Monday, May 28, 2012

Review # 172: Open Heart by Emlyn Chand

5/5 for the cover art!!!  Beautiful, but unknowing -
 Simmi seems to stare at  readers wherever they go!

     After the events of last summer, Simmi Shergill is in a constant state of fear and trepidation; being convinced that you are going to die can do that to a person. Her psychic powers and focus are out of control, her boyfriend Alex is all about "I love you"s, she's feeling a strange attraction to Alex's nemesis, Dax, and her weight is making her self-conscious. To top that off, something sinister is happening in Grandon Township, and Simmi may be one of the only ones able to sense the danger. Can Simmi find the good inside herself and free her abilities before she loses everything? 

    I hate when a series starts out strong only to crumble during the second installment...Thank goodness that Emlyn Chand's Farsighted Series seems quite the opposite! Each book gets better and better, taking the reader deeper into the lives of Grandon's own  psychically-charged residents: Simmi, Alex, Shapri, Dax, etc. I thought that Farsighted was amazing, but Open Heart is better! These characters are anything but typical, yes they are gifted, but they still battle with the same fears, insecurities and disillusions that many teens and adults suffer from in the real world. In Farsighted, Alex's blindness paired with his seer abilities made for an interesting plot. Everything was described from his perspective - touch, taste, smell and sound. In Open Heart, Simmi may have all of her senses, but she, like most women, is uncomfortable with the way she looks, delving into self-hating practices - starvation and bulimia. I myself have struggled with self-esteem and weight issues, so I can relate to Simmi's plight. You begin to feel like you are not good enough, even if there are people who love you unconditionally. I was truly affected by Simmi's story and point of view; I wanted to reach out to her, embrace her, to let her know she was not alone. High school is rough enough without the added pressures of looking and being perfect. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and Simmi is one of the most brilliantly beautiful and real characters that I have had the pleasure of reading about.The author has done a wonderful job on Simmi's character mentally, physically and psychically. I am quite awestruck by the book as a whole, it is so much more emotionally raw than I anticipated. Every character has a different background, and author Emlyn Chand is not afraid to tackle anything. She is definitely emotionally-keen, maybe even as psychically attuned as Simmi! Another aspect that I loved was the addition of Indian language and culture; I learned many interesting words and phrases, as well as some new far east mythology.   I read this book in about two hours - nonstop - but I wish I would have taken it slower so that I would not have to wait so long for another book. The next book in the series is Pitch, and it will chronicle Shapri's story, so May 2013 better get here soon, because I am impatient and cannot wait to see what happens in Grandon next! Recommended for all readers (YA/adult) who are psychically drawn to the paranormal. 

Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)

*** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Read my review of Farsighted - Book One in the Farsighted Series HERE!

Review # 171: The Last Werewolf Hunter- The Complete Series by William Woodall

     Young Zach Trewick comes from a long line of loup-garou, (werewolves), but he will do anything to escape the transformation. Unfortunately, his family does not feel the same way, pushing him towards his genetic destiny. So Zach has no choice but to flee his home and seek his excommunicated uncle Justin, whom he has never met, to break the "curse". Along the way he learns the history of the loup-garou, the true meaning of family, the strength of courage, love and trust, and finds a spiritual relationship with God that aids in his quest for normalcy.

     The Last Werewolf Hunter is a three-part supernatural novel, (Cry for the Moon, Behind Blue Eyes, and More Golden than Day), with a Christian twist. I really loved William Woodall's writing style, his clever phraseology kept me rapt with interest throughout the entire book. The level of action was moderate and there was little-to-no violence or gore, however I still found the story to be a page-turner, especially due to the dialogue. I found the characters well-developed, realistic and relatable, Zach, Justin, Eileen, Cameron, Edith and Jolie were some of my favorites to read about - particularly in book three. I thoroughly enjoyed all three parts of the series, although I really liked books two and three, where Zach started to "grow-up" and make decisions about his own destiny. I approve of the message it conveys to the young adult crowd, and wish that there were more books out there like this one. Everyone has their own "inner monster" to deal with, but it is up to the individual to choose how to manage it; with or without faith. I will definitely be looking out for more of William Woodall's books! Recommended for middle school through adult readers.

Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)

*** I received this eBook from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Guestpost: John Vorhaus - The Hope Machine

