2012 Book 225: GOLDEN CHARIOT Review

Golden Chariot by Chris Karlsen
ISBN: 9781476232232 (eBook edition)
ASIN: B007KNLC02 (Kindle edition) 
Publication date: March 2012
Publisher: Books To Go Now

The rare discovery of a ship sunk during the time of the Trojan War has been found off the coast of Turkey, near Troy. Charlotte Dashiell is an American nautical archaeologist and thrilled to be part of the recovery team. The wreck may contain proof of her highly controversial theory about the Trojan War.

Charlotte is present when the Turkish government agent assigned to guard the site is murdered. Her possible involvement and a questionable connection to a private collector of black market relics bring her under suspicion. Atakan Vadim is the Turkish agent sent to investigate her. Unknown to either of them, the smuggler behind the murder plans to steal a valuable artifact and frame Charlotte for the theft…after they murder her.

Charlotte Dashiell is a doctoral student of nautical archeology. She is spending her summer working a find in Turkey. Her hope is to find proof of the mythic kingdom, Troy as mentioned in The Iliad. Tragedy strikes shortly after her arrival; the boat she’s on is struck by a trawler and the Ministry of Culture representative is killed. A new ministry agent is assigned to the archeological group, Atakan Vadim, and he seems more intent on investigating Charlotte than on his friend and fellow agent’s death . . . or so it seems.

What follows is a web of international intrigue centered on the smuggling of valuable archeological artifacts and revenge, and Charlotte is the center of the attraction. She is suspect because her stepfather’s company donated money to facilitate the archeological expedition and his business partner is a known collector of smuggled art. It doesn’t help that Charlotte is the one that turned him to the authorities. As the team of archeologists race to beat the clock and the ravages of nature (underwater earthquakes are gradually destroying the safety of the underwater site), Atakan and Charlotte must also race to figure out which artifact is at risk and who is behind the attempted theft.

Golden Chariot is a quasi-action-thriller with hints of romance. Ms. Karlsen has provided characters that have quirks and faults which provide the necessary element of realism. Charlotte and Atakan are likeable characters and humor is brought into the story with their linguistic wrangling, such as explaining the difference between being a coot versus a cootie. What starts off as a working relationship develops into friendship and then much more. Golden Chariot is a fast read that provides just enough action, romance and international intrigue to make it a unique reading experience.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free via Full Moon Bites Blog Tours. 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.”


2012 Book 224: BROKEN PROMISES Review

Broken Promises by Donna M. Zadunajsky
ISBN: 9781938037146 
Publication date: June 25, 2012
Publisher: Little T’s Corner

Two years after their marriage, Jim Culback wasn’t the man Clare thought he was. How many more broken promises could she accept? After packing up and moving everything they owned from Ohio to Naples, Florida, she actually thought things would get better in their marriage, but as time went by she couldn’t take the beatings, the lies, and the cheating any longer. Leaving him, she came across a notebook stuffed under the sofa cushion. Could her husband be capable of doing what he wrote? Is Jim responsible for the murders of two women? A detective from Chicago is put on the case to solve the murders and has an encounter with Clare. What develops between them? Can Clare trust another man? Or does Jim have other plans for Clare?

Claire and Jim Culback appear to be a typical young couple. They have one child, own a home and are head-over-heels in debt due to Jim’s drinking and extravagances. The solution for them is filing for bankruptcy, leaving Ohio and starting all over again in Florida. But Claire quickly learns that you can’t always leave your problems behind and Jim’s drinking, violence, suicide threats and infidelities quickly cause their marriage to disintegrate. Claire starts a new business, leaves Jim and relocates to a smaller condo. Life isn’t great but it is going fairly well until Claire finds a notebook with ominous details about a murder. Is it possible that Jim is more violent that she could have ever imagined? 

Broken Promises had all the makings for a great story, but it never came together in the end. Claire and Jim meet a neighbor and after one meeting they are now best friends. Jim, her husband, becomes jealous of the attention Claire receives from Jim, the neighbor. Jim, the husband, has several affairs and even comes home one morning to say he wants a divorce, but as soon as he finds out that Claire is looking for a divorce attorney he changes his mind and wants to stay together. Claire doesn’t trust Jim, the neighbor, in one chapter and then is not only attracted to him but dating him in later chapters. Claire is devastated to leave her best friend, Angel, in Ohio but only has one phone call with her in the time she’s in Florida. A woman she has only a passing acquaintance with from Ohio moves to Florida and is now her best friend. 

