Thursday, May 31, 2012

Audiobook Release “Bookended by Beauty Queens”

Bookended by Beauty Queens, a hilarious and heartwarming women’s fiction novel by Victoria Marshal, has now been released in audiobook version!
Angie Palmer likes her life just the way it is–private. She has no desire to entangle herself in complex friendships, and her relationship with her two beauty queen sisters is safely distant.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always go as planned.

When disaster strikes her Grandmother, Angie takes her into her home. A life with Grandma comes a world full of changes, and new friends, including Val, a drag queen with hopes of being the next US-Gay Beauty Pageant winner. Angie is determined to keep Val at a distance. Val has an instinct for knowing what is in Angie heart.

Just as Angie gets comfortable with Grandma living with her, a budding friendship with Val, and a new romantic interest, everything takes an unexpected turn.

Val becomes the victim of a violent crime and ends up in a coma. Angie begins a struggle against Val’s family who wants to remove their son from life support.

Suddenly her private life becomes very public, and her world becomes a media circus. Angie is caught in a clash between religious beliefs and gay rights.

Through many twists and turns, Angie discovers a new appreciation for family, friends, and love.

In the end, Angie learns that a life filled with people to care about is never too crowded.
Bookended by Beauty Queens is available in Audiobook format from Amazon and itunes.
What the critics say:
I have never laughed so hard in my life.  Don't get me wrong this is not just a comedy there is a dramatic turn of events that I will not spoil you will have to read.”
~ Lisa Markson, Read the Full Review.
Bookended by Beauty Queens by Victoria Marshal is a fast-paced, tension-filled read full of characters you will fall in love with despite yourself.”
~ Kat Duncan, author of numerous romantic suspense novels, such as “A Lady of Worth” and “Sunda Cloud”, Read the Full Review.
The author does an excellent job weaving many story elements into a fine fabric of action, romance, courtroom drama, social issues, and female relationships. There’s a little something for everyone.”
~ Tia Bach, author of “Depression Cookies”, Read the Full Review.
You have to read Bookended By Beauty Queens, it is beautifully written, great plot, and good charge gets that you would just love. This is definitely a book that will give you another way of seeing things from another perspective.”
The characters are easy to fall in love with and support. Victoria opens up all of our minds and lets us see how things really are. You will laugh and cry which I find is wonderful in a book. This will be a re-read for me.”

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

Wife 22: A Novel   Quoted from GoodReads:
Maybe it was those extra five pounds I’d gained. Maybe it was because I was about to turn the same age my mother was when I lost her. Maybe it was because after almost twenty years of marriage my husband and I seemed to be running out of things to say to each other.

But when the anonymous online study called “Marriage in the 21st Century” showed up in my inbox, I had no idea how profoundly it would change my life. It wasn’t long before I was assigned both a pseudonym (Wife 22) and a caseworker (Researcher 101). 

And, just like that, I found myself answering questions.

7. Sometimes I tell him he’s snoring when he’s not snoring so he’ll sleep in the guest room and I can have the bed all to myself.
61. Chet Baker on the tape player. He was cutting peppers for the salad. I looked at those hands and thought, I am going to have this man’s children.
67. To not want what you don’t have. What you can’t have. What you shouldn’t have.
32. That if we weren’t careful, it was possible to forget one another.

Before the study, my life was an endless blur of school lunches and doctor’s appointments, family dinners, budgets, and trying to discern the fastest-moving line at the grocery store. I was Alice Buckle: spouse of William and mother to Zoe and Peter, drama teacher and Facebook chatter, downloader of memories and Googler of solutions.

But these days, I’m also Wife 22. And somehow, my anonymous correspondence with Researcher 101 has taken an unexpectedly personal turn. Soon, I’ll have to make a decision—one that will affect my family, my marriage, my whole life. But at the moment, I’m too busy answering questions. 

As it turns out, confession can be a very powerful aphrodisiac

Let me start with the title.  It is possibly the only thing I didn't like about the book.  I caught the reference to Catch 22 by Joseph Heller immediately, but I really didn't like that book when I read it as a teenager many years ago.  I might like it now, but at the time, I was just too young to relate to the characters.  I couldn't imagine how Catch 22 could possibly be successfully incorporated into a story about marriage.  I am not a fan of books about marriage in general. (I've been married for 26 years and while I love my husband and my life, I don't find it all that entertaining.  I read for fun!)  The cover art is pretty, but it didn't entice me to open the book.  So, Wife 22 ended up in my “to read” pile.

I happened to pick the book off the top of my stack when I was too lazy to figure out where I had left the book I was currently reading.  Before I knew if I was half way through the book!

The format of the book is unique, and captured my attention immediately.  It alternates between Facebook posts, emails and survey questions, along with text.  It mirrors the way most of us relate IRL (in real life).  I found the format to be great fun to read.

I want to be Alice Buckle's friend!  Alice is a totally relatable character.  She is flawed, quirky, funny and just a little neurotic.  She is so...real!   Melanie Gideon has created one of the more memorable characters of the year.  I can see why the movie rights were snatched up before the book was even completed.  I only hope that the movie does justice to the book.

Of course, there is a twist to the plot and I saw it coming pretty far in advance, but it really didn't matter.    The story continued to hold my interest and I couldn't wait to see how it all played out.  I wasn't disappointed.

Wife 22 is throughly entertaining and a sweet reminder of all things that I love about marriage and family life.  Pick up a copy and take it to the beach with you!  Then pass it on to your best girlfriends  and plan a girls nite out for the future release of the movie.

Thanks to the publisher and author for supplying me with this advance copy.  I return, I offer my honest review.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kindred Spirits by Julianne Lee

Kindred Spirits

Quoted from GoodReads: Shelby adores her new house, until she learns it’s haunted by a grieving Confederate soldier. When a mystical spell in a hidden diary transports her to the nineteenth century, where she becomes the writer of the diary, she finds herself torn between wanting to go home and needing to stay. She realizes she is the only hope for the survival of the family she has come to love.

The blurb for Kindred Spirits caught my attention immediately! Haunted house, Confederate soldier, a spell and a hidden diary... Sounds like my kind of book!

As it turns out it is really two stories in one.  The story of Shelby as she travel back in time and the story of Mary Beth as she travels to the present day.  This is a theme that has been done again and again, but it usually works...

I really enjoyed the first part of the book as Shelby tries to solve the mystery of the ghost.  I loved the way the ghost was presented into the story.  I'm a sucker for time travel stories and was intrigued by this new twist of meeting the romantic lead as a ghost in the present day.   I would have like this part to be drawn out a bit longer, to prolong the anticipation of what was to come.

I was bothered by a few minor issues as I read.  First, I think that having switched bodies would be much more disorienting than it appeared to be to these two women.  The author spent some time on this, but then just moved on.  I would think that every time someone used her name or she glanced at her reflection the shock of switching bodies would be renewed.

I was also surprised by the fact that Shelby as Mary Beth knew how to use a quill pen and ink.  I expected her to make a huge mess initially, but she didn't.  I have no idea why this was an issue for me, but it was.  Shelby also had several instances of using terms and expressions that should have appeared as very odd, at the least to others in the civil war era, but no one made any comments about it.

Overall, Kindred Spirits is two sweet love stories woven into one.  My criticisms are minor annoyances that struck me as out of character, but may not concern other readers at all.  This book is an entertaining, easy read that would be a great book to take to the beach this summer.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers for the copy of this book, in exchange I offer my unbiased review.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Into the Mist: Silver Hand by Steve Finegan

Into the Mist: Silver Hand
Quoted from GoodReads: Thirteen-year-old Gabe Wrenn has always taken refuge in his imagination. Refuge from his hovering mom and bullying brother. Refuge from the smirks and stares of his classmates. Refuge from his epilepsy. But now his imagination seems to be running wild. And he can’t stop it. And the only person Gabe can confide in is a girl who thinks his "weird brain" is the key to unlocking the secret of the Brynmor Witch.

Into the Mist: Silver Hand begins with Gabe, our reluctant hero, moving to a new town.  Gabe has Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE) and apparently was an outcast at his old school, because of this. Gabe  escapes and takes comfort in  his art.  He spends his time drawing a character named Corvus, a crow man.  Corvus turns out to exist in another world that Gabe begins to visit.

