Sunday, July 31, 2011

Review: Somewhere My Lass by Beth Trissel

File Size: 313 KB
Copyright: 2010

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Neil MacKenzie's well ordered life turns to chaos when Mora Campbell shows up claiming he's her fiance from 1602 Scotland. Her avowal that she was chased to the future by clan chieftain, Red MacDonald, is utter nonsense, and Neil must convince her that she is just addled from a blow to her head--or so he believes until the MacDonald himself shows up wanting blood.
Mora knows the Neil of the future is truly her beloved Niall who disappeared from the past. Although her kinsmen believe he's dead, and she is now destined to marry Niall's brother, she's convinced that if she and Neil return to the past, all will be right. The only problem is how to get back to 1602 before it's too late.
The balance of the present and future are in peril if she marries another, and the Neil of the present will cease to exist. An ancient relic and a few good friends in the future help pave the way back to the past, but will Mora and Neil be too late to save a love that began centuries before?

Mandy's Review:


I'm not sure I like the cover.  Don't get me wrong ... the man is fine and the girl pretty, but it somehow seems disconnected.  Although ... the man, woman and castle do reflect the main focal points of the story.


The reader travels with the characters from historic Staunton, Virginia in 2009 to 1602 Scotland.  It is a romantic story with bits of mysticism, humor and time travel.  Once begun, this story will carry you through to the end before you even realize it's over.

Main Characters

Mora - Headstrong and stubborn with a fierce temper.  She is from 1602 Scotland.  Mora landed in Neil's home in 2009 Virginia.  Will she make it back to Scotland and her betrothed?

Neil - A graphic designer who has no family to speak of.  Those closest to him that he considers family are his best friend and housekeeper.  He leads a somewhat lonely life ... that is, until he finds Mora in his home during some tragic events.

Fergus - Neil's best friend.  He's a techie and geek who doesn't seem to have ever grown up.  He is the perfect sidekick to Neil's character and a valuable asset to Neil and Mora during several semi-climactic situations.


While this book wasn't one of my absolute faves, it is definitely a book I enjoyed reading.  This would be a perfect recommendation to those readers who enjoy a romance with the element of a time travel quandary.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review: Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard

ISBN #: 0-440-41286-2
Page Count: 48
Copyright: 1979

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Dudley the Stork's new house is haunted! When the clock strikes twelve there are thumps in the den, creaks on the stairs, and bumps everywhere.

Dudley's friend Trevor Hog says Madam Kreepy will find out what's causing the spooky noises.  And so, just before midnight, Dudley's friends gather with Madam Kreepy.

No one can guess what will happen when the clock strikes twelve.

Mandy's Review:

This book is #93 on the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009 ... Yes, I'm finally getting back to this list!!! =)

Banned Reasons

I could not find anything online that stated specific reasons.  However, after reading the book, I would suspect one reason to be the mention of witchcraft.


Considering the suggested reading ages for this book is 5 to 8, the cover would strike the mysterious, want-to-read chord within the heart of the potential reader.

Plot/Main Characters

Dudley the Stork cannot fall asleep one night.  As he's attempting to snooze, he hears strange noises downstairs.  Not really locating the noise's source, he calls his friends trying to figure out what to do.

Since Dudley has jumped to conclusions about his house being haunted, Trevor Hog suggests a medium come over to do a seance.

What then ensues is an interesting tale that resolves Dudley's fears about his house being haunted.


Since I only speculated at the reason why this book was banned/challenged, I can only agree or disagree with my own reasoning.  And, I must say, I do have an issue with a book, for children aged 5 to 8, that involves talk of mediums and seances.

I do not have an issue with the ghost story part (who doesn't enjoy a good ghost story?!), but insinuating or suggesting that people can conjure spirits and talk to them is too much for a 5 to 8 year old to understand.  I'm not saying that it can't be written about, but I would prefer if it was written for older children.

So, yes, I would have to agree with my speculations as to why this particular book was banned or challenged.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: Weaver of Darkness by Melissa L. Webb

File Size: 489 KB
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

When evil comes for the ones you love, who will you choose to be?

Liss Taylor always suspected she was a little different than other people, between the nightmares of desolate wastelands and the tattoo of an arrow she was born with; but when one of Liss' friends dies at the teeth of a Raggedy Ann doll as a warning to her, she knows she is anything but normal.

