Monday, September 30, 2013

Gilt Trip, Stranded and An Autography Giveaway

Do you enjoy the anticipation of a new book coming out in a series you adore?

Well, I do. I’m delighted one of my favorite series, the Scrapbooking Mysteries, has a new book - GILT TRIP - coming out tomorrow (Oct. 1st). In addition, this month I discovered another fun series, Maggie O’Dell, which recently had a new release, STRANDED. I’m sharing my thoughts on both of these intriguing releases. While one is a cozy and the other is a thriller, they will both provide you with hours of reading and listening pleasure.

I’m thrilled that to celebrate the release of her newest book, author Laura Childs is graciously giving away an autographed copy of GILT TRIP to 2 lucky visitors to Thoughts in Progress. Please see the end of the post for the giveaway details. I’m also including a press release concerning the protagonist from Childs’ series. (That will follow the giveaway details.)

GILT TRIP by Laura Childs with Diana Orgain

9780425252925_p0_v1_s600As a series continues, sometimes the characters get stale and the plots lose their sizzle. Author Laura Childs makes sure that doesn’t happen in GILT TRIP, the 11th installment in her Scrapbooking Mystery series.

Childs continues to evolve and develop her characters with each new book. The plots, while continuing to deal with mystery and murder, take some intriguing turns along the way with fresh ideas and unexpected activities.

This time around scrapbook shop owner Carmela Bertrand and her best friend, Ava Gruiex, attend a ‘Get Out of Jail Free Party’ in the elaborate Garden District of New Orleans. Margo Leland is throwing the unusual bash to celebrate the homecoming of her husband, Jerry Earl. He’s been released from prison after having served only a small portion of his five-year sentence for white collar crimes.

Apparently someone isn’t too happy Jerry Earl got out early. During the party Carmela discovers Jerry Earl’s body in the clothes dryer on the tumble cycle. Margo pleads with Carmela to look into the murder.

The more Carmela looks, the more questions she has since Jerry Earl had a lot of enemies. When another body turns up, Carmela is certain Jerry Earl was up to his old tricks even while in prison. She has to narrow down the suspect list to find the killer as he quickly begins to close in on her.

GILT TRIP moves at a steady pace with twists and turns keeping you guessing who the killer is and why. The characters are well-balanced and likable. The secondary characters add charm and flavor to the story.

Childs weaves murder, mystery, humor, Scrapbooking tips and even a touch of romance into a well-blended story. The vivid descriptions of the setting enhances the story and make you feel you’ve been to New Orleans with its vibrant culture. Scrapbooking fan or not, you won’t feel overwhelmed with the crafting tips found throughout the book.

This installment can be read as a standalone. However, be warned you will probably be enticed to find out what prior adventures Carmela and Ava have found themselves involved in.

GILT TRIP is a delightful cozy mystery loaded with rich characters, fun settings, Scrapbooking tips, and delicious recipes. Relax in the New Orleans ambience as you try to unmask the killer before he strikes again.

Author Laura Childs’ website is
Gilt Trip by Laura Childs with Diana Orgain, A Scrapbooking Mystery - Book #11, Berkley Prime Crime, @2013, ISBN: 978-0425252925, Hardcover, 320 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure - An ARC 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.
STRANDED by Alex Kava

Stranded coverBeginning a series with the last installment can sometimes make following the story a bit confusing.

That wasn’t the case with STRANDED, author Alex Kava’s latest installment in her Maggie O’Dell series. The story flowed smoothly without having any knowledge of prior books.

The characters are brought to life by the wonderful vocalizations of narrator Tanya Eby. She expresses the emotions in such a way the listener feels them too. Her cadence draws you in and holds you captive as the story unfolds.

It seems a madman is stalking rest areas along major highways. In addition, he has taken a liking to FBI Special Agent Maggie O’Dell. He leaves her clues in Washington, D.C., as to where one of his victims is.

Maggie and her partner, R.J. Tully, follow another one of the killer’s clues to an abandoned farm in Iowa. Assisted by Ryder Creed and one of his cadaver-hunting dogs, they discover the site is a dumping ground for the killer and the body count begins to rise.

The intense search escalates when a prisoner seems to have knowledge of another of the killer’s dumping grounds, this one in Florida. As the group heads to check out the latest lead, little do they know it’s just a way for the killer to make Maggie his prize catch.

Kava has crafted well-developed characters making them realistic and memorable. Her flare for detail places the listener in the middle of the scene.

Combining a fast-pace thriller with bits of humor, hints of a romance, and glimpses of personal pain, STRANDED will keep you on the edge of your seat. Kava’s latest non-stop adventure will have you rethinking stops along the highway.

Author Alex Kava’s website is
Stranded by Alex Kava, A Maggie O’Dell Novel, Performed by Tanya Eby, Brilliance Audio, @2013, ISBN: 978-1455856879, Unabridged, 7 Discs, Listening Time: 7 Hours and 52 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.

Now for the awesome giveaway. Author Laura Childs is giving away two copies of GILT TRIP and will inscribe and autograph each book. The giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. only.

To enter this giveaway, please send me an e-mail ( with the subject line, “Win Gilt Trip.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance to win one of 2 autographed copies of GILT TRIP is 8 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, Oct. 8.


Main character in Laura Childs’ new mystery GILT TRIP, named Best Amateur Sleuth by the Romantic Times Book Review.

