Thursday, May 31, 2012

Two Moons of Sera Volumes 1 & 2 Winner

Congratulations goes out to Tracee G. She won electronic copies of Two Moons of Sera: Volumes 1 and 2 by Pavarti K. Tyler. I have emailed the winner. She has 72 hours to respond before a new winner is selected.

Thanks to all who participated.

Pump Up Your Book! Announces June ‘12 Authors on Virtual Book Tours

It’s time to stock up on summer reading.  Pump Up Your Book! has a group of 25 authors touring with 38 books in a variety of genres. From children’s chapter books to young adult novels, from chick lit mystery to paranormal romance, from spiritual non-fiction to family/parenting books and more, June is filled with stories you’ll want to tuck into your beach bag! 

Children’s author Nancy Stewart returns with her chapter book, “Katrina and Winter: Partners in Courage,” Sean Vogel talks about his middle grade novel, “Celtic Run,” and M. Anthony Phillips shares his YA fantasy adventure story, “Isabella: Protector of the Last Dragon.” 

The rest of the books touring in June are for big kids. Carl Alves, Jeanette Baker, Cheryl Holt and Herbert Smith tour with their historical novels, and mysteries come to you from Giacomo Giammatteo, Debra Mares, and Linda Schroeder.  “The Samara Chronicles” a fantasy, futuristic romance series by Debra Kemp and Gabriella Bradley is on tour, and “New York Times” bestselling author, Caridad Pineiro returns to talk about her paranormal romance, “The Claimed.” 

Also on tour in June are Linda Armstrong-Miller, Barry Eva, Joshua Graham, J. Thomas Shaw, and Alicia Singleton. 

On the non-fiction front, we have religious and spiritual titles from Linda Ferguson, M. Finley-Sabir, and Elaine Seiler. Maria C. Furlough tours with her family/parenting book, “Your Daughter Needs a Hero,” and Devin Thorpe talks about his financial book, “Building Wealth for Building the Kingdom.” 

Also on tour in June are Judy Byington, Marisa Garau, and Ben Gilmore, the spokesperson for the late author, Mary-Elaine Swanson. 

We’re also excited to announce that eXtasy Books and Divine Destinies are giving away a Kindle Fire during their three-month tour. Also giving away a Kindle Fire are Debra Kemp and Gabriella Bradley, authors of “The Samara Chronicles,” Alicia Singleton, and Linda Schroeder.  Giacomo Giammatteo is running a giveaway for an iPad 2 during his three-month tour. You can find details on all these special giveaways on our website at 

Visit YouTube at to view a video trailer introducing our clients on tour in June. 

Pump Up Your Book! is a virtual book tour agency for authors who want quality service at an affordable price.  More information can be found on our website at

Book Review: The Barefoot Executive by Carrie Wilkerson

If you've ever dreamed of being your own boss, creating your own schedule, and achieving financial freedom, The Barefoot Executive by Carrie Wilkerson is the book for you. Filled with inspirational stories and no-nonsense advice Wilkerson shows you how to determine your motivation for wanting to work for yourself, what mistakes to avoid, and what you need to be successful.

The Barefoot Executive isn't a how-to book that takes you step-by-step through how to start your own business. Instead, it is a book that motivates and encourages your dreams. You'll discover how to take skills you already have, determine what business model you're interested in, and how to be successful in the marketplace. Even in crowded markets you can be successful because you are unique and offer your own unique perspective. You can provide the answers to the questions people are asking.

Wilkerson doesn't sugar-coat anything. She doesn't tell you it's going to be easy or that it will happen overnight. She does, however, inspire with her success and the success of others whose stories you'll find featured in the numerous case studies throughout the book. She has an engaging conversational style that makes readers move swiftly through the book. She asks questions that demand answers and gets you thinking about what skills you have that can create an income stream. She speaks of the importance of mentors and mastermind groups, because surrounding yourself with the right kind of people can make a difference.

As a wife and mother, Wilkerson had a decision to make about her future. She opted to live life on her terms. The Barefoot Executive can help you do the same.

Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (August 23, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159555369X
ISBN-13: 978-1595553690
SRP: $24.99
Also available in electronic and audio formats.

I received a free e-Copy of this book from the author's representative in exchange for my honest opinions. I received no monetary compensation of any kind for this review.

This is the twenty-seventh book I've read for the following challenge:

It is the seventh book I've read for the following challenge:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

First Chapter Review: Dead Running by Cami Checketts

When this book was released, the author held a huge fitness giveaway. Though I didn't win, I received an email later on from Cami Checketts that said she was offering entrants a FREE Kindle version for a short period of time on Amazon. I went ahead and picked it up.

BLURB: Cassidy Christensen is running.

Running from the mercenaries who killed her parents.

Running from a scheming redhead intent on making her life miserable.

Running from painful memories that sabotage her dreams of happiness.

With two very tempting men competing for her attention, she hopes she'll finally have someone to run to, but can she trust either of them? When secrets from her past threaten her family, Cassidy decides to stop running and fight for her future.

COVER: Love it! The running woman ties into the plot of the story, as does the gun sight. I like how the woman is running in a creepy wooded area. It speaks of danger and suspense.

FIRST CHAPTER: Cassidy awakes one night to find her father struggling with an unknown man.
Four years later, Cassidy is running a 5K route with her pregnant sister-in-law, Raquel, when she makes a surprising discovery that forces her past to resurface.

KEEP READING:  Definitely. The cliff-hanger ending coupled with what appears to be a great plot makes me want to keep flipping the pages. Cassidy is a likable and funny character. Her banter with Raquel is so realistic. That said, the opening of this book is filled with suspense. There's no funny stuff there. When Cassidy wakes up to find her Dad arguing with a strange man, you feel the emotion of a scared daughter who wants to protect her father, while the father is determined to protect her. Checketts seems to be building a book that will nicely blend romance, suspense, and a dash of humor.

