Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Review – How Not to Murder Your Grumpy by Carol E. Wyer (5/5)

By Kayla West

Okay, must start this review out by saying that How Not to Murder Your Grumpy by Carol E. Wyer cracked me up when I first saw the title. Well…actually, I was more confused at first. I thought grumpy meant grandpa, and I originally thought the book was actually about murder. However, when I read an excerpt from it, I immediately knew I had to read this. Because it is not, in fact, about real murder and grandpas, it is about GOMs (Grumpy Old Men a.k.a Husbands) and wives who just want them out of their hair. It is about finding something to do in the retirement age.

I realized, though, that this book doesn't just have to apply to older people. It can apply to us younger generations as well. There are so many activities to be done around the world, so many interesting and wonderful things that can spice up life. In fact, this book gave me several ideas on things I might want to do in the near future. Things like hunting for sapphires and diamonds, or extreme ironing (something my cousin just recently started), or even putting together the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle (It is called Double Respect and has approximately 32,256 pieces…all half an inch in size.) No, I am not crazy…I just really like puzzles.

Along with informing the reader about things that we can do, there are also anecdotes, jokes, and the occasional fun fact.  For me, this book went very quickly and I quite enjoyed it.  From A to Z, Carol Wyer has included an activity for everyone. And I mean everyone…

Although, I would like to point out to Mrs. Wyer that Quidditch has actually become a real thing in the ‘muggle’ world. It was established as a real-live sport in 2005 in Middlebury, Vermont, and one of these days I vow to join a team.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves an interesting and entertaining read.


5 out of 5 stars.


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About the Reviewer:  Kayla West is an avid reader who tends to read a little too much for her own good. By day she is a home healthcare worker and by night, or late afternoon, she is the lead character in any good story that can truly spark her imagination. She loves to read fantasy and historical fiction, but is ready and willing to have an open mind about any type of work. Books by unknown authors, or at least unknown to her, are her very favorites to read, because she believes that those stories, the unknown stories, are sometimes where the magic truly happens.  To learn more about Kayla, visit her blog at attackofthebookworms.blogspot.com.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mailbox Monday – July 22, 2013

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme started by Marcia at Mailbox Monday in which bloggers can ramble on about the books they received/bought/stole over a given week.  Each month a new blogger hosts the meme, and this month it’s Tasha at Book Obsessed.

--- The Books ---

Title: Harkness
Author:  Michael Bigham
Publisher: Muskrat Press
Genre(s):  mystery/crime, historical fiction
About the BookHarkness isn't your typical Western sheriff. Cowboy boots make his arches ache, he's got a serious case of horse-phobia, and his faithful companion, Addison, is a wiener dog. It's 1952 in the Oregon High Desert, and until now, the worst crime Harkness has had to contend with is two cowboys playing quickdraw in an alley behind a bar. His easygoing life explodes when a star-crossed teenage couple disappears, sparking an investigation that threatens to expose the slimy underbelly the lurks beneath his small town, Barnesville. 
Relevant Links: author webpage

Title: The Narrows
Author:  Michael Connelly
Genre(s):  mystery/crime
About the BookFBI agent Rachel Walling finally gets the call she's dreaded for years, the one that tells her the serial killer “the Poet” has surfaced. Former LAPD detective Harry Bosch gets a call, too--from the widow of an old friend. Her husband's death seems natural, but his ties to the hunt for the Poet make Bosch dig deep. Bosch soon joins forces with Rachel, at odds with the FBI and squarely in the path of the Poet, who will lead them on a wicked ride out of the heat, through the narrows of evil, and into a darkness all his own.
Relevant Links: author webpage, Wikipedia page

Title: Losing Touch
Author:  Christian A. Larsen
Publisher: Post Mortem Press
Genre(s):  horror, sci-fi
About the BookMorgan Dunsmore feels like everything is out of reach - a paying job, a healthy marriage, and even a good bowel movement. Complicated by his wife's recent back surgery, Morgan tries to protect his wife and kids from his anxieties, not to mention their financial burdens, but that just pushes them away even further.  And in the middle of it all, he starts to lose his tangibility.  He may be able to walk through walls, but that ability comes with a price.  He has to learn not just how to control it, but how to use it without anyone finding out.  And the temptations are endless.  When he succumbs to the first, the rest begin to fall like dominos. 
Relevant Links: Smashwords page

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review – Murdock Tales Taos by Robert J. Ray (5/5)

[The following review is part of the Murdock Tackles Taos blog tour managed by Partners in Crime Tours.  For a full list of host blogs for the tour, see the tour page.  For more on John Lansing and his work, visit his webpage at murdockmysteries.blogspot.com.]