By John Vorhaus
Hello to all readers of The Paperback Pursuer. I’m supposed to be here pimping my new novel, Lucy in the Sky (a delightful coming-of-age story set in Milwaukee in 1969, available at -- so consider it pimped) but I’d rather use this space to share a few words with the writers among you. Talking writer to writer is something I never get tired of, so I’m going to indulge in that passion now.
In clocking my progress as a writer, I often muse upon a certain metaphor, the metaphor of the hope machine. The hope machine is like a slot machine, only I feed it with effort, not coins. I feed it with hopes, dreams, sweat, and loud frustration, and sometimes it pays off with accomplishment, achievement and paychecks. Real writers invest heavily in the hope machine; we just simply never give up. We keep putting nickels in the hope machine, and pulling that handle as fast as we can. We want the jackpot, of course: the blockbuster bestseller that makes every other book in the bookstore sick with jealousy. Still, we’ll settle for any kind of payout, so long as it’s enough of one to stay in the game. That’s all we want: just to stay in the game.
My hope machine is fed with query letters and sample chapters. It pays off with book deals and exercised options. The jackpot would be just a growing group of people who see my name on a new title and think, “Another Vorhaus book? Cripes, I can’t wait to read that!” Smaller payoffs include, you know, good reviews, foreign rights sales (for literally tens of dollars!), and the odd and never unwelcome word of praise from a reader. The smallest payoffs come from anything – anything – that involves trading my words for money. Hell, I’ll write copy for cereal boxes if there’s a paycheck in it.
Okay, so hope. We know all about hope. We mainline the stuff. And we have goals, definable ones large and small. What we need now is patience. Anyone know what aisle they sell that in?
Interestingly, the achievement of patience is connected to the question of goals. If your target is to improve as a writer, you're a lock to succeed – you do it every day, just by writing – and it's easy to be patient. If your target is literary superstardom, your odds are much longer and you're going to have to grind it out over time. But if you take a long enough view, patience is possible there, too.  
What if the odds seem impossible? What if you can't visualize any kind of win from where you are? Your hope machine is broken. It never seems to pay off. How do you practice patience in the face of that bad news?
Know that you're wrong.
You're already some kind of writer. You've already experienced times of swift productivity, and times of unspeakable frustration . You know what it's like to just coast, waiting for the next strange wave to break upon your beach. Sometimes a writer's life rises – the hope machine pays out – sometimes it falls, and sometimes it just poots along. Whatever state you find it in now, know this for sure:  It will change. A writer's life is subject to change without notice.
So at the worst of the worst moments, when writing feels like a hole you can't climb out of, just remember when it wasn't. Reacquaint yourself with a past feeling or experience of triumph, to remind yourself that more such moments lie ahead. Hope lubricates patience.
But hope needs help, so here’s an approach that might prove utile: Simply ask yourself,  What was my most awesome moment? Then write about it. This will do two good things. First, duh, it's writing, it’s working at your craft. Second, you're mentally entering a time and place when you were on top of the world. Scientists call this a resource state. I call it psych, and some of that psych is bound to rub off.
In practical terms, of course, there are many more ordinary moments than there are awesome moments in a writer's life, so it's good to be in touch with your ordinary moments too. If all is going according to plan, even the ordinary moments will become brighter, more incisive, more completely realized, and more deeply understood over time. Writers get better. Sure they suffer setbacks, but they grow in their craft, as a function of their hard work.
We confront the same sort of issues over and over again in our writer's lives. Is this the sort of work I want to be doing? Will all my sweat equity ever pay off? Does any of this even matter? Does my mother secretly think I suck? With practice we become better at confronting these issues, just as we become better at typing with practice.
Hope lubricates patience.
Thus we arrive at the point of this post: Have hope. Practice patience. Above all, practice your craft. Viewed through a certain filter (the one I use every day), there’s no such thing as bad writing, because every word we write contributes to our growth, our experience, the evolution of our writer’s lives.
And keep sticking those nickels in the hope machine. For writers like us, doomed to strive, it’s really the only machine we’ve got.
John Vorhaus has written five novels and many books on poker. His comedy writing text, The Comic Toolbox, is considered a classic how-to book for writers, and will be making money for someone long after he’s dead, buried and gone. He tweets for no apparent reason @TrueFactBarFact and secretly controls the world from

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review # 170: Amazing Adventures of a Nobody by Leon Logothetis

     After watching Motorcycle Diaries, Leon Logothetis decided to change his life drastically by leaving his family in England and traveling through the United States. The catch? He wanted to get from point A (New York) to point B (California) on a budget of five dollars per day, while relying on the kindness of strangers for food, lodging, and transportation. No phone, no car, no extra cash - just a backpack and his belief in the goodness of humanity... This is his story.

     I did not know what to expect when I first picked up Amazing Adventures of a Nobody, my first thought being, "Is this dude medicated?" I am all for believing in the goodness of mankind, but relying on (and trusting) complete strangers? No way. Sounds like Leon Logothetis is just asking for trouble; but upon reading the first couple of chapters, his "adventures" begin to intrigue and surprise. Leon's stories are inspiring and well-written, hitching readers along for the ride. I enjoyed reading about his interactions - from the mundane to the insane - particularly his experiences with the gang members and the fraternity, (no spoilers!). I never expected this book to restore some of my faith in humanity, but it most certainly has. Will I be crossing the country with $5 in my pocket, relying on the kindness of strangers anytime soon? No, but I am glad that Leon Logothetis has proven it a possibility. Overall, the Amazing Adventures of a Nobody is a thoroughly enjoyable journey that will fascinate readers. I wonder if Leon plans on continuing these adventures, especially since I recently found out there was a TV show based on them... Recommended for readers of all genres!

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

*** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Review # 169: Bodacious Blues by Whitney J. LeBlanc

Description: (from GoodReads)
     Bodacious Blues completes the saga-trilogy of a Creole family from Estilette Louisiana. From the depression on, three generations of this family have struggled in the midst of blues music, religious conflicts, lust, lynching, murder, voodoo, and racism. Now comes the grandchildren of Martha Broussard, who carve out paths through the changing world, and their stories emerge as they experience the rites of passage into adulthood. Ann Martel develops into the doctor that her grandfather hoped her brother would become. Disappointed in love, she finds contentment and happiness with an older woman-partner. 
     Meanwhile, her brother, Les Martel, defies all who challenge the man he desires to be. Believing in an eye for an eye, he kicks the ass of anyone who stands in his way. He protests racial intimidation in Estilette, takes on an abusive lover in Chicago, fights a Paul Bunyan giant in the backwoods of Bemidji, kicks the ass of a contemptible womanizer in Nashville, and gives comeuppance to a backstabber in Hollywood. Living life on his own terms, he soon discovers that Hollywood is not the place he thought it would be- the values were not his values- the truth was not his truth- trust was deception- honesty was weakness and loyalty was an unknown word. 
     In Bodacious Blues, Les Martel brings the saga of this proud family, to a final conclusion in the 1980's. In a milieu of religious controversy, sexual cross-identification, and the racial exploitations of Hollywood, he discovers that coming of age as a man was not as easy as he thought.

