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Jasmine McLellan and her team have to begin their investigation. Well that is all they have until they arrive at the scene and use their psychic skills to gain additional knowledge. 


Jasmine, or Jasi, is a pyro-psychic. She is capable of discerning information psychically about a fire, its origins and the arsonist. Her partners include a psychometric or touch empath, Benjamin Roberts, and Natassia Prushenko, a victim empath capable of receiving information from victims (living or deceased). All three work as Psychic Skills Investigators or PSI’s in Divine Ops under the guidance of Matthew Divine. Their current case is potentially volatile and highly sensitive because it involves the father of the British Columbian Premier, Allan Baker.


As with most national investigatory agencies, these CFBI agents are stepping on toes with their investigation, especially those of Arson Investigations or AI Chief Brandon Walsh. Sparks fly (pun intended) between Jasi and Brandon, as they do between Natassia and Ben. As this quartet embarks upon their investigation, they begin to realize there is more going on than a potentially politically sensitive murder. The current murder reveals medical malpractice, a for-profit and highly illicit abortion clinic, a previous murder, attempted murder and child abuse within the foster care system and all were covered up. Unfortunately these are secrets that won’t stay hidden. 


The story seemed quite realistic and not at all farfetched given the psychic abilities of the main characters. However, Ben and Natassia seem to have limited secondary roles and are, at times, relegated to doing minor background investigatory work rather than working with Jasi as full partners. The prickly and somewhat off-putting behavior by Jasi takes a bit of getting used to but is accepted as a facade that keeps people away. If she doesn’t have people close then she doesn’t have to worry about them, or so she thinks. To say that Jasi is a bit of a control freak is a major understatement. The arsons, investigations, action and characters (major and minor) provide for a really good story. I would classify Divine Intervention as a mystery-suspense with a slight paranormal and romantic slant. 


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 178: SAINT’S GATE Review

A missing painting, a Viking Saint, lost treasure, a murdered nun and a former novice turned FBI agent investigating the painting and murder with the help of an undercover FBI agent. Strange combination but these are the basics at the center of Saint’s Gate by Carla Neggers.


Emma Sharpe is a former novitiate with the Sisters of the Joyful Heart. She realized that she was not suited to life as a nun prior to taking her final vows and was ultimately recruited into the FBI working as an investigator in art theft and fraud. She is called by Sister Cecilia to return to the convent to provide an opinion on a painting. Unfortunately when she arrives to inspect the painting it disappears and Sister Cecilia is brutally murdered on the convent grounds. When her FBI boss turns up and an undercover FBI agent she begins to suspect that there is more going on than she may realize. Her investigation takes her to Ireland and back and she still is having difficulty grasping the connection, if any, between her life and that of Colin Donovan, undercover FBI agent. 


I wish I could say I enjoyed reading Saint’s Gate but regrettably I can’t. The action and dialogue were literally all over the place. At times it felt as if I was dropped into the middle of the story without knowing much about the plot or characters. As a romantic suspense story the romance was expected yet appeared forced and there was little suspense to be found. Although I generally enjoy reading Ms. Neggers’ books, this one seemed to miss on so many levels (plot, characters, and dialogue). 


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 177: THE LANTERN Review

Every now and again you read a book and think, wow . . . excellent writing, realistic and incredible characters, wonderful settings and a great plot. Don’t get me wrong, there are great books written and read every day. But there are also plenty of good books and not so good books as well. The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson is one of the great books.


The writing is not only beautiful but beautifully evocative. Ms. Lawrenson paints pictures with words that capture the imagination and allow the reader to step inside of the story and walk alongside the characters. And we step inside the present with the story of Eve and Dom, and then we step into the past with Benedicte. Eve is a French to English translator. She falls in love with Dom and they relocate from the UK to France, pastoral northern France. Dom is, apparently, independently wealthy and they purchase and rehabilitate a farmhouse. Benedicte was born and raised in this farmhouse and the reader is invited to see the past through her story and memories. Eve isn’t exactly naive but she does have a certain sense of naïveté about her, especially when it comes to Dom. She has the sense that something from his past is haunting his present and that it most likely is related to his ex-wife, Rachel. It doesn’t help that the local realtor evidently met Rachel and suspects that something untoward happened to her. Her fears overshadow Eve’s love and longing to build a life with Dom. 


Benedicte is a typical farm girl. Although she longs for more, she knows that she must stay to help her family, especially since her older sister is blind and no longer living at home and their brother cannot be relied upon to help out. Over the years Benedicte has worked the land and kept up the farm/estate as best as she can but she has also suffered major disappointments (hopes for a career that never came to fruition and a lover that . . . disappointed her). In her old age, she reminisces and fears that she is losing her mind as ghostly visages torment her. She questions what really happened to her sister and why has she deserted her? 


The Lantern is filled with psychological horror that gradually builds throughout the story. The reader and characters begin to question what is and isn’t real, and suspect what has and hasn’t happened to people from the past. As I’ve previously stated, the writing is truly beautiful and captures the reader from beginning to end. If you can appreciate beautiful prose, great scenery, and credible characters accompanied by subtle psychological horror, then The Lantern is just the book for you.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Weekend Ramblings 2

I’ve been suffering from both reader’s and writer’s block over the past week. I finished my reading (yeah!) but have had difficulty starting anything new or writing the reviews for what I’ve read. This is due in part to the fact that I LOVED The Lantern and feel that my review just won’t do it justice…it’s also (possibly, probably, highly likely — take your pick) due to the series of migraine headaches suffered over the past week. Since I generally have a migraine (or two) each and every day this shouldn’t have been anything out of the norm but add in a sinus headache component along with severe allergies and it made for a doozy of a headache for a few days.  On the plus side, I had a few hours of sinus and allergy respite yesterday and went to see The Help movie with some family members. I’ve got to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was and how closely the movie followed the book. For those of you that have read the book, go see the movie! For those of you that have seen the movie, go read the book!


The West Virginia Book Festival made an exciting announcement earlier this week: Jerry West will be speaking at the festival on Saturday, October 22nd at 6:00 PM on his book West by West. Mr. West will also be signing autographs after his talk. Another author of note at the festival is Bonnie Stewart, No. 9: The 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster. Ms. Stewart’s book is scheduled to be released in November by the West Virginia University Press. This year’s festival looks to be just as exciting and interesting as previous years. Don’t forget to mark your calendars for October 22-23 to attend this year’s West Virginia Book Festival!


I guess I should spend some time writing reviews and get back to some reading. My TBR list is huge so I can’t say I don’t know what to read…  Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend. 


If you’re spending a few hours reading this weekend please share your reads with us.