    The last 10 books Laura Childs has written may have made trips to The New York Times Bestseller List - but now her characters are winning the awards!
    Carmela Bertrand, the feisty scrapbook maven who serves as the main character in Childs’ award-winning Scrapbooking Mysteries set in New Orleans, has garnered quite a fan club.
    “I could hardly believe it,” said Childs. “Carmela voted Best Amateur Sleuth by the folks at Romantic Times. It’s an amazing honor. The Romantic Times is this huge magazine that’s kind of the bible of book reviews for hard-core romance and cozy mystery fans.”
    Then again, creating memorable characters is one of Laura Childs’ specialties.
    In her past life Childs spent twenty-five years in advertising, creating TV and radio ads that featured characters and spokesmen that definitely stood out.
    “I created the Winky Blinky Sandman for a mattress sale, the Sturgeon General for a major seafood company, and a ‘perfect executive’ who was so busy he had to wear a pink ring Rolodex.”
    Besides her Scrapbooking Mysteries, Childs is also the author of the Tea Shop Mysteries and the Cackleberry Club Mysteries.
    “I love to write,” said Childs. “I was born to write. I wrote and illustrated George the Ghost when I was six and I’ve never stopped. Right now I’m working on a fourth and fifth mystery series. One is a hard-edged thriller set in the Twin Cities, the other is the Hummingbird Inn Mystery series set in Carmel, CA.”
    Can Childs really pull of 5 different series? Can anybody?
    “I don’t know, but I’m going to try,” said Childs. “James Patterson does it and so do a few other authors. I guess I’m still writing like I’ve got a killer ad deadline hanging over my head!”

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I hope I’ve catch your attention with these two amazing stories.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Off The Shelf: The Suite Life by Suzanne Corso and Giveaway

The book I’m taking down from the shelf today to talk about is most book coverintriguing and thanks to Kristin and the great folks at Gallery Books, I have 2 extra copies of the novel to giveaway. (More on that in a minute).

Author Suzanne Corso brings back the “true female voice” (The New York Times) of aspiring author Samantha Bonti in THE SUITE LIFE, the breathtaking companion novel to BROOKLYN STORY.

Here’s a brief synopsis of THE SUITE LIFE

    Growing up in Brooklyn, Samantha Bonti knew the writer’s life she was meant to live waited across the bridge in Manhattan. Summoning the courage to break free from an abusive mobster boyfriend, Sam finally leaves Bensonhurst and begins her new life, working as a temp in a Wall Street brokerage firm. 

    Quickly, she’s swept off her feet by Wall Street player Alec DeMarco, a man of boundless energy, appetites, desires, and the wealth to indulge it all. In a whirlwind courtship, Alec showers Sam with exquisite gifts, the city’s finest cuisine, spontaneous weekend getaways, and, most of all, the love and security a girl from an unstable Brooklyn upbringing craves. 

    But when the party’s over—when Alec’s high-flying career turns litigious and the big money is left on the table—will love be enough to sustain them? With her dream of publishing her novel still very much alive, Sam can’t back down now; she must choose the life that’s most true to who she really is inside.

Here’s what New York Times bestselling author Susan Isaacs had to say about Corso’s writing, “The bright and dark sides of the American dream as told by the Scheherazade of Brooklyn.”

   Suzanne Corso is the author of two feature film screenplays, has produced two documentaries, and written one children’s book. She was chosen as one
of USA TODAY's “New Voices of 2011” for her debut novel, A BROOKLYN STORY

    She currently lives in New York City. For more on Corso and her writing, visit her website at  


This giveaway is for 2 print copies of THE SUITE LIFE and is open to residents of the U.S. only. The book (ISBN: 978-1451698183) was published this month by Gallery Books and consists of 336 pages.

To enter this giveaway, please send me an e-mail ( with the subject line, “Win The Suite Life.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance to win one of two copies of THE SUITE LIFE is 8 p.m. (EDT) on Monday, Oct. 7.

Thanks so much for visiting today. I hope I’ve caught your attention with this thrilling new book.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Whole Enchilada and The Renegades

Today I have two amazing audios to share with you that are complete opposites, but both outstanding in their own field.

Both authors are favorites of mine. I’ve followed the work of the first author for quite so time and always get a laugh out of her stories. The second author I began following just a few years ago and eagerly look forward to his books as the intensity holds me spellbound. First up is from the cozy mystery series by Diane Mott Davidson, followed by the adventure, adrenaline-propelled series by Tom Young.

THE WHOLE ENCHILADA by Diane Mott Davidson

the whole enchiladaAll is going well for caterer Goldy Schulz as her son and his friend, Drew, celebrate with a joint birthday party, but then Drew’s mother, Holly, collapses and dies.

Narrator Barbara Rosenblat brings the characters to life in author Diane Mott Davidson’s THE WHOLE ENCHILADA, the 17th installment in her Culinary Mystery Series. Rosenblat draws listeners in as she expresses the vast array of emotions woven throughout the story. Her cadence is crisp and clear holding you spellbound until the end.

At first glance it appears Goldy’s best friend died of a heart attack. Later at Holly’s home, Goldy steps to get a note on the back deck and it collapses sending her into the frigid water below. Shaken, but not badly hurt, Goldy then learns that Holly had been poisoned and the deck sabotaged. 

Days later another caterer, one that was trying to imitate Goldy, is attacked and killed. When Goldy herself is attacked outside her home, she realizes the killer thinks she knows more than she does. Determined to find Holly’s killer, Goldy begins searching for answers

Davidson continues to develop and evolve her main characters in the Culinary Mystery Series so that returning readers/listeners get to know them better with each book. New fans are not lose as there is enough background information to keep you on track. This book can be enjoyed as a standalone. The characters are well-balanced, realistic and likable. The secondary characters always add a flare to the story. 

THE WHOLE ENCHILADA moves at a steady pace with Davidson’s protagonist mulling over the ‘whys’ and ‘who could haves’ in a pragmatic manner. There are twists and surprises along the way. In addition, Davidson includes many of the delicious recipes Goldy and her crew create throughout the story. This is a story that is sure to whet your reading appetite, as well as your taste buds.

