Book Showcase: WILD WITHIN by Melissa Hart

Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family by Melissa Hart
ISBN: 9780762796809 (hardcover)  
Publication date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Lyons Press

Melissa Hart, a desperately lonely young divorcée and L.A. transplant, finds herself stranded in rainy Eugene, Oregon, working from home in the company of her two cats and two large mutts. At the local dog park, she meets a fellow dog owner named Jonathan: a tall, handsome man with a unibrow and hawk-like nose. When he invites her to accompany him on a drive to Portland to retrieve six hundred pounds of frozen rats and a fledgling barred owl, sparks fly!

Their courtship blossoms in a raptor rehabilitation center where wounded owls, eagles, falcons, and other iconic birds of prey take refuge and become ambassadors for their species. Initially, Melissa volunteers here in order to “sink her talons” into her new love interest, but soon she falls hopelessly in love with her fine feathered charges: Archimedes, a gorgeous snowy owl; Lorax, a fractious great horned owl; and Bodhi, a baby barred with a permanently injured wing. As “human imprints,” these birds see themselves and people as the same species yet retain a wildness that hoodwinks even the most experienced handlers. Overcoming her fears, Melissa bravely suffers some puncture wounds to get closer to these magnificent creatures.

Melissa and Jonathan start out convinced they don’t want children, but caring for birds who have fallen from their nests triggers a deep longing in Melissa to mother an orphaned child. Thus they embark on a heart-wrenching journey to adoption. Every page sparkles with vivid imagery and wit in this beautifully written memoir of parallel pursuits. Wildness Within is, above all, about the power of love—romantic, animal, and parental—to save lives and fulfill dreams.



“Clip Me”

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

The urologist with the slicked-back hair and tawny soul patch regarded me perched on a stool beside my husband in his chilly white office. The man’s latex-sheathed fingers held the stainless steel scalpel with practiced ease, the way Jonathan wielded a syringe before tube-feeding electrolytes to an emaciated hawk. The doctor was maybe in his early forties, healthy and cheerful like usbut sober in the face of our request.

“You’ve got to assume you won’t be able to conceive a child after your vasectomy.” His eyes sought Jonathan’s, and then mine: “You need to treat this surgery as irreversible.”

He emphasized the last word; it hung in the disinfected air a moment before dissipating. Jonathan and I traded raised brows. The doctor’s gaze dropped discreetly to the floor, then lifted slightly to focus on the great horned owl tattooed on my ankle, just visible beneath the rolled-up cuff of my Levi’s.

Irreversible. I remembered how the artist’s needle had punched permanent black-and-brown feathers into my skin, the stinging exhilaration of each jab to commemorate my transition from Los Angeles urbanite to Oregon nature girl. No going back.


My husband lay down on the exam table, sheet pulled to his waist. He reached for my hand, and his T-shirt sleeve stretched up to reveal the outspread wings of a hawk inked on one bicep. He entwined his fingers in mine and grinned so that I could see his crooked right incisor, subtle but sharp as the tomial tooth a falcon uses to sever the vertebrae of its prey.

“Now I know how the raptors feel when we’re about to do a procedure,” he told me.

For years Jonathan had suffered from epididymitisinfections that rendered him mute with fever and achingly swollen testicles. We celebrated our third date in the ER, my hand gripping his as a nurse ran the ultrasound wand over his groin. A vasectomy would remove the path which the infection traveled.

An easy outpatient surgery, the doctor informed us. “I do several a day.” His scalpel glowed under fluorescent light.

I pondered the gravity of the moment, but only just. Never to be pregnant, never to give birth, never to see the curious amalgamation of his-nose-my-eyes-his-chin-my-mouthall of this felt irrelevant as long as I could spare Jonathan further physical pain.

I squeezed his hand. He looked up at the urologist with that deferential gratitude he’d reserved for all medical professionals since breaking his back in a car accident fourteen years before. Then he issued his humble mandate to the doctor.

“Clip me.”

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Meet the author:

Melissa Hart lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband (photographer Jonathan B. Smith) and their daughter. 

Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Orion, High Country News, The Advocate, Adbusters, Hemispheres, Horizon Air Magazine, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer.

She teaches Feature Writing courses at the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon, and speaks frequently for writing-related organizations and conferences in the Pacific Northwest.

In her free time, Melissa likes to hike and run half-marathons, kayak and camp and cook and travel to quirky places.

Connect with the author:

Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads 

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Book 296: THE CURSE OF VAN GOGH Review

The Curse of Van Gogh by Paul Hoppe
ISBN: 9781940716152 (paperback)
ASIN: B00M4RQ0S8 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 29, 2014
Publisher: SparkPress

In a dizzying world of glamour, danger and mystery, The Curse of Van Gogh is the story of a man drawn into an underground crime world he thought he’d left behind forever. Readers who loved the action and adventure of The Thomas Crown Affair and Ocean’s 11 films, as well as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, will be thrilled by this stunning novel, which is released on the 124th anniversary of van Gogh’s death.

