Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Searing Wind

A Searing Wind is the third and final book in the Battle for American trilogy. This is a not to be missed trilogy. If you enjoy history, Indians, or just reading a really good book, than you have to check this series out.

I got to meet Mr. and Mrs. Gear a long time ago. They were so nice. They are really knowable about their craft. You can tell that they have done their home work and have a passion for what they do. I tried them both as separate authors and together. While, I like them both, I have to say that I enjoy them as a team.

In this final book, Black Shell and his wife, Pearl Hand have barely survived the battle of Mabila. Now, Black Shell and Pearl Hand are their people’s only last hope to stop Hernando de Soto. Soto and his troops are traveling farther and farther away. The final battle will have everyone fighting for their lives. My only minor complaint was that at times it was slow moving, otherwise a good read. Warning as this book will have you immersed in it and lost in history…in a good way!

The No Potato Passover Cookbook

Aviva Kanoff is a painter, photographer, mixed media artist and now cook book author. It really showed in this cook book, Ms. Kanoff’s love for photography. The pictures just jumped off the pages of this book. They were filled with such color…like a rainbow. The images were so crystal clear that I could see the food as clear as day.

There are so many yummy recipes that I want to try. There is the Pomegranate Brisket (which sounds intriguing and a new twist to the boring, old meat dish), Strawberry Glazed Chicken (perfect for the summer as fruit comes into season), Moroccan Chicken, Mint and Honey Baked Salmon (definitely trying as I like salmon and I have tried it with brown sugar and sour cream with lemon pepper). Of course not on the same piece of salmon.

Finally for dessert there is Apple Cranberry Crunch, Hazelnut Cream Cookies (who doesn’t love cookies) and No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie (No-baking involved…seriously!)

The No Potato Passover has something for everyone, even if you don’t celebrate Passover.

Check out some of the photos here

Friday, March 30, 2012

Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms

Stuart Horten was in for a big surprise, when his parents informed him that they were moving. This was not good for Stuart. Summer time was about to start. This is definitely, not the right time to move for a ten year old, when school is out and he is the new kid. Who will he play with? With there is always his next door neighbors…the Kingley triplets…April, May, and June. They are quite interested in Stuart. Stuart finds a grand adventure when his stumbles upon a message from his Uncle urging Stuart to find his secret workshop. His uncle was a wonderful magician.

I have an enjoyable time reading this book. This book made me feel like a little kid again. I was really trying hard to guess what Stuart’s Uncle was trying to tell him in his crypt messages and figure out the clues before Stuart did. Alas, this did not happen. Although, I had fun trying. At first, like Stuart, I was annoyed by the Kingley triplets but as I got to know them, I found they grew on me. Of course, April more because she had more face time in this book than her two sisters. Stuart shined in this book. He was shy and kind of nerdy but he was in his element trying to solve the riddle of his uncle’s workshop. I am interested to see what next adventure Stuart finds himself in.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Surrey State of Affairs

Constance Harding is wife and mother to two grown children. This does not mean that Constance isn’t still trying to meddle in their lives. Her daughter, Sophie, is a wild child and her son, Rupert has his own ideas of settling down and starting a relationship. Constance’s husband is too busy trying to avoid their Lithuanian housekeeper, Natalia and her under garments. What is a woman to do?

I found this book not as entertaining and as funny as I had hoped but still, it did provide me with some laughs. I found the moments involving Constance’s Lithuanian housekeeper, Natalia. The language barrier between Natalia and Constance was great. One of my favorite moments was when Constance attempted and I say the word attempted lightly, to explain to Natalia that she needed to dry her under garments in private. Constance even tried to draw a diagram so that Natalia would understand. It obviously did not work as the next day, Constance’s poor husband walked into a room with Natalia dusting wearing nothing but her under garments!

I did enjoy the idea of reading this book though the eyes of Constance via her blog entries. It was more like reading diary entries. The entries were short, which made this book a quick read. You would sit down to start reading this book, even if you may not fully like it but before you knew it, you could already been a third of the way into the book. Sadly, there was the down side of this book and this was that I found most of the other characters uninteresting like Constance’s husband or I wanted to spank Constance’s daughter for acting like a spoiled brat. This was a nice effort by Ceri Radford, on her first novel.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Win a copy of Lover Reborn by JR Ward

J.R. Ward
Lover Reborn
NAL, $27.95/digital $14.99, Mar. 27, 2012

Ever since the death of his shellan, Tohrment has been unrecognizable from the vampire leader he once was. Physically emaciated and heartbroken beyond despair, he has been brought back to the Brotherhood by a self-serving fallen angel. Now, fighting once again with ruthless vengeance, he is unprepared to face a new kind of tragedy.

When Tohr begins to see his beloved in his dreams—trapped in a cold, isolated netherworld far from the peace and tranquillity of the Fade—he turns to the angel in hopes of saving the one he has lost. But because Lassiter tells him he must learn to love another to free his former mate, Tohr knows they are all doomed....

Except then a female with a shadowed history begins to get through to him. Against the backdrop of the raging war with the lessers, and with a new clan of vampires vying for the Blind King’s throne, Tohr struggles between the buried past and a very hot, passion-filled future…but can his heart let go and set all of them free?

It’s finally that time—you’re all probably sitting comfortably with a copy of Lover Reborn today, ready to discover Tohr’s story. But what you do need to have handy in addition to the book is one jumbo box of Kleenex. I admit to crying more then once while reading; at one point I had to put the book down and compose myself. Seriously, be warned and get that box of tissues ready!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Purchase does not increase your chances of winning. You must be 18 or older and a legal resident of the 50 United States or D.C. to enter. Promotion begins March 26, 2012, at 12:00 pm ET, and ends April 2, 2012, 11:59 am ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

What Doesn't Kill You

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes an explosive new thriller featuring Catherine Ling from Chasing The Night.

Catherine Ling was abandoned on the streets of Hong Kong at age four. Schooled in the art of survival, she traded in the only commodity she had: information. As a teenager, she came under the tutelage of a mysterious man known only as Hu Chang—a skilled assassin and master poisoner. As a young woman, she was recruited by the CIA and now, she is known as one of their most effective operatives. Having lived life in the shadows, Catherine is aware of the wobbly moral compass of her existence and even more aware of just how expendable she is to those she deals with. When her old friend Hu Chang creates something so deadly, and completely untraceable, the chase is on to be the first to get it. With rogue operative John Gallo also on the hunt, Catherine finds herself pitted against a group so villainous and a man so evil that she may not survive the quest to protect those she cares about. Iris Johansen is at her page-turning best in this novel that takes you from the corridors of Langley to the alleyways of Hong Kong, and the darkest places of the human soul.



Sai Tam Island, China

“WHERE THE HELL ARE THEY?” Venable, deputy director of the CIA, had his binoculars focused on the small cottage in the valley below. “Special Ops were supposed to go in from the rear fifteen minutes ago and take Hu Chang out of there.”
“It’s a difficult job,” Agent Gregory said. “The place is surrounded by mercenaries. You told Special Ops they had to get Hu Chang out alive.”

“You’re damn right. We have to know how much he told them and what he gave them.” Besides the fact that Catherine Ling, who was one of his best agents, would kill Venable if he allowed it to be bungled. She and Hu Chang had some kind of history. Even Venable wasn’t sure exactly what it was. But, dammit, it wasn’t Venable’s fault that Hu Chang had gotten into this mess, and the CIA was having to pull him out.
Not that he wouldn’t have had to go after him anyway if the story Venable’s informant had told him was true. A potion that complex and dangerous had never been invented. It probably wasn’t true, but why else was Hu Chang down there being tortured to make him talk? Venable couldn’t take the chance.
“There they are,” Gregory said as he went to the back of the helicopter and threw open the door. “We should be out of here in ten minutes.”

The door of the cottage flew open and four men in Special Ops gear ran out. And in the middle of the group was a slim, dark-haired man in a torn tunic. Hu Chang.
“Yes.” Venable watched as the Special Ops men fired back over their shoulders while they headed for the woods. Men were streaming out of the cottage.
More shots.

Then Hu Chang and the special team had disappeared into the trees.
“They should reach the helicopter in three minutes,” Gregory said. “I’ll go tell the pilot to be ready to lift off.”
Three minutes passed.

No Special Ops. No Hu Chang.
Another four minutes.
Venable began to curse.
Justin, the Special Ops commander, burst out of the trees and was climbing the rocks toward the helicopter. “Is he here?” he called. “I told him where you were in case we got separated. I can’t find him.”