Author Diane Mott Davidson can be found on Facebook

The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson, Culinary Mystery Series #17, Performed by Barbara Rosenblat, Harper Audio, @2013, ISBN: 978-0062282774, Unabridged, 10 Discs, Listening Time: 13 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.

renegadesListening to a book by author Tom Young stirs strong emotions. While it is a story of fiction, the author’s extensive military background gives credibility to what he writes. The pain, suffering, torture, loss of life and dedication have elements of truth to them.

Having said that and the fact that I’m not big on war-theme stories, I do highly recommend THE RENEGADES.

Narrator Scott Brick brings the story, people and setting to life. His deep throaty voice gives depth to Young’s words. Brick’s cadence is alluring as he pulls you into the middle of a battle zone and breaks your heart with the tenderness of his soothing voice when emotions involve the young and innocent victims. Then he has you on the edge of your seat as the action gets underway.

Afghan Air Force adviser Lieutenant Colonel Michael Parson and his interpreter, Sergeant Major Sophia Gold, are once again reunited following a devastating earthquake in Afghanistan. They are on hand to assist with aid and rescue efforts. However, a Taliban splinter group Black Crescent, is making life difficult for the workers. They are shooting medical works, downing helicopters, and threatening anyone who takes aid. But worst of all - they’re kidnapping young boys and making them become suicide bombers.

Parson, Gold and Parson’s Afghan aircrew scramble to provide aid, along with the other workers, in everyway they can. Discovering a way to possible locate the leader of the splinter group, Gold goes against Parson’s orders. Following her lead could stops the new group or get her killed.

THE RENEGADES is action-packed from beginning to end. It’s adrenaline-driven with so many twists, turns, highs and lows it feels like a roller coaster ride. The story flows smoothly, but quickly with moments of tenderness and concern woven throughout, as well as snippets of humor.

The characters are engaging, realistic and well-developed. Their interaction with one another is plausible. Young’s eye for authentic detail adds depth to the story and places the reader/listener in the midst of the action. The story will leave you breathless, exhausted and eager for more.

Having read/listened to THE RENEGADES (or any story by Young), you come away not only having finished a fascinating story, but learned a great deal about American servicemen and women, the trials they face overseas and their dedication. Young entertains with his words, but also educates and informs.

This is the third book featuring Parson and Gold, but can be enjoyed as a standalone. But be warned, after an introduction to Parson and Gold you’ll want to know more.

Author Tom Young’s website is
The Renegades by Tom Young, A Parson/Gold Novel, Performed by Scott Brick, Recorded Books, @2012, ASIN: B008MTA4AW, Unabridged, 11 Discs, Listening Time: 11 Hours and 9 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 joining me today. Do you like changing your reading (or listening) around from cozy to adventure to something else and back again? Or do you prefer to read only one type of book?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Chili Con Carnage: Talk, Review and Giveaway

I’m delighted today to be a part of author Kylie Logan’s Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for CHILI CON CARNAGE, the first installment in her new Chili Cook-Off Mystery series that will be released Oct. 1.

This is going to be a fun tour with lots going on. First, Kylie joins us to answer some questions about her book and her writing, then I’ll share my thoughts on her new book, and last, but not least, Kylie is giving away a copy of her book to a lucky visitor. Please see the end of the post for the giveaway details. I’m also including the other stops on Kylie’s tour so you can have additional chances to win a copy of the book and learn more about it and the author.

Let’s start with a brief synopsis of CHILI CON CARNAGE

   Romance is supposed to be the spice of life. But Maxie Pierce is so done with bad relationships . . . well, almost. She just has to get rid of the latest loser, Roberto. Besides, she has more important things to worry about. Her dad, Texas Jack Pierce, king of the chili cook-off circuit, has been missing for nearly six weeks. In his place, she must team up with her irritating half sister, Sylvia, to promote the family business at the Taos Chili Showdown.
     But when Maxie discovers Roberto's body in a chef's trailer--only hours after publicly breaking up with him--she suddenly finds she's the one in the spotlight as the police pepper her with questions. Now this Chili Chick needs to kick up the search to catch the real killer and get back to finding her father.

Now Kylie has graciously answered some questions for me.

Mason - CHILI CON CARNAGE is the first installment in the third series you’re writing. Do you write on all three at the same time or do you have a schedule? How do you keep the characters, locations, plots, etc. straight from one book to another?

How do I keep things straight? Not always very well! Actually, I work on only one book at a time. So, for instance, a write a Chili Cook-Off mystery, finish that, start a League of Literary Ladies mystery, etc. One thing I've learned after all the books I've written (the one I'm working on now is #50) is to try and keep track of things like what people look like, where they live, what they like and don't like. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but it gets to be really hard, especially in a series that's populated by a number of characters. I now have a binder for each series with lists of details, pictures of people who I think look like my story people, etc. It helps keep my head from popping off as I'm writing!

Mason - What inspired this new series and these characters?

Actually, the Chili Cook-Off mysteries kind of happened by accident. I happened to be talking to my agent one day and I mentioned that my husband had won a chili cook-off at his office.cover "Chili cook-off!" she said. "That would be a great idea for a mystery series." The rest, as they say, is history. As for the characters . . . well, that's always fun! Populating a story can be challenging, and it takes some time to come up with just the right main character. Do you want someone logical who can work his/her way through a mystery? Or someone a little more freethinking? Do you want someone sweet and easy for readers to like? Or someone a little more edgy who readers may not want to be, but sure want to watch? You see what I'm getting at. Lots of decisions to make, especially when it comes to the protagonist.  

For the Chili Cook-Off mysteries, I decided on Maxie Pierce, who's a little out there, a woman who was burned by the man she thought she loved and who isn't willing to giver herself heart and soul to another man. Maxie has a bit of circus ringmaster in her, a bit of liar, a bit of showman. She's not book smart, but she's got plenty of street smarts and nobody's going to get the best of her!