Armed with knowledge instilled from the past, Liss pushes forward with the aid of her high school friends, two five-hundred year old Druids and a heroic shape shifter. As an old god stirs, Liss realizes she has faced its summoner before. Can Liss release her powers from within and stop this evil before it claims humanity as it own?

Mandy's Review:


Definitely disturbing, but I like it.  The spruceness of the title's lettering with the little flourishes set atop the slight creepiness of the cover art presents a nice contrast.


For me, the book started off reminding me of a cross between I Know What You Did Last Summer, Chucky and Scream.  It did get better as I kept reading.

Minus the prologue, this book starts off common enough: boyfriend and girlfriend walking home from school with friends talking about what they're going to do that night.  Then the freakiness hits the proverbial fan ...

Without giving away spoilers, I will say this novel contains twins who represent good and evil, a loyal servant/protector to the good twin, ghosts, shapeshifters, witches, demons, gods, delusions, love, human sacrifice ... this novel has it all.

Main Characters

Melissa - An only child stuck in a home with parents who are too busy for her.

Jerry - Melissa's boyfriend and son of the town's sheriff.  He does everything he can to protect her.

Hunter - He has vowed to protect Melissa at all costs no matter the circumstance.  He's wise, mysterious, strong, loyal and faithful.

Mark - New kid in school who befriends Melissa and seems to take a personal interest in her.  Will he come between Melissa and Jerry?


This novel has a lot of familiar aspects (especially to an avid reader), but they're written in a style that is different and engaging.  I would recommend this to any fantasy and mystery lovers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review: Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa

ASIN #: B00403N2YY
File Size: 272 KB
Copyright: 2010

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Set in the slums of New Orleans, among crack houses and abandoned buildings, Dirty Little Angels is the story of 16-year-old Hailey Trosclair. When the Trosclair family suffers financial hardship and a miscarriage, Hailey finds herself looking to God to save her family. When her prayers go unanswered, Hailey puts her faith in Moses Watkins, a failed preacher and ex-con. Fascinated by Moses’ lopsided view of religion, Hailey and her brother Cyrus begin spending time at an abandoned bank that Moses plans to convert into a drive-through church. Gradually, Moses’ twisted religious beliefs become increasingly more violent, and Hailey and Cyrus find themselves trapped in a world of danger and fear from which there may be no escape.

Mandy's Review:


The cover photo is pretty self-explanatory ... especially when looked at after reading the book's summary.  I'm glad the photo was kept in black and white instead of color.  It has a more neglected feel to it.

Plot/Main Characters

The story is told from Hailey's point of view.  Right away we are introduced to her family:

Cyrus, Hailey's older brother who hangs out with the wrong people and will eventually get into trouble because of it;

Jules, Hailey and Cyrus' father, who lost his job and is now struggling to provide for his family ... although he doesn't seem to be trying too hard to find actual work; and ...

Lena, Hailey and Cyrus' mother, who is so lost in her own grief she barely realizes what is going on around her.

Realistically written, this story felt ... gritty.  You follow a girl's life as she struggles to find love, acceptance and her place in this world.  Unfortunately, she begins life at a disadvantage by being from the "wrong side of the tracks."  I believe this pre-disposed Hailey to enter into various life situations she wouldn't have encountered otherwise.


This can be classified as an emotionally disturbing 'coming-of-age' tale, which feels all too familiar.  We've all known or seen a person in these circumstances.  If you haven't, well, maybe you should.  It would help you get a more realistic perspective on a life different from your own.

Monday, July 25, 2011

August's BintoM Monthly Giveaway (#7)

Time for the BintoM Monthly Giveaway meme began, and hosted, by me! =)  I began this because I know I have a habit of comparing books to movies, and vice versa, when a movie is based on a book. 

*I am thinking about having a BintoM blog hop one month.  If you are interested in participating, please email me at:

Here are the particulars for this month's giveaway:
  • Towards the end of the month, I will post the next month's giveaway. 
  • I will leave it open for 2 to 3 weeks.  At that time, a winner (or winners, if I'm feeling generous) will be chosen and notified. 
  • I will expect the winner to acknowledge the winning email within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen in their place. 
  • This is now open internationally
  • You do not need to be a GFC follower to win.  Yes, I would like it if you followed me, but I am not making that a stipulation to participate or to win.

August's BintoM Giveaway (ending August 7th) prize pack will consist of:
The Quick and the Dead book/movie combo

Here's a little bit about both:

I have a brand new paperback copy of The Quick and the Dead written by Louis L'Amour that I bought from Books-A-Million.

