Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Making Manna



Libby Thompson is just fourteen years old when she flees her abusive home with her newborn son, Angel. Now they must build a life for themselves on hard work and low wages, dealing with police who are sometimes helpful-but not always-and a drug dealer who is full of surprises. As Angel gets older, he begins asking questions about his family, and Libby's tenuous peace threatens to crumble. Can a son without a father and a young woman without a past make something beautiful out of a lifetime of secrets? Making Manna explores the depths of betrayal, and the human capacity to love, flourish, and forgive in the face of heartbreaking odds.

Press info: prbythebook.com/eric-lotke

Social media handles:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EricLotke
Blog tour hashtag: #MakingManna

Buy links:
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indiebound
 

My Review

To be honest, I really could not remember why I wanted to read this book after I got it. In fact, I put it aside with lackluster interest. Yet, when I picked it up I again had my mind made up instantly that I was not going to like this book at all. Wow, you really can not judge a book by its cover.

From the beginning I was drawn into the story and Libby. She is a fighter. She proves it over and over again. There was never a moment where she sat in sorrow and had people going "poor Libby". In fact, people were coming to her for advice and strength. The band of friends that Libby formed in Sheila, Monet, and Zeb was nice. Each one on their own was alright but together they were stronger. You could feel the love between them all. Then there is Libby's son, Angel. A perfect name. It was great to see him grow from a little baby to a mature young man.  The ending was a good one. This is a book worth checking out.



1.      Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?
I don’t really have favorites. My tastes are diverse and changing. I enjoy biographies by Doris Kearns Goodwin and political science by Jacob Hacker.
 
The best novel I read lately was The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich. It’s copyright 2002 but the setting is America post WWI and the characters are timeless. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward was a highlight of 2015 and I expect it to last a while. It’s the memoir of an African American woman in low-income America. All of the men important in her life disappear over a couple of years — shot, drugged, suicide or jailed. But
somehow the police who happily patrol the neighborhood every night with searchlights can’t manage even to arrest the drunk white driver who kills her brother.
I’ve also been delighted to re-read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. The first time was on my daughter’s recommendation. The second time was voluntary after seeing the movie.

2.      What book are you reading now?

I just started Viral by Emily Mitchell. It’s a collection of short stories and I’ve only read a few so I don’t have an opinion yet. But it came highly recommended and the first story is terrific.
It’s about a small business where the staff are measured, marked, ranked and made miserable because they aren’t smiling enough. 


3.      What inspired you to write Making
Manna
?


 

 
Trigger warning. This story has a really bad beginning.
Twenty years ago I was working on a death penalty case. The young man on death row was the product of an incestuous rape. I wrote those words in his social history —“product of an incestuous rape.” The phrase was so distasteful that I horrified even myself. The case came and went but those words stuck with me.

 
Years later, I wanted to write something hopeful and uplifting. The world is a mess.
I wanted to say something nice. So I went back to that kid. I started there but gave him a different ending. I took the worst beginning I could imagine and turned it into something positive.
 
 
4.      What was your particular process in terms of outlining, plot and
character?


I had a beginning in mind, from that death penalty case. And I had an end in mind.
But I wasn’t sure how to get there.

I found that I could always and only see a few chapters in advance. So I would tell the story that far, then taking that as the baseline, outline what happens next – with the endpoint in mind. The characters and internal details developed as they went.


5.      Where is your favorite place to write?

I am opportunistic in time and space. I work full time and I have two kids. I drive them to practices, lessons and activities – and have an hour or two to write while I wait. When I was lucky, I’d have a whole half-day at home on a weekend. It mattered that I wasn’t on deadline. If I needed time to figure
something out or went a month without a free minute, that was okay. I always keep a notebook handy. My creativity is better than my memory.

 
10. How else did your career influence the book?
Can you tell that I once earned my living as a chef?
More importantly, my life as a parent influenced the book. It would have been a different book if I weren’t a dad.
13. Do you plan to write a sequel?
I hadn’t planned to, but people have asked and now I’m tempted. A plot is starting to take shape. I have another book in mind, too. It depends, of course, on how this book is received.
 
