Halloween Spooktacular Winner

I was delighted to participate in Romance Book Junkies Halloween Spooktacular this year. In addition to a guest post that appeared on October 19th, I was giving away a copy of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. A big thank you is extended to Danielle at Romance Book Junkies for affording me the opportunity to provide a guest post and for hosting the giveaway on her blog.

Well the giveaway has ended and the winner is: Yadira Alonzo. Congratulations Yadira! The winner has been contacted and the book ordered from The Book Depository.

Have you had the opportunity to read A Discovery of Witches? If so, what are your thoughts on this book? Did you like it, love it, or what? I’m interested in learning your thoughts on this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am anxiously awaiting the next installment, Shadow of Night, scheduled to be released in 2012. If you haven’t read the book and interested in learning more, read the excerpt available by the author here: http://deborahharkness.com/excerpt/

Bookish Ramblings

I’m sorry to say I missed both the Books by the Banks festival in Cincinnati, Ohio AND the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston WV last weekend. Yes it was another series of migraine headaches, and yes I’m pretty bummed about missing both events. I’m especially disappointed in missing the West Virginia Book Festival after reading the following blog entry about Lee Child and his Jack Reacher novels: 
Thanks to Ms. Maguire I’ll be adding the Jack Reacher series to my mountainous TBR list. (BTW, Ms. Maguire is one of the leaders of the CTC Mall Book Group with Ms. Blessing. Both are employees of the Kanawha County Public Library and have done a wonderful job at the last two book club meetings.) Have you read any Jack Reacher novels? If so, what are your thoughts?

Today was the second meeting of the Charleston Town Center (CTC) Mall Book Group. This group meets on the fourth Wednesday of each month from 11:30 A.M. – 12:30 P.M. in the Community Room at Panera in the mall. We just discussed Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (an excellent book; if you haven’t read it then get it, read it or at least add it to your TBR list). Although the book deals with some harrowing and distressing historical events, it is done so in a respectful manner that ends with a sense of hopefulness despite our history of cruelty and intolerance toward one another. Of course I’ve had to also add all of Ms. de Rosnay’s books (or at least those books available in English) to my TBR list . . . I think the online list is over 300 books long. I’m sad to say that not all of Ms. de Rosnay’s books are available in English. (I knew I should have worked harder at studying French in high school and college all those years ago.)

Next month’s CTC Mall Book Group meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 23rd. The book we’ll be discussing is A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House. If you’re interested and work in or near Charleston WV, please join us.

Since the migraine headaches appear to have eased a bit (diminished but not gone), I’ve got to get back to reading.

Book 226: IN CLOSE Review

Imagine that your biological father abandons your family when you are just a toddler. Fortunately your mother remarries and your stepfather adopts you and your younger sister. Then when you are sixteen, your mother vanishes without a trace. If that’s not bad enough, fast forward fifteen years and you are now a widow since your husband was accidentally killed while hunting. This is the life of Claire O’Toole and she has decided to uncover the mystery surrounding her mother’s disappearance in the latest addition to the Bulletproof series by Brenda Novak, In Close.

Claire knows that there is more to her mother’s disappearance than she has been told. She has backed off of investigating or having the disappearance investigated because of the emotional reaction by her younger sister and stepfather. In an effort to feel closer to her artistic mother, she returns to the cabin her mother used for painting. The cabin is in good shape but has become a storage unit for the family’s castoffs. Fortunately Claire discovers a police file that contains unseen documentation and now she has more questions than answers. Unfortunately, there’s someone watching Claire at the cabin and she winds up suffering a concussion. Again, unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), a former lover, Isaac Morgan, lives close by and heard her scream. He comes running and ends up carrying Claire back to his house, Claire’s former family home, before calling the police.

What follows is a series of unfortunate and suspicious events and Claire begins to question her need for answers as well as her sister and stepfather’s insistence to leave everything in the past. Claire refuses to back down and the only ally she has is Isaac. If she continues, she will uncover a variety of small-town secrets that many feel should be kept hidden. Was her mother actually having an affair and did she run away? Were her stepfather and stepmother having an affair and did they have anything to do with her mother’s disappearance? Why was her younger sister taken out of school and subsequently returned on the day their mother disappeared? And finally, was the hunting accident involving her husband truly an accident or something more nefarious?

Claire and Isaac seem to have a love-hate relationship. They speak at cross-purposes and it takes awhile before they realize that their attraction to one another is much more than a physical attraction. Claire’s younger sister Leanne is disabled due to a sledding accident and a selfish spoiled brat. Leanne also feels that Claire is being disloyal to their adoptive father by continuing her investigation. The more answers Claire receives in the course of her investigation the more questions arise. Claire definitely has more invested in obtaining the truth than the police department on this cold case file, and perhaps it is this personal investment that won’t allow her to stop even when her safety is endangered.