Summary:  When Duncan McKaskel decided to move his family west, he knew he would face dangers, and he was prepared for them.  He knew about the exhausting terrain, and he was expecting the punishing elements.  What he worried about was having to use violence against other men - men who would follow him and try to steal the riches that he didn't even possess.

Yet bandits were only part of McKaskel's worries.  For a mysterious stranger, Con Vallian, had appeared one night and saved his life.  But was Vallian's true interest Duncan's wife, Susanna?  And, more important, how did she feel about him?

As they push into the wilderness, Duncan must discover who is the greater threat - the thieves outside his camp or the enigmatic stranger within ...

To go along with the book, I have a brand new copy of The Quick and the Dead, the movie:

Blurb:  In 1876 Wyoming, the gun is the only law.  And for Duncan and Susanna McKaskel, newly arrived settlers beset by outlaws, rugged frontiersman Con Vallian is the only hope.

DVD Bonus Features:

Commentary by Director Robert Day

DVD Info:

90 Minutes (Color)

Not Rated

Widescreen Version

Main Actors:

Sam Elliott
Kate Capshaw
Tom Conti

Click here to enter for your chance to win ... Good Luck!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Follow Friday (1)

Well, this post presents two firsts for me: My first Follow Friday participation (yay me!!!!) and my first Blogger post on my new phone. :-) If, for some reason, this doesn't post correctly I will fix it as soon as I get near a computer.

So, I believe the question was which 3 authors I'd like to have an hour or dinner with to discuss their books or writing in general. This caused me to really think since I value how my time is spent. Here's what I decided:

#1 - Stephen King

This man's mind is an enigma and fascinating to me. I would LOVE to figure out how his mind works. Of course, that may take more than one sit-down session. :-)

#2 - Dean Koontz

Any follower of Dean Koontz knows this author started off pretty dark. I've noticed, though, that he's sort of mellowed out over the years. I would be interested to discuss with him the reason(s) behind that. Was it a conscious or subconscious change?

#3 - Edgar Allen Poe

Yes, I am aware he's dead, but nobody said I couldn't pick a dead author. :-) I also just noticed I have an affinity for dark writers. Hhmmm.

This man was a literary genius. I would find it AMAZING to be able to pick his brain for an hour. Yes, he had some emotional issues, but he was still an awesome writer.

What are your choices? Leave me your answer as a comment below. :-)

Thanks for being my guinea pigs and happy Friday! :-)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Review: That Day in September by Artie Van Why

ISBN-10: 1411683153
ISBN-13: 978-1411683150
Page Count: 108
Copyright: 2006

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

We all have our stories to tell of where we were the morning of September 11, 2001. This is one of them. In That Day In September, Artie Van Why gives an eyewitness account of that fateful morning. From the moment he heard "a loud boom" in his office across from the World Trade Center, to stepping out onto the street, Artie vividly transports the reader back to the day that changed our lives and our country forever.

That Day In September takes you beyond the events of that morning. By sharing his thoughts, fears and hopes, Artie expresses what it was like to be in New York City in the weeks and months following. The reader comes away from That Day In September with not only a more intimate understanding of the events of that day but also with a personal glimpse of how one person's life was dramatically changed forever.

Charlene's Review:

I had to take some time before I could finish this review. It is a testament to Mr. Van Why’s passion for this story that a mere 84 pages can transport you back to that fateful morning, and bring all those emotions felt, back to the surface. I was far more removed from the events of 9/11, and yet, as most of America, was forever changed in those moments. Mr. Van Why’s personal account of that day, and how he was irrevocably changed will resonate with all of us who remember where we were when we, as a nation, lost our innocence. A haunting and beautiful tribute to the lives lost, and the humanity shared in New York City amidst the horror.

I recommend everyone take the time to read That Day In September as the 10 year anniversary approaches. While we say we will never forget, reading this memoir reminded me how we can push away these tragic events at will, while others will never be able to. While this is only one mans account, it is powerful and well worth the time to read. I guarantee, it will stay with you after the last page.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: Rock Bottom by Erin Brockovich

ISBN #: 978-1-59315-625-1
Page Count: 254
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from dust jacket flaps)

Ten years ago, a pregnant seventeen-year-old, Angela Joy Palladino fled her hometown, Scotia, West Virginia, as a pariah.  Over time, AJ succeeded in establishing herself as an environmental activist, dubbed "The People's Champion," only to be forced to retreat from the spotlight in the wake of a crushing media disaster.