The book design of Dead Running is a bit unusual. Learning to Run appears to be the prologue and takes place four years before the 5K run chapter, which is titled, The First Run. Each subsequent chapter has its own title too. I'm not sure I'm fond of this format, because I wasn't sure what the first chapter was supposed to be, though I'm guessing it's The First Run. Not a big deal, but I really like to know all the details.

I'm eager to read more of this one. What happened to Cassidy's parents? Who are those strange guys she met? What else is there to know about the two good-looking men she met at the run? I'm hoping to find all the answers to these questions as I continue.

  • File Size: 423 KB
  • Print Length: 209 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Birch River Publishing (March 27, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007PJ70MA

  • I downloaded a free copy of this book for my Kindle from Amazon. I received no monetary compensation of any kind for this first chapter review.

    Monday, May 28, 2012

    Guest Blogger: Susan Spangler, Author of The Year of the Bird

    Frank and funny, honest and hopeful, The Year of the Bird takes you on a journey from grief to healing. It’s about our family—but it could be about any family.

    It’s is the true story of some very tough times that we went through—coping with our young son-in-law's death and my mother-in-law's final years, both of which took place around the time of 9/11.

    It’s about parents, grandparents and little children. Laughing one moment, crying the next.

    Most of all, though, it’s about life. And that means that it’s about people, the members of our family, and how we coped with each other through it all—for better and for worse.

    The Bird

    One day about a year after our daughter Jenny’s husband died, she came upon a bird in a bush, at a playground where she’d taken her three little kids. Never one to abandon a lost critter, she brought it home. My husband, George, ever the animal lover, took to it right away.

    For me, on the other hand, in the midst of caring for three generations of family, while also trying to keep up with my job, the thought of one more living thing to feed, listen to, and clean up after? Well, that was just one thing too much.

    My husband felt one way. I felt another. So what happens next? You’ll get the answer on your first guess. We had an argument. A big argument. A whopper.

    The Forest and the Trees

    Surprise: the argument got us nowhere. So I did what came naturally: I started writing. Writing became my lifeline. Writing helped me to think things through and find my way. To see the forest through the trees.

    The forest, of course, was all the tension, stress and tragedy of the past few years. Once I realized that, I could see that the bird was no more than a small yellow speck tweeting on one of the branches.

    So even though, when I first sat down, I was planning to write a story about a bird, in the end the story was really about everything else plus the bird. The title became The Year of the Bird. And story by story, the bird turned into a book.

    True Stories in Pictures & Words

    The Year of the Bird is a rare bird: an illustrated book for grown-ups.

    I've been drawing for as long as I can remember, and I've worked as an illustrator my whole adult life. Including pictures is just the natural way for me to tell a story. So much so, that it almost feels incomplete without them.

    Once I’d finished writing, I painted the pictures in a bright, colorful, realistic style. Something like snapshots of the moments when the stories were actually happening. Or like the vivid flashes of memory that you have when you’re thinking about something that’s really important to you.

    Everyone’s Amazing Stories

    One thing I’ve learned from life that everyone’s life is filled with amazing stories. And I think that listening to each other’s stories can teach us a lot about life.

    That’s one of the reasons that I collected our family’s stories and found a publisher to bring them to life as a book: to share our stories with other people.

    To help people who are going through their own hard times to find the words they need to say—to themselves and to each other. To reassure them that they’re not alone. To remind them that laughter and love really are the best medicines, especially in the face of life’s never-ending surprises.

    And to let them know that, with a little help from our friends—and their stories—we can go on from here, a little wiser and a little stronger, into whatever comes next.

    The Year of the Bird can be purchased directly from Susan’s website ( as well as on ( and ( It can also be downloaded from iTunes as an illustrated ebook.

    Susan Spangler is an artist, writer, and homeschool teacher. Her new book, The Year of the Bird, is a frank and inspiring memoir of an ordinary family faced with extraordinary events, told with heart, humor and love. Susan’s blog about homeschooling will launch in July. Info about her blog plus many examples of her vibrant artwork can be found on her website,, as well as her facebook page,

    Friday, May 25, 2012

    Interview with Scott Fox, Author of Click Millionaires

    SCOTT FOX is an Internet lifestyle business entrepreneur, an in-demand strategy consultant, and a popular speaker on e-business startup and marketing strategies. He has built multi-million dollar e-businesses ranging from to web sites for celebrities like Bill O’Reilly and Larry King to online divisions of major corporations to his own business success coaching community, He hosts the popular Click Millionaires Radio podcast and is a weekly contributor to Business Talk Radio’s nationally syndicated Big Biz Show. He is also the author of three books: Internet Riches (AMACOM 2006); e-Riches 2.0: Next Generation Online Marketing Strategies (AMACOM 2009); and CLICK MILLIONAIRES: Work Less, Live More with an Internet Business You Love (AMACOM; June 5, 2012; $22.00 Hardcover).

    Scott Fox has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, SUCCESS, Smart Money, and the LA Business Journal, among many publications, as well as in a numerous business blogs and on radio programs around the world. He has served as a mentor to students at Harvard Business School, an instructor at the Learning Annex, and a popular guest speaker at universities from UCLA to NYU. He runs the lifestyle entrepreneur coaching forum and hosts the popular Click Millionaires Radio podcast from his home in Southern California. Fox also donates all his book profits to charity.

    Learn more at

    What is this book about?

    Click Millionaires is about helping people who don’t live in Silicon Valley to get their share of the Internet business revolution that is going on all around us. 

    I wrote the book to share my personal experiences making money online and to help others recognize their own potential for building profitable niche businesses on the Internet, too.  Reading Click Millionaires can help readers learn to grow new income streams that free them from dependence on jobs they don't like.