For most of the story Claire vacillates between staying with and leaving her husband. She loves him but can’t tolerate his drinking and violence and refuses to do anything to resolve the situation. Later she apparently dates a guy that becomes a stalker and she has no problem with getting a restraining order against him (something she never did against her husband no matter how violent he became against her). It’s hard to believe that Claire and Jim are in their early thirties as they both seem more juvenile in their behavior and thinking. I didn’t find the characters very believable or very well-developed. I also had difficulties believing some of the story-lines presented, such as a police officer from Chicago Illinois is asked to review the cases in Naples, Florida. Not only does he review the case but he quickly takes over the investigation and it doesn’t appear that anyone associated with the Naples police department has a problem with his behavior. Broken Promises isn’t a “bad” read but just one that didn’t work for me.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free 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.”

2012 Book 223: HOT COCO Review

Hot Coco by Cindy McDonald
ISBN: 9780985726713 (paperback)
Publication date: June 1, 2012
Publisher: Acorn Book Services

HOT: Coco Beardmore

NOT: Coco’s calamities

HOT: Mike West’s fantasies

NOT: Mike’s reality

That’s right, Coco Beardmore is sizzling hot and she’s landed in Mike West’s lap. The problem is Coco’s middle name is chaos! Her driving skills are a real bang–into Mike’s horse trailer, and her sultry seduction will set the room on fire–the kitchen that is.

What’s worse are her Thoroughbreds ability to mimic their owner’s habit of screwing things up. It’s enough to drive a normally calm and collected Mike West to the very edge.

But Mike’s not the only one having problems with women. His father Eric has taken on more than he can chew, and he’s about to get spit out by two women: one that he’s in love with and one that thinks he’s in love with her.

Oh yeah, things are hot around Westwood Thoroughbred Farm… and someone’s about to get burned!

Horses, racetracks, sexy and sultry characters and massive misunderstandings  are the major components in the contemporary read Hot Coco by Cindy McDonald. I thought that the story was going to center on Colette “Coco” Beardmore given the title, and it does . . . for a while. Coco is attracted to Mike West, Mike is attracted to Coco but he’s also still attracted (sexual attraction) to his ex-wife Ava. Ava is in a relationship with Carl, who is attracted to Ava’s ex-sister-in-law Kate. Mike and Kate’s father, Eric, is attracted to Jennifer and vice versa. Eric is also generously donating his time to teach Margie, another trainer’s daughter, to read. Margie starts off infatuated with Mike, begins to date a co-worker, and then thinks she’s in love with Eric. Whew! Confused yet, I was and I read it!

The basic premise for Hot Coco is what attracted me to this book, but it didn’t take long for the premise to fall flat. Coco and Mike are the major characters for about three or four chapters and then the story goes off on numerous tangents. To put it bluntly, Hot Coco is a “hot mess.” There doesn’t seem to be a main storyline or major characters throughout the story. Characters may be major in a few chapters and then become extremely minor in others. There is no main story to pull everything together other than the setting of the racetrack and training facilities. Ms. McDonald appears to have had a great idea for a story that centered on mutual attraction that is confounded by the klutziness of one of the characters. Unfortunately that story was over within a few short chapters and the remaining storylines just seem like filler. Hot Coco is a fast read but it simply didn’t work for me due to its lack of storyline and major character development. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free from the author 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.”


The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge by Christina Nolfi
ISBN: 9781468199277
Publication date: March 15, 2012
Publisher: Author
A savage rape on hallowed ground. Secrets buried for decades by the town’s most influential family.
Now Ourania D’Andre will learn the Great Oak’s secrets as construction begins at the Fagan mansion. She can’t afford to turn down a job that promises to stir up the long-buried guilt—and the passion—she shares with powerful Troy Fagan.
She’s already juggling the most important job of her career with her new responsibilities as a foster mother for young Walt and Emma Korchek. And there’s a hard, older man on the construction crew with eyes void of emotion—cold and killing. The secrets of his brutal past will pose a grave threat to the children in her care. Will she find the courage to face him?