When AJ is offered a job with a lawyer who is crusading against mountaintop removal mining, she is torn.  As a single mother of a special needs nine-year-old boy, AJ can use any work she can get.  But doing so will mean returning to the West Virginia hometown she left in disgrace so long ago.

Upon arriving in Scotia, AJ learns of the sudden death of the lawyer who hired her.  Soon after joining forces with his daughter, Elizabeth, threats begin to surface, bodies begin to pile up, and AJ discovers that her own secrets aren't the only ones her mountain hometown has kept buried.  Hitting rock bottom, AJ must face the betrayal of those once closest to her and confront the harrowing past she thought she had left behind.

Mandy's Review:


I've always like dark, thunderous skies, so I was drawn to this cover by that alone.  The lady on the cover could be a representation of AJ, the main character, or the author herself ... it's up to you to interpret it.  =)

Plot/Main Characters

AJ is a single mother who has had to learn the hard way how to take care of her son.  She doesn't even have the help of her family ... whether it's emotional, financial, physical, etc.  She is a woman on her own.  Her son's father, Cole, hasn't been around since David's birth.  Is this by choice?  By circumstance?

Speaking of circumstances, they lead AJ back to her hometown, a place she hasn't visited in ten years.  She's determined that David become united with his father and she, AJ, is determined to change things between her parents and herself.  However, her parents seem to be as unresponsive and dismissive as ever.  Will they ever come around?  What caused them to be this way?  How could parents ignore their very own daughter like she's not of their own flesh and blood?

While deciding whether or not to stay in Scotia permanently, AJ lands a job that puts her, her son and her long lost love in danger.  With a renewed determination to set things right for her son's sake, AJ takes on the biggest, baddest man in town ... with the help of her new boss.

Full of twists, turns, discoveries, disappointments, regrets, hope, friendship and more, this book is a powerful story of one woman's fight to create a safer world for, not only her son, but for everybody in her hometown.


Despite the ending, which I understood but did not like (it disappointed me as a person, not a reader), this is a pretty great book.  Well-written, engaging and fast-paced, I would be willing to read this book again.  I'm also interested in what's going to happen next for AJ and David.

This book would be a great recommendation for those who enjoy stories where good triumphs evil, mysteries and stories with not-so-happy, but realistic, endings.  =)

Third Sentence Thursday (7)

Third Sentence Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Sniffly Kitty's Mostly Books for beating back the forces of OTHER sentences!

1) Take the book you are reading now and post the third sentence
2) Review this sentence anyway you want (funny and silly reviews encouraged)
3) Post a link to your sentence in the comments

This week, my third sentence comes from Centuries of June by Keith Donohue:

"Facedown on the bathroom floor, I watched my blood escape from me, spreading across the cool ceramic tiles like an oil slick, too bright and theatrical to be real."

Is this person male or female?  Why are they facedown in the bathroom?  Why are they bleeding?  Is there somebody there who hurt them in some way or did they injure themselves?  What series of events led up to them being facedown in the bathroom?  Why the bathroom?  Why not the bedroom, living room, kitchen or hallway?

Again, another TST where I have nothing but questions pertaining to my third sentence selection.  Somebody want to give me the answers now or should I read the book to find them out on my own?  Read the book, you say?  Alrighty then ... Check back soon to read my review ... =)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review: Darwin's Children by Natasha Larry

ASIN #: B0050CL8R2
File Size: 390 KB
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Life can get pretty complicated for any seventeen-year-old girl, but for a home-schooled telepathic black girl trying to survive in a prestigious private school in small-town Jonesborough, Tennessee, it can be maddening – especially when her telepathic father keeps eavesdropping on her thoughts!

Jaycie Lerner’s family isn’t the usual mom-dad-kid setup. Jaycie’s mom’s MIA, but Allison, her personal live-in ‘trainer,’ is more than a mom, with her own special abilities, like being able to lift cars and run incredibly fast. And Jaycie’s godfather John is more than persuasive – he can literally convince anyone to do anything.

