Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Starter House

Starter House by Sonja Condit
Publication date: December 31, 2013 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: Digital ARC from publisher via Edelweiss
Description from Goodreads:

In the vein of Heart-Shaped Box and The Thirteenth Tale, Starter House is a haunting and skillfully told debut novel about a newlywed couple and their first home-a home that seems to be haunted by a very malicious ghost

Lacey Miszlak grew up homeless; her crazy mother dragged her from one terrible living situation to the next. But now she thinks the pieces of her life have finally come together. She's pregnant with her first child and she and her husband Eric have moved into the home of their dreams. She knows soon its beautiful sunlit rooms will be filled with the joy of the new family she will build there.

But there's a strange darkness on the stairway and an odd little boy who won't leave Lacey alone and soon she's forced to realize that a danger she never suspected is lurking in the hallways of her beautiful new home. She's going to have to solve a decades-old mystery to save her family from an evil that has lingered in wait for them for years.

My Take:

I wanted to read Starter House because I love ghost stories and the premise sounded interesting with lots of potential. I enjoyed the book quite a lot. I read it in a day and it was very much one of those books that I just had to finish as quickly as possible.

There are so many clues that Lacy shouldn't buy the house that catches her eye - but she ignores all of them, of course. Lacy is a visual person and she can see the beauty in the house even before it has been fixed up. The shapes are right and she can see all the things she wants to do to make it into her perfect idea of a home.

This idea of a perfect home is important to Lacy because of how she grew up - a pretty nomadic life that she didn't really understand or like, at all. Lacy believes this lifestyle was chosen by her mother for a specific reason - and it was, just not the reason Lacey thinks. Here is one of the big themes in the book - the idea that even when we think we understand a person's motivations, we really don't. This comes up several times in the book and Lacey eventually seems to learn from her experiences.  She tends to come to her own conclusions without even asking the other person - usually not the best way.

The ghost story is interesting and pretty suspenseful throughout the book. But I did think Lacey was pretty slow to pick up on things. However, I will give her the benefit of the doubt because she is pregnant through most of the book and that can cause foggy thinking.

Actually, the book seems to be about a lot of things - for me, anyway. There are young marriage issues to work through, family issues, personal insecurities, and new parenthood to deal with. All of this while trying to deny that the beautiful house you bought is haunted by a very angry and dangerous being.

The ghost story is quite interesting and there are so many characters involved with the story line. It is all very mysterious and spooky. The book was great fun to read. I will be suggesting it to my reader friends.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Woman of Ill Fame Blog Tour and Review

Woman of Ill Fame by Erika Mailman
eBook Publication date: November 11, 2013 ( ASIN: B00GM1VHV2)
Source: eBook provided by author via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for an honest review
Looking for a better life, Nora Simms sails from the East Coast to gold rush San Francisco with a plan for success: to strike it rich by trading on her good looks. But when a string of murders claims several of her fellow “women of ill fame,” Nora grows uneasy with how closely linked all of the victims are to her. Even her rise to the top of her profession and a move to the fashionable part of town don’t shelter her from the danger, and she must distinguish friend from foe in a race to discover the identity of the killer.

My Take:

I didn't really know what to expect when I started reading Woman of Ill Fame. I'm not usually that crazy about reading books about prostitutes, but the premise on this one sounded promising. I started reading it to get an idea of what was in store for me, and I ended up reading for hours. I found Nora to be just so funny and straightforward about her chosen profession. She had her reasons for her choice and she lived with it.

This book is much more than just a tale of the prostitute with a heart of gold. The mystery of who is brutally killing the prostitutes in San Francisco is interesting and creepy and I really enjoyed reading about how Nora gets involved and how she goes about gathering her information to try to find the killer. I found it a little funny how Nora puts certain events together and despite all her efforts, the volunteer police force just doesn't figure anything out.

I enjoyed the development of friendship between Nora and her landlady, Mehitabel Ashe (what a name!). Mehitabel is an upright woman who manages her home as a boarding house and takes in sewing and such to make ends meet. Nora is certain that she would not approve of her choice in profession.  Mehitabel absolutely does not approve, but she turns out to be much more understanding than Nora thought she would be. Mehitabel ends up being a real friend and a good person. She is a great example of some of  the character development in the book. She has her own story to tell and she doesn't give up on Nora.

Nora does want out of the life she is living, but she has a certain idea of what type of man would sweep in and take her away from the life. Her preconceived ideas are a disadvantage and almost bring her to harm. Fortunately for her, a man not from her dreams decides to be a real friend. Abe is different, a bit slow, and the brunt of much teasing from the other men in town. He becomes a favorite of Nora's and his character development and story arc are highlights of the book. There seems to be a theme about assuming things about people and being proven wrong throughout the book.

In the end though, it is the character of Nora that carries the whole book. She is just so funny and smart. I really enjoyed her and her constant striving to better her life. Despite her goals and her attempts to pull herself out of the life no matter the cost, she always does what her heart tells her - despite what her brain is telling her. Nora is just a great character. I would love to read more about what happens to her. I highly recommend this book. It is a great read.

About the Author

Erika Mailman is the author of The Witch’s Trinity, a Bram Stoker finalist and a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book, and Woman of Ill Fame, a Pushcart Press Editor’s Book Award nominee. While writing The Witch’s Trinity, she learned she was the descendant of a woman accused twice of witchcraft in the decades predating Salem.
For more information please visit Erika Mailman’s website and blog.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, December 9
Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, December 10
Guest Post & Giveaway at HF Connection
Wednesday, December 11
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, December 12
Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, December 13
Review at Historical Fiction Obsession
Monday, December 16
Review at A Book Geek
Review at Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, December 17
Review at Book of Secrets
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, December 18
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, December 19
Review at A Bookish Libraria

Friday, December 20
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Sureme Macaroni Company Blog Tour

The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani
Publication date: November 26, 2013 by Harper Collins
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
For over a hundred years, the Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village has relied on the leather produced by Vechiarelli & Son in Tuscany. This historic business partnership provides the twist of fate for Valentine Roncalli, the school teacher turned shoemaker, to fall in love with Gianluca Vechiarelli, a tanner with a complex past . . . and a secret.
A piece of surprising news is revealed at The Feast of the Seven Fishes when Valentine and Gianluca join her extended family on a fateful Christmas Eve. Now faced with life altering choices, Valentine remembers the wise words that inspired her in the early days of her beloved Angelini Shoe Company: “A person who can build a pair of shoes can do just about anything.” The proud, passionate Valentine is going to fight for everything she wants and savor all she deserves—the bitter and the sweetness of life itself.

The Supreme Macaroni Company is Trigiani at her comedic and dramatic best, the inside story of a family business, and the shoemaker who carries on the tradition while juggling a new marriage and family. The pull between old world Italian ways and American ambition tear at Valentine, as a secret is revealed that changes the course of her life. The story takes the reader from the cobblestone streets of Greenwich Village, to lush New Orleans, and home to Italy, in Tuscany and on the Amalfi coast, with a surprise twist that takes the action to America’s rust belt, Youngstown, Ohio.

My Take:

The Supreme Macaroni Company is the first book that I have read by Adriana Trigiani, so I really didn't know what to expect. I also wasn't aware that there were other books before this one about Valentine. I went into this expecting nothing and not knowing what I'd find.

I absolutely loved Valentine's family. I actually laughed out loud at some of the descriptions and their conversations/arguments. There are lots of laughter and arguments in this family. I really enjoyed reading about their interactions and the way they stick together through all the various chaotic happenings.

I kind of wish I had read the previous book because I didn't feel that I truly understood the dynamics of the relationship between Valentine and Gianluca as well as I would have liked. Fortunately, there is enough back story filled in as the reader progresses through the book. I did find Valentine's expectations about marriage to be a bit naive. But, I also was right there with her in not wanting to give up her career or independence.

I enjoyed the progression the company took and all the work and sacrifice that was necessary. I liked that everything didn't just fall into place - well, it did, but with much work and some secret effort. This was a moving and interesting part of the story. A bit of irony, a bit of heartbreak, a lot of love.

I definitely think that readers of Adriana Trigiani will enjoy The Supreme Macaroni Company, but I would suggest that readers new to her read at least one of the previous books just to get a good background. But, once again, I really enjoyed this book even though I hadn't read any of the other books. I think the thing I loved the most was the family relationship. It was just so fun and entertaining. I love a good family story. I am adding the previous books to my TBR list so I can read more about Valentine and her hilarious family.

About Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani is an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker. Her books include the New York Times best seller The Shoemaker’s Wife; the Big Stone Gap series; Very Valentine; Brava, Valentine; Lucia, Lucia; and the best-selling memoir Don’t Sing at the Table, as well as the young adult novels Viola in Reel Life and Viola in the Spotlight. She has written the screenplay for Big Stone Gap. which she will also direct. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Find out more about Adriana at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Adriana’s Tour Stops

Monday, November 11th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Tuesday, November 12th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Wednesday, November 13th: Becca’s Byline
Thursday, November 14th: Kritters Ramblings
Friday, November 15th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Monday, November 18th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, November 19th: Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, November 21st: Always With a Book
Monday, November 25th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, November 26th: bookchickdi
Wednesday, November 27th: Bibliophilia, Please
Friday, November 29th: Lesa’s Book Critiques
Monday, December 2nd: Book Addict Katie
Tuesday, December 3rd: Alison’s Book Marks
Wednesday, December 4th: Ageless Pages Reviews
Thursday, December 5th: Seaside Book Corner
Friday, December 6th: Lavish Bookshelf
Monday, December 9th: Joyfully Retired
Tuesday, December 10th: A Book Geek
Wednesday, December 11th: Love at First Book
Thursday, December 12th: A Chick Who Reads
Friday, December 13th: Books and Movies
Tuesday, December 17th: Lisa’s Yarns
Wednesday, December 18th: Col Reads
Thursday, December 19th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Friday, December 20th: Drey’s Library
Monday, December 30th: red headed book child
Wednesday, January 1st: The Lost Entwife
Wednesday, January 1st: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, January 2nd: Book-alicious Mama
Monday, January 6th: Reflections of a Bookaholic
Tuesday, January 7th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, January 8th: Time 2 Read
Wednesday, January 8th: Stephany Writes
Thursday, January 9th: Walking With Nora

TBD: Booktalk & More

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Tenth Saint Blog Tour

The Tenth Saint by D.J. Niko
Publication date: January 25, 2012 by Medallion Press
Source: Publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Gold Medal Winner, Popular Fiction, 2013 Florida Book Awards.
Cambridge archaeologist Sarah Weston makes an unusual discovery in the ancient Ethiopian mountain kingdom of Aksum: a sealed tomb with inscriptions in an obscure dialect. Seeking to ascertain the translation and the identity of the entombed man, she and her colleague, American anthropologist Daniel Madigan, stumble upon a lethal conflict.
Tracking down clues in Addis Ababa and the monasteries of Lalibela, Sarah and Daniel uncover a codex in a subterranean library revealing a set of prophecies about Earth’s final hours written by a man hailed by Coptic mystics as Ethiopia’s tenth saint. Violently opposed by the corrupt director of antiquities at the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism, they’re left for dead in the heart of the Simien Mountains. Surviving to journey to Paris, Sarah is given another piece of the ancient puzzle: a fourteenth-century letter describing catastrophic events leading to the planet’s demise.

Connecting the two discoveries, Sarah faces a deadly intercontinental conspiracy to keep the secret of the tenth saint buried. Risking her reputation and her life, Sarah embarks on a quest to stall the technological advances that will surely destroy the world.


I am happy to participate in the virtual book tour for The Tenth Saint by posting a guest post by the author including an excerpt from the novel. 

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to your blog. Below is an excerpt from Chapter Seven of The Tenth Saint. It is a passage from the historical subplot which tells the story of Gabriel, a Western man who came to live with Bedouins in the Empty Quarter, in the fourth century CE, under mysterious circumstances. It is an interesting glimpse at Gabriel's inner turmoil, which is rooted in the dissonance between his own notions of man's supremacy on the planet and the Bedouins' commitment to living with the Earth's rhythms. This conflict is one of the central themes of the book, a contemplation that never quite gets resolved, as the answers are not so clear-cut. I hope you enjoy!
Gabriel was by nature an analytical man. What the nomads knew by instinct, he knew by mathematical exactitude. His mind dwelled in the realm of logic and order. On a steaming summer day, his logic told him a sandstorm might be approaching. He could tell this by the temperature of the air and ground and the direction from which the rare breezes came. When the air was bone-dry and so hot that breathing felt like a gasp for oxygen in a fire and the sand so hot it could not be traversed even by those with the most calloused feet, he knew, before the Bedouins themselves knew, what would happen: in nature’s inimitable way of attempting to achieve balance, the heat would distribute itself upward and outward by organizing convection currents. If the heat was intense enough and the currents strong enough, a fierce wind would be formed and move mass quantities of sand with no regard for anything or anyone in its way.
 Gabriel went to Hairan to relay his suspicions. He bowed his head in respect and pointed his eyes toward the ground. “Shaykh, it has not rained in months. The air is still and hotter than I have ever seen it. The camels are restless. I fear great walls of sand are coming.”
Hairan grimaced, the furrows in his forehead and around his eyes deepening till he looked ancient. He shot Gabriel a hard gaze, meant not to provoke but to challenge. “And how is it that a man who has never lived in the desert knows so much?”
Though he had been there almost a year, he was still considered a visitor. “I humble myself to your wisdom and that of your tribesmen. I do not know the desert like you do, but this I know. I am certain of it.”
“Abyan.” Hairan used the name Da’ud had given Gabriel. Everyone had adopted the epithet. “I believe you are sincere in what you say. But you have to respect the knowledge of the people who live and die by this desert.” In an apparent show of courtesy toward the visitor, he made an unusual concession. “I will call the council of elders together this evening. You may state your concerns before everyone. Then the elders will make a decision, and you must abide by that decision whether you agree with it or not.”
No sooner did Gabriel agree than he began to regret it. How could he possibly explain it to the elders? They spoke a different language, literally and figuratively. None of the ruminations of his mind would make sense to them. He couldn’t write down mathematical formulas, or explain concepts like the interaction between ground heat and the atmosphere. They looked at the weather like their ancestors always had: intuitively. They knew rain was coming when they saw the scarabs burrowing in the sand. They knew the weather would get cooler when birds started flying south in great numbers. And they knew sandstorms were coming when they saw smoke on the horizon.
There was no smoke this night. The sky was clear, its indigo cloak illuminated by a dazzling, perfectly round moon. The elders were gathered in the communal tent, smoking their pipes and recounting stories from the past when Gabriel entered.
The room fell silent.
He worried everyone already knew what he was about to say and, worse, had prejudged him. He shook off his momentary desire to make for the door and stood firmly before them.
Hairan addressed his tribesmen in the authoritative tone his rank demanded. “Abyan has something to say to us. Listen carefully. His is a warning. Warnings are never to be taken lightly.”
Gabriel spoke in a combination of Bedouin dialect and hand gestures. “Brothers, friends. I am but a stranger to these lands and bow to your wisdom. I claim no authority over this council, but I humbly ask you to heed what I am about to say. I have cause to suspect a great wall of sand is heading in our direction as soon as midday tomorrow. The people must prepare for this now.”
“You realize this is a grave matter. Why should we believe you?” one elder asked.
“Have you seen a vision?” asked another.
“No, no visions. Just fact. The desert is too hot. Even the animals feel it.” Gabriel struggled to disguise his frustration. “It will rise up and revolt to bring itself back to a balanced state.”
“Tomorrow we ride for the oasis,” said one of Hairan’s top lieutenants. “If we take cover as you are suggesting, we will miss our turn in the fertile lands. This would be devastating for our people and for the animals.”
“But not taking cover would be far worse. You could lose lives and property. It would be a major setback for the tribe.”
The elders whispered among themselves, clearly weighing both sides of the equation.
As the deliberations became more heated, Hairan clapped to call for quiet. He turned to Gabriel. “You must take your leave now. We will discuss this matter in private, and we will inform you of our decision. Please . . . go.”
With a sense of foreboding, Gabriel exited the tent. He had hoped that the elders would be more reasonable, that when faced with the prospect of death and destruction, they would choose the safe route even if doing so wasn’t convenient. Now he wasn’t so sure.
They seemed to be divided, clearly unconvinced a random white man could have any knowledge of things they had learned through the wisdom of their ancestors. His kind had no jurisdiction here.
When Hairan finally walked out of the tent, his old eyes screwed up, Gabriel could tell what the verdict was.
“I will lead the caravan to the oasis tomorrow. We have no supplies, no water. If we do not go, we will surely suffer the consequences.”
Gabriel clutched his unruly blond hair, now so long it dusted his shoulders. “This is madness. I can see what’s happening here. I am not one of you, so you summarily dismiss me. You would rather risk lives than believe a white man. Is that it?”
“This isn’t about you, Abyan. What I believe is that these people’s livelihood is at stake. Their very survival. I will not put them in the way of peril.”
“And yet peril is exactly what you will face.”
“We have been through countless sandstorms and survived. We are not afraid.”
He pointed at the chief, fully aware it was a sign of disrespect. “You are being foolish. You will regret this.”
“When I asked you to present your case to the council, I also said you had to accept their decision. It shows bad character to go back on your word.”
Gabriel looked away, insulted. Hairan might as well have slapped him.
Aware of the checkmate, the chief softened his tone. “All will be well. You will see.”
Gabriel did not reward him with a reply or even a look in the eye.
Hairan turned and walked to his tent.
Da’ud signaled to Gabriel to come sit with him and his cronies by the fire. Handing him a pipe of tobacco, the young man said, “You look pale, Abyan. What has happened to you?”
“I don’t belong here, my friend,” Gabriel said. “No matter how much I know or how I try to help, I will never be accepted. We both know that.”
“You are different from us. You do things a certain way, and we do them another way. That is not a bad thing.”
“Says who?”
“Our covenant. We believe no man is greater than another. Your knowledge and beliefs have a place in your society. We respect that. And you must respect our way of looking at the world.”
“You are too young to be talking like this.”
Da’ud laughed. “I’m not so young. I’m getting married before the next full moon. You will dance at my wedding, no?”
“You? Married?” Gabriel feigned shock. “Of course. I wouldn’t miss it. Besides, who else will pick you up when you drink too much of that camel-piss wine?”
Da’ud pointed to the pipe in Gabriel’s hand. “Or smoke too much of this camel dung.”
“Camel dung? That’s what I’ve been smoking all this time?” He took another puff. “Rather good.”

The two men laughed and shared a smoke. But even that lighthearted moment couldn’t lift Gabriel’s sense of dread. 


About the Author

DD.J. Niko is the nom de plume of Daphne Nikolopoulos, an award-winning author and journalist. Her first novel, titled The Tenth Saint, was released in March 2012 to rave reviews by both readers and the trade. In March 2013, it was awarded the Gold Medal for popular fiction in the prestigious, juried Florida Book Awards. An archaeological thriller embroidered with historical motifs, The Tenth Saint takes readers on an adventure across the globe: Ethiopia, the Syro-Arabian Desert and Abyssinian Empire circa fourth century, London, Paris, Brussels, and Texas. The Tenth Saint is the first book in The Sarah Weston Chronicles series. The second, titled The Riddle of Solomon, releases July 1, 2013.
Daphne is now at work on a historical novel set in tenth century B.C.E. Israel. The epic story details the collapse of the United Monarchy and the glory and fall of the empire built by King Solomon. It will be released in early 2015.
As a former travel journalist, Daphne has traveled across the globe on assignment, or for personal discovery. She has been to some places most of us don’t realize are on the map, and she has brought them to life through her writing for various magazines, newspapers and websites on an international scale. Her travel background and rich experiences now bring authentic detail, color, and realism to her fiction.
She also is the editor in chief of Palm Beach Illustrated magazine, a 62-year-old luxury-lifestyle glossy. She also is the editorial director of Palm Beach Media Group, and in that capacity oversees 11 magazines and 3 websites.
She is the mother of twin toddlers and, in her spare time, volunteers for causes she believes in—literacy, education, child advocacy, and the advancement of traditional and tribal arts from around the world. Born in Athens, Greece, she now lives with her family in West Palm Beach, Florida.
For more information, please visit D.J. Niko’s website. You can also follow on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Wednesday, November 20
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, November 21
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, November 22
Guest Post at A Bookish Libraria
Monday, November 25
Review at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, November 27
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Thursday, November 28
Guest Post at A Book Geek
Monday, December 2
Review at Library of Alexandra
Tuesday, December 3
Review at For Winter Nights
Wednesday, December 4
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, December 5
Interview at For Winter Nights
Friday, December 6
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Monday, December 10
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading

Monday, November 25, 2013

Checkmate blog tour: Excerpt Post

Checkmate by Jonathan Patrick
Publication date: July 22, 2013 by 3R Publishing
Source: Publisher/author via Closed the Cover (CTC) 
It’s a difficult time in America. Several years of attempted economic and social fixes have failed. Its major cities have reached a tipping point whereby any disaster, manmade or natural, would have devastating consequences. America is no longer seen by its friends or enemies as the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Washington bureaucrats are involved in every decision and political correctness rules the day. The country that used to, only a few short years ago, project its military might outward to the world, has had its own military forces striped to the bone. No service has felt this impact more than the United States Navy. With only a fraction of combat vessels left to patrol the world’s oceans and keep peace in the world, decisions are no longer based on safety and national security but by financial necessity.

With most of its once mighty navy staying in port, and the remainder stretched thinly across the globe, America’s enemies now have different words to describe America: weak…and very vulnerable.

I am happy to participate in the book tour by posting an excerpt from Checkmate
Below is an excerpt from chapter four:


The government background check took almost six weeks to get them cleared into the building. During that time they spent their days scrubbing the software of the specific requirements for the previous user and leaving a clean slate for them to build whatever it was the CIA wanted. It took another four weeks for them to get their initial agency specific Top Secret clearances and find out what they would be doing.
     As it was explained to them by Ramón Rodriquez, the BOATSS system was a new and emerging system global acoustic array that had been designed to identify ships over twenty five tons by their unique sound characteristics or “acoustic” signature. This information would be cross referenced against any other information gathered on the vessel such as photographs of the vessels in port, at sea or by satellite imagery. With this information, a profile could then be created for the particular vessel.
     The emerging concept was that by documenting and tracking the ships, you could identify which ports they visited and potentially predict not only where they were traveling to, but potentially what they were transporting. This was the system the United Nations had wanted and partially funded. The system’s hardware technology was a significant upgrade from the Navy's current Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) array that had begun to show signs of wear and tear due in some part to age but funding issues as well.
     Although upgraded and combined with other systems and now called the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS) the system had not been designed for the overwhelming amount of data now being demanded from it. The new “BOATSS” system was marketed as a standalone system whose information would be released to the UN for treaty and embargo enforcement.
     Like many other programs in D.C., the reality and scope of the program was somewhat different than what was publicly announced or revealed. The reality of the project was that the CIA pushed some much needed funding over to the Navy's side of the ledger for some projects for which the Navy had been unable to acquire funding. They did this in exchange for the Navy's complete acoustical libraries on all foreign ships, and some trained personnel. The CIA's plan was to piggy back the information gathered with old SOSUS sensors onto the new more robust system and be able to track whatever it wanted, where ever and whenever it saw fit.
     Jewels, Gina, and several other new program staff members listened intently to the new employee presentation. The man giving them their briefing said he realized that all this information was a lot to digest on their first day. He addressed his next comments in the direction of Jewels and Gina. He let them know he understood the magnitude of the task at hand and that he would understand if it took some time to get the new software figured out. Ramón Rodriquez explained, in what both Jewels and Gina later described as a most condescending manner, that this was very complex software unlike any he had ever seen.
     It had been quite obvious during the presentation that Ramón Rodriquez was a pig of a man. He gave Jewels the once over, twice, and appeared to be smitten the moment Jewels walked in. He was so obvious that even the other people in the room were uncomfortable.
     At the conclusion of his presentation, Ramón asked them if they had any questions. Jewels found him very annoying and noticed his rather poor attempts at hiding his desire for her. With as dry a wit as she could muster and in an obvious attempt to embarrass him she looked him in the eye and said “I've seen this type of program before and it's actually very simple to use, are you sure this is all they need us to do?”
     Several people snickered.
     Ramón Rodriquez, his face red as a beet, replied yes.
     Jewels was very pleased with herself. As they walked out the door, she nonchalantly asked Ramón, “What is it you do around here?”
     He looked at her with what could best be described as pure detestation and said, “I'm your boss."
***Edited to include: Don't forget, you can  enter a giveaway to win an eBook of Checkmate over on the tour page on Closed the Cover (http://www.closedthecover.com/checkmate-virtual-tour.html.
(Thanks for the reminder, Ashley!)
Follow the rest of the tour here

Tour Schedule

Tour Hashtag: #CheckmateTour

November 14, 2013
Closed the Cover  - Kick-off Post and Giveaway

November 16, 2013
Rants Rhymes Reviews - Book Excerpt & Giveaway

November 17, 2013
Closed the Cover - Guest Post

November 19, 2013
My Nook, Books & More - Book Excerpt and Giveaway

November 21, 2013
Book 2 Buzz - Book Spotlight, Book Excerpt and Giveaway

November 23, 2013
Beth's Book Reviews - Book Excerpt and Giveaway
Book Talk with Alana - Book Review & Author Q&A

November 25, 2013
A Book Geek - Book Excerpt

November 27, 2013
Wi Love Books - Book Excerpt & Author Q&A
Entirely Books - Guest Post

November 29, 2013
Rants - Rhymes Reviews - Book Review

December 2, 2013
Everything Marie - Book Review

December 5, 2013
Feed My Reads USA - Promo and Book Excerpt

December 6, 2013
Closed the Cover - Book Review

Book Details

Author: Jonathan Patrick
Edition: First Edition
Format: eBook
Publication Date: July 22, 2013
Publisher: 3R Publishing

View it on Amazon
Tour Hashtag: #CheckmateTour

About the Author

Jonathan Patrick is a retired U.S. Air Force veteran who lives with his wife and two children in the Carolinas. His military career took him to many countries around the world and exposed him to the inner workings of several key intelligence agencies and programs. He has recently begun work on his second novel.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Anvil of God Blog Tour and Review

Anvil of God by J. Boyce Gleason
Publication date: July 26, 2013 by iUniverse
Source: Publisher/author via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for an honest review
It is 741. After subduing the pagan religions in the east, halting the march of Islam in the west, and conquering the continent for the Merovingian kings, mayor of the palace Charles the Hammer has one final ambition-the throne. Only one thing stands in his way-he is dying.
Charles cobbles together a plan to divide the kingdom among his three sons, betroth his daughter to a Lombard prince to secure his southern border, and keep the Church unified behind them through his friend Bishop Boniface. Despite his best efforts, the only thing to reign after Charles’s death is chaos. His daughter has no intention of marrying anyone, let alone a Lombard prince. His two eldest sons question the rights of their younger pagan stepbrother, and the Church demands a steep price for their support. Son battles son, Christianity battles paganism, and Charles’s daughter flees his court for an enemy’s love.

Based on a true story, Anvil of God is a whirlwind of love, honor, sacrifice, and betrayal that follows a bereaved family’s relentless quest for power and destiny.

My Take:

I found Anvil of God by J. Boyce Gleason to be much more interesting and exciting than I had initially expected. Charles Martel, the mayor of the palace, is only in the book briefly because he is dying. He tries to arrange things so that his sons won't fight each other and hopes that war won't break out. Of course, his fears come to pass due to all the likely reasons. The two older sons, Carloman and Pippin don't think their half-brother, Gripho, should get part of their inheritance and feel that they each will be put at a disadvantage.

Carloman is also heavily involved with and influenced by the Church and he has a large army made up of his Knights in Christ. Pippin, while a great fighter, is not as highly regarded by his brother, his father and the other influential people. These two brothers argue and compete against one another for their father's regard and then for his land and power.

Sunni is Charles' second wife and she is a very likable character due to her intelligence, independence and her personality. She was raised a pagan and still practices the rites in secret. Despite her token acceptance of Christianity, most people around her are suspicious of her and of her son, Gripho.

Charles had one daughter, Hiltrude, called Trudi in the book. Trudi doesn't act like a typical lady of her station. She wanted to wear armor and learn to fight like a man and Charles allowed her to do so. This was not met with much approval, but Charles doesn't seem to have cared much for what other people thought. Trudi was another of my favorite characters because she is strong, independent and smart. She has a tough time because, of course her father has chosen a husband for her and she isn't happy about the chosen candidate at all. She decides to follow her own path and has a long, difficult and exciting journey/adventure/trial to get through.

Anvil of God is full of intrigue, betrayal, battles, corruption, as well as love and loyalty. I don't know very much about this time period or the people involved, but I enjoyed reading Gleason's novel detailing some extremely exciting and violent events.  I appreciated that the author explained what was known about the period and what he changed or made up to tell his story.

I think that anyone interested in military history, the early Church, medieval history and historical fiction in general would enjoy this book.  As with basically any book about this time period, there is a lot of violence of all kinds, so you have been warned.  I found the set up for the series about the Carolingians to be very intriguing and I do look forward to reading more about this violent and dynamic time period and family.

About the Author

J. Boyce GleasonAfter a 25-year career in crisis management and public affairs, J. Boyce Gleason began writing historical fiction and is publishing his first novel ANVIL OF GOD, Book One of the Carolingian Chronicles. With an AB in history from Dartmouth College, Gleason brings a strong understanding of the past to his historical fiction. He is married, has three sons and lives in Virginia.
For more information please visit www.jboycegleason.com.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, October 28
Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, October 29
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Monday, November 4
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Tuesday, November 5
Review at Reading the Ages
Wednesday, November 6
Guest Post at HF Connection
Thursday, November 7
Interview & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Friday, November 8
Review at Library of Alexandra
Monday, November 11
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Tuesday, November 12
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, November 13
Review at From LA to L.A.
Review at The Most Happy Reader
Thursday, November 14
Review at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Monday, November 18
Review & Giveaway at The Bookworm
Tuesday, November 19
Review at A Book Geek
Wednesday, November 20
Review at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, November 21
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Friday, November 22
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie
Monday, November 25
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Interview & Giveaway at The Most Happy Reader
Wednesday, November 27
Review at The Calico Critic
Thursday, November 28
Review & Giveaway at WTF Are You Reading?

Friday, November 29
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Absence of Mercy

The Absence of Mercy by John Burley
Publication date: November 19, 2013 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss for an honest review
Description from Goodreads:

A doctor and father in small town Ohio weighs the need to catch a killer against his fears for his family's safety in this debut psychological suspense novel

Just west of the Ohio River, lies the peaceful town of Wintersville. Safe from the crime and congestion of city life, it is the perfect place to raise a family . . . or so they thought.

Life as the town medical examiner is relatively unhurried for Dr. Ben Stevenson. With only a smattering of cases here and there-car accident victims, death by natural causes-he has plenty of time to spend with his loving wife and two sons. That is until a teenager's body is discovered in the woods and Ben, as the only coroner in the area, is assigned to the case. But as the increasingly animalistic attacks continue, the case challenges Ben in ways he never suspects.

With its eerie portrait of suburban life and nerve-fraying plot twists, this is psychological suspense at its best-an extraordinary debut that challenges as much as it thrills.

My Take:

When I first started reading The Absence of Mercy, I didn't know if I was going to like it, despite the fact that I really liked the premise of the book. It took me a few chapters to get drawn into the story, but once I did, I had a hard time putting the book down.

This book is the stuff of a parent's nightmares. Really. We follow Ben, the medical examiner, working in a small town as he tries to help the authorities solve a brutal murder. The murder itself is horrific and the fact that the victim is a teenager just makes the whole thing worse.

I was pulled into the search for the killer and was intrigued by the way information is given to the reader if one pays attention. The growing horror of gradually figuring out who was behind the murder(s) was pretty gut-wrenching.

I liked how characters are very slowly examined, but at first, it is difficult to determine if a character is just quirky or if it is something more sinister. I was kept guessing for awhile. However, there are clues for the reader about several of the characters.

I think this book will stay with me for awhile. I find myself thinking about certain events or aspects of a character at odd moments. This was a disturbing read, but I couldn't put it down. For a first novel, I think it was pretty impressive and I look forward to reading more by John Burley.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gracious Living Without Servants Blog Tour

Gracious Living Without Servants by Brenda Cronin
Publication Date: October 7, 2013 by Stoneslide Media LLC
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
Juliet has done the right thing all her life, and where’s it gotten her? She’s a thirty-year-old widow who’s had to move in with her parents.
Things start to look up when her glamorous—but married and much older—neighbor Seth seems to be flirting with her and his wife helps her land a job at a local paper.
Then she’s assigned to investigate Seth’s wife. Juliet is quickly immersed in lies, manipulation, and a deepening sex scandal. But she feels alive for the first time in a long time.

Maybe she needs to do the wrong thing for once. Or maybe she’s headed for disaster.

My Take:

Gracious Living Without Servants was quite an unusual book. It isn't often that I love a book but disagree with the main character so very much. I found the premise quite promising and interesting, I loved the location and the way the characters are written and the tone sounds right. However, I just could not understand many of Juliet's actions or her motivations for them.

Juliet is a young widow whose husband dies very suddenly and unexpectedly. This is understandably, a very stressful time for her and she is quite fragile at the beginning of the book. For reasons that I cannot fully comprehend, she begins an affair with a much older neighbor - a friend of her parents and old enough to be her father. This alone had me pretty baffled. I have nothing against age differences, but thirty years is a big difference and Juliet knows his wife. In fact, the wife helps get her a job at the local paper.

Perhaps her affair was a gradual way for her to ease back into her life without really committing to it. I don't really know. But once she is assigned - actually, she asks for the assignment - to investigate Naomi, the wealthy wife of Seth, the man she is having an affair with, she certainly should have broken it off. She doesn't break it off and proceeds with the investigation and even asks Seth for information. I found that quite amusing.

Needless to say, there is quite a scandal to be discovered and Juliet finds more than she bargained for. I enjoyed the process and the story line was quite interesting and entertaining. Naomi isn't quite what she pretends to be, and neither is her husband. I had a feeling about parts of what was discovered just due to the descriptions of how Naomi worked, but the rest, well, I will just leave that alone for now. Despite the obvious conflict of interest, Juliet manages to write a good piece and pulls her life together, probably. Maybe. Naturally, there are consequences to her actions. It is difficult to believe that a thirty year old woman wouldn't be able to see the implications of her actions and how the affair would ultimately end.  I was pleased that everything wasn't tied up in a neat little bow. Life is seldom that neat and this story wouldn't have been as good if that had happened.

I really enjoyed the book even though I couldn't understand or condone Juliet's actions. The book was well written and I enjoyed it very much.

About Brenda Cronin

Brenda Cronin writes for The Wall Street Journal, where she has worked since 2001. Her short fiction has been published on both sides of the Atlantic. This is her first novel. Born in Washington, she was raised in Connecticut and lives in New York City.

Brenda’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, October 15th: bookchickdi
Wednesday, October 23rd: Bibliotica
Monday, October 28th: Book-alicious Mama
Wednesday, October 30th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, October 31st: A Simple Life, Really?
Tuesday, November 5th: Anita Loves Books
Thursday, November 7th: Brooklyn Berry Designs
Monday, November 11th: Amy’s Book-et List
Tuesday, November 12th: A Book Geek
Thursday, November 14th: Obsessed Italian Brat

TBD: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Game: A Thriller

Game: A Thriller by Anders De La Motte
Publication date: December 3, 2013 by Atria Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley for an honest review
Description from Goodreads:

From a former police officer, the first novel in a groundbreaking Scandinavian trilogy about a deadly game that blurs the line between reality and fiction in a world obsessed with social media.After a long night of partying, Henrik “HP” Pettersson, a slacker with a big ego and no impulse control, heads home on the train. Finding a mobile phone from an unknown company, HP begins receiving messages—addressed to him—inviting him to play a game by a secret and insistent master. HP doesn't hesitate before agreeing to play.

HP is the perfect contender: he is alienated from society, devoid of morals, and wants to be a star. The assignments, ranging from childish pranks to criminal acts, are all filmed and uploaded onto a protected server where viewers rate the players’ performances. Everything is coordinated by a mysterious Game Master, unknown to the players or the viewers. But before long, the game spills out into the real world and threatens innocent people.

HP’s sister, Rebecca, is a bodyguard with the Swedish Security Police. The opposite of her brother, she is haunted by traumatic memories and dark secrets from her past. As the game continues, Rebecca begins to realize that her past may not be so secret after all. HP’s assignments become increasingly risky, and he pushes beyond acceptable limits, determined to become a superstar. In the hunt for bigger risks, HP loses touch with reality and puts his own sister in danger. Will HP’s loyalty to the game win out over his love for his family? Or will he come back to reality and save his sister?

With an intriguing blend of break-neck suspense, humor, and informed commentary on social media, Game takes Scandinavian crime fiction to the next level.

My Take:

When I read the description for Game, I was intrigued and hoped that the book would be a fun, fast-paced read. And I was not disappointed. Once I figured out kind of what was going on, I was hooked. The narrative switches back and forth from HP's to Becca's point of view throughout the book. The reader gets to experience their lives parallel to one another and this makes the differences between the siblings really stand out. I was intrigued by their back story and how it still plays into their choices and their loyalty to each other.

The reader follows along as HP gets drawn further and further into the Game and experiences the things he is willing to do in order to gain points, money and notoriety. Or the notoriety he thinks he is gaining. This book has some very interesting things to say about our society and our focus on "likes" and online fame. I found it quite interesting and so much fun.

I loved the conspiracy story line so much. Everyone loves a conspiracy, right? The Game has so much to revel in. I loved how HP slowly gets the bigger picture of what is going on - or what he thinks is going on. There is also lots of questioning what is real and what is fantasy.

There are also some pretty interesting supporting characters in the book who get to make big contributions to HP and his quest. I really liked HP's friend, Mange - or Farook, as he prefers to be called. He seems to be a true friend to HP and one of the people he can count on in a pinch. But there is also something else at play here, but exactly what that is hasn't been revealed yet. Farook has a lot of connections and I suspect he will continue to play a role in the books. At least I hope so.

I'd say the book definitely works, since when I got a couple of chapters into it I had to get the second book because I just knew I would want to read it as well. If it hadn't been so late when I finished reading Game, I would have started reading Buzz, the second book, immediately.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

House of Earth Blog Tour

House of Earth by Woody Guthrie
Publication date: February 5, 2013 by Harper Collins
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
Finished in 1947, House of Earth is Woody Guthrie’s only fully realized novel—a powerful portrait of Dust Bowl America, filled with the homespun lyricism and authenticity that have made his songs a part of our national consciousness.

Tike and Ella May Hamlin struggle to plant roots in the arid land of the Texas Panhandle. The husband and wife live in a precarious wooden farm shack, but Tike yearns for a sturdy house that will protect them from the treacherous elements. Thanks to a five-cent government pamphlet, Tike has the know-how to build a simple adobe dwelling, a structure made from the land itself—fireproof, windproof, Dust Bowl–proof. A house of earth.

Though they are one with the farm and with each other, the land on which Tike and Ella May live and work is not theirs. Due to larger forces beyond their control—including ranching conglomerates and banks—their adobe house remains painfully out of reach.

A story of rural realism, and in many ways a companion piece to Guthrie’s folk anthem “This Land Is Your Land,” House of Earth is a searing portrait of hardship and hope set against a ravaged landscape.

My Take:

I have mixed feelings about House of Earth by Woody Guthrie. There are places in the book where I could really appreciate his poetic and musical writing. Some of his descriptions are quite good and do relay what I think was the desired effect and invoke the desired response from the reader. But, unfortunately, most of the time I was annoyed. First, I have a real problem with most of the dialogue between Tike and Ella. I grew up in Oklahoma and my family has lived there since before it was a state and I don't know anyone who speaks like this. Despite the numerous times that Guthrie says that these people are noble and intelligent and whatever, the dialogue does not support this and just makes them seem stupid and closed off from the rest of the world. There are some authentic phrases used and those were fun to read because I haven't heard them since my grandparents were alive, but for the most part, the dialogue didn't seem real to me. The relationship between Tike and Ella seemed contrived and while it did convey that their physical relationship was a big part of what made them happy together, I really would have preferred to read much much less about that aspect of their lives. (The sex scenes go on for pages.)  It does seem to convey, at least in part, how there isn't much else that is enjoyable in their lives and their struggle to keep ahead of the dust and keep the house standing and their general insecurity about having a place to live.

This book frustrates me because I like Woody Guthrie as a musician and I sympathize with his political ideas.  But I found his writing of dialogue to be annoying and I don't think he should have written sex scenes - ever. That part of the book was just not a pleasant reading experience.

At the same time, some of the descriptions of the landscape and the general descriptions of life for the people living such a hard existence in this barren area were really quite beautiful and poignant. So, I am torn in my feelings about House of Earth. I truly wish that I had enjoyed the book more, but that is just my response to the book. I think there is definitely an audience for the book; sadly, I am just not the audience.  I don't know that it would appeal to everyone, but if you are a fan of Woody Guthrie and want to sample his writing outside of his music, this would be the opportunity. This book might also appeal to those who are interested in a general sense of the hardship of life during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl in Texas and/or Oklahoma.

About Woody Guthrie

Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie (1912-1967) was an American folk balladeer whose best-known song is “This Land Is Your Land.” His musical legacy includes more than three thousand songs, covering an exhaustive repertoire of historical, political, cultural, topical, spiritual, narrative, and children’s themes.

Woody’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, October 22nd: Lavish Bookshelf
Wednesday, October 23rd: The Blog of Lit Wits
Thursday, October 24th: Lit and Life
Monday, October 28th: Mom in Love With Fiction
Tuesday, October 29th: M. Denise C.
Wednesday, October 30th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Thursday, October 31st: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Monday, November 4th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, November 5th: A Book Geek
Wednesday, November 6th: Man of La Book

Thursday, November 7th: Broken Teepee

Monday, October 28, 2013

Innocent Blood

Innocent Blood by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell
Publication Date: December 10, 2013 by William Morrow
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss for an honest review
Description from Goodreads:
In this riveting follow-up to The Blood Gospel, the first book in their thrilling and atmospheric Order of the Sanguine series, New York Times bestselling authors James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell deliver a riveting tale of international adventure, intrigue, suspense, and supernatural mystery involving a modern scientist, a highly secret eternal spiritual order, and a terrifying power who must join forces to bring down a ruthless and cunning enemy and prevent the Apocalypse

While exploring a tomb hidden for centuries in the depths of Masada, Israel, brilliant archaeologist Erin Granger began an incredible journey to recover a miraculous ancient artifact tied to Christ himself. The quest introduced her to a diabolical enemy determined to discover the book and use its powers for his own dark ends. It also led her to an ancient and highly secret Vatican order-known simply as the Saguines. Though she survived, the danger has only just begun . . .

An attack outside Stanford University thrusts Erin back into the fold of the Sanguines. As the threat of Armageddon looms, she must unite with an ancient evil to halt the plans of a man determined to see the world end, a man known only as Iscariot.

With The Blood Gospel, the first novel in the Order of the Sanguine series, James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell breathtakingly combined science and religion and introduced a world where miracles hold new meaning and the fight for good over evil is far more complicated than we ever dreamed. In Innocent Blood, they again take us to the edge of destruction . . . and into the deepest reaches of imagination.

My Take:

I was so pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the first book, The Blood Gospel, that I jumped at the opportunity to read the second book in the series, Innocent Blood. I will state up front, that I was not disappointed by the second book. The subject matter is fun and exciting and the writing is just great. I enjoyed the pacing and I don't know if the authors could have put any more tantalizing hints or characters in the book if they tried.

We follow the characters from the first book and get to know them a bit more. The woman that Rhun turned into a Strigoi, Elizabeth, becomes a major character in the story and there is some debate about who is the real Woman of Learning - Erin or Elizabeth. Either way, she becomes an important figure and plays a vital part in the drama. As with each important character, she is complicated and interesting.

I found one particular new character to be especially interesting. Arella, the immortal woman that Judas loves and encounters over the centuries is such a compelling character. I don't want to give too much away, but I really enjoyed this story line.

I have to say that Rollins and Cantrell definitely know how to keep the reader interested all the way to the end of the story. They also have mastered the art of throwing some tantalizing hints at the reader right at the end of the book, so that you are anxious to read the next one. The Order of the Sanguines Series has so much going for it: vampires, Sanguines (holy vampires?), Judas, Rasputin, ancient mysteries, prophecies, and angels (both good and evil). I'm not sure what more a reader could ask for. Innocent Blood, like The Blood Gospel was such fun to read from start to finish. Highly recommend.

A Man of Honor Blog Tour and Review

  A Man of Honor, or Horatio's Confessions by J.A. Nelson Publication Date: December 9, 2019 Quill Point Press Paperback, eBook & ...