Monday, September 20, 2010

Book Review: The Book of Unholy Mischief

Title: The Book of Unholy Mischief
Author: Elle Newmark
Publisher: Atria Books, a division of Simon and Schuster
Pub Date: 2008
ISBN: 1-4165-9054-4
Pages: 367
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher to post my honest review.

From the publisher:
In a world of violence and intrigue. Who guards the truth?

It is 1498, the dawn of the Renaissance, and Venice teems with rumors about an ancient book of unimaginable power. It is an alchemist's dream, with recipes for gold, immortality, and undying love. Everyone, rich and poor alike, whispers and wonders. But while those who seek the book will stop at nothing to get it, those who have it will die to protect it.

As a sotrm of intrigue and desire circles the republic that grew from the sea, Luciano, a penniless orphan with a quick wit and even faster hand, is plucked up by an illustrious chef and hired for reasons he cannot yet begin to understand, as an apprentice in the palace kitchen. There, in the lavish home of hte most powerful man in Venice, he is initiated into the chef's rich and aromatic world, with all its seductive ingredients and secrets.

Luciano's loyalty to his street friends and the passion he holds for a convent girl named Francesca remain, but it is not long before he, too, is caught up by the madness. Armed with a precocious mind and an insatialbe curiousity, Luciano embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. What he discovers will swing open the shutters of his mind, inflame his deepest desires, and leave an indelible mark on his soul.

Rich with the luxurious colors and textures of Venice, The Book of Unholy Mischief delights the senses and breathes fresh life inot an age defined by intellectual revival and artistic vibrancy. A luminous and seductive novel, it is, at its heart, a high-spirited tribute to the fruits of knowledge and the extraordinary power of those who hold its key.

About the Author:

My review:
I think most of us have wanted something at some point in our lives, that we will do just about anything to attain it. This book is a journey that explores that idea and leaves you breathless on the search to see who will find the prized book and how they will do it. The writing is very good and the book moves at a pace that keeps you running with the characters to find their ultimate quest. I highly recommend this selection.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Giveaway

Check out my review of A Geography of Secrets and the guest post from the author, Frederick Reuss. I have one copy of this book to giveaway. Please leave a comment below about your favorite secret agent movie or book or even details of your perfect secret agent job. Don't forget to leave your email so I can contact you if you are the winner. This giveaway is open to US only and the winner will be chosen on Friday, September 17. Good Luck!

Guest Post: Frederick Reuss

Frederick Reuss was gracious enough to do a guest post for my blog and I can't thank him enough. I have posted a review of his new book so be sure to check it out.

Frederick Reuss’ new novel, A GEOGRAPHY OF SECRETS, out on September 7th, is a meditation on secrecy in Washington, in the life of the city and in the life of the private individuals who work in and for it.

It wasn’t until my father died that I realized how much I didn’t know about him. He was quiet and kept to himself. Wasn’t a big talker. It seemed something to be proud of – having a quiet, reserved, strong dad. But he was also unhappy and died looking old and worn out at sixty one. What had worn him out so? From outside he was not much different from the other fathers. Took the N4 bus to work. Came home at night. When we were posted overseas there was an amped up feel to everything about our life – official cars and houses and functions and nobody ever asked what, exactly, it was that he did. Cultural attaché was one title. Public affairs officer, another. He worked for USIA—United States Information Agency (which was called USIS overseas, for US Information Service to avoid confusion with CIA). During the Cold War, the mission of the agency was to spread the American gospel around the world by cultural means. Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie. The very first concert I ever went to was Charlie Byrd. USIA sponsored tours. America Houses – big public libraries where people around the world could have free access to American books and movies and music.

We never doubted it was what he did, that it was a good thing to be doing. We were proud of him. But many of the places he traveled to now read like an itinerary of the worst political meltdowns of the mid-20th century. Aside from the postings in Ethiopia, Nigeria, India, Germany and Switzerland, he’d spent significant time in Tel Aviv, Cairo, Beirut, Saigon, Lisbon and Tripoli. A picture of him once appeared in the Herald Tribune -- arriving in Zürich with a woman who had been jailed by the Iranian government on spying charges. The photo caption identifies him as a bodyguard, and he looks straight from central casting. Trench coat. Beard. George Clooney in the movie Syriana – except that it was 1981. I always wondered about that picture. He thought it was funny. The bodyguard bit. Then there are the Vietnam pictures that show him with a gun slung over his shoulder…

Everyone wants to be proud of their parents. To think of them as good people doing good things – even in tragic situations or if things don’t turn out quite as had been hoped – the instinct is to protect that essential goodness. When doubt creeps in, it’s like a slow drip and creates a ripple effect; and when you begin to dig and a broader, wider world opens up – the man and the life begins to shrink down and suddenly everything becomes a context within a context. You dig and dig and eventually you hit a wall, there is nothing left to rely on and everything goes quiet. Nobody wants to talk. Think of Germany after the war – quiet for a generation and nobody living had done anything wrong, yet there is this heavy atmosphere of regret that hangs over everything and you want to know what and why and who and where and when. The answers may not be accessible, but it’s nonetheless important to ask the questions. A GEOGRAPHY OF SECRETS is an attempt to frame some of them.

Book Review: A Geography of Secrets

Title: A Geography of Secrets
Author: Frederick Reuss
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Pub Date: September 2010
ISBN: 978-1-60953-000-6
Pages: 276
Genre: Fiction
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher to post my honest review.

From the publisher:
Two men: One learns the cost of keeping secrets, even in a government agency where secrets are the operational basis. Noel Leonard works for the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center, mapping coordinates for military actions halfway around the world. One morning he learns that his error has led to the bombing of a school in Afghanistan. And he knows suddenly that he is as alone as he is wrong. From his windowless office in DC, to an intelligence conference in Switzerland, and back to his daughter's college in Virginia, Noel claws his way toward a more honest life, one in which he can tell his family everything every day.