As far as the rest of the world’s concerned, Jaycie’s on the outside looking in. The townsfolk love Jaycie’s pediatrician father, but she doesn’t fit in with ‘normal’ kids, and she doesn’t really want to. Most of her free time is spent training to keep her telekinetic and telepathic powers under control. But there’s one thing she can’t control – and that’s her feelings, especially when her best friend Matt is nearby. If only he knew what she was truly capable of...

Everything seems to be status quo for Jaycie until she receives a cryptic message from a stranger and meets a very unusual girl new to Jonesborough. Then all hell breaks loose!

Mandy's Review:


The girl on the cover has a sexy fierceness about her.  When I first received the book for review and saw the cover, I wasn't sure why she had the yellow and red colors around her.  I thought maybe it was her aura.  After reading, though, I now know that it is a depiction of Jaycie at the highest point of her powers ... go get 'em girl! =)


Unusual, different, relatable, humorous, intriguing, empathetic ... all of these adjectives describe the story and the emotions the story can draw from you while reading.

I enjoyed this book.  It was fast-paced and kept you interested.  Once I started, I didn't really want to put it down.  The characters are wonderfully human, but still has that super-power thing going on.

Main Characters

Jaycie - I would venture to say this girl is spoiled, but she doesn't act that way.  She's down-to-earth and is willing to help people (even without her super-powers).  She has tough decisions to make and handles them rather well for a teenager.

Mason - Jaycie's father - A single father working as a doctor to take care of his daughter.  He is reasonable and loves spoiling his daughter.  He still excepts Jaycie to abide by the rules and will discipline her when needed.  Basically, this is a well-balanced man ... someone all women dream about, I'm sure! =)

Allison - Jaycie's trainer - This woman kicks Jaycie's butt during their workouts.  She pushes Jaycie's beyond her comfort zone, but not to the point that Jaycie'll get hurt.  Allison is Jaycie's mother-figure and they treat each other as such.  There is a definite bond between Allison and Jaycie that will be difficult, nay impossible, to break.

Matt - A regular human boy who is attracted to Jaycie and vice versa.  He's a sweet southern gentleman, but don't let that fool ya ... when this boy has had enough, by George, he'll let you know!  He seems to get mad pretty easily sometimes, but he's still a wonderful well-rounded character.

John - Jaycie's godfather - What I wouldn't give for a godfather like John.  He's patient, humorous, giving and loves to give Jaycie pretty much anything she wants ... whether it be information or gifts.


Simply put ... I loved this book.  I'm eager to see what's going to happen with the characters in the next book.  I would recommend this to all YA book lovers out there ... even the adults who are young at heart. =)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Review: Michael Jordan and the Slam Dunk Suicide Cult by Nick Vandermolen

ASIN #: B0050P38UE
File Size: 231 KB
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Its been called "...The most wildly offensive book of 2011," for its themes and dialogue. Its mere plot summary has been labeled truly "dangerous territory," by fellow authors and sports fans alike.

Nick Vandermolen's Michael Jordan and the Slam Dunk Suicide Cult will test your boundaries, force self-exploration of accepted racial and cultural taboos, and might even release these tensions with laughter at the absurdity of it all.

From page one of Michael Jordan and the Slam Dunk Suicide Cult readers are thrust into a strange and grotesque basketball camp for boys. Forget dribbling. Throw lay-ups out the window. The "Monster Dunk Basketball Camp for Kids" teaches young ones only the "fundamentals" of basketball – Slam Dunking. However, it doesn't take long before the true nature of this evil camp is revealed.

When the boys show a lack of star-power because they can't dunk, the camp counselor Darko Milicic takes matters into his own hands. Darko throws the children down a well. His theory is simple; extend a rope ladder down the well and raise it to the exact height of a slam dunk. If the children can jump and reach it, they can also slam dunk. But it is within this imprisonment of inability that we get a fresh look at race, exploitation, and the power of a modern day sports icon; Michael Jordan.

This story examines racism, hero worship and sports in a way most authors are too afraid to tackle. Vandermolen, having worked with disenfranchised youth in the inner city of Chicago for nearly three years, gives us an authentic look at the culture of "street kids," without a chaser. He emulates the rough dialect perfectly, highlighting its uniqueness as well as its vulgarity. To many readers the story's speech and themes may seem crude and off-putting. But this urge to shun what is uncomfortable, and the distillation of such a culture is ultimately what Michael Jordan and the Slam Dunk Suicide Cult is all about. This modern fable shows the danger of culture as commodity, and the theft of meaning from those who created it.