Troy Fagan was blessed to be born into wealth. His family owns and operates Fagan Orchards in Lincoln, Ohio. Troy, a man who loves his family and appreciates the family business, has stepped out on his own and operates a general contracting business. Ourania D’Andre is an electrician. She’s been hired to work on the renovations at the Fagan mansion. Unfortunately she and Troy have a history together, an unhappy history. Troy isn’t happy to have Ourania on this current project, but he’ll make do in order to keep his sister happy with the renovations, as long as Ourania doesn’t cause any trouble on the work site.
Trouble is just what Ourania has to deal with as her mother, a social worker, contacts her to become an emergency foster-parent to two children, Walt and Emma Korchek. Walt and Emma have had to deal with the death of their mother and constant emotional, physical and even sexual abuse at the hands of their father. Their fear and mistrust of adults is another stress for Ourania to handle. All of this is an additional stress that Ourania doesn’t need or want, especially since it requires her to be absent from the work site at crucial moments. But Lianna D’Andre doesn’t accept no for an answer, and Ourania becomes a foster-parent to two young, traumatized and somewhat hostile children. As Ourania, Walt and Emma work on overcoming their differences and mistrust, they also come to respect one another. Just when it seems like things are going well, Ourania discovers a secret about Troy that could threaten his peace of mind and possibly threaten the welfare of all involved. Can she tell Troy the truth no matter the consequences? Troy also has secrets that relate to Ourania? Should he tell her the truth even though it may put more barriers to them ever having a relationship? Is it possible to forgive the past? How far is too far in an effort to protect these secrets and the past? Once these secrets are revealed can forgiveness be granted?
Ms. Nolfi has created a heart-stirring tale of love that overcomes many obstacles in The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge. This isn’t just a romance between a man and a woman; it’s also a romance between a woman and two children. Ourania may not be the typical mother-figure, but she grows to love Walt and Emma and is willing to do anything to protect them, no matter the cost. Walt and Emma learn to overcome their mistrust and show their affection toward Ourania despite their traumatic childhood. There are many stories woven into this story, and all seem to hinge on actions that took place under an ancient oak tree on the Fagan’s property, the proverbial “tree of everlasting knowledge.” All of the main characters have secrets they are keeping and these secrets are all divulged and dealt with in the story. Some of these secrets are life-changing and others are life-affirming. All of the primary characters are very well-developed and likeable, with one exception. The secondary characters are also well-developed and provide excellent support to the story and for the primary characters. Some of the action is tragic and heart-wrenching, whereas other action is loving and heart-warming. All of the action is realistic and never too over-the-top. The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge is a fast-paced read that provides warmth and laughter as well as moments that are close to being tear-jerking. I’ve actually read this story twice this year and thoroughly enjoyed it both times. Don’t expect this to be a light-hearted read, it isn’t, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
Disclaimer:I received a copy of 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 35: THE NINTH STEP Review

The Ninth Step by Barbara Taylor Sissel
ASIN: B005KDCOCE (Kindle Edition)
Publication date: August 30, 2011

A novel of timeless love, loss, and family and the steps we must take for forgiveness. 

Livie Saunders is fluent in the language of flowers; she taught the meanings to her fiancé, Cotton O’Dell, but then Cotton vanished without explanation on their wedding day forcing Livie to learn the language of desolation. Heartbroken, she buries her wedding gown beneath a garden pond and she resolves to move on, but there are nights when she slips . . . into a sequined red dress and a pair of stiletto heels, a stranger’s bed, a little anonymous oblivion that is not without consequence. Still, she recovers a semblance of ordinary life and imagines herself content. After all, Cotton told her to forget about him. Livie even maintains a friendship with Delia, Cotton’s mother, whom he also abandoned without a word of explanation. 

Then, six years later, an unsigned card and a bouquet of irises signal Cotton’s presence, but his reunion with Livie isn’t as joyous as he had hoped. While she struggles to forgive him, Livie can’t hide her own past and how she has changed since Cotton left. 

Meanwhile, Cotton is still haunted by the crime that caused him to flee…a crime for which the legal clock is still ticking. For a moment, it seems they can both forget the past and rebuild their lives together, but then Cotton goes missing again. 

Time telescopes, avenues of escape close, and as lives hang in the balance, choice teeters between mercy and revenge. And a decision that will take only a moment will carry the consequences of a lifetime. THE NINTH STEP is a story of redemption, of being brought to your knees to face a monstrous error and somehow finding the strength to make it right. Even if that effort breaks your heart, endangers your freedom, and ultimately threatens your life.

Livie Saunders suffered heart break when Cotton O’Dell left her at the altar. She has suffered from torment when her self-esteem was so low that she would go out seeking pleasure and admiration from strangers. But Livie is no longer the lost person she once was; she has a good life, good friends, close family, and a good career as a landscaper. Livie may not have found love but she hasn’t ruled it out. Just when she thinks she is beginning to move away from the past, it presents itself again with the reappearance of her former fiance, Cotton O’Dell. To make matters even more difficult, a one night stand with a really good man, Joe Bolten, results in a major complication.

Cotton knows that forgiveness will not be easy, but he also knows that he must try to make amends for the wrongs he has committed. Some of these may be easily forgiven and set aside and others may not. Cotton has to make amends for so much in his past, including seeking forgiveness from Livie, his mother, and a family of strangers. Over time, Cotton befriends Wes and Nicole Lattimer. He comes to respect them as well as like them, but will he ever be able to make amends for the part he’s played in their lives.