Tyler Sears, art thief, just released from a federal prison, vows never again. He slides into a simple life bartending in New York City until one day an invitation arrives to the hottest art event of the season, where Tyler meets Komate Imasu, famed art collector. Suddenly Tyler’s vows of abstinence slip away as Imasu uses threats against Tyler’s family. Tyler decides to gamble and ups the ante to a breathtaking level.

Tyler quickly learns that gambling against a ruthless billionaire is never a good idea. Forgetting his own safety, Tyler plunges headfirst into a world of art forgers, hit men, Yakuza, a femme fatale named Chanel No. 5, and the hideous curse of van Gogh, in order to pull off…the greatest art heist in history.

Tyler Sears is newly released from prison, on parole, and working as a bartender. He has vowed to give up his life of crime because if he gets caught in the act again it will be his third strike and it’ll be prison for the rest of his life. Tyler’s life on the outside isn’t great, but he does have a job in a place he likes and works with people he likes, so things could be worse. Enter Mr. Komate Imasu with an offer that Tyler can’t refuse . . . literally. Mr. Imasu expects Tyler to pull off a theft of one of the most important pieces of Impressionist art ever, Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. If Tyler doesn’t agree to the heist then Tyler and his family will pay the price. Tyler comes up with a counteroffer that he believes will get him off the hook. He states that he’ll steal twelve pieces of Impressionist art from an upcoming tour, basically the art world’s version of the Impressionist era’s greatest hits. Unfortunately for Tyler, Mr. Imasu agrees to this counteroffer and prepays Tyler $50 million with the remaining $50 million to be paid on delivery. Now Tyler just has to figure out how to steal the paintings, keep Mr. Imasu and his Yakuza friends as well as Interpol off his back. He also has to figure out how to keep his family safe while committing the perfect crime, with hopefully none of the repercussions of the Van Gogh curse (think the curse of King Tut). Sounds like a lot doesn’t it . . . but wait, throw in a romantic twist when Tyler reunites with a lady friend from his past and you’ve got one heck of a story.

It took me awhile to get into The Curse of Van Gogh. The story seemed to slow down in places when discussing art history, weapons details, etc. at the beginning I know some people may like all of those details but they didn’t really add much to the overall story for me and I could have done without them. Of course the story probably wouldn’t have been the same without those details which is why Mr. Hoppe is the author and I’m a reader and blogger. After the first 60-70 pages the pace of the story picked up quite a bit and then it was full-speed ahead. Tyler and his love interest, Lucy, made for a nice twist, as we can see that Tyler is fully aware of the gravity of his situation and doesn’t want anyone else to suffer any of the consequences. Tyler isn’t really a bad guy, just a guy that has made mistakes in his past. He tries to atone for it by ensuring, to the best of his abilities, that his mother, brother, and friends are protected from any fallout. He also wants to do the right thing and agrees that he’ll return the paintings after the theft. There are several big questions that Tyler needs to address. First, can he pull off this art theft without getting caught? Second, if he pulls off the theft, can he stay a step ahead of his Interpol nemesis, not to mention Mr. Imasu and the Yakuza? And last, will he be able to win the girl of his dreams by trusting her and telling her the truth?

Told you there was a lot going on in this story. Mr. Hoppe does a wonderful job of pulling together the various storylines and weaving them to complete a wholly believable crime thriller. There are bad guys, namely Mr. Imasu and the Yakuza. There are other bad guys that are out to protect Tyler and his family, so we’ll just consider them good guys with dirty white hats. There’s Tyler, his mother and her love interest, Tyler’s brother, and Tyler’s love interest, and finally Interpol. Amazingly enough each group serves its purpose well and I can’t imagine the story without any of them. The end was very fast paced and had me on the edge of my seat figuratively speaking. Does Tyler succeed in his attempt to do the impossible? Does he get the girl? Does he come out alive? Well to find the answers to those questions you’ll just have to read the book. If you’re a crime thriller reader, like stories that involve art and the art world, or are simply looking for something a little different, then The Curse of Van Gogh is the book you’ll want to read.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via 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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Gravel on the Side of the Road: True Stories from a Broad Who Has Been There by Kris Radish
ISBN: 9781940716435 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781940716428 (ebook)
ASIN: B00M4SOVJW (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 22, 2014
Publisher: SparkPress

A woman who worries about carrying a .38 special in her purse, nearly drowns in a desert canyon, flies into the war in Bosnia, dances with the FBI, tells Geraldo he shouldn’t put guests in hotel rooms with rats and spends time with murderers, has more than a few stories to tell.

Gravel on the Side of the Road-True Stories From a Broad Who Has Been There is a daring and revealing adventure itself.

Beloved novelist Kris Radish returns to her non-fiction beginnings with her first, but not last, book of autobiographical essays. Her writing career has spanned four decades and has included award winning newspaper work, magazine features, a national syndicated column, eleven books and enough stories and adventures to fill up many more.

Radish’s talent for telling it like it is, sharing the wit and wisdom of a life lived mostly on her own terms and her keen sense of humor are highlighted in these stories- some of them old- some of them new, but all of them a glimpse into worlds many never dare to enter. This author always lives in a world where nothing is sacred but the sweet emotions of the heart.

