Monday, January 28, 2013

Review # 271: Rally 'Round the Corpse - An Abel Adventures Mystery by Hy Conrad

Description: (book jacket)
     It's been two years since her fiancĂ©'s death. Amy Abel needs to start over. What better way for a shy, risk-averse woman to start than to sink all her savings into a travel agency specializing in adventure? Her first project is a mystery road rally through the European countryside. 
     At the starting line in Monte Carlo, Amy finds herself attracted to Marcus Alvarez, the most mysterious of her two dozen game-loving clients. But the rally gets off to a rocky start when an eccentric writer, the only person who knows the game's solution, is himself murdered back in New York. 
     Who would kill a harmless mystery geek? And why are weird accidents beginning to happen along the way? To her horror, Amy discovers that this fictional mystery was based on a real, unsolved case, one that Marcus knows too much about. Now she has no choice but to join forces with Fanny, her domineering mother, and solve this on her own, before the killer strikes again.

     MONK, a TV dramedy series about an obsessive compulsive detective, is one of my all-time favorite shows, so when I had the opportunity to read a book by the show's writer/producer, Hy Conrad, I grabbed a bleach-wipe and pounced on it! The characters are phenomenal, each multifaceted individual breathing new life, (and new clues), into the mystery. Fanny and Amy, a mother-daughter duo, are two of my favorites! Their witty repartee, eccentricities, and well-developed personalities are realistic and complimentary, always keeping each other in check. The dialogue follows suit, full of engaging conversations and well-placed laughs. There were a few times that I had to take a break because I was laughing too much, especially during Amy's awkward moments, (no spoilers!). The plot is terrifically written and well-detailed, Hy Conrad is definitely a seasoned manufacturer of mystery and suspense. Every new clue changed my outlook on the case's resolution - a true whodunit; the twists and turns fast and sinuous, yet surprising. I can honestly say that I was in the dark about the killer's identity throughout most of the book, and I was quite taken-aback by the ending. I also loved the parallel mysteries, as well as the book's fun and lighthearted tone. My high expectations were definitely met! Recommended for all mystery lovers!

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

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

About the Author

     Best known for his work in mysteries, Hy was one of the original writers for the groundbreaking series,Monk. He worked on the show for all eight seasons, the final two as Co-Executive Producer, and received three Edgar Nominations from the Mystery Writers of America for “Best TV Episode.”

     In a related project, Hy was Executive Producer and head writer of Little Monk, a series of short films featuring Adrian Monk as a ten-year-old. His latest TV work was as writer and Consulting Producer for White Collar.

     Hy is also the author of hundreds of short stories and ten books of short whodunits, which have been sold around the world in fourteen languages. Hy’s first full-length comedy/mystery play, Home Exchange, premiered at the Waterfront Playhouse in Key West in May 2012. And, in a different vein, he recently authored a humor book calledThings Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know.

Hy splits his time among Key West, Vermont and New York City.

Author Website:

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Tour Schedule 

So Many Precious Books Jan 6 Giveaway & Feature 

Minding Spot Jan 7 Review 

Book Lover Stop Jan 8 Review & Giveaway 

Thoughts in Progress Jan 9 Review 

Thoughts in Progress Jan 10 Giveaway & Interview 

Book Dilettante Jan 11 Review 

Tabula Rasa Jan 11 Review 

Tabula Rasa Jan 12 Interview 

Sweeps4Bloggers Jan 12 Review & Giveaway 

The Bookworm Jan 13 Review 

Book Lover's Library Jan 14 Review 

Book Lover's Library Jan 14 Guest Post & Giveaway 

Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks Jan 15 Review 

Celtic Lady Jan 16 Review 

Book Angels Jan 17 Review 

Book Angels Jan 18 Guest Post $ Giveaway 

Ann's Reading Corner Jan 19 Review 

Booksie's Blog Jan 20 Review 

Socrates Book Reviews Jan 21 Review 

Socrates Book Reviews Jan 21 Guest Post & Giveaway 

How Mysterious Jan 22 Review 

Library of Clean Reads Jan 23 Review & Giveaway 

Turning the Pages Jan 25 Review 

Turning the Pages Jan 25 Interview 

Bookvisions Jan 26 Review 

I'd Rather Be Reading Jan 27 Review & Giveway 

Paperback Pursuer Jan 28 Review 

Writing Daze Jan 29 Guest Post 

Back To Books Jan 29 Review & G iveaway 

Heck of a Bunch Jan 30 Review & Giveaway 

¡Miraculous! Jan 31 Guest Post & Giveaway 

Review Room Feb 1 Review 

Freda's Voice Feb 2 Review & Giveaway 

Man of LaBook Feb 3 Review 

Man of LaBook Feb 4 Interview & Giveaway 

Melissa's Midnight Musings Feb 5 Review & Giveaway 

Peaceful Wishing Feb 6 Review 

Peaceful Wishing Feb 7 Guest Post & Giveaway 

Dark Haven Maven Feb 8 Review 

Butterfly-o-Meter Books Feb 9 Guest Post & Spotlight 

MN Girl in LA Feb 11 Review 

MN Girl in LA Feb 12 Interview & Giveaway 

Bea's Book Nook Feb 12 Review 

Romancing the Book Feb 13 Review 

Romancing the Book Feb 14 Guest Post & Giveaway 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review # 270: Catch Me If You Know How - Internet Edition by Travis Morgan

Description: (from Amazon)
     This book teaches basic computer forensics to any level computer user. You do not need to be an intermediate or advanced computer user to understand this book or to know how to implement any of the procedures. It's very easy to navigate, with clear screenshots as examples. 
  • Stop Cyberbullying
  • Catch Your Spouse Cheating
  • Stop Pornography Addiction
  • Save Your Teen from Suicide
  • Save Your Child from a Pedophile
  • Stop a Compulsive Online Gambler
  • Prevent Mass Murders or Terrorism
  • Discover Who's Wasting Company Time

     Catch Me If You Know How is a beginner's step-by-step guide to discovering anyone's internet habits! Are your kids and teens on dangerous sites? Is your spouse or employee perusing unsavory sites regarding gambling, guns, drugs or pornography? If you are unsure of the answers,  this is definitely the book for you! Travis Morgan's intro to basic computer forensics can be understood and used by any reader; topics include: Web Browsing, Emails, Social Media, Chat and Instant Messaging, Peer To Peer File Sharing and other technologies, as well as advanced tips for monitoring and controlling internet access. Each chapter is broken down into easy-to-read large print sections complete with instructions and diagrams detailing how to search and protect your computer and your family. I am pretty proficient with computers, but I even learned a few things that I have started putting into practice! Although some of the tips and tools may seem like an invasion of privacy, they could save time, money, a marriage or even a life! Better to be safe than sorry." This is a must read for parents in the "tech" generation - even the comic-like illustrations help to get the points across! Highly recommended to all readers!

Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)

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

About the Author: (from Amazon)

     Travis Morgan is an established Computer Specialist who has gained his knowledge through both professional and personal means. Travis' detailed personality and drive to learn new and innovative technologies is his "niche". In his 20 years of IT education and experience stemming from his own love for computers, he has been a successful entrepreneur and previously an Institutional Director of Information Technology and Vice President for a national college. His vast experience and education in Information Technology has afforded him the knowledge and experience to not only recognize personal behaviors and traits of subordinates and co-workers, but also the technical aspects of how abuses occur and the detection and tracking of those behaviors on personal, corporate and public computer systems.