Click here for the Amazon listing
At first glance, Murdock Tackles Taos by Robert J. Ray seemed like every other murder mystery I have ever read. There is a crime that is committed or a body that is found and someone attempts to figure out what happened before the perpetrator can strike again. However, what actually forced my hand in picking up this book to read it was a line in the description provided with the story. A girl had been found in the hills of Taos with an arrow sticking out of her back. Now, obviously, this isn’t the exact line, but you get the gist. It got me wondering…why was she shot with an arrow? Why was she left in the hills of Taos? Who could have done this and what exactly is their agenda? So…I endeavored to find out the whole story…
In Murdock Tackles Taos, the sixth installment in the Matt Murdock Mystery Series (whew! Try to say that five times fast), we once again meet private eye Matt Murdock. He is searching high and low for a friend’s daughter who has been missing for some time. While scouring for evidence concerning her disappearance, he comes across a hiker named Helene Steinbeck who is currently being targeted as a human dart board for some archers down wind. After saving her life from a deadly arrow-tipped fate, and causing the potential killers some well-deserved harm, he finds the cause of the archers targeting Helene. She had come across the body of a dead girl with an arrow in her back.
After much deliberation, Steinbeck and Murdock rightly deduce that there has to be a connection between the girl and the archers. Could they have killed her? If so, who are they and why did they do it? Could this be a human game of cat and mouse?
Robert J. Ray
Murdock and Steinbeck come across potential suspects in the case when they stumble upon a cult who believes that the weak are fair prey. On top of that, the leader of this group has a gigantic pull with the rich community who believe that money can solve anything. Can the two sleuths give the dead girl the justice she deserves, or will the cult and their benefactors push the crime back into the shadows?
And can Murdock find his friend’s daughter, or will her disappearance be permanent?
I absolutely loved this book. To me it had a different feel to it than some others of the same genre. It was faster paced than most, and told three different perspectives on the story. Helene’s, Murdock’s, and a third whose identity you will have to find out for yourself.
I give this a GIGANTIC 5 out of 5.

Recommended for people who love the thrill of the chase, and the feeling of catching the bad guy in the act.

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About the Reviewer:  Kayla West is an avid reader who tends to read a little too much for her own good. By day she is a home healthcare worker and by night, or late afternoon, she is the lead character in any good story that can truly spark her imagination. She loves to read fantasy and historical fiction, but is ready and willing to have an open mind about any type of work. Books by unknown authors, or at least unknown to her, are her very favorites to read, because she believes that those stories, the unknown stories, are sometimes where the magic truly happens.  To learn more about Kayla, visit her blog at attackofthebookworms.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review – Chocolates for Breakfast by Pamela Moore (5/5)

[The following review is part of the Chocolates for Breakfast blog tour managed by TLC Book Tours.  For a full list of host blogs for the tour, see the tour page.]

By Kayla West

Chocolates for Breakfast by Pamela Moore is a book after my own heart and soul. I chose it, mainly because it stood for something so completely different than what I read, and because of the title. The title is intriguing and sucks you in (or at least it did me) to the story at hand—a story of the link between childhood and adulthood, that moment every teenager reaches where they are in limbo between both of those worlds. Not quite in one, but not quite part of the other.

Chocolates for Breakfast stars a young woman named Courtney in this very dilemma. She is still on the very outskirts of childhood, still has some of the same values, some of the same innocence and morality, but is not quite into adulthood. It doesn't help that her parents seem to even forget she exists in the midst of their own very busy lives. It seems that Courtney has had to raise herself for quite some time. Her only reprieve from this lonely life of hers is her best friend and Scaisbrooke roommate, Janet Parker. At times, though, Janet is more of a burden than a relief.

Her mother, being informed of Courtney's attitude and subconscious reaction to her dismal life at Scaisbrooke, gives Courtney a choice. She can stay there, or she can move in with her mother and go to school in Beverly Hills. Courtney does not have to give the choice a second thought and immediately takes the latter.

However, the latter does not necessarily mean the better.

Courtney is infinitely changed throughout the chapters of this novel. She faces rejection, poverty, fantasy, lust, and sorrow. She tries to capture sophistication, all the while still trying to fit into her own skin. She grows from a timid girl looking for love, to a woman who has not one but two affairs. She ultimately is just trying to survive and play the part she believes she was born to play.

This book was a phenomenal read. It was poetic, obscure, terrifying, and exhilarating all rolled into one. Each character had their own voice, had their own way of being that was enchanting. I was so mesmerized by the world Pamela Moore created and will undoubtedly search high and low for her other works.