“I can’t find Hu Chang. When we reached the trees, he slipped away from us. One minute he was there, the next he was gone. He’s not here?”
“No, he’s not here.”
“Then I’ll go back for him.”

More men running from the cottage to the woods.
“No, get your men back to the helicopter. You’re outnumbered. Just lay down protective fire to keep anyone away from the helicopter.”
“What about Hu Chang? He was my mission, dammit.”

“Evidently he didn’t want to be your mission,” Venable said. “And I’m not going to lose any of your men because he endangered you by this stupidity. We’ll give him ten minutes, then we’re out of here.”

“They’ll surround the area around the helicopter. He won’t be able to get through.”
“That’s his problem. Go get your men.”

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

25 Novels to Honor Women’s History Month

Check out this nice list of books to honor women for Women's History Month

Some of the books on the list are:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Literature doesn’t get more Southern Gothic than this dearly beloved classic of a young, Depression-era Alabama girl who learns firsthand the unjust class and race divides present in her small town. Harper Lee’s only novel continues inspiring readers who hope to find the way to shut down social divides for good.

The Lilith’s Brood Trilogy by Octavia Butler
Science-fiction’s first lady boasts a heavily embraced brew of aliens, feminism, traditional religious tales, and gender in her trilogy of novels about the last remaining humans and their relationship with extraterrestrials. Hybridization with a race of genetics aficionados seems to be the only way to preserve what’s left of mankind, and one woman serves as the matriarch.

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
When the Nobel Prize committee rewarded this treasured American author, they specifically noted Song of Solomon as one of her greatest publishing accomplishments. Here, an African-American man grows into adulthood after a life of violence, family discord, attempted murder, and other genuinely terrifying experiences.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Young Tita loves Pedro, and he returns her feelings, but he must marry her elder sister because of a staunch family tradition keeping her forever tending to her mother. Fueled by taboo passions, she channels everything into spectacular meals (recipes included!) that conjure up lush magical realist imagery.

The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif
The Map of Love weaves a postcolonial love story set in Egypt while revolutionaries strike back against their British overlords, appealing to fans of romance, drama, and sociopolitical commentary alike. 1999 saw Ahdaf Soueif receive a nomination for the Man Booker Prize, and while she did not receive the award, she still vaulted herself into literary history for her sharp take on imperialist inclinations.

Win a Mink with Blood. Haha!

Somewhere in Philadelphia, a master engraver is turning out brilliant forgeries of U.S. currency plates for an organized crime gang - and the government wants to put a stop to it. But how can they get close enough to bring down the criminal enterprise from the inside?

By snatching a west coast crime boss’ right-hand man and sending a federal agent undercover in the man’s place. His assignment: pose as a buyer of counterfeit bills and try to get the engraver out. Which works fine - until he crosses paths with someone who knows the man he replaced...

A lost masterpiece from science fiction Grandmaster Robert Silverberg, published as a complete novel for the very first time!

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING. You must be 18 or older and a legal resident of the 50 United States or D.C. to enter. Promotion begins March 27, 2012, at 12 pm ET, and ends April 3, 2012, 11:59 am ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

Jodi Thomas...Just Down the Road

My Review

Tinch Turner has been a loner, ever since the death of his wife.

Dr. Addison Spencer was hoping for a quiet evening in the hospital, so that maybe she could get off early. Yeah right, Addison should have expected that she would not get her wish. It was a Saturday night.

The first time that Addison saw Tinch, it was in the ER. He had been in a bar fight. Let’s say that Tinch did not make a good first impression on Addison. No matter what Addison may think of Tinch, she and he will have to band together for the sake of a little boy.

I have enjoyed this series a lot. It reminds me of another famous series that I also like a lot. Maybe you have heard of it…it is called Virgin River by Robyn Carr. The reason for the reference to Mrs. Carr’s series is that both series feature great characters and story lines but wonderful authors.

I have followed Reagan since the beginning with Welcome to Harmony. I felt like I have grown up with her. To see her turn into a woman in this book made me feel a little bit like a proud mom. I was glad to see her and Noah reconnect. Tinch and Addison made a good couple together. I like that they both did not jump into the romance but it was drawn out in this book until the last third of the book. Also, can I say what an intriguing name Tinch is. Just like the last book, I knew I would finish this book in a matter of a few hours and I was right.

Just Down the Road is like receiving a great, big hug from a loved one. It is warm, makes you feel good and has you wanting another one!

Sell date: April 3, 2012
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 978-0425246924
Retail price: USA $ 7.99

On April 3, 2012, my new story JUST DOWN THE ROAD will be released. I’m walking the floor waiting for the birth of this book because I fell like it’s the best I’ve ever written. A friend of mine commented that, over the last 36 books, I’ve said that a few times before, and I probably have, but I work to make each one better and this one shines. For those readers who love stories that wrap around your heart, you’ll love this one. It’s about the people of a small town who, though they think they live private lives also interact and change those around them. I’ve really never thought of the people in my books as characters, for me they are people, as real in my mind as my neighbors. They are wise and foolish, and loving…and unforgettable.

Whenever I begin to plot I like to mix my stories together so that one plot forms out of the life of several people. In JUST DOWN THE ROAD I have the beginnings of young, first time, love and the sweet love of two people who thought they were destined to live their lives alone. In the opening I introduce two people who are running, one from life and the other toward it. One, because of fear, thinks she’s never lived and the other feels his life is over. They are not a couple anyone would put together but as they grow to love each other. Tinch and Addison realize they’re a perfect match. And, for a man just learning to live again, Tinch has to also realize that there are some things in life worth risking his life for.

I’m never sure what to say when people ask me what I do for a living. I daydream. I play. I imagine. I create. I scrub the rough worlds clean. I’m not a writer for a living, I’m simply a writer.In JUST DOWN THE ROAD all my work, and skill and that spark of talent seemed to come together. The people I created breathed. I’m very proud of this book and I hope it makes you laugh, and cry and fall in love with the people who live in Harmony.

Enjoy the story,

Jodi Thomas

Jodi Thomas is the NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of 34 novels and 11 short story col-lections. In June 2011, WELCOME TO HARMONY won a RITA, the highest award for women’s fic-tion. Jodi currently serves as the Writer in Residence at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Reconstructionist

Review by Nancy

In a story of love, lust, hate and miscommunication Ellis Barstow is muddled. He loves his dead brother’s girlfriend (who also happens to be his boss’ wife). Always has but might not always will. Heather was nice to his when no one else was when he was young and his teenage crush has developed into full blown – something close to obsession.

Boggs hires Ellis to help him reconstruct vehicle accidents. Their work usually wins lawsuits for their clients; but are they always right? It’s the real world, folks, not gonna happen. Ellis follows Boggs like a puppy but may be the real mind behind their projects. Until.

Boggs discovers Ellis and Heather have become a bit more than friends. He can’t deal with that so he takes off to places unknown. Ellis, guilt ridden, follows him to make amends.

Boggs and Ellis make up the main parts of this story. I liked it but I also didn’t. I really liked it until the affair began which seemed to break the book up into a confusing back and forth between Ellis minor breakdown, Boggs major life crisis and what Heather may have been up to twelve years ago. It’s certainly worth the time to read, if for nothing else than to understand how traffic accidents are thought out.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Just a Minute

While I don’t have children of my own, I have several nieces and nephews that I get to see and spend time with. This is why I wanted to read this book. I enjoy playing with them and know that a child is important.

Mr. Stafford did a wonderful job of writing and sharing all the stories of children and the situations that he viewed and experienced. One of my favorite stories was of a little girl that Mr. Stafford encountered in Manado, Indonesia. Her name was Jessica. Mr. Stafford was visiting about 100 children there and wanted to show the children how much they mattered with Compassion. Mr. Stafford focused on a little girl named Jessica. He picked her up in his lab and asked the children if they knew what the little girl’s name was. They answered Jessica. Than Mr. Stafford proceeded to say that Jesus also knows Jessica’s name and every thing about her as he loved her. After Mr. Stafford was finished with his lesson, he put Jessica down. Although, it was kind of hard as she was hanging onto him. Later, Mr. Stafford was informed that about a month earlier, Jessica had been sexually violated and was untrusting. In that moment of Compassion, Jessica trusted Mr. Stafford.

This book teaches us other important lessons as well that anyone could use not just children. Although, it is very important to remember these lessons and instill them in our children as our actions teach them a lot. This book would make a good Bible study lesson guide.

