Monday, October 31, 2011


Does anyone remember this word from last year? It’s my very own special word I created just for this date. It represents 3 important thinwitch03gs to me.

First part - Hallo. For Halloween, of course. So HAPPY HALLOWEEN everyone. For those not celebrating, HAPPY MONDAY

I know some areas celebrated over the weekend with parties, walks, festivals, and lot of treats. Others may celebrate today. It’s just a great time to have fun and eat lots of good candy. Since this candy is consumed in honor of a holiday, there are no calories involved, right? This is important because it's a time adults can have fun like they did when they were kids and no one thinks it's crazy. We need more fun time in our lives.

Second part - NaBlo. Once again I participated in the NaBloWriMo challenge for October and today is the last day. I was fortunate enough to reach joinusjackolanternthe goal of having a blog post for each day of the month. This, however, couldn’t have been done without the wonderful help of numerous authors who were kind enough to guest blog for me. 

If you haven’t read their posts this month, please browse back through and catch up on some interesting articles and a few giveaways that remain open. Thank you all again for helping me out this month.

Third part - Versary. Today I celebrate the second anniversary of Thoughts in Progress being in existence. Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that I’d reach this mark. And reaching this mark was made possible by you, the wonderful friends who stop by each day, and the amazing authors willing to guest blog and talk about their craft. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU ALL so very much.

This year I wasn’t able to blog every day due to various reasons including the health issues my in-laws have faced. Here I must say another huge THANK YOU for all the love and support y’all have shown me through my mother-in-law’s hospitalization, recovery and now our daily journey with her Alzheimer’s Disease.

There are days I’m not able to stop by and visit everyone’s blog as I’d love to do, yet y’all continue to show your support for this blog. I appreciate that more than words can express.

That care, compassion and support has also been a huge comfort to me with the recent loss of our cat, Gum Drop. I will treasure your words and acts of kindness forever.

This past year has had it’s ups and downs for everyone throughout blogdom. I’m in awe of how we as a people come together to show our support and love for each other no matter how small or large the situation. I’m blessed to be a part of such a wonderful community of caring people.

Now let me try to give a brief history of how I came to blog for those who don’t know and as a way to say thanks (again) to 2 very special ladies.

A coffee addict, it was only natural I’d love reading THE COFFEEHOUSE MYSTERY series by wonderful author Cleo Coyle. Through her newsletter I was fortunate in 2009 to win an ARC copy of HOLIDAY GRIND (the first book I reviewed on this blog). At the time I only published reviews in the paper I worked for.

Corresponding with Cleo, I learned about the formation of the Mystery Lovers' Kitchen blog. I was clueless what a blog was. Cleo explained and encouraged me to try my hand at blogging as another way to share my reviews. With her help and advice, I posted my first blog entry on Oct. 31, 2009.

Cleo introduced me to another author who would be a part of the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen team, the talented Elizabeth Spann Craig. Elizabeth has been amazing in so many ways. She’s given help, advice and encouragement with my blogging. She was my first follower. She was there when I had questions about Facebook and also helped and encouraged when I ventured into Twitter. It’s my understanding she has been a guiding force for many newcomers to blogdom.

These 2 fascinating authors were my first introduction into the wonderful world of blogging. They took time from their busy schedules to help someone who was not an author, but a mere reader and opened a whole new world for me. I am so thankful for their support.

Now I know this is getting lengthy, but I just want to say, no stress again, how thankful I am for having ‘meet’ all of you wonderful people. I am truly blessed for the friendship of each and every one of you. Thank you - authors, bloggers, book publishers, book promoters, readers, everyone - for making Thoughts in Progress what it is.

I can’t say it enough,

* BTW, Elizabeth (also known as Riley Adams) has a new book out tomorrow -- HICKORY SMOKED HOMICIDE, A Memphis BBQ Mystery -- featuring the lovable protagonist Lulu Taylor. Don't miss it.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Salon: Shock Wave by John Sandford

I can’t believe another week has flown by and it’s time for us to gather around our computers for Sunday Salon sharing our thoughts on books we’ve read (or listened to).

Fall has made a big appearance here with our temperatures dipping from the 80s to the low 60s and 50s during the day and getting very close to that 32 degree mark at night. After a cup of good coffee in the morning, it’s time to reach for the hot chocolate for that afternoon break. I have a lively audio book to share with you today that will be an interesting listen (or read) for this time of year. 

SHOCK WAVE by John Sandford

9781611760156Taken from the headlines and bumped up several notches, author John Sandford tackles a situation that could potentially involve any small town in America.

SHOCK WAVE deals with the Minnesota river town of Butternut Falls where the chain store PyeMart is planning to build. The only problem, not everyone is in favor of the store moving in taking over the local economy. At first there’s an explosion at Pye’s headquarters killing his executive assistant and narrowly missing him. Next bombs start going off in Butternut Falls with more casualties. 

Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Agent Virgil Flowers is called in to help find the bomber. As Virgil begins to uncover more information, he’s the target of a bomb. There’s talk of the mayor and several city council members taking bribes to make way for the PyeMart store. Virgil has to find out if it’s one of the local merchants, an environmentalist or someone who just enjoys killing causing all the destruction.

Sandford has created a likeable protagonist in Virgil Flowers. He takes his job seriously, but has fun along the way. His laid-back ways makes it easier for him to work with the suspects. And there’s a long list of suspects when the investigators get the citizens’ help using social media techniques to identify the bomber.

There are lots of twists and turns throughout the story. It also give a good look at how investigators work. It shows that some things take time and hard work, while other happen by luck. There are red herrings that will be very believable. There’s action, suspense, and a good dose of humor.

Narrator Eric Conger does a wonderful job bringing the characters to life. He includes their yawns, laughs, tears, and even fears. His mannerisms will have you believing you are in the middle of the conversations. Listeners may be a little startled at first by the musical interlude at the end of each disc. It’s very appropriate for the scene, but a bit of a surprise when you’re not expecting it.

SHOCK WAVE is an intriguing 5th installment in the Virgil Flowers series, but is a stand alone novel. This is a fun story that will keep you guessing until the moment you smack your forehead and say, ‘Of course!’

Author John Sandford’s website is

Shock Wave by John Sandford, A Virgil Flowers Novel, Read by Eric Conger, Penguin Audio, @2011, ISBN: 978-1611760156, Unabridged, 8 Discs, Listening Time: 9 Hours

FTC Full Disclosure - This audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

What are your thoughts on a storyline like this? Can you see where a major chain store could be both wanted and despised in a small town? What have you read (listened to) this week or currently reading? Thanks so much for stopping by. Y’all are the best! Have a great Sunday.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Author Carole Nelson Douglas Answers Questions, Offers A Giveaway

d6d833e52bfb0ad8986c69.L._V216641626_I’m delighted to have award-winning author Carole Nelson Douglas here today to answer some questions about her writing experience.

Carole is the author of the Midnight Louie Mystery series. Her latest hardcover release is CAT IN A VEGAS GOLD VENDETTA, the 23rd installment in the series.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the novel: Temple Barr is an ace P.R. wizard when it comes to promoting Las Vegas’ hottest clients. She’s also an amateur sleuth who has caught her share of bad guys.
B-movie actress Savannah Ashleigh begs Temple to investigate the suspicious death of her rich aunt’s handyman. Temple happily takes the case, if for no other reason than to take her mind off her chaotic private life. Her ex-fiancé, the Mystifying Max, is back–minus his memory.  And current fiancé Matt Devine has shown up from a stint in Chicago with the promise of a surprising future. Which may or may not include Temple.
As Temple digs into the man’s untimely demise she finds plenty of suspect and greedy humans swarming around the ailing Aunt Violet, who means to leave her estate to her resident cats. Temple thinks she’s  close to solving the case, but it becomes clear to Midnight Louie, Temple’s roommate and ace feline detective, that there are more deaths both human and feline coming. Add in the return of a mysterious stalker from the past, and it's murder and mayhem on all fronts for Temple, Louie, and the ones they love in the newest story in the Midnight Louie mystery series.
Smart, fun, and filled with intrigue, CAT IN A VEGAS GOLD VENDETTA is an exciting mystery with just the right dose of glamour and heart, sure to please both newcomers to the series and dedicated fans alike. 

Thanks to Carole and Leah at Tor/Forge, I have 3 copies of this delightful book to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for the giveaway details.

Now Carole was gracious to answer some questions for me.