I recommend this work to all of you out there who long to have a scandalously wonderful experience.


5 out of 5 stars.


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About the Reviewer:  Kayla West is an avid reader who tends to read a little too much for her own good. By day she is a home healthcare worker and by night, or late afternoon, she is the lead character in any good story that can truly spark her imagination. She loves to read fantasy and historical fiction, but is ready and willing to have an open mind about any type of work. Books by unknown authors, or at least unknown to her, are her very favorites to read, because she believes that those stories, the unknown stories, are sometimes where the magic truly happens.  To learn more about Kayla, visit her blog at attackofthebookworms.blogspot.com.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Interview - Michael Bigham, Author of Harkness

Interview by Jonathan Wilhoit

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Michael Bigham, author of the debut novel Harkness.  It’s a mystery novel set in 1952 on the Oregon High Desert, and after leafing through his book, it’s definitely one that I want to read.  But before diving into the text, I thought it might be fun to talk to the author himself and learn a little bit more about his book. 

Michael has been gracious enough to accept my interview invitation and joins me here today. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me, Michael.

MB: Thanks for having me. I appreciate you taking the time to interview me.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Q1)  First, the basics.  Tell the folks a little about yourself.

Michael Bigham
MB: I grew up in a small timber and cattle town in Central Oregon, Prineville. It’s off the beaten track, almost lost in time. While attending the University of Oregon, I spent my summers fighting range fires for the BLM at a guard station 50 miles up the Paulina Valley. We had no phone, no television, no radio, just a reel to reel tape recorder filled with Hank Williams tunes.  There I fell in love with the high desert and that’s stayed with me ever since. After college, I drifted into police work and eventually made it my career. My other passion has always been writing and after retiring from police work, I went back to school and got an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College.

Q2)  And now on to your book, Harkness.  Give us the spiel.

MB: My protagonist, Sheriff Matt Harkness isn’t your typical Western sheriff. Cowboy boots make his arches ache, he’s scared of horses, drives an old battered pickup he’s named Hoopie and his faithful companion is a wiener dog named Addison. Life in the small town of Barnesville has been easy-going for Matthew until a star-crossed teen-aged couple disappears. Harkness is the keeper of secrets in his little town, but to solve this crime, he must decide which secrets to keep and which to expose. One secret involves Judge Barnes, the county’s most powerful man. But Harkness has a secret of his own: he’s in love with the Judge’s wife. How much is Harkenss willing to risk to catch the bad guy?

Q3)  Harkness begins with a quote from Shakespeare’s Richard III.  Why did you choose this passage, and how does it tie into your novel?

MB: Great question. The quote reflects on Harkness himself. He’s a man borne of violence, physically abused as a child and tempered  by battle in the jungles of New Guinea during World War II. The quote refers to a warrior who now capers in a lady’s bedchamber. In the opening scene, we find Harkness in bed with another man’s wife. He’s put aside the violent part of himself for a brief moment.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review - Writers’ Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy Edited by Michael Knost (5/5)

[The following entry is part of The Writer's Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour being organized by Tomorrow Comes Media.  For more information on the book and the tour, see the tour page.]

By Jessica Veter

Click here for the Amazon listing
For the hurried, harried writers among you, two words: Read It.
For those of you requiring more convincing, pray continue:

The Writers’ Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy is a collection of essays and interviews by some of the biggest names in these genres (Neil Gaiman, James Gunn, Orson Scott Card, Nisi Shawl, Elizabeth Bear, and more). They cover a myriad of topics from defining subgenre, novel structure, rhetoric (come on! ANY book making knowledgeable use of the word ‘rhetoric’ deserves space on your bookshelf), the purpose of aliens, worldbuilding and so much more. Also included are two roundtable discussions with short story editors and novel editors.

Remember the thousands of dollars you (well, me) spent on university writing courses? Here’s the entire lot condensed into one bargain-basement priced book... minus the annoying classmate who thought using gerunds made his work literary.

What’s refreshing about the Workshop is the concentration on Science Fiction and Fantasy, genres which I still admit to writing while mumbling under my breath, taking a sip of tea and avoiding eye contact. For years, in those same university courses, I was told they were ‘subliterary’ and it was recommended that I try my hand at some ‘real’ writing (direct quote: “You have a way with words; it’s a shame they’re being wasted on this kind of stuff”). And here they are: celebrated, bragged about, dissected, inspected and accepted. Moreover, the focus is on writing as a Craft which must be practised, practised and practised in order to get it right. Next time you’re banging your head against your keyboard trying to get a recalcitrant character to do as she’s told, remember that Pamela Sargent has the same problem, too. Somehow, it makes the whole painful exercise that much easier to bear. Dear writer, you are not alone.

The Writers’ Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy is not off-limits to writers of ‘other’ genres. Writing is writing, and the same rules apply pretty much across the board. Whether your antagonist is an alien from Tau Ceti VI, or a serial murderer, or your high school nemesis, they must still have a recognisable (to your reader) motivation.

Informative, engaging and interesting, The Writers’ Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy is a wonderful tool for writers interested in perfecting their craft (who among us is not?). I’ve also come away with a ‘recommended reading’ list which will carry me right through the summer.

Five stars: Alpha Centauri, Rigel, Betelgeuse, Mizar and Alcor. 


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About the Reviewer:  Jessica Veter is a novelist raised in rural Ontario. Having escaped to Toronto, she spent the 90’s over-educating herself at York University and then the University of Toronto. Once she accepted that there were never going to be any job listings in The Globe and Mail headed “Medievalist Wanted”, Jessica went to Japan. There, she met her husband and they lived in England before returning to Canada with a son and a greyhound.  Now in rural Flamborough, Jessica and her husband raise 3 boys, 6 chickens and are owned by 1 dog. You are welcome to visit her at www.jessicaveter.com.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Review - Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay (5/5)

[The following review is part of the Sight Reading blog tour managed by TLC Book Tours.  The book reviewed was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  For a full list of host blogs for the tour, see the tour page.  For more on Daphne Kalotay and her work, visit her website, daphnekalotay.com.]

By Olga Godim

Click here for the Amazon listing
Despite being a bit slow and somewhat ponderous, this novel was among the most powerful I’ve read recently. Its prose is eloquent and luminous; its descriptions lyrical, emphasized by the symbolism on both visual and musical planes. The only flaw I can pinpoint is too much musical vernacular, which is basically incomprehensible to anyone but a musician, although I must admit: there is a glossary at the back. Anyway, it is a minor flaw, pardonable in a book about classical music. I would’ve given it 5 stars for the quality of writing and the deep emotional involvement, if I didn’t dislike one of the protagonists so much. As it is, I had no choice but to drop a star from the rating.

The gist of the plot is fairly banal. At the start of the novel Nicholas, a supremely talented composer, is married to Hazel. They move to Boston, so he can work at the Boston Conservatory, and he falls in love with an ambitious young violinist Remy, one of his students. He divorces Hazel and marries Remy. Then the author follows the three main characters through the next 20 years of their lives.    

Fortunately, the plot is not the focus of this tale. The author concentrates on the characters – Hazel, Nicholas, and Remy – and makes us, the readers, privy to their innermost thoughts, shames, and revelations. We witness their interplays, fret about their mistakes, celebrate their triumphs.

Among the three, Hazel is my heroine. Loyal and kind, with the unerring sense of beauty, she is extremely fragile. It takes her ten years to come to terms with her husband’s betrayal. Drowning in her loneliness, she feels misplaced among couples, ashamed of her “singledom”.
"It was that her aloneness felt like an element of her personality--as if her singledom were a character trait and not simply a situation beyond her control."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Review – Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingslover (4/5)

[The following review is part of the Flight Behavior blog tour managed by TLC Book Tours.  For a full list of host blogs for the tour, see the tour page.  For more on Barbara Kingslover and her work, visit her website, http://www.kingsolver.com.]

By Ryan St. Onge

Click here for the Amazon listing
I love the opportunities that writing a blog gives me as a reader. I didn't get into it for the free books and I most certainly do not take the few books I get for granted, but it's always nice for me, living overseas, to get an opportunity to read a hardcopy (as opposed to a Kindle version) of a book that I would otherwise have to wait years to get here in Taiwan. Case in point: Flight Behavior. Since reading The Poisonwood Bible a couple of years ago, I have been extremely keen to delve into Barbara Kingsolver's catalog. Alas, the gods of access have conspired against me until recently when I got the opportunity to participate in the blog tour for Kingsolver's most recent novel. As an avid reader and a fan of Barbara Kingsolver, I couldn't be more appreciative to the good people at TLC Book Tours.

So, anyway...

Flight Behavior answers the proverbial question: If a butterfly flaps its wings in rural Tennessee do unhappy housewives fly the coop? Dellarobia Turnbow is the aforementioned unhappy housewife on the cusp of throwing it all away. Married early and suffering from a severe case of seven-year itch, she accidentally stumbles upon the new and alarmingly inappropriate winter roost of the bulk of North America's monarch butterflies on a stretch of undeveloped land behind her home. To make matters worse. the land, which is owned by her overbearing father-in-law, is set to be sold to an irresponsible logging company (in literature, is there any other kind?) in order to save the family farm. But the arrival of a scientific research team determined to study the butterflies causes a deep divide not only among the citizens of Feathertown but also within the Turnbow family itself.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review - Mercy Row by Harry Hallman (4/5)

[The following review is part of the Mercy Row blog tour being organized by Sage’s Blog Tours.  For a list of blogs on the tour, see the tour page. For more information about the author and the book, check out mercyrow.com]

By Amanda Amaya

I was drawn to Mercy Row 1) because my husband is Italian and 2) he is from the greater Philly area.  And because I love historical fiction.

I was sucked into this book from the first page.  Here is the synopsis from Amazon:
Click here for the Amazon listing
Mercy Row is a novel set in 1920s and 19302 Philadelphia.  It is the story of the rise of a North Philadelphia crime family that was also responsible for building the homes and factories that make up this blue-collar area of the city.  Despite the violent trials and tribulations caused by rival gangs from South Philadelphia and Chicago, Jacob Byrne and Franklin Garrett, with the help of the Irish immigrants who settled in the Kensington area, build a formidable Irish mob.

This legal and criminal enterprise kept North Philadelphia free from the mafia for two generations. Jacob's and Franklin's organization was built on the blood of those who opposed them, the sweat of the laborers who built North Philly and the tears of the wives and mothers whose loved ones were lost in the struggle.
 
The first thing that struck me when reading Mercy Row, was the incredible violence and plethora of foul language.  That isn’t a problem from me, as I read zombie books and I’m from the Northeast, where “curse” words are part of the everyday vernacular.  I could see how it could put off some readers, so that’s why I mention it.  But what else do you expect from a book about this time period?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review – The Devil’s Necktie by John Lansing (5/5)

[The following review is part of The Devil’s Necktie blog tour managed by Partners in Crime Tours.  For a full list of host blogs for the tour, see the tour page.]

By Kayla West

Click here for the Amazon listing
It usually takes me until about halfway through a book for me to truly know what I think of it. However, in the case of The Devil's Necktie by John Lansing, it only took me the first chapter. This book was exquisitely written and stimulated my imagination. It's characters were well fleshed out and the situation in the book was life-like. I felt as if it could have actually happened. Before I go on, let me give you a small snippet of what this book is about.

Jack Bertolino is the main character in The Devil's Necktie. He is a retired cop and lives alone in his loft in Marina del Rey. His life may not be perfect, but as stated in the first chapter of the book, 'he [is] at ease.' He can grill all he wants, drink as much wine as he wants, watch the planes fly into LAX till his heart's content...  Yes, he is very at ease.

However, that ease and contentment does not last for long.

Jack suddenly gets a call from an old informant named Mia. He got to know Mia when she was helping him years ago put away the head of a Colombian drug cell, Manuel Alvarez. Mia is beautiful, smart, and brings back a whole lot of memories and feelings Jack has not experienced in a long time. He is surprised to find that she is in the neighborhood and agrees to meet her at her current, and temporary, place of residence.

Upon seeing him, Mia informs Jack that she is being hunted. Someone is out to get her, and she wants Jack to help her disappear. Jack instantly agrees, knowing that he would do anything to keep her safe. He gets a gut feeling that he might have spoken too soon, and sadly, that feeling is correct.

John Lansing
Jack leaves Mia's side. He heads toward home, but something occurs that causes him to turn back just to check on her. Something is desperately wrong, and when he searches the house for her he finds her strung up and dead in the bathroom. The devil's necktie is her downfall.

Jack must fight throughout this entire novel against people who think he killed Mia and those that want him broken because of her death. He delves into his own past as a cop and revisits old enemies, trying to find out more about Mia's past as he does so. Can he find her killer(s), or will he eventually give up and let them win?

As I said before, this book is an amazing read. It is wonderfully written, and I look forward to future works by this author. I recommend this to anyone and everyone who loves thrillers and suspense for this is truly one of the best I have ever read.

5 out of 5 stars.


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About the Reviewer:  Kayla West is an avid reader who tends to read a little too much for her own good. By day she is a home healthcare worker and by night, or late afternoon, she is the lead character in any good story that can truly spark her imagination. She loves to read fantasy and historical fiction, but is ready and willing to have an open mind about any type of work. Books by unknown authors, or at least unknown to her, are her very favorites to read, because she believes that those stories, the unknown stories, are sometimes where the magic truly happens.  To learn more about Kayla, visit her blog at attackofthebookworms.blogspot.com.

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