     Additionally, Travis has been exposed to technical and non-technical computer users in corporate, small business and residential environments. Various experiences and witnessing first hand the abusive nature of some people and the Internet, has led him to write this compelling book to help parents, teachers and anyone else who feels the need to understand how to track inappropriate behavior of users of the Internet.
With our society relying more and more on technology, Travis recognizes the dire need to educate and promote understanding of the growing dilemma of protecting our children online, observing and reviewing internet behaviors and protecting their households. Travis is concerned with the technology that exposes our most sacred lives, our children, which is why he has become an advocate of this purpose.

     With all the horror stories we hear in our everyday lives regarding events attributed to internet use, it is Travis' attempt to aid those closest to a potential problem to have the tools necessary to avert any harm that could possibly be in progress or have previously occurred, through use of the internet.

     Travis, who is now a deaf/blind man, lives in Temecula, CA, with his wife and two youngest children.

P.S. Look for more books to come in the 'Catch Me If You Know How' series.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Blogoversary Giveaway!!!

I am feeling extra generous in 2013! This year I am going big - giving away one Kindle Fire, two $50 Amazon Gift Cards, and one Mystery Box full of books!!! Four lucky winners will be chosen at random using the Rafflecopter form below! Complete the simple activities (follow TPP blog/Twitter/Facebook/etc...) for a chance to win!!! Good Luck! 
..."and may the odds be ever in your favor!"

The giveaway will not end until I have reached 100 NetworkedBlogs followers!!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Guestpost: Have Fun! by AB Bard

  Have Fun!
by AB Bard

     I am a writer with a multiple personality. That makes me two writers. No three. No – well, as you can see, this is not an argument I can win.

     One of my personalities is AB Bard, the anarchic author of The Killer Poet’s Guide to Immortality. If I told you what it’s about, I’d have to kill you. But I assure you, it is an uplifting story.

     Another of my personalities is as a writer of serious historical fiction. There’s the perennial Kindle favorite (former #1 on KINDLE!) Just Deceits: A Historical Courtroom Mystery. And there’s the less flashy but more meaningful Bones Beneath Our Feet: A Historical Novel of Puget Sound. You can’t go wrong with either one.

     I don’t much like selling myself, so I often make fun of the process. This doesn't really get me anywhere, but it feels good. If you are a writer starting out on this path, there are really two schools of thought. One (the one we hear more of in these mercenary times) is to figure out what the market wants, then try to write it, and market the hell out of yourself. The other is to write what you love, the market be damned! The first is like any other job, only less likely to pay anything, so I figure what’s the point of being a writer if you aren't writing what you love? You might as well make widgets for $11.95 an hour. At least then you could afford a bowling league.

     As you can tell, I’m a firm adherent to the second school of thought, which is more like playtime on the recess than school. I recall the graduation address given by IF Stone, the famous investigative journalist to my class at Reed College. His totally serious advice to the graduates boiled down to this: Have fun! Life’s short, enjoy yourself. If you’re always worried about what’s next, you’re likely to miss the joy right in front of your nose. That’s my writing philosophy, and my living philosophy. And that’s about the only thing that all my personalities can agree on.


About the book:

     The Killer Poet’s Guide to Immortality is the riveting tale of a frustrated poet who decides that the best way to get his work read is by pinning it to corpses with a dagger. Alternately profound and hilarious, this novel chronicles in rapid-fire succession AB Bard’s obsessive murder spree, rise to media notoriety, capture, trial, and execution by lethal injection.

Then it presses further, into the future . . .


About the Author:

     Reclusive Seattle author AB Bard’s poetry has twice been nominated for the Pushcart. He is the author under a pseudonym of two other hysterical novels, or perhaps historical novels, neither of which is funny. Mr. Bard is not now, nor has he ever been, a member of the Republican Party. Mr. Bard does not Tweet. He was awarded a sheepskin (BAaa) from Reed College Sleeper Cell. His one super power is the ability to repel all conventional measures of literary success. Mr. Bard is lap to a cat, pal to a girl, God to a dog, & dog to the Man.

To find out more, please visit him at

Monday, January 21, 2013

Spotlight: The Unspeakable by Tessa Stockton

The Unspeakable
Who said forgiveness was easy?
     When a furtive conflict is pitted between violent leftist guerrillas and a rightwing paramilitary group in Colombia, a North American woman mistakenly gets caught in the middle. “I spent four months, one week and two days in a clandestine prison referred to as The Water Cave. Every day I stared hell in the face, and each day I wanted to die. I don’t want to share too much too quickly. To understand fully, you must join hands with me, fasten your heart to mine, and course through my book. Stumble over the incomprehensible human rights journey with me. I’ve pondered it to the brink of questionable sanity, and it is the only way. It’s the only way to explain. I suppose I should consider myself lucky I survived at all—for many did not—yet, perplexingly so, that’s not the premise of this narrative. He altered my life, marked me forever. But it’s not how you might imagine. This is a story involving Horacio Botello, my torturer known as Puma.”
Purchase your copy:

Tessa Stockton

About the Author:

     A veteran of the performing arts and worldwide missions, Tessa Stockton also contributed as a writer/editor for ministry publications, ghostwriter for political content, and headed a column on the topic of forgiveness. Today she writes novels in a variety of genres, often laced with romance and intrigue. In addition to her Christian suspense/thriller, THE UNSPEAKABLE, she’s the author of the political intrigue/romance, THE UNFORGIVABLE, a fable, LOVE AND LULL, and the upcoming inspirational fantasy romance, WIND’S ARIA, with more in the works.
Visit the Author:


Pump Up Your Book and Tessa Stockton are teaming up to give you a chance to win some fabulous prizes!

Here's how it works:

This promotion will run from January 14 - February 15. The winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter, contacted by email and announced on February 16, 2013. Each blogger who participates is eligible to enter and win. Visit each blog stop below to gain more entries as the Rafflecopter widget will be placed on each blog for the duration of the tour. The prize includes a $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash, one paperback copy of The Unspeakable and one paperback copy of The Unforgiveable. This giveaway is only open to those over the age of 18 and can accept an Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash. You must be a resident of the U.S. to win.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review # 269: Healthy Shame... How to Spank your inner Monkey! by Joseph W. Dopp

     A quirky Christian guide to fighting off life's most taboo temptations, as well as other lapses in self-control.

     Idea-wise, I have to give Joseph W. Dopp credit for coming up with such an interesting way to get his (and God's) point across to readers. His unique perspective on social and religious issues pulls readers into a metaphor filled "discussion" about life, God, sin, self-control and self-worth; however, the formatting is one of the most nauseatingly confusing set-ups that I have ever witnessed! Opening up the book reveals a jaunty combination of size 8pt font fragments, bold and italicized lettering, mixed lower and uppercase letters (in the same word), quotes, fill-in-the-blanks and random usage of punctuation. His explanation on page five is as follows:

"I will mix metaphors and speak in a Blend of Civil Slang & Christianese;
So as to Establish Humor, Teaching, Biblical Relevance & Deep Convictions!
I will mix in Poetic Rants, that I hope will Crescendo the point Deep into the Heart!
I will use & mis-use CAPS & mince words to ACCENTuate ROOT concepts in words!
Don't be Shallow! If the Church is an inch Deep & mile Wide, Let's DEEPen the pool.
Just because it's punny doesn't mean it's funny! It may just be WORTHy in it's Duplicity!