Widow’s Might book trailer contest

Author Sandra Brannan is getting ready to release, Widow’s Might, the third book in The Liv Bergen Mystery Series, and she needs your help in creating a book trailer!

Interested? Here’s how to enter:

1. E-mail with your name, address and contact info. Be sure to enter ”Widow’s Might Book Trailer Contest” in the subject line. Deadline to enter is April 10, 2012.

2. All entrants will be sent one advance reader’s copy so contestants can get brainstorming and have time to create a 30-60 second book trailer for Widow’s Might.

3. Book trailers must be submitted to by June 15th, 2012. Sandra Brannan will pick her top 5, which we will feature on The New Book Network for fans to vote on their favorite.

4. The five finalists will receive the entire Liv Bergen Series (In the Belly of Jonah, Lot’s Return to Sodom and Widow’s Might) signed by author Sandra Brannan. One grand prize winner will be announced on July 1st, 2012 and treated to a round trip airline ticket and one over-night stay in downtown Rapid City, SD for the book launch at Mitzi’s Books on Main Street Square on August 11th where the winning trailer will be featured!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Interview with Frank Delaney and Tribune

Tribune: How strong is the pulse of literary fiction, criticism and serious examination of literature in the 21st century? Who are today's shining literary lights?

Frank Delaney: "Great question! People have been saying for generations, “Oh, the novel is dead.” Well, it ain't – nor is that wonderful American invention, creative nonfiction, nor is biography, nor is political writing. And as well as the books, the commentariat is alive and well.

In fact, there's an argument to be made that it's healthier than ever, because we now have this wonderful new creature, the Literary Blogger. I'm a massive fan of this gorgeous animal, with all its fur and feathers – for a number of reasons. My main complaint about the general direction of literary criticism over the last century has been – and Joyce is a case in point – that it tended, in its lofty tone and often impenetrable language (not to mention occasional vendetta behavior), to be antidemocratic, to keep certain areas of literature to itself, whereas my own passion is for as many people as possible to be reading as widely as possible.

The Literary Bloggers have no axes to grind, they're not protecting their reputations, they don't fear being sneered at by other critics, they're reading what they want to read, writing what they want to write, and they don't want to keep what they enjoy to themselves. They want to share. They want to expand the constituency of reading. They want to hail and applaud good writing. To my mind this is a very significant development – uneven, I grant, here and there, but, dammit, not as uneven as the generations of formal literary critics, and the blogging intention is so good and so worthy of loud vocal support that you can call it truly a new and, to my mind, incomparably welcome development in the world of reading and writing."

You can read the rest of the Tribune article here.

Scott Sigler and Nocturnal!!

I am a fan of Mr. Sigler's. I have been since Infected. That book was creepy, good reading. It had me on the edge of my seat and my skin crawling and tingling.

Check out my review for Infected

Mr Sigler's newest book, Nocturnal is releasing April 3rd.

You can purchase a copy here

In the mean time you have to check out this video by Mr. Sigler of him revealing the final book cover for Nocturnal.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Fay Famaghetti works in her family’s Italian restaurant. She is ready for a change. She becomes a realtor. Though in this present time, even if you are the best realtor it can be hard to make a living. That all changes when Fay is presented with an opportunity that she can not refuse… house flipping. There is a lot of money to be made in this business. Fay soon realizes that. Though, how much of a good thing is enough?

I thought this book sounded interesting and something different from what I normally read. Sadly, this book or the characters did not strike a cord with me and made me want to get to know them better. Right from the beginning, I was some what put off by Fay’s demeanor and attitude. Mrs. Goodfellow seemed like a nice woman and all Fay could think about is how Mrs. Goodfellow was her’s and her home. I tried to look past that and read on but for me, it didn’t get better and I could not read this book past about 1 third of the way in. Although, I thought Mrs. Ellenton did a good job centering this story on present events…the house market and the business of “flipping”. For any one who is not familiar with the term “flipping”,

Courtesy of Wikipedia
Flipping is a term used primarily in the United States to describe purchasing a revenue-generating asset and quickly reselling (or "flipping") it for profit. Though flipping can apply to any asset, the term is most often applied to real estate and initial public offerings.

The term "flipping" is frequently used both as a descriptive term for schemes involving market manipulation and other illegal conduct and as a derogatory term for legal real estate investing strategies that are perceived by some to be unethical or socially destructive. The latter usage is typically contested by those who believe the strategies in question are ethical and socially beneficial or neutral. In the United Kingdom the term is used to describe a technique whereby Members of Parliament were found to be switching their second home between several houses, which had the effect of allowing them to maximize their taxpayer funded allowances.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ms. Halliday is playing anything but nice

Anya Danielovich used to work for the KOS. A Yugoslavian intelligence agency. Now, Ayna is just plain, old Anna Smith.

Nick Dade is not fooled by Anya or Anna as she goes by these days. Nick has read Anya’s file and he knows what she is capable of. Nick usually does not take on cases that involve women as the target but for Anya he made an exception. Nick soon realizes that he is not the only one after Anya. Before he knows it, Nick is protecting Anya but only until he can take out the competition.

I have seen Ms. Halliday’s books around. I keep telling myself that I have to check her out but than another year goes by and I realize that I haven’t done so. That changed, when I picked up Play Nice.

This book helped me out of my reading slump. I found myself drawn into the story and the characters. Anya or I should say “Anna” was a spit fire. She not only had the looks but she could kick some serious butt too. If, I did not think that Nick could take card of himself, I almost would have felt sorry for him having to put up with Anya. Of course, I did say “almost” Anya and Nick are like Turner and Hooch. They don’t belong together but they really are the perfect match and they compliment each other. Also, I like that there was little romance between Anya and Nick. For this book, if there had between something going on, than it would have been unbelievable to me. The way this book ended has me excited. It hints that I will get to see Anya and Nick again real soon. Maybe it will be the next book that I might see some sparks form with Anya and Nick. Play Nice is an oxymoron. Ms. Halliday is playing anything but nice. She serves up a warm, plate of action, intrigue and strong characters!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Zombie.Oh, My! Infamous

About "Infamous":

The world has fallen in love with Nick Gautier and the Dark-Hunters. Now Nick's saga continues in the next eagerly anticipated volume...

Go to school. Get good grades. Stay out of trouble. That's the mandate for most kids. But Nick Gautier isn't the average teenager. He's a boy with a destiny not even he fully understands. And his first mandate is to stay alive while everyone, even his own father, tries to kill him.

He's learned to annihilate zombies and raise the dead, divination and clairvoyance, so why is learning to drive such a difficulty? But that isn't the primary skill he has to master. Survival is.
And in order to survive, his next lesson makes all the others pale in comparison. He is on the brink of becoming either the greatest hero mankind has ever known.

Trailer URL:


Website: for more about SHERRILYN KENYON, INFAMOUS, and all of her novels.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pirates of Aden

Review by Nancy
This “could happen any moment” novel takes us up right into the headlines. Pirates in the Gulf of Aden taking ships for their cargo and ransoming same. Daniel Rasic has done a bang-up job of making his pirates come right off the pages into your face when Sami and his Somalian crew take over a ship of military weapons. He has problems and his nephew is shot. They must find a doctor or the boy will die.

Back in 1999, a doctor was monitoring a “patient” who was being interrogated by one of the best/worst in the FBI - Steve Sidwell. Sidwell loves torture and is quite good at it but the prisoner survives and Sidwell ends up being sent to prison for his actions. The doctor is killed crossing the street leaving a son and a grieving widow and all goes on as it should.

Sami and his nephew end up in the town of Bossasso in the Republic of Puntland in Somalia. A nowhere kind of place but it does have a medical clinic run by two doctor: Ellen Al-Hamadi and Dr. Paul Alban, friends first and now lovers. They are used to saving lost causes: kids who walk on land mines, boys who are shot trying to hijack a ship, women used and abused. They take them all in and try their hardest to help them. Sometimes they lose – like today with Ali.

Things come into place soon after the crew arrives at Paul’s clinic: after all he knows Sami – he’s the one giving them info on the ships they take. Why? Long tale and that is what makes up the meat of this book. Paul and Ellen aren’t quite what they seem and the people around them are finding that out quite quickly. A man named Haddad from Paul’s past is most eager to make his reacquaintance – they have much to talk over.

This book is fascinating: politics, backstabbing, arrangements, crosses front and double – everything I love in a novel and it doesn’t disappoint at all! Congratulations to Daniel Rasic on an excellent story!