    I rushed to the library to check-out books one and two of the Fergerson/ Broussard family saga - Blues in the Wind and Shadows of the Blues - as soon as I received Bodacious Blues. I was completely ready to delve into Whitney J. LeBlanc's Creole family trilogy! Unfortunately, I could not find a library near me with the books, so I was faced with a dilemma - read book three before the others? Would not knowing the character's pasts leave me completely out-of-the-loop? Well, after mulling it over for a bit, I finally decided to go for it, and 350 pages later, I am glad that I did! 
     The first thing I noticed about this book was its intense cover-art - alluring women, voodoo dolls, the famous Hollywood sign, and a fist violently crushing and fracturing the images into sharp segments, (excellent foreshadowing of what is to come). The second thing I noticed was the short synopsis of the two previous novels, as well as a short description of the family lineage. Many thanks to the author, these six pages let me know a semblance of what I missed. Once I got into the actual story, I was surprised to realize how much I enjoyed getting to know the characters, especially Les, Caryn, Lightfoot, Naomi, Ann, Rosa, and Lala. I may not have read previous books, but Whitney J. LeBlanc has a way of infusing characters with infectious personalities - no matter how minor a character may be. Every character I encountered was well-developed, realistic, and influential; I thought about these characters and their stories well after I completed the book, which I stayed up till 2am to finish. The dialect was also well-written and authentic, leaving the reader immersed in the world of whatever character was in focus. I liked the idea of more than one plot since there were so many vibrant characters to keep track of. I liked Les and Caryn's story the best, but Ann's was a close second. Bodacious Blues could definitely be a standalone volume, its characters and rich story-lines are strong and well-constructed. I will be reading the previous books as soon as I can find copies! Recommended for readers who like a great family-saga and characters they will never forget.

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

*** I received this book from the author (Bostick Communications) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Book Trailer

About the Author 
     Whitney J. LeBlanc grew up in louisiana, then spent more than twenty-five years in theatre and television in Hollywood as a writer, producer and director. He has written scripts for stage, screen and television. His first novel of historical fiction is Blues in the Wind. Shadows of the Blues is the second of a planned trilogy about a Creole family. The third novel Bodacious Blues was published in 2011. LeBlanc lives in the Napa valley in California with his physician wife. Between writing novels, he creates stained glass windows.

Review # 168: The Moon Coin by Richard Due / Illustrated by Carolyn Arcabascio

Description: (from GoodReads)
"Tales, unlike stories, never lie. You see, a tale is an account of things in their due order, often divulged secretly, or as gossip. Would you like to hear one?" —Lord Autumn 
     Uncle Ebb was so good at telling his tales of the Moon Realm that sometimes it sounded like he’d been there himself. 
     As children, Lily and Jasper listened raptly to his bedtime tales of a place where nine moons swirled around one another, each inhabited by strange and wondrous beings: magical lunamancers; undersea merfolk; wise birds; winged dragons; and Lily’s favorite, the heroic, leonine Rinn. 
There was only one rule: don’t tell a soul
     But now, years later, Uncle Ebb is missing. Lily has learned the secret behind the tales, and soon Jasper will too. But there’s one big problem. You see, something terrible has happened in the Moon Realm...

     If I ever have kids, this will be one of their bedtime stories! Even though this book is labeled for the middle-grade age group, I know that it can be enjoyed by all ages! As I was reading, I was mentally projecting a film version in my head, and adding to the beautiful imagery were twenty-two vividly colored and imagined illustrations by the very talented Carolyn Arcabascio. I took a few minutes to observe each depicted scene on my Kindle Fire, marveling at the accuracy of my own imaginings. Both the tale itself and the illustrations reminded me of some of the best parts of my favorite fantasy series, including: The Wizard Of Oz, Harry Potter, The Chronicles Of Narnia, The NeverEnding StoryAlice in Wonderland, and The Lord Of the Rings; however, The Moon Coin still held its own originality. Its fast-pace, scenes of adventure and mystery, and meticulous detail kept me - a twenty-something college student - occupied and enthralled for a couple of hours; and I am definitely going to be reading it again! I loved all the characters, and each new moon (world) introduced me to an amazing set of inhabitants; the illustrations were wonderful for this purpose! Lily and Jasper had my imagination running wild, just like theirs. They were very realistic and easily related to, especially for children around their age range - nine to fifteen. I never knew what lay ahead for the pair, and I think that kids (and adults) will fall in love with Richard Due's spellbinding writing style. Overall, a sensational fantasy, with tons of adventure and mystery for all ages. This would definitely make a great movie, animated or otherwise. Recommended for all book lovers and their children!

Rating: Clean Getaway (5/5)

*** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Book Trailer

Review # 167: One More River by Mary Glickman

Description: (from GoodReads)
     Bernard Levy was always a mystery to the community of Guilford, Mississippi. He was even more of a mystery to his son, Mickey Moe, who was just four years old when his father died in World War II. Now it’s 1962 and Mickey Moe is a grown man, who must prove his pedigree to the disapproving parents of his girlfriend, Laura Anne Needleman, to win her hand in marriage. With only a few decades-old leads to go on, Mickey Moe sets out to uncover his father’s murky past, from his travels up and down the length of the Mississippi River to his heartrending adventures during the Great Flood of 1927. Mickey Moe’s journey, taken at the dawn of the civil rights era, leads him deep into the backwoods of Mississippi and Tennessee, where he meets with danger and unexpected revelations at every turn. As the greatest challenge of his life unfolds, he will finally discover the gripping details of his father’s life—one filled with loyalty, tragedy, and heroism in the face of great cruelty from man and nature alike.

     Mary Glickman's newest novel One More River tackled a story-line that I had not heard before – Jewish men trying to make their own way in the deep south of Mississippi. The story jumped back and forth between the life of Mickey Moe in the1960's to that of Bernard – his father around the 1920's/1930's. Both men embarked on journeys of discovery that affected them, and their children, for the rest of their lives; each story brimming with beautiful dialect and descriptions. I really enjoyed the characters, especially Mickey Moe and Laura Anne, their parental defiance setting the tone for the entire book. I also liked reading about Aurora May, one of my favorite characters, (no spoilers). Both story-lines come together to solve one mystery, and the level of detail left me reading all night. Unfortunately, my biggest pet peeve was no quotation marks! I do not enjoy having to figure out who is conversing, particularly when a book goes between different sets of characters and/or times. I think that the whole story would flow better with a more practical quotation method (“”). Overall, I found One More River to be a realistic family saga filled with nostalgia for down-home southern comfort. Recommended for historical fiction lovers, or those wanting to experience the South of the 1920's through 1960's.