Another man sees that secrets have kept him from learning who he is and from seeing the ineluctable ways he is attached to a world he has always disdained. This unnamed narrator, a cartographer, is the son of a career diplomat whose activities during the Vietnam War and, afterward, in Europe may not have been what they were said to be. This man also travels to Switzerland, but his quest is not for a release from secrecy-it is to learn just how deep the secrets in his own life go.

With a voice like le Carre's and the international sensibility of Graham Greene, Frederick Reuss examines the unavoidably covert nature of lives that make their circles through the District of Columbia. A Geography of Secrets is a novel of the time from an aclaimed author who knows personally the lay of the land.

About the Author:
Frederick Reuss is the acclaimed author of Horace Afoot, Henry of Atlantic City, and The Wasties. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and two daughters.

Upcoming Events for the Author:
Thursday, September 23, 2010 12:00pm-1:15pm - Fairfax - VA
Fall Festival of the Book - Reading & Signing
Sandy Springs Bank Tent, Outside the Johnson Center
George Mason University
4400 University Drive MS3E4
Fairfax, VA 22030

Friday, Sept. 24th 6-8:00pm - Bethlehem, PA
Book Launch: Reading & Booksigning
Moravian Book Shop
428 Main Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018-5869

Saturday, Sept. 25 @ 1pm - Washington, DC
Reading, Q&A & Booksigning
Politics & Prose Bookstore
5015 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008

Presentation - March 4th, 2011
College of Southern Maryland, Leonardtown Campus
Specifics TBA

My review:
A Geography of Secrets is a book filled with mystery and intrigue and it let my mind explore the secrets of those in government positions. I think we have all watched movies where government employees with secrets led us to believe that we might like to try that out for ourselves some time. I liked this book as it is a story that could happen in our world of today and it made me feel as if I was part of the action. I was able, if even for a few short hours of reading, to live vicariously in the pages and seemingly live out my fantasy of trying out a job as an employee in the US government with secrets.

The writing is very good and it makes you think about your own life and the world you live in. I particularly liked that Reuss began each chapter with GPS coordinates-you only need to put those coordinates into Google Earth and see the places he describes as you are reading about them.

Read an Excerpt:
“Don’t you think that’s a little dangerous?” He set another ball on the tee without so much as a glance in my direction.
“Hey!” I called.
He relaxed his grip and turned to me with an expression of forced calm. He was well over six feet tall, with bunched athletic shoulders and a neatly trimmed goatee. His hair was cropped short, and he wore a red Washington Nationals baseball cap. My heart was thumping. “There’s a busy road down there. You could cause an accident.”
“You know what this is?” He held the club up, pointed to its absurdly outsized metal head. “Big Bertha. Titanium cup face, carbon composite body. Named after a forty-three-ton mobile howitzer. I can drive a ball three hundred yards with this sucker. Wanna try?” I shook my head.
“Go ahead,” he urged, as if my anger was priggish and unjustified. “The gun was named for Adolph Krupp’s wife. It was fired for the first time on August 12, 1914, outside Liege. Took sixty seconds for the shell to travel the distance. Over nine miles. Then, boom! Fuckin’ World War I.” It was dark now except for the glow of traffic below and a single streetlight farther up the road. “The canal down there is a national park. I’m sure there’s a law against littering it with golf balls.” “Who are you? The neighborhood watch?” He shook his head and yanked the tee out of the ground. Muttering, he stalked off.
I remained for a while, feeling as if I’d somehow earned rights to the spot. An airplane descended overhead, following the Potomac down to the airport. Across the river and through the trees, I could see traffic moving along the George Washington Parkway. Like many who call D.C. home, I am not from here but of here. I am not from anywhere, really, and yet I call this city home. It’s a strange triangulation of geography, psychology, and fate and makes for great confusion, a confusion that calls for—no, demands—a map. Or many maps since, in cartography, a true one-to-one correspondence is impossible. The moment we begin to apply scale, we distort and alter our relationship to the world. Finally, I got into the car and drove home, listening on the radio as NPR reported on a missile strike against a Taliban guerrilla leader in Helmand Province.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Book Review: Darcy's Voyage

Title: Darcy's Voyage
Author: Kara Louise
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pub Date: September 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4022-4102-4
Pages: 512
Genre: Fiction
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review.

From the publisher:
In this enchanting and highly original retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet sets out for the new world aboard the grand ship Pemberley's Promise. She's prepared for an uneventful voyage until a chance encounter with the handsome, taciturn Mr. Darcy turns her world upside down.

When Elizabeth falls ill, Darcy throws convention overboard in a plan that will bind them to each other more deeply than he ever could have imagined

But Darcy and Elizabeth's journey is only beginning as one obstacle after another conspires to keep them apart. Will the love they find aboard Pemberley's Promise be able to carry them through storym waters to the calm harbor of happily ever after? Or will the tides of society's rules shipwreck their hearts?

About the Author:
Kara Louise grew up in Los Angeles, but now lives on ten acres just outside Wichita, Kansas, with her husband, Dan. She is the author of half a dozen successful Jane Austen related novels. Visit her website at

My review:
Kara Louise brings Pride and Prejudice to life again in Darcy's Voyage. This new "what if" book brings Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy together in a new setting aboard a ship. Both characters are reunited about this ship after a chance meeting a few years earlier and this story brings them from a familiar feeling to falling in love.

I like this book and the writing is very good. I always seem to think how could there possibly be more stories about the characters from Pride and Prejudice, but this one is fresh and convincing. The ideas of class and love are easily transformed from the original into this selection and it transported me back to remembering my first time reading Pride and Prejudice and I was once again swept up into the lives of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Book Review: The White Horse King

Title: The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great
Author: Benjamin Merkle
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers
Pub Date: 2009
ISBN: 978-1-5955-5252-5
Pages: 234
Genre: History/World/General
I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishing for my honest review.

From the Publisher:
The unlikely King who saved England. Down swetp the Vikings from the frigid North. Across the English coastlands and countryside they raided, torched, murdered, and destroyed all in their path. Farmers, monks, and soldiers all fell bloddy under the Viking sword, hammer, and axe.