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

You know, one of the really hard things to do when you write a few different series is to keep each one fresh. All the characters in my League of Literary Ladies series can't sound like my characters in the Button Box mysteries or the Chili Cook-Off mysteries. So the biggest surprise for me is coming up with these people who are different and distinctive, whose voices aren't the same voices in the other books. After all these books, it shouldn't be a surprise, but it still is! 

That being said, I think "Chili Con Carnage" was a particular surprise because while Maxie is by no means a clone, she's the closest heroine I've written to Pepper Martin, the PI to the dead who stars in the Pepper Martin mysteries I write as Casey Daniels. I like Maxie. She's sassy and funny, and sometimes, she says things that surprise me. In fact, my copy editor on this book wanted me to edit some of Maxie's opinions. I gave it some careful thought, then decided against it. It's Maxie, I told the copy editor. We have to let the girl have her voice!

Mason - Have you always wanted to write or was there an event that lead you to writing?

I've always been a writer in some form or another. As a kid, I wrote bad stories. I majored in English in college and after graduation, worked as a corporate writer (newsletters, news releases, speeches, etc.) One of the really good things about a job like that is that it teaches you that you can't sit around and wait for the Muse to visit (she's apparently lost my address!). Writing is work and work means deadlines, and when you have deadlines, you sit and write and get the work done.

Mason - Of all the authors (past and present) you enjoy reading, has any one (or more) been an influence in your writing?

That's a tough question because, of course, there isn't just one. But OK . . . choosing one . . . Elizabeth Peters. She writes the Amelia Peabody mysteries as well as a whole bunch of other stuff. She's influenced me because she's shown that you can write smart and funny and intriguing all at the same time.

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

Lots happening! "Chili Con Carnage" is, of course, out in October. Then in December, "Buttoned Up," the fourth Button Box mystery. That one's fun. It's all about voodoo. Then in February, book #2 of the League of Literary Ladies mysteries, "A Tale of Two Biddies." There's more coming, but when I think about it all, my brain overheats so we'll leave it there!

Kylie, thanks for joining us and answering these questions. I’m amazed at the various series you write. I have to admit the Pepper Martin character is one of my favorites and Maxie does make me think of her.

Kylie Logan has loved mysteries since she was a kid. Her dad was a Cleveland Police detective and he introduced her to Sherlock Holmes stories and gave her investigating experience when on his days off, they'd pile into the car and hit the streets to look for stolen cars. When he retired from the force, her dad became head of security for the Cleveland Public Library. 

Crooks and books! Kylie comes by her love of mysteries honestly. 

Kylie began her career writing historical romance and her book, "Devil's Diamond," was nominated for a RITA award as historical romance of the year by Romance Writers of America. She's also written contemporary romance (as Connie Lane), young adult horror (as Zoe Daniels and Connie Laux) and she writes the popular Pepper Martin mysteries as Casey Daniels. 

Kylie is currently writing three different mystery series: the Button Box mysteries (newest book is "Panic Button"), the League of Literary Ladies mysteries ("Mayhem at the Orient Express") and now, the Chili Cook-Off mysteries. She can't pass up an antique shop...there might be buttons in there! She can't put down a classic book . . . even if she already knows the story. And she can't say no to a good bowl of chili. Luckily, her husband is the world's greatest chili maker. 

When she's not writing, she's usually with her family and their two dogs, Ernie, an adorable Airedale, and Oscar, a rescued Jack Russell who came for a short-term stay and ten years later, is still around. Kylie says that those of you who have ever met/lived with/had dealings with a Russell will certainly understand how knowing him has increased her propensity for murder. For more on Kylie and her writing, visit her websites: and

great escape tour banner large chili con carage640


Maxie Pierce has had her share of bad relationships. She just needs to get out of the last one with Roberto and start clean. She already has her hands full worrying about her dad, Texas Jack Pierce, who has been missing for almost six weeks. To make matter worse, since her dad is missing and is king of the chili cook-off circuit, she has to team up with her half sister, Sylvia, to promote the family business at the Taos Chili Showdown.

But things go from bad to worse when Maxie finds Roberto’s dead body only hours after publicly breaking up with him. Now she’s in a hot seat and needs some answers before her goose is cooked. 

Author Kylie Logan has developed an intriguing cast of characters for this new mystery adventure. The characters are reminders of people you’d see daily. They’re likable and a bit quirky. 

The story flows smoothly and at a good pace keeping your attention. The plot is fun to follow as you track down the killer with Maxie and laugh as she maneuvers through her personal life.

The detail descriptions of the area and activities places the reader in the middle of the action. Don’t be surprised when you have a sudden urge for chili while reading.

CHILI CON CARNAGE is a delightful start to a fun new series sure to satisfy your reading appetite.

Chili Con Carnage by Kylie Logan, A Chili Cook-Off Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @2013, ISBN: 978-0425262412, Paperback, 304 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the publisher as part of the author’s virtual book tour in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
This giveawgreat escape button tour host buttonay is for one copy of CHILI CON CARNAGE and is open to residents of the U.S. only.

To enter the giveaway, please send me an e-mail ( with the subject line, “Win Chili Con Carnage.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance to win a copy of CHILI CON CARNAGE is 8 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday, Oct. 5.


September 20 – StoreyBook Reviews Review, Guest Post & Giveaway
September 22 – books-n-kisses Review,  Interview & Giveaway
September 23 – A Year of Jubilee Reviews Review & Giveaway
September 25 – readalot Review & Giveaway
September 26 – Books Are Life – Vita Libri Review & Giveaway
September 29 – Melina’s Book Blog Review, Guest Post & Giveaway
September 30 – Girl Lost In a Book Review & Giveaway
October 1 – Mochas, Mysteries and More Review, Guest Post & Giveaway
October 2 – – My Recent Favorite books Review & Giveaway

Thanks so much for joining us today. Are you a fan of chili cook-offs or do you just enjoy a good bowl of chili?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Corset Diaries and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

I strive to provide variety in the books I share with you. Well, today I definitely do that as I have two audio books that I’d like to recommend. 