In Close is a fast-paced, romantic suspense read. The characters are well-developed and realistic. I enjoyed reading In Close, as I’ve enjoyed reading many of Ms. Novak’s novels. This is a great read for a lazy fall afternoon.

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 225: LUCIDITY Review

Grace Moran is a widow and an agoraphobic. Her only desire is to leave the hospital and return home. This isn’t possible because she has a brain tumor, appears to have suffered a seizure and blacked out and requires medical treatment. Grace isn’t sure what is going on at the hospital, but she knows she may not make it out alive. Drs. Eve Warden and Jonas Helman appear to only want to help, and feel that their new drug protocol is exactly what Grace needs for her surgery to be a success. There’s more going on behind the scenes and Grace has no desire to stay and find out what in Lucidity by C. J. Lyons.

Grace wants to return home because her deceased husband is still alive for her there and she feels that she’ll lose him if she has the surgery. Her memories are all she has left or are they? As Grace tries to hide, she sees Jimmy at the hospital and he is much more than a figment of her imagination. As Grace continues to hide from Drs. Warden and Helman, she comes across two pediatric patients that are also in dire straits. Kat is suffering from a virus that is literally eating her brain. Surgery is a must, but Kat wants to wait until after her birthday. She also fears that the surgery may leave her paralyzed or worse. Alex has spent all of his life in the hospital and wants nothing more to be allowed to die. He knows that his condition is worsening and he’s tired of the continued treatments that prolong his suffering. Grace, Alex and Kat aren’t exactly an impressive trio but they protect each other. Now that Jimmy has “come back to life,” he tries to protect them as well.

Jimmy was older than Grace, but they loved one another deeply and fiercely. Sadly Jimmy was murdered on the day they returned home from their honeymoon. Grace also suffered serious injuries during the attack and left her career as an ER physician to stay at home. The murderer, Lukas Redding, is the son of a powerful congress woman and was found not guilty by reason of mental defect. Unbeknownst to Grace, Lukas is at the hospital undergoing treatment for his delusional fantasies involving her and her husband. In Lukas’s mind Grace was his wife and Jimmy was a drunk driver responsible for the car accident that killed Grace. In a fit of rage Lukas retaliated and killed Jimmy. Is Lukas crazy or evil? Can Jimmy keep Grace from entering the new wing that houses Lukas? Can Grace protect Kat and Alex while protecting herself? 

Lucidity is much more than a romance or ghost story. Ms. Lyons has crafted a intriguing tale involving mythology, history, and the paranormal (ghosts) in a medical setting. Most of the action seems to take place over the span of a few days, but it is packed with action and suspense. Kat and Alex may only be children, but they have a crucial part in the story line. They are both highly creative and inventive while remaining sympathetic characters. Because they are children, the hospital staff has a tendency to underestimate them. Jimmy is definitely Grace’s love interest, even after his death. He lives on in her memories and perhaps these strong memories that allow him to return. Lucidity may not be a traditional ghost story or romance, but it works. If you’re seeking something a little different that combines romance, the paranormal, along with a little medical suspense, then this is the book for you.

Book 224: THE PIRATE QUEEN Review

Saphora Warren is a wife, mother and grandmother. She is an asset to her physician husband and has been a devoted wife for the years they’ve been married. But Saphora has had enough. At the end of a Southern Living lawn party (a party her husband wanted even though he didn’t show up for it), she is planning on leaving her beautiful house and philandering husband to regroup and decide what she wants from life. At least that was the plan until her husband arrives home before she can leave and announces he has cancer and is dying. Saphora must now decide whether she stays to help her husband or goes off on her on in The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman.

To say that Saphora is downtrodden is being kind. She seems to do whatever her husband Bender wants and puts up with years of neglect and verbal abuse in the form of snide and belittling remarks. The worst part is that her husband doesn’t even seem to know that he’s being neglectful or abusive. At least he didn’t until he received his death sentence. 

Saphora is left to try and pick up the pieces of their life while dealing with a remorseful and introspective Bender. It’s rather strange that she could take the years of possible philandering but has problems dealing with her husband as he becomes aware of his faults. In addition to dealing with a husband dying of brain cancer, she must contend with her grandson for most of the summer. Her eldest son has to work, as does his ex-wife and the baby-sitter quit so Eddie goes to the beach house with his grandparents. While at the beach, Eddie, Saphora and Bender befriend a young boy with AIDS. Tobias was born with AIDS and adopted but is dearly loved by his adoptive mother. Regrettably, although this appears to be taking place in the present, there’s a lot of prejudice and misconception about AIDS and Tobias is persona non grata at most facilities and functions around town.