Mason - Have you always wanted to write or was there an event that lead you to writing?
Carole - I always loved to write . . . and draw . . . and act. In grade school I wrote and "produced" plays and created a neighborhood newsletter. I tried writing Hollywood to get someone to make my favorite book into a movie, quick, before I outgrew the lead role of the 8-year-old girl. (It did become a movie eventually, but in a foreign country.)
Nowadays, with the Internet, young talent can break out from home computer podcasts and YouTube posts. Then  . . the common wisdom was no one could make a living at any of the arts. That was the worst thing adults could encourage a child to do. So they were more than discouraging.
I majored in theater and English literature in college anyway, but on graduation, I could only find a flunky job in the local daily newspaper's advertising department. It was either that or--an employment agency told me--be a tutor for the Famous Writers' School, which I thought would constitute fraud on my part. Little did I know . . .
I was thrilled to work for the local newspaper and put out a monthly ad news sheet . . . then I saw an unfair theater review written by a "stringer" for the paper. Indignant, I sat down at a lunch hour to see if I could review another play I'd seen that weekend on deadline.
A friend suggested I show my review to the rather intimidating managing editor. He growled, but bought it instantly for five dollars! That's when I resolved to become a reporter. Within a year, I was perhaps the only reporter there hired without a journalism degree.
Fast-forward 10 years. I'd first been "put" into the then-Women's department, which became "Features," but I was hitting the glass ceiling and not being allowed to write the stories I thought were important to do. Some were getting on 60 Minutes six months after I asked to do them and was refused.
bkvendetta_t600When an article I'd worked on very hard, which I thought was national magazine-level material, was gutted by an editor from another department, I resolved to try freelancing articles to national magazines.
I signed up for a YWCA writing course to get the how-to-submit information in a social setting. Some ridiculed my taking a "rinky-dink" class when I had a metropolitan daily newspaper byline.
I didn't know class members read from their projects during the second hour. Inspired by the creative drive and ideas of these despised "amateurs," I dug out the first chapter of novel I'd started in college to read.
When I finished, there was a long silence, then the instructor said "Get out of this class and finish that novel!" I did, and never looked back. A couple years later Amberleigh sold and became my first New-York published novel of around 60 so far.
Mason - When you first began to write the Midnight Louie Mystery Series did you envision that you would one day be releasing the 23rd installment?
Carole - I knew Midnight Louie had the right stuff to be a long-running and popular character. Then the publisher wanted to establish a title pattern after the first two mysteries, Catnap and Pussyfoot, came out.
Mysteries never are numbered, but I'd seen that the series was so character-rich it could continue as long as, say, a three-year ensemble TV show.
Cat on a Blue Monday was chosen as the new title pattern. It was the third book in the series, with a B on the color word. So . . . I put an internal alphabet into subsequent books. Cat in a Crimson Haze, Diamond Dazzle etc. all the way to Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta.
So I did commit early on to a 27-letter alphabet, but I wouldn't have been surprised if Midnight Louie didn't make it that far. He never doubted for a minute. Cat in a White Tie and Tails is coming next year.
It wasn't an obvious way to indicate title order, but readers would eventually tumble to the scheme, and also get a mystery-solving kick when they discovered the internal alphabetic order. And so they have.
Mason - For someone new to your series, do the books need to be read in order or is each a stand alone book?
Carole - I've gotten lots of letters and emails from readers who found the books far along in the series and were intrigued to go back and read from the (now- obvious) alphabetical beginning. After Catnap and Pussyfoot, of course.
And the series order is listed (in reverse, latest first) at the front of every book and in my annual newsletter, which can be subscribed to in e-mail or snail mail format at

Starting with book "L," Cat in a Leopard Spot, the books open with a "Previously in Midnight Louie's Lives and Times" summary of who's who and what's what, just like some TV favorite series.
The main mystery/murder is stand-alone, but the series is richer if you read it all because of continuing character development and subplots. Another thing that keeps the series alive is it bears re-reading. Those readers who go back will discover clues in early books to situations that develop much later. I love to wrap mysteries within mysteries.
Mason - How do you go about doing research for your books?
Carole - Midnight Louie and his "Sam Spade with hairballs" noir detective voice belong in a city with nightlife and chorus girls, crime and entertainment. I'd have never visited Las Vegas (honest) if I'd hadn't had to research it for the Midnight Louie books.
I've been going there since 1985, when it was a sleepy town compared to the massive entertainment mecca it is today. If I can't visit often enough, I now keep up to date via the Internet.
In some instances, I've put fictional elements in Las Vegas, that only came about later, like the interior lobby canal with gondolas called the "Love Moat" in one of the early Midnight Louie books. Now the Venice has one.
Mason - Is research a fun part of writing or just a part of the process?
Carole - Many writers who research are tempted to let that take over and it is so intriguing. I'm looking for the incredibly fascinating small fact nobody knows I can work a whole book and mystery around, and they are always there to be found . . . if your mind works that way.
Mason - If you could go back and do one thing differently at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?
Carole - Everything I did was inevitable at the time. "They" were right. A career-- making a livelihood--in "the arts," is extremely iffy and heart-breaking at times. If I'd been reared to be more assertive, I probably could have pushed for more where I was, instead of "escaping" stifling situations and moving on. On the other hand, I was never one who could "sell my soul to the company store," as the old song goes.
It's very important to me that what I write addresses issues everyone has in their lives. When I was asked at first why I wrote "genre" fiction, I said, "What I write is principally entertainment, but the best entertainment has principles."  I have seen my readers, they tell me, through chronic pain and serious loss, even life-threatening disease. There's no higher calling for a writer. 
By moving on I developed more aspects of my writing, with the result that I've written books and stories in pretty much every genre, including "mainstream."
Some of the things I did have proved advantageous now. For instance, I always used my own name, no matter the genre. Nowadays, they call that "being a brand."  I blended genres, and that may have confused bookstores about what shelf to put my books on, but now the "shelves" are mostly onscreen and everything I did and will do is together at last.

Carole, thanks so much for guest blogging today. It’s always fun learning background information on an author and how they go about writing.

For more information on Carole and her writing, check out her website at

Now for the giveaway.  To enter, send me an e-mail ( Your subject line should read, “Win CAT IN A VEGAS GOLD VENDETTA.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only and no post office box addresses can be accepted. Just so you know, I don’t share the mailing information or use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance at one of the 3 copies of CAT IN A VEGAS GOLD VENDETTA will be 8 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, Nov. 12.