The first is a hilarious adventure set in present day English with a look back to the Victorian era. The second is a more somber story that could have been ripped from today’s headlines and should stay with you long after you finish the novel.

THE CORSET DIARIES by Katie MacAlister

corset diariesI don’t think I have ever laughed as much while listening to an audio book before as I did while listening to author Katie MacAlister’s contemporary romantic comedy, THE CORSET DIARIES.

Narrator Ann Marie Lee does a superb job bringing these zany characters to life. Her vocalizations will have you in stitches, as well as believing there’s more than on narrator. Her cadence draws you in and holds you spellbound as your sides ache from laughter. Lee’s British accent adds to the setting and enhances the author’s words.

American Tessa Riordan can’t say no to the opportunity to pay off all her late husband’s medical bills and have some money left over. All she has to do is play a duchess on a British reality television show, A Month in the Life of a Victorian Duke, where real people pretend to live on an English estate, circa 1879. She even gets to wear historical accurate costumes, but she didn’t realize that included wearing a corset for a month. She is, after all, ‘skinny-challenged.’

After meeting Maximillian Edgerton, the handsome English businessman, who will be playing her husband, the duke, Tessa is eager to play her role despite the corset. Then she encounters his bratty daughter, snobbish sister and a manor full of unhappy servants. The month is filled with parties and problems.

From the opening paragraph to the last line, this is a hilarious, laugh-out-loud, side-splitting adventure. If only reality television was this much fun. MacAlister has created witty characters with realistic flaws and emotions. Her eye for authentic historical detail enhances the story and the setting.

Making her protagonist ‘skinny-challenged,’ MacAlister added depth and determination to the character as she overcomes obstacles. MacAlister also creates steamy and explicit sexual encounters between Tessa and Max that will have you swooning and eager for more. The bantering among the characters is priceless and moves the story at a steady pace. In addition, MacAlister has woven in ‘true life’ accidents that elevates the realism of the story.

A trip to Victorian England with Tessa as a duchess is the best medicine for whatever ails you. 

Author Katie MacAlister’s website is 
The Corset Diaries by Katie MacAlister, Performed by Ann Marie Lee, Tantor Media, Inc., @2013, ISBN: 978-1452615899, Unabridged, 11 Discs, Listening Time: 13 Hours and 14 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.

Forgive Me CoverI began listening to author Michael Quick’s dark novel, FORGIVE ME LEONARD PEACOCK, with a bit of trepidation. 

It is, after all, a story about a teenager en route to school where he plans a murder/suicide. However, after listening to this riveting story, I would highly recommend it, especially to parents and anyone dealing with teenagers.

Narrator Noah Galvin does an excellent job bringing these complex characters to life, particularly the troubled teen, Leonard Peacock. Galvin’s cadence holds your attention as the story deals with tough issues for teens. His vocalizations emphasis the emotions and struggles presented throughout the story.

Leonard Peacock is going to school with four presents and his grandfather’s loaded souvenir Nazi-issue P-38 pistol in his backpack. It’s his 18th birthday and he plans to kill his former best friend, Asher Beal, and then himself. But first, he has to deliver the presents to a few people who matter in his life. These people are: Walt, his elderly Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next door neighbor; Baback, a musically gifted classmate; Lauren, a Christian home schooled girl he has a crush on that passes out religious tracts at the train station; and Herr Silverman, the teacher of his Holocaust studies class.

With the deliver of each gift, readers/listeners learn more about Leonard’s background, his emotional state, and why he feels he must do what he has planned. You also discover he wants to belong and be cared for and about. Leonard is suffering from a dark secret he’s been hiding that is destroying him. He has tried to seek help with little or no response. As Leonard draws nearer to his goal, you find the ruthless killer is a scared, lonely boy in need of help and love, who has an amazing outlook on life.

Feeling abandoned by his worthless parents, let down by the adults around him and out of place among his classmates, Leonard sees only sadness and pain ahead for himself. Can he find someone to show him there is hope and possibilities past the pain he feels now?

This story moves at a steady pace and can be a bit confusing at first when seemingly unrelated letters from the future are woven in. However, as the story unfolds the letters play an important part of the story. Quick does an excellent job stressing there are possibilities beyond present pain if one just holds on and looks to the future.

The characters are well-developed, memorable and alarmingly realistic. Quick pulls you in to feel the emotions of these characters as the story builds to a dramatic conclusion. The activities at Leonard’s high school and with the students could be any school in the nation making this a must read novel.

FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK is a fascinating story that will tug at your heart strings with elements that could have been pulled from today’s headlines.

Author Michael Quick’s website is
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Michael Quick, Performed by Noah Galvin, Hachette Audio, @2013, ISBN: 978-14789777, Unabridged, Digital Download, Listening Time: 6.5 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.
Thanks so much for joining me today. I do appreciate it. I hope I’ve given you a glimpse at a couple of audios that will entertain you. Please remember, these stories also come in print format if you prefer reading to listening.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pork Chops and Applesauce On Tour

I know I had to catch your attention with that title. I’m glad because today I have the pleasure of welcoming author and food columnist Cynthia Briggs to Thoughts in Progress as she makes a stop on her WOW (Women on Writing) Virtual Book Tour for her delightful book, PORK CHOPS AND APPLESAUCE: A Collection of Recipes and Reflections.

As part of the tour, Cynthia will be joining us to talk about her two loves - writing and cooking. In addition, I’ll share my thoughts on this charming book. Be sure to stop by Cynthia’s WOW Tour Page and check out the other blogs on her tour for a chance to win a copy of her book.