Mandy's Review:


The iconic portrayal of the infamous Michael Jordan in red and in one of his recognizable slam dunk poses with a noose around his neck is a pretty apt depiction of the title. 

The red, black and white colors of the cover is in reference, I'm sure, to the Chicago Bulls, MJ's previous employer.


Well, the summary was right ... this is one of the most controversial, racist-reading piece of work that I have ever read.  It affected me so strongly that it has taken me a week or two to actually write this review.

I do, however, find it a testament to the author's abilities when a piece of work affects a reader as strongly as this one did.  Thus, the reason I was torn ... The story itself is basically about corporate white men thinking very little of young African-American boys and taking advantage of their young minds.

The lengths the people that run this "camp" go to in order to create superb basketball players is ridiculous, mentally unstable and almost believable.  I can actually picture aspects of this story happening in the ghettos and impoverished neighborhoods.


I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone.  However, if you like controversial subjects or story lines that will affect you deeply and leaving you wondering how in the world you're supposed to feel about the author, then this one is for you.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Review: Dogs of War by Bradley Convissar

File Size: 109 KB
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

After divorcing his wife of two years, Gary Lettner thinks he has found the perfect house for himself and Molly, his eight-year-old daschund.

But when the throats of the dead begin to cry out in a voice that only Molly can hear, and when evidence of past atrocities committed in his new home begin to surface, Gary finds himself an unlikely participant in a brutal quest for vengeance.

Mandy's Review:


The title's font and color coupled with the black and white photo on the cover prepares you for the promised ghost story.

Plot/Main Characters

Gary's acquiring of Molly, his divorce and the purchase of a new house all seem to be a part of a bigger plan.  Everything is going well until, one full-moon night, Molly begins behaving strangely.  That one night is the beginning of a plot of revenge that is unlike anything I have read before.

Gary is more of a facilitator, rather than a participator, in this plot of revenge ... but he plays his role willingly, especially after finding out the secrets of the house he now lives in.


This is a ghost story unlike any other.  It is emotional, informative (I learned things about daschunds that surprised me) and definitely spooky.  It's a short book, but there is so much packed into its pages that it feels like a longer novel.  I would recommend this story to ghost story lovers and to dog lovers.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Review: Steam Queen by Jack Hessey

ASIN #: B004E3X8X0
File Size: 422 KB
Copyright: 2010

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Europe is a dangerous, virtually lawless place. Armed bandits prowl the railway lines in their armed Steam Locomotive looking for easy marks, and heavily armed mercenary engines travel from town to town looking for work in a world where every day is a struggle for its civilians.

Erica, an emotionally disturbed girl from England finds herself joining one of these mercenary teams. What follows is a trek across Europe to where two mighty cities, each representing a different way of life, stand on the verge of a war which will shape the way Europe develops.

On one side are the Steam using traditionalists of St Vith, led by the charismatic and cunning General Roosje Cuvelier. On the other, stands the mighty Winterscheid Diesel Empire under the iron fist of the merciless Kaiser Sigmund Eisenburg.

Two vicious armies, treachery from her own allies and the world’s deadliest super-weapon are just a few of the dangers that Erica must face in her journey.

Mandy's Review:


I like the cover - The mostly dark cover with the lightness of dawn in the background ... it's interesting to look at.  The locomotive on the front lets you know that trains will play a major factor in the story.

Plot/Main Characters

In the beginning we see that Erica's father signs her up with a mercenary clan, I think, to get rid of her.  I mean, this girl has some serious emotional issues.  It was on the border of ridiculous in how fast Erica got mad and exacted punishment to the wrong-doer ... sometimes over the stupidest things!  She frustrated me to the point that I almost stopped reading the book.

However, I pressed on.  The team Erica joins are an eclectic bunch.  There's a set of twins who think they're better than everyone else, especially Erica.

Jemima is the clan leader and makes the decisions on which jobs they take.  She refuses to take attitude from anybody and eventually puts Erica in her place.

Jacques is the tough French mercenary who is also a gentleman.  I liked Jacques.  He was a good guy who did what he had to do in order to protect his clan.

There's a lot of action in this novel between an deceitful power-seeking General, an evil King, orphaned children, OLD BOB and a metal-armed man. 

I would like to think that Erica learned that it's okay not to be so daggum angry all the time, but I don't think she ever did.  I believe Erica will continue to dole out her form of punishments until the day she dies ... especially now that she's a murderer and she sees how easy it is.


I think I would've enjoyed this novel more if Erica wasn't so intense.  It was almost too much for me to handle.  However, the action scenes and plot were well-thought out.  There were grammatical issues in the novel (words missing, incorrect word usage and misspelled words) that interrupted my reading flow due to having to stop and try to figure out what was trying to be said.  If the book would've been better edited, it would've been a well-written novel and one I would've recommended ... despite Erica's intensity.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review - Grip: A Memoir of Fierce Attractions by Nina Hamberg

This book is scheduled to be released on July 20, 2011.  You can click here to visit the author's website to read the first chapter.

Book Summary:
(Taken from author's website)

Set in San Francisco in the 1970s, Grip is the true story of how an eighteen-year-old fends off a stalker with just her wits. She goes on to become the toughest female martial artist in her karate school, an early advocate for women’s rights, and a residential counselor for troubled teenage boys.

For her, the best way to make her world safe is to seek out threats and face them head-on. Even in personal relationships, this five-foot fighter is drawn to men with volatile tempers, men like her father. But her strategy of confronting danger doesn’t free her from her past — it creates a wake of greater destruction. Only by marshaling the strength to be vulnerable can she discover intimacy and love.

Charlene's Review:

Nina Hamberg grew up learning that it isn’t safe to trust men. From early memories of her parents explosive arguments to an attack by an armed intruder, Ms. Hamberg set out to prove herself in a male-dominated world. Grip is a story of a girl wandering aimlessly through life amid broken relationships, violent obsessions, and a strong will to survive.

As a survivor of a violent crime, myself, I related to her struggle to overcome what happened to her and learn to trust again. A poignant memoir filled with hope and, finally, a happy ending. I recommend this book, especially, to all those who have been a victim of violence.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review: The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

ISBN #: 978-1-4391-9169-9 (dj)
Page Count: 272
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from inside flaps of dust jacket)

After the unexpected death of her parents, shy and sheltered Ginny Selvaggio, a young woman with Asperger's syndrome, seeks comfort in the kitchen, away from her well-meaning but interfering relatives and her domineering sister, Amanda.  The methodical chopping, slicing, and stirring soothe her anxiety, and the rich aroma of ribollita, painstakingly recreated from her Italian grandmother's handwritten recipe, calms her senses.  But it also draws an unexpected visitor: the ghost of Nonna herself, bearing a cryptic warning in rough English, "Do no let her," before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish.

Faced with grief and uncertainty, Ginny turns to her recipe collection, and in doing so, discovers that she has the power to call forth the ghost of any dead person whose dish she prepares.  It's a gift she is certain she cannot share with her pragmatic sister but that ultimately leads her to an unexpected friendship and the possibility of a new life.

The mystery deepens when Ginny finds a letter hidden behind a loose fireplace brick and a series of strange black and white photographs - evidence of a family secret she can't untangle alone.  As Amanda pushes her to sell the only home she's ever known, Ginny decides that the key to her future lies within this provocative riddle from her parents' past.  But can she cook up a dish that will bring them back long enough to help her solve it?

Mandy's Review:


I love this cover ... of course, I'm also a foodie so that may have something to do with it.  But if you look at the cover as an art piece, you see the dark strength of the bag against the rich, vibrant redness of the peppers ... all of it set in front of a non-essential disappearing background causing the peppers to really catch the reader's eye ... it is simple, elegant and beautiful.

Plot/Main Characters

Brilliance.  It's not often I can say that about a debut author, but this time it fits.  This book was published for the first time this past April and I can already tell you that it will be a favorite on many people's reading list.

We have a main character who has a disease, but doesn't want to accept her disease.  She, Ginny, doesn't want to be labeled.  She defines her quirkiness as having a personality.  She is strong-willed, opinionated and has a strong desire to be allowed her independence.

Her sister, Amanda, is a heifer ... sorry, but that's the nicest thing I'll say about her.  I understood that she wanted to take care of Ginny, but she wouldn't even listen to what Ginny had to say.  She didn't even consider how Ginny felt about the housing situation.  She just automatically thought that because she was "normal" she knew better.  Oh, how I wanted to slap this lady.

Despite Amanda's overbearing personality, despite being lied to and tricked by Amanda, Ginny proves herself capable of living alone.  She proves that she has what it takes to master her disease when she needs to, when it's important for her to.