I will Exclaim, Exclamatory TRUTH throughout this book... suggeSting THAT,
I may be YELLING with the same PASSION for
YOUR SOUL as John the Baptist!"

     This discombobulating blend of characters makes it very difficult to focus on the material being presented, as well as the words themselves. I found myself reading entire chapters and only grasping small bits of information; further hindered by the small text. Ignoring the evident formatting issues, I do believe that Dopp's experience with addiction and counseling has created a refreshing presentation and writing style, much more humorous and biblical-based than I expected. Although long-winded rants are not my favorite kinds of narratives, I can see the appeal of the non-traditional approach. The apes are a nice touch, (no spoilers). Overall, I would have enjoyed and appreciated Healthy Shame more had it seen an editor before being published. 

Rating: DNR (2/5)

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

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Review # 268: A Season for Tending by Cindy Woodsmall

Description: (from Amazon)
Old Order Amish Rhoda Byler’s unusual gift and her remarkable abilities to grow herbs and berries have caused many to think her odd. As rumors mount that Rhoda’s “gift” is a detriment to the community, she chooses isolation, spending her time in her fruit garden and on her thriving canning business.

     Miles away in Harvest Mills, Samuel King struggles to keep his family’s apple orchard profitable. As the eldest son, Samuel farms with his brothers, the irrepressible Jacob and brash Eli, while his longtime girlfriend Catherine remains hopeful that Samuel will marry her when he feels financially stable.

     Meanwhile, Samuel’s younger sister Leah is testing all the boundaries during her rumschpringe, and finds herself far from home in Rhoda’s garden after a night of partying gone badly. But Leah’s poor choices serve as a bridge between Rhoda and the King family when a tragic mistake in the orchard leaves Samuel searching for solutions.
Rhoda’s expertise in canning could be the answer, but she struggles with guilt over the tragic death of her sister and doesn’t trust herself outside her garden walls. As the lines between business, love, and family begin to blur, can Rhoda finally open up to a new life? And what effect will this odd, amazing woman have on the entire King family?


     Having recently read some of Cindy Woodsmall's novels, I was very excited about receiving a copy of A Season for Tending! Her characters always seem to live on and off the pages, inspiring me as I read their stories, and Rhoda, Samuel, Leah, Catherine and Eli are prime examples. Everyone has a unique back-story and a distinct personality, but it is the well-plotted circumstances that round out the mix. I loved reading about Rhoda's garden and how it shaped her emotions and experiences - she bloomed throughout the novel, becoming a very strong and well-developed character. As always, the story was written well, and the descriptive language brought me straight into the world of the Amish, stirring up emotions and, in some cases, bringing back memories. Overall, I really enjoyed the story, but the fruit of the story ripened at a very slow pace, and the ending felt unresolved, (no spoilers); hopefully, the second book in the Amish Vines and Orchards series will tie up some of the loose ends.

Rating: Bounty's Out (3.5/5)

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

Review # 267: When Your Parent Becomes Your Child - A Journey of Faith Through My Mother's Dementia by Ken Abraham

Description: (from Amazon)

     At first, Ken Abraham wrote off his mother's changes in behavior as quirks that just come with old age. There was memory loss, physical decline, hygiene issues, paranoia, and uncharacteristic attitudes. He soon realized that dementia had changed her life—and his familiy's—forever.

     "How is it possible to lose a loved one while he or she is still living, still sitting right in front of you, talking with you, smiling at you—and yet the person you have known and loved for years is somehow gone?"

     According to the Alzheimer's Association, an estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer's disease. That's one in eight older Americans. More than likely, that figure includes someone you know and love.

     As he chronicles his own mother's degenerative condition, New York Times best-selling writer Ken Abraham educates while offering inspiration to help readers cope with and manage their family circumstances. With humor and spiritual reminders of God's command to honor our parents, Abraham encourages readers through often-difficult responsibilities. And though in most cases patients will not recover this side of heaven, he suggests many practical things that families can do to make the experience safer, kinder, and more endurable for everyone involved.

     When Your parent Becomes Your Child tells the story of one family's journey through dementia while offering hope to family members and friends, that they might better understand the effects of the disease. Don't let this catch you by surprise—be informed before you face the challenges and difficulties of a loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia. This book can help.


     I chose to review this book because my family and I are currently going through this with my 84 year old grandmother. She was diagnosed with dementia several years ago, but until we moved her into our house, we only had a partial idea of her mental/physical decline. Soon after she moved in, we experienced her mood swings - going from grandmotherly to threatening in a moment's time. She refused to eat, made up stories, raised her hand to us, tried to make herself sick, acted out, bullied us, cried a lot, became paranoid, and started forgetting events of the recent past. Some days were fine, other days were unbearable, but we refused to let her fragile state break us down. It definitely is not easy taking care of an elderly parent or grandparent. It doesn't matter how much you love them, the diseases of old age still strip away the pieces, leaving an unfamiliar shell. There will always be parts that you recognize, a brief glimpse of the past, but it can be difficult to see someone you love slowly disappear.

     Ken Abraham's When Your Parent Becomes Your Child is a book that I wish I had read before my grandmother's health started declining. His story is full of heartbreak and hard decisions regarding the care of his aging mother, Minnie, but his resolve, faith, devotion and attitude towards her condition is a must read for anyone approaching (or in the middle of) a similar situation. He recounts times when Minnie's medications were incorrect, having discussions with uncaring doctors and medical personnel,  trying to pay increasing medical bills, and watching his mother lose her mental and physical faculties, while still keeping the story of her last years' more optimistic than negative. A lot of the sections are really emotional, and can be hard to read for those who can relate to it. There were several instances where I had to close the book and reflect on my own experiences with my grandmother - the sadness, the uncertainty, the feelings of despair, the sparks of recognition - all a part of a process of aging that is getting more and more commonplace. There were also sections that gave me hope regarding her future state, and my attitude towards it. Ken and Minnie's relationship with God was something that really touched me; even near the end, they both sought out God's word for comfort and understanding - a trait that I strive for daily. This journey not only changed the lives of the author and his family, but also changed my outlook and feelings towards aging illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer's. I wholeheartedly recommended this book to all readers because we will all be there someday.

Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)

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

Review # 266: Harvest- An Adventure into the Heart of America's Family Farms by Richard Horan

Description: (from Amazon)
     Novelist and nature writer Richard Horan embarked on an adventure across America to reveal that farming is still the vibrant beating heart of our nation. Horan went from coast to coast, visiting organic family farms and working the harvests of more than a dozen essential or unusual food crops—from Kansas wheat and Michigan wild rice to Maine potatoes, California walnuts, and Cape Cod cranberries—in search of connections with the farmers, the soil, the seasons, and the lifeblood of America.

     Richard Horan's Harvest is a narrative journey that I will not soon forget! I am no stranger to farm life - milking cows, mucking stalls, growing and harvesting crops, etc... so I was intrigued by a nation-wide search for unusual organic farms and their farmers. I was very surprised to learn that there were so many organic crops that I had never heard of - particularly wild rice from Michigan, and walnuts from California. I enjoyed reading about the day-to-day lives of today's organic agriculturalists and their families - the unseen workforce behind out grocery store shelves. The book was filled with interesting facts, great stories, and showed me that the true life-blood of America lies in those who grow and harvest the nation's food supply, organic or otherwise. Recommended to all readers, especially those interested in organic farming.