First up, here’s Cynthia.

One of the most common questions I'm asked is, "How did you get into becoming a food columnist?" I could say I landed the job through hard work or that I pestered the newspaper's editor until he surrendered to my pleas. 

The truth is: I got lucky when my writing instructor told me to call the Federal Way Mirror and ask if I could write a column. I jumped on it and made the phone call as soon as I got home. The conversation went something like this: 

"So, what do you want to write?" A brusque, impatient voice boomed out at me through the phone line.

"I'd like to write about the amusing predicaments of raising children on a farm and the cooking, baking, canning and preserving that go with the territory." I replied. 

"Well then, it's settled." His voice softened. "That sounds like a good fit for this newspaper. Send me a sample of how you'd like your column to look." He hung up.

When I rushed to class the following week with the good news, my instructor asked who I'd talked with. "His name is John. His last name has slipped my mind, but you know him. He's the managing editor you told me to call." I said.
"I don't know anyone at the Mirror. I wanted to know his name for future reference." She said. 

I was dumbfounded. Had I known I was cold calling the editor, I never would've had the courage to dial the number. Pure and simple, it was a lucky break. 
September 1999, my first story titled, Blackberries Create a Love and Hate Relationship, landed on lawns and front door steps in Federal Way, Washington. I was popping buttons seeing myself in print for the first. Then, as quickly as I'd started, my time writing for the Mirror ended just nine months later when my husband's job changed and we moved to Carlsbad, New Mexico.  

We were still unpacking boxes in Carlsbad, when, seemingly out of nowhere, I received a call from the managing eCynthiaBookCoverditor of the Carlsbad Current-Argus. He needed a food writer and wanted to see some clips. He hired me to write the same nostalgic food column I'd been writing for the Mirror

I'd gotten lucky a second time. Only in this situation our real estate person told the editor I'd previously written for a Seattle newspaper and he hired me on my writing merits and experience.
My life-on-the-farm tales with coinciding comfort food recipes were a comfortable fit with the Argus for 5-years. Carlsbad residents felt close to me because of my family stories and recipes that popped up in their newspaper every Sunday. I received many cards, letters and phone calls from readers commenting or asking me about my stories or a recipe. This up-close and personal contact with my readers inspired me to write Pork Chops & Applesauce: A Collection of Recipes and Reflections

Many of my readers said they longed to recapture the past and their memory was often triggered with the mention of certain foods or special meals. I learned through them that we don't simply meet to eat; we partake in sharing food because it's a gesture of our sincerity and our love. Most of our celebratory occasions, such as birthday parties, potlucks, retirement dinners, etc. involve the sharing of food. Families and friends gather to celebrate, bond, and to support each other, and adding food to the equation, helps seal the deal. We don't usually devote more than a conversation over coffee with those whom we're not invested. 

My first "blackberry" story for the Mirror is an example of the connections we have with people and food. Fifty years have passed and I still feel a tug at my heart when I think back to blackberry picking with my cousins during an August heat wave. Falling down into the brambles and going home drenched in purple berry juice with arms covered in bloody scratches is, in spite of the pain, a happy, fun memory for me.
CynthiaOtherBookCoverWe brought buckets of blackberries home to our moms who turned them into unforgettably delicious blackberry pie and deep-purple berry syrup. I carried on that tradition for my family, and I'd venture to guess my kids recall similar blackberry picking adventures, the tantalizing aroma of blackberry pie baking in the oven and pancakes swimming in hot blackberry syrup. 

When my blackberry story published I received a call from a woman who said, "A lump welled-up in my throat when I read your story about blackberry picking. My mother, who is now quite elderly, still has blackberry stains on her kitchen floor from when we made blackberry jam every summer." Everyone's story is different and it's intriguing to me who and what feelings might surface.

Through the acts of harvesting, preserving and preparing food for the table, relationships are strengthened. Gathering to prepare meals, exchange recipes and review events of the day are the fine threads that weave families and friends together more tightly. With each gathering our bonds grow stronger. To me, the food connection helps keep loved ones alive in our memory, just as I vividly recall my mom as she was when teaching me how to make blackberry pie and blackberry syrup.  

One of my goals in writing Pork Chops was to connect yesterdayCynthiaOtherOtherBookCover with today. I believe I've succeeded because readers often express a deep, quiet hunger for heartfelt stories about yesterday and the sumptuous, down home food that was prepared by those who came before them. It's heartwarming to me when young adults want to know how it was done "back then" and Pork Chops gives them a glimpse into that past. 

I've been hooked on writing and baking since I was 8-years old. I remember interviewing neighbors so I could write their stories and post them for others to read. That same year I recall standing on a chair to help my mom make cooked frosting for my aunt's birthday cake. Understandably, a lot has happened since I was 8, and because of those ups, downs and in-betweens, I've acquired a treasure chest filled with material that will continue to indulge my two loves: writing and cooking.  

Cynthia, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing this look at your book. There is just something about food that brings people together in so many ways.

Cynthia Briggs, also known as the “Apple Queen”, has had a life-long enthusiasm for mastering the art of cooking and baking. Inspired by women of kindred spirits, she believes through sharing our recipes and food we engage in an ongoing connection with others, weaving unique bonds we carry with us through our lives.

A food columnist, Cynthia’s popular newspaper food columns (over 200 of them) have appeared in various publications since 1999. Her work has also appeared in New Mexico Magazine, New Mexico Woman, and Funds for Writers as well as several Chicken Soup books. She has talked "food, writing and techniques for living a more gratifying life" on radio and TV, at rotary clubs and women's associations, and at schools and universities.