    And, the book is not just me talking.  It's full of practical examples, exercises that can help readers develop their own lifestyle redesign plans, and interviews with dozens of successful Internet entrepreneurs who share their own secrets for success as lifestyle entrepreneurs on the Internet.

    How did you discover the Click Millionaire strategy and lifestyle?

    It's taken me a long time but I wrote the book to help other people catch on more quickly. 

    I have been building websites since the commercial Internet got started.  I gradually realized that I like "doing my own thing" a whole lot better than working for others, even when I had big, important jobs that paid really well.  I chose to prioritize my own lifestyle over the corporate grind and it turns out that today that can be not only very profitable, but it’s also a lot more fun than working for someone else.

    When should someone consider becoming a Click Millionaire?

    "Real jobs" work fine for most people.  But there are many of us who go to work each day feeling like a square page in a round hole. 

    Building your own lifestyle business online is not a get rich quick strategy, but over time it can help people who would prefer to be self-employed build the income streams they need to quit those jobs they don’t like. 

    I would recommend this Click Millionaires strategy to anyone who is unhappy in their current job or career path.  The world has really changed in the last few years, and you just don't need to limit your career to making your boss richer anymore.

    The point of my book, Click Millionaires, is that everybody has personal interests, skills, expertise, and perspective that can be drawn upon to help create new, niche businesses on the Internet.  These niche “lifestyle businesses” can allow them more flexibility, creativity, and independence, even if they don't get filthy rich doing it.

    How is it similar to other books in its genre? How is it different?

    Click Millionaires is most often compared to The 4 Hour Work Week.  That was a fantastic book but it was written way back in 2006.  It also focused on opportunities for reinventing yourself that were most applicable to young, single guys. 

    Click Millionaires is updated for today's Internet marketplace and its "Lifestyle Business Design Success Principles" can be used by anyone to turn their own interests into a niche business online.

    It might sound like a "get-rich-quick" book but it’s not.  Click Millionaires are not money focused, they are lifestyle focused.  Money needs to be made to support their lifestyle priorities, but the book is much more about finding your own way in the business world to create new opportunities for yourself around work that you were born to do, rather than simply trying to start the next billion-dollar software company.  Most people are not qualified to start the next Facebook or Google anyway, nor do they need $1,000,000,000. 

    Click Millionaires gives them a roadmap for making a reasonable amount of money with a reasonable amount of hard work and creativity over time instead.

    What are some quick and easy ways to find out if being a Click Millionaire is right for you? 

    Just about the only prerequisite for being a Click Millionaire is that you have to enjoy spending time on the Internet.   

    After that, as long as you know how to read and type a little bit, Click Millionaires will point you in the directions you need to go to turn your own life experience into potentially profitable Internet businesses. 

    I know that sounds too easy but the book is full of examples of people who have done exactly that.  From freelancers making money part time from home, to a flight attendant who started her own podcast, to a guy who has become one of YouTube’ biggest stars by posting videos about his remote control airplanes, Click Millionaires are being made today in all kinds of little niches that can inspire you, too.

    What advice do you have for someone who wants to take plunge, but doesn’t know where to start?

    There’s plenty of free advice on my blog and in my Click Millionaires podcasts, but really the best first step is to buy the new book. 

    For less than $15 on, you'll get the benefit of my 15+ years of Internet business success, and the examples and guidance of the many success stories included in the book, too. 

    Plus, the book offers unprecedented follow-up and support:   each reader gets a free membership in Click, my private online coaching forum that I built specifically for newbie Internet entrepreneurs. 

    This community has a reputation already as "the friendliest lifestyle business coaching community online" and the combination of the book and membership there are great places for anyone to start learning about Internet business, building websites, Internet marketing, or any related topic.  Plus, the forum is full of friendly people (including me) from all over the world, 24/7.

    Where can readers purchase a copy?

    Like my two previous books, Click Millionaires is published by The American Management Association (AMACOM).  That means it's in bookstores nationwide, and, of course, available on, and, including in all available e-book formats.

    What is up next for you?

    I’m looking forward to seeing Click Millionaires sell like crazy to help people worldwide get working on their lifestyle goals. 

    I'm excited about sharing the message of personal empowerment, financial achievement, and creative independence that living a "Click Millionaire" lifestyle can help people achieve, just like I have.

    Is there anything you would like to add?
    Thanks very much for inviting me today.  I appreciate you sharing my work with your audience.  I invite both you and your readers to follow up by coming to join us at  It's a fun, friendly community that can help you turn your lifestyle goals into long term assets.

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

    Book Spotlight: A Story of the West by Susan Spence

    Matt Daly’s eyes narrowed as he faced the stranger in front of him. “I know I don’t have a quarrel with you because I don’t know you,” he growled.

    “But I know you,” the menacing outlaw sneered back, clearly ready to use the Colt revolver hanging from his hip.

    Only a few years earlier Matt and his father had trailed a herd of longhorns north from Texas into Montana Territory. Upon arriving, they decided to stay and raise cattle on the fertile grasslands.
    Shortly after the Northern Pacific rail line was completed and it became easier for people to head west. Lavina Lavold stepped off the train in Miles City with her family and immediately caught Matt’s eye. When they fall in love, Matt’s life seems perfect.

    There are unscrupulous men, however, determined to build cattle empires. A ruthless neighbor decides he wants the Daly’s claim, and he will stop at nothing to acquire their ranch. Since the entire area is undeeded land, it is up for grabs and there is no law on the rough frontier to prevent a range war. When Matt refuses to back down, his life takes a dangerous turn.

    Forced to abandon his family, his travels take him down a long road of misery. An encounter with an Indian medicine man helps him to regain his sense of self, but not until after he gives in to his desperation.

    A Story of the West depicts life during the open range ranching days of the Wild West. Besides plenty of action, I have added a women’s perspective to settling the American West. I researched the era to ensure historical accuracy and have written an accurate portrayal of life during this time, as well as an exciting read.