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

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

Friday, January 18, 2013

Review # 265: The Diet Dropout's Guide to Natural Weight Loss: Find Your Easiest Path to Naturally Thin by Stan Spencer, PhD

Description: (from Amazon)

     This book isn't about the latest celebrity diet, wonder food, or miracle supplement. It's about creating a personalized weight loss plan—your own easiest path to naturally thin. While you can lose weight with almost any diet, keeping the weight off is much more difficult, requiring permanent changes in eating and exercise habits. This book provides a science-based approach for making those changes in a way that works best for you, without wasting time, money, or effort. 
     Dr. Spencer explains why we gain weight and why the fat lost by dieting almost always comes back. He then presents an array of practical weight loss tools for controlling emotional eating, calming cravings, boosting metabolism, and improving nutrition and exercise. In the final chapter he has you create a natural weight loss plan based on your unique set of needs, abilities, and preferences. Simple recipes are provided for weight loss foods that reduce cravings and prolong satisfaction.

     What this book offers is a solid approach to weight loss—self-directed, gradual, and lasting—in contrast to the quick but fleeting weight loss offered by most one-size-fits-all diet plans.


     Finally, a book about weight loss without all the B.S! According to, "by 2030, more than half of Americans could be obese", and unfortunately there is no "quick-fix". I have no trouble admitting that I have always had a weight problem, but even with dieting, exercising, vitamin regimens and strict caloric regulation, I have never been able to shed more than a couple of pounds. My life is anything but sedentary, and I am not addicted to food, however, my body seems to ruthlessly retain water and calories. My biggest problems, according to doctors, are my hypothyroidism and my blood disorder - neither of which help my case. One medication is supposed to help me lose weight, while the other plays the opposite role, making weight-loss seem impossible. In August I started coming up with a weight-loss plan of my own, taking bits-and-pieces of other diet plans into account, but ultimately customizing it for my daily routine. I wanted my weight-loss to be natural - no pills, powders, magical shakes, etc... - and slowly but surely, I began to lose the weight. Now I am down twenty-three pounds, and more motivated than ever! That's why I love The Diet Dropout's Guide to Natural Weight Loss, it has the same central philosophies on weight-loss that I do! I may be a scientist, but I don't always like diet/exercise plans that have to explain every detail of the diet to you - I find it very annoying. Most times I just flip to the appendix for the straight-up diet diagrams and recipes so I can start the plan instead of just reading about it. Reading about the history of a diet or other people's journeys is only motivational the first hundred times, so why slap that kind of info on every other page? 

     Stan Spencer's approach is quite the opposite. He begins the easy-to-read 152 page guide with very short and to-the-point introductory sections on weight versus lifestyle and diet failures, followed by eight "how-to" sections that give readers the facts on cravings, "fat genes", eating less, exercise and other natural weight loss habits. This is not the typical diet guide - no frills included - just the hard facts about getting healthy and weighing less naturally, and unlike other diets, there are no promises of "quick-fixes" or instant weight loss; you only see the results if you do the work. Spencer has compiled the research from a variety of diet/exercise sources into a more condensed and easy-to-comprehend format - making it simpler for anyone to just pick up the book and start working on themselves rather than wading through useless info. The recipes were very helpful, as were the tips at the end of each chapter. The "Naturally Thin Habits" helped me stay on track with my own goals, and the "Fifty-Six Ways to Weigh Less", although not revolutionary, were written from a new and interesting perspective.  Definitely worth a look for anyone trying to get healthier in 2013!
~Edit: Just saw the book on the Today Show! Can't wait to see other people's reactions!

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

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

Review # 264: Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves by Robin O'Bryant

Winner of the Shirley You Jest - Shirley LOL (1st Place) in Non-Fiction!

Description: (from Amazon)

     If you don’t have anything nice to say about motherhood, then… read this book. Robin O’Bryant offers a no holds barred look at the day to day life of being a mother to three, running a household and the everyday monotony of parenting. 
     It’s not always pretty but it’s real. Whether she's stuffing cabbage in her bra… dealing with defiant yet determined daughters… yelling at the F.B.I... or explaining the birds and the bees to her preschooler… you’re sure to find dozens of humorous and relatable situations.

     From the creator of Robin's Chicks, one of the South’s most popular blogs on motherhood, misunderstandings and musings, comes a collection of essays that will not only make you laugh and cry, but realize that you’re not alone in your journey.

     Sit back and relax, pour yourself some “mommy juice,” throw a fresh diaper on your baby and deadbolt the bedroom door to keep your kids out… because once you start reading you'll be too busy wiping away tears of laughter to wipe anybody's butt.


    When I was asked to be a sponsor for the Shirley You Jest Book Awards (SYJ), I had no idea what kind of material I would be reading. I expected comedy, but was not sure about the content. However, after receiving the winning titles I was excited - two hilarious books by two seriously funny moms - each a goldmine of truths and realizations that any woman could relate to, and laugh at!

    The SYJ 1st Place Winner was Robin O'Bryant, and her book, Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves, was probably one of the most exhilaratingly funny books I read in all of 2012; full of unbelievably honest stories that show the "joys" of motherhood in a different light -- a horrifyingly hysterical one. At first, I was taken aback by Robin's surprisingly blunt take on parenting. I know that most mothers probably think those kinds of thoughts (no spoilers) when they are at the end of their rope, but I had never heard them expressed so candidly; probably one of the reasons I laughed so hard after reading some of them. Each story was easy-to-read, full of gut-splitting detail, and refreshingly realistic! I liked the short story length, (the whole book was only 264 pages), and I appreciated the multiple stopping points - good for moms and other busy-bodies on-the-go. Robin's southern wit may strike some readers as T.M.I or offensive, but sometimes that's what motherhood is, so why not be honest about it? I also enjoyed the random order of the stories - being able to read them in whatever sequence I wanted was definitely a plus! Highly recommended to all women, mothers or not, who aren't afraid to laugh at the darker side of motherhood. Now I know what I am getting all my mom friends for their birthdays this year!

Rating: Clean Getaway! (4.5/5)

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

From the Author:

     I've been an avid reader and writer my entire life. As a child it was common for me to have dark circles under my eyes from staying up into the wee hours to read. I've journaled since I could write a complete sentence and throughout my life I have been told repeatedly, “You should write a book.”

     I wanted to, I really did. I wanted to be a writer but I had no idea what to write about. I was good at expressing myself in words but I wasn't creating new worlds or going all J.K. Rowling in my free time. Reading and writing were private passions until my third child was born. Three daughters in four years, it's all a blur. Do the math, people. That's a lot of crazy.

     I was writing about my kids extensively, because that's what I do. I am compelled to write about my life. But because my husband and I lived hundreds of miles from our families, I was also sending out mass emails on a daily and weekly basis to update our families on our shenanigans. And I heard it again and again, “You should write a book.” (Please note: this doesn't always mean you should and I realized that this was my mom and she might be a little biased.) I realized I might have an audience when my family members started forwarding my emails to everyone in their contact lists and I began receiving feedback from people I didn't know. I started a blog and somehow convinced the editor of our local paper to let me write a weekly family humor column.