Saphora, her children and grandchildren, are all forced to watch Bender as he slowly fades away from their lives. Fortunately Saphora has become a woman with a backbone and isn’t willing to take crap from anyone any longer. There’s plenty of high drama and grief in The Pirate Queen. Most of the drama is centered on AIDS and the reaction Tobias receives from a variety of people, including Saphora’s son and daughter-in-law, as well as Bender’s penchant toward selfishness. One example of such selfishness is his desire to have their housekeeper drop everything and come to the beach even though her young son has the measles and obviously needs and wants his mother. 

I wanted to like The Pirate Queen. Saphora ends up being a likeable and admirable character, but she starts off somewhat spacey and comes across as just flaky and a pushover. The friendship between Eddie and Tobias, as well as Tobias and Bender is heart-warming. Eddie accepts Tobias for what he is, another kid and a playmate. Bender and Tobias accept one another for what they are, two people battling potentially deadly illnesses. It was rather uplifting to see that Bender sought atonement for his actions and spiritual guidance toward the end of his life. I don’t know if that can make up for years of neglect, but Saphora seems willing to overlook it. In addition, Saphora’s children are all adults but come across as spoiled and selfish children at times. 

There are redeeming qualities about this book, especially in Tobias’s story. Although this does have an uplifting ending, beware there are plenty of tear-jerker scenes toward the end. As I stated previously, I wanted to like The Pirate Queen but for me it was nothing more than an okay read, in part because of the spacey qualities of Saphora’s character for the first half of the book and also because the dialogue was a little hard to follow at times. The Pirate Queen isn’t a bad read, but it simply didn’t do it for me.  

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.”


Theresa MacLean is a forensic investigator. She is also an overprotective mother to a teenage daughter. She thought her daughter would be safe working for the summer at a downtown hotel until there’s a murder on the premises. It doesn’t help that the murder victim is a defense attorney that the local police department loved to hate. Why this hotel? Why this attorney? Why no defensive wounds? These questions are asked and answered in the latest suspense novel by Lisa Black, Defensive Wounds.

Being a single mom can be exasperating, and Theresa understands that she has a tendency to go overboard at times. Her daughter was nowhere near the murder site but she’s still overly cautious and wary. It doesn’t help that she knows nothing about Rachel’s new love interest. Theresa’s interest is further peaked when her friend, another defense attorney, has a suspicious and curious reaction to the teenager. Theresa then asks her cousin, a police detective, to check into the boy’s background. Isn’t that what family connections are for?

Theresa must still continue her forensic investigation but trying to find evidence in a hotel room is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack blindfolded. Just when she thinks she’s the original hovering mother, there are two more murders. By now, Theresa is frustrated because of the mounds of forensic evidence to be looked at from the hotel. If there’s a ton of evidence from the hotel, there’s also a ton of suspects to be considered. One suspect is a former police officer that is currently working as the head of security at the hotel. 

On the personal front, Theresa must field interest from one of the investigating detectives. She also learns that Rachel’s prospective boyfriend has a record . . . for murder. He was found not guilty and said that he doesn’t remember that night, but what really happened? He doesn’t know and the dead girl cannot speak for herself? The evidence points to him, or does it? What follows is an investigation that keeps the reader on tenterhooks. The investigation is like a roller-coaster ride in the dark, the twists and turns kept me on edge because I never saw what was coming next.

I enjoyed reading Defensive Wounds and completely understood that Theresa is the primary character, but since I have family on the police department I also know that forensic investigators don’t generally play such a primary role in investigations and interrogations. Removing that little problem from the equation, Defensive Wounds is a great suspense read. I found myself feeling for Theresa as she worried about Rachel and sympathetic when she mourned the loss of her friend. (I also rather enjoyed the possible play on words as “defensive wounds” may refer to the lack of defensive wounds on the murder victims as well as the wounds they inflicted on victim families as defense attorneys.) If you’re looking for a procedural suspense to read with a strong female character and an emphasis on evidence, then look no further.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from Library Thing’s Early Reviewers Program. 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 6

This week has been marred by another series of severe migraine headaches. The biggest inconvenience to having a migraine is not being able to read. (Okay, one of the biggest inconveniences next to an increased sensitivity to light, noise, scent and sound and extreme nausea.) Fortunately, I was able to get in some reading over the course of the week. Reviews will be posting soon for Defensive Wounds by Lisa Black, The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman, and Lucidity by C. J. Lyons. 