Then, when the hour was most desperate, came an unlikely hero. King Alfred rallied the battered and bedraggled kingdoms of Britain and after decades of plotting, praying, and persisting, finally triumphed over the invaders.

Alfred's victory reverberates to this day: He sparked a literary renaissance, restructured Britain's roadways, revised the legal codes, and revived Christian learning and worship. It was Alfred's accomplishments that laid the groundwork for Britain's later glories and triumphs in literature, liturgy, and liberty.

About the Author:
Benjamin Merkle is a Fellow of Theology and Classical Languages at New Saint Andrews College and a contributing editor to Credenda/Agenda. He received an MA in English literature from the University of Idaho and an MSt in Jewish Studies at the University of Oxford, and is currently pursuing his doctorate at the University of Oxford.

My review:
Merkle has written a biography of Alfred the Great that reads like a fantastic fictional novel. I like that Merkle has written it in this way as I think it encourages those that aren't history fans to rethink their opinions on historical books. I did not know much about King Alfred before I started this book and it gave me a great, detailed view of his life and all that he accomplished. It was nice to read about Alfred as King and Alfred as a person, in order to get a well-rounded view of his life. It is a short, quick read and you do not need to be an historical scholar or history buff to enjoy it.

Book Review: Outlive Your Life

Title: Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference
Author: Max Lucado
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Pub Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8499-2069-1
Pages: 208
Genre: Religion/Christian Life
I was given a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers to give my honest opinion in a review.

I loved the blurb that was included on the inside flap of the cover of this book and have to share it:
We are common folk. We sit in the bleachers, eat at diners, change diapers, and wear our favorite team's ball cap. Fans don't wave when we pass. Servants don't scurry when we come home. Chauffeurs don't drive our cars; butlers don't open our doors or draw our baths. Doormen don't greet us, and security doesn't protect us. We are regular folk.

And we wonder: Does God use people like us?

He did. God stampeded the first-century society with swaybacks, not thoroughbreds. Before Jesus came along, the disciples were loading trucks, coaching soccer, and selling Slurpee drinks at the convenience store. Their collars were blue, and their hands were calloused, and there is no evidence that Jesus chose them because they were smarter or nicer than the guy next door. The one thing they had going for them was a willingness to take a step when Jesus said, "Follow me."

Are you more dinghy than cruise ship? More stand-in than movie star? More blue jeans than blue blood? Congratulations. God changes the world with folks like you.

Dear Friend,
May I share a story that is very dear to my heart? It's a story of hillbillies and simple folk, net casters and tax collectors. A story of a movement that exploded like a just opened fire hydrant out of Jerusalem and spilled into the ends of the earth: into the streets of Paris, the districts of Rome, and the ports of Athens, Istanbul, Shanghai, and Buenos Aires. A story so mighty, controverial, head spinning, and life changing that two millennia later we wonder: Might it happen again?

Heaven knows we hope so. These are devastating times: 1.75 billion people are desperately poor, on billion are hungry. Lonely hearts indwell our neighborhoods and attend our schools. In the midst of it all, here we stand: you, me, and our one-of-a-kind lives. We are given a opportunity to make a difference during a difficult time. What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope? Worth a try, don't you think?

About the Author:
Max Lucado is a minister who writes and a writer who preaches. He and his wife, Denalyn, serve the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas. They have three grown daughters, Jenna, Andrea, and Sara; one son-in-law, Brett; and one sweet but lazy golden retriever, Molly. Visit his site at

My review:
The book is organized in very short chapters that are essentially a short story that relates an uplifting message or describes a situation where the power of God can and has made a difference. It makes you wonder about your own life, your place in the world and what kind of a difference you can make. Often, I think I am just one little person in this world and how could one small gesture make a difference. In this book, Lucado inspires and shows how one little person in this world can make an impact. He leads you to imagine what kind of place our world could become if we all make the effort of one small gesture.

I particularly like the Discussion and Action Guide that is included at the end of the book. It gives discussion questions for each chapter and contains ideas for action on how you can make a difference in the world. This book is a fantastic tool to be used by an individual or in a group setting.

I urge you to get a copy of this book and see what a difference you can make in your life and in our world. 100% of the author's royalties from this book will benefit children and families through World Vision and other ministries of faith based compassion.

Live Author Chat with M.J. Rose

Thursday, Sept. 16th at 3PM ET,
Bestselling author M.J. Rose will be chatting with readers about The Reincarnationist Series and topics on the writing and publishing process.

Send in Questions in Advance & be entered to win all three books in The Reincarnationist Series. You can participate live or send your questions for M.J. Rose in advance to Readers who send question in advance are eligible to win a complete set of The Reincarnationist Series (The Reincarnationist, The Memorist, and The Hypnotist). Five winners will be selected at random from all eligible entries received by September 15th.

To learn more about The Reincarnationist Series, visit and read about fascinating subject matter that inspired by the books.

You can take part in this live chat on Wednesday, September 16 at 3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. ET by going to (no special log in required).

Book Review: Hawk of May

Title: Hawk of May
Author: Gillian Bradshaw
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pub Date: September 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4022-4070-6
Pages: 384
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy

From the Publisher:
Framed by historical realism, Gillian Bradshaw expertly weaves convincing magical elements into her fantastic tale of Gwalchmai, the Hawk of May. Son of the beautiful, infinitely evil sorceress Morgawse, nephew to King Arthur, Gwalchmai is forced to choose between his mother's path to Dark power and Arthur's empire of the Light.

Gwalchmai, more familiar to readers as Gawain, is known as one of the most respected warriors of King Arthur's reign and one of the greatest champions of all time. But Gwalchmai was not born a brilliant warrior. Showing no talent for fighting, his father, King Lot, favors his older brother. Desperate for a path in life, Gwalchmai turns to his sorceress mother and asks her to learn the dark magic. Scared, Gwalchmai continues lessons with his mother because he has no other choice-until he discovers his innocent, talented younger brother Medraut is following his example on the night of a human sacrifice.

Gwalchmai flees to his solitary place on the seaside. There, he encounters an otherworldly boat, which takes him to the god Lugh of the Longhand. Light and goodness, in the magical realm of Lugh, accepts him. Lugh gives Gwalchmai a precious magical sword, and entreats him to join Arthur's warband as a warrior of Light. But fulfilling Lugh's wishes is more difficult than expected, as the Darkness is very strong...

About the Author:
I was born in 1956 in Washington DC, second daughter of an English mother and an American father. I grew up in Washington, Chile, and Michigan. At the University of Michigan I did joint honors in English and Classics, and won the Hopwood Award for Fiction, the Bain-Swigett Prize for poetry in traditional form, and the Phillips Prize for Classical Greek. From U of M I went to Newnham College, Cambridge, in the UK, to read Classics. I sold my first novel while I was supposed to be revising for my final exams; revision suffered, but I still managed a 2-1. I liked Cambridge very much, so decided to stay on for another year while working on another novel. Then, like many another woman, I Met a Man. He was working on his PhD in Physics. The following year he had a position as a post-doc in Paris, and I discovered a pressing need to learn French. We've been married 28 years now, quite blissfully. We went from Paris to California, then back to Cambridge for a long time. We are currently based in Coventry and the University of Warwick. We have four children and one grandson (exceptional for beauty and intelligence, of course! Am I a doting granny? You better believe it!) We live in Coventry, have a garden and a dog, and go walking in the country a lot.

My review:
I love anything related to Britain and can't seem to read enough about the history of the area. I think, perhaps, that is one reason I am fascinated with the stories of King Arthur and I jumped at the chance when offered a copy of this book. The Hawk of May is the first book of a trilogy and was first published in 1981 and won the Hopwood Award for fiction and launched Bradshaw's career, and is now being republished.

I was captivated by the author's writing and her perspective of using a main character other than King Arthur to tell a story related to him. The book is stock full of adventure, magic, and struggles and leaves you feeling like you are one of King Arthur's retinue. It is a classic story of choice, choosing between a life of good or evil and the path Gwalchmai takes to decide his future. The book is fast paced and before I knew it, I was at the last page. I thoroughly enjoyed a new take on the King Arthur legends and I hope you will all check it out.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Guest Post: Margo Candela

How to Write a Novel Without Going Nuts

I’ve written five novels, seen four published and adapted two of my books into screenplays in eight years. Yes, I’m crazy. Rather, I’ve come close to going crazy more than a few times.

My most recent brush with almost-crazy was during a frantic five week rewrite of Good-bye To All That (Touchstone, July ’10). The only thing that saved me from going completely bonkers was that I didn’t have time to check into a padded room and two other crucial things I’ve incorporated into my writing career.
The first is most important, least sexy and so obvious it’s easy to ignore is planning. Yes, a writer has to have a plan to give her a general idea as to what she’s writing about and when she wants to get it done.

I’m not saying all writing has to be about outlines and deadlines, but when your editor is sending you emails with promotion plans and your book cover and you’re not done with the book yet? That puts having a plan into an urgent perspective. I have to have both an outline and a drop dead due date or else I won’t have any idea what I’m doing it and I’d never finish it anyway.

The second piece of how to not let writing a novel drive you crazy is so contrary to the actual writing of a novel, that it’s easy to not do. And it is: stop typing. Taking breaks and doing something besides typing won’t up your word count, but it could help you meet it all the sooner.

I’ve found, after eight years of sitting at my desk, is that I have to make a point to leave my desk, novel and all that goes along with my writing career for at least an hour a day with little breaks here and there to supplement my daily big break from it. While it might sound indulgent and counterproductive, I’ve realized I’m a writer, not a machine.

When all you think and talk about is your novel-in-progress, you’ll soon find that there aren’t many people who’ll want to hang around you. Around my house the phrase “Have you been to the gym lately?” has become my husband’s way of telling me I’m tap dancing toward crazy.

It’s taken me a while, years, but half the work that comes with writing a novel is finding a balance between writing and real life. There are a myriad of other coping mechanisms, some that I’m sure are way more fun, but these two have consistently worked to keep me from going off the deep end.

Book Feature: Goodbye to All That by Margo Candela

From Publishers Weekly
Getting ahead in Hollywood poses a challenge for Raquel Azorian, a lowly marketing assistant at a major production company, and while she has ambition, energy, and smarts, the heroine of Candela's wry latest doesn't have a mentor or even a boss who can hold it together. Determined to chart a course that will save her job and yield a well-deserved promotion, Raquel goes Working Girl, calls on her few friends, and begins making big plans. When a sexy superior takes an interest in her, there's equal potential for success and disaster; meanwhile, her parents and brother have plenty of problems and lean on Raquel for help. Candela (More Than This) combines a cunning wit with a deep understanding of the office politics specific to the entertainment industry to create a frantic atmosphere and a near breathless momentum as the story barrels toward an ending that's anything but your focusgrouped happy fade-out.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author:
I was born and raised in Northeast Los Angeles and moved to San Francisco to attend college. I ended up staying there for a decade before moving back home in 2005. My first three novels, More Than This (Touchstone, Aug. 2008), Life Over Easy (Kensington, Oct. 2007) and Underneath It All (Kensington, Jan. 2007) are set in San Francisco.

More Than This was a Target stores Breakout Book and an American Association of Publishers national book club selection at Borders Books with Las Comadres. My current novel, Goodbye To All That (Touchstone, July 13, 2010) is my first novel set in Los Angeles and is the only novel picked by Los Angeles Magazine for it's 2010 Best of L.A. list.

Book Review: Mr. Darcy's Little Sister by C. Allyn Pierson

Title: Mr. Darcy's Little Sister
Author: C. Allyn Pierson
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publishing Date: September 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4022-4038-6
Pages: 448
Price: $14.00 US/ $17.99 Can

From the Publisher:
Mr. Darcy is the best big brother-generous to a fault, protective (never teasing), and altogether incredible. Now if only he wasn't quite so overbearing as to scare all Georgiana's suitors away...But the matchmaking and intrigue-filled ballrooms of London are rife with rogues and fortune hunters, and Darcy is determined to keep those types away from shy, sweet Georgiana Darcy.

Under the guidance of her graceful sister-in-law and watchful eye of her over protective brother, Georgiana will have to make the transition to a confident young woman wiht her own engaging story to tell, instead of being simply Mr. Darcy's little sister...

About the Author:
Iowa physician Carey A. Bligard writes fiction under her pen name, C. Allyn Pierson, and has practiced Dermatology in Fort Dodge, Iowa, for the past twenty-three years. She grew up in Oregon and Hawaii and earned a bachelor's degree in biology at the University of Oregon. She attended medical school at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, and specialized in Dermatology at Tulane University Medical School in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has traveled on medical mission trips all over the world and has been the medical director and physician for 9 missions to Nicaragua in the past 6 years.

Carey is married to Dr. Eric W. Bligard, an eye surgeon and avid tennis player, and they have two sons. Their eldest started medical school in August, 2010, at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis working toward both MD and PhD degrees. Their younger son is twenty-one years old and has severe autism and is nonverbal. He lives in a group home in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The Bligards share their home with two dogs, Muzzy, a 5 year old Newfoundland of immense size, and Kai, a Yorkshire Terrier of immense character.

In writing her novels, C. Allyn Pierson returns to an early love of writing and history and draws inspiration from the works of her favorite author, Jane Austen. She is currently working on two additional sequels to "Pride and Prejudice" and a modern mystery. When she is not writing, Carey enjoys playing the piano and violin, crocheting her original designs and (of course) reading.

My review:
I have always been a little skiddish when it come to reading books that carry on the saga of Jane Austen. I want them to stay true to the original writings and to not change my ideas of Jane Austen and her writings. C. Allyn Pierson did a fantastic job of this with her new book that continues on the story of Pride and Prejudice. Georgiana Darcy is now getting her own story to let her voice out to the readers and I must say I enjoyed it immensely. Often times, the supporting characters in a book are mentioned and you might garner a few details about their lives, but then they are quickly passed over for the story of the main characters. Pierson gives life to Georgiana and brings out a minor character to give her a new life and story. A story that I think readers will fall in love with just as much as they fell in love with Pride and Prejudice.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Giveaway: Mr. Darcy's Little Sister

Danielle at Sourcebooks is fantastic! She is allowing me to give away two copies of Mr. Darcy's Little Sister for today's feature on this book and the author, C. Allyn Pierson. Please leave a comment below about your favorite Jane Austen novel or character. Don't forget to leave an email address so I can contact you if you are a winner. Winners will be chosen on September 14 and this is open to US and Canada.

Q & A with C. Allyn Pierson

C. Allyn Pierson Interview; Author of Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister

1. Describe your fascination with Jane Austen. What started it?
My real fascination with Jane Austen began when I had an au pair who was from England and is a big fan of JA (and Colin Firth!) When I read Pride and Prejudice when I was in school it did not come across as a great love story to my jaundiced eye. I think the 1995 BBC series made a huge difference for a lot of people because we could visualize that characters and the subtle interactions and could see the clothes and the houses, etc. This made it much more real when I went back to the book (over and over). Now I love reading Austen and every time I pick up nuances I did not notice before.

2. Why did you choose to write about Georgiana?
I think Georgiana is a very interesting character because she is mentioned over and over by Miss Bingley to get Darcy’s attention and to make Elizabeth feels inferior, but Elizabeth doesn’t meet her until late in the book, and even then it is very briefly. Elizabeth and her aunt realize that Georgiana is very shy, but they do not get to know her well because they must leave for home when Lydia runs off with Wickham. Because she is such an enigma and there is so little factual evidence, there is a great deal of room to develop her character in a sequel. Also, her age makes it clear that her coming-out would be very soon and the difficulties of appearing in Society for an extremely shy girl would be considerable, so there are lots of dramatic possibilities.

3. How do you find time to write with your career as a doctor?
I only work as a Dermatologist part-time because I have a son with autism. He does not live at home now, but when he did he went to bed early and I was at home with him. I had plenty of time to write after he was in bed and during the day when he was in school. I also do not watch television at all, and have not for about 15 years, which leaves much more time to do creative projects like writing books.

4. Further writing projects? Will it include more pertaining to the Jane Austen saga?
I have at least a couple more Pride and Prejudice sequels I would like to write- one about the second year of the Darcys’ marriage when some unexpected problems throw them for a loop, and another about Anne de Bourgh and her relationship with her mother and husband.

5. Favorite book? Favorite author?
As you might guess, Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice. I am also a big fan of Laurie R King’s Mary Russell books- they are beautifully written and I have read them over and over.

6. Anything else you would like to share with our readers!
I am currently trying to sew a Regency ball gown for the Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting- they have a ball the last night of the meeting and I feel that I should at least attempt to conform! It would be shocking for an Austen sequel writer to not have at least 1 Regency gown!

Pride and Prejudice continues...
Georgiana Darcy grows up and goes in pursuit of happiness and true love, much to her big brother's consternation
A whole new side of Mr. Darcy...
He's the best big brother, generous to a fault. Protective, never teases. But over his dead body is any rogue or fortune hunter going to get near his little sister! (Unfortunately, any gentleman who wants to court Georgiana is going to have the same problem...)
So how's a girl ever going to meet the gentleman of her dreams?
About the Author
C. Allyn Pierson is the nom-de-plume of a physician, who has combined her many years of interest in the works of Jane Austen and the history of Regency England into this sequel to Pride and Prejudice. She lives with her family and three dogs in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Guest Post: Paula Marantz Cohen

Paula Marantz Cohen, author of What Alice Knew, accepted my request for a guest post. I am always fascinated in how authors get their ideas for stories or choose the characters they do and I asked Ms. Cohen to give me some insight on this book. After you check out this guest post, be sure to go read the review of the book that I posted yesterday and I urge you to get this book!

I had been reading Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries, and had the idea that Henry James's sister, Alice , an invalid for most of her life, could be re-imagined as a kind of Nero Wolfe character, solving a mystery from her bed, much as Wolfe had solved mysteries from his NYC brownstone. As I thought on it, I realized that I wanted to bring the James brothers, Henry and William, into the mix. They would add more interest and action, and would allow me to explore the dynamics of this famous family. As I was thinking about a plot, my husband pointed out that 1888, a year when Alice and Henry were both living in London, was the year of the Jack the Ripper murders. Things just fell into place after that. I knew that William James was often visiting Europe for scientific conferences, so bringing the three siblings together would be logical enough.

My books up until this one had been contemporary social satires--comedies of manners. Two of them were contemporary adaptations of Jane Austen plots. Writing a historical novel and a thriller was therefore a departure for me. But I loved putting the pieces together and imagining the world through each of the three characters (chapters in the novel alternate in point of view among Alice, Henry, and William). I have to say that though Alice was what inspired the idea, and although I am most familiar as a teacher and scholar with Henry, my fullest identification in writing the book came to be with William. He is, I think, the central character and the most complex and interesting. He may not be to everyone's taste, but I really tried to incorporate not only details of his life but some of his philosophical ideas into his character.

I had written extensively on Victorian culture in non-fiction and scholarly essays, and it was delightful to have the cance to re-imagine this world in a novel. I wanted to bring to life my sense of the society in both its high and low aspects--from fashionable dinner parties to East End slums-- and to deal with certain sorts of ethnic stereotyping and social problems that I knew were central to the age. I also enjoyed introducing real characters like Oscar Wilde, Ellen Terry, John Singer Sargent, and Mark Twain in cameo appearances. Overall, the book was a challenge-- but great fun to write.

Book Review and Giveaway: The Last To Die by Kate Brady

A ruthless killer hides in plain sight, portraying the ideal citizen while hatching a horrific plan. Sins of the past have come to light and now the time is right for revenge. Six desperate women will be brutally murdered as punishment for the secrets they've kept hidden..

Detective Dani Cole is devastated to discover that a young woman viciously killed in a local park was someone whose life she'd helped redeem. Her investigation becomes even more personal when it leads her to Mitch Sheridan, a renowned photojournalist. The two share a painful past...and an attraction that sparks as they race to find the killer. But danger is much closer than anyone imagines. For in the shadows, this calculating criminal has a new target: Dani Cole.

About the Author:
My writing career began in the closet, where--thankfully--my first several novels remain. As a full-time choral conductor and assistant professor of music education, I didn't consider going public with my fiction. It was strictly clandestine and only a hobby.

Then the needs of small children convinced me to switch to part-time teaching. For the first couple of years as a mostly stay-at-home-mom, it was all I could do to complete the metamorphosis from domestically-challenged career woman to culinary-queen and housework goddess. (Okay...Some transitions are never fully realized.) But later, when the kids got old enough to be in school for six hours a day, the characters in my head found time to come out again. Murderers, cops, victims, lovers. I started writing down everything they did and said, then finally decided to see if anyone but me wanted to read about them.

Now, I lead a double life. Some days are spent in the university classroom or at the rehearsal podium; others spent chasing villains on my laptop.

So what do I do when I'm not creating music teachers or psycho murderers? (Two unrelated populations, I assure you.) With a husband, two children, and way too many furry, feathery, and scaly things, there isn't a lot of time left. It's enough to keep up with the jobs, the house, the yard, and the family schedule, and hope no one on my laptop gets murdered when I'm not looking.

My review:
Kate Brady is quickly making me become a lover of the suspense novel. I couldn't put this book down in wanting to read just one more page to find out what was going to happen. I found my heart racing as I was swept up in the action and turns and twists of the story. I am having a hard time in knowing just what to say about this book without giving away the details or please just go out and buy this book. You will not be disappointed.

I have five copies of this book to giveaway. Please leave a comment below with your email address to enter. Winners will be chosen on Sunday, September 12.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Book Review: LOL with God

Title: LOL with God: Devotional messages of hope & humor for women
Author: Pam Farrel and Dawn Wilson
Publisher: Tyndale
Publishing Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-1-58997-34509
Pages: 243
Genre: Religion/Christian Life/Women
I was given a free copy of this book by Tyndale publishers for my honest review.

From the publisher:
A cheerful heart is still good medicine! In LOL with God: Devotional Messages of Hope & Humor for Women, authors Pam Farrel and Dawn Wilson provide short, easy-to-read devotions to encourage women wiht humor and Scripture, and leave them feeling revived and refreshed. Avowed "texters," Pam and Dawn use the theme of sending and receiving text messages throughout the book as a unifying feature. Bur for texters and non-texters alike, this devotional shares personal stories from women who have learned to "choose joy!" and offers a fresh perspective of living in God's presence. So get ready to be encouraged and to laugh out loud.

About the Authors:
Pam Farrel is known for "choosin joy!" Her messages of hope and help have encouraged and equipped women worldwide. Pam and her husband, Bill, are international speakers, relationship experts on marriage and parenting, and are the authors of over 30 books, including best-selling Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. Pam has written numerous books for women, including The 10 Best Decisions a Woman Can Make, Woman of Influence, Woman of Confidence, and Fantastic After 40. Pam is also the founder and president of Seasoned Sisters, an organization designed to encourage and equip women to maximize mid-life and beyond. For more information, go to
Bill and Pam Farrel have relationship columns in magazines and newspapers, are frequent guests on radio and TV, and their resources have been translated into more than 15 languages. The Farrels have experience as a pastoral couple and are available for speaking engagements. Pam is also a popular speaker for women's events. She and Bill have parented three children and enjoy their relationship with their daughter-in-law and granddaughters. When Pam is not writing, she is looking for her car keys, cell phone, or ginko. She wants her audiences to know "U R cr8ed 2 b gr8 4 God."

Dawn Wilson's passion in life is wrapped up in one work: Choices! Whether encouraging women to make daily choices that align with God's Word, or pointing them to the one crucial decision in life-"What will you do with Jesus?"-Dawn offers wisdom that makes women think and hope in Christ that heals their hearts. Through this is her first book, Dwan's writing career began in the 1980's as a freelance writer for Spririt of Revival magazine. She also worked as a journalist for 16 years with San Diego's Christian Examiner. She currently serves as a writer and researcher for Revive Our Hearts radio teacher Nancy Leigh DeMoss; writes for a prophecy-focused television ministry; and serves as Communications Director for Pam Farrel's Seasoned Sisters. Dawn and her husband founded the leadership-developmetn organiztion PaceSetter Ministries, and Dawn later founded her own speking outreach, Heart Choices Ministries. The Wilsons, married 36 years, are glad their two grown sons and their families live in San Diego so they can enjoy their three granddaughters. "Life is all about choices," Dawn says. "I choose God, family, bookstore gift cards, and rich dark chocolate!"

My review:
This is a great devotional that uses the idea of texting to bring about the message. In today's world, there aren't many that don't use texting daily and that don't know what the texting abbreviations stand for. The authors honed in on one of society's trends of today to reach out with the word of God.

The book is divided into single devotionals that can easily be used for your daily devotional time. Each entry includes four sections with a text message and then a short story to relate the day's topic. The entry then includes what is called Send Up a Message that is a short prayer for you to offer up to God. The third section, Text Helps, is my favorite as it lists key Bible verses to read that go along with the day's topic. Finally, a section that lets you tie it all in together, as an area is given for you to write your own text message to God.

This is a great devotional to use for texters and non-texters alike as it is a fun, upbeat way to learn more about God and help you to focus your daily devotional time.

Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: Ezra-Nehemiah-Esther

Title: Cornerstone Biblical Commentary Ezra-Nehemiah-Esther, Featuring the text of the New Living Translation
Author: Gary Smith and General Editor, Philip Comfort
Publisher: Tyndale
Publishing Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4141-2207-0
Pages: 287

I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale publishers to post my honest review. This is my first commentary and I loved it. Each section starts with an introduction to give the pertinent details of the author, audience, time period, literary style, and major themes. I like that the book does this as it gets you in the right frame of mind to begin your study. The reader can see why this book was written and who the audience is to get a better understanding of why it was written the way it was and what it meant to the people of at the time of the writing and how that affects us all today.

I had never used the New Living Translation version before and I did like it. As the commentary goes verse by verse with an explanation, this translation worked well with that as it is a version that seems easier to use than the King James version that I am used to. While the text is easier to understand on its own, it just gave better understanding to me with this version and the commentary notes on the verses.

I highly recommend this book. It is a great study tool for anyone just looking for better understanding of these books of the Bible, yet it is also a great tool for those looked for deeper study of these texts.

New Blog Launched-, a labor of love started by two Sourcebooks Landmark authors, Sharon Lathan and Abigail Reynolds. Noticing the success of group author blogs in the romance genre, they decided to gather up some of their fellow Jane Austen Fiction comrades and start a group blog!

After putting together some initial plans in August, Sharon and Abigial began to contact Austen authors from all publishers and the final list of 20 contributors is very impressive:
¨ Susan Adriani
¨ Marsha Altman
¨ Marilyn Brant
¨ Skylar Burris
¨ Jack Caldwell
¨ Carolyn Eberhart
¨ Monica Fairview
¨ Regina Jeffers
¨ Cindy Jones
¨ Sharon Lathan
¨ Kara Louise
¨ Kathryn Nelson
¨ Jane Odiwe
¨ C. Allyn Pierson
¨ Abigail Reynolds
¨ Mary Lydon Simonsen
¨ Heather Lynn Rigaud
¨ Victoria Connelly
¨ J. Marie Croft
¨ Lynn Shepherd
Staring on September 6, daily blogs posts will be put up, celebrations of new books going into stores will be had, and for the launch month of the blog, many giveaways and contests will be held!

Please feel free to share this fabulous new endeavor with your friends! As the leading publisher of Austen-related literature, Sourcebooks is pleased to help spread the word about this amazing new website devoted to the authors who have continued Jane Austen's stories to the delight of the reading public. Let us know what you think about it!

CSN Stores

I recently reviewed a chaise lounge from the CSN stores and I was thrilled when they contacted me again to review another item. I keep trying to decide on a product and as usual, I always come back to book related items. I have been looking at their bedroom furniture sets to try and decide on an item. I think a bookshelf or a nice bedside table where I can organize my ever growing stacks of books might be nice. I am looking for suggestions, so if you will check out their site at and then let me know which item you think I should choose by commenting here. I will do a follow up post shortly to detail the item that I chose.

Book Review: What Alice Knew by Paula Marantz Cohen

Title: What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper
Author: Paula Marantz Cohen
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publishing Date: September 10, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4022-4355-4
Pages: 352
Price: $14.99 US/$17.99 Can

From the Publisher:
What is an American writer, a master in his own mind but less regarded by his peers, to do in 1880's London? If you are Henry James, it means frequent dinner parties with the likes of Oscar Wilde, John Singer Sargent, and George du Maurier, eating too much while suffering barbs and engaging in sily repartee. But when Henry's brother William-a professor at Harvard renowned for his groundbreaking work in the new science of psychology-is summoned from America by Scotland Yard to help investigate an East End serial killer who calls himself "Jack the Ripper," things become suddenly more exciting.

Not to take a back seat to her more famous brothers, Henry and William's invalid sister Alice takes on the role of lead detective as the three precocious siblings attempt to unravel the true identity of the killer. Searching London high and low, encountering characters both suspicious and ridiculous along the way, they inch closer to a kiler neight they, nor modern readers, would ever suspect.

With a pitch-perfect knowledge of the period and the players, Cohen, who has had a successful writing career in fiction with alternative takes on literary classics, captures a colorul Victorian London and its environs. The action ranges from lavish dinner parties, music halls, and seances to Whitechapel slums, the Slade School of Art, and the Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane, in this delightful take on one of America's greatest literary families and one of England's most terrifying killers.

About the Author:
Paula Marantz Cohen is a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Jane Austen in Boca, Jane Austen in Scarsdale, and Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan, and four scholarly works of nonfiction, includeing Alfred Hitchcock: The Legacy of Victorianism, Silent Film and the Truimph of the American Myth, and The Daughter's Dilemma: Family Process and the Nineteenth-Century Domestic Novel. Paula is also the host of The Drexel Interview, a cable TV show based in Philadelphia.

My review:
This book was right down my alley as it combined a literary figure, London as a setting, and great writing. I have been fascinated with the case of Jack the Ripper since I traveled to England. One Saturday night, I engaged in a London walk where Jack the Ripper was the subject and the tour guide took us to each spot in London that a body was found in this case. It was dark, mysterious, and even a little scary as you made that walk and thought of what happened all those years ago on the very spots you were walking. Cohen brings this case to life while using characters, that one might not expect, to try and solve the mystery. Although there are many theories as to who Jack the Ripper was, it has never been proven. I urge you to read this book and follow the journey of the James' as they search and theorize on who they think he is. The pages will keep you in suspense and guessing at what is going to happen next.

Book Feature and Giveaway: Sin Undone by Larissa Ione

As the only female Seminus demon ever born, master assassin Sinead Donnelly is used to being treated like an outcast. She spent decades enslaved, and now vows she'll die before she'll relinquish her freedom again. Then Sin's innate ability to kill her enemies goes awry: She creates a lethal new werewolf virus that sparks a firestorm of panic and violence.

Half-werewolf, half-vampire Conall Dearghul is charged with bringing in Sin to face punishment for the plague. And she's no stranger: He's bound to her by blood, and the one sexual encounter they shared has left him hungering for her raw sensuality. Worse, Sin is the underworld's most wanted and Con soon learns he's the only one who can help her . . . and that saving her life might mean sacrificing his own.

About the Author:
I began writing the way so many writers do—the moment I learned to wield a pencil. But even as a child, I didn't write "kid" stories. I preferred something more dramatic. Something that didn't include Dick, Jane, and a dog named Spot. I wanted my characters to be named Dracula and my dogs to have names like White Fang or Cujo. I'll always have my parents to thank for that. They never censored my reading material (though I suspect that if they had truly known what was between the covers of some of the books, they'd have been a little more careful,) so when other girls my age were reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and Judy Blume, I was immersing myself in Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

Later, after I'd joined the Air Force and was in dire need of something to read between shifts at the weather station, I continued to read horror, but I'd branched out into fantasy, and then, finally, romance (though I admit I went kicking and screaming to the latter.)

Turned out that I loved romance! So I started writing it, but again, my style and voice leaned toward the dark, paranormal side. Fortunately for me, paranormal romance, as a sub-genre, was booming. I let my imagination fly, and soon I'd sold a series of dark, sexy paranormal romances to Grand Central Publishing.

I still read a lot of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, and in fact, one of my all time favorite books about writing is On Writing, by my favorite childhood horror author, Stephen King. If you're an author or a reader, I highly recommend this book for an insight into an author's mind—which can sometimes be a very scary place.

Go ahead; Seduce your dark side.

5 Fun Facts:
1. Snow is prominent in Sin Undone, and it’s no coincidence that I love snow. The freak snowstorm that takes place in a few scenes is based on my military time spent in Montana, where I experienced a freak snowstorm on the 4th of July, just two days after 70 degree temperatures.

2. In another snow scene, skiing is the focus… one of my favorite pastimes.

3. Though Sin and her brother, Lore, are both half-breeds who have no personal symbol on their throats the way their purebred brothers do, Sin does have a tattoo on the back of her neck. And yes, she put it there for a reason…

4. The “gun safe escape scene” comes right out of the book of my life. I actually knew — okay, went on one date with — a guy who had done the same thing Con did. Never know when you need to make a quick escape, apparently…

5. Sin Undone sets up the spinoff series coming in March, introducing both the villain and the hero of the first book, Eternal Rider. I had a lot of fun taking Sin, who Eidolon has referred to as basically “chaos on legs,” and making sure the word “chaos” applies to her in every way. Seeing how she sets of a series of events that could lead to the end of the world, I think Eidolon had it right!

I have one copy for giveaway. Please leave a comment below with your email address to enter. The winner will be chosen on Saturday, September 11.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Book Giveaway: Beyond The Gardens by Sandra Lopez

Beyond The Gardens is the sequel to Esperanza: A Latino Story and I have one copy, signed by the author, to give away. Please leave a comment below to enter and don't forget to include your email address. The contest is open to US only and the winner will be chosen on September 30. Be sure to check back here on the blog the last week of September for a guest posting from the author.

Beyond the Gardens is about a young Latina in search for independence and self-worth. Being raised in the poor barrio and having a drunk for a father didn’t leave much for Esperanza to believe in. Her dream was to become an Animator, and it was only until after high school that her dream became a reality. Now, she is living the life she’s always wanted in the dormitory of an L.A. art school. What new challenges await Esperanza in this new adventure? With the help of her fashion-guru roommate, the sudden love interest of an old high school friend, and the annoying advice from her loud-mouth mother, Esperanza will learn the hard way that, “you can take the girl out of the barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of the girl.”

About the Author:
Sandra C. López was born and raised in Hawaiian Gardens, California. She learned to read at the young age of two and strived to achieve the best grades in school. Her free time was spent reading, writing, and drawing. Sandra managed to be the first in her family to graduate from high school and enter college. Her first novel, "Esperanza: A Latina Story," was published in March 2008 while she was still in college. Now, this young writer is a full graduate of Cal State University Fullerton with a BFA in Animation and Illustration, and she is anticipating a promising career as a writer and an artist. "Beyond the Gardens" is the follow up sequel to "Esperanza." Check out the author's website at