     I started outlining Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves and wrote like a mad woman. I signed with Jenny Bent in July of 2009 and began the arduous process of editing and revising. Because platform is so important, I had a lot of work to do in building my blog readership and expanding my humor column. Jenny has been a great source of information, an editor, advocate, writing teacher, butt-kicking motivator for me for the last three and half years.

     We decided to take a calculated risk and self-publish Ketchup (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble) to further expand my platform. It worked. I've sold a fair share of books and Ketchup has spent almost 11 months rated #1 by reader reviews in two categories on Amazon: Humor Essays and Parenting & Families. Due to the success of the book, we published a separate e-book only collection of my best humor columns titled A Second Helping (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble). I'm currently working on the proposal for my third book.
     You can keep up with me online by reading my blog, Robin's Chicks, liking my Facebook Author page or following me on twitter. November 30th is Ketchup's first birthday!!!

About the Author:

      Robin O'Bryant is a humor columnist and stay-at-home-mother to three daughters born within four years. She finally figured out where babies come from and got herself under control. Her first book,"Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves,” has been rated #1 by reader reviews on Amazon in two genres: Humor Essays and Parenting & Families since December 2011.

     O'Bryant won the South Carolina Press Association's award for Best Humor Column for 2012. She was a Circle of Mom's Top 25 Funniest Moms 2011 and 2012. Babble has listed Robin's Chicks as Top 10 Funniest Parenting Blog and is a regualar contributor to Huffington Post Parents. She uses her blog and newspaper columns to teach women helpful tips such as: how to breastfeed behind your back*, how to talk to your daughters about man parts, and how to write a proper gold fish obituary.

*Only applies to lactating women with a DD cup or larger.

Buy the Book:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Excerpt: Come A Little Bit Closer - The Sullivans Book 7 by Bella Andre

     Movie star Smith Sullivan can’t afford any distractions. He’s staking his entire reputation on his new film…but he can’t stop thinking about Valentina Landon and the fire he sees smoldering just beneath the surface. 
     Valentina isn’t averse to sensual pleasure, or even to the idea of finding true love, but as a Hollywood business manager she’s watched too many smart women fall for actors…only to be torn apart when the fairytale comes to its inevitable end. 
     But when intense weeks together on set turn their heated attraction into red-hot flames of passion, Smith knows he has to find a way to convince Valentina to let him get a little bit closer. Close enough to completely steal her heart…the way she’s stolen his from the start.


Gravity was the story Smith Sullivan had been waiting his entire career to tell. It wasn’t a big-budget, smash ’em up blockbuster. Nor was it a period film with impeccably researched costumes and accents. Instead, it was a pure, honest story about love and family and what really mattered.

And he was staking his entire reputation on the deceptively simple story.

If ever there was a time for focus, for pure and total concentration, it was now and through the next eight weeks of filming. He couldn’t afford to let anything—or anyone—distract him from making the best movie he had in him.

Only, as he followed Valentina to his trailer, her waist, hips, and legs gorgeous in her form-fitting pencil skirt, he already knew holding that intense focus wasn’t going to be easy.

Valentina Landon had attracted him from the start with her exotic looks which she downplayed into cool, businesslike reserve. He couldn’t miss the slightly seductive tone to her voice, or the fact that her scent was pure, rich sensuality. If she thought she was putting anyone off with her suits, soft golden hair pulled back into a simple ponytail, and the thick-framed glasses she slid on when she was poring over contracts, she was way off base.

Didn’t she know that all those carefully constructed conservative elements made a guy like him want to find out just how deep her passions ran? Especially when she was so intent on hiding them. Not, of course, that she’d even come close to letting him find out the answer to that question.

During rehearsals, she was always either with her sister or making her way out of a room the second he walked into it. He’d been impressed with her business acumen during the past weeks with regard to Tatiana’s career, as well as how well she took care of her sister on a personal level. Valentina didn’t hover, but at the same time, she was there whenever Tatiana needed her.

As the second-oldest brother in a family of eight siblings, Smith knew just how hard it was to watch over his brothers and sisters while also letting them spread their wings and live their lives without his constant interference. Family meant the world to him, but he craved his independence, and his work, too. It was a constant balancing act, but one he wouldn’t have given up for all the peace and quiet and spare time in the world.

From the beginning of his career just after college, he’d started with whatever scraps he could get and built on from there. He knew people thought he’d been handed his acting career, that his looks had paved the road with gold bricks and Hollywood stars. In truth, those looks had made being taken seriously so difficult that after the first couple of years of countless auditions, he’d almost taken one of the dozens of underwear commercials he’d been offered. Until, finally, an older actor had given him his chance to prove that he was more than just a pretty face. Smith had grabbed that chance with both hands, and when the movie was a box office hit, other doors finally started to open.

It was one of the reasons he’d been so interested in casting Tatiana Landon. Yes, Valentina’s younger sister was beautiful. No question, she was going to be a star, one way or another. But when she worked, he saw several qualities in her that he recognized and admired. Determination. Concentration. And joy.

Yes, he thought, as Valentina threw open his trailer door without waiting for him to let her inside, there was much to admire about the Landon women.Particularly the older sister he hadn’t been able to get out of his head since he’d met her in that initial casting meeting two months ago.

Talk about determination and concentration. Valentina had clearly taught her sister everything she knew. And when Valentina was with Tatiana, when they were laughing together the way sisters did when they were very close, her own joy rang out loud and clear.

Smith had just stepped inside and closed the door behind him when Valentina turned and faced him down.

“My sister is not going to become one of your little playthings.”

Momentarily taken aback, Smith simply echoed, “Playthings?”

Valentina didn’t have the obvious, more conventional beauty of her younger sister, but to Smith that made her face even more alluring. A man had to look under the surface with Valentina, but once he did, he was paid back richly with the contours of high cheekbones, incredibly long, unpainted lashes, eyes that tilted up slightly at the corners, and a cupid’s bow on full lips that couldn’t help but whisper of sex and heat no matter how tightly they were pursed.

Just the way they were right this second, in fact.

“Tatiana and I have been in this business for ten years,” she said in a frosty voice. “I know exactly how this world works, Mr. Sullivan.”

He had to cut her off, then, if only because he hated the way she used the Mr. as yet another way to keep distance between them. Not another damn person on his set called him Mr. Sullivan. He wouldn’t let her do it, either, whatever her reasons for wanting to keep her distance.

“Call me Smith. Please.”

Her mouth tightened even further, her eyes flashing yet again even as she nodded and said, in a very soft voice, “Smith.” Her long, slender fingers twisted in her grip as she stared back at him. “You’re older. You’re successful. You’re extremely good look—”

She stopped just short of the full word and it was all but impossible to keep himself from smirking just a little bit. And from saying, “Thank you, Valentina. I’m glad to know you think so.”

Her eyes widened at the way he spoke her name, with more than a little heat. Any woman looking for his attention would have noticed she had it weeks ago. Then again, she hadn’t been looking for his attention—had stopped just short of running from it, in fact.

Valentina was the opposite of every woman he knew in Hollywood. Instead of trying to draw attention to herself, she worked to keep it away. Smith had transformed himself into so many different characters over the course of his career that he knew all it would take were a few simple changes to her hair, clothes, makeup, and the way she held her body as she stood across from him, to shift her message from back off to come closer.