Kris is definitely a broad who has been there.

I normally don’t read a lot of nonfiction unless it pertains to topics I’m interested in (namely comparative religion, Islam, Muslims, tea, perfumery, aromatherapy, etc.), so when the opportunity came up to read Gravel on the Side of the Road – True Stories from a Broad Who Has Been There by Kris Radish I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. To say that I was pleasantly surprised while reading this book is a major understatement. 

Gravel On the Side of the Road is a collection of essays that spotlight different experiences in Kris Radish’s life. Each essay stands alone and all are quickly read. Some essays made me smile – “Jesus Drives a Thunderbird,” “The Turquoise Ring,” and “The One Thing I Wanted.” Some made me laugh – “Wong’s Silver Spur, Dead Deer, and the Dance-Floor Stabbing.” Others made me want to cry – “Even Now,”  “The Mothers in Bosnia,” “I’ve Picked Out My Husband’s New Wife,” and “I Will Always Be Their Mother.” All are presented without frills and unapologetically for a life lived without compromise. Each essay provides a fascinating glimpse into the amazingly wondrous experiences Ms. Radish has had over the years. I can’t say that there were any essays that I didn’t enjoy as they all provided me a little insight into Kris Radish, where she’s been and why. Having said that, as a true book diva I think the essay that tops my favorite list is “Eudora Welty” where Ms. Radish has a fan girl moment with Ms. Welty and then proceeds to overcome it and be the professional journalist she dreamed of being (not to mention the wonderful writing advice she received from Ms. Welty). Whether you’re a fan of nonfiction or not, Gravel on the Side of the Road is a wonderfully written collection of essays by an amazing woman and author. I highly recommend you add this to your TBR list . . . actually don’t just add it to your TBR list, grab a copy and read it. (NOTE: I guess I should give you a little warning that although the first essay is quite funny the last one may require that you grab some tissues.)

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via 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 256: SERENADE Review

Serenade by Emily Kiebel
ISBN: 9781940716046 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781940716053 (ebook)
ASIN: B00LU7JS00 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 15, 2014
Publisher: SparkPress

Suddenly the voice she prized is now dangerously seductive…

Lorelei Clark’s only concern was her future as a classically trained soprano, that is, until the day her father was tragically killed. Shattered by his death, she hesitantly accepts an invitation from a mysterious aunt to visit her lavish oceanside home in Cape Cod. She quickly discovers that her aunt and the two women who live with her are harboring a frightening secret they are sirens, terrifying mythical creatures responsible for singing doomed sailors to their deaths. Even more astounding, Lorelei is one of them. In this new world where water comes alive at her touch and an ancient power pulses beneath the tide, the most important rule Lorelei must learn is that a siren never interferes with fate. When she breaks this rule by rescuing a handsome sailor who should have died at sea, the sirens vow she must finish the job or face grave consequences. Finding herself inexplicably attracted to him, she must fight to keep him safe from the others, even if it means risking her own life, and her heart, in the process.

Lorelei Clark is interested in becoming the best classically trained soprano she can become. She spent much of her childhood devoted to singing and becoming a better artist. When she was offered the opportunity to study at a small but prestigious conservatory in Maine she was ecstatic. Her mother was anything but happy and refused to even talk to Lorelei before and after she left for college. Lorelei’s father had always been her most devoted supporter, and when he dies in a freak accident in her arms she is devastated. After her father’s funeral she returns to school but her mind simply isn’t on her studies. When she receives a letter from a maternal aunt, inviting her to come to Cape Cod, Lorelei thinks this may be the answer to her prayers. Within a few scant months, Lorelei had started college, suffered the traumatic death of her father, reconciled with her mother only to separate from her once again over a difference of opinion on Lorelei’s future. Perhaps this visit to long-lost relatives to the Cape will provide just the distraction Lorelei needs and allow her to focus on her future.

Little does Lorelei know that her entire life will change after she arrives at her aunt’s home in Cape Cod. First Lorelei is introduced to an aunt and cousins she never knew she had. Second she is told that her family lineage includes sirens. Her love of singing and water are part of her siren nature. To say that this is a little hard to swallow is putting it lightly. Adding insult to injury, Lorelei is told that she has to go on a mission to assist in the transition from life to death for a group of merchant marines on a cargo ship. This may be the biggest trial that Lorelei faces in life…or is it?

Serenade is not just a coming of age story, but a story of family, heritage and the idea of free will. Ms. Kiebel has deftly incorporated the mythic sirens into a story that also includes messengers, banshees, an Idis, the Elysienne, and even Valkyries. I found Serenade to be a rather fast-paced read. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I first read the blurb and saw that the story included the rather fantastical element of sirens. Serenade is part coming-of-age, part fantasy, part heroic quest, and part self-realization/awareness with a touch of romance thrown into the mix. If you’re looking for something a little different and enjoy reading YA or NA books, then you’ll definitely want to add Serenade to your TBR list. (Trust me, you don’t have to be a young/new adult in order to appreciate this story.) I can only hope that there will be more Lorelei stories coming in the future. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via 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 253: ELLY IN LOVE Review

Elly In Love by Colleen Oakes
ISBN: 9781940716190 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781940716183 (ebook)
ASIN: B00L8BMPEE (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 24, 2014
Publisher: SparkPress

The much anticipated sequel to the bestselling novel, Elly in Bloom, is finally here!