Diary of a Mad Fat Girl

Review by Nancy

Oh my! When you live in Bugtussle, Mississippi everyone knows your business. EVERYONE. Which is one reason that Graciela Jones (Ace) is a bit wary when her ex-boyfriend comes back to town. She can’t turn around without someone telling her she should never have left him, what he’s doing at the exact moment and where he is and with whom. Her dog has even forsaken her lap for his. What’s a girl to do?

Ace’s best friend Lilly has been suspended for having an affair with a student - which she didn’t. Mason came back home to help Lilly out since he’s a hot-shot attorney in Florida. Where Ace lived with him until she saw him talking to another woman, got pissed off and left.

Lilly and Ace have a fairly innocent friend named Chloe who had the misfortune to marry the town abuser (covered for by his mommy of course!). When he hits her one time too many, Ace decides he’s got to go and beings plotting his end with the help of Mason, Lilly and the town’s Grand Dame who has more between her ears than just jewelry and a mansion.

This book was such a hoot! Ms. McAfee has the South down pat and what the term girlfriend really means! If you want a fun Spring Break read or something for a slow evening on the veranda this is it! You won’t be sorry. Oh, and Mason…he’s the real thing.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Girl Next Door

Carter Ross reads a story about a woman involved in a hit and run. He decides to attend her funeral. Carter gets more than he bargained for when the victim’s sister tells Carter that she believes the accident was no accident. Carter agrees to investigate the case. Carter better watch his back or he could find himself in a hit and run accident of his own.

The Girl Next Door is book three of the Carter Ross novels. I like Carter. When you first think of a reporter, you instantly group them with attorneys. When it comes to Cater, I would have to say that he is the minority. He plays by his own rules but he is for the people. He will go to great lengths to uncover the truth, even if it means this could be his last story.

While, I did enjoy this book, I had some trouble jumping in with both feet. There was nothing too exciting about the characters that drew me into the story or made me really cheer for Carter to solve the murder. For a mystery fan, there were not a lot of twists and you will probably figure out who the responsible party if before the book is over. Although, there was nothing special about this book, I am still a fan of Mr. Parks and will check out the next Carter Ross book.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

From the Ashes

Review by Nancy
There are always hidden secrets – everywhere you look. The Federal Government probably has more than most and one of them is the subject of this well-written book. A man is murdered and his brother isn’t believing the suicide decision made by the local cops. Jon heard about Michael’s death while climbing in Australia. Michael had just proposed to the love of his life, why would he end it?

Jon and Michael’s fiancé, Mara, both agree on one thing: whatever Michael was researching got him killed and when someone tries to take Jon out for being in his brother’s apartment they are positive. And they’re right. Michael had discovered something some very powerful people are willing to do anything to acquire. A piece of paper signed by the Federal Government and given to…..well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

Amazing historical research, very frightening agent-types and some people just trying to do the right thing and led into it quite nice by author Burns. Even if you don’t believe in secrets, this is a story of the first-order and if you like mysteries pick it up. You won’t be sorry.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ship of Souls

D became a ward of the state, when his mother died from cancer. Lucky for D, he is taken in by Mrs. Ward, a nice white lady. Things are going great for D until Mrs. Ward cares for Mercy, a crack baby. Soon, all of Mrs. Ward’s time is occupied by Mercy.

D is a math whiz. This is why Mr. Powell hires D to tutor his son, Hakeem in math. Nyla has captured the attention of both D and Hakeem. Soon, D, Hakeem and Nyla are hanging out together.

D decides one day to go to the park. Once in the park, D hears a voice. The voice is coming from a small, white bird. The bird’s name is Nuru. D. takes Nuru home with him. Nuru tells D that she must return and help the lost souls. D agrees to help Nuru on her mission. He is joined by Hakeem and Nyla. It will be a dangerous mission as they battle the Nether beings.

I thought this was an entertaining, quick read. In fact, I sat down to read this book and didn’t put it down until I had finished it. D and Nyla I felt were the strongest characters. This book is classified as a young adult read and I would say that it is appropriate for this audience. There was nothing too scary about the nether beings. What I did like the most about this book was that D, Nyla and Hakeem were misfits and the most unlikely of people to group together but in this book it worked. I hope to see these three again in the future.

So Damn Lucky

Lucky O’Toole is the head of Customer Relations at the Babylon in Las Vegas. She has been invited to a farewell party in honor of the forty year run of the Calliope Burlesque Cabaret at the Athena Resort and Casino. It seems that the farewell party would not be a party without a big surprise. That is correct. Famed magician, Dimitri Fortunoff is performing as the grand finale. Dimitri will perform Harry Houdini’s famous Chinese Water Torture Cell trick. Something goes terribly wrong and Dimitri ends up dead.

Lucky is on the case. She is assisted by Detective Romeo. This case will not be so easy to solve. Their main witness has gone missing.

This book was crazy and kooky in a good way. Lucky is my kind of gal. She has the brains and brawn. She goes after her man or woman and does not stop until she has caught them. This book had some interesting characters. Which I would expect when this series is based in Las Vegas. The past two books, I was on the fence about and they were alright but with this book, I enjoyed it more. While, with any mystery story, there are the predictable moments but on the other hands, this book had a fun twist. It dealt with the illusion of magic. The ending was a good one. I will probably check out the next Lucky book. Ms. Coonts reminds me of author, Toni McGee Causey.

Chapter One of Deborah Coonts' So Damn Lucky
By Deborah Coonts,
Author of So Damn Lucky

Some things in life are best savored alone -- sex is not one of them.

This happy thought occurred to me while piloting a borrowed Ferrari and staring at the smiling couples filling the sidewalks along the Las Vegas Strip. Walking hand-in-hand, they were living, breathing reminders of the sorry state of my own love life.

"Lady! Watch out!"

I heard the shout in the nick of time. Slamming on the brakes, I narrowly avoided sliding the front end of the Ferrari under a tour bus. A sea of Japanese faces appeared like moons in the back window, peering down at me. Then cameras blocked the faces, flashbulbs popping as I shrugged and waved while trying to appear unruffled.

The young man who had shouted stepped over to the car and peered through the open roof, like a judge eyeing the accused. "Are you okay?" he asked. His face flushed, his eyes glassy, he looked like he was still recovering from last night's party or getting a head start on the next one.

"Thanks to you," I said as I restarted the car, which had stalled. "I know better than to think about sex while doing something potentially life-threatening. What was I thinking?" I cringed as the words popped out of my mouth. Even I couldn't believe I'd said that. Clearly, I needed to get a grip: first I couldn't stop thinking about sex, now I was talking about it to strangers. This was so not good.

"What were you thinking?" The kid smirked at me as he took another gulp from the glass clutched tightly in his hand. "Care to . . . enlighten me?" he asked after wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his sweatshirt which had NYU printed in bold blue on the front.

The sweatshirt looked new. He looked twelve. I felt old.

"Another time, perhaps," I lied. I didn't really intend to flirt with the kid. However, with Teddie, my former live-in, gallivanting around the globe playing rock star for the last six weeks -- and the foreseeable future -- my prospects looked pretty dim. Teddie and I had been really good for a while. Now, I didn't know what we were.

Sexual self-preservation clearly had kicked in.

"Go easy on those walktails -- they're deadly and the night is still young," I said, in a blatant attempt to steer the conversation away from the current topic.


"That drink in your hand, small enough to take with you, but potent enough to leave you puking in the gutter."

The kid's face grew serious as he held up the brew for inspection, looking at it with new- found respect. "Yes, Ma'am," he said, his voice filled with awe.

My smile vanished. Despite careful study, I was still unable to figure out at precisely what moment in time I had gone from being a Miss to a Ma'am. What changed? Whatever it was, I wanted it back like it used to be -- along with a few other things, but they would all take minor miracles. While I believe in magic, miracles were pushing the envelope, even for me. I squeezed the paddle shifter and put the car in gear. Easing around the still stationary bus, I hit the gas. The night held an October chill -- refreshing as the wind teased my hair. A full moon fought a losing battle as it competed valiantly with the lights of the Strip. I knew stars filled the sky, but they weren't visible in the false half-night of Las Vegas at full wattage.

My name is Lucky O'Toole, and, as I mentioned, the Ferrari isn't mine. It belongs to the dealership at The Babylon, my employer and the newest addition to the Las Vegas Strip mega-resort explosion. By title, I am the Head of Customer Relations. In reality, I'm the chief problem solver. If a guest at the Babylon has a 'situation' -- which could be anything from an unplanned marriage, an unfamiliar bed partner, a roaring headache or an unexplained rash, to a wife and kids given a room on the same floor as the mistress's suite -- I'm the go-to girl.