She was an incredibly intelligent woman. Only, despite that, he didn’t think she realized just how much the mystery of her was drawing him in, making him want to discover who she really was. And why she was so intent on deflecting the male attention she deserved. Especially his.

Nor did she realize just how refreshing it was to finally meet a woman who wasn’t beyond eager and ready to throw herself at Smith Sullivan’s feet. Especially just when he’d been worried there wasn’t a woman alive who could see beyond his fame and all the shiny things that came with it.

Now, as he watched her work to bank her anger, it occurred to him what an excellent actress she would have been. Emotion simmered just beneath the surface of her eyes, her mouth, her skin, all covered with an outward calm that could fool even the closest observer. A shared family trait, though one Valentina had perfected for real life, whereas her sister merely played it out for the camera.

One sister so contained, the other so open.

Smith couldn’t help but wonder—had Valentina sacrificed her own openness so that her sister could have such freedom?

She gestured to the pile of phone numbers that littered his desk, her upper lip curling slightly. “You have plenty of women falling for you. More than enough for any man to enjoy making his way through.”

If he hadn’t been in a hurry earlier that morning, he would have thrown the numbers away instead of just dumping them on his desk. With anyone else, he likely would have explained just that. But he found he didn’t like having to defend himself to Valentina, especially when he hadn’t done anything wrong.

“I meant it when I told you I wanted you to come to me if anything was wrong,” he said in an even voice. “I’m glad you felt comfortable enough to pull me aside this morning, but I’m afraid I don’t yet understand what’s bothering you.”

“I’ll tell you exactly what’s bothering me: You and I both know the power you hold. We also both know that my sister is perfect in this film.”

He nodded in agreement. “You just heard me tell her that.”

“And it meant the world to her.” But instead of looking happy about it, a flash of deep-seated worry crossed Valentina’s face. “Tatiana looks up to you. She has never been so committed to a production. All she wants is to do her best for you, and I know she’s going to give a thousand percent to do just that.” Her gaze was direct, unblinking, as she said, “And in return, I want you to give me your word that you will not cross any professional lines with her.”

Damn it, he hadn’t signed Tatiana to star in his film with nefarious plans of seduction. He’d signed her because she was a great actress who was going to get better and better.

Were it not for two unfounded accusations in the span of minutes, he would have taken the time to answer Valentina more carefully. But as it stood, she’d been questioning his honor since the first second he’d met her sister. Silently, perhaps, but it had been there nonetheless.

His honor was everything to him, and now he felt like a bear poked one too many times by a long stick, coming out of his lair grumpy and with teeth bared in warning. Which was why he gave her an answer he knew was bound to aggravate more than soothe.

“Your sister has already signed the contracts.”

Instead of backing off at what many people would have construed as a warning, Valentina came closer to him, so close that he could smell the lavender in her shampoo.

“I asked around about you before we signed on for this movie. Everyone told me you were different.” Her eyes slid again to the phone numbers on his desk, then back to him. “But you’re just the same as everybody else, aren’t you?” Fire leapt to new heights in her eyes as she told him, “I don’t give a damn what she’s signed. If you do one single thing to hurt my sister, if you dare toy with her emotions or her body, I’ll—”

“Damn it, Valentina,” he said in a voice loud enough to break through to her, “I’m not going to seduce your sister!” He had to work to gentle his voice as he said, “Tatiana is young and beautiful and I’m going to work like hell to make sure she wins an Oscar for her performance in my movie. But I don’t want her.”

And yet, even as he reassured her about his intentions toward her sister, there was no way for him to keep the silent words I want you from hanging in the air between them.

He was sure that was what had her taking a step away from him as she said, “I saw the way you grabbed her and kissed her after the scene. And I saw the way she looked at you—like you hold the key to the secrets of the universe.”

It was because he had two sisters and a mother he loved that he realized just how badly he’d misplayed this situation with Valentina. Instead of going on the defensive and throwing the signed contracts in her face like the big bad movie star who only had to snap his fingers for the world to fall at his feet, he should have done whatever he could to reassure her that Tatiana was in safe hands.

“Your sister did such a great job with the first scene that I got excited, and I wanted her to know how thrilled I am to be working with her. But I honestly don’t think she took my enthusiasm for her performance in the way you thought she did.”

He could see that Valentina was still wary, but she took a deep breath and finally backed down enough to say, “I sure hope not.”

He’d thought her eyes were a dimmer green than her sister’s, but now he could see that they were a beautiful hazel, a clear green on the inside, deep brown on the outside. Smith had never been much interested in perfect, even less so after so many years in Hollywood where people hired doctors to rip them open and put them back together until they looked like the dolls his sisters had played with as kids.

He was also finally close enough to see the slightly dark smudges beneath the delicate skin under her eyes.

“It’s got to be exhausting being your sister’s watchdog all the time.”

“I’m not her watchdog. I’m her sister and I love her. I—” She sighed, letting her exhaustion come through for a moment. “I just need to make sure she’s safe. Always.”

“Your sister is lucky to have you to protect her, Valentina. But who’s protecting you?”

Her eyes met his again, wide with surprise…and an answering desire that she could no longer effectively mask as her hazel eyes dilated until the green near her pupil pushed out all of the brown along the rim.

Hot damn if he didn’t want to kiss her beautiful mouth as she lifted her chin and her eyes flashed at him one more time.

“I don’t need anybody to protect me.”

She walked out of his trailer without a backward glance.

…Excerpt from COME A LITTLE BIT CLOSER by Bella Andre ©2012.

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Review # 263: Confessions of an Edgy Suburban Mom by Pam Grimes

Winner of the Shirley You Jest - Shirley HAH (2nd place) in Non-Fiction!

Description: (from Amazon)
     Columnist Pam Grimes puts her off-kilter spin on marriage and children, while delving into the bizarre underbelly of suburbia. Her true tales of suburban life are populated by quirky characters that will make you laugh, cry and reach for your prescription meds all at once. Grimes speaks with a refreshing honesty and unabashed candor about raising three boys in today's world. Frankly, if you've got a beef with your inner child, the Edgy Suburban Mom offers to beat the tar out of the little twerp for you. So, dust off your sense of humor, refresh your perspective and adjust your comfy straps for a hilarious spin around the 'burbs with the Edgy Suburban Mom.

     When I was asked to be a sponsor for the Shirley You Jest Book Awards (SYJ), I had no idea what kind of material I would be reading. I expected comedy, but was not sure about the content. However, after receiving the winning titles I was excited - two hilarious books by two seriously funny moms - each a goldmine of truths and realizations that any woman could relate to, and laugh at!

     The SYJ 2nd Place Winner was Pam Grimes, and her book, Confessions of an Edgy Suburban Mom, was rife with honest and wit-filled humor from the get-go! I was laughing my tush off before   I made it to page three, but Pam truly had me at "Hypodermic Needle Hopscotch". Her way with words is playful, yet structured, each story striking a chord with me - and with every other reader, I bet. Pam writes about her experiences without coddling the reader, speaking the truth that every woman, wife and mother knows to be true - responsibility can be downright rough, especially when you have so may shoes to fill! She understands what women go through because she is one, and she is not afraid to speak her mind, (something most of us only wish we could do!). Some stories nearly had me in tears, particularly "The Family Road Trip from Hell", "The Great Toilet Paper War", "Hello Kitty... Time to Die!" and "Touching Indians", among others. The length (132 pages) was just perfect for readers on the go, with plenty of stopping points, (if you could tear your eyes away from it), and I really loved the cover art - very fitting! My only complaint was that it was over too soon - so I guess that I will just have to follow Pam's blog for some more laughs! Overall, a smartly written, down-to-earth, riotous journey through the life and times of an Edgy Suburban Mom, that anyone can enjoy! Recommended for all readers, wives and mothers in particular.