Curvy wedding florist Elly Jordan has had quite a year. First, she had to design her ex-husband’s wedding to the mistress who split them up, and then she broke up with the hottest musician this side of St. Louis. Three months have passed since then, and now Elly is primed for what promises to be the best wedding season of her life.

Helped by her loyal friends, Elly is on the verge of opening a chic flower boutique uptown when BlissBride, a popular wedding reality show, asks her to design the wedding of a famous—make that infamous—celebrity. Elly is about to get everything she’s ever wanted, when a stranger shows up at her store with a request that changes every aspect of her life—including her budding relationship with deli owner Keith. As she struggles to stay calm in the midst of growing chaos, Elly will learn the true meaning of love and sacrifice. 

Filled with the heart, humor, and horticulture that made Elly in Bloom a bestseller, Elly in Love welcomes readers back to Elly’s big, beautiful, and messy life.

Eleanor “Elly” Jordan is a successful small business owner. Last year she had to design the flowers for her ex-husband’s wedding to his mistress. She kind of fell in love with her neighbor, an up-and-coming musician only to break things off with him before taking their relationship to the next level. She’s learned to love her employees, especially Snarky Teenager, and considers them her extended family. Now she must decide if she can take her business to the next level and open a branch as well as allow Snarky Teenager to manage the new branch store. If that isn’t enough to take into consideration, she’s realized that she’s in love with Keith the deli owner, and she’s been contacted by a relative she never knew she had. And just to truly cap things off, she’s been given the opportunity to be the florist for a celebrity wedding on a wedding reality show. Last year pales in comparison with all Elly has to deal with this year. Can she deal with the stress of a new family member, allowing her relationship with Keith to grow even though she feels he’s keeping secrets from her, trust that Snarky Teenager can be relied upon with the new storefront, and handle the pressure of designing flowers for a reality television show? Only time will tell . . . 

I’m the type of reader that has to read all of the books in a series before reading the book I need to review. So I spent a glorious Saturday afternoon and evening reading Elly In Bloom then Elly In Love. I found both to be delightful, heart-warming, and fast-paced reads. It may not be necessary to read Elly In Bloom before reading Elly In Love, but it definitely helped with understanding the trials Elly has dealt with over the past few years. First her mother dies, then she catches her husband in flagrante delicto with his mistress in their marital bed, she leaves her hometown and state to wind up in Missouri and opens a floral business. Posies is not just any floral business but one that specializes in weddings. It is a small boutique florist and Elly only has a handful of employees: her best friend and fellow floral designer – Kim, her part-time worker/high-school student – Snarky Teenager (her actual name is never revealed), and her latest hire, Anthony. These four artistic and creative people comprise the Posies workforce and they do a darn good job, small or large. Now that Elly’s business has become famous, Posies is the “it” florist for the Missouri elite. Although business is booming, Elly’s life is still in upheaval. She loves Keith but knows he’s hiding something and she can’t let the relationship develop any further until he stops being secretive. 

Ms. Oakes has done a wonderful job of pulling the reader into Elly’s world, or at least she did with this reader. I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next with Elly, Keith, and Snarky Teenager. I found the stories to have just the right amount of romance, touches of humor, and angst (teenage and adult) to make it realistic. We’re given glimpses into the lives and backgrounds of Kim, Dennis (Elly’s half-brother), Keith, and Snarky Teenager. Those glimpses are just enough to make their interactions and behavior realistic and compelling. It was nice to read about someone that has everything going for them and yet they still have doubts and concerns about doing the right thing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Elly in Love and can’t wait for the next book in this series, Elly Inspired.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via 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 243: AFTER I DO Review

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
ISBN: 9781476712840 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780385534857 (ebook)
ASIN: B00GEEB8UC (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Washington Square Press

From the author of Forever, Interrupted—hailed by Sarah Jio as “moving, gorgeous, and at times heart-wrenching”—comes a breathtaking new novel about modern marriage, the depth of family ties, and the year that one remarkable heroine spends exploring both.

When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.

Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?

This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It’s about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you’ve got. And above all, After I Do is the story of a couple caught up in an old game—and searching for a new road to happily ever after.

Lauren and Ryan met in college and fell in love. After graduation they moved in together and eventually got married. They’ve been together eleven years. They were blissfully happy for years but they’ve grown apart. After one argument too many, they make the decision to separate for one year and then re-evaluate their relationship. Can they survive being apart? Can their marriage survive the time apart? How do you know what you want when you no longer know who you are without the other person? These are just a few of the questions Mr. Reid attempts to answer in her novel After I Do.