Thanks so much for stopping by. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Author Janet Gurtler Talks About Book Research

JanetPlease join me in welcoming author Janet Gurtler as the special guest blogger here today as she tours blogdom with her 2 young adult contemporary novels.

Both books, I’M NOT HER (May 2011) and IF I TELL (October 2011) have gotten rave reviews.

Janet joins us to talk about doing research for her writing.

I believe in making characters in my novels as authentic as possible and of course, without exception, that involves doing research of some sort. That said, I also am prone to making things up just so I don’t have to do extensive research. For example with settings. Because I live in Canada but base my stories in the States, I make up towns rather than worrying about getting things wrong in a real town I’ve never actually been to. I do tend to set my towns close to real places and will ask for help from actual residents and check out real estate, weather and those sorts of helpful sites online. Setting doesn’t happen to play a huge, huge part in my stories, so for me that works okay.

All in all, I enjoy doing research for the books I’m writing, but the type of research I do wouldn’t be considered extensive or heavy. For example, I’m not a historical fiction or steam punk writer. I think that kind of research might be the end of me. It’s not my nature to be so precise with historical facts etc. I would be terrified of getting it wrong. It would keep me up at night and give me stomach aches.

image003No, as a writer of contemporary fiction, Google is one of my best friends. It’s hard to imagine a time when Google wasn’t at our fingertips, isn’t it? When Google wasn’t available in coffee shops for free. Google has made research easier for writers. It’s also made things a bit murkier in some ways I suppose, but since my research is light in comparison to many, it works deliciously well for me. I love me some Google.

For example, on the book I’m working on right now, Just Breathe or WHO I KISSED as it may be called, I’ve had to do a lot of research into USA swim clubs. My main character is a swimmer and while it’s an important part of who she is and plays an important role in the story, it’s not a story about swimming. Still. I want to get the facts right. I want to understand how swim meets work, what the swimmers do, how they live, what they think about etc.

For me research is about giving authenticity to a story. Sometimes that can’t be found with Google and for me a great way to research is to go straight to reliable sources for information. In, I’M NOT HER, I had the help and insight of a woman who had actually gone through bone cancer and had a leg amputation. I asked her questions and she was very gracious about answering questions. I also went to a hospital to soak up atmosphere and “see” some of what my characters would see, hear and feel in a hospital setting.

In IF I TELL I went to friends who were either biracial or blackIf I Tell cover and asked them questions about their own experiences so that I could relate them to Jaz’s experience. I also went to an author friend who plays guitar and showed him what I wrote and asked him questions about which guitars were best, what my character would play etc. 

For the most part, I find research to be a really fun part of the creative process! It helps to add depth to characters and scenes. And sometimes it’s a nice break!

Janet, thanks so much for guest blogging. As a reader I think I would get sidetracked doing research. However, I can see where it is a very important element of the story.

Now a bit of research on Janet. She lives in Calgary Alberta, near the Canadian Rockies, with her husband and son and a chubby Chihuahua named Bruce. She does not live in an Igloo or play hockey, but she does love maple syrup and says "eh" a lot.

Here’s a brief synopsis of IF I TELL and a review quote: Her best friend and her mom's boyfriend. Locking lips. This is the secret Jasmine Evans has to keep at all costs. Because her mom is pregnant, and Jaz doesn't want to ruin her life--again. (Just being born did it the first time.) But the harder Jaz tries to pretend everything is okay, the faster her life spins out of control. Until Jackson. He doesn't care about the popularity of her friends or the color of her skin. But can she really trust a guy who just transferred from reform school? She might be willing to chance the heartbreak, but telling him everything and risking the truth getting out is a whole other level of scary. 

"Gurtler handles complex issues of race, identity, friendship and fidelity with laugh-out-loud humor and engaging frankness... once you're in you won't regret it..." - RT Book Reviews 

Here’s a brief synopsis of I’M NOT HER and review quotes: Tess is the exact opposite of her beautiful, athletic sister. And that’s okay. Kristina is the sporty one, Tess is the smart one, and they each have their place. Until Kristina is diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly Tess is the center of the popular crowd, everyone eager for updates. There are senior boys flirting with her. But, the smiles of her picture perfect family are cracking and her sister could be dying. Now Tess has to fill a new role: the strong one. Because if she doesn’t hold it together, who will? 

"reminiscent of Judy Blume" - RT Book Reviews
"Just right for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jodi Picoult." - Booklist
"...subtle, believeable, and satisfying... [a] quick and heartbreaking read..." - School Library Journal
"...a story that is nothing buy completely real... [you] will find yourself inspired..." - Girl's Life
Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you’re a writer, do you find research to be a fun part of your writing? As a reader, do you mind if there is a mix of research and make-believe in a story? 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Stop on Author Vincent Zandri’s Blog Tour

Author Vincent Zandri is touring blogdom on a Partners In Crime Blog Tour this month promoting his latest release MOONLIGHT RISES, A DICK MOONLIGHT THRILLER.

I’m participating in the tour by reviewing his book. Here’s my thoughts on his current release.

MOONLIGHT RISES by Vincent Zandri

Richard ‘Dick’ Moonlight suffers from short-term memory loss due to a bullet fragment lodged in his skull. 

The bullet wasn’t received in the line of duty, but was self-inflected. Moonlight attempted suicide then changed his mind at the last second. The memory loss is a challenge in Moonlight’s profession as a private investigator, but he manages. It’s when he wakes up dead that causes problems.

Beaten to a pulp in an Albany alley by 3 thugs wearing President Obama masks, Moonlight awakes to see his body and realizes he’s dead. After a brief chat with his deceased father, he returns to his body surprising the hospital staff that he’s alive after all.

During his brief ‘dead’ period Moonlight thought he also saw his lovely girlfriend making out with a strange guy.

Now Moonlight has to find out who tried to kill him and why. Does it have something to do with his new client Peter Czech, a nuclear engineer, who claims to be adopted? Did Czech give him a box and if he did, what did he (Moonlight) do with it? Is that what the thugs were after?

MOONLIGHT RISES is an action-packed, adrenaline rush adventure from beginning to end. There are numerous twists and turns along the way to keep you guessing. In addition, there are bits of humor throughout the story that will have you laughing while you’re trying to catch your breath.

Author Vincent Zandri has created a zany protagonist in Moonlight that you can’t help but like. The supporting characters add depth to the story, as well as intrigue.

This is the second installment in the Moonlight series, but is a stand alone read.

Author Vincent Zandri’s website is  Zandri is the No. 1 International Bestselling Amazon Kindle author of THE INNOCENT, GODCHILD, THE REMAINS, MOONLIGHT FALLS, CONCRETE PEARL and the forthcoming MOONLIGHT RISES. He is also the author of the bestselling digital shorts, PATHOLOGICAL and MOONLIGHT MAFIA. Harlan Coben has described his novels as "...gritty, fast-paced, lyrical and haunting," while the New York Post called THE INNOCENT, "Sensational...Masterful...Brilliant!" In March, April and May of 2011, he sold more than 100,000 Kindle E-Books editions of his novels, and is rapidly closing in on the 200K mark all totaled. An MFA in Writing graduate of Vermont College, Zandri's work is translated into many languages including the Dutch, Russian and Japanese. An adventurer, foreign correspondent, and freelance photo-journalist for RT, Globalspec, IBTimes and more, he divides his time between New York and Florence, Italy. MOONLIGHT RISES can be purchased at Amazon and Barnes and Noble..

Be sure to drop by Socrates Book Reviews tomorrow, Oct. 28, for an interview on the next stop in Zandri’s tour. On Saturday, Oct. 29, there will be a full feature and giveaway at CMash Loves To Read, followed by a review on Sunday, Oct. 30, at Tidbits From A Mom and ending with a review and giveaway at Tweezle Reads on Monday, Oct. 31. 


Moonlight Rises by Vincent Zandri, Moonlight Series, StoneGate Ink, @2011, ASIN: B005HB16Y6, Kindle Edition, 772 KB

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this book as part of a Partners in Crime Blog Tour. An e-book was sent to me as part of the promotion in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

Thanks for stopping by. What are your thoughts about a protagonist with memory loss?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bonnie, Sherlock Holmes And A Giveaway

Mysteries and thrillers are among my favorite genres to read. Today I have reviews of a mystery/thriller audio book and a book about the world’s greatest detective, along with a giveaway.

BONNIE, A NOVEL by Iris Johansen

A fan of author Iris Johansen for years, I have longed for closure for her Eve Duncan character.

BONNIE, the third installment in her recent trilogy, finally provides that closure. While it’s not what I had hoped Eve would find, it was a fitting conclusion.

Eve Duncan’s 7-year-old daughter, Bonnie, vanished one day without a trace. Since then Eve has searched for her daughter and answers to what happened. She has been aided in her search by the love of her life, Joe Quinn.

Years after Bonnie’s disappearance, her father, John Gallo, resurfaced even though Eve had been told he was dead. For awhile, it was believed Gallow had killed his daughter. New evidence leads the trio, along with Quinn’s partner, CIA Agent Catherine Ling, on the hunt to finally track down what really happened to Bonnie.

Author Iris Johansen takes readers on a roller coaster ride of emotions in this story. She adds numerous twists and turns to keep readers guessing. Just when you think you know what will happen next, there’s a new fork in the path to finding Bonnie.

The narration by Jennifer Van Dyck flows smoothly giving depth to the story and characters. Her narrative style provides each character with their own unique voice. Her interruption of Bonnie is especially tender and touching. Her voice draws you in and holds you breathless as the action-packed story unfolds.

BONNIE is a stand alone book as Johansen includes bits of background information to help new readers. However, to fully understand the drama of this difficult journey, readers should also read the other books in the trilogy, EVE and QUINN.

Author Iris Johansen’s website is

Listen as Iris shares what the future holds for her, Eve, and new heroines on the horizon...

Bonnie, A Novel by Iris Johansen, Read by Jennifer Van Dyck, Brilliance Audio, @2011, ISBN: 978-1441886095, Unabridged, 9 Discs, Listening Time: 9 Hours 57 Minutes

FTC Full Disclosure - This audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

by David Acord

Sherlock Holmes coverIf you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, there is a book being released November 1 that is a must have. If you’re not a fan, you might be after reading this delightful book.

SUCCESS SECRETS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: LIFE LESSONS FROM THE MASTER DETECTIVE by David Acord gives wonderful new insight into Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Acord looks at how Doyle created the legendary Holmes using the characteristics from numerous brilliant people he knew. He also points out how readers can apply the insights of Holmes to their everyday life to achieve success.

An intriguing fact about Doyle I found in the book - he wasn’t formally trained in criminology yet Holmes’ techniques have influenced generations of real-life detectives and law enforcement officers. In addition, the first Holmes story (the novel-length A STUDY IN SCARLET) sold for the equivalent of $38 after being rejected numerous times.

This is a witty, fun fact-filled book about Holmes, Watson and their creator, Doyle. It also makes the reader stop and consider Holmes’ methods as seen in today’s light.

SUCCESS SECRETS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES is a must have for any mystery lover. 

Success Secrets of Sherlock Holmes: Life Lessons From the Master Detective by David Acord, Perigee Trade, @2011, ISBN: 978-0399536984, Paperback, 208 pages

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

Thanks to Alexandra and the good folks at Penguin, I have 2 copies of SUCCESS SECRETS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES to giveaway. To enter this giveaway, send me an e-mail ( with the subject line, “Win SHERLOCK HOLMES.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. only and no post office box addresses can be accepted. Just so you know, I don’t share the mailing information or use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance at 1 of 2 copies of SUCCESS SECRETS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES will be 8 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope I’ve tempted your reading taste buds. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I have two intriguing stories to share with you today. First up is all about cowboys and Christmas, followed by secret journals and a tropical island.

Author Carolyn Brown has a wonderful flare for writing about cowboys, country living, and the bonds of family and friends.

Each of her books creates new characters for readers to enjoy, as well as resurfacing a few favorites from prior adventures to tie everything together.

Her latest book in the Spikes and Spurs series is DARN GOOD COWBOY CHRISTMAS. In this installment, Brown focuses on Raylen O’Donnell, the brother of Rye from LOVE DRUNK COWBOY. She introduces Lizelle Hanson as the love interest.

The traveling carnival has been a way of life for Liz and her family for generations. Only her Uncle Haskell has put down roots. Each Christmas Liz has wished for a house that didn’t have wheels and a sexy cowboy. This may be the year her wishes come true.

When her uncle moves to take care of his ailing father, he gives his house and 20 acres to Liz. She has until spring to see if she really wants to settle down. If not, her neighbor Raylen wants to buy the place.

Raylen remembers being drawn to Liz when they were teenagers and she visited her uncle. Now grown up, Raylen soon finds himself head over heels for the fortune teller. Liz remembers the attraction too and finds herself falling hard for Raylen.

The courtship of the two is fun, intriguing and romantic. The great supporting characters add depth and realism to the story. While the focus is Raylen and Liz, there are several secondary attractions going on that adds to the lively mix. In the end, there’s more than one wedding to celebrate in this book.

The story flows smooth and once you start, you can’t put it down. Brown has once again delivered a well-rounded group of characters you will wish were your neighbors.

This is a stand alone book, but after you meet the O’Donnells you’ll want to know more about them and their friends. The next installment is ONE HOT COWBOY WEDDING slated for April 2012.

Author Carolyn Brown’s website is

Darn Good Cowboy Christmas by Carolyn Brown, Spikes and Spurs Series, Sourcebooks Casablanca, @2011, ISBN: 978-1-4022-6157-2, Paperback, 384 pages

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this book and it was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

TWIST OF FATE by Jayne Ann Krentz

Hannah Jessett once thought of being an anthropologist like her aunt, the legendary Elizabeth Nord, but became a guidance counselor instead.

When her brother’s company is threatened by the renown entrepreneur Gideon Cage, Hannah decides to step in. She talks Cage into a game of cards in Las Vegas where she cheats to win. Afterwards, she discovers the game was useless as Cage had other plans for the company all along.

Cage finds Hannah fascinating and follows her back home to Seattle. There he finds her on her way to close the estate of her late aunt on a tropical island. He decides he needs a vacation and goes with her.

Hannah comes into possession of a necklace passed through the generations and numerous unpublished journal of her aunt’s. The journals detail her studies that stunned the world with her revolutionary discoveries.

As she goes through the journals, Hannah finds there are people willing to kill to see her aunt’s personal papers. In addition, she has to deal with her feelings for Cage and a sudden desire to become as powerful and independent as her aunt was.

Nellie Chalifant does a wonderful job wit the narration and brings the characters to life.

TWIST OF FATE is filled with tension, suspense, romance, and mystery.

Author Jayne Ann Krentz' website is  

Twist of Fate by Jayne Ann Krentz, Read by Nellie Chalfant, Brilliance Audio, @2011, ISBN: 978-1441884961, Unabridged, 9 Discs, Listening Time: 10 Hours 3 Minutes

FTC Full Disclosure - This audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. What are you reading that keeps you up at night? 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Author Jodi Thomas: Characters Come Alive And A Giveaway


It’s my pleasure to welcome another ‘new-to-me’ author here today as she prepares for the release of the third installment in her Harmony series. Please say hello to NY Times & USA Today bestselling author Jodi Thomas. 

Jodi’s newest book, THE COMFORTS OF HOME, is scheduled to be released on Nov. 1. The book will continue the story about a fascinating little Texas town and its numerous lovable characters. 

Thanks to Jodi, I have 1 copy of THE COMFORTS OF HOME to giveaway to a lucky visitor who comments on this post between now and 8 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, Nov. 1. The giveaway is open to US residents only. Be sure to include your e-mail address with your comment if it’s not in your profile.

Jodi joins us to talk characters coming to life. 

I love traveling the world, but in my mind when I want to relax I always journey to a small town I call Harmony. To me it is as real a place as Rome or London. Sometimes when I’m driving through Duncan, Oklahoma, or Waco, Texas, or Red River, New Mexico, (all places I’ve been this month) I see the town and think ‘they have just that kind of store in Harmony.’ The first of November my third book about a Texas town called Harmony will be hitting the stands. I hope people will come along with me and meet the people in THE COMFORTS OF HOME.
The-Comforts-of-HomeOnce in a while a character plays at the corner of a writer’s mind for a long time before their story begins to grow. Ronelle Logan was like that with me. She was in WELCOME TO HARMONY as a girl who worked in the post office and eats alone every day in the diner. I knew she’d have her own story one day even from the beginning. As she wakes up to the world around her she sees what her life is really like and wants more.
COMFORTS OF HOME is about the people in a small town who come together to celebrate life. They care about one another. Many nights when I sat down in my study to write I felt as if I was stepping into a world, a place that was as real to me as my life. I never think of my people as characters in a story, but always as people. They walk though my life and make it a richer place and I hope they’ll do the same for you as you read THE COMFORTS OF HOME. Enjoy! Jodi 

Jodi, thanks for guest blogging today. I always enjoy a book where they author makes the characters seem realistic, like the people you would know in everyday life.

Now let me share a bite about Jodi. A 5th generation Texan, Jodi chooses to set the majority of her novels in her home state. With a degree in Family Studies, she is a marriage and family counselor by education, a background that enables her to write about family dynamics. Honored in 2002 as a Distinguished Alumni by Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Jodi enjoys interacting with students on the West Texas A & M University campus, where she currently serves as Writer In Residence. When not working on a novel or inspiring students to pursue a writing career, Jodi enjoys traveling with her husband, Tom, renovating a historic home they bought in Amarillo, and "checking up" on their two grown sons. 

WELCOME TO HARMONY, the first book in her series, won a RITA Award from the Romance Writers of America in June 2011. SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY, the second in the series, won the Reviewers Choice Award from

For more on Jodi and her writing, visit her website at or find her on Facebook at You can pre-order THE COMFORTS OF HOME on Jodi’s website.

Do you enjoy stories that involve small towns? What about a series that follows the lives of several people over a period of time, does that appeal to you as a reader? Thanks for stopping by and be sure to enter the giveaway.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Salon: Trading Christmas, Pie, Tomatoes & Mozzarella

We have come to another Sunday Salon, a time to share our thoughts and feelings about the books we’ve enjoyed recently. 

I know my heading may seem a bit strange, but hopefully you’ll be pleasantly entertained. Top off that cup of coffee (or tea), settle back and relax. Once again I have several diverse reviews to share with you. 

TRADING CHRISTMAS by Debbie Macomber

As the holidays approach with rapid speed, I begin to think of Christmas and heart-warming stories.

TRADING CHRISTMAS by Debbie Macomber is a perfect pick for that. This story was originally published as WHEN CHRISTMAS COMES and has been made into a Hallmark Original movie.

Upset her daughter Heather isn’t coming home for Christmas, Emily Springer calls her best friend, Faith Kerrigan, to complain. Faith, distracted, seems to take Heather’s side upsetting Emily more. Emily decides she’ll surprise her daughter for Christmas. Emily scans the Internet finding a site where people trade homes for vacations. She connects with Charles Brewster, a Harvard professor in Boston. The two week trade is agreed upon and Emily begins her journey from Leavensworth, Washington to Boston.

Charles wants alone time to work on his writing and be away from all things Christmas. Leavensworth, a prison town, sounds perfect to the absent-minded professor. He doesn’t realize the prison town is in Kansas not Washington until he arrives. Emily’s Leavensworth is practically Santa’s village with all of its decorations and traditions.

Emily surprises her daughter only to be surprised herself. Heather is taking off to Florida with a new biker boyfriend. Emily is left all alone in Boston for Christmas.

Feeling bad she didn’t support her friend more, Faith decides to surprise Emily for Christmas and takes off for Leavensworth. Always the way she teams up with ‘Santa’ and his elves. When she arrives at Emily’s, she finds Charles instead and no way for her to return home until after the holidays.

Meanwhile, Charles’ mother calls his home and when Emily answers becomes frantic something is wrong. She contact her oldest son, Rayburn, in New York to check up on Charles and ‘this woman.’

The events that follow are hilarious and heart-warming. As the foursome comes to an understanding for Christmas, even Heather has some new insight into her adventures. While the ending may be a bit predictable, it’s the journey to get there that is fun and entertaining. The supporting characters add extra layers of delight to this story.

The narration by Renee Raudman brings these lovable characters to life and gives them depth. She makes you feel their emotions as these characters face a holiday they don’t want but will never forget.

Author Debbie Macomber’s website is

Trading Christmas by Debbie Macomber, Read by Renee Raudman, Brilliance Audio, @2011, ISBN: 978-1455841523, Unabridged, 5 Discs, Listening Time: 5 Hours 30 Minutes

FTC Full Disclosure - This audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

PIE by Ken HaedrichPie_FPO2

When it comes to cookbooks, I have always been more of a collector than a user.

I have finally found a cookbook that will get plenty of use, as well as being a great addition to my collection. PIE by Ken Haedrich is a must have cookbook for anyone who has ever or plans to venture into a kitchen.

The cookbook contains 300 delicious no-fail recipes of ever imaginable pie. The recipes include All Strawberry Pie, Blackberry Silk Pie, Trail Mix Peanut Butter Pie, Funeral Pie, and Green Tomato-Mincemeat Pie just to name a few.

The first section of the book gives detailed instructions on how to prepare the perfect pie crust from scratch and what to do to repair store bought shells that crack. Another section is devoted to ‘Pie Pastries and Crumb Crust,’ while there is entire section on ‘Make Mine Apple.’ The recipes are broken into categories such as classic, berry, nut, custard, ice box, and more.

The recipes are written in simple step-by-step instructions. Each also features a short paragraph about the pie and a Recipe For Success block that highlights tips on making each pie perfect. In addition, bits of cooking potpourri is scattered throughout the book. This covers such topics as the first pumpkin pies, faux chocolate curls, buttermilk 101, and thoughts on chess pie.

The only think I found lacking in this book was photographs of all the pies. There are several gorgeous full page photos of a few of the pies. To me, however, smaller photos of all the recipes would be more helpful. The lack of photos does not take away from the terrific cookbook though.

PIE is a must have cookbook for any baker’s library and a perfect gift this holiday season.

More information on author Ken Haedrich can be found at

Pie by Ken Haedrich, The Harvard Common Press, @2011, ISBN: 9781558322547, Paperback, 656 pages

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this book and it was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

by Hallie Harron and Shelley Sikora

TomatoesMozzarellaWanting to savor the taste of summer harvest long into winter, I’ve discovered a cookbook to help make that happen.

The authors begin this delightful cookbook with a detailed look at tomatoes and mozzarella. The book is then divided into such chapters as ‘Salads for All Season,’ ‘Savory Soups and Sandwiches,’ ‘Tea-Time Tomatoes and Mozzarella,’ and ‘Pasta Pomodori.’

The recipes are easy to follow with step-by-step instructions and a clear list of ingredients. There is also a brief introduction to each recipe.

Some of the tantalizing recipes include: Spring Tomato and Bread Casserole, Pasta Vesuvio, Tomato Chickpea Chowder, Crispy Tomozz Turnovers, and Deviled Tomatoes. The recipes cover every time of day from morning meals to late-night snacks. No matter the season, there’s a recipe to delight the taste buds.

Throughout the cookbook there are beautiful, vivid color photographs of the dishes by Richard Eskite.

This charming cookbook will be a must-have for anyone who enjoys the zany taste of tomatoes and the delicious sensation of mozzarella. There’s even a recipe for making your own fresh mozzarella.

More information on author Hallie Harron can be found at and more on author Shelley Sikora can be found at

Tomatoes & Mozzarella: 100 Ways To Enjoy This Tantalizing Twosome All Year Long by Hallie Harron and Shelley Sikora, The Harvard Common Press, @2011, ISBN: 9781558327405, Paperback, 176 pages

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this book and it was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

I hope I have sparked an interest for one or more of these delightful books. What was on your reading schedule this past week? Have a wonderful and safe Sunday. As always, thanks so much for stopping by.