Rating: Clean Getaway! (5/5)

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

About the Author:

    Pam Grimes was born in Portland, Oregon during the turbulent 1960's, an era she still feels a deep affinity for. She attended the University of Oregon, majoring in English and minoring in snack foods. There she met and married her college sweetheart with whom she currently lives in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon along with their three sons and Keeshond, Inca. Her column The Edgy Suburban Mom has been published in Portland Monthly Magazine, Portland Family Magazine and Connecticut County Kids Magazine. Influenced by the goofiness and absurdity abundant in family life, Pam continues to mine the treasure trove of crazy off-kilter adventures and mishaps only to be found in that bizarre no-mans-land known as the 'burbs. Please visit her at to learn more about her books and blogs!

Buy the Book:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Excerpt: Let Me Be The One - The Sullivans Book 6 by Bella Andre

     When Vicki Bennett saved Ryan Sullivan’s life as a teenager, it was the beginning of a close friendship that never wavered despite her failed marriage to someone else and Ryan’s well-earned reputation as a ladies man. So when she suddenly needs a pretend boyfriend to protect herself and her career from a powerful man’s advances, he is the only person she can imagine asking. 

     Ryan will do anything to protect Vicki from harm, but when their “fake” kisses and caresses lead to an incredibly sensual night that neither of them can resist, will he have made the biggest mistake of all by irreparably jeopardizing their friendship? Or is it possible that what they’ve both been looking for has been right there the whole time…and the perfect combination of wicked and sweet, friendship and love, is finally within reach?


Fifteen years ago, Palo Alto High School

Victoria Bennett couldn’t take her eyes off Ryan Sullivan, who was laughing with some of the guys on his baseball team, as she headed through the high school parking lot toward the art store on University Avenue.

None of the other girls in her tenth-grade class could take their eyes off him, either, so at least she didn’t stick out. Not for that reason, anyway. Her clay-stained fingers and clothes—along with the “new girl” sign she felt like she was wearing during her first few weeks at every new school—did that with no help whatsoever from Ryan…or his ridiculously good looks.

Normally, she could have gotten over his pretty face without much trouble. As an artist, she always worked to look beneath the surface of things, to try to find out what was really at the heart of a painting or sculpture or song. That went for people, too. Especially boys who, as far as she could tell, only ever told a girl what they wanted to hear for one reason.

No, what had her stuck on Ryan Sullivan was the fact that he was always laughing. Somehow, without being the class clown, he had a gift for putting people at ease and making them feel good.

Before she could catch herself, she put her fingers to her lips…and wondered what it would feel like if he kissed her.

She yanked her hand away from her mouth. Not just because dreaming of his kisses was borderline pathetic given the utter unlikelihood of that scenario, but because she needed to stay focused on her art.

She wasn’t just another tenth grader mooning over the hottest boy in school.

She was studying her muse.

Vicki had never been much interested in sculpting formal busts before. Old, dead, overly serious guys in gray didn’t really do it for her. But it had only taken a few minutes near Ryan at lunch her first day on campus to be inspired to capture his laughter in clay. She wished she could get closer to all that easy joy—if only to figure out how to translate it from her mind’s eye to the clay beneath her fingers.

Yes, she thought with a small smile, she was perfectly willing to suffer for her art. Especially if it meant staring at Ryan Sullivan.

The light turned from red to green and she could have picked up her pace and made it across the street. Only, she’d been having such trouble getting the corners of the eyes and mouth just right on her Laughing Boy sculpture. Knowing there wasn’t a chance that Ryan or his friends would notice her, rather than leaving the school grounds, she closed the distance between them in as nonchalant a manner as she could, while surreptitiously watching him from beneath the veil of the bangs that had grown too long over her eyes during the summer.

A few seconds later, his friends high-fived him and walked away. Ryan bent down to finish packing up a long, narrow black bag at his feet, which she guessed held his baseball stuff.

What, she wondered on an appreciative sigh at the way the muscles on his forearms and shoulders flexed as he picked up the bag, would happen if she talked to him? And what would he say if she outright asked him to pose for her?

She was on the verge of laughing out loud at her crazy thoughts when she heard a squeal coming from the parking lot. In a split second she realized an out-of-control car was whipping straight toward Ryan.

There wasn’t time to plan, or to think. Vicki sprinted across the several feet between them and threw herself at him.


Fortunately, Ryan’s natural athleticism kicked in right away. Even though she was the one trying to pull him out of the way, less than a heartbeat later he was lifting her and practically throwing her across the grass before leaping to cover her body with his.

She scrunched her eyes tightly shut as the car careened past, so close that she could feel the hairs on her arms lifting in its wake. Breathing hard, Vicki clung to Ryan. Wetness moved across her cheeks and she belatedly realized tears must have sprung up from landing so hard on the grass.

The seconds ticked by as if in slow motion, one hard, thudding heartbeat after another from Ryan’s chest to hers and then back again from hers to his. He was so strong, so warm, so beautifully real. She wanted to lie like this with him forever, more intimately, closer than she’d ever been with another boy.

Only, voices were rising in pitch all around her, and suddenly, the reality of what had just happened hit.

Oh my God, they’d both almost died!

She was starting to feel faint when he lifted his head and smiled down at her.

“Hi, I’m Ryan.”

The way he said it, as if she didn’t already know who he was, pierced through her shock. He acted like it was normal to be sprawled over a girl. Which, she suddenly realized, it probably was. For him.

Definitely not for her, though.

Her lips were dry and she had to lick them once, twice, before saying, “I’m Victoria.” The words, “But my friends call me Vicki,” slipped out before she could pull them back in.

His smile widened and her heart started beating even faster. Not from shock this time, but from pure, unfettered teenage hormones kicked into overdrive by his beautiful smile.

“Thank you for saving my life, Vicki.” A moment later, his smile disappeared as he took in her tear-streaked cheeks. The eyes that she’d seen filled with laughter so many times during the first two weeks of school grew serious. “I hurt you.”

She would have told him no, and that she was fine, but all breath and words were stolen from her the instant he brushed his fingertips over her cheeks to wipe away her tears.

Somehow, she managed to shake her head, and to get her lips to form the word no, even though no sound followed.

His laughing eyes were dark now, and more intense than she’d ever seen them. “Are you sure? I didn’t mean to land so hard on you.”


How was she supposed to keep her brain working when he’d begun the slow, shockingly sweet process of running his hands over the back of her skull, and then down to her shoulders and upper arms?

One more word. That was all she needed to get out to answer his question.


“Good.” His voice was deeper, richer, than any of the other fifteen-year-old boys. “I’m glad.”

But as he stared down at her, his expression continued to grow even more intense and she found herself holding her breath.

Was he going to kiss her now? Had her life just turned into the quintessential after-school-special fantasy, the one where the artsy girl caught the eye of the jock and the whole school was turned upside down by their unlikely but ultimately perfect and inevitable pairing?

“One day, when you need me most, I promise I’ll be there for you, Vicki.”

Oh. She swallowed hard. Oh my.