Lucky me.

Actually, I love my job. And I miss Teddie. As the two appear mutually exclusive, therein lies the rub. But, enough of that -- I had wallowed in self-pity for my allotted ten minutes today. No more private pity party for me; I was on my way to the real thing.

The invitation read:

Inviting all family, friends and former dancers to a farewell party in honor of the forty-year run of the Calliope Burlesque Cabaret. October 26, eight o-clock sharp, backstage at the Calliope Theater, the Athena Resort and Casino. Present this invitation for admittance.

To someone in my position, being invited to parties was part of the exercise, but this was one guest list on which I never expected to find my name. I wasn't family, nor was I a former dancer -- although with my six-foot frame, I guess dancing might have been a career path had I not been averse to prancing in front of strangers wearing nothing but stilettos and a thong, with twenty pounds of feathers on my head.

That left friend. As the sole individual responsible for shutting down the show, I doubted I qualified under that category either. Perhaps they invited me because of my unparalleled ability to smooth ruffled feathers, or maybe for my irritating inability to overlook a pun no matter how tortured. Who knew? However, I never could resist a good mystery, so despite the niggling feeling I'd received an invitation to my own execution, I accepted.

After having to go back to the office for the invitation, and after the near miss on the Strip, I pulled the Ferrari up to the front of the Athena. Careful to extricate myself from the low-slung car without giving the valet an eyeful up my short skirt, I then tossed the keys to him. Wrapping myself in a warm hug of cashmere pashmina to ward off the night chill, I straightened my skirt, threw back my shoulders, found a tentative balance on four-inch heels, and headed inside. An aging Grand Dame, the Athena had seen better days. Like a ship marooned on the shoals, torn and tattered by the elements, the Athena had been savaged by time and inattention. Moored at the wrong end of the Strip, surrounded by lesser properties, she now boasted only faded glory. Her carpet stained, her walls dingy and décor dated, she reeked of quiet desperation. While she still boasted 'The Best Seafood Buffet in Vegas' for less than twenty dollars, which brought in some of the locals, her gaming rooms were rarely more than a third full. In Vegas, folks are quick to abandon a sinking ship -- even if the slots are loose and the staff friendly.

My boss, Albert Rothstein (also known as The Big Boss), recently acquired the Athena from the previous owner, who had decided the best way to beat The Big Boss was to frame him for murder. In a high stakes game of cat-and-mouse, The Big Boss had eaten the canary -- with my help, I'm happy to say.

The fact that The Big Boss is also my father is a closely guarded secret -- so close that even I was in the dark until recently, when, facing the prospect of imminent death at the hands of a heart surgeon, The Big Boss decided to come clean. I'm still not sure how I felt about the whole thing, so I ignored it whenever possible. I was pretty happy with the way things were before the big bombshell, so I didn't see any reason to rock the boat. The Big Boss saw it differently; now that he'd claimed me -- and made his relationship with my mother public -- he wanted the whole world to know. Not a hooker's chance in Heaven, thank you very much. Don't get me wrong; I loved him like a father . . . always had. But, who the heck wants to be the boss's daughter?

Expecting the usual sparse crowd, I was surprised to see a throng milling in the Athena's dismal lobby and spilling into the casino. Having spent my formative years in and out of Vegas hotels and my adult life working in them, I rarely noticed the fashion choices of the river of humanity that flowed through. However, tonight their choices were hard to ignore.

Space creatures of all shapes and sizes mingled, giving each other the Vulcan sign of greeting. It was like the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton used to be, but better. While I'm not that well versed in aliens, I thought I recognized a couple of Klingons, a Romulan or two, multiple Ferengi, and a collective of Borg. As the Borg passed, their faces impassive, I thought about saying "Resistance is futile" but I stifled myself. The whole thing made me realize how much I missed the Hilton's hokey institution. When they shuttered Quark's, the Hilton had closed a whole chapter of my youth. Strange new worlds must be explored, I guess.

Scattered among the Trekkers -- they'd been Trekkies when I was young, but one vehement Klingon had corrected me and I was not one to argue with an angry Kilngon -- were little green men, bubble-headed aliens of 1950s movie fantasy, a Wookie or two, other wild Star Wars imaginings, and several truly original creations. Some of the aliens were even disguised as humans -- one of whom I recognized.

Junior Arbogast, hoax exposer, fraud buster, and legend in his own mind, made his living debunking UFO sightings, alien abductions and paranormal phenomena in general. Junior and I had bonded over an interesting outing to Area 51 -- the local Air Force spook palace north of town and the epicenter of UFO lore. He had spent an hour face down in the dirt, a gun pointed at his head, while I endeavored to talk the Lincoln County Sheriff out of arresting him, and the Cammo Guys, as the security service hired to protect and defend the perimeter were so lovingly referred to, from perforating him. Now, each year when the spookies held their annual convention in town, Junior and I usually found time to have a drink together, which I enjoyed. Yes, he could be arrogant and a pain in the ass, but he was bright and knew BS when he saw it. I liked that about him.

Built like a fire hydrant, with a shock of wiry dishwater blond hair, pale eyes under heavy, bushy brows, and a nose that had been broken more than once, Junior loved a good fight -- the product of a childhood in the mountains of West Virginia. He didn't tolerate fools well, so he had few friends, a fact that didn't seem to bother him. How I managed to stay off his blithering idiot list was an enduring mystery.

"Are you merely observing the mating rituals of alien life-forms, or are you looking for the next Mrs. Arbogast?" I whispered as I sidled in next to him.

"Ah, the great quipster, Lucky O'Toole. I was wondering when you'd turn up," Junior mumbled through a mouthful of hot dog. He swallowed, then took a healthy swig from his gallon-size Bucket-o-Beer. "You jest, but I'll have you know," he continued, "a renowned professor at one of this country's most storied institutions of higher learning postulated that all alien abductions around the world could be explained as a simple cross-species breeding project."

"So everything really is about sex?"

"Especially in Vegas. If sex doesn't happen here, why come?" Junior stuffed in the last of his hotdog and washed it down with more beer.

Why indeed, I thought as I watched the UFO aficionados -- some true believers, but mostly half-baked hangers-on who liked a good party with a weird group of folks. I could identify -- I lived there.

People and aliens packed in around us, their energy infectious. A television crew trailed one of the local talking heads apparently on the prowl for content for a 'wacky and wonderful' segment for the nightly news. Everyone seemed to be waiting for something.

"What's going on?" I asked Junior, since he appeared to be waiting as well.

"We are all about to witness a spectacular example of professional suicide."

"Really? Whose?" I felt the inner flicker of some primal calling -- probably the same unsavory instinct that draws us all to the scene of disaster. I didn't like it.

"Dr. Zewicki."

"Ah," I said, not needing any more explanation.

Zoom-Zoom Zewicki had been a train wreck waiting to happen for years. A former astronaut and the twentieth-something man launched into space, with a PhD in some obscure science from one of the world's foremost universities, Zoom-Zoom had one major affliction: He used to be somebody. In recent years, he had resorted to quirkier and more outlandish stunts to make sure we all remembered that.

"This must be my lucky day. First I get to witness professional suicide, then I get to preside at a funeral."

"My, you're a glutton for punishment." Junior waded up the paper wrapper from his hot dog and stuffed it in his pocket.

"That will be my epitaph," I said, only half joking. "I'm sure 'taking punishment' is part of my job description, but, fool that I am, I didn't read the fine print. So, what treat does Zoom-Zoom have in store for us?" I glanced at my watch -- eight fifteen. Fashionably late to the party, I still had a few more minutes before my tardiness would be considered another salvo in my one-man war on the Calliope Girls. The war was a figment of their imaginations, of course, but I didn't want to toss any unnecessary grenades.

Before Junior had time to answer, a hush fell over the crowd. Heads turned as Zoom-Zoom stepped to a podium on a dais at the far end of the lobby.

A short man who kept himself in fighting trim, Dr. Zewicki wore his hair military short, his shirts pressed, his slacks creased, and a look of encroaching madness in his dark eyes. He leaned into the microphone, got too close, then drew back with a jerk as if the resulting squeal was from a snake coiled to strike.

"Thank you all for coming." This time he got the distance to the mike just right. His unexpectedly deep voice echoed around the marble lobby and rippled over the crowd. He waited until the last reverberation died before continuing.