Being in a relationship is hard work. Being in a marriage is hard work. Being true to yourself is even harder. Lauren and Ryan assume that they are no longer in love with one another because of their constant anger toward one another. What do you do when you can’t love the person you’re with? For Lauren and Ryan the answer is to separate. After I Do provides a fascinating glimpse into this separation from Lauren’s perspective and through her interactions with friends and family. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) her family loves Ryan just as much as they love her and can’t quite grasp why they’ve separated. Lauren receives advice from her maternal grandmother Lois, her sister Rachel, her brother Charlie, her mother Lesley, and her co-worker Mila. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on what works and what won’t. Over the course of this year Lauren learns quite a bit about herself and life, including the following: it is acceptable to be alone, separating from her husband and even getting a divorce (if it goes that far) doesn’t mean she’s a failure, it’s okay to not like something the other person likes, compromise is necessary in all relationships, and most important — life goes on.

There aren’t any good guys or bad guys in After I Do. Ms. Reid has portrayed a young couple in turmoil and their struggle to survive. The relationships portrayed, from single-mother Lesley to widowed grandmother Lois, are all quite realistic. Lesley and Lois are from different generations and their perspectives on life are viewed through the lenses of their experiences and upbringing. I liked the notion that even when the family didn’t necessarily agree with Lauren they continued to support her wholeheartedly. Although the majority of the story is committed to the idea of marriage and what happens after the vows are exchanged, I enjoyed reading about Lauren’s interactions with her brother and sister just as much as I enjoyed the dilemma she faced with Ryan. I found After I Do to be a fast-paced read that isn’t so much a happy-ever-after but a hopeful-ever-after. If you enjoy realistic, contemporary stories about relationships and self-discovery then grab a copy of After I Do as soon as possible. Be forewarned, this is a story that will make you smile, laugh, and even cry. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes via BookSparks PR. 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 Showcase: THE WALK-IN CLOSET by Abdi Nazemian

The Walk-In Closet by Abdi Nazemian
ISBN: 9780615988689 (paperback)
ASIN: B00KHZ8CQ2 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Curtis Brown Digital

Kara Walker has never found much glamour in her own life, especially not when compared to the life of her best friend Bobby Ebadi. Bobby, along with his sophisticated parents Leila and Hossein, is everything Kara always wanted to be. The trio provides the perfect antidote to what Kara views as the more mundane problems of her girlfriends and her divorced parents. And so when the Ebadis assume that Kara is Bobby’s girlfriend, she willingly steps into the role. She enjoys the perks of life in this closet, not only Leila’s designer hand-me-downs and free rent, but also the excitement of living life as an Ebadi.

As Kara’s 30th birthday approaches, Leila and Hossein up the pressure. They are ready for Kara to assume the mantle of the next Mrs. Ebadi, and Bobby seems prepared to give them what they want: the illusion of a traditional home and grandchildren. How far will Kara be willing to go? And will she be willing to pull the Persian rug out from under them when she discovers that her own secret is just one of many lurking inside the Ebadi closet? 

Read an excerpt:


“I have the perfect shoes for you.” Leila said with a smile. “They are just a little tight on me, so they should fit you perfectly.” We were in her enormous walk-in closet, really more like a wing in the Ebadi house. It had once been an exercise room, but Leila got rid of the Solorflex and converted the gym into an immaculately organized, white-lacquered dressing room. The clothes were arranged by color. Sharp white suits on one end, slinky black dresses on the other, with yellow tanks, red skirts, and navy blazers between.

Leila popped open a white-lacquered panel, revealing rows and rows of shoes. Pumps. Stilettos. Boots. Hermès sneakers in every color. “You know you’re like a daughter to me,” she said. Music to my ears. Now, I loved my mother Harry. She had her endearing qualities, like the fact that she never cheated at online Scrabble, and that she made me matzo ball soup when I was sick even though we’re not Jewish. But who wouldn’t have traded in Harry for a mother who conducted spring cleaning by giving last season’s couture to you? I’m not sure Harry even knew what couture was. Born and bred in Thousand Oaks, Harry lived in a world (not coincidentally, the world in which I was raised) of strip malls and outlet stores.

“Has Babak played you the new Omara Portuondo CD?” Leila asked.

“I don’t think so,” I responded.

“It’s incredible, the music that comes out of Cuba. Repression always makes for such moving art.” Leila pondered her statement and then added, “Of course, when we were in Havana a few years ago, the people didn’t seem repressed at all. They actually appeared quite joyful. Ah, here they are.” Leila handed me a pair of Prada flats adorned with lavender gemstones. “Aren’t they pretty? Try them on.”

“Leila, I can’t.”

“Just one week until Nowruz,” she said. “You know it’s customary to conduct an extensive spring cleaning before the New Year and replenish the closet.”

“I just feel like you’re spoiling me.”

“What am I going to do? Give these clothes to somebody who will not appreciate them? Give me your foot,” she ordered. She was a difficult woman to disobey. I kicked off my ratty old Steve Maddens and lifted my right foot, worried that she would make note of my chipped pedicure. Gently, she slipped the right flat on my foot. It fit flawlessly. As stylish as a stiletto, as comfortable as a slipper.