    Matt rode into the town of Laramie. In years past it would have been a lot livelier. Cowboys just off the range would have been drinking up their summer wages. Now there was a grimness. It was the same feeling that encompassed the entire western prairie.

    Matt tied his horse to the hitch rail in front of the first saloon he found. As usual he checked brands on the other horses standing there and looked at the faces inside before entering the bar. After purchasing a bottle of the cheapest whiskey, Matt walked past a table where a couple of men sat. One of them looked at him and sniffed loudly.

    “Smells like we got one of them prairie lice in here.” He was too drunk to know if Matt really smelled like sheep or not. He just wanted to pick a fight.

    Matt set the bottle down on a table, picked the man up by his neck and threw him to the floor. He glared at the shocked man lying at his feet, then at his companion. “Who are you insulting, you dirty sack of shit?”

    “Just be on your way!” The bartender yelled at Matt. He knew the two were trouble makers, but they were also regulars, something he was short of these days.

    Matt grabbed the bottle, shaking from the rage that had engulfed him. It scared him. Never had he felt out of control like that. He had wanted to kill the man with his bare hands.

    He decided he was going to have to keep moving. But first he was going to have a bath and buy new clothes to get the stink of sheep, real or imaginary off of him. It was cold out, late fall. Matt wondered if he should risk getting a hotel room. There was one that offered baths. That would feel good. Maybe he would stay just a couple of days. Matt let his guard down as whiskey saturated his consciousness.

    He had also been recognized. A cowboy who had once worked for Bully Buehler saw him on the street. He was sitting in on a poker game at another saloon that evening.

    “Hey Red.” He knew the man sitting across from wanted a reputation with a gun, so he decided to bait him. “There’s a man in town you oughta’ meet, name of Matt Daly.

    Red knew the name. He practically drooled. “He’s here now?” The other smiled. The trap had been set. He had no feelings towards Matt one way or another. He just wanted to cause trouble.

    The man named Red called Matt out the next evening, after he knew Matt had spent the afternoon drinking. “Hey Daly!” Matt turned and faced a tall redheaded man showing off the new Colt Peacemaker that hung from his hip.

    “I know I don’t have a quarrel with you because I don’t know you.” Matt first wanted to talk his way out of a gunfight, but once again he felt his rage bubbling close to the surface.

    The other man was way too cocky. He sneered. “I hear you think you’re pretty fast with a gun. I also hear you’re yellow.”

    There was no way Matt was going to back down. He seemed to become another man as his rage turned to cool anger. He would wait all night for the scum to draw first, and then he would blow the asshole’s face off. His determination grew, taking over any other thoughts. His eyes narrowed as he stared the man down. Red faltered slightly by blinking. He had expected Matt to be scared of his large presence. It had always worked before.

    Susan Spence has always been intrigued with life in the west in the 1880s. She researched historical accounts and first-person narratives as she prepared to write A Story of the West. A lifelong resident of the west, she currently lives in Montana on an old sheep shearing station with lots of furry critters and one partially furry critter. This is her first novel, and she is busily working on a sequel due out in late spring.

    You can visit her website at

    Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    Book Review: Hurry Less Worry Less for Moms by Judy Christie

    If there is one thing I understand, it's being a busy mom. Seems the days fly by with little time for any rest or even a moment to catch a breath.

    Filled with practical advice and hope, Hurry Less, Worry Less for Moms by Judy Christie will help. This book will empower you to make the needed changes in your life.

    As moms, we have the corner on guilty feelings. I missed a field trip with one of the kids yesterday because I woke with a stomach bug. Yes, I managed to get work done, but my heart was heavy all day because my daughter was so looking forward to me coming on her field trip. I sometimes wonder how much of my hectic schedule is caused by not wanting to disappoint someone else.

    Even from the beginning I was inspired by Christie's book. In the first chapter, she shares something very important:  "Get to know yourself and your family better, being aware of what makes you tick, your strengths, and the areas that may need improvement. Consider your relationship with God. Depend on others." I think this wraps it up in a nutshell. Too often I focus on the areas for improvement and none of the strengths. Too often I try to go it alone instead of bringing my worries to God or asking others for help.

    Hurry Less Worry Less for Moms encourages you to take it one step at at time, learn to say no, focus on what is right for your life at this time, set priorities, learn how to make wise decisions and be truly blessed by your role as a mom. It helps you find more joy, pursue peace in your daily life, build a hopeful heart, and reminds you to lean on God. Pray for your needs and your family's needs. It also talks about one thing that I feel most moms forget--self-care. We need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our families.

    I loved everything about this book and I would recommend it to any mom I know.

    • Paperback: 176 pages
    • Publisher: Abingdon Press (October 2011)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0687659159
    • ISBN-13: 978-0687659159
    • SRP: $14.99
    • Also available for Kindle and Nook

    I received a free paperback of this book from the author through Pump Up Your Book Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation of any kind for this review. 

    This is the twenty-sixth book I've read for the following challenge:

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    Book Review: Fed Up with Lunch by Sarah Wu, A.K. A. Mrs. Q.

    If you're interested in the topic of school lunch reform, you'll want to pick up a copy of Fed Up with Lunch: How One Anonymous Teacher Revealed the Truth About School Lunch--And How We Can Change Them! by Sarah Wu, a.k.a. Mrs. Q.

    When school teacher Mrs. Q. forgets her lunch one morning, she decides to pick up lunch at the school cafeteria. Shocked by what her students are eating, and dismayed at the short amount of time they have to eat it in, she decides to eat school lunch for an entire year, chronicling her experiences on a blog that captures international attention.

    Her identity revealed for the first time in this book, parents can follow Wu's journey to reform America's school lunches.