I found Gabe to be a very realistic character.  He had the same fears and dreams that most thirteen year old boys experience.  I think that young male readers will truly relate to him.  He is the underdog in this story.  Then, his TLE flairs up and he suddenly becomes Mabon, the hero in another fantasy world.  I really liked the use of TLE as part of the story.  As the plot evolved, the TLE, a condition that in Gabe's mind, made him a freak, became his portal into the world of Mabon.

Gabe's Mother is a character with some major issues.  She is beyond over protective of Gabe and appears to have some serious mental health problems of her own.  She seems to have played a big part in making Gabe feel that his TLE is a major disability and that he will never be a "normal" kid.

Gabe's Dad is somewhat detached from the whole family.  He does try to make Gabe feel accepted and encourages him to be independent at times, but for the most part he seems to be at work or in the basement writing his novel.  There is some mystery as to why the family made the move and it is a source of tension between his parents.

The story of the Brynmor Witch is in the background  of Gabe's story.  I didn't quite understand how the Brynmore Witch was connected to Mabon's story.  It was never fully explained.

Mabon's story is interesting but again there were several questions that were left unanswered.  I know that is the first of a series of books, but it just didn't provide enough answers to satisfy me.

The story seemed to drag at some points.  There were several  fight scenes that seemed too long to me, and I found myself skimming over them.  However, this might be well received by teen aged male readers.

The abrupt ending left me feeling cheated.  I really wasn't exactly sure what had transpired and then it was just over.  It didn't feel like a cliff hanger because I wasn't really sure what had just happened.

So, the big question is will I read the next book?  Sure.  I really like Gabe and want to see him succeed in his world.  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Elanraigh: The Vow by S.A. Hunter

Elanraigh:  The VowQuoted from GoodReads: "Only Thera of Allenholme hears the voice of forest-mind…and heeds its warning . Thera doesn’t know why the Elanraigh forest-mind chose her, of all the Allenholme folk, to hear its voice and to awaken her gifts of mind and spirit. The Elanraigh sends a warning dream; black sails swooping toward Allenholme from across the western sea—the Memteth, an ancient enemy, armed with blue fire that hungers to consume life. As Thera awakens to her gifts of bonding with raptor birds and reading hearts, the knowing; she also awakens to love. Will she choose Chamakin the young Ttamarini warrior who is a kindred in spirit to her, or the polished young nobleman who covets her beauty even more than her estate? Forest-mind is aware she is yet too young for such power and responsibility. It has no choice—the lives of all Thera’s people and the existence of the Elanraigh Forest itself, depend on Thera fulfilling her destiny. Can she learn what she must of gift, and heart, to survive what comes their way? "

Elanraigh is a place I want to visit! The world in this novel is so well developed that I could almost believe it exists. It is a unique fantasy world where the forest is a sentient being that communicates to some of the characters.There is a troop of  fierce female soldiers and strange forest creatures. Elanraigh has a medieval flavor with some speech patterns that resemble old English.

Thera, the main character is on the cusp of adulthood.  Her parents are strong role models for her. Thera is the daughter of a Duke and therefore in an inherited leadership role.  She also has supernatural gifts that come with a spiritual leadership role. She is a strong female character, but she isn't perfect. She makes mistakes.  She also learns to acknowledge her mistakes and strives not to make the same mistake again.  She's a bit headstrong and can let her temper get the best of her.  These flaws make her all the more likable and give this tale a realistic hero,

There is just a tiny bit of romance.  I would have liked to know more about Thera's love interest Chamak.  He seems to have some special gifts similar to Thera's and they appear to be a good match.  I hope to see more of Chamak in the future additions of this series.

The only thing I didn't like about Elanraigh is the ending.  I know it is probably the most logical place to end, but I'd waited the whole book for Thera to reunite with Chamak and I just didn't have enough time with them before the ending of the book.  A few more scenes would have appeased my need for a bit more romance between the two.  I look forward the reading the next book and the continuation of their story.

The cover art captures the Thera I had envisioned fairly well.  I did not see the cover until after I had finished reading it on my kindle,  I can't quite figure out what the line over her cheek is...a stray hair?  I would have removed it.

 Overall, Elanraigh  is a fast and easy read. The writing is well done.  There were a few parts that seemed to drag a bit, but not enough to distract me from the plot.   Young adults as well as older adult fans of fantasy will enjoy this book.

Thanks to  for the copy of this book. In return for the copy of the novel, I offer my unbiased review.