“Who needs Prince Charming,” I joked, “when I have you?”

Never one to dwell on a sentimental moment, Leila immediately noticed an imperfection. “One of the amethysts fell off. I forgot.”

“I don’t care. They’re beautiful.”

“Here.” Leila dug through a drawer full of old buttons and thread until she pulled out an amethyst and placed it carefully into my hand. “Rosa Maria can re-attach it. She was a seamstress before she came to us. She’s very talented.”

“You’re too good to me.”

“Do you wear Chanel, or is it too old for you” she asked.

“I’m turning thirty in less than a month. I think I can rock the Chanel now.”

Leila flinched at my use of the word rock. To her, a rock was something you either kicked on the beach or put on your finger. She pulled a pink Chanel suit off the rack. Very Jackie O. “I never wear it anymore.”

“I can’t, Leila, you’ve given me enough.”

“Stop with the tarof,” she said.

Tarof was one of the untranslatable Farsi expressions I had picked up from the Ebadis and their friends. Basically: don’t bother arguing when offered something, just accept graciously.

“Well, okay then. No more tarof. I’ll take the whole closet.”

“That’s more like it, Kara djoon.” I love when she speaks that beautiful endearment after my name.

I slipped the suit on in front of her, and it fit perfectly. It did make me look older, but in a sophisticated way. I assessed my reflection. My blond hair had recently been layered and highlighted at Leila’s favorite salon. My skin was still glowing from the oxygen facial that Leila had treated me to the week before. And my body was looking firm from the Pilates session of Leila’s that I’d crashed. For a single woman on the precipice of earliest middle age, I was looking pretty good. Of course, I wasn’t single in Leila’s eyes. I was abruptly reminded of that when “Gimme More,” Britney’s latest hit, rang from the cell phone in my purse.

Leila looked inside and pulled it out. “It’s Babak,” she said as she handed me the phone. On its screen was a photo of Bobby, reclining on the blue Astroturf of the Standard Hotel, palm trees reflected in his Aviator shades, his wavy jet-black hair almost blue in the glare of the sun.

“Getting impatient?” I answered.

“What are you two doing up there? Bobby whispered urgently.

“Trying on clothes.”

“Well, hurry up. You know I can’t stand this much one-on-one time alone with my dad. He’s making me watch golf.”

“Where are you calling from?”

“The guest bathroom. Just hurry.” Bobby hung up.

“What does he vant?” Sometimes Leila slips and her Ws come out as Vs.


“I don’t see why he can’t do without you and just watch golf for thirty minutes while we try on a few things. His father was never so possessive, thank goodness.” She ran her hands along one of the immaculate white-lacquered shelves. “When we built this house, it was the beginning of the eighties–Babak was five when we were renovating it, so it was 1982. I always knew I wanted a large closet, and I wanted the shelves to be white lacquer, because it allows the colors of the clothes to dominate the room. There was one day–it was when the house was still under construction–the closet was one of the first rooms to be almost done. Maybe that’s because I knew exactly what I wanted it to be. I sold the gym equipment that was in it and redesigned it immediately. So one day, we were walking the children in to choose their bedrooms, and Babak walked into this closet, and he shouted, ‘This is mine.'”

About the author:

Abdi Nazemian is the screenwriter of The Quiet, Celeste in the City, Beautiful Girls, and the short film Revolution, which he also directed. He is an alumnus of the Sundance Writer’s Lab, a mentor at the Outfest Screenwriter’s Lab, and has taught screenwriting at UCLA Extension. He lives in Los Angeles with his two children and his dog, Hedy Lamarr. The Walk-In Closet is his first novel. 

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Book Showcase: THE REVEALED by Jessica Hickam

The Revealed by Jessica Hickam
ISBN:  9781940716008 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781940716015 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00L1P1RZ0 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: SparkPress
Publication date: June 15, 2014

Lily Atwood lives in what used to be Washington, D.C. Her father is one of the most powerful men in the world, having been a vital part of rebuilding and reuniting humanity after the war that killed over five billion people. Now he’s running to be one of its leaders.

But in the rediscovered peace in this new world, a force has risen. They call themselves The Revealed — an underground rebel organization that has been kidnapping 18-year-olds across the globe without explanation. No one knows why The Revealed is taking these teens, but it’s clear something is different about these people. They can set fires with a snap of their fingers and create wind strong enough to throw over a tree with a flick of their wrist. They are unstoppable, and they have targeted 18-year-old Lily as their next victim.

Lily is too close to breaking free from her father’s shadow to let The Revealed ruin things, especially her developing relationship with the mysterious Kai Westerfield — the sun of her father’s rival. Lily isn’t about to lose her future just when it’s starting to look promising. Not without a fight.

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

If I’m going to be taken, I plan on having at least a little fun first.

Sleek and silver with the latest technology, including dent-resistant metal, my father’s Aston Martin is made to drive. The doors recognize DNA and I’m half him, so it’s easy to break inside. I just press my hand against the door. The car needs a moment to analyze, then lifts the door, allowing me to slide into the driver’s seat. I toss the still-sealed letter onto the passenger seat.