    As I mentioned in my First Chapter Review of this book, I had several reasons for requesting a copy of this book. With two girls in our public school system eating school lunch on a regular basis, I figured what I didn't know could hurt them.

    With a sense of humor, Wu shares her surprising finds in the school lunchroom with readers. With entrees like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and pizza offered with side dishes like tater tots or french fries, she suddenly understands why her students don't have the energy to keep going after lunch. Considering the vast majority of the students at her school receive reduced or free lunch, Wu's feeling is that school lunch might be these kids' one chance at a healthy meal a day.

    While I did feel an editor could have polished the book up a bit--tightened it so it didn't ramble in places--overall, I went into this experience knowing the author was not a writer by trade.

    I felt Fed Up with Lunch opened my eyes in unexpected ways. I never knew some school districts don't have recess. I can't imagine how my children would manage going through an entire day cooped up inside the school without any chance to run around and blow off steam. In addition, our school district already has the kids going to recess first and eating afterwards, which has been shown to be better for students. We also have a salad bar or at least vegetables and dressing available on a regular basis in our schools too.

    The book includes photographs of Wu's lunches. There are also resources for parents, kids, and teachers who wish to get involved with school lunch reform. Perhaps everything Wu would like to see in our public school cafeterias isn't realistic, but overall, what she says makes sense. A quality lunch is important, as is teaching our children early on about healthy eating habits. I enjoyed Fed Up with Lunch and visited her blog as a result. This book proves that one person can make a difference.

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (October 5, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1452102287
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452102283
  • SRP: $22.95
  • Also available for Kindle

  • I received a free hardcover of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation of any kind for this review.

    This is the twenty-fifth book I've read for the following challenge:

    Book Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

    In the explosive final installment of The Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss finds herself the symbol of the rebellion. President Coin from District 13 wants to use Katniss to motivate the rebels into a war that ends the Capitol's rule over the citizens of Panem. President Snow has already made it clear to Katniss that no one is safe--not her, not her family, no one. And when she finally grasps what the Capitol has done to Peeta, she knows she must become the Mockingjay.

    Still emotionally and physically scarred from two trips to the Arena, Katniss fights for her sanity as she travels into the war torn districts. From the beginning she knew what she wanted to do. Had to do. Placed on assignment in the Capitol, she will let nothing stop her until she has achieved her goal.

    The reviews for Mockingjay have been so mixed that at times I wasn't sure how I felt about the book myself. I would read the positive reviews and agree. Then I would read the less than positive ones and agree. In the end, my feelings fall somewhere in the middle.

    The Hunger Games was a new step for me because I don't like dystopian fiction. I never understood the appeal of the Mad Max movies.I hated Lord of the Flies and could barely read the first chapter of George Orwell's 1984. I didn't even attempt Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 or Aldoux Huxley's Brave New World, though there was some discussion of them in high school. The one and only reason I ended up reading The Hunger Games trilogy was because the Lil Diva (10) received the first book as a gift from a teacher and was so eager to read it I didn't want to discourage her. She's such a reluctant reader, anytime she's excited over a book, I'm happy. I decided we would read it together. She loved it so much, it was a given we would read the next two. Many of the kids in her class had read them or were reading them. These books definitely weren't appropriate for her overall--too much violence, too many referrals to lovers, and required a thought process that she hasn't fully developed yet.  At least with us reading them together, I could answer questions she might have instead of her relying on the opinions of her friends.

    Collins is a good writer. She created a world in which her characters lived, and it's a very flawed world. The excess in the Capitol stands out against the hunger and need in the districts. The hint of the past rebellion, the current Hunger Games system, and the growing unrest in the districts are a fabulous plot and create a high level of action. The superb creation of that world and the engaging plot, however, cost the reader in lack of character development.

    Peeta and Gale don't grow or change at all. Now, things happen to them, and they are part of the love triangle that creates such conflict for Katniss, but overall, they are who they are--like all of the characters in the book. Even Katniss doesn't change that much from beginning to end. After reading all three books, I would say Haymitch is probably my favorite. He doesn't change either, but he does surprise the reader from time to time. Everyone else is predictable. Katniss and Prim's mother is so little part of this series, it's almost like she shouldn't exist at all. Could the writer have done more with her?

    In Mockingjay, Collins creates an action-packed thriller of a story. The reader gets rewarded for all the tension of the previous books and sees how everything up to this point has impacted Katniss. Perhaps this is also a strength of the book. No, Katniss doesn't go through a major life change, but everything that has happened so far, and a discussion with a pivotal character, leads her to take certain actions, which turn into a thrilling conclusion; a conclusion I saw coming before it happened.

    I have a few wishes for this book, most are that some characters wouldn't die; but my greatest wish would be that the author did not include an epilogue. I didn't have an issue with the content of the epilogue. It would be strange for someone as emotionally scarred as Katniss to move on and have a totally happy ever after. It's more because I felt the ending was so perfect and strong that it was a shame to bring the reader twenty years into the future with Katniss. I would have liked Collins to let the reader draw her own conclusions regarding Katniss's future.

  • Reading level: Ages 13 and up
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1st edition (August 24, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439023513
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439023511
  • SRP: $17.99
  • Also available for Kindle

  • I purchased a copy of this book with an Amazon gift card. I received no monetary compensation for my review.

    This is the twenty-fourth book I've read for the following reading challenge:

    It is the seventeenth I've read for the following challenge:

    Book Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

    Katniss and Peeta survived the Hunger Games. Now an angry President Snow is determined that Katniss will pay for her deceit. As Katniss and Peeta begin their Victory Tour, Katniss catches a glimpse of the rebellion her actions have inspired. And then there's Gale, angry and eager to see the Capitol brought to its knees. Katniss can't seem to let him go, but if she can't convince all of Panem that she and Peeta are madly in love, it could be disastrous for everyone she holds dear.