"My statement will be brief and I won't accept any questions at this time. For those of you who wish to know more, I will be holding a formal presentation Thursday night, in Rachel, as part of Viewing Night."

Expectant murmurs rolled like waves through the crowd.

Dr. Zewicki fed on the attention of the crowd like an alien spacecraft sucking electromagnetic energy from a thunderstorm. Pausing, he milked it, then waited a few beats more until every head turned his direction, every voice quieted. Staring at the crowd, a serious expression on his face, he pulled himself to his full height and announced, "I have recently experienced an alien abduction."

The murmurs of the crowd rose on a cresting wave of expectation.

"My abductor's message is simple and two-fold: When we die, they come and take our spirits. Some spirits pass through to the next life, but those of us with unresolved issues -- those who were murdered, perhaps -- live on with the aliens. And now they wish to open a channel."

The wave of expectation broke into a cascade of excited voices, flooding the lobby with a rushing torrent of questions.

Questions that would remain unanswered: Zoom-Zoom Zewicki had left the stage.

Stunned, I needed a few moments to find my voice. "Did he just say what I thought he said?"

"Tortured souls live on with the aliens and Dr. Zewicki can talk to them."

"I'm sure the Homicide division at Metro will be thrilled to have alien assistance." I shrugged off a chill that shivered down my spine. Talk of murder messed with the Vegas magic -- magic that was part of my job to deliver. Junior looked at me, his face inscrutable. "Talk about a meteor hitting the atmosphere! A lifetime of achievement incinerated, just like that." He snapped his fingers in front of my face.

"The death of a star," I whispered.

"And the birth of a pop-culture icon," announced Junior, his voice as hard as flint. Zoom -Zoom Zewicki had just pegged the fraud buster's bullshit meter.

I left Junior plotting the pulverization of the last remaining pebbles of Dr. Zewicki's reputation, and headed toward the Calliope Burlesque Theatre on the far side of the casino. Working my way through the throng took me longer than I anticipated. I had just reached the edge of the crowd when I felt a hand on my arm.

"Ms. O'Toole?" Young and soft, the voice was unfamiliar.

"Yes." I turned and found myself staring down at a blue-eyed Ferengi.

The alien thrust an upside-down top hat at me. "Would you be so kind as to deliver this to Mr. Fortunoff? He left it in the bar. Normally, I would take it to him myself, but security is not allowing anyone backstage except those invited to the party."

"Sure." I grabbed the hat, surprised by its weight, as the Ferengi melted back into the crowd. That a magician would need a top hat to pull something out of seemed logical to me, so I didn't think the request odd. I peered inside the hat…empty. Turning it right-side up and shaking -- nothing fell out. Whatever.

A lesser luminary in the world of the Dark Arts, Dimitri Fortunoff specialized in sleights of hand, mindreading, and other parlor tricks. He performed nightly as the entertainment between the first and second acts of the burlesque show. I tucked the hat under my arm and strode through the casino. Flashing my invite to the security guard, I pushed through the double doors into another world. While decorations and scenery adorned the audience side of the curtain, creating the illusion of a bright and exciting world, a different, workman-like world existed behind the curtain. The stage was empty, illuminated by bare bulbs that would be extinguished during the show. Scenery hung in the rafters on counter-weighted pulleys. Other accoutrements, including Dimitri's magic tricks, were stuffed unceremoniously into every nook and cranny, creating an obstacle course for the unwary. At the appropriate time during the show, each piece would be moved into position; after its use it would be removed in a well choreographed, painstakingly rehearsed dance.

Forty years of dust and grime, forty years of pain and sweat, forty years of hopes and dreams, forty years of Vegas history -- and I had swept it all away with the stroke of a pen. A matter of dollars and cents, the decision had been easy to make. Living with it, however, was a different matter.

Extraordinarily tall, beautiful women in heavy make-up and little else dotted the backstage area, each encircled by friends, family, and adoring fans clever enough to talk their way in. I noticed Zoom-Zoom Zewiki orbiting GiGi Vascheron, the star of the show. No wonder he had disappeared from the stage so quickly.

Shorter women in costume also hosted clusters of partiers. The show photographer darted in and out, memorializing the event for posterity. Everyone talked in hushed voices. If anyone smiled, I missed it.

The few men who danced in the show weren't visible. Neither was Dimitri Fortunoff.

Nobody's eyes met mine as I gently pushed my way through the crowd. However, I felt the daggers hurled at my back, and I didn't really blame them. In their shoes, I'd hate me too.

I found my conjurer in his dressing room hiding from reality.

"Well, if it isn't the grim reaper," he growled when he noticed me filling his doorway. "Did you come to gloat, or are you just slumming?"

A tall man with a barrel chest, droopy features, hangdog eyes and a down-turned mouth, dressed in a poorly-fitting tux, Fortunoff looked more like an undertaker than an entertainer. Slumped in a chair, one leg crossed over the other, a plate balanced in his lap, he eyed me as he forked in a bite of chocolate cake with one hand. The fingers of his free hand worked a coin over and under, from thumb to pinkie, then back again.

A number of plastic glasses dotted the desk and shelves. Plates with partially eaten cake stuffed the small trashcan in the corner.

"Looks like you've had a party."

"A wake."

"The world moves on, Dimitri." Mesmerized, I watched the coin dance between his fingers. "The Big Boss is spending millions refurbishing this place, turning it into Las Vegas' first eco-friendly, totally green hotel."

"Eco-friendly in a town known for depleting all the available local natural resources… an interesting concept."

"We like to appear to do our part."

"An illusion."

"You should know," I fired back. "Besides, I've heard you've moved on."

"Yeah? How so?"

"Rumor has it you're the Masked Houdini."

A magician who hid his identity while exposing famous illusions for a national television audience, the Masked Houdini had aroused the ire of illusionists far and wide. In fact, when we announced he would be doing the Houdini Séance on Halloween, several death threats had appeared in my office -- some for me, some for the Houdini. The police were unable to trace the notes, but we'd heightened security as a precaution.

"The rumor is just that, a rumor. No truth to it," Dimitri intoned. His eyes held mine briefly, then skittered away.

"Right. Truth or not, somebody obviously believes it. I wouldn't take the threats lightly." This was old ground for us, but I felt the need to cover it once more.

"I'm touched by your concern."

I might have imagined it, but I thought I caught a glimpse of a grin lift one corner of his mouth, then vanish.

"Don't let it go to your head," I said. "I'm just covering my ass. If the Masked Houdini doesn't show up on Halloween, I'm toast."

This time I was sure I saw a smile.

"Did you bring me a present?" Dimitri tilted his head toward the hat under my arm.

"Not me," I said as I thrust it at him. "A Ferengi."

Dimitri raised an eyebrow.

"Don't ask. The UFO folks . . . " I trailed off, figuring that was enough of an explanation.

He took the hat. His brows creased into a frown when he felt the weight. Reaching in, he pulled out, of all things, a rabbit, surprising us both. "Cute, but trite, don't you think?" he scoffed.

Snow white, his black nose flaring excitedly, the poor creature looked terrified. Reaching to pet it, I noticed something tied to its dainty, jeweled collar.

A note.

I unfurled it and my blood ran cold.

In red lipstick, someone has scrawled 'DIMITRI FORTUNOFF MUST DIE'.

Dimitri paled. He dropped the rabbit as he fell back in his chair, grabbing at the bow tie knotted around his neck.

I snagged the bunny just before it hit the floor.

"Water. I need water." Dimitri's face was now turning crimson. "I can't breathe."

"Molly," I screamed, shouting for Dimitri's assistant, as I put the bunny down. She hadn't been in her cubicle when I'd walked by earlier, but she had to be close by. "Molly!" I knelt by Dimitri and managed to get his tie unknotted and his collar loosened. I was opening my mouth to shout again, when the girl materialized in the doorway.

"What happened?" Molly asked looking flustered and out of breath. Trim and sturdy, she had an athlete's body and an efficient manner. Her dark hair was cut in layers and styled to look unkept. Concern clouded her brilliantly blue eyes as she looked first at Dimitri, then to me, then back again.

"He's just had a shock. Get some water, would you?"

Dimitri gulped air. When Molly returned with water, he gulped that too. His normal coloring slowly returned, and his breathing settled back to a steady pace until a sheen of sweat was the sole remaining evidence of his panic attack.

"Are you okay?" I asked when I thought he could answer.