There’s no need to open it. I know what it is.

The car’s ignition can either be started with fingerprint recognition or overridden by the key. I took the keys from the shelf by the front door while my mother wasn’t home earlier this morning.

I shift gears and press my ballet flats on the gas, not wasting any time.

The odometer climbs higher as the car smoothly accelerates.

The sensor in the car’s front mirror triggers our gate, and it opens just in time for me to speed through. Let security try to track me down now.

Pulling out onto the main road, I press my foot to the floor, going well over the speed limit.

I glance in my rearview mirror.

Security doesn’t stand a chance!

My eyes return to the road.

Strategically placed, black SUVs block my path to the freeway. My lungs constrict, forcing the air from my chest. Somehow they’re already one step ahead of me.

I grip the wheel.

I’m driving too fast.

My foot hits the brake.

Tires sear the road.

Adrenaline spins through me as I brace the wheel, keeping the car straight.

My knuckles tighten. I feel the road beneath my slipping under my feet.

The Aston slams to a stop, throwing me up against the wheel. THe first SUV is only inches in front of me. Relief fills me but is quickly erased by mounting frustration.

I rip off my seatbelt, stomping out of the car.

Jeremy, head of my father’s security, stands at the front of the line. There are half a dozen other members of security lounging against the cars as they wait for me to arrive. They straighten to a standing position once I storm toward Jeremy.

Jeremy’s lips are carved into a thin line. He looks like he’s expecting me to barrel into him and continue running down the road. “Did that scare you enough to get these insane ideas out of your system?”

“You could have made me crash?” I advance on him.

“Good thing you were paying attention then,” Jeremy says, opening the backdoor of the SUV. I had over the Aston’s keys and slump inside. The smell of the black leather reminds me of past trips to speeches and conventions. My father used to let me pick the music on the touch screen positioned in the side-door panel, anything I wanted, while my mother would chastise me for turning it up too loud. But my father would just laugh and tell her to let me be a kid. I feel like a kid now more than ever, and it’s a hard reminder that I don’t get to make significant decisions. Especially when it comes to my life. It has already been laid out for me.

Jeremy tosses the Aston’s keys to one of the security guards standing behind him. He’ll drive it back into the garage. “You’re gonna get yourself killed if you keep pulling these stunts,” he continues his lecture.

“Either I do it or The Revealed does,” I say as he slams the door trapping me securely in the back.

Two hundred fifty-two days until I’m nineteen. If I make until then.

About the author:

After graduating from Arizona State University in 2011, Jessica relocated to Los Angeles where she now works in the film industry. From acting to assisting on the Paramount feature Star Trek: Into Darkness, her experiences have only reinforced her love for living in other worlds – whether they be from her own imagination or someone else’s. The Revealed is her first novel.

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The Witch of Belladonna Bay by Suzanne Palmieri
ISBN: 9781250015532 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781250015525 (ebook)
ASIN: B00GEU760C (Kindle edition)
Publication date: May 13, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

It’s the trouble you aren’t expecting that gets you. And it’s all around you, Bronwyn, it’s all around you like the air…

Bronwyn “BitsyWyn” Whalen hasn’t set eyes on the red dirt of Magnolia Creek, Alabama, for fourteen years—not since her mama died. But with her brother, Patrick, imprisoned for the murder of her childhood best friend, and her eccentric father, Jackson, at his wits’ end while her eleven-year-old niece, Byrd, runs wild, Bronwyn finds herself once again surrounded by ancient magnolia trees and the troubled family she left behind. She becomes immersed in a whirlwind of mystery and magic as she tries to figure out what really happened that fateful night her friend died. And as her bond with Byrd deepens, Bronwyn must face the demons of her past in order to unravel her family’s uncertain future. In Suzanne Palmieri’s thrilling new novel, The Witch of Belladonna Bay, readers will learn if love and magic are enough to bring a broken family back together.

Bronwyn Whalen has, what she feels is, the perfect life. She has a successful career in photography and a man that she loves. What she doesn’t have is a relationship with her family. All of that is about to change with one simple phone call. It’s been fourteen years since Bronwyn left Magnolia Creek, Alabama vowing never to return. She left behind her father, her brother, her great-aunt, and her best friends. One simple phone call shatters her life. Her childhood best friend has been murdered, her brother has been arrested for the murder, and her brother’s daughter is left to fend for herself. The only thing Bronwyn can do is face the past and return to Alabama to sort out the truth.

The Witch of Belladonna Bay is a modern gothic novel with a Southern twist. Ms. Palmieri deftly blends murder, mayhem, mystery, magic, mysticism, and ghosts into a captivating tale of family and loss. Bronwyn feels that her mother neglected her and her brother by using drugs to the point of addiction. Bronwyn, in turn, neglects her family for years as she struggles to find herself. Byrd, Bronwyn’s niece, is precocious, lovable, and wild. Byrd attends school when she wants, takes baths when she feels like it, and is loved and feared by almost everyone in town. It doesn’t help that Bronwyn’s mother, Naomi, and her entire family are descendants of witches from New England, or that Bronwyn and Byrd are recipients of that magic. Add in a family curse and legends into the mix and you wind up with a story that didn’t let me go until the final page.