    In this highly anticipated sequel to The Hunger Games, readers revisit Panem along with Katniss, as she tells the story of the Victory Tour and the unrest her actions in the Hunger Games caused. Collins's impressive writing captures the reader's attention and there are enough twists and turns to keep her engaged.

    The largest challenge with Catching Fire is that Katniss is turned into an unlikeable, whiny character without direction. In amongst the glimpses of the growing rebellion, she shares bits and pieces of the Hunger Games as she experienced them; the tension between her and Gale because of her relationship with Peeta; her fear of what Snow could do to her family unless she can convince all of Panem she is deeply in love with
    the bread maker/artist. And while the reader sympathizes with all the Games have cost her, they don't feel Katniss has grown or learned much of anything.

    A Quarter Quell is announced and its rules shock everyone. The reader sees more violence and more death. Tributes are going to have to make decisions. They are going to have to form alliances if they wish to survive.

    Yes, this book has a fabulous cliffhanger ending that will leave the reader eager to pick up the final book of the trilogy, but Catching Fire didn't have as much meat as I was looking for. I didn't want to rehash so much of what happened in the first book. I wanted Gale to play a more pivotal role in Catching Fire. I wanted Katniss to make decisions instead of complaining about her circumstances. My daughter, who read the books with me, liked it, but she preferred the first and third books as well.

    While this book is rated as 13 and up, and I know many kids younger than that have read it, I still think there's too much violence for young readers.

  • Reading level: Ages 13 and up
  • Hardcover: 391 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439023491
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439023498
  • SRP: $17.99
  • Also available for Kindle

  • I borrowed a copy of this book from a neighbor so we could continue with the series. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

    This is the twenty-third book I've read for the following challenge:

    It is the sixteenth I've read for the following challenge:

    Friday, May 18, 2012

    Guest Blogger: Pavarti K. Tyler, Author of Shadow on the Wall (Giveaway)

    Recai Osman: Muslim, philosopher, billionaire and Superhero?

    Controversial and daring, Shadow on the Wall details the transformation of Recai Osman from complicated man to Superhero. Forced to witness the cruelty of the Morality Police in his home city of Elih, Turkey, Recai is called upon by the power of the desert to be the vehicle of change. Does he have the strength to answer Allah's call or will his dark past and self doubt stand in his way?

    Pulling on his faith in Allah, the friendship of a Jewish father-figure and a deeply held belief that his people deserve better, Recai Osman must become The SandStorm.

    In the tradition of books by Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie, Shadow on the Wall tackles issues of religion, gender, corruption and the basic human condition. Beautiful and challenging, this is not a book to miss.

    "How a Unitarian from Jersey writers about a Muslim Superhero"
    Have you ever gotten that feeling in the back of your head that there's something not quite right about the way you think?  I've always daydreamed about things others have considered impossible or ridiculous.  I'm the loon who decided statistically charting various vampires' awesomeness was a good idea.

    So when the suggestion was made that someone needed to write about a Middle Eastern superhero my imagination went into overdrive.  Of course we need a Middle Eastern superhero!  Others have tackled this topic to great success, like Dr. Naif of What’s different here is that I am not from the Middle East.

    I sat down and started writing and a character named Recai Osman appeared on the pages before me.  With green eyes and red beard, Recai stood in the middle of a windblown desert, daring me to take the challenge.

    And cue the theme to Beyond Thunderdome.

    A problem soon presented itself.  It's impossible to discuss the Middle East in any meaningful way without bringing religion into the conversation, and while I've studied Islam, I am not a Muslim.  I'm not Jewish either.  In fact, I'm about as far from the religious spectrum of the Middle East as you could get.  I'm a Unitarian Universalist.

    UUism is based on the idea that we all have the right to our own path to Truth.  For some that Truth is God, for some it's not.  What connects us within the UU church is the belief that the search is valuable and that there is benefit to having a supportive and respectful community with whom to share that search. (You can read more about our principles here: Our Unitarian Universalist Principles)

    For me, the importance of an individual’s expression of faith within a community is huge.  I believe in God.  Because of this, I often find myself listening to the fundamentalist rhetoric of all religions with a frustrated sigh.  Why does someone have to be wrong in order for another to be right?

    It was with this in mind that I thought about Recai.  What makes a good man?  What makes a good Muslim?  And in a society in which religion is such a prominent part of day-to-day life, what would be the shape of evil?

    Recai is a faithful man; he's erred and he's sinned, but his belief in Allah and in humanity is solid.  Underneath his layers of confusion and self-doubt is a good man.  His day-to-day life has been isolated from the city he lives in: Elih, Turkey (Google it for a good giggle). What would happen if a flawed man was forced to confront real evil, real sin?  Could he rise to the occasion?

    Islam and Judaism run throughout Shadow on the Wall. Some of the phrases and cultural idioms may be unfamiliar to Western readers, but I hope that you will see a little of yourself in the characters. The issues they face are written at high stakes, but the questions posed are ones we must all answer.  Who am I?  What do I stand for?  Although Shadow on the Wall has supernatural elements, I like to think heroes exist in life, and I like to think that religion can fuel the good in people.  Perhaps we're all capable of great things.
    Pavarti K Tyler is an artist, wife, mother and number cruncher. She graduated Smith College in 1999 with a degree in Theatre. After graduation, she moved to New York, where she worked as a Dramaturge, Assistant Director and Production Manager on productions both on and off Broadway.

    Later, Pavarti went to work in the finance industry as a freelance accountant for several international law firms. She now operates her own accounting firm in the Washington DC area, where she lives with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not preparing taxes, she is busy penning her next novel.