This is the weekend I’ve been waiting for…book festival weekend. As many of you may recall I had a dilemma choosing which festival to attend: Books By The Banks in Cincinnati Ohio for the day or the West Virginia Book Festival here in Charleston WV for the weekend. Sadly this decision has become moot as a severe migraine currently has me grounded (nothing quite like typing in the dark). At the moment there is no way I can handle a 7-hour round-trip drive to Ohio nor I can tolerate the lights and noise at the local book festival here in Charleston. I remain hopeful that I’ll have the current migraine knocked into submission and downgraded from severe to moderate or mild within the next 2-4 hours. If this happens, then I’ll be off to the WV Book Festival for the remainder of the day.

If you’re in the southern Ohio area, stop by the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati for the Books by the Banks Book Festival. This festival will be playing host to a number of authors, including Dennis Lehane, Chris Bohjalian, J. T. Ellison and Judy Clemens. Presenters include Martha Southgate – A Taste of Salt and Paula McLain – The Paris Wife.

For those of you in West Virginia, head down to the Charleston Civic Center for the two day West Virginia Book Festival. This year’s WV Book Festival will feature: Lee Child, Jerry West, Jaimy Gordon and Dave Pelzer; and don’t forget the library’s used book sale and marketplace. I hope that when I get back up this migraine will be bearable and if so, I’m off to the WV Book Festival. Hope to see you there!

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop Winner…

The Literary Giveaway Blog Hop has ended. First I want to thank everyone that stopped by and entered this giveaway. I also want to thank Judith at Leeswammes’ Blog for hosting the giveaway blog hop.

The winner of The Bronte Collection is: Michelle Foong. Congratulations Michelle! Hope you enjoy reading these books by the Bronte sisters.

The winner was chosen using Random.org. To verify your entry into this giveaway, please visit: http://www.random.org/draws/details/?draw=7896 and enter the email address used for this giveaway.

Another Giveaway Offer

I’m pleased to announce another giveaway…yay! This giveaway is being offered at Romance Book Junkies’ Halloween Spooktacular and the prize is a copy of A Discovery of Witches via The Book Depository. To enter this giveaway, you must visit Romance Book Junkies’ blogDon’t delay because this offer vanishes on October 25th.

After you stop by Romance Book Junkies, don’t forget to thank Danielle at Romance Book Junkies and Donna at Book Lover’s Hideaway for co-hosting a great month of giveaways. 

Book 219: VIRTUOSITY Review

Carmen Bianchi is not a typical teenager. She is a virtuoso violinist and her entire life revolves around the violin. She is preparing to compete in the most prestigious violin competition in the world. But at age seventeen, Carmen has always been a “good girl” and done exactly as told, until now. At the top there is nowhere to go but down. Will Carmen crash and burn? Will she find herself and uncover love in the most unlikely person? These questions are asked and answered in Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez.

Carmen’s mother used to sing opera before a botched surgery scarred her vocal cords. She now functions as Carmen’s manager. Carmen has never known her father other than an occasional phone call or birthday/holiday card and gift. Her father’s parents are also mysteriously absent from her life until she becomes a violin virtuoso. Her grandparents then invest in her future by purchasing a Stradivarius violin for her to use. Carmen feels pulled and torn. She loves music and the violin but she has also become anxious about performing, especially after her disastrous performance in Japan. Of course her mother has the solution and promptly takes Carmen to a doctor for a prescription for pills to help with performance anxiety. The pills work, but Carmen finds herself taking more than one to ease her anxiety. The doctor says they aren’t addictive but she thinks he may be wrong. 

Enter Carmen’s only true competition, a teenage male violin virtuoso. Jeremy King appears to be everything that Carmen isn’t, self-assured and totally independent. Jeremy and Carmen begin as enemies and become friends. Can they ever be more than friends? Needless to say Carmen’s mother feels that Jeremy is out to sabotage Carmen’s chances in the competition. It is a cruel thing for her to say but is it possible she’s right? And what is going on with the secretive phone calls in the middle of the night? Carmen knows that there is more going on than meets the eye with her mother. When she uncovers the truth, will she be able to take a stance for what is right? Is it possible that Jeremy only wants to throw her off-guard so he can win the competition? 

Carmen goes through a lot of self-discovery in a very short period of time. This isn’t a story of typical teenage rebellion, nor is a typical coming-of-age story, although these are components to Virtuosity. Ms. Martinez has provided a heartfelt story about doing what is right no matter what and standing up for yourself despite the consequences. Carmen doesn’t want to disappoint her mother, her stepfather, her grandparents or her violin teacher, but she ultimately must not disappoint herself and stay true to her sense of integrity. Although Virtuosity is classified as a YA book, I feel it can be read and appreciated by readers of all ages. 

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab. 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.”