One of the things that kept my attention from beginning to end was the alternating perspectives of Bronwyn, Byrd, and the ghostly Naomi. Ms. Palmieri has crafted believable characters even when dealing with somewhat unbelievable circumstances. The Witch of Belladonna Bay is all about what a person is willing to do to protect their loved ones. Byrd does what she can in order to protect her father, aunt, and grandfather even if it means turning her back on the greatest love of her life. Bronwyn is forced to act to protect her loved ones even if it means losing the one person she has turned to for love and support over the past seven years of her life. I found The Witch of Belladonna Bay to be a fast-paced read and one that I completed in one sitting over the course of one evening. If you enjoy contemporary gothic fiction or are just interested in reading something a little different, then I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of The Witch of Belladonna Bay to read. You’ll probably want to set aside a few hours so you can read it cover to cover, perhaps while enjoying the sun at the beach or poolside.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from BookSparks as part of the Summer Reading Challenge. 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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Cure for the Common Breakup by Beth Kendrick
ISBN: 9780451465856 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781101635971 (ebook)
ASIN: B00FX7R6CA (Kindle edition)
Publication date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: NAL Trade (Penguin Group)

Welcome to Black Dog Bay, a tiny seaside town in Delaware known as “the best place in America to bounce back from your breakup.” Home to Better Off Bed-and-Breakfast, the Eat Your Heart Out bakery, and the Whinery bar, Black Dog Bay offers a haven for the suddenly single.

Flight attendant Summer Benson lives by two rules: Don’t stay with the same man for too long and never stay in one place. She’s about to break rule number one by considering accepting her boyfriend’s proposal—then disaster strikes and her world is shattered in an instant.

Summer heads to Black Dog Bay, where the locals welcome her. Even Hattie Huntington, the town’s oldest, richest, and meanest resident, likes her enough to give her a job. Then there’s Dutch Jansen, the rugged, stoic mayor, who’s the opposite of her type. She probably shouldn’t be kissing him. She definitely shouldn’t be falling in love.

After a lifetime of globe-trotting, Summer has finally found a home. But Hattie has old scores to settle and a hidden agenda for her newest employee. Summer finds herself faced with an impossible choice: Leave Black Dog Bay behind forever, or stay with the ones she loves and cost them everything…

What do you do after a near-death experience and an almost engagement quickly followed by a breakup a few days later while you’re recuperating in a hospital? If you’re Summer Benson you head for Black Dog Bay, Delaware, reported breakup capital of America. This is a place where you can wallow in your grief at the Better Off Bed-and-Breakfast, drown your sorrows at the Whinery Bar, or eat as many sweet and chocolate confectionaries to soothe your soul at the Eat Your Heart Out Bakery. You can even shop til you drop at Retail Therapy where clothing is actually divided into categories suitable for your breakup/grief stage.

All her life Summer has been a love-’em-and-leave-’em party girl. Now that she’s been dumped by her almost fiancé after a near-death experience in a plane crash, she’s somewhat lost. She doesn’t know what she really wants and refuses to allow her stepsister, Emily, to “help” her recover, even if it might mean a date with Ryan Gosling (I know…she’s obviously in need of professional help). The last thing she needs is to become emotionally involved with anyone, especially not with the townsfolk of Black Dog Bay, the town’s mayor Dutch Jansen, or the mentor to Dutch’s teenage sister, Ingrid. Unfortunately that is exactly what she does and it all starts with her taking on one of the most notorious summer people in the town and then following it up by taking on the town bully, Hattie Huntington.

Cure for the Common Breakup was a fast and hilarious read. Seriously, I’m talking laugh-out-loud funny due to some of Summer’s antics not to mention her conversations with Hattie Huntington. This is more than just a love story, even though there is quite a bit of romance. Summer recovers from her breakup only to realize that she wants to put down roots, and that she cares more for the people of Black Dog Bay than she ever dreamed. She allows herself to be emotionally blackmailed by Miss Huntington and what ensues are those laugh-out-loud confrontational conversations, steamy romance scenes between Summer and Dutch, and Summer’s ability to put the cares and needs of others before herself. Who knew being an airline steward could have so many practical applications? I loved all of the characters in this story, from the emotionally stunted and comical Summer, to the striving to be perfect teen Ingrid, and even the elderly and bitter Hattie. Ms. Kendrick has crafted an amazingly fast read that pulled me in with the comedy and drama of Summer Benson’s life. You’ll definitely want to add Cure for the Common Breakup to your summer reading schedule, but be warned that your laughter may elicit a lot of unwanted attention. (This was the first book I’ve read by Ms. Kendrick and it certainly won’t be my last. I’m going to be reading as many of her previous books as possible over the next few months.)

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from BookSparks as part of the Summer Reading Challenge via 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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