"Fine." He pushed himself upright in the chair and set about retying his tie. "Well, as fine as anyone could be after having their life threatened."

I sat back on my heels, my knees pressed together. "I found using Thumper as a delivery vehicle particularly menacing, didn't you?"

He gave me a sneer. Molly hid her smile behind a dainty hand.

I pushed myself to my feet, then realized the bunny was nowhere to be found -- he had escaped in the commotion.

"Molly, you better go find that rabbit. He'd certainly liven up the show, but I'm in enough trouble with the girls already."

She glanced at the magician, then bolted.

"Do you want to cancel tonight's show?" I asked, turning my attention to Dimitri. "We really should call the police."

"And then what?" Dimitri mopped his brow with a multi-colored scarf, then tucked it back up his sleeve. "All the other threats have been false alarms and the police have found nothing."

"You have a point. They haven't been successful with the notes delivered to my office addressed to the fool who hired the Masked Houdini -- which, by the way, would be me. I've increased security. I don't know what else to do."

"You're getting notes, too?"

"Just lucky, I guess." Hands on my hips, I tried to look stern. "Seriously, I think you should cancel the show."

"No." Dimitri looked adamant. "The show must go on."

He didn't smile, so I don't think he meant that as a joke.

"Well then, come on." Grabbing Dimitri's hand, I gave him a tug -- neither of us was particularly eager to cancel the final performance in a forty-year run. "This is your swan song. Make the most of it."

"I wish you hadn't put it quite like that."

"You'll be in front of a packed house," I said as I brushed myself off, then straightened his tie. "What could possibly happen?"


The mood in the front of the house was even more somber than backstage, if that was possible. Patrons filed into the theatre -- the most important among them following the ushers to long, communal tables placed perpendicular to the stage, seating six per side. Guests of lesser importance were left to fend for themselves. If any of them wanted a beverage of choice, they had to get it themselves at the bar window on the left side of the theatre, the queue for which already snaked halfway across the large room.

Statuesque women greeted each other with hugs and air-kisses. Some cried while their escorts shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. Nobody smiled when they looked my direction.

I felt like a creep.

Unaccustomed to being in the midst of so much hostility, for a moment I was flummoxed. Casting my eyes around the room, I finally spied a safe haven -- a small gaggle of elite magicians. Purportedly the members of the Magic Ring -- a secret ruling society within the mystical arts community -- I had checked them into The Babylon yesterday and taken charge of their VIP stay.

"Mr. Mortimer." I greeted the man who had made all the arrangements for the group. "How are you enjoying Vegas so far?"

"It's been lovely, thank you," Mr. Mortimer said, his eyes lighting up when he saw me. "And this show is a particular treat."

A short man, almost as big around as he was tall, Mr. Mortimer had dancing eyes and a quick smile. A ring of snow-white hair circled his otherwise bald head. The buttons of the silk vest stretching across his blossoming midsection looked ready to burst, but he appeared unconcerned.

"We were so sorry to hear the show is closing," he continued, clearly unaware he was talking to the harbinger of death.

"It's one of our favorites -- a Vegas institution."

"Where are you sitting?" I asked.

He consulted his ticket. "Table Seven."

"Me as well. May I show you the way?"

We worked our way down to the front and took our seats as the lights dimmed and the orchestra played the first chords of a lilting tune. The curtain parted and the company of clothed dancers, male and female, took the stage in a rousing cabaret number. The audience, many of whom were former dancers, whistled and clapped for their compatriots. When the topless ladies, or the nudes as they are referred to in the business, sashayed onto the stage, the admiration of the audience grew louder. Some of the women smiled, but most stayed in character.

Despite having seen my share, topless shows remained a mystery to me. First, the women weren't even buxom. With the shortest of them measured at five foot ten and none of them weighing more than a hundred and thirty pounds, how much bust could they be expected to have? Of course, my initial expectation had been they would all have been enhanced like most of the strippers in town, but that was not the case. A sort of weird reverse discrimination prevailed in Vegas: the very best showgirls must be au naturale. I bet those women's boobs were the only natural things left in town. Heck, even the grass outside The Wynn was plastic.

Wishing I had taken time to wait in line for a drink, but worried I might not have lived through it, I sat back, tried to relax, and watched the show. At the completion of several rousing dance numbers, each punctuated by the appearance of the nudes, the curtain fell on the first act.

After a brief moment, the curtain again parted. The scenery had disappeared. A large rectangular wooden crate resembling a phone booth with a glass front and sides stood vertically in the center of the stage. Shiny brass angles attached along the edges with neat rows of rivets, held the box together. Although it was hard to tell, I thought the crate was full of water.

Mr. Mortimer and his friends gasped in unison. Leaning over, he whispered in my ear, "That's Houdini's Chinese Water Torture Chest."

"Houdini? Like Harry Houdini?"

Mr. Mortimer nodded. "I can't imagine where Dimitri got it."

Our eyes shot back to the stage as Dimitri Fortunoff appeared, clad only in old-fashioned swimming attire. Molly and several of the dancers accompanied him. The magician waved to someone off stage, then glanced up as a block and tackle descended from the rafters. It bore a wooden plank, cut with two round holes.

"Is this part of his normal act?" one of Mr. Mortimer's compatriots asked.

"Not as of a month ago," I replied, a ball of dread growing in my stomach.

"Ladies and gentleman," Dimitri began. "As you all know, tonight is our last show and I've been perfecting a special escape for you."

When he paused, you could hear a pin drop.

"Harry Houdini, widely considered the best of all time, developed the escape I am about to do for you. First, my ankles will be placed in this stock." He held up the wooden board, removed an open padlock, which released the two halves, allowing it to be positioned around his legs.

An assistant then bent, threaded the padlock through two D rings, one on each half of the stock, and snapped the padlock closed.

"Thank you," Dimitri said to the girl, then continued. "After volunteers from the crowd have checked all the apparatus thoroughly, I will be lifted and lowered head first into the chest you see here, which is filled with water. My beautiful assistants will then padlock the top in place."

A nervous murmur rippled through the room.

"You must be convinced the chest is nothing more than it seems, that I have not tampered with it in any way. Now for the volunteers." With one hand shielding his eyes from the lights, he looked over the crowd. His eyes came to rest on our table. Pointing at us, he said, "You. All of you. Would you be so kind?"

Catching my eye, he shook his head at me, so I remained behind as the magicians at my table filed onto the stage. Zoom-Zoom appeared from backstage and joined them even though he hadn't been called.

Dimitri didn't seem to mind. As he watched, the men examined every pane of glass, every nook, every cranny of the chest. When they had apparently satisfied themselves, Dimitri asked them, "Could you see any alterations in the chest that might explain an easy escape?"

Each of them shook his head. "We could not," announced Mr. Mortimer in his stage voice -- apparently he'd been voted the group's spokesman, as the others remained silent, merely nodding their agreement.

"What about you?" Dimitri pointed to one of the magicians who looked most unhappy at being singled out. A hawkish man with angry eyes, he glared at Dimitri. "If this box has a trick, I do not know it."

"Why don't you ask Mr. Houdini?" Before the man could answer, Dimitri turned to address the crowd. "Some of you may be too young to remember the acclaimed mentalist, but may I present The Great Danilov."

The crowd clapped politely as Danilov took a bow, and shook Dimitiri's hand. After a whispered exchange with the magician, Danilov hurried off stage.

"Or you?" Dimitri pointed to Dr. Zewiki. "You claim to talk to the dead. Maybe Mr. Houdini will speak to you."

"Doubtful. No one ever said he was murdered," Zoom-Zoom hissed as he ducked backstage.

The other magicians filed after Danilov and retook their seats as Dimitri announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, these men are part of an august group of magicians. If they can't see how I perform this escape, then it must be a very good trick indeed."

"I have a really bad feeling about this," Mr. Mortimer again whispered in my ear as he settled himself in his seat. "It's long been believed the secrets of the chest died with Mr. Houdini."

"Could Mr. Fortunoff have a new trick up his sleeve?" I asked.

"There are only so many ways to get out of a chest filled with water and locked from the outside."

I didn't like the hint of impending doom in his voice. I fought with myself. I wanted to stop the whole thing. But what if he really could get out of that contraption? He wasn't suicidal, as far as I knew, and I was in enough trouble already. Against my better judgment, I decided to let the show go on.

We watched as the assistants first checked the shackles and tested the block and tackle. Then they helped the magician as he was lifted, then lowered into the tank. Quickly the women lowered the lid and snapped several padlocks in place around its edge, effectively securing it to the chest -- with Dimitri clearly visible inside.