    Throughout history, literature and the art of story-telling have influenced politics, religion and culture. The power of the epic tale is universal. Why is it that those who never read The Iliad know Helen of Troy? Her story, Homer’s story, transcends the written word and has become a part of our human lexicon. The power of the written word is undeniable and Pavarti is honored to be part of the next wave of literary revolution.
    Price: $11.95
    Pages: 248
    ISBN: 9780983876908
    Publisher: Fighting Monkey Press
    Release: May 1, 2012
    Pavarti is running a giveaway during her Shadow on the Wall tour. One lucky Book Connection follower will win an ebook of Pavarti's fantasy romance novels, Two Moons of Sera: Volumes 1 & 2.
    Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. The form is taking a few seconds to load, but it is there.
    Good luck!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Thursday, May 17, 2012

    First Chapter Review: Help! for Writers by Roy Peter Clark

    This is another book that came in right before my life went to hell in a hand basket and my schedule got tossed this way and that like a boat on a stormy ocean. I'm still searching for the calm waters, but I really wanted to dig into this book.

    I'm not one who reads a lot of books on the craft of writing. There are a few I would recommend if asked, but overall, I find many of them dull and repetitive. This isn't one of those dull ones.

    BLURB: The craft of writing offers countless potential problems: The story is too long; the story's too short; revising presents a huge hurdle; writer's block is rearing its ugly head.

    In HELP! FOR WRITERS, Roy Peter Clark presents an "owner's manual" for writers, outlining the seven steps of the writing process, and addressing the 21 most urgent problems that writers face. In his trademark engaging and entertaining style, Clark offers ten short solutions to each problem. Out of ideas? Read posters, billboards, and graffiti. Can't bear to edit yourself? Watch the deleted scenes feature of a DVD, and ask yourself why those scenes were left on the cutting-room floor. HELP! FOR WRITERS offers 210 strategies to guide writers to success.

    COVER: Clever. Simple. The large white exclamation point makes you think of urgency or emergency, as the case may be. It definitely captures your attention.

    FIRST CHAPTER: This book is set up a bit differently than some others, with each section being about a particular step. In the opening chapters, it is aptly about getting started. The first step covers three chapters. I am only using the first chapter as the basis of my review.

    Chapter One is about finding story ideas. It provides practical advice on how writers can create stories based upon daily experiences. Spend a morning in a bagel shop. Read a book that is unfamiliar to you. Break your routine. Interview the oldest person and youngest person you know. There are others, but you get the drift. This chapter encourages writers to look for the hidden smaller stories in the larger flashier ones.

    KEEP READING:  You betcha. The subtitle makes the book seem overwhelming: "210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writers Faces." Either that or it makes it sound loaded with helpful advice--which it definitely has. I almost didn't request to review this one solely because of the subtitle. Silly, I know, but at least I'm honest.

    Clark has a nice style. He combines his years of experience with a casual feel that is encouraging. What's not to like about a guy whose internal thoughts of himself as a teenager are, "You're just a clumsy little a**hole."

    With this book, I tackled the Introduction first, followed by How to get Help!, which is basically an author's note. This gave me insight into what to expect from the book and I liked what I read. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this book on vacation.

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (September 21, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0316126713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316126717
  • SRP: $22.99
  •  Also available for Kindle

  • I received a free hardcover of this book from Hachette Group in exchange for my honest opinion. A full review will follow. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

    Wednesday, May 16, 2012

    First Chapter Review: Some Place South of Perfect by Andrew Byrne

    This is my first officially requested First Chapter Review. As readers can see by the list of pages under my banner, I've opened the blog up to authors who would like to submit their first chapters for review. Details can be found here.

    BLURB: A chance meeting between two neighbours at a courthouse sparks a series of events which will impact the lives of a small, diverse group of people in London over the course of eight days in February 2010. Marital conflict, lost love regained, wheeling-dealing, lessons learnt and facing up to the dubious reasons behind and the consequences of one’s actions are examined against a backdrop of how the media and finance sectors work.

    Less a state-of-the-nation polemic, Some Place South of Perfect is more a wry depiction of interacting lives in contemporary London and how thin the margins between safety and danger, success and failure, happiness and misery really are. What motivates people to do the things they do and what does this tell us about modern-day life? We find out in a fast-moving, yet reflective, novel through the eyes of an engaging roster of people; a narcissistic, philandering sportsman; a lovelorn journalist; defensive, taciturn bankers; dreamy academics; a couple attempting to reignite their marriage; musicians; youths from the wrong side of the tracks; shady men from the margins of paramilitary organisations and a host of others.

    Spiked through with humorous and acerbic observation, Some Place South of Perfect presents a new slant on age-old dilemmas in a contemporary setting.

    COVER: It's a nice picture, but this story is about people. The blurb focuses on people. Why is there an empty rocky shore in the picture? It might make sense later on, but right now I can't figure it out. I'm not a huge fan of the white text box bordered in black either. It makes it seem like the picture was pasted into a photo editing program and a text box laid over it. Self-publishing is fine, but the cover is the first impression a reader has of your book. Make it count.

    FIRST CHAPTER: We meet Philip Anderson on a cold day in front of a courthouse, where he is impatiently waiting outside with the other jurors. He spots his neighbor, Elizabeth Harris, stepping out of a taxi. He's unnerved that she makes a point to avoid him. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is upset that her husband, Geoff, couldn't be bothered to come and support her today.

    KEEP READING: Perhaps. I'm intrigued enough by the opening chapter and enjoyed the eloquent narration. Byrne paints an excellent picture for the reader with his descriptions. With this first chapter, he introduces what the reader can assume will be three key players in the novel:  Philip Anderson, Elizabeth Harris, and her husband, Geoff. We don't know a lot about Philip, but we do get the sense that Elizabeth is not happily married. Her meeting Philip at the courthouse may lead to changes in her life. It's too early to tell.