Rating: Bounty's Out (3.5/5)

*** I received this book from the author (Open Road Integrated Media) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Review # 166: Exiled by J. R. Wagner

Description: (from
     James has never known an ordinary life. As long as he can remember, he and his family have been on the run—moving from place to place, never settling down, never growing roots. Now, just when he’s on the brink of manhood, the very thing his family has been trying to prevent tears him from all he has ever known and thrusts him into a place where he is powerless and alone.

     Bent on finding a way back, James must brave a place reserved for the worst of his kind. He quickly learns that the land itself poses a greater threat than its inhabitants and if he is to have any chance of returning, he must work with the very people he’s been raised to fear. 
     James has known magic since just after he was born. As a sorcerer, his skills are exceptional yet when he wakes in The Never, his abilities are gone. Armed with nothing but determination and the will to survive, he braves a land wrought with dangers, mysteries and temptations meant to ensnare both body and mind and prevent escape forever.

     After reading the book blurb and examining the atramentous, yet alluring cover art, I was ready to phase into the unfathomable world of The Never. The Exiled started out strong, J. R. Wagner's writing ability immediately apparent - his lambent language and imagery strewn across each page; however, after the first few 'flashbacks', I was more confused than engaged. The lines between past and present were unclear, and they did not seem to be in James' point of view, but recounted from a more omniscient perspective. I eventually got used to these 'transitions', they added to the complexity of the plot which I found very interesting, although I did not enjoy some of the stranger character relationships. With the time-changes came an influx of old and new character introductions from Jame's past and present as well as his parents' timeline. It took me a while to nail-down certain personalities and what parts they played. The relationship that perturbed me the most was seventeen year-old Jame's immutable fawning over the mid-twenty-something Kilani. Teens have crushes, understandable, but I did not find their bond realistic. The characters were well-developed physically and descriptively, unfortunately they were missing an emotional factor, making it hard for me to connect with them. Exiled took me longer than expected to read because of its hidden intricacies, I now understand why J. R. Wagner said that his obsession with LOST inspired him to write The Never Chronicles. I was a fan of that show too, until the constant back-and-forth story-line became daunting; hopefully some of the reader's questions will be answered in book two of the series - I would really like to figure out how everything plays out in the end. Overall, I found the book intriguing, but not as exciting as I would have hoped based on its description. An actual cliffhanger would have been appreciated... Recommended for teen and adult readers who enjoy a more challenging read - fans of  LOST included.

Rating: Bounty's Out (3/5)

*** I received this book from the author (JKSCommunications) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author: (from press release)

     J. R. Wagner was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania during a blizzard. Maybe it was this experience that destined him to love adventure. A competitive cyclist, triathlete, mountain biker and adventure racer, he once received a medal for saving a woman’s life during the kayaking section of an adventure race. He’s got a day job to keep him “grounded”; Wagner helps run his late father’s Downingtown, Pennsylvania floor-covering business. After graduating in Kinesiology from Arizona State University, he returned to Downingtown, where his creative fires were re-stoked by his two beautiful daughters and his wife, Lisa who Wagner endearingly considers his muse. It was during their trip to Maine he began writing Exiled. Visit him at or

Book Signing!!!

Ukazoo Books - Joint Signing Event with Author Everett Todd Adams and Breea Williams ‘The Tricky S’
Saturday, May 26, 1:00-4:00pm
730 Dulaney Valley Rd.
Towson, MD 21204

The Book Trailer

Guestpost: J. R. Wagner - The Price of Ambition

The Price of Ambition 
By J. R. Wagner 

     Are you ambitious? Striving toward a goal? A life-long dream? Have you given any thought to the repercussions of your ambition? How it may impact those around you –those you love. Have you weighed the pros and cons before you jumped headlong into pursuing your own ambitions? Is your family on board? Do they know what to expect? Will your children understand?

     Phew –some deep questions there. Lots of introspection required to honestly answer yourself. There is a good chance that if you are ambitious, your parent(s) were similarly ambitious. Now, think back to your childhood –or reflect upon what you’re currently going through if you are a teen. What was/is it like to be the child of an ambitious parent? Did they/do they meet your expectations? Are they around enough? Do they spend time with you when they are around or are they in a perpetual state of distraction?

     I’ll share a personal example. My father was a very ambitious man. He created a small business and grew it throughout my childhood into a very successful, multi-million dollar company. As his son, what did that mean for me? When I wanted someone to play with –have a catch, shoot some hoops, just hang out, he wasn’t often there. I was lucky enough to have a brother ten years my senior who more often than not filled that gap. Was he at all of my sporting events, concerts or other important gatherings? No –but he made it to enough that I can recall his presence in many of them. He sacrificed much for his family as he grew his business. The most costly sacrifice was (and always will be) time.

    Dad worked 80, 90, more sometimes a week. When he got home, he was spent. He needed to unwind. I wanted to play catch, he wanted to decompress –needed to decompress. I was hurt by the lack of attention at the time but looking back, I understand. Of all the things that didn’t happen because of my father’s ambition, what I felt the most was the loss of a mentor. Someone to guide me. Someone to discuss the important things in my life –girls, school, life lessons that should be imparted from father to son. I missed all these things. We never had a conversation that I believe all parents should have with their children. What is the meaning of life? What should I do with my life? What would you do in this situation? All was lost…or was it?

     Looking back, I believe he answered many of these questions with his actions. The importance of hard work, the importance of following your dreams, the importance of being yourself. He mentored by example. Still, I would have liked to have these conversations but the chance has long passed.

     Flash forward to today. I am a father –an ambitious father. I work a full-time job…more than full time helping manage the very company my father founded. I made a promise to myself that I would see it through these tremulous times and into a successful future. His legacy will not die on my watch. I am also a writer. A very ambitious writer with aspirations of success that will enable me to move into a different career –a career that I love. When I’m not working, I’m writing –working on something that has to do with my impending book release. I am one of the hardest workers I know.

     Now, how will my ambition affect my children? Will they feel neglected? Like they’ve missed out on so many things that could have been simply because I am so caught up in reaching my goals? Am I sacrificing being a good father to chase my dreams? I don’t believe I am. I go out of my way to see that the things I found missing from my childhood are addressed in my children’s upbringing. I include them as often as possible in my book events and often go out of my way to let them know that Daddy is chasing a dream and when they are older, they shouldn’t be afraid to do the same.

     Growing up in the shadow of a successful parent isn’t easy. You internalize the idea that if you don’t reach the same level of success you are a failure. Is this what you want your children to believe if your ambitions come to fruition and you find success?

     Time will be lost as you pursue your endeavors. What is essential is to make the most of the time you have remaining to see that your family is given the level of attention they deserve. Talk with them. Get to know them. Support them as they support you with their understanding when you go away for a weekend of book signings. The price of ambition can be costly if it isn’t regularly addressed. In the end, when you’re writing career is over, your children are grown and you’ve readied yourself to move onto the next world, don’t let regret fester in your waning years. You’re a hard worker. All ambitious people are. Direct some of that energy toward those who need it the most. The dividends are immeasurable.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Review # 165: Wrath of the White Tigress by David Alastair Hayden

He thought he was a hero. She showed him the truth.
Now he'll do anything to stop the man who made him a monster...
     Jaska Bavadi served Grandmaster Salahn of the Palymfar Order for twenty years, carrying out every order, including assassinations, without question; his loyalty unwavering. Until he encountered the last high priestess of the White Tigress, Zyrella Anthari, who broke the charm that controlled his mind, as well as his actions. As the dark tasks he committed come to light, Jaska must find a way to end Salahn's rule and protect the people of Hareez before Pawan Kor is merged with the Underworld.

     I was pleasantly surprised by David Alastair Hayden's writing style, full of fast-paced action scenes, middle-eastern flair, and a new fantasy world for discovery – Pawan Kor. I do not read adult fantasies too often, but when I do, this is the kind I enjoy. I loved the names of the people and places, the language and dialogue pulling me into Jaska and Zyrella's world. I found the story-line fun and enthralling, especially when it reached its zenith. Unfortunately, I was not a fan of the sex scenes, which seemed unnecessary, or of the predictable romance; I thought the characters worked well together without them. Everything else fit into the plot perfectly, particularly the vivid descriptions readers could get lost in. I must give a thumbs-up to Pepper Thorn and Sandara for the bright and intricate cover design, it made me want to read Wrath of the White Tigress even more! Overall, the well-written storyline paired with exciting characters and the middle-eastern landscape held enough sorcery and swordplay to keep me entertained. Recommended for readers of the adult (17+) fantasy genre.

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

*** I received this book from the author (Typing Cat Press) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Review # 164: The Car Thief by Theodore Weesner

Description: (from press release)
     It’s 1959. Sixteen year-old Alex Housman has just stolen his fourteenth car and frankly doesn’t know why. His divorced, working class father grinds out the night shift at the local Chevy Plant in Detroit, kept afloat by the flask in his glove compartment and the open bottles of booze in his Flint, Michigan home.
     Abandoned and alone, father and son struggle to express a deep love for each other, even as Alex fills his day juggling cheap thrills and a crushing depression. He cruises and steals, running from, and to, the police, compelled by reasons he frustratingly can’t put into words. And then there’s Irene Shaeffer, the pretty girl in school whose admiration Alex needs like a drug in order to get by. Broke and fighting to survive, Alex and his father face the realities of estrangement, incarceration, and even violence as their lives hurtle toward the climactic episode that a New York Times reviewer called “one of the most profoundly powerful in American fiction.”

     When I fist picked up The Car Thief, I did not suspect the history behind it. I did not realize that is was originally published in 1967, or that it was more autobiographical than it was fictional. Upon reading the Introduction by Theodore Weesner (2012), as well as the Author's Bio, my interest spiked. The author had been though a lot in his life and I hoped to see that conveyed throughout all 391 pages of his novel; it was. The book takes place in Michigan in 1959, but the characters, events, and emotions are transcendent, easy to relate to for any generation of readers. I immediately empathized with Alex and Curly, their relationship painful, raw, and heartbreaking; Alex's need for car-thieving thrills and Curly's alcoholic tendencies pulling the pair further apart. Honestly, I did not expect to be so affected by their plights, but the sad reality of Alex's situation struck a chord with me. Before and after his incarceration, I could feel how the community looked down on him and thought he was good-for-nothing. That level of judgment would pressure anyone, especially someone so young and emotionally damaged. Every time Alex was down-in-the-dumps, I had to refrain from becoming his personal cheerleader; he definitely needed a friend – or better yet – a family that was willing to stand behind him. The writing style was succinct, but each page firmly and emotionally got the author's points across. I cannot say that I was surprised by the ending, however, it is one that I will not likely forget. I enjoyed Weesner's The Car Thief more than Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, and I believe that it would be a welcome change to some high literature curriculums. Recommended to all readers, especially teens.

Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)

*** I received this book from the author (Blue Dot Literary / Astor + Blue Editions) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
About the Author: (from press release

     Theodore Weesner, born in Flint, Michigan, is aptly described as a “Writers’ Writer” by the larger literary community. His short works have been published in the New Yorker, Esquire, Saturday Evening PostAtlantic Monthly and Best American Short Stories. His novels, including The True Detective, Winning the City and Harbor Light, have been published to great critical acclaim in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper’s, The Boston Globe, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, Boston Magazine and The Los Angeles Times to name a few.
     Weesner is currently writing his memoir, two new novels, and an adaptation of his widely praised novel—retitled Winning the City Redux—also to be published by Astor + Blue Editions. He lives and works in Portsmouth, NH. 

You can also find The Car Thief for Kindle at or at

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Review # 163: Spectral by Shannon Duffy

Description: (from Amazon)
     Convinced she’s a part of the witness protection program, sixteen-year-old Jewel Rose is shuffled around the globe with her family like a pack of traveling gypsies. After arriving at lucky home twenty-seven, she stumbles upon a mysterious boy with magical powers claiming to be her guardian . . . and warning of imminent danger. Despite the obvious sparks between them, Jewel discovers a relationship is forbidden, and the more she learns about dark, brooding Roman, she begins to question who she can even believe — the family who raised her, or the supposed sworn protector who claims they’ve been lying to her all along.
     As she struggles to uncover who her family has really been running from, she is forced to hide her birthmark that reveals who she is. With new realities surfacing, unexplained powers appearing, and two tempting boys vying for her heart, Jewel battles to learn who she can trust in an ever growing sea of lies, hoping she’ll make it through her seventeenth birthday alive.

     First-off, I must acknowledge Spectral's amazing cover art - the color palette is ethereal and alluring to the senses! It is one of my favorite covers of 2012, as is the story-line. This paranormal romance is anything but ordinary, with more page-turning thrills and hunky heart-throbs then the usual offerings of the supernatural genre. Chase, Stefano and Roman can "guard" me any day! Speaking of the characters, Jewel is one of my favorites, her devotion to family and her inner strengths really spoke to me. I felt like I related to her and Roman the most, particularly when they were at their most vulnerable points. Every character has a distinct personality, which is sometimes hard to pull off, but Shannon Duffy does a tremendous job with character development - there were only two characters I didn't like, and it was more about the "annoyance" factor. The dialogue is spot on, high-school with a little bit of "grown-up" thrown in; however I wish certain words wouldn't have be used so often to describe "the guys". Plot-wise, I loved the unexpected twists and turns - especially towards the end, (no spoilers!), and I thought that the characters acted realistically when faced with certain dilemmas. The level of romance was medium, I would have liked to see a lot more build up to Jewel's relationships, not just high school "crush" material, but overall it worked. I enjoyed the ending, but I hope that Shannon Duffy is not done  with these characters yet. Sometimes I like when authors tie all the loose ends, and other times I just want MORE! This is one of those times. My only reading regret is not taking more time to savor it. Recommended to teens through adults with a penchant for the paranormal; and a little romance too!

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

*** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. 

Author Bio:

     Shannon Duffy writes young adult and middle grade fiction. She grew up on the beautiful east coast of Canada and now lives in Ontario, Canada. She is the mom of one boy, Gabriel, her angel. She loves writing, reading, working out, soccer, and the sport of champions-shopping. She is the author of the young adult paranormal romance, SPECTRAL. Her upcoming middle grade fantasy novel, GABRIEL STONE AND THE DIVINITY OF VALTA is scheduled for a January 2013 release. 

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Review # 162: Dead Ends to Somewhere by Richard L. Ward

     Dead Ends to Somewhere is the memoir of Richard L. Ward, the unlikely scientist who invented the vaccine for rotavirus, a virus causing stomach and intestinal inflammation in ~500,000 children worldwide. Richard was the youngest of nine children, but the competitive nature of his siblings never rubbed off on him. He did poorly in school, and his reading and writing skills were mediocre. The nuns at his Catholic school had almost given up hope, until he suffered the ultimate humiliation – a nun read his paper to the class as an example of “what not to do”, and he swore he'd never allow it to happen again. This event triggered his competitiveness and confidence, allowing him to succeed in school and college, however, Richard went through several college and career possibilities before he found his passions – biochemistry and virology. He intended to study a completely different branch of viruses, retroviruses, but a chance encounter with rotavirus set him on the path to discovery, and ultimately changed the future of medicine.

     I find it amazing that a child who nearly failed out of grammar school grew up to develop a vaccine against rotavirus, which in turn has saved millions of children worldwide. Richard L. Ward's memoir is a true example of overcoming the obstacles humans are presented with. It also strengthens the belief that humans learn from their mistakes and have the ability to change their futures. I found his writing style easy-to-read, down-to-earth, honest, and full of self-condemning wit. He represents himself as flawed, clearly just as human as the rest of us, and he keeps his ego in check. One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to self-written memoirs is when the authors act full-of-themselves. A little self-admiration is fine (as in this case), but some authors 'go off the deep end'. 

     I am a microbiologist, so I rather enjoy the technical jargon that more biological reads have to offer, but for this book, I found that readers of most backgrounds would be fine without a dictionary. The author's descriptions are detailed, but not scientifically specialized like those found in most scientific papers; he has a knack for explaining his methods in layman's terms. The whole book is enjoyable and well-written – there were a few typos, but nothing too serious. This book belongs in high school and college libraries/curricula! It is a must read for science students and I highly recommend it. I, for one, am grateful for Richard's scientific contributions to society; because of his research, children get a chance to live.

Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)

*** I received this book from the author (Bostick Communications) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Review # 161: Building Family Ties with Faith, Love & Laughter by Dave Stone

     Building Family Ties with Faith, Love & Laughter is a down-to-earth, common sense guide to strengthening the relationships within one's own home. Emphasis is placed on maintaining a stable marriage and bonding with children from infancy to adulthood, but non-nuclear families are also discussed. (Christian-based)

     This 160 page book covers more topics than I thought possible! Dave stone is a Christian pastor who believes, “The most practical way to spread the gospel is through moms and dads who model a genuine faith for their children.” I agree with him, leading by example is a powerful teaching method. I enjoyed the overall structure of this small but mighty resource, the tips – mostly bible-based – were easy to understand and implement. I loved the side notes as well, including: “What we say to our children is prophetic, for better or worse”, “Laughing with someone is exhilarating; laughing at someone is disrespectful”, and “It doesn't matter if your children are five or fifteen, a family mission statement provides a rallying point, a focus, a center of gravity that holds your family together.” I have always known that family dinners are key, as is serving the community together, but I can't believe that I have never thought about free time from distracting electronics (phones, computers, mp3 players, etc...). Just because society is going the way of technology doesn't mean we should become obsessed with it. What happened to old-fashioned “family time”? Game night? Crafts? All are worthy alternatives to texting, especially if they are family-based. This book is going to come in handy! Highly recommended to families looking for a little Godly guidance!

Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)

*** I received this book from the author (Thomas Nelson) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Review # 160: A Black Girl's Poetry for the World by Kimberly LaRocca

     A Black Girl's Poetry for the World is a collection of 123 poems about life, love and everything in between, written by Kimberly LaRocca – mother, poet, author and songwriter.

     I love poetry, whether it comes as rhyming stanzas or as simple verse, so when I read about A Black Girl's Poetry for the World by Kimberly LaRocca, I knew what I wanted to read next. First-off, the cover is gorgeous, I love the colors, the font and the side profile – they allow the outside of the book to encapsulate the depth and richness contained within Kimberly's poetry. The poems move in an almost autobiographical fashion, each one packed with emotion. Savoring each poem, I felt love, bitterness, fear, lust, indecision, pain, defeat, acceptance, anger, faith and a host of other emotions that all readers can relate to. I have not found a poem I do not enjoy, but my favorites are: A Call to Arms, Why Don't You See Me, Dance With Me Tonight, Searching, A Poet's Song, True Friends, Of All Beings, and Too Soon. The poems may seem simple, but they speak volumes about the unique complexities of the human condition. I will definitely be reading these poems again, over and over. Highly recommended to all readers, poets or otherwise.

Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)

*** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. 

Review # 159: Lovesick by Spencer Seidel

     The Portland police discover a gruesome scene on the Eastern Promenade Trail; seventeen year old Paul Ducharme is found cradling the body of his lifeless best friend, Lee Janis, while sitting in a pool of blood. To make matters worse, both men are already suspects in the disappearance of Wendy Trower, a classmate who has been missing for a couple of weeks. But Paul cannot remember what happened in either situation, so his attorney, Rudy Swaner calls on a friend he can trust – forensic psychologist Dr. Lisa Boyers.

     Her methods seem to work when it comes to retrieving Paul's memories, but she does not anticipate the truth. Paul's tragic story of love, heartbreak and deceit begins to awaken Lisa's own memories, ones that she would rather keep buried. Are the skeleton's in her closet worth dropping her client? Can the case, and Lisa's past, escape the media spotlight long enough for the police to find Wendy and determine Paul's innocence/guilt?

     I have not read Spencer Seidel's Dead of Wynter, so I didn't know what to expect from his newest release, Lovesick. The story pulled me in quickly, the plot building from page one; I managed to read it in a single sitting and enjoyed its psychological twists. I was sort of disappointed that the story-line was predictable, but overall I thought it was well-written and properly structured. I was completely thrown off course by the ending though, (no spoilers), which earns the author a thumbs-up. I also thought that the characters were very well-developed personality wise. Each character had their own distinct voice, especially Paul and Lisa who I empathized with the most. I spent a good part of the book wrestling with Paul's guilt versus innocence. I hoped he was not a murder, especially after hearing about the “love triangle” and the woods from his (third person) point of view. Spencer Seidel has an interesting way of narrating character memories that makes them seem more realistic. The dialogue had the same effect, and it fit the appropriate age of the characters. Overall, it was a great psychological thriller – gritty, compelling, and full of dark curves. Recommended for teens through adults, particularly those seeking psychological thrills. (Contains Language/Gore)

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

*** I received this book from the author (BookTrib) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Review # 158: A Male Stripper's True Story: A History of the Hippy Movement in NYC and It's Fallout by Shado Lain

     A Male Stripper's True Story is the memoir of Shado Lain – the first true artist of the New York City male stripping scene in the 1960's through 1980's.

     I do not really have much to say about this seventy-one page mini-memoir. I thought that it would be an interesting topic because I have always wondered why people get into the “adult entertainment” business. What draws so many people into these scantily-clad careers? Don't get me wrong, if that is what a person is passionate about, by all means they should do it – no judgment from me. But this book really did not answer any of my questions, it was a very short, scattered and unedited glimpse into New York's male stripping scene. I understand that Shado Lain wanted to get his story out there, but I did not like his approach. Many of the sentences were run-ons, held misspelled words and were ill-punctuated; still understandable, but thoroughly annoying. Shado's past and present were more jumbled than fluid, and I do not think he needed to add all the detail about his middle and high school sex partners. The 1960's through the 1980's was a wild time in our country's history, and I find the hippie movement fascinating, but I did not enjoy reading about the author's escapades. If the book was longer, proofread and more structured, I would have given a better rating. 

Rating: Toe Tag (1.5/5)

*** I received this book from the author (Bostick Communications) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Review # 157: Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel

    Sam Elling gets fired from an internet dating company after designing a ground-breaking algorithm that actually calculates a person's soul-mate. The problem? The software works too well, and after one date, prospective customers find the “one” and cancel their membership. Fortunately, that is how Sam meets Meredith – the girl of his dreams. But the couple hit a rough patch when Meredith's grandmother, Livvie, dies. 
    Meredith is inconsolable, her grandmother being one of the most influential people in her life. She has countless memories, but cannot seem to accept Livvie's death; so she asks Sam to do the impossible - create an interactive simulation from Livvie's past emails and web-cam sessions so she can say goodbye. What begins as an unlikely project ends up becoming a life-changing business, as Sam, Meredith and their families start bringing the recently departed back to virtual “life”. Can their business and relationship handle the repercussions of meddling with the grief of those left behind?

    I was more than intrigued when I read the back cover blurb, especially since there is already a confirmed film deal with Summit Entertainment. A modern love story like this one must be pretty good if it is on the way to the big screen; after reading it, I understand why. Goodbye For Now is emotionally-charged - full of life, love, loss and the pain of saying goodbye. Laurie Frankel captures the realities of family, falling in love, and coping with the uncertainty that surrounds us. Sam, Meredith, Livvie, Dash and Josh are characters with definite impact, on the plot and the reader. I can tell that the author is passionate about her characters - their relationships, triumphs and vulnerabilities are evident on every page. I could easily relate to, and sympathize with, each character, so as the book progressed, so did my emotional state. A great author makes you feel what the characters are going through, no matter how complex those feelings may seem. I did get some serious shocks while reading, but I am a fan of the unexpected, (no spoilers). There is enough detail to keep readers interested, but not enough to ruin the resulting story-line. Even though it was more technologically modern, there wasn't too much jargon; appreciated since RePose was based on such a heterogeneous computer algorithm. I enjoyed the whole book immensely! I will be looking for other books by this author in the future, and highly recommend Goodbye For Now to all readers teen and above. The countdown to the film has begun...

Rating: Clean Getaway (5/5)

*** I received this book from the author (Doubleday) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Review # 156: The First To Say No by Charles C. Anderson

     Doctors Kate Taylor and Elita Romanov are sick and tired of the constant abuse the community suffers at the hands of a local gang – the Plagues. The vicious gang members not only cost the hospital hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid medical bills, but they are notorious for abducting, terrorizing and raping staff members on and off the property of Parkview Hospital. The local police are paid to look the other way, and hospital management refuses to acknowledge the problem, but the gang's victims are ready to fight back; ready to finally say, “NO!”. Can Kate, Elita and the people they care about find a way to “cleanup” the streets without getting themselves killed? Will risking their own lives and reputations save the place they call home?

     I think I have found my new favorite genre! I am in the medical field, so it should come as no surprise, but until recently I had not found a modern medical thriller that lived up to my expectations. Maybe it is because I define a thriller as 'action-packed', 'suspenseful', 'gritty', 'compelling', and, I daresay, 'thrilling'. I dislike when a book is labeled as as a certain genre and doesn't deliver – especially when the book ends up being sleep-inducing instead of heart-pounding. The First To Say No is one of a string of medical thrillers I have read recently that stands behind its cover blurb. It started quickly and unexpectedly, the problems the characters faced immediately evidenced; I was slightly appalled, but the rough reality immediately caught my attention. Elita's character is introduced in such a way that the reader can't help but wonder about her abstruse past, and Charles C. Anderson does a great job leading to the answers; (no spoilers). The same is true with Kate and Margaret - complex, realistic and well-developed characters that the reader can't help but cheer for. The plot definitely encompasses my definition of thriller, particularly in the levels of action and suspense. I knew what was coming, especially the ending, but I was still excited to read it! The dialogue was also appropriate and believable; I really appreciated the medical terminology. However, I do find it horrifying that there are places in America where violence escalates to the heights discussed in the book. Recommended to adult readers into the medical thriller genre, or those in the mood for some well-deserved vengeance.

Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)

*** I received this book from the author (Bostick Communications) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review # 155: Taking Control by Jo Ramsey

Description: (from Amazon)
     Jonah's parents have always been supportive of his practices of energy healing, channeling, and yoga. However, they're now trying to convince him to choose a different career path-and demanding that he find a part-time job. Meanwhile, it's becoming more common to see Shanna arriving at school with injuries, and when she's suspended for walking out on the school social worker, her mother's abuse goes from bad to worse. Shanna's arm is broken, and Jonah persuades her to finally admit the truth. With all that going on, it's little wonder Jonah has nearly forgotten about the entity that's trying to transmigrate to our universe. But when a substitute teacher at school seems able to drain energy, sickening another student, Jonah remembers the threat and knows he must take steps to raise the vibration of the person the entity intends to use as a portal. It's just that the potential portal isn't who Jonah thinks...and when he finds the right person, he's afraid he may be too late.


     I tried to get into Jo Ramsey's Taking Control several times, but the content didn't spark my interest. I have experience with victims of abuse, and this book's message is slightly impractical. Just because you try and have a positive attitude does not mean that the abuse ends, or hurts any less. I did enjoy the characters, especially Shanna and Jonah, whose relationships were developed reasonably well; but I disliked the overall story-line, particularly the "energies" and "transmigration" of entities, etc. I would be willing to read more by this author, I like her writing style, unfortunately, I just didn't like this book.

Rating: DNR (2/5)

* I received this book from the author (LibraryThing Early Reviewers) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review # 154: Monoceros - A Novel by Suzette Mayr

     A teen's suicide triggers a community to reflect on its actions. Students, faculty, and family members "tell" their own side of the story, while trying to make sense of a tragedy that could have been avoided.

     Monoceros is definitely one of the most interesting books I have read in 2012. It is an unexpected and unique take on the aftermath of a homosexual teen's suicide, as told by the students, staff, and family he left behind. At first, I couldn't get past the sentence and grammatical structure of the text, it was choppy and strangely formatted. I did not enjoy the repetitiveness, nor did I favor the total lack of quotation marks. The dashes used made it difficult to determine which individuals were speaking during conversations. I did however appreciate the depth and personalities of the colorful cast of characters; especially Max, Crepe Suzette, Faraday, and Walter. The story-line was well-constructed, honest, and full of emotion. Even though each of the characters only had a small section written in their own perspective, I felt that the mix of thoughts and conversations kept the reader intrigued and sympathetic. I eventually got over most of the punctuation problems, but I still found them annoying. The only other problem I had was with the ending, I found it confusing and unnecessary. The writing itself was intricate, but I couldn't pinpoint the proposed audience. Overall, a strange, yet unique read; still unsure about the unicorn aspect... (no spoilers).

Rating: Bounty's Out (3/5)

* I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.