Cynthia was born in eastern Oregon where she lived near her grandparents' farm. Later she raised her own children on a small farm in western Washington where she experienced daily "mis-adventures" of family life in the country, which she often writes about in her books, stories and columns. Her young family inherited nine well-established, and prolific apple trees with their farm leading to Cynthia’s royal nickname. She later moved to New Mexico where she mastered something new: peppers and southwestern cooking.

September and October (the months Cynthia is on her virtual tour) are overflowing with food related holidays and Cynthia has a recipe to share and celebrate each and every day. She also has two additional books: Sweet Apple Temptations and Bumper Crop: Beginning with Apples.

In addition, here are some food holidays:
Apple Week (beginning August 12)
National Apple Month (October)
National Pork Month (October)
National Caramel Month (October)
Cookie Month (October)
Apple Dumpling Day (Sept. 17)
Better Breakfast Day (Sept. 23)
Johnny Appleseed Day (Sept. 26)
Hot Mulled Cider Day (Sept. 30)
World Teachers Day (Oct. 5)
Apple Betty Day (Oct. 5)
National Angel Food Cake Day (Oct. 10)
Cookbook Day (Oct. 12)
National Dessert Day (Oct. 14) 

For more on Cynthia and her writing, visit her website, check out her blog Traditional Comfort Foods & More, and find her on Twitter. The hashtag for this tour is #CynthiaCooks.


This is a book you can quickly get lost in with its yummy recipes and feel-good stories of family and friends.

Author Cynthia Briggs weaves nostalgic tales of life on the farm and in general with numerous delicious recipes to fit the occasion. The stories are a mixture of humor and inspiration with a fondness for family and friends. She takes a look back at life when she was growing up, as well as present day.

Briggs highlights how food and cooking are a link to connecting people. She explains that it’s not just family and friends, but strangers and even other cultures can come together over food.

One aspect of the book that can have a deeper meaning for the individual reader is what the author calls ‘heart-points.’ This is when a certain food or recipe triggers memories for you. Readers of PORK CHOPS AND APPLESAUCE will find themselves reflecting on their own ‘heart-points’ as the author draws them back to happy times around food.

The book is divided into chapters that will not only whet reading appetites, but the taste buds as well. You’ll discover: Starters, Side Dishes and Specialties; Serving-up Soup and Salads; Breads - Warm Bundles of Joy; Enter the Entrees; ‘Voila! Dinners in a Snap!; There’s Never Enough Dessert!; and Culinary Hearts.

There is a hearty portion of recipes scattered throughout the book. They cover a vast array of dishes from appetizers to desserts and everything in between. Such recipes as Homemade Chunky Applesauce, Family Reunion Calico Beans, Almond Shrimp Salad, Heavenly Chocolate Cake, and so much more.

PORK CHOPS AND APPLESAUCE will quickly be a staple book in your  household that’s not just for cooking, but for those times you need a refreshing pick-me-up of warmth and comfort.

Pork Chops and Applesauce: A Collection of Recipes and Reflections by Cynthia Briggs, AuthorHouse, @2004, ISBN: 978-1403381651, Paperback, 193 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure - I received a digital copy of this book from the author as part of her virtual book tour in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Thanks so much for stopping by today. Do you have a ‘heart-point’ concerning a certain food or recipe you’d like to share with us?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On Tour With The Alchemist Agenda by Marty Weiss

It’s a pleasure to be a part of author Marty Weiss’ Pump Up Your Book Virtual Book Tour for his thriller, THE ALCHEMIST AGENDA.

I’d like to tell you a bit about the book and the author and then share ancover excerpt to tempt your reading appetite.

    When Charlie Rocklin and his company Gold Diggers Exploration set out to recover a 17th century shipwreck, they discover an undocumented Nazi submarine with enigmatic symbols. Ariel Ellis, a femme fatale historian with a mysterious past, proves that the U-boat contains the key to a formula more valuable than any sunken treasure, and more deadly than any weapon that has ever existed.
    In this globetrotting international adventure, Charlie and Ariel uncover an accelerating tempest of secrecy, lies, and agendas, fighting not only for the truth, but for their lives. Weiss’s debut novel is a lightning-paced story with surprises at every turn, and shows us that our personal legends may be more real than we ever could have imagined.

THE ALCHEMIST AGENDA is available for purchase in several formats at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

    Marty Weiss was born and raised in Chicago and decided that he wanted to make movies after spending a summer working on the set of John Hughes’ movie “Sixteen Candles.” After earning a B.S. in Journalism from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, and an M.F.A. in film and television from New York University, he directed national and international TV commercials for major Blue Chip brands, as well as TV movies. 

    He helmed his first feature film, “Vampires: The Turning,” for Sony/Screen Gems Entertainment – an action/horror movie that evolved out of John Carpenter’s “Vampires.” It was filmed in Chiang Mai, Thailand and released worldwide in 2005. Weiss has filmed throughout North and South America, Eastern and Western Europe, and Southeast Asia, and has garnered numerous industry awards. 

    His screen adaptation of his debut novel, “THE ALCHEMIST AGENDA,” was the honored with the Best Screenplay award from Amazon Studios and is currently on their development slate for production. 

    Weiss lives in Los Angeles with his wife Elisabeth and children Jasmine and Jake. For more on Weiss and his writing, visit his blog at

Now, here’s an excerpt from THE ALCHEMIST AGENDA to entice your reading. 

    Just as Charlie turned off the shower, he heard the fall on the stairs, even though his bathroom door had been closed and his office was set apart from the others. Then everything went silent, unusually so. He haphazardly dried, quickly put on his street clothes, made sure he stuffed his wallet and his black book in his back pockets, the two personal effects he only left behind when he was training, and then secured the necklace with the crest around his neck, now the third item he would no longer leave without.

    He peered out into the hallway.

    It was too quiet. Something was not right.

    He walked into the lower level offices. Nothing out of place. Then he looked behind a table and saw:

    Two dead bodies.