    There is a great deal of narration in this first chapter, and the point of view changes six times. Granted, it goes back and forth primarily between Philip and Elizabeth, but that doesn't give the reader much chance to get comfortable inside a character's head before switching to a new person. In addition, Geoff's POV is tossed in at the end, and one can't help but think, "Where did that come from?" My other challenge is that the last three point of view shifts involve all three people waking up and sharing their internal thoughts with the reader in rambling, run on sentences punctuated mostly by commas. These sentences are hundreds of words long. What person when he first wakes up--especially in some of the circumstances these characters found themselves in--are going to go on like that? It's also tough to read and feel like you understood it all.

    Despite the multiple POV changes and rambling thoughts, I would most likely take in the next chapter or two before making a final decision. I like the author's voice and style works well for this novel and where it is set.

  • File Size: 584 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Andrew Byrne; 1 edition (February 13, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • ASIN: B007924USK
  • SRP: $4.99 for Kindle
  • Tuesday, May 15, 2012

    First Chapter Review: Fed Up with Lunch by Sarah Wu, A.K.A. "Mrs. Q."

    This is a book I requested for review last fall. The topic of school lunches has been on my mind for a while now for a variety of reasons:

    • I have two girls in the public school system;
    • Both girls have opted to eat school lunch more often this year than in the past;
    • The girls buy chocolate milk with their lunch because they insist the 1% white milk the school offers doesn't taste quite right;
    • Our school district--which has had a wellness policy in place for the past few years--offers the children foods like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, french toast sticks, pancakes, peanut butter and jelly and more fast foods on a regular basis;
    • I've eaten in our schools' cafeterias. I don't know what they do to get the food to taste like that, but I can't imagine why my kids willingly eat it;
    • News reports suggest that the government has/had plans to purchase millions of pounds of treated beef (pink slime).
    Our school district offers three options for students each day--entree, bagel, or peanut butter and jelly--and they also have fruit or a fruit and veggie bar many days of the week. The menu, however, still consists primarily of fast foods. The kids in our school district only have 15 minutes to eat, so that must be figured into the picture.

     BLURB: When school teacher Mrs. Q forgot her lunch one day, she had no idea she was about to embark on an odyssey to uncover the truth about public school lunches. Shocked by what her students were served, she resolved to eat school lunch for an entire year, chronicling her experience anonymously on a blog that received thousands of hits daily, and was lauded by such food activists as Mark Bittman, Jamie Oliver, and Marion Nestle. Here, Mrs. Q reveals her identity for the first time in an eye-opening account of school lunches in America. Along the way, she provides invaluable resources for parents and health advocates who wish to help reform school lunch, making this a must-read for anyone concerned about children's health issues.

    COVER:  Great! The cover with its bold title is what made me look into this book. Early on in the book, Wu describes the little eating set of a napkin, straw and spork wrapped in plastic that our kids use to eat their lunches. I had to chuckle at seeing one on the cover. The lined paper that highlights the subtitle is also a good tie-in to the environment where the investigation takes place.

    FIRST CHAPTER: Especially with non-fiction, I read the Introduction of books. Here, Wu describes what led to The School Lunch Project and her blog. The first chapter discusses her need to remain anonymous for the sake of her job, and how she created her alter ego, Mrs. Q. She shares the first day of her project, what she ate, and the logistics behind how she managed to blog about her lunch without getting caught.

    KEEP READING! Big time, yes! In addition to the fact that this topic has been on my mind for months, Wu's humor combined with her investigative skills make this a fabulous read. One of the points she is clear to make is that the overwhelming majority of the students in her school were fed thanks to the reduced or free lunch program. So, her concern as an educator and a mom came from knowing this might be her students' main opportunity to get a healthy meal. Her genuine concern is the overriding style that is clear to the reader as she moves along. I'm already up to Chapter 3, so I know I will keep going.

    If you have kids in America's public schools who frequent the cafeteria, you might want to read this one. The reviews on Amazon have been mixed, but right now I'm really enjoying it.

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (October 5, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1452102287
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452102283  
  • SRP: $22.95
  • Available for Kindle

  • I received a free hardcover of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinions. A full review will follow. I received no monetary compensation of any kind for this review.

    Sunday, May 13, 2012

    Book Review: Blue Eyes by Jerome Charyn

    An exquisite hard-boiled mystery awaits you in Blue Eyes: An Isaac Sidel Novel by Jerome Charyn.

    Manfred Coen is Hollywood gorgeous and has a penchant for ping-pong. He is Issac's man and everyone knows it. Once Issac falls from grace, Coen's easy rise to the top stalls and the resentment of every rank-and-file detective is focused on the young blue-eyed cop. He is assigned to track down the kidnapped daughter of a porn-film producer, but there are a lot of people eager to see him out of the picture, including a crazed hitman.

    This is an e-book reprint of one of Charyn's earlier releases. With a gritty style that defines the genre, the author delves into the lives of Manfred Coen and Isaac Sidel with persistence and precision.

    Before the reader unfolds a literary crime novel that captivates and digs deep into the lives of its characters. Charyn spends a great deal of time developing Coen, Sidel, Arnold the Spic, the Chinaman and others. The story evolves slowly, and once the reader is done, she knows every part of it.

    The material is a bit dated, which accounts for its lack of political correctness, but it's genuine for the world in which Coen and Sidel exist.

    Blue Eyes isn't a normal read for me, but I enjoyed it.

    Jerome Charyn's web site:

    Jerome Charyn's Facebook:!/jerome.charyn

    Jerome Charyn's Twitter:

    Issac Sidel's Twitter:!/IsaacSidel

    Tribute Books Blog Tours Facebook:

    Blue Eyes blog tour site:

    Price: $9.99
    Release: April 10, 2012

    Kindle buy link

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    I received a paperback copy of this book from the author's representative in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation of any kind for this review.

    This is the twenty-second book I've read for the following challenge:

    It is the fifteenth book I've read for the following challenge:

    It is the sixth book I've read for the following challenge: