Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: Haunting Jasmine by Anjali Banerjee

Book Details:
Haunting Jasmine
By Anjali Banerjee
Genre: Fiction
Published 2011, Penguin Group
Paperback, 292 pages
ISBN: 9780425238714

          A call from the past brings divorcee Jasmine Mistry home to Shelter Island to run her beloved aunt's bookstore, which has always been rumored to be haunted. With that knowledge, Jasmine embarks on a mystical journey, urged along by her quirky family, and guided by the highly emotional spirits of long-dead authors. Surprisingly, she finds herself moved to heal her broken heart when she falls unexpectedly in love with an enigmatic young stranger.
I was drawn to this book because it centers around a bookstore that is believed to be haunted. The book also has an flavoring of Indian culture, as the main character is of Indian descent, and her aunt, who owns the bookstore, is from India. The combination is an intoxicating mix that I could not resist.
The main character, Jasmine, agrees to watch over the bookstore for her quirky Aunt Ruma, but she has no experience with books, having not read a book in over a year. She longs to update the bookstore to retail standards, but refuses to get to know the bookstore for what it is. With my own experience working in a bookstore, my fingers itched to shuffle through the treasure trove of books that Auntie's Bookstore held, and to help the many customers with their unique book searches - something I am rather good at. Her lack of respect for the bookstore for much of the book got to be irritating pretty quickly.
Jasmine also has quite a bit of her own baggage, since she is coming out of a messy divorce from a philandering ex-husband. This bitterness colors everything she does, as well as her relationship with her own family. This is where the ghosts of Auntie's Bookstore come into play. There is a reason that her aunt wanted her to come to the bookstore to work - a special gift that she shares with Aunt Ruma - that allow her to eventually fully appreciate and utilize the gifts of this particular bookstore.
The bookstore is the main event in this novel, the characters are merely the vehicle that allow the genius of this bookstore to shine. How I wish I could take a trip to this fantastical place!

The Cover: I wanted to read this book for the cover - what you can't see from the picture is actual glitter, on the pink scarf and on the artistic prints - just beautiful.

First Line: "I didn't see this turn of events coming, or going."
While an incredibly vague opening line, hey, I'm still a bookworm, and I want to know about the source of that gorgeous cover!

Favorite Quote: "You're reinventing yourself. We reinvent ourselves all the time, every minute of every day. You can do it. You can untangle yourself from him."

Read For: Read Your Own Name Challenge, Read Your Own Books Challenge, TBR Pile Challenge

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Book Details:
The Help
By Kathryn Stockett
Genre: Fiction
Published 2009, Penguin Group
Paperback, 530 pages
ISBN: 9780425232200

          Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step. Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women - mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends - view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.
Despite the length of this book, I raced through it with ease. I watched the movie before I read the book, and in this case, it made the book much more enjoyable, as I had a few ideas of what to expect. As for book versus movie, I think both are worth the effort, and the movie does a decent job of keeping to the book's overall plot.
The book is told in three voices: Miss Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny. All three are very unique and specific to each personality, and all come through as strong and confident voices. Truly, I cannot say which voice is the strongest, as they all are essential to the narration of the book, nor can I really pick a favorite.
I grew up in Louisiana, and I can remember some of the stories my dad told me of my grandma's having "help" part-time. This book "struck home" for me because I can remember very clearly my grandma's racism, and how even my own dad still harbored some of that racism. The book does a very thorough job of illustrating how racism can infiltrate every mode of thought and speech, from hygiene and bodily functions, to dress and etiquette. Miss Hilly is the epitome of this racism, wearing her ignorance like a badge of honor, but there are varying degrees in many of the other characters. It is easy to see that in many of these situations, the people involved are simply victims of the times and can hardly be blamed for their perspective, as they were never taught to think differently. For that reason alone, I wish that this book had been based on a true story, for the good such a plot could have done in real life.
Miss Skeeter gives the unique perspective of the white women and how they come to fit this mold of hiring and lording over the help, even as she reevaluates her own issues of racism. With her, the reader is able to see into the minds of other prominent women in the story, such as Miss Hilly and Miss Leefolt, and how they reason and justify their treatment of the colored people they hire. Miss Hilly has the unique role of pursuing a greater separation between the two groups, whereas the other white women just go along with whatever they are told. While Hilly does pay the consequences for her behavior, it is unlikely her type ever really learns from their mistakes.
Aibileen seems to represent the voices of the older generation of colored help, mourning her losses of the past while attempting to adjust to the volatile climate of the present war on segregation. She plays the voice of reason for the other two women more often than not, always knowing how they should proceed with their secret project. Her personal focus seems to always be on the children, the ones she has raised that belonged to white women, as well as the loss of her own son. I particularly loved the effort she went through to teach Mae Mobley both self-confidence and an appreciation for humanity that ignores skin color, so much so that I use some of her same tactics with my own daughters.
Minny represents the voice of the younger, more emotional generation of colored help, with her snarky speech and blunt honesty. She kept me laughing from cover to cover, and it's her cooking I would love to try, even despite the pie trick.  Her character also brings to light the poverty and abuse that many suffered through as a result of segregation laws. What I found ironic is that both her and Aibileen, in their struggles to survive, showed a strength and maturity that seems to only arise under extreme circumstances of hardship.
While those segregation laws have been abolished, I know that many of those same mental biases still exist  - and not just in the southern U.S. This wonderful book is only a small part of the education required to erase the ignorance from the hearts and minds of all people. If there is one book you read this year, The Help needs to be it.

The Cover: About the only that makes sense with this cover is that the three birds are representative of the three narrators of the novel. I would have much preferred the cover of the book described in the novel.

First Line: "Mae Mobley was born on a early Sunday morning in August 1960."
Since I watched the movie first, I find this an odd place to begin the book, but it shows how focused Aibileen is on the children she raises.

Favorite Quote: “Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, "Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?”

Read For: Just for Fun Challenge

Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Spotlight: Socialpunk by Monica Leonelle

Today I am featuring Monica Leonelle's first book in the Socialpunk Trilogy, Socialpunk. Monica Leonelle is a well-known digital media strategist and the author of three novels. She blogs at Prose on Fire and shares her writing and social media knowledge with other bloggers and authors through her Free Writer Toolkit. Here is a blurb of the book:

          Ima would give anything to escape The Dome and learn what’s beyond its barriers, but the Chicago government has kept all its citizens on lockdown ever since the Scorched Years left most of the world a desert wasteland. When a mysterious group of hooded figures enters the city unexpectedly, Ima uncovers a plot to destroy The Dome and is given the choice between escaping to a new, dangerous city or staying behind and fighting a battle she can never win.
Here is an excerpt of the book:

          Twelve cups of water sat on the table, four for each of them. Next to each cup sat a pill—yellow for fat, red for carbs, blue for protein, and green for vitamins.

Vaughn took the red pill, ripped it in half like a pack of sugar, and poured it into his cup. He set his cup into a contraption on the table and it whirled and hissed. When the machine finished, the cup had a pink, swirly liquid inside.

Nahum looked at the four cups in distaste.

“Not up to your standards?” Vaughn asked, shooting his drink. He swallowed the mixture in one large gulp. “I would get you something else, but we’re rebuilding our hash. We can’t afford real food, plus it’s bad for you anyway. Extremely difficult to maintain a balanced diet.”

“Synthetic food can’t cost that much,” Nahum countered. He grinned. “We had it in our little fake world, at least.”

Vaughn chuckled. “Synthetic food is even worse for you than real food. Shortens your life. We stopped eating that stuff at the turn of the century. It gave people long-term hyperactivity, which can kill you. LTH took out a lot of the population, kind of like cancer in your day, except a bigger deal because the population had dwindled so low already. Plus, people live indefinitely now.”

Nahum’s nose twitched as he laughed. “People don’t live indefinitely.”

But Vaughn looked genuinely surprised. “Of course we do. Have you seen anyone who looks over the age of twenty-five to you?”

“What does that mean, though?” Ima asked out of curiosity. “How could you live indefinitely? You may not look older, but you still age.”

Vaughn grinned. “Like I said before—there’s a lot you don’t understand about this world.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Guest Post: Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell

Today's guest is Blair McDowell, author of The Memory of Roses, a novel of mystery and romance. Here is a brief blurb of her new book:

          The Greek island of Corfu unearths the enduring love stories of two generations of the McQuaid family. First, renowned archaeologist Ian McQuaid meets the love of his life while recuperating from an illness contracted during a dig in Crete. Even though he is married, his wife had not been a passionate partner for many years, and the appearance of the stunning Maria Calbrese was a miracle sent to him at the lowest point in his life.
Then a generation later, Ian’s daughter Brit travels to Corfu after his death. He left Brit a note disclosing that he owned a villa on Corfu, and that when he was there he had fallen in love with a woman named Maria while still married to Brit’s mother. He asked Brit to deliver a package to Maria, who he thought lived somewhere in Venice. Determined to fulfill her father’s requests and return quickly to the US, Brit’s plan is soon derailed. She meets archaeologist Dr. Andreas Leandros who looks like the Greek gods of ancient times, and her own damaged heart begins to come alive.
What does the mysterious package contain, and how will Brit find Maria as requested by her father? Will finding her change Brit’s life? Will she manage to preserve her bond with Andreas, or will she return to the US to live out her life without him?

Blair McDowell wrote her first short story when she was eleven and hasn’t stopped writing since. After many years producing non-fiction professional books in her field, Blair decided to exercise her rich imagination and write novels of mystery and romance set in places she knows and loves, peopled with characters drawn from her experiences in those locales.
One of her favorite places in the world is Greece, the setting for The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell’s latest novel. While in Greece, Blair was inspired by the ancient culture, friendly people and the picturesque settings, and the plot for The Memory of Roses was born.
Blair has a home on a remote island in the Caribbean where the local lore of the ‘Jumbie’ (‘the dead who walk’) formed the basis for her novel of that name.
The setting for Blair McDowell’s book, ‘Sonata’, is the spectacular city of Vancouver with its vibrant multicultural population and its rich musical life. In ‘Sonata’, Blair McDowell’s love of music comes into play, and is intricately woven into this story of mystery and romance.
Blair is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Romance Writers of America (Greater Vancouver Chapter), and the Romance Writers of America (Women's Fiction).
Welcome Blair!

Confessions of a Hopeless Romantic

The Memory of Roses is now out in both e-book format and in paperback. It’s been a long journey and I’ve had a lot of help along the way.

In my previous life, I had a successful career as a university professor. I wrote six professional books and countless articles in my field and had no difficulty finding a publisher for any of these. Somehow I thought when I retired and turned to something I had always wanted to do—writing romantic fiction—it would be the same. I would write my book, send it off to one of the big five publishers in New York and they would send me a letter full of praise and a contract by return mail.

A friend of mine, a long time writer of fiction, said, “I hope you’re into rejection.”

My first book was rejected, as it should have been. I knew nothing about the craft of writing fiction. Of staying within my character’s point of view, writing believable dialogue, pacing and plotting so that crisis points happened neither too soon nor too late, developing characters that lived and breathed; my ignorance of all these things was abysmal. I somehow thought that all my years as a voracious reader of fiction would enable me to write it.

That’s rather like thinking that years of attending symphony concerts would enable one to play the French horn.

I knew I had to go back and acquire the skills necessary to writing fiction. I took courses, read books on craft, and joined the Romance Writers of America, devouring every issue of their journal, Romance Writer’s Report, from cover to cover. I entered contests and used the judges’ comments in revising my work. I put my works-in-progress in the hands of critique groups. And I kept writing and rewriting.

Finally all the blood, sweat and tears paid off. Elizabeth Carr of Rebel Ink Press liked The Memory of Roses. I remember when she emailed me that she had read half of the book and wanted to publish it, my first reaction was to wish she would read the rest just to be sure. I had become so accustomed to rejection that I hardly knew how to handle acceptance.

In The Memory of Roses, I trace the physical and emotional voyage of a young woman, Brit McQuaid, trying to come to grips with her father’s past. Brit’s journey takes her to the Greek island of Corfu, where she meets a sizzling young Greek archaeologist, Andreas Leandros.

Below is a scene between Brit and Andreas from The Memory of Roses:

She looked at the lines of strain etched on his face. “You know you don’t really have to help tomorrow. Daphne and I can manage the last of the painting. You’re under no obligation to keep coming all this way just to help me.”
“I thought we’d resolved that. I don’t ever do anything out of some mistaken sense of obligation. What I do, I do because I want to.” He paused, placing his hands on her arms in a grip that brooked no interference. “And right at this moment what I want to do is kiss you.”
Before Brit could react to his words Andreas brought his mouth down to hers. His lips touched hers softly at first, then his arms went around her and he buried himself in her mouth, his tongue caressing hers, hunger driven. He groaned, wordlessly declaring his need.
Brit had never in her life experienced such a torrent of desire as swept through her at this moment for this man. She tried to gather her scattered thoughts. Shaken, using every ounce of strength she could muster, she pushed him away. “Stop! We mustn’t do this,” Andreas looked at her, dazed.
“You’re too young for me,” Brit blurted out before she could stop herself. “Just how old are you?"
“Twenty-six. And you’re thirty-two. Daphne told me. A difference of six years. Would it matter to you if I were six years older than you?”
“Of course not.”
“Well then?”
“You’re just twisting things around. You know it’s not the same.”
“I believe that it is exactly the same, and I assure you that I’m not in the least too young for what I have in mind.”
Andreas brought his mouth down again to hers and Brit’s last conscious thought was what the hell! Why not? Why shouldn’t I have this brief interlude? Andreas will return to Santorini in January, and I’m only here for a year. I’ll be sensible later.

Thank you for stopping by, Blair!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Guest Post: Mark of Kane by L.W. Herndon

Today's guest is L.W. Herndon, author of The Mark of Kane, a Thaddeus Kane urban fantasy novel. Here is a quick blurb of the new novel:

          My name is Thaddeus Kane. I exist in Los Angeles, the city known for the hustle of Hollywood, an average 266 days a year of sunshine, and smog.
That’s not my L.A. I operate under the mantle of the city as a troubleshooter for the demon clan who saved my life. Not a bad job if I can stay alive, but I have my limits. I refuse to risk innocents, which causes me problems. That one line I won’t cross for anyone. Loyalties—I have them. I’m pretty sure none of my associates would approve of my particular choices.
Human sorcerers are murdering my clan to harness superpowers and I’m the only one capable of finding the evil. A tough assignment, made harder by my secret alliance with a rival demoness to save prophetic teenagers from the same horrible fate. I’m all they’ve got.

          Rachel, thank you for having me at Jacob’s Beloved’s Blog today.

Creating Rules for Magic

One of the things all writers of fantasy genres struggle with is creating magical rules that are interesting, yet believable within the boundaries of the story.

From my standpoint, a writer is fairly safe as long as they consider three things in creating their magical grimoire. Whether it is for the construction of magical beings, supernatural creatures or alternate histories, we are wise to consider physics, chemistry, and biology. Yes, science. But I’m not talking about obsessing or being exacting over the physical laws of nature or the universe. Heck, people used to think the world was flat. Science shouldn’t be a holdback. The tough part is creating believable reasons for breaking well-known rules.

I’m not saying that an author has to explain the hows and whys of werewolf creation, magical spells or time travel. The story just needs to have some supporting details that make the incredible seem believable. And not everything needs to be laid out like a ten course meal upfront. Layering of descriptive details to support the world and the supernatural alterations can change something outlandish to a fun and interesting read.

As an example, in The Mark of Kane, the fault lines beneath the earth’s surface function as a pipeline for demon travel. By the magical rules imposed in the Kane novels, many of the demons are restricted from daylight travel, depending upon their age and power. With the fault lines riddling the earth, and connecting the various territories of the demons, it provides an available scientific, if magically contorted, solution.

Now I will admit, that I was a bit surprised when I was researching the actual phenomenon to find out that there were so many fault lines. It was also a little unsettling to find out that I lived in an earthquake zone. That had me looking for other tangents to the science that I could use later. Two days after I started researching, I was back to figuring out how I wanted to integrate this into the Kane world. Yeah, research is a big black hole that sucks time from a writer, but I love it and so do most writers.

That cycle of research, brainstorming, and twisting reality is part of how I evolved an easily accessible mode of travel for several main characters in the story. Is there magic? Yes. Does this mode of travel hold up under scrutiny of people with a Bachelor of Science degree? Doubt it. Is it reasonable for fiction in the framework of the series? I like to think so.

What are some of the most outrageous rules your favorite authors have created for their fictional worlds?

~LW Herndon

You can find me on:

For the giveaway: A $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour as well as to the host with the most comments. Additionally, two random drawn winners will receive the 2nd Thaddeus Kane ebook, on its release date, Fall 2012.

Readers can follow the dates and locations for the Mark of Kane Sizzling PR Book Tour @

I tend not to study too closely the rules of magic in the books that I read, as long as something is not too glaringly obvious, I'm just along for the ride, but thank you for the tips on this!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

T-shirt Crafting Experience

So this is totally not book-related, but I can blame a book (loosely) for leading me down this path. The key chain pictured I just finished, though the design is actually a bracelet, made out of cut up t-shirt. I got the idea through Pinterest at this site: Pinterest is addictive, I warn you. I already have 521 pins and counting. It's like bookmarking with pictures for OCD websurfers (like myself).
So anyways, what led me to this t-shirt crafting experience is when I read about Amish rag rug making in Abby Finds Her Calling, and I got curious and looked it up. Turns out it's really not that difficult and is a great way to "upcycle" old clothing, plus the rugs come out beautifully. I'm still working on my first rug, and I'll likely post a picture of it when I'm finished with it. But then, I wondered what else I could do with cut up t-shirts and found this bracelet and immediately though "Keychain!"
On a side note, I have also discovered that a form of rag rug making can be done with crochet techniques. I have since bought a book with Swagbucks-purchased Amazon gift cards - Teach Yourself Visually Crochet - and I'm currently bidding on for crochet hooks and yarn. I'm getting obsessed, I think.

Anyone looking to part with some crochet hooks and yarn?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Guest Post: The Shoppe of Spells by Shanon Grey

Today's special guest is Shanon Grey, author of The Shoppe of Spells, the first in her series The Gatekeepers, about the quaint town of Rutherford, Georgia and its very special inhabitants. Shanon wants to talk about the reality in her fiction. Here is a quick blurb of the book:

          When is a whole more than the sum of its parts? When it has ties to the quaint little town of Ruthorford, Georgia—as Morgan Briscoe discovers when a cryptic message threatens to change her life forever.
Morgan’s relatively normal life is turned on its ear when she learns not only that she is adopted, but her birth parents are dead and she now holds half-interest in a business with their ward, Dorian Drake, who, despite his riveting good looks, can barely conceal his hostility toward his new partner.
Morgan discovers that she is more than she seems and together she and Dorian have the ability to control a portal to another dimension. Unable to contain their growing attraction, Morgan and Dorian dance around their desires and her burgeoning abilities, until danger forces them to face their destiny.

                                                        A Little Reality through Fiction
                                                                   by Shanon Grey

When writing The Shoppe of Spells, I wanted to create the perfect small southern town. I drove all over, looking for the perfect setting. What ended up happening is that I found it by combining many places I visited. The Abbott Bed & Breakfast came from a B&B in McKinney, Texas called the Tartan Thistle, which I had visited on several occasions. It belonged to my best friend’s cousin and once a year she would close its doors and invite a bunch of us “girls” for a week of eating, shopping, touring and gabbing, which we did quite well. This huge old Victorian was perfect for Abbott Bed & Breakfast, which I made even larger in my story. The Scottish theme of much of the décor even matched. What came first? Who knows? That’s that chicken-egg thing.
I just learned that the owners moved and sold the Tartan Thistle. I don’t even know if it will remain a bed and breakfast. However, it will do so in Ruthorford, where it has a place of prominence and import. Owned by Teresa Abbott-Ruthorford, the Abbott Bed & Breakfast anchors Ruthorford and its descendants, the special people that inhabit this fabulous small town. Now, it will remain a reminder of a place I loved and a place that helped inspire my Gatekeeper series.
The large Weeping Willow that is showcased in The Shoppe of Spells, behind the Abbott Bed & Breakfast, also will now exist only in my works. If you’ve been to my site,, you have probably seen the picture of it under Bric-a-Brac. I discovered this majestic old tree while visiting Dunaway Gardens in Georgia and it was perfect for a romantic setting behind the Abbott B & B. I found many other things in this incredible place as well. It helped inspire the grotto scene (a favorite, I might add) in The Shoppe of Spells. I found out recently that one of our treacherous storms took out my beloved Weeping Willow. The owners rushed down and worked diligently to take samples and make repairs in hopes of grafting still living portions to what was left. Fortunately, they are very fast growing trees. So, in another 20 years or so, my beautiful willow should return. It does remain, however, majestic and unharmed behind the Abbott Bed & Breakfast in Ruthorford, Georgia for all to enjoy.
Fiction, besides being a great way to relax and escape the day-to-day worries of this world, also can be a way of adding a bit of life to things that pass on. For me, the Abbott Bed & Breakfast will always be a reminder of fun times and shared laughter and the Willow that stands behind it of regrowth and renewal. As you read my stories, know that I always add a bit of reality to my fiction, not only for authenticity but also for saving a small piece of life on my pages.

How fascinating, Shanon. I always wonder about where authors pull their background information from, so this is wonderful to read about. Thank you for stopping by!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Overbite by Meg Cabot

Book Details:
By Meg Cabot
Genre: Fantasy
Published 2011, HarperCollins Publishers
Hardback, 275 pages
ISBN: 9780061735103

          Meena Harper has a special gift, but it's only now that anyone's ever appreciated it. The Palatine Guard — a powerful secret demon-hunting unit of the Vatican — has hired her to work at their new branch in Lower Manhattan. With Meena's ability to predict how everyone she meets will die, the Palatine finally has a chance against the undead.
Sure, her ex-boyfriend was Lucien Antonescu, son of Dracula, the prince of darkness. But that was before he (and their relationship) went up in flames. Now Meena's sworn off vampires for good ... at least until she can prove her theory that just because they've lost their souls doesn't mean demons have lost the ability to love.
Meena knows convincing her co-workers — including her partner, über-demon-hunter Alaric Wulf — that vampires can be redeemed won't be easy ... especially when a deadly new threat seems to be endangering not just lives of the Palatine, but Meena's friends and family as well.
But Meena isn't the Palatine's only hope. Father Henrique — aka Padre Caliente — New York City's youngest, most charming priest, has also been assigned to the case.
So why doesn't Meena — or Alaric — trust him?
As she begins unraveling the truth, Meena finds her loyalties tested, her true feelings laid bare ... and temptations she never even imagined existed, but finds impossible to resist.
This time, Meena may finally have bitten off more than she can chew.
As a sequel to Insatiable, there were certain things I expected from this book - one of which was Lucien's dark appeal, which seemed to be missing for a large chunk of the book. He brooded and moped and generally felt sorry for himself for his lack of "evilness" while mooning over losing Meena to the Palatine Guard. I also thought that Meena's joining of the Palatine Guard to be an awkward fit, but I understand her motivation - who wouldn't want to get at the secret archives of the Vatican?
Alaric's character grew on me gradually, even though I did not care for him much in the first book. His attraction to Meena is obvious to all but himself, and poor Meena is just confused as she battles with her own feelings between two very different men. I actually found it kind of satisfying that Alaric and Lucien are forced to work together towards the end of the novel.
The significance of the book pictured on the cover is what interested me the most, and I was often frustrated that I could not simply read that little book myself and solve the grand mystery of its power. Always a dramatist, Lucien's reaction to the final revelation is believable, though I found what happened to him to be bit of a cop-out so that Meena would not have to make any difficult decisions.
Some of the most humorous parts were Alaric's interactions with the couple, Mary Lou and Emil, as their very human behavior made it rather difficult for him to treat them as the species he made a living from despising. I also would have liked more development in the romance between Jon and Yelena. Overall, I still enjoyed the book, even though it seemed a bit short, and I hope there is another book to follow.

The Cover: The cover is both lovely and creepy, with the significant addition of a book that had me intrigued for at least half the novel.

First Line: "Meena Harper knew things, things no one else knew... things no one could know."
This opening is a great reminder of Meena's ability and a way to hook my curiosity.

Favorite Quote: "You're psychic. How many times do I have to say it? You know everything."

Read For: Just for Fun Challenge

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Spotlight: A Complicated Life in a Small Townby Tammy Maas

Today I am spotlighting Tammy Maas's new novella, A Complicated Life in a Small Town. Tammy Maas is a writer who moonlights as a domestic Goddess. Her debut Novella, A Complicated Life in a Small Town, is slated for publication on 2-27-2012. Tammy ghost writes for several online clients. She was published by Oatmeal Studios, and was a writer/photographer for Houston County News. Check out her blog at:

Here is the synopsis of her upcoming book:

          The road to hell really is paved with good intentions. Bitter that she was robbed of her childhood, at age eighteen, Lydia Lawson severed all communication ties with her alcoholic parents. Her father commits suicide one year after she leaves home. Twenty-three years later she receives word that her mother is dead and that she has inherited more than just the family home. Lily, a twenty-one-year-old, morbidly obese half-sister with Prader-Willi Syndrome, is found in the basement, too big to move out of the home. Lydia sets out on a life-changing journey trying to help Lily, trying to find Lily s father and trying to find herself. In the interim, she falls in love with Tommy Porter who remains with her right up to the climatic, mind-blowing reveal at the end.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Guest Post: Rise From Darkness by Ciara Knight

Today I have Ciara Knight, author of Rise From Darkness: Battle for Souls, here to talk about author branding. Here is a quick blurb of her new book:

          Alexander Lorre gives new meaning to the term “tormented teen”. He’s a newly fallen angel, which means he has the self-control of a three-year-old, the hormones of a teenager and the strength of an angel. When he rescues Gaby Moore from drowning, the chemistry between them is undeniable. With a local demon threatening Gaby’s life, he struggles to find a balance between remaining close enough to protect her but distant enough to control his desires.
As danger draws closer, Gaby uncovers shattering secrets that will lead to an ultimate choice. Will she fight alongside her father, an earthbound hunter killing fallen angels and demons, give into the demon blood coursing through her veins and join the demon world, or save the man she loves from both? The first two choices damn her, but the last one could destroy them all.
Take it away, Ciara!

          Author Branding
“What do you write?” We’ve all been asked this question. Most authors refer to themselves as contemporary romance, fantasy, or young adult authors. I, unfortunately, do not fit in one specific genre, so what now?
I thought for a long time about this and how I wanted to brand myself as an author. I write young adult and adult, fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, and dystopian/biopunk stories. Could you imagine trying to include all that on a business card?
Since none of the typical branding worked for me, I did some soul searching and asked myself what a reader would think if they heard my name. I took this question and looked at all the books I’d written and planned to write. What is the common theme through all of them?
Before I dove into creating a tagline, I looked at several others. Here are a few I found intriguing:
Ane Mulligan -“Southern Fried Fiction”
James Scott Bell - “Suspense Never Rests”
Brandilyn Collins – “Seatbelt Suspense”
Karen Kingsbury – “Life Changing Fiction”
I turned to my blogging buddies and sat up a poll. There were several fantastic suggestions and I even utilized one for a while but it was too long. A tagline needs to be short, sweet, and memorable.
Writing to the Edge of Darkness was a temporary solution. It fit what I wrote. I take my characters to the edge of no return then pull them back into the light. After more soul searching I realized that I write books that the characters Defy the Dark. No matter how bleak and horrible their lives are they always find the strength to battle whatever is thrown at them.
So, what do you write? Do you have a catchy tagline?
I'm still working on building my own blog brand, and a "catchy tagline" is not even on the horizon!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Guest Post: Some Like It in Handcuffs by Christine Warner

Today I have Christine Warner, author of Some Like It in Handcuffs, here to talk about book beginnings. Here is a quick blurb of her new book:

         Sunny Kennedy is a fledgling private investigator and the only girl in a family of protective male detectives. She’s out to prove testosterone isn’t the main qualification required to solve a cold case. The only things standing in her way are a sexy detective and a killer who will stop at nothing to keep a secret.
Judson Blackwolf, a seasoned homicide detective, thinks women in law enforcement should work behind the scenes. The prospect of working with his Captain’s sexy daughter doesn’t thrill him.
But when their investigation takes a dangerous turn, they realize their feelings for each other, tangled in a web from the past, might not be the only thing to keep them apart.

Now it's your turn, Christine!

          Where to Begin?

Life is full of beginnings.

The beginning of summer, the beginning of school, the beginning of friendships, the beginning of a marriage, the beginning of parenthood, car payments, mortgages, career…the list is endless. But one of the best beginnings is the beginning of a book. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting down to enjoy a good read.

Now, depending on which area you are coming from, the beginning of a book can go two ways. There is the beginning for the reader and the beginning for the writer. Let’s talk about the writer, because in essence what happens at the writer’s level determines what happens at the reader’s level.

For a writer, the beginning of their much anticipated story — the one that has been swirling around in their brain for days, weeks, months, or longer — is a time of worry and painstaking thought. You sit down, an anxious — excited — knot in your belly, a blank computer screen in front of you. Those first few lines you write have to suck the reader into the story and keep them turning page after page until they reach the end. And if they read your book in one sitting — because they couldn’t put it down—then you’ve worked a little bit of writerly magic.

In my opinion the best advice I received when I started writing my debut novel, Some Like it in Handcuffs, was to begin the story and each chapter with a hook — jump right into the action. Don’t begin with background or tell about the scenery or the character’s past. The reader isn’t invested enough in the characters to care — not yet. Begin with a bang and fill in the details as you go along.

Grab them with action! Snappy dialogue, a car chase, an accident, something threatening… the possibilities are endless.

The reader will learn everything to do with background as the story unfolds…as you spoon feed tidbits along the way through the character’s internal thoughts or revealing dialogue. This way the reader is learning about your characters and your characters are becoming their main focus, their friend, someone they will champion. Someone they care about. This, as a writer, is what you want.

So, the next time you pick up a book to read, pay attention if the book starts out with action and if it really draws you into the story. Or if you are a writer and you’re sitting down to start a new project…remember to begin with action to keep your readers attention.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Guest Post and Giveaway: Illicit Magic by Camilla Chafer

Today I have Camilla Chafer, author of the Stella Mayweather series, to talk to us about some of her world-building, as well as give away an e-book copy of the first book in the series, Illicit Magic, to one of my lovely followers! Here is a quick blurb of the book one blog follower will be winning:

          More than three hundred years after the most terrifying witch hunts the world has ever known, it's happening again.
Racing from attack by the ruthless Brotherhood in London to the powerful witch council in New York, twenty-four-year-old novice witch Stella has to put her faith in strangers just to stay alive but she might not be any safer in their midst than from the danger she is running from.
Sent to an extraordinary safe house by the sea to learn her craft, Stella finds there is more than one dark secret in her new family: Étoile’s sister is spoken of in fear and sadness; Marc is supposed to be a powerful witch but is missing his magic; where does the owner of their safe house vanish to every day and why does Evan have the eyes of someone not quite human?
There is only one secret that someone will do anything to keep quiet, but whose secret is it and will Stella have to pay the price for silence?
Take it away, Camilla!

          Reinventing witch mythology
Throughout the ages, witches have been closely identified with cauldrons, black cats, weird ingredients (frogs legs, eye of newt, anyone?), and cackling. Old and warty, witches of yore were often depicted as a little off their marbles. Quite why all this came about, I’m not entirely sure, though I suspect some of it is from the ancient practitioners of herbalism and the elderly spinsters who understood the properties of nature’s produce, and some of it from people’s fears, hundreds of years ago, when an malady or blight could be blamed on a “witch”.
Then, witches in fiction began to change with writers like Alice Hoffman and Joanne Harris who gave us the magical realism genre and imbued their attractive witches with skills that made them intriguing, likeable and mysterious. And, of course, there are many fun witches on film and TV whom practice spells, their magic frequently backfiring for some comedy relief. It’s probably why we’re so intrigued by them; every depiction is so different.
I wanted to incorporate traditional elements and fantasy ones in my witches of the Stella Mayweather series. To support my witches, a blend of urban fantasy and mythology works well rather than entirely reinventing the wheel. So, pentagrams, circles, spells and numbers imbued with power all feature along with supernatural elements (with a few fun extras, of course!) Two kinds of magic exist in my novels. One is the innate magic Stella possesses that allows her to do fun things like dematerializing or telekinesis. The other kind is spell-casting, where spells and potions are used to create magic. Some of my witches can do both. Fortunately with magic, the possibilities are endless. From psychic visions to controlling the weather, necromancy to summoning fire, my witches have a wonderful array of skills.
My witches don’t get an easy ride. It would be no fun if they did! In fact, you’ll never know what you’re getting with the witches that pop up through the series. Neither ‘light’ nor ‘dark’, they can be loyal or devious, power hungry or willing to give it all up for a normal life. They can heal and kill. The witches have their own specific powers, so Stella had better watch out or start fighting back!
Now for the giveaway!
To enter the giveaway for one e-book copy of Illicit Magic by Camilla Chafer, you must be a follower of Jacob's Beloved's Books by one of the following methods: Google Friend Connect (right sidebar), Twitter, Networked Blogs, or RSS Feeds. I will double check! Only enter the giveaway once, as I don't do extra entries. Giveaway is open to all, and ends Friday, April 13th.

Fill Out the Form

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Book Details:
Catching Fire
By Suzanne Collins
Genre: Young Adult
Published 2009, Scholastic Inc.
Paperback, 391 pages
ISBN: 9780439023535

          Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.
Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.
In Catching Fire, the second novel of the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before... and surprising readers at every turn.
Despite the fact that both Katniss and Peeta have survived the Hunger Games and returned home, the feel of the book is similar to how it felt when they were still entrenched in the drama of the Hunger Games, like they still have to be aware that everything they do and say is being watched and judged by the Capital. There is no feeling of gratitude or relief, only a pervading sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. The suspense alone kept me from putting the book down much at all until I had finished it.
I really feel for Gale in this book, more so than the first book, both because he has made his feelings known and because "the odds" are never in his favor. He has absolutely no control in his relationship with Katniss simply because the Capitol keeps taking her away from him.
Before I read this book, I was careful not to read too many spoilers, and I wondered if there would be another Hunger Games event in the second book. With the 75th anniversary, this is taken to a whole new level, and of course abused by the Capitol for its own nefarious means. Still, I was curious as to how Suzanne Collins would make it more macabre than the previous one, and she did not disappoint.
I do have to wonder how Katniss completely missed so many clues about the organization of the rebellion against the Capitol. Even though she had moments of suspicion, she was so focused on the survival of Peeta and herself, she could not take the time to ask a few questions, which was frustrating.
There were also a few moments of humor interspersed throughout the book, which helped to give me a bit of relief from the suspense and tragedy. Many of the new characters introduced in this book were quite interesting in their own way, and I especially liked the oldest ones because of their surprising ability to survive in ways other than brute strength.
Overall, this book is as engrossing as the first, and I look forward to completing the series with Mockingjay.

The Cover: The simplicity of the cover is striking and give prominence to the symbol of the Mockingjay.

First Line: "I clasp the flask between my hands even though the warmth from the tea has long since leached into the frozen air."
I can feel the cold when reading this, and I am instantly reminded of the kind of conditions that the people of District 12 deal with everyday.

Favorite Quote: “I really can't think about kissing when I've got a rebellion to incite.”

Read For: Young Adult Challenge, Dystopia Challenge, Finishing the Series Challenge

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Haunting Jasmine by Anjali Banerjee

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
          I get up, insomniac that I am, and peruse Auntie's shelves in her tiny living room. A draft wooshes in through an open window, ruffling the pages of a book perched on the sill. 'The House at Pooh Corner.' Scrawled inside the front cover are the words in black ink, 'Jasmine, don't be afraid to start again.... A. A. Milne'.
The handwriting leans backward, and a couple of small ink blotches mar the page. Auntie must have written this. A. A. Milne could not have penned the words. He died years ago and left only his books, his characters, his imagination. - pg. 120, Haunting Jasmine by Anjalee Banerjee

What are you reading this week?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Review: Abby Finds Her Calling by Naomi King

Book Details:
Abby Finds Her Calling
By Naomi King
Genre: Christian Fiction
Published March 2012, New American Library
Paperback, 320 pages
ISBN: 9780451235732

          The Lambright family's eldest daughter, Abby, runs her own sewing shop. There, she mends the town's clothes and their torn relationships. But the town maidel has sworn off any suitors of her own because of her unrequited love for James Graber, who is about to marry her younger sister, Zanna... On the wedding day, Zanna is nowhere to be found, breaking James' heart. Zanna has brought shame to her family, but there's more in store for them when they discover how far she has fallen. Long-buried secrets come to light, and they test the bonds of the Cedar Creek community. Abby is at the center of it all, trying to maintain everyone's happiness. But will she ever find her own?
This is only the second Amish book I have ever read, but I really like the setting for fiction literature. The romance is clean, the majority of the characters have conservative values and traditions, such as the importance of God and family, and the language is clean. I love the way that the Amish community supports one another in business endeavors, or is so willing to lend a hand when tragedy strikes. One of the characters, Zanna, actually makes a business out of rag rug making, which intrigued me enough to try my hand at the craft myself.
Zanna does something completely out of character for the typical Amish young woman, but manages to fight for what she wanted despite the consequences of her actions, finding support in her oldest sister, Abby. Abby is more of a side character to the main plot of what is happening to Zanna. Abby nurses unrequited love for another character throughout the entire book, which is never really answered to, though there were hints of this changing in the next book in the series. Many of the characters are memorable in their own unique way, such as James's skill with making carriages that earns him employment to make a princess carriage for Disneyland, of all things. One of the older married couples also struggles with dementia throughout the book, which makes for some interesting and poignant scenes.
I could not have predicted how Zanna's predicament would impact another family so much for the better, or even how the book would have gathered all the lose ends at its finality, but the book came together very well with a sweet ending. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Cover: The cover is simple and gives me an image of the simplicity of Amish ways.

First Line: "James Graber inhaled the crisp October air and grinned up at the rising sun."
A beautiful and picturesque opening line - I anticipate the rest of the book will be just as well-written.

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*
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