I held my breath as the assistants drew a curtain around the chest and left the stage. Apparently the rest of the audience felt as I did -- they didn't move. Not even a whisper broke the silence.

An eternity passed. Then another.

The audience grew restless. Nervous whispering buzzed.

Finally someone shouted, "It's been too long. Somebody get him out of that thing."

Other voices joined in agreement.

"Come." Mr. Mortimer ordered as he rose to his feet and grabbed my hand, pulling me with him. His friends fell in step behind us as we started for the stage.

We had made it to the first step when Molly ran out from stage-left. Her face was stricken, streaked with tears.

"Oh my God! He's dead!"

The above is an excerpt from the book So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2012 Deborah Coonts, author of So Damn Lucky

Author Bio
Deborah Coonts, author of So Damn Lucky, says her mother tells her she was born in Texas a very long time ago, though she's not totally sure -- her mother can't be trusted. But she was definitely raised in Texas on barbeque, Mexican food and beer. She currently resides in Las Vegas, where family and friends tell her she can't get into too much trouble. Silly people. Coonts has built her own business, practiced law, flown airplanes, written a humor column for a national magazine, and survived a teenager. She is the author of the Lucky O'Toole Las Vegas adventure series.

Her first book, Wanna Get Lucky?, was released in 2010.

For more information please visit and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

Ice Gorilla

Review by Nancy

Will had nothing left to lose which is why he took Dean Chen up on his offer to explore the wilderness on the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf which is rapidly calving away from it’s main glacier. Someone found a claw there – a claw never before seen and it is BIG! He and a small team led by Chen, his idiot assistant and his two best friends (plus one research student) fly to the wilderness in hopes of catching and bringing back the owner of the claw.

A blizzard, several deaths and mutilations later they come to realize this was a very, very bad plan. They had no idea what they were up against – strange critters, mean wolves, earthquakes and, unfortunately, each other. Bouncing back and forth between the two research teams, one above ground the other below, the author weaves a riveting tale of horror and cold.

“Ice Gorilla” may be one of the best mind-twisters I’ve read. Not just year but for quite a while. If you like scary stories, where your head may make better images than the movie will read this now. I can nearly promise you’ll see it on Sy-Fy someday.

A Woman’s Power: Threads that Bind Us to God

This book is a good reminder of renewing your faith in God. We may have to suffer but not like what Jesus did for us on the cross. Our suffering is what makes us stronger. I like the explanation that Fay’s son, Tim made when he was just fourteen years old. He said “I’d rather be a native trout any day.” He explained that hatchery fish are hand-fed and consequently smaller and weaker than native fish. He said, “Native trout grow bigger, stronger, and smarter because they have to fight for everything they have.” Wow. At this age, I definitely understood about God and praying but this is amazing and Tim was much wiser than his fourteen years.

Ms. Klinger quotes good passages from the Bible that help convey the message she is describing at that moment in the book. The passages are usually inserted after a paragraph or used to help build a sentence. I found reading this book enlightening. It was like going to a Bible study. While, on the note, when you think of a Bible study, you probably think about preaching. In a way, this book was like a sermon but Ms. Klinger did a nice job of not getting too wordy and she explained things in an easy and simple way. This is the type of book that you will want to share with friends and family. It is worth your time to read. It is a quick read if you just sit down and read it yourself but you could also use this book as part of a study group.

Friday, March 9, 2012

How to Eat a Cupcake

Julia St. Clair comes from wealth, whereas, Annie does not. If it was not for the fact that Annie’s mom used to work for the St. Clair’s than Annie and Julia would never be friends. Julia and Annie used to have a close bond but than a tragic event tore them apart.

Years later, Julia’s mother is hosting a party and convinces Annie to cater and bring her cupcakes. It is at this party that Julia and Annie will reconnect. They decide to go into business together and start their own cupcake shop.

First off the cover for this book is eye catching and yummy. This is what first drew me to this book. I was excited to read this book. Unfortunately, this book was not a winner for me. Not for a lack of effort. I got about half way and than put the book down. I came back to the book for after a while. I tried again to read this book and could not finish it.

It was not due to the writing but more the characters. I was not connecting with them. Julia and her family really got on my nerves. They were so condescending that I wanted to stuff a cupcake in their faces.

Annie on the other hand was a little easier to warm up to but at the same time, she had this bitterness about her as well that I did not care for. While this book was not for me, it did have the making for a nice hearty chick lit novel.

Meg Donohue website

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Last Storyteller

Venetia has traveled back to Ireland. She is joined by her new husband. A man that is cruel and nothing like Ben. No matter where Venetia is, Ben always has her on his mind. Ben would go to the ends of the Earth for her. That is why; Ben goes on his last trip to reclaim Venetia as his forever.

The Last Storyteller is the last book about couple, Ben MacCarthy and his true love, Venetia Kelly. I have enjoyed reading these books. I instantly fell in love with Ben, Venetia and author, Delaney, when I picked up and read Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about these books was that Mr. Delaney was not only a great story teller but he had kind of a poetic way about him. He just brought all of the characters alive. The second book, The Matchmaker of Kenmare, I found to be a bit lacking but still a good book. This book made up for it. As I read these books, I am instantly transported back in time and it is like I am walking in Ben’s shoes. Ben may be soft spoken but he is a great narrator and he meets such interesting people. Ben and Venetia’s love is a time less one. They are meant for each other. I really felt like I got to know Ben and Venetia “the couple” versus Ben and Venetia. I am sad to see this trilogy come to an end but excited to see what Mr. Delaney will come out with next.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Rescuer’s Path

I was 27 when I became pregnant, while seeking to open myself up to new people and new ways of life and love, and to stop the war in Viet Nam, during the late-1960s antiwar movement in Berkeley, California. I was working for an “underground” newspaper, covering the “peace beat” so my skills might be of use to saving lives, when a brave, flamboyant, handsome, and utterly committed activist came in one evening with a story of an “action” he was doing, and I let myself throw off all barriers and took him, for our brief time, to my heart.

The “rabbit test” came back positive on the same day “our” country first bombed Hanoi and Haiphong. This was a time of massacre and war—yet also, in this country, in our Movement this was, as well, a time of hope and change. And, among us, there was no shame to being pregnant—to the contrary—though there was fear, of course, to be pregnant and alone.

I came to great new self-esteem in recognition of my love for others, in this time, and the loves and hopes of those days are now twined in my soul. But I did not yet understand that a woman alone can indeed raise her child. So, believing this for his sake, I gave my child for adoption; like so many of us, I believed that adopting parents would be nearly perfect.

And then, I determined, I would go on, "as if." Just like the Movement's "as if"—to make a better world by acting as if that world was already present and was possible.

Only, my child wasn't with me.

But he was out there.

Many years later, I had another child. It was a different time, the women’s movement had crescendoed, and I raised him on my own.

Many years after that, on the cusp of another war (the first U.S. war on Iraq), the adoption agency sent a letter, rather vague and formal, noting that I had, when my child was 18, sent a letter indicating I would like to meet him if he came searching. Enclosed with their note was a "waiver form" and explanation that "waiver forms signed and notarized by each party is necessary before identifying information can. . ." There was no indication given as to why they were writing at this moment.

So I went all over town searching for a notary, signed and got notarized the form, mailed it with hands I told myself weren’t trembling, and waited. And after that, piece by piece, the colors came back into my world. And he did, my first son.

He was, and is, whole and well raised; he is intelligent, sensitive, empathetic, a joy. I love him, and I love my other son, whole now after the long struggle to get past the harder struggles of a working-class, single-parent upbringing in a far harder period.

These are good kids. They love me—love that makes me joyous to my very heart. And, old lady that I am, I still lift up my green peace-sign banner and stand out upon the roadways with their peers—and mine—of Occupy and the long, continuing, nonviolent struggle for a better, peaceful world.

Paula Friedman teaches fiction and memoir writing in Hood River, Oregon, and edits books for university and trade presses. She founded and managed the collective literary magazine The Open Cell and has run poetry readings and writers workshops in the Bay Area, Paris, and elsewhere, and has recently compiled an anthology of West Coast Jewish women’s poetry. Active in peace and justice issues, she received the 2006 award of the Columbia River Fellowship for Peace. Paula Friedman’s honors include Pushcart Prize nominations and New Millenium Writings, OSPA, as well as Centrum and Soapstone residencies and fellowships. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous print and online literary magazines and anthologies. See her website: