Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mac And Cheese and Death Angel

Do I have a couple of amazing books to share with you today. Of course you know they’re going to be completely different genres, but I think you could ‘read them’ together - so to speak. See if you agree.

THE MAC & CHEESE COOKBOOK by Allison Arevalo and Erin Wade

Mac coverI must admit the cover of THE MAC & CHEESE COOKBOOK captured my attention the moment I saw it. Doesn’t it look yummy? Visions of mouth-watering dishes of mac and cheese sprang to mind and I had to know more.

I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed by the cookbook, quite the opposite. I found this charming cookbook to be packed with delicious recipes, easy instructions, gorgeous color photos, and extremely helpful tips.

Authors (Chefs) Allison Arevalo and Erin Wade have compiled tasty recipes that will have you eager to try all 50 of them. Each recipes is written in simple, easy steps with a bit of information about the dish. In addition, many are accompanied by a beautiful full page color photo of the completed dish. There’s also a section on selecting the right noodles and how to prepare them properly.

A highlight of the book for me was the step-by-step instructions and photos on how to prepare the mac sauce - the base of each recipe. The authors also note problems that can be encountered preparing the sauce and the simple solutions to resolve these issues.

Each recipe also includes a beer and wine pairing to enrich the meal. To help even more, the authors have included recipes for fun side dishes and desserts to compliment the mac and cheese.

Some of the recipes are: Trailer Mac, Mac & Blue, Shepherd’s Mac, Winter Citrus Salad, Peanut Butter Pie, and Dessert Mac. I tried the Vermont White Cheddar Mac and was delighted with my results. The recipe was easy to follow, the instructions helpful and the end results delicious. While this dish took a bit longer than opening a box of mac and cheese, it was well worth the effort. Once the simple mac sauce is mastered, the recipes are a breeze.

Mac and cheese, the ultimate comfort food, can be prepared every day of the month with this enticing cookbook and never be the same. If you grew up loving mac and cheese, this is a must have for your kitchen.

Arevalo and Wade are the owners/operators of the wildly popular San Francisco Bay Area macaroni and cheese restaurant known as HOMEROOM. A school theme is sprinkled throughout the restaurant and the entire menu is under ten dollars.

For delicious, quick and easy dishes the entire family will devour, THE MAC & CHEESE COOKBOOK is the perfect solution. 

The HOMEROOM website is
The Mac & Cheese Cookbook: 50 Simple Recipes from HOMEROOM, America‘s Favorite Mac and Cheese Restaurant by Allison Arevalo and Erin Wade, Ten Speed Press, @2013, ISBN: 978-1607744665, Hardcover, 128 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.
DEATH ANGEL by Linda Fairstein

Death Angel coverCombining a grizzly murder, buried secrets and the luscious layout of New York’s Central Park prove to be a good match for author Linda Fairstein’s latest Alex Cooper thriller, DEATH ANGEL.

Narrator Barbara Rosenblat does an excellent job giving distinct voices to the returning characters of Fairstein’s series, as well as new ones. Her cadence pulls you in holding you captive as she vocalizes the depth of Fairstein’s words. Rosenblat has you gasping for breath right along with the characters.

When a young woman’s body is pulled from a lake in Central Park, law enforcement is put on alert to find the killer and make the park safe once again. As Assistant District Attorney Alex ‘Coop’ Cooper and Detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace being looking into the case, they discover the trail leads to the famous apartment building, The Dakota, located nearby. Piecing the bits of evidence together, they soon discover it could have connections to a cold case involving a missing child that rivaled the Lindbergh Kidnapping.

Meanwhile, Coop and Chapman have their hands full with a more personal matter. They’re about to be pulled into a scandal involving a judge on the verge of losing it that could cost both of them their jobs. Coop is determined to help Chapman no matter the cost as a few sparks of attraction between the two ignite.

Once again Fairstein places her characters in the middle of a bizarre crime scene and leads readers on a merry chase to find the killer. The well-developed characters continue to evolve with each new installment in the series. They’re realistic and likable.

DEATH ANGEL moves at a steady, but smooth pace. It’s action-driven with twists and surprises along the way to keep you on your toes. Readers new to the series won’t be left in the dark with prior references, while returning fans will enjoy the continuing growth of the lead characters.

Fairstein’s vivid and detailed descriptions of Central Park places the reader/listener in the middle of the beautiful backdrop. Her eye for authentic detail enhances the story and brings the setting to life. Reading/listening to DEATH ANGEL is like taking a virtual trip to Central Park with a side stop for a mysterious murder or two.

Author Linda Fairstein’s website is
Death Angel by Linda Fairstein, An Alex Cooper Novel, Performed by Barbara Rosenblat, Penguin Audio, @2013, ISBN: 978-1611761634, Unabridged, 11 Discs, Listening Time: 12.5 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.

As always, I appreciate you taking time to stop by today. Hope you’re having a great weekend and ready for the holiday Monday. Now, did I tempt you to ‘read’ these two books together?

SIDE NOTE: BTW, have you noticed the posts have been in different fonts lately? I’ve been trying to find one that is easy to read and still looks pretty. If you have a preference for one of the fonts, just let me know what date was on the post you liked best. You can either leave a comment or send me an email with “Fonts” in the subject line. Thanks for your help. I want it to be easy and fun for you to read.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Beast by Faye Kellerman On Tour And A Giveaway

I’m delighted to be a part of author Faye Kellerman’s Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tour for her latest mystery/thriller release, THE BEAST.

As part of the tour, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the book, tell you a bit about the author, include the links to the other participants in the tour, share the first chapter excerpt, and host a giveaway for one print copy of THE BEAST. Please see the end of the post for the giveaway details.  
In addition, I’d like to note that while I was participating in the tour, I also had the opportunity to listen to the audio format of the book. This was extremely helpful in that when I couldn’t physically read the book, I could still keep up by listening. That way I never had to put it down when things got exciting even if I couldn’t sit down to read.  

THE BEAST by Faye Kellerman

A tiger, poisonous insects and fish, and venomous snakes sounds like a trip to the zoo, but for LAPD Lieutenant Peter Decker and his officers, it’s a trip to a murder scene.

Narrator Mitchell Greenberg does an excellent job bringing the characters to life. His cadence is pleasant and holds your attention as the story unfolds.

When 89-year-old millionaire Hobart Penny is found dead in his apartment, officers first suspect the female Bengal Tiger Penny keep as a pet was the killer. But closer examination showed that Penny was murdered by a human, not an animal.

Decker, along with Sergeant Marge Dunn and Detective Scott Oliver begin their investigation only to discover the recluse had lead a very bizarre lifestyle. coverTheir search leads them to an exotic wildlife sanctuary, a number of hookers and a string of unsolved missing person cases. They find the eccentric man lead a peculiar life involving exotic tastes and kinky sex with call girls. 

Woven throughout the story is the secondary story of Decker’s foster son, Gabe Whitman, and his current problems. Gabe, a piano prodigy, is testifying in a rape case and also trying to maintain a relationship with his girlfriend without her mother’s knowledge. Gabe is the son of Chris Donatti, an unsavory character Decker has to turn to for help in locating several of his suspects.

Author Faye Kellerman has created characters that are well-developed and realistic. Her mixture of police procedures and family life gives a good balance to the mystery. Her descriptions places the reader among the events of the story.

For new readers of the series, however, a bit more detail about the connection between Decker and Donatti would be helpful. The lack of this information though doesn’t take away from the storyline. In addition, as a first time reader of the series, one is left wondering who the Lazarus is in the title. I have since learned it’s Decker’s wife, who only played a supportive role in this story.

While this isn’t an adrenaline-driven story, it is filled with suspense and holds your attention as new twists are uncovered. Having discovered the series, I look forward to see what happens next.

The Beast by Faye Kellerman, A Decker/Lazarus Novel, Harper Collins/William Morrow, @2013, ISBN: 978-0062121752, Hardcover, 384 Pages 

The Beast by Faye Kellerman, A Decker/Lazarus Novel, Performed by Mitchell Greenberg, Harper Audio, @2013, ISBN: 978-0062221803, Unabridged, Digital Download, Listening Time: 11.7 Hours

FTC Full Disclosure - The book was sent to me by the publisher as part of the author’s virtual book tour in hopes I would review it. The digital audio format was also sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copies did not influence my review.
     Faye Kellerman lives with her husband, New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Kellerman, in Los Angeles, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
     For more on Kellerman and her writing, visit her website, and find her on Facebook and Goodreads.


8/01 ~ Review @ Mama Knows Books
8/03 ~ Showcase @ CMash Reads
8/04 ~ Review @ Vics Media Room
8/05 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Buried Under Books
8/06 ~ Showcase @ My Cozie Corner
8/07 ~ Review @ Must Read Faster
8/08 ~ Review @ Hotchpotch
8/09 ~ Review @ Keenly Kristin
8/10 ~ Review & Giveaway @ bless their hearts mom
8/11 ~ Showcase @ The Stuff of Success
8/12 ~ Review & Giveaway @ My Reading Room
8/13 ~ Review @ a lovely shore breeze
8/14 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Celticladys Reviews
8/15 ~ Showcase @ Beagle Book Space
8/16 ~ Review @ Community Bookstop
8/17 ~ Showcase @ Omnimystery, A Family of Mystery Websites
8/19 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Marys Cup of Tea
8/20 ~ Showcase @ The Thrill of it All
8/22 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Rhodes Review

8/23 ~ Interview, Review, Giveaway @ The Top Shelf
8/26 ~ Review @ THE SELF-TAUGHT COOK
8/27~ Review & Giveaway @ Ryder Islingtons Blog
8/28 ~ Showcase @ Read 2 Review
8/29 ~ Showcase @ J. C. Martin, Fighter Writer
8/30 ~ Review @ Giveaway @ Books and Needlepoint
TBD ~ Review @ Suspense Magazine Blog

This giveaway is for one print copy of THE BEAST and is open to residents of the U.S. only.

To enter, please send me an e-mail ( with the subject line, “Win The Beast.” Your message should include your name and your mailing address. The deadline to enter this giveaway for one print copy of THE BEAST is 8 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday, Sept. 7.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I hope I’ve enticed you to give this intriguing mystery a try. If not, here’s the first chapter excerpt to tempt you a bit more.


IT WAS THE stuff of nightmares, starting with the slow walk down the courtroom aisle: as if his stall tactics had the power to stop the inevitable. Seven hours of testimony, but it wasn’t the length of time that was horrific. When practicing the piano, Gabe had done marathon sessions twice as long as that. But he had always used his music to zone out, and that was impossible to do when being grilled on the witness stand. It had required concentrating on things he was trying so hard to forget: how that day had started out so normal and within minutes had turned into something almost deadly. 

    By four in the afternoon, the trial had finally recessed and the prosecution was essentially done, although Gabe knew the lawyers would have more questions on redirect. He walked out of the courtroom with his foster mother, Rina Decker, on one side and his foster dad, the lieutenant, on the other. They guided him into a waiting car. Sergeant Marge Dunn was behind the wheel. 

    She maneuvered the silent group through the streets of the San Fernando Valley—a suburb of L.A.—until they reached the driveway of the Decker house. Once inside, Gabe collapsed on the living room couch, took off his glasses, and closed his eyes. 

    Rina took off her tam, liberating a sheet of black, shoulder-length hair, and regarded the boy. He was nearly bald—courtesy of an indie film he had starred in—and his complexion was pale and pasty. Little red bumps covered his forehead. 

    She said, “I’m going to change and get dinner ready.” At the sound of her voice, Gabe opened his eyes. “You must be starving.” 

    “Actually I feel queasy.” He rubbed his green orbs and put his specs back on. “Once I start eating, I’m sure I’ll be okay.” 

    Decker and Marge came in a moment later, chatting about business. The lieutenant loosened his tie, and then took a seat next to the boy. The poor kid was constantly jockeying back and forth between the teen and adult worlds. For the last year, his foster son had been at Juilliard, finishing almost two years in one. Decker threw his arm around the kid’s shoulder and kissed the top of his peach fuzz head. Gabe wasn’t totally bald, but what was growing in was blondish. 

    Gabe asked, “How’d I do?” 

    “Phenomenal,” Decker said. “I wish every witness I had was half as good as you.” 

    Marge sat opposite the boys. “You were a dream for the prosecution: completely credible, plainspoken, and damn cute.” When Gabe smiled, she said, “Plus being a movie star doesn’t hurt.” 

    “Oh Jeez. It was barely above a student film on a shoestring budget. It’ll never go anywhere.” 

    Decker smiled. “You never know.” 

    “Believe me, I know. Did I ever tell you about my breakdown scene? I’m running down this long hallway of the sanitarium buck naked with my hair flying in back as attendants in white coats try to catch me. When they catch me, they start to shave my head and I’m screaming, ‘not my hair, not my hair.’ I haven’t seen the movie, so I’ll have to take the director’s word that it was a great scene.” 

    “You haven’t watched your own movie?” Marge asked. 

    “No. Too embarrassed. Not at me being naked, but I’m pretty sure I’m a dreadful actor.” 

    Marge smiled, stood up, and picked a piece of pilled wool off of her beige sweater. “Well, gentlemen, I’ve got to go back to the station house. I left a pile of paperwork on my desk.” 

    “Not to mention everything dropped in your lap,” Decker said. “Thanks for picking up the slack.” 

    Rina walked in. She had donned a long-sleeved black T-shirt, a jean skirt, and slippers. “You’re not staying for dinner, Marge?” 

    “Can’t. Too much work to do.” 

    Decker looked at his watch. “I’ll come join you in about an hour if you’re still around. I’ll bring you a care package from tonight’s dinner.” 

    “In that case, I’ll make sure I’m around.” Marge waved and left.

    Decker said to his wife, “You need any help?” 

    “I’m fine. It’s been a long day and a little quiet is okay with me.” She disappeared into the kitchen. 

    Gabe said, “I should shower. I smell pretty bad. I was sweating a lot.” 


    “I suppose this is only a warm-up for tomorrow. Defense is going to have a field day with me.” 

    “You’ll be fine. Just stick to who you are and tell the truth.” 

    “That I’m the son of a hit man?” 


    “I mean who are we kidding? You know they’re gonna bring him up.” 

    “Probably. And if they do, your lawyer will object, because Christopher Donatti is irrelevant.” 

    “He’s a criminal.” 

    “He is, but you aren’t.” 

    “He runs whorehouses.” 

    “Whorehouses are legal in Nevada.” 

    “He cut up Dylan Lashay and turned him into a mass of jelly.” 

    “Now you’re speculating.” Decker looked at the boy. “Okay. I’m the defense and cross direct, okay.” He cleared his throat and tried to act like a lawyer. “Have you ever participated in anything criminal? And be careful what you answer.” 

    Gabe thought a moment. “I smoked pot.” 

    “Ever take pills?” 

    “Prescription medication.” 

    “Such as.” 

    “Paxil, Xanax, Zoloft, Prozac ... a cornucopia of pharmaceuticals. My doctors rotate around to see what’s affective. And the answer to that is—nothing.” 

    “It is sufficient to just list the medications, Gabriel.” 

    “I know.” 

    “Are you anxious now?” 

    “I’m very anxious.” 

    “Good answer,” Decker said. “Who wouldn’t be anxious during this process? The prosecution has presented you today as a gifted teen that has gone through a very traumatic experience. On cross, defense will try to trip you up. They’ll ask you about your dad, they’ll ask you about me. Always pause before you answer to give the prosecution time to object. And whatever you do, don’t speculate. On redirect, the lawyers will make sure that the jury knows that you are not your father’s son.” 

    Gabe said, “I don’t really care about myself. I’m worried about Yasmine. It kills me to picture her being hammered at by some jerk lawyer.” 

    “She’s sixteen, sheltered, an A student, and physically, she’s small and delicate. She’ll probably cry. Everyone will go lightly on her. What they’ll do is ask her to repeat verbatim what Dylan and the others said to her and argue about the meaning of their statements. I’m sure the defense will say something like they were just kidding around. Bad taste, but no serious intent.” 

    “Dylan was going to rape her.” 

    “He might have even killed her if you didn’t step in.” Decker paused. “It could be she won’t make it to the witness box. After your testimony, they may try again for a plea bargain.” 

    “Dylan’s completely physically messed up. Why didn’t they plea bargain in the first place?” 

    “The Lashays wouldn’t agree to jail time. We offered them a prison hospital, but the parents wouldn’t take it, claiming the prison hospital doesn’t have the wherewithal to care for Dylan in his current state.” 

    “Surely someone can wipe his drool,” Gabe muttered. “I hope he dies a terrible death.” 

    “He probably will,” Decker said. “In the meantime, he’s living a terrible life.” 

    RIDING WITH THE windows down, Decker enjoyed the air after being locked away in a stuffy and tense courtroom. He wasn’t anticipating anything more than a mountain of paperwork to deal with, but then his cell went off just as he was parking in the station house’s lot. Bluetooth told him Marge Dunn was on the line. “Yo, Sergeant, I’m right outside.” 

    “Stay there. I’m coming down.” 

    The phone disconnected. A few minutes later, she came out of the building and jogged over to the car. Sliding onto the passenger seat, she closed the door. The night was cool, and she wrapped her hands in the sleeves of her knitted hoodie. She gave him the address, which was fifteen minutes away. There was a tense look on her face. “We have an issue.” 

    “Yeah, I ascertained that.” 

    “Do you remember an eccentric millionaire named Hobart Penny?” 

    “Some kind of engineer-inventor. Made his money in aerospace I want to say?” 

    “That was Howard Hughes. But you’re not too far off. He holds about fifty different patents for high-heat polymers including glues and plastics used in aerospace. The consensus on the Internet says he’s worth around a half-billion dollars.” 

    “Sizeable chunk of change.” 

    “Exactly. And like Hughes, he became a recluse. He’s now either eighty-eight or eighty-nine, depending on what site you’re at. Did you know he lived in our district?” 


    “Or maybe it’s still the present tense, but I don’t think so. He rents an apartment in the Glencove district and has resided there for the past twenty-five years.” 

    “I had no idea.” 

    “Neither did anyone in the complex. We got a call about a half-hour ago from a unit adjacent to his. Something stinks inside Penny’s apartment.” 

    “That’s not good.” 

    “Not good but not unusual, considering his age. Okay. So he’s been dead for a couple of days. We can deal with that. But here’s the problem. The complainant has been hearing strange sounds coming from his apartment.” 


    “Clicking, scratching, and an unmistakable roaring.” 

    “Roaring? As in a lion roaring?” 

    “Or it could be some other big cat. The complainant had gathered up some of his fellow apartment dwellers along with the building’s manager whose name is George Paxton. I talked to the manager, told him I was sending some people down to get everyone out of the apartment building—as in immediately.” 

    “God yes! We need a total evacuation of the structure.” 

    “If you want the apartment buildings adjacent to be evacuated for good measure, I’ll radio for more units.” 

    “Yeah, go ahead. Better to be safe, right. You’ve called animal control?” 

    “Of course. I’ve requested people with experience working with big cats. That might take awhile.” 

    Decker shook his head. “This is crazy.” 

    “It’s a first for me.” 


    Decker said, “How did you end up with the call?” 

    “Someone in-house transferred the call to Homicide. Not a bad decision, considering we’ve got an old recluse, a rotten smell, and a roaring animal. I’d say the chance for finding a dead body is very high.” 

    THE AREA WAS largely residential: a mix of apartments, condos, and single-family homes, but there was a small strip mall of businesses located across the street from the address. The black night mixed with floodlights and with blinking lights from the bars on the cruisers. Several ambulances had been called and were standing by, just in case. After double parking, Decker and Marge got out, flashed their badges, and were allowed entry into the activity. About fifty yards up was a huddle of animal control agents in tan uniforms. He and Marge fast walked over to the circle and displayed their badges. At that specific moment, something bestial let out a ferocious bellow. Decker jumped back. The roar was especially eerie because it was a foggy and moonless night. He held up his hands in a helpless gesture. “What the hey?” 

    A sandy-haired, muscular man in his thirties stuck out his hand, first to Marge, then to Decker. Introductions were made all around—three men and a woman roughly ranging in age from midtwenties to midforties. “Ryan Wilner.” 

    Decker said, “I thought it was going to take a while for you guys to get here.” 

    “Me and Hathaway were in GLAZA, teaching a seminar on big cats. Zoo is a straight shot to here if there’s no traffic.” 

    Hathaway was tall and bald. His first name was Paul. He said, “We’re usually the big cat guys, but we do everything.” 

    Marge said, “How often do you deal with wild animals?” 

    “Wild animals all the time—raccoons, skunks, possum … even bears coming in from Angeles Crest. Exotics are another bag of tricks. We deal with a big cat maybe once a year, mostly lions or tigers, but I’ve done jaguars and leopards. Couple times I’ve been asked to help out with wolf hybrid packs that had turned on their owner.” 

    Wilner said, “I just did a chimp about a month ago.” 

    “Lots of reptiles.” The woman who spoke had close-cropped blond hair and gray eyes and stood about six feet. Her name tag said ANDREA JULLIUS. “Local poisonous snakes like California rattlers or sidewinders. But like Ryan said, we get the exotics. Just recently, me and Jake pulled out a Gaboon viper and a monitor lizard from a trailer in Saugus.” 

    Jake was Jake Richey. He was in his twenties with yellow hair. He looked like a surfer dude. “I’ve done lots of snake captures, but that was my first Gaboon viper.” 

    Andrea said, “You wouldn’t believe the things people keep as pets—snakes, monitor lizards, crocs and alligators.” 

    “What about that grizzly about a year ago?” Hathaway said. “That was a trick.” 

    Wilner said, “And how about that female Asian elephant two years ago? In the same month, we captured a runaway male bison that was the family pet until it went into puberty and nearly took down the entire house.” 

    But Decker was concentrating on the problem at hand. “How on earth do you get a big cat into Los Angeles?” 

    “Mail order. You acquire some land and a license and say you’re going to set up a breeding program or a for-profit zoo or circus.” 

    “That is crazy!” Marge said. 

    “Not as crazy as the people who keep them as pets,” Andrea Jullius said. 

    Wilner said, “People are delusional; always think that they have magical powers over the beast. Inevitably a wild animal lives up to its name. That’s where we come in. If everything works out well, the animal winds up in a sanctuary. It’s no fun putting down an animal that isn’t doing anything wrong except being what it is.” 

    Another fierce roar pierced the miasma. Decker and Marge exchanged glances. She said, “That animal sounds pissed.” 

    “It’s very pissed,” Wilner said. “We’re going over our next step.” 

    “Which is?” Decker said. 

    “Drill some peepholes and see what we’re dealing with.” 

    “My bet’s on a Bengal female tiger ,” Hathaway said. 

    “I agree,” Wilner said. “A male lion would be five times as loud. When the area is cleared out, we’ll put on some protective gear and drill some holes. Once we see what we’re working with, we figure out how to tranquilize it and get it out of here before we have a major problem.” 

    Another howl echoed through the dripping fog. It was engulfing, as if being swallowed alive. Decker spoke to Marge. “We should assign some agents to the apartment doorway, just in case our friend feels like busting loose.” 

    “One step ahead of you. It’s already done,” Wilner said. “I got one with a tranquilizing gun, one with a hunting gun. We aren’t taking any chances.” He turned to Agent Andrea Jullius. “What’s going on with the equipment from the zoo?” 

    “Twenty more minutes.” 

    Wilner tossed keys to Hathaway. “You wanna go get the protective gear?” 

    “Sure,” Hathaway said. 

    “Do you have a vest for me?” Decker said. “I want to take a look through the peepholes. Homicide was called because the apartment was rented to an old man.” 