I fell in love with this story.  I love the addition of the family recipes at the beginning of several chapters.  I loved that the main character had Asperger's syndrome.  I loved Ginny's tenacity in dealing with her situation.  I loved the unusual twist of preparing a loved one's handwritten recipe in order to bring about the ghost of the dead.

If Jael McHenry continues her wonderful talent for writing in her next book, I will have a new favorite author to add to my list.  The Kitchen Daughter is a wonderful addition to any family library and I recommend it to all of you.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Review: The Second Fly Caster by Randy Kadish

File Size: 33 KB
Copyright: 2007

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Erik, a young boy, is proud that his father, the winner of several state championships, is probably the greatest long distance fly caster on earth. But then a threatening prelude and an unexpected outcome of a casting tournament leave Erik reeling with unanswered questions about what once seemed to be only a sport.

These questions linger and then, years later, deepen when Erik’s idealistic plans and actions are crushed when he experiences combat in the Vietnam War. He struggles, unsuccessfully, with his demons, until a seemingly accidental discovery lead him back to the ways and new meanings of fly casting. Through their prism Erik learns to see himself and the world in a forgiving light.

Mandy's Review:


The man fly-casting on the cover could be either a depiction of a grown-up Erik or the depiction of Erik's father during Erik's younger years.


This is a short story layered in meaning.  We begin thinking we know everything there is to know, but then we learn of Erik's father's past and his reason for fly-casting.  This helps us to get a better understanding of the family dynamics between Erik and his parents.

Then, after Erik grows up, goes off to war and returns again, the art of fly-casting becomes Erik's respite from the demons he brought back with him from the war.  As he's mastering this art, the realizations of his father's past come upon Erik bringing with it understanding, forgiveness and peace.

Main Characters

Erik's Father - A veteran who uses alcohol to cope.  He can become mean while under an alcoholic rage (don't most people).  When he finds fly-casting, though, he uses that as his therapy to deal with his PTSD and becomes great at it.

Erik - Idolizes his father and his fly-casting abilities.


This was a short story that has a big impact.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Review: Five Second Fiction, Volume One by Al Bruno III

Word Count: 3,870 (approximately)
Copyright: 2011

(Taken from Smashwords)

What are these two hundred totally twitterable tales? Are they jokes? Are they super-small stories for people on the go? You decide!

Mandy's Review:

This was definitely a quick read.  Each story was 140 characters or less ... easily shareable on Twitter.  Some of them I didn't understand, but the majority were intriguing, funny and witty.  This was certainly a book one could read for frivolity and fun.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Review: Netsuke by Rikki Ducornet

ISBN #: 978-1-56689-253-7 (sc)
Page Count: 127
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Ruled by his hunger for erotic encounters, a deeply wounded psychoanalyst seduces both patients and strangers with equal heat.  Driver to compartmentalize his life, the doctor attempts to order and contain his lovers as he does his collection of rare netsuke, the precious miniature sculptures gifted to him by his wife.  This riveting exploration of one psychoanalyst's abuse of power unearths the startling introspection present within even the darkest heart.

Mandy's Review:

I won a copy of this book from LibraryThing in their Early Reviewers Giveaway this past April.  I've decided for this review I'm not going to follow my usual format of breaking it down into four sections.  Instead, I'm just going to do a regular review:

Starting off, we are introduced to a psychoanalyst whose name we do not know.  Right away, we are aware of his somewhat disturbing sexual appetite ... whether it is with a random woman while jogging, a patient who's known as 'The Cutter' or a transvestite.

As the story progresses and we encounter deeper recesses of the doctor's mind, it becomes apparent that, perhaps, the doctor is in need of a psychoanalyst himself.  His sexual encounters endanger the relationship he has built with his wife, Akiko.  His obsession with these encounters becomes so much that he acquires a new office space in town to better facilitate these bizarre activities.

Part two of the book introduces us to Akiko, the doctor's wife who is an artist.  I believe she knew all along what the doctor was up to, but chose to turn a blind eye in the hopes that he would be able to stop the acidic relationships on his own.

By the end, it was never said if the doctor and Akiko stayed together or not, but the ending definitely gave you a strong sense of where their relationship was heading.

This book, though short, was definitely different.  It's the type of story that sticks with you in the back of your mind long after you've finished reading it.  If you're looking for a book that is a quick read, but gives you an deep intimate look into the mind of serious sexaholic, then this would be the book for you.
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