People make mistakes, some small and some large. Some mistakes are forgivable and others may require time to ease the pain before forgiveness can ever be considered. We often seek forgiveness from others before we can ever begin to forgive ourselves. Cotton learns that anything worth having is worth working for, as well as the fact that forgiveness doesn’t come easy. Cotton’s past behavior had impacted so many lives and he learns to accept responsibility for his actions in his ongoing attempt to make amends. Livie learns that she can’t be responsible for other people’s happiness and in return finds happiness herself in an unexpected place. 

The Ninth Step is filled with intense drama and emotions. Some of this intensity is derived from the normal male-female give and take in relationships and some from the misunderstandings that arise from the differences between men and women. There’s family-oriented drama between Livie’s sister Kat and her husband, Tim and their ongoing problems with Kat’s out-of-control spending. There’s dysfunctional family history components from Kat and Livie’s childhood experiences with their mother’s numerous boyfriends, as well as with Cotton, his family, and alcoholism – namely his and his mother’s alcoholism. Ms. Sissel doesn’t sugarcoat the problems presented in The Ninth Step, nor does she provide easy resolution to the problems addressed. However, she does provide a sense of hope that things can turn out okay for everyone involved. I found this to be a very realistic portrayal of life and families. No one is presented as wholly bad or wholly good, but a combination of both. The Ninth Step may not be an easy read for some but it is a fast read that is well worth the time.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of 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.”


What Happened to Hannah by Mary Kay McComas
ISBN: 978-0-06-208478-1
Publication date: February 7, 2012
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

As a teenager, Hannah Benson’s one chance to save herself was to run away. As the years have passed, she’s never looked back, not even to find out what happened to the mother and sister she left behind. Now, twenty years later, the past comes calling when her hometown sheriff, Grady Steadman — Hannah’s sweetheart in high school — delivers some life-changing news: her mother and sister are dead, leaving her guardian of her fifteen-year-old niece.

Returning home to bitter memories and devastating secrets, Hannah must find a way to make this new challenge work without ruining lives — or destroying her own sanity. And when her painful memories of this small town become mingled with the new, happier moments she’s creating with her niece — and the rekindled feelings she has for Grady — Hannah is faced with the most difficult challenge yet.

Hannah has spent the past twenty years trying to forget her past, specifically the emotional, verbal and physical abuse from her father. The only good she left behind was her sister, Ruth, and her boyfriend, Grady. It wasn’t easy, but Hannah has made something of herself with the help of her surrogate father, Joe Levitz. Joe was her father, mentor and friend and it was with his help that she became an insurance agent and agency owner. Now the time has come for Hannah to face her past and return home to the memories left behind and a niece she’s never known.

Grady Steadman, indeed, the entire town, knew that Karl Benson and his family were different. The adults suspected abuse, but nothing was ever done. As a result, Hannah often went to school with bruises from “falls” and even broken bones. Most of the town had assumed that Karl had killed Hannah as she disappeared on the night of the worst beating yet, but since a body had never been found again nothing was done. But Karl is dead, Ruth is dead, even Hannah’s mother is dead and there’s no family member left to take care of fifteen-year-old Anna but her aunt. 

Hannah’s return is anything but triumphant and she can’t wait to leave Clearfield once again. She doesn’t know the first thing about being a parent, even a surrogate parent and isn’t sure her niece will even like her. Fortunately Hannah, and her niece Anna, learn to like, respect then love one another. Misunderstanding and mistakes are made but they both have much to learn about each other.

What Happened to Hannah discusses some weighty issues, such as child abuse, spousal abuse, and even the possibility of child molestation. Ms. McComas doesn’t gloss over these issues and treats them with the dignity and respect they deserve. Although Hannah and Grady have feelings for one another, Grady knows that Hannah is still hiding something. Until she can trust him fully, he isn’t willing to turn custody of Anna over to her. I found all of the characters, especially Hannah, Anna, and Grady’s daughter Lucy to be likeable, if not lovable, and all too realistic. Grady and Joe provide the much needed male counterparts to these strong females. They aren’t overly protective or domineering and seemed to provide the masculine perspective and counterpoint of view. What Happened to Hannah has romance, drama, as well as teenage and adult angst tempered with humor and sensitivity. This may not be an easy read for some because of the issues discussed, but it is definitely worth reading. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher. 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 280: ALL FALL DOWN Review

Liesel is a happily married woman. She and Christopher have a good relationship and a good life, but Liesel is beginning to want more. She wants children. Sunny has only known the compound. She isn’t happy, but she isn’t exactly unhappy. The last thing she expects is to leave the only family she’s ever known and start anew. Liesel and Sunny both struggle with new obstacles and strive to remain steadfast in All Fall Down by Megan Hart.