    “Our policy is no civilians,” Wilner told him. “And what are the chances that the old man inside is still alive?” 

    Decker said, “This is my community, and I feel responsible for everything that goes on here. I want to see the layout of the apartment so I know what I’m dealing with.” 

    “It’s gonna be grisly.” 

    “I’ve done grisly before. Once I saw a dead guy being gnawed on by a wild mountain lion. It bothered me, but that’s okay. When things stop bothering me, I’ll know it’s time to quit.”


Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Clock of Life, Half Moon Hill, Death Without Company

Once again I have books of different genres to share with you today. One is a reflection of where we’ve been with an inspiring tale, the other is a romance that will warm your heart, and the third is a look at the American West and an intriguing murder mystery.

THE CLOCK OF LIFE by Nancy Klann-Moren

Book-with-Next-Generation-Award-Sticker-e1377126997945With the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in the news, now is the perfect time to discover THE CLOCK OF LIFE by Nancy Klann-Moren.

This intriguing story deals with the small town of Hadlee, Mississippi, in the 1980s where racial attitudes were steadfast. The story focuses on Jason Lee, a white boy, and his strong friendship with Samson Johnson, a black boy. In addition, Jason comes to know his larger-than-life father, who was killed in Vietnam, through stories from those around him. Jason longs to be like his father, but doesn’t believe he’s capable of it.

THE CLOCK OF LIFE looks at two events in American history, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, that impacted a town, a family and the childhood bond of two boys much like it impacted people in real life. The historical references add depth and realism to this captivating story.

Klann-Moren has created characters that remain with you long after the story ends. The emotions of the era are felt through these characters and their actions. The story flows smoothly and holds you spellbound as Jason endures pain and finds he has his father’s courage and strength.

THE CLOCK OF LIFE is a subtle reminder of how far we’ve come, but also of how much more is needed to be done. These strong characters and reminders from the past are well blended for an inspiring read.

Author Nancy Klann-Moren’s website is
The Clock of Life by Nancy Klann-Moren, AnthonyAnn Books, @2012, ISBN: 978-0988494411, Paperback, 364 Pages

FTC Full Disclosure - A digital copy of this book was sent to me by the author in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
HALF MOON HILL by Toni Blake

Half Moon Hill CoverWith HALF MOON HILL you get two love stories unfolding - one in the present and the other years before with ties to the present.

The main love story deals with Anna Romo and Duke Dawson. Their lives intersect at a time when both are hurting, hiding from society and wondering what lies ahead for them.

Narrator Jennifer Bradshaw brings the characters of author Toni Blake’s novel to life. Bradshaw vocalizes the highs and lows of the characters with great endeavor. Her way with words enhances the author’s story.

Anna has moved to Destiny to be close to the ‘real’ family she recently learned she had. Having been taken from them and Destiny when she was a child, Anna wants to re-connect but still needs space to adjust. She buys an old Victorian home on Half Moon Hill and decides to open a B&B after making repairs.

Duke is trying to come to terms with an accident in which his friend was killed and he was scared. Selling his biker bar, Duke has retreated to a shabby remote cabin leaving his friends to believe he’s left town. Living the hermit life, he’s trying to decide where his life is going.

During an outing in the woods near her home, Anna discovers Duke is living in the cabin on the edge of her property. Frightened at first by his wild man-look, Anna recovers and agrees to keep Duke’s secret since he’s her brother’s best friend.

Intrigued by Anna, Duke goes by her house where he finds her attempting outside repairs. Something draws the two to make a deal where Duke helps with the repairs for Anna’s continued silence about his whereabouts.

As the work progresses, so does the attraction between the two. Soon a passionate love affair begins. When the repairs are complete, Duke says goodbye and prepares to leave. Despite her love for him, Anna lets him go. 

The secondary love story is found in a diary Anna discovers in the attic. It tells of how the former owner of the house fell in love when she was young. The boy worked for her family and their love affair was forbidden. In the end, she had to make a choice between her family and her lover. Anna hopes her fate with Duke won’t turn out the same.

The author gives great depth to her troubled characters making them realistic and easy to like. The small town atmosphere is felt through her descriptions and the dialogue.

HALF MOON HILL moves at a steady pace and holds your attention as the two love stories unfold. The author has blended romance, family loyalty, a bit of mystery, humor, and heartwarming moments for a well balanced story. While this is the sixth installment in the Destiny series, it can be enjoyed as a standalone. Enough background is given to keep new readers up to speed on the town and its residents.

For a romance that will tug at your heartstrings and heat up the coldest of days, HALF MOON HILL fits the bill.

Author Toni Blake’s website is
Half Moon Hill by Toni Blake, Destiny Novel Book 6, Performed by Jennifer Bradshaw, Harper Audio, @2013, ASIN: B00DW7TW41, Unabridged, Digital Download, Listening Time: 13 Hours and 32 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.

Death Without CompanyCatching up past installments of a series can be fun, especially when it’s written by New York Times bestselling author Craig Johnson and it’s the Walt Longmire Mystery Series.

In the second book, DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY, readers return to the rugged landscape of Absaroka County, Wyoming. Sheriff Walt Longmire is investigating the death of Mari Baroja, who was found poisoned at the Durant Home for Assisted Living.

As the story unfolds, Longmire looks into the mysterious woman’s past that goes back 50 years. Connecting the past to the present is the only way Longmire can find the killer. He has the help of his Deputy Victoria Moretti, his best friend Henry Standing Bear, and a new Deputy Santiago Saizarbitoria to search for clues. 

Johnson has a way of placing the reader in the middle of the action with his vivid descriptions of the landscape. His characters are well-developed but continue to evolve with each installment. They are realistic and likable.

The story moves at a steady pace with suspense, mystery and just enough humor sprinkled throughout for a smooth read. In addition, Johnson incorporates the history of Basque sheepherders who settled in Wyoming into the story and how their culture interacted with those residing there. 

DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY will pull you further into the Longmire series and hold you spellbound as you learn more about the fascinating sheriff and his trusty group of friends.

Author Craig Johnson’s website is
Death Without Company by Craig Johnson, Walt Longmire Series Book 2, Penguin Group, @2013, ISBN: 978-0143124818, Paperback, 320 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 for stopping by today. I hope I’ve enticed your reading just a bit with these three fascinating stories. What are you currently reading?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Grace Burrowes Scottish Victorian Print Book Giveaway

I’m excitedBurrowes Book Giveaway to be a part of a fun month-long extravaganza sponsored by Sourcebooks and New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes in honor of her latest Scottish Victorian Romance release, ONCE UPON A TARTAN, which hit the stores Aug. 6th.

Going a little crazy with all things tartan, there are numerous chances to win some great giveaways. Thanks to Grace and the lovely Danielle at Sourcebooks, I have an awesome prize pack of two signed books: THE BRIDEGROOM WORE PLAID and ONCE UPON A TARTAN to giveaway to one lucky winner. Yes, that right - 1 winner, 2 books. Please see the end of the post for the giveaway deOnce Upon a Tartan Covertails.

For the entire MONTH of August, each day (during the work week) a different blog will host a giveaway of print copies of THE BRIDEGROOM WORE PLAID and ONCE UPON A TARTAN! This is a great opportunity for a chance to start the emotional and sensual Scottish Victorian-set MacGregor romance series from the beginning, and win two books (open to US and Canada only). The full schedule is below!

This month-long celebration is in honor of ONCE UPON A TARTAN

     Honor or happiness—he can’t have both.

    Tiberius Flynn may be every inch an English lord, but smart, headstrong beauty Hester Daniels has no use for his high-handed ways--no matter how handsome, charming, or beguiling he is. They only see eye to eye in caring about the feisty little girl who is under their protection.
    Tiberius's haughty insistence that his wealthy estate in England is a better place for the child than her beloved, rundown Scotland home sparks Hester's fierce protectiveness, and the battle lines The Bridegroom Wore Plaid Coverare drawn

Here is some early praise for ONCE UPON A TARTAN:    

    “Burrowes creates a powerful story replete with heartfelt emotion and rich characterization... An instant keeper.”RT Book Reviews, 4 ½ stars, Top Pick of the Month 

    “Expert prose, likeable characters, realistic relationships, and believable complications create a pleasant and satisfying keeper.”Publishers Weekly 

    “Warmth, sensuality, and humor infuse Burrowes’ writing, and fans of Suzanne Enoch and Sarah MacLean should enjoy this series.”Booklist 

    “Grace Burrowes weaves her magic with words... a memorable love story—excellent and exquisite.”A Long and Short Reviews Best Book 


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes is the author of the acclaimed Windham Family Series, The MacGregor Trilogy and The Lonely
Lords Series. Her debut novel, THE HEIR (2010), as well as THE BRIDEGROOM WORE PLAID (2012) were both included as Publishers Weekly Best Books of their respective years, in the romance category. 

A practicing attorney specializing in family law, Grace lives in rural Maryland, where she is working on the final book in the Windham series, LADY JENNY’S CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT (October 2013) and third MacGregor story, THE MACGREGOR’S LADY (February 2014), and many more books. 

For more information about all of her books, exclusive extras and her lively blog, visit her website

Giveaway Schedule—chances to win all month long!

8/1 Book Hounds
8/2 RomFan Reviews    
8/5 In the Hammock
8/6 Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
8/7 Manga Maniac Café
8/8 What's on the Bookshelf
8/9 The Royal Reviews 
8/12 Joan Swan's Blog
8/13 Cocktails and Books
8/14 Romancing the Book
8/15 Ramblings from this Chick
8/16 Books-n-Kisses
8/19 Anna's Book Blog
8/20 The Book Girl
8/21 The Reading Café
8/22 Seductive Musings
8/23 Peeking Between the Pages
8/26 Love Romance Passion
8/27 So Many Precious Books, So Little Time     
8/29 Debbie's Book Bag
8/30 Linus' Blanket 

GIVEAWAY DETAILS from Thoughts in Progress:

To enter this giveaway, please send me an e-mail ( with the subject line, “Win Grace Burrowes Books.” 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. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance to win the 2-book package of THE BRIDEGROOM WORE PLAID and ONCE UPON A TARTAN is 8 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday, Sept. 4.

Thanks for stopping in today. Be sure to visit some of the other blogs on the list and increase your chances of winning a prize pack.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cowboys, Cops and Jaguars

When it comes to steamy romance and memorable characters, there are three Sourcebooks authors that know how to do it up right.

While romance may be on the top of the list when it comes to what to watch for, these three authors also offer up mystery, suspense, loyalty, humor and oh, so much more. The three books I want to tell you about offer something for everyone. Up first is cowboys and a reality TV show, followed by a small town sheriff and the preacher’s daughter, and ending with a hunt for exotic animal traders and jaguars shifters.


Cowboy Seeks Bride CoverIf I can help it, I never start reading a Carolyn Brown book after 9 p.m. Because I know if I do, it will be in the wee hours of the morning before I can make myself put the book down.

The author creates such realistic characters, entertaining plots and hilarious moments, it’s hard to find a place to stop reading. The dialogue is conversational pulling the reader into the action and making them feel right at home.

COWBOY SEEKS BRIDE is a fine example of Brown’s work mixing her memorable characters with historical facts for a steamy romance and laugh-out-loud moments. She paints a breath-taking landscape with her vivid descriptions.

In this last installment in the Spikes and Spurs series, rancher Dewar O’Donnell is looking forward to reenacting the historic Chisholm Trail cattle drive with family and friends. This cattle drive is a trail run for a possible reality TV show. What Dewar didn’t count on was the reality show’s field man being a woman.

H.B. ‘Haley’ McKay is determined to make this drive into a reality show. The high-powered businesswoman hadn’t realized her research would have her riding a horse for a month with a bunch of modern-day cowboys.

As the unlikely group heads out on the trail drive, little do they know they’ll be facing more than storms, stampedes, snakes and coyotes. 

The characters are spunky and likable. The story moves at a steady pace holding your attention from one encounter to the next tender moment and back to danger. The blend of humor and determination makes for an intriguing read. Brown gives her secondary characters flare and depth adding another layer to the story.

COWBOY SEEKS BRIDE features a feisty heroine and a sexy hero for a rip-roaring good time.

Author Carolyn Brown’s website is 

Cowboy Seeks Bride by Carolyn Brown, Spikes and Spurs Series, Sourcebooks, @2013, ISBN: 978-1402270215, Paperback, 384 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.

Sultry coverAuthor Macy Beckett has captured the small town atmosphere in SURRENDER TO SULTRY. She brings the best elements - friends, family, love and loyalty - together for a tender love story with bits of suspense woven in.

In a town where everyone knows everybody and what they’re doing, Leah McMahon is determined to stay under Sheriff Colton Bea’s radar. She’s returned to Sultry after a 10 year absence to care for her father following his heart surgery. As soon as he’s on the mend, Leah plans to return to her life up north and far away from Colton.

When he stops a car for a traffic violation, Colton never imaged it would be his long-lost love Leah. Struck speechless, Colton can’t tell Leah how sorry he is for the way he treated her all those years ago. Having given up his hellion ways, Colton is determined to get Leah’s forgiveness and try to make things right this time.

After a decade of womanizing, can the reformed sheriff finally do right by the preacher’s daughter? But Leah has her own secrets that could jeopardize any chance of happiness. Would he ever forgive her if he knew?

Beckett’s characters, realistic with flaws and problems, are well developed. Her secondary characters are rich in flavor adding to the depth of the story. Her detailed descriptions of the small town and its residents places the reader among the characters.

SURRENDER TO SULTRY is a tantalizing read with a hometown feel. The story flows smoothly and at a steady pace holding your attention as the sparks fly between Leah and Colton.

Author Macy Beckett’s website is
Surrender to Sultry by Macy Beckett, A Sultry Springs Novel, Sourcebooks, @2013, ISBN: 978-1402270420, Paperback, 320 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.
JAGUAR FEVER by Terry Spear

Jaguar Fever CoverAuthor Terry Spear creates a magical realm where paranormal existence becomes realistic. Her ability to blend fantasy and reality into a spine tingling story will having you believing.

Wade and David Patterson, brothers and jaguar shifters, are members of an elite Special Forces group that keeps watch over their kind while working to keep their secret from humans. Their current mission deals with finding a group who has been illegally importing wild jaguars into the states for a hunting ranch.

Maya Anderson, a jaguar shifter, is looking to connect with relatives she didn’t know she had. Her goal is to enjoy herself a bit out from under her brother’s constant control.

When Wade and Maya reconnect, the attraction that eluded them months before in the jungle surfaces. As Maya, her brother and his wife get caught in the crossfire between the Special Forces unit and the hunters, things become explosive. The mission travels to Belize and back again for a steamy adventure.

Spear has crafted realistic characters not overshadowed by their paranormal abilities. They’re well developed with flaws and spirit. The secondary characters add flavor to this romance heighten by suspense.

An eye for authentic detail, Spear’s extensive research comes through in the distinct descriptions of both locations and jaguar actions. Detailing the sights and sounds of the jungle places the reader in the midst of the action.

JAGUAR FEVER is an action-driven story with twists along the way for surprises. The suspense is captivating and the romance is steamy. The interaction among the characters is sprinkled with humor for a well-blended story that will put jaguars in a totally different light.

Author Terry Spear’s website is
Jaguar Fever by Terry Spear, Heart of the Jaguar Series, Sourcebooks, @2013, ISBN: 978-1402266959, Paperback, 320 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 everyone for stopping by today. I hope in this variety of genres I’ve told you about at least one book that has captured your attention. What would be the punch line if a cowboy, a cop and a jaguar walked into a bar? Just something to think about. Smile

Monday, August 26, 2013

Author Terry Spear: Jaguar Research And A Giveaway

It’s always a pleasure to welcome USA Today bestselling author Terry Spear to Thoughts in Progress. She creates such fascinating stories and her latest release, JAGUAR FEVER, is a great example of that.

JAGUAR FEVER is the second installment in her new Heart of the Jaguar series. Thanks to Terry and the lovely Danielle at Sourcebooks, I have a copy of the first book in the series to giveaway today. Please see the end of the post for the giveaway details.

Here’s a brief synopsis of JAGUAR FEVER:
    She's being pursued by everyone, in more ways than one.     

     Even in an exotic world of humans, jaguars, and tantalizing creatures who shift between the two, Maya Anderson stands out from the crowd. Interest from human suitors is bad enough, but when male shifters give chase, the real trouble starts.
    Who's the hunter and who's the prey?    

     Investigating the black marketing trade of exotic animals keeps Wade Patterson more than busy. When he and Maya both get entangled in a steamy jungle mission, it becomes impossible to tell who is being hunted or who the hunters are. Wade is desperate to survive this deadly game of cat and mouse. But it's Maya's piercing eyes that keep him awake at night.

Terry joins us now and has graciously answered some questions about her series and her writing.

Mason - Could you explain the depth of research you've gone through and continue to do so for your new Jaguar series?
I love learning how it is for folks to visit an area like the jungle, when I actually can't go there myself. But seeing how it was from trip reports from others gives a feel of what we would see or hear or taste or smell if we were with the jaguars in these exotic jungle locations. 

I also use real jungle retreats in my stories. So the descriptions of the cabanas are real places. I will have pictures of them on my screen while I'm "living" there with my shifter friends to keep me in the setting. I watch videos of jaguars moving in the jungle, reclining in trees, drinking at a river, catching catfish in the Amazon, or courting a jaguar who's interested in a mating. All these help me to describe jaguar scenes more accurately. 

I study the jaguars' behavior at my local zoo, have captured their huffing roars on video, watched them pace, lie down on a boulder, drink from a water source, chase after birds they can't reach, clean themselves with their long pink tongues, and yawn, showing off their long, wicked canines.
I learn what menus are being served at the resorts to lend authenticity. For this story, I moved from the Amazon to Belize. I researched about the animals found there, about the hunting regulations, and about the exotic animals market. I learned about the exotic animal farms where the animals are being raised to hunt at exorbitant prices locally instead of the hunter having to kill his prey in the countries where the animals are from.

I've researched about clubs, even found beautiful designer leopard skin bikinis that I used in helping to visualize the dancers on stage at the jaguar shifter club. I've researched the differences between cats—domesticated house cats—because most of us know something about them—and the big cats. And between big cats and how different they are from each other. And how different the jaguars are from wolves.

Mason - What were some of the most surprising things you learned about Jaguars?

That their jaws are so powerful, they can crunch through a tortoise shell. And that it only takes a swipe of their paw to stun or kill their prey. And unlike pumas, tigers, and lions, jaguars are elusive andJaguar Fever Cover do not hunt humans. Also that ocelots and jaguars live in the same area, but jaguars treat them as encroachers even though the ocelots dine on smaller animals than the jaguars. But jaguars are extremely territorial and no other cats are allowed, small or otherwise.

Mason - As you’re writing about the Jaguars, do you have any type of visual aid around to inspire you such as photos, movies or soundtracks?

Yes! All of the above. I've watched several videos showing their behavior, listen to soundtracks both of jaguars roaring, but also of the sounds various birds and bugs make to catch that in my writing. Or the rainfall in a rainforest. Or the sound of water running down a stream. 

Photos, definitely. I will look at photos of jaguars to describe their coloration and patterns to differentiate them from others. The greenhouse I used in SAVAGE HUNGER is a greenhouse I found on Pinterest. Beautiful. The treetop cabanas where Maya and her brother and sister-in-law stayed have a rotating view of the rooms, the dining room, etc., and I had them on my monitor while I described the various scenes that included them. The ones that Wade and David stayed at were different and I had the pictures of those, both outside and inside to use to help describe the settings. The same with the tours they took while there. I used pictures to help describe them.

Mason - With the book’s release, as you look back what was the biggest surprise that occurred while you were writing the story?

That David, Wade Patterson's brother, kept trying to steal the show. He has his book next in the series, JAGUAR HUNT. When I write my stories, I never know where they'll take me.

Mason - For people who have never read this genre, what do you think they would be surprised to find if they try it?

Realism. Even though they're about werewolves or jaguar shifters, the stories are written with mystery, murder, intrigue, romance in an everyday kind of way. They are as real as shifters can be. What can I say? The hunky guy next door who swims in your condo complex's pool and looks like Adonis, all muscles and a to-die-for tan who takes regular "business" trips to South America, loves all things "nature," and practically purrs when you get near—maybe, just maybe he's one of those hot jaguar shifters. He might be a little possessive, a lot territorial, but in the end, he's a regular guy who loves a run on the wild side. Did I mention he's really hot?

Mason - If you could co-author a book with any author (living or dead) who would it be and what type of book would it be?

My dad. I would love to have co-authored his life story. He survived so many near death experiences, including freefalling from an airplane when his crashed over Germany and he ended up in a POW camp for 16 months, but so many other situations too that nearly cost him his life. He was a storyteller extraordinaire, but when it came to real life, he had the real stories to tell too.

Mason - What is the strangest, most unusual or funniest experience you’ve had at a book signing, literary festival or author event?

I'm not really outgoing, so when I was at a book store signing, my daughter said, "Mom, you've got to give a spiel. Like, 'Wouldn't you like to find romance,'" or something like that. So I did say that to customers of the book store until this older gentleman looked straight at me and I asked him that question, "Wouldn't you like to have some romance?"

His face brightened and he smiled big time. I knew I'd say the wrong thing after I'd opened my mouth. 

"Yeah, sure, I haven't been asked that in years." He returned three times thanking me for asking! I tried to talk him into buying an autographed book for his wife, but he was just so thankful I'd asked him if he'd like to have some romance, he just had to keep telling me how much he appreciated it. He was cute and I was sure I was blushing to high heaven.  

Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?

The SEALs are back in the hot in time for Christmas in October: A SEAL Wolf Christmas. And in February 2014, the much awaited Silence of the Wolf, Tom Silver from the Silver Bros wolf pack in Silver Town, Colorado. After that, it's the next jaguar book in the series, Jaguar Hunt in June 2014, and then more! I'm working on A Hero of a Highland Wolf right now, and have Guthrie MacNeill's Christmas story coming after that. And even more after that!

Terry, thanks so much for joining us and sharing this intriguing look at your research. I love the story about the gentleman at the book store. So cute. You definitely made his day.

Now here’s a bit of background on Terry. She has written over fifty paranormal romance novels and medieval Highland historical romances. In 2008 HEART OF THE WOLF was named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. 

A retired officer of the U.S. Army Reserves, Terry also creates award-winning teddy bears that have found homes all over the world. She lives in Crawford, Texas. 

For more information on Terry and her writing, please visit, follow her on Twitter, @TerrySpear, and like her on Facebook,

JAGUAR FEVER is available at these locations: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Indigo/Chapters, IndieBound, Discover a New Love, and Sourcebooks.

Now for the giveaway, thanks to Terry and Danielle. I have 1 copy of SAVAGE HUNGER (the book directly preceding JAGUAR FEVER in the Heart of the Jaguar series) to giveaway. The contest is open to residents of the US and Canada only.

To enter this giveaway, please send me an e-mail ( with the subject line, “Win Savage Hunger.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. And, just so you know, I don’t share this information with anyone other than the publisher nor use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance to win a copy of SAVAGE HUNGER will be 8 p.m. (EDT) on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

Here’s what others are saying about SAVAGE HUNGER:
    "Dark, sultry, and primal romance...will leave readers breathless." — Fresh Fiction
    "Humor, tenderness, and pure hot awesome and exciting new world." — Long and Short Reviews, 5 stars
    "A sizzling page-turner, Terry Spear is wickedly talented." — Night Owl Reviews Reviewer Top Pick, 5 Stars
    "Spear paints a colorful, vivid portrait of the lush jungle and deadly beauty...of jaguars." — Publishers Weekly

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Do you enjoy reading books that are rich in detail and descriptions?