    Horrified, he moved through the offices, searching every turn and crevice until he approached the staircase where the oceanographer’s body was sprawled on the steps.

    Charlie shifted into stealth survival mode, quietly made his way to one of the gear lockers, grabbed a dive knife, and crept to the next room.

    Wade and Luke hunted maniacally through the banks of computers and equipment. But it was Ray who found the U-2008 bell up in Charlie’s office, and moments later, the locked case beside the desk. He smiled instantly because he had worked for a custom locksmith all through high school, a job he had loved because it taught him how to crack similar safe designs built to keep children from their parent’s firearms. It didn’t take him sixty seconds to open this lock.

    The Shackers’ orders were specific. They were told to find a nautical GPS and not to come back without it.

    And there it was.

    Ray moved into the computer room where Luke and Wade were searching and excitedly waved the nautical GPS. “I got it!”

    Luke grabbed the device and looked it over. “You’re shitting me.”

    “Let me see.” Wade tossed aside a computer he was searching through and went to join the other two, but a voice stopped him.

    “Don’t move.”

    The three Shackers turned to see Charlie pointing an air-powered speargun. “Set it down on the table and drop your guns.”

    Wade almost laughed. He had been jumped, fired at, and held up by insurgents with much more firepower, and hatred. He wasn’t about to allow this freakin’ frogman get in his way. As Luke and Ray dropped their weapons, Wade drew and fired.

    Charlie dove for cover behind the shelving unit and crawled into the gear room to hide behind a rack of wet suits.

    Ray grabbed the bell and the GPS from Wade and packed them into the empty pack he had strapped over his shoulder. “Fuck’m, we got what we came for.”

    “Orders were to leave nobody alive,” Wade objected. “Move it.”

    Wade and Luke stormed into the gear room with their guns poised; Ray took his time, but trailed right behind.

    They saw no one, but heard Charlie’s voice: “What the hell do you want?”

    Wade put his finger to his lips so that Luke and Wade wouldn’t open their traps, then stalked slowly toward the direction of the voice. “Same thing as you.”

    There was a long silence as Wade searched behind the racks of wetsuits, and then Charlie dropped down from the storage shelves, knocked the gun out of Wade’s hand and slammed him to the floor.

    Wade loved close combat—it was his fortĂ©—but Charlie didn’t give him the chance to show it. He dropped a heavy steel dive tank on Wade’s face, breaking his nose on impact and knocking him unconscious.

    Luke and Ray couldn’t fire their guns with Wade so close, so they charged Charlie. He met them with a rapid flurry, shoving his elbow into Ray’s gut and an upper cut into Luke’s chin, and then he tucked and rolled as Luke’s gun fired, a shot that hit the back wall. Charlie reached for a dive knife, sprung to his feet and threw it. It flew past Ray’s ear. Charlie took cover on the floor and crawled toward an exit as Ray popped off more shots.

    Charlie burst outside into the alley. Someone was already there. Through the sun in his eyes he could only make out a silhouetted figure approaching…

    It was Wade, his face covered in blood from the dive tank, his gun in his hand.

    There was nothing to duck behind. Everything went still.

    And then came a shot.

    When Charlie realized he hadn’t been hit, he turned and saw Ariel leaning on the hood of her car, just-fired gun in hand.

    Wade collapsed on the alley pavement, a bullet through his heart. He barely had a moment to realize that this was his final battle, or to agonize over the possibility that his father would learn that he had been brought down by a woman, his final humiliation.

    “I told you there wouldn’t be much time,” she said. “We have to get out of here!”

    The exit door swung open, but before Ray and Luke could scope the perimeter, Ariel fired one more shot, which hit the steel door, and forced them back inside.

    “Gimme your keys.” Charlie approached with an open hand. “They’ll try to leave through the front entrance. We’ll cut them off—”

    Ariel closed the keys in her fist and gestured to the passenger seat. “There’s a lot more than those two to worry about. Get in.” 
    Charlie got inside the car, weighing his options, trying to think like a diver, remaining calm and breathing steadily as Ariel sped the car out of the alley.

    “They got the nautical GPS,” Charlie said. “They can find the site.”

    “You still have the crest?”

    Charlie held the necklace under his shirt. “Yeah.”

    “And you can find the sub without the GPS, right?”

    “Right... Watch out!”

    A car tore out of another alley in front of them. Ariel skillfully maneuvered and skid, missing them by inches, then took off in the other direction.

    The other car spun around and came after them. Ray was driving. Luke was riding shotgun as he fired a few useless rounds.

    “Drive straight, would you?” Luke ordered.

    “Your aim is for shit,” was all Ray could come back with.

    The chase sent them weaving through the office park and into a residential area. Ariel remained cool as a cucumber as she turned onto a lawn and through several backyards, like an obstacle course she knew well. She picked up their conversation where she left off, just like she did with her bi-weekly lectures: “Just because they can get to the U-boat doesn’t mean they can get inside. The key isn’t easy to find and it’s not in America.”

    “The key? I thought you said there was a code,” Charlie said. “Is it a key or a code?”

    “I’ll explain everything, as long as we’re partners in this.” She turned onto another street, and then glanced back to be sure she’d lost their pursuers. “Are we partners?” 
    “I haven’t had the best luck with partners.”

    “Maybe you should move on to something else then. Without the key, you’ll never get inside.”

    “I don’t give up until I have all the answers.”

    “That’s why we’re a perfect fit.”

    She knew she had him; he knew he didn’t have a choice. “Where are we going?” he asked.

    She turned onto the entrance ramp to the Turnpike. “Prague.”

    “Just like that, without any tickets, passports, or luggage?”

    “Just like that.”

    She stepped on the gas and headed for John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Thanks for joining us today. I hope I’ve enticed you to check out THE ALCHEMIST AGENDA a bit further.