Liesel knows that her husband Christopher doesn’t really want kids, but the last thing either of them expects is to have Sunny arrive on their doorstep with three small children in tow. Bigger surprise is that Sunny is Christopher’s child from his first marriage. She’s only nineteen years old and has three children ranging in age from four to eight months old. Liesel wants to make the best of an obviously awkward and bad situation and welcomes Sunny or Sunshine and her children, Happy, Peace and Bliss. Sunny isn’t quite sure how to deal with these new changes and desires the simple family life she’s always known. She didn’t relish the punishments or lack of food, but she openly accepted having someone tell her what to do, at what time and where. She even allowed the leader John Second and others to use her sexually and father her three children. When Liesel, Christopher and Sunny realize the family at the compound has committed mass suicide, or “entering the gate” as Sunny puts it, they all realize there is no going back.

Becoming a mother, or even a stepmother and step-grandmother, overnight with little forewarning and preparation is a bit more than Liesel expected. She quickly becomes overwhelmed and stressed out. It doesn’t help that Christopher isn’t home much and she’s run off her feet. There are major adjustments to be had on all sides with Liesel and Sunny making the major adjustments. Sunny must learn to accept her newfound freedoms, but she yearns for more. She’s also feeling a certain amount of survivors’ guilt because she was left behind. 

After reading the first chapter, I presumed that this was not going to be a happily-ever-after book and was waiting for some major tragedy to occur. Ms. Hart keeps the reader twisted emotionally with the guilt and stress felt by Liesel as well as the guilt and bewilderment experienced by Sunny. Both women are trying to fit into some preconceived mold of what is normal. The stresses they both deal with are primarily stressors that they impose on themselves and they both find themselves lacking. This is the true tragedy. I found All Fall Down to be a quick read that, fortunately, does end on a hopeful note with both women learning from the other.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher through 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 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.”


Jalal Vaziri has spent his life running away from his problems. He left his parents and siblings in Seattle, moving cross-country to New York to escape family pressure to join the family business. He then leaves New York and moved to California when he decided he didn’t like his job and where his life was heading. The Brevity of Roses by Linda Cassidy Lewis explores Jalal’s motivations and shows that you can’t run away from love or reality no matter how hard you try.

When we first meet Jalal he is hung over in NYC and wondering why he’s continuing down such a destructive path. He doesn’t like his job or where he’s heading so he drives cross-country to California and focuses on his more artistic side as a poet. Jalal knows, or thinks he knows, that he’s a disappointment to his father so he keeps his visits to family as brief and far apart as possible. He also knows that although he is content with his life he isn’t really happy until he walks into a restaurant and meets a woman.

Meredith is an older woman and a widow. She immediately notices Jalal as he enters the restaurant and stares, although she felt she was being circumspect in her observations. What follows is a whirlwind romance with Jalal all but moving in to her home. He cooks for her, he pampers her and she adores him. She even teaches him about gardening and tending her beloved roses. Their relationship has its ups and downs but eventually they marry and have several wonderful years together.

Jalal doesn’t seem to recover from the loss of Meredith and seems to marking time only, until he meets Renee. Renee is a younger woman with an old soul. She has been through a lot in her young years and has a unique perspective on life. As she and Jalal build a friendship, she forces Jalal to revive and rejoin the human race. Can she force Jalal to see that just as the life of roses is brief, so can opportunities to enjoy life and love before it is too late?

Ms. Lewis has provided a tender and thought-provoking look at life, chance, and love. Jalal seems to spend his time presuming what motivates others and often getting it wrong. As an older woman, Meredith was able to change his point of view on some things. As the younger woman, Renee is able to change his point of view on other things, most likely because of her youth, vibrancy and life experiences. Perhaps the primary thought underscored in The Brevity of Roses is don’t assume anything, enjoy life and love wherever you may find it, because you never know when it may be gone. Although romance is at the forefront of this story it provides so much more, because in many ways it is a coming of age story for Jalal. The reader is afforded the opportunity to see him grow and develop from a man in his early thirties to age forty. Yes, in some ways he is overly spoiled, but he isn’t obnoxiously spoiled just incredibly naive in some ways. I enjoyed seeing him grow and the different dynamics of his relationships with Meredith and Renee. (To read chapter one and two of this book, please visit the author’s website at: http://lindacassidylewis.com/brevity-of-roses/)

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.”


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.”