He hadn’t given her a kiss…but his promise felt more important than a mere kiss would have been.

Before she realized it, he was standing up again and holding out a hand to help her up, too. Instantly missing his heat, the hard muscles pressing into her softer ones, all the lies she’d been trying to tell herself about Ryan simply being a muse scattered out of reach.

“Can I walk you home?”

Surprised that he wanted to spend more time with her, she quickly shook her head.

He looked equally surprised by her response, likely because no girl on earth had ever turned him down.

“No, I can’t walk you home?”

She fumbled to explain. “I’m not going home. I was actually heading over to the art store to pick up some supplies for a new sculpt—”

She barely stopped herself from rambling on about her latest project. Why would Ryan Sullivan care? Besides, she reminded her racing heart with brutal honesty, he probably had some pretty cheerleaders waiting on him. And they wouldn’t need an out-of-control car to get him to lie down on top of them.

Because no matter how tempting it was to believe that she had suddenly been cast in a happy-ever-after fairytale romance, the truth was that getting that close to Ryan had been nothing more than a fluke of fate.

And Vicki remained the star of her artsy, and often lonely, move-to-a-new-town-every-year-with-her-military-family teenage life.

Only, for some strange reason she couldn’t understand, Ryan wasn’t running in the opposite direction yet. Probably because he felt like he owed her after she’d saved his life. After all, hadn’t he just told her that he would be there for her one day when she really needed him?

“What are you getting supplies for?” He asked the question as though he were truly interested, not just acting like it because he felt he should.

“I’m making a—” Wait, she couldn’t tell him what she was making. Because she was sculpting him. “I work with clay. Lately, I’ve been trying to capture specific facial expressions.”

“Which ones?”

Never in a million years did she think she’d ever speak to him, let alone have this long a conversation. But, what shocked her most of all was just how comfortable she felt with him. Even with all of her teenage hormones on high alert, Ryan was, simply, the easiest person she’d ever been around.

And she wanted more time with him than just five stolen minutes on the high school lawn.

Her nerves were starting to back off a bit by the time she told him, “I started with all the usual expressions every artist knows best.” She played it up for him. “Tears. Pain. Suffering. Existential nothingness.”

His laughter made her feel like she could float all the way to the art store and back.

“Sounds fun.”

“Oh yeah,” she joked back, “it’s a riot. Which is why I’m trying something different now.” She took a breath before admitting, “I’m working on laughter.”

“Laughter, huh?” He grinned at her. “I like it. How’s it going?”

Being so close to the full wattage of his smile made her breath catch in her throat. In an effort to cover her all-too-obvious reaction to him, she scrunched up her face. “Put it this way, I think I’ve started to resemble all those other expressions.”

“Even the existential nothingness one?”

As if she were watching the two of them from a distance, Vicki knew she’d always look back to that moment as the one that mattered most. The one where she fell head over heels in love with Ryan Sullivan. And not because of his beautiful outside.

But because he’d listened.

And, even better, because he’d appreciated.

“Especially that one,” she replied.

He picked up her bag from the grass. “Sounds awesome. Mind if I tag along?”

Okay, so maybe the two of them didn’t add up on paper, but Vicki couldn’t deny that they had clicked.

“Sure,” she said, “if you don’t have anywhere else you have to be.”

He slung his equipment bag over his other shoulder and walked beside her. “Nothing more important than hanging out with a new friend.”

This time, she was the one grinning at him. In the two weeks since she’d moved to Palo Alto with her family, she hadn’t done a very good job of making friends at the high school. As an Army brat who moved more years than not, she’d stopped making the effort a long time ago when she realized how hard it was to not only break into fully formed cliques, but also to maintain long-distance friendships once she inevitably left town.

Ryan made everything seem so easy, though, as if the only thing that wouldn’t make sense was their not hanging out.

By the end of their trip to the art store and back, she knew all about his seven siblings, he knew she had two annoying little brothers, he’d told her what he liked about baseball, she’d told him what she loved about sculpting, and she’d been invited to dinner at the Sullivan house.

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

The best one she’d ever had.

* * *

Present day, San Francisco

Ryan Sullivan threw his car keys to the valet as he shot past him. The young man’s eyes widened as he realized that he was not only about to drive a Ferrari into the underground parking lot, but that it belonged to one of his sports idols.

“Mr. Sullivan, sir, don’t you need your valet tag?”

Ryan took his responsibilities to the fans seriously and made it a point never to let them down. But tonight the only thing that mattered was Vicki. Even though a half-dozen missed connections over the years had kept them from meeting up again in person after high school, they’d kept in touch through email and phone calls.

Vicki was his friend.

And he wouldn’t let anyone hurt one of his friends.

Ryan pushed through the dark glass doors to the exclusive hotel foyer and made himself stop long enough to do a quick scan of the glittering room. The Pacific Union Club wasn’t his kind of place—it was pretentious as all hell—and he hadn’t thought it would be Vicki’s usual stomping grounds, either.

So why was she here? And why hadn’t she told him she was finally coming back to Northern California after so many years in Europe?

He’d been hanging at his brother Chase’s new baby celebration when her texts had come in.

I need your help. Come quick.

Ryan had cursed every one of the thirty-five miles into the city from his mother’s house on the Peninsula. He’d texted Vicki again and again to get more information, and to make sure that she was okay, but she hadn’t replied.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so worried about anyone…or so ready to do battle. Vicki wasn’t the kind of woman who cried wolf. She wouldn’t have sent him those texts just to try to get his attention. She was the only woman he’d ever known apart from his sisters and mother who had ever been completely real with him, and who didn’t want anything from him besides his friendship.

His large hands were tight fists as he surveyed the cocktail lounge, his jaw clenched tight.

Damn it, where was she?

If anyone had touched Vicki the wrong way, or hurt her even the slightest bit, Ryan would make them pay.

He was famous for being not only the winningest pitcher in the National Baseball League, but also one of the most laid-back. Very few people had a clue about Ryan’s hidden edges, but it wouldn’t take much more to set him off tonight.

He grabbed the first person in uniform, his grip hard enough on the young man’s upper arm that he winced. “Is there a private meeting room?”

The young man stuttered, “Y-yes, sir.”

“Where is it?”

His hand shook as he pointed. “On the back side of the bar, but it’s already reserved toni—”

Ryan hightailed it through the lounge and it shouldn’t have been that hard to get through the crowd, but it seemed that every single person in the room either got up to buy another drink or was trying to get his attention.

When he found a subtly hidden door just to the side of the bar, he nearly knocked it off its hinges in his hurry to open it.

Ryan saw the flash of Vicki’s long blond hair first, her killer curves second.

Thank God, she was here, and in one piece.

But his relief was short-lived when he realized he’d interrupted her and her cocktail companion just as the man’s hand was sliding onto her thigh.

Vicki jumped off her seat as Ryan strode into the room. The terror that had been on her face when the other man touched her leg slowly morphed into relief at his arrival.

Her companion, on the other hand, was clearly surprised to see Ryan…and he wasn’t happy about it, either. The man was probably in his fifties and was obviously loaded. Or at least wanted people to think he was, holding meetings in a place like this, wearing a handmade suit.

Quickly conjuring up an expression of surprise, Vicki said, “What are you doing here so early, honey?”

…Excerpt from LET ME BE THE ONE by Bella Andre ©2012.

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