Making Manna by Eric Lotke
Excerpt
 
The kindergarten
classroom is bright with color. Sunny windows with rainbow curtains look over a
grassy playground. The floor is carpeted in blue, scattered with yellow throw
rugs and purple pillows. In the center is a cluster of red tables with little
green chairs; on each table sits a stack of paper, and jars with pencils,
crayons, and little scissors with rounded points.
Angel stands by
himself in the corner. His clothes are all new to him, but every one of them
came used from Goodwill and the Salvation Army. The room is filled with kids,
but nobody seems to notice Angel standing quietly.
Two girls in matching red Elmo sweaters greet each other with a hug, and chatter excitedly about a playgroup called LittleKinz. Two boys in Redskins jerseys dare each other to jump into the deep end of the pool when they get home. One tells the other that his parents can’t use their opera tickets on Saturday. “My mom said to tell your mom that you can have them if you want.”
The only African
American child is in the center of a little crowd, dressed in bright pink from
top to bottom. She wears a pink shirt covered by a pink vest, pink pants with
pink socks and shoes, and a pink hat with a pink feather. “We made the biggest
dog fort!” she is telling the other kids. She and her sister found “every
blanket and towel in the house” and hung them over the sofas and chairs in the
living room until the “the whole room was full.” They crawled around in the
space underneath and made space for all their “stuffy dogs” so each one had a
room of her own.
“We played in it
all day,” she says. “But then the maids cleaned it up. That ruined it.”
Eventually the
teacher moves to the front of the room. “Come on up, boys and girls. Welcome to
kindergarten. I’m Ms. Milton and I’ll be your teacher. We’re going to spend the
whole year together!” Ms. Milton is wearing blue jeans and a green blouse with
flowers, and her hair is entirely silver-gray.
“Who here knows
how to write his name?”
Almost every hand
in the class goes up. Angel’s doesn’t.
“That’s wonderful!”
Ms. Milton cries. “I thought you looked smart!” She ushers them toward the
tables and sets them to work making name tags for themselves. “There are
stickers and crayons,” she explains. “You can decorate them anyway you like.”
Angel stays where
he is, rooted in place at the edge of the hurly-burly, while Ms. Milton bustles
around setting the kids up and passing out the supplies.
“Done already?”
she says to the African American girl in pink. She peels the back of the
sticker that now says Veronica West
and places it in the center of her shirt. “Everyone else do like Veronica,” she
says. “Peel off your sticker and put it on when you’re done. You can keep
drawing until everyone is finished.”
Another girl
raises her hand. “I’m done,” she says.
“Peel your sticker
and put it on,” Ms. Milton replies.
She turns and all
but stumbles on Angel, standing silently in his space. “What have we here?” she
asks.
Angel straightens
his back and stands tall. “My name is Angel Thompson,” he says. “I don’t know
how to write my name.”
Ms. Milton seems
almost embarrassed that she hadn’t seen him earlier. “Then we’ll teach you,”
she says with a smile. “That’s what we’re here for.” She waves toward a
teachers’ aide who Angel only now notices, also standing quietly to one side of
the room. She brings Angel to a special table by himself, not far from the
others, but clearly separate.
 
By the end of the
morning, Angel is pretty good at writing his name and knows a lot of other
letters besides. The teachers’ aide, Miss Stephanie, spends most of her time
with Angel, though occasionally another child comes over for a few minutes’
attention. For lunch he eats the sandwich his mom made for him, peanut butter and
jelly, with two Hershey’s kisses on the side. “That’s what my mom always made
for me,” she’d said.
The activity after
lunch is drawing. The children are again shown to the desks with the papers and
crayons, and invited to draw pictures of their families.
“Can I draw my
dog?” asks Veronica West.
“Your dog, your
cat, your house. Anything you want,” says Ms. Milton. “But start with your
family.”
Angel is placed
into the tables with the other children, but near an edge, and Miss Stephanie
gives him special attention.
This at least is
familiar to Angel. Miss Josephine’s day care had crayons and papers—though not
as many colors—and Monet loves to draw at home. With encouragement from Miss
Stephanie, Angel draws three stick figures in a row.
“Who’s the tall
one?” Miss Stephanie asks. She’s pretty tall herself, with long black hair and
eyeglasses in a big round circle. She wears blue overalls over a yellow
turtleneck.
“That’s my mom.”
“Which one is you?”
Angel points to
the smallest stick figure, drawn in the same pink crayon as his mother. “That’s
me,” he says. “My name is Angel.” He points to his nametag and his face lights
up in a smile. Then he reaches back for the crayons and for a minute it’s as if
Miss Stephanie doesn’t exist. He leans close over his drawing, all his
attention on the little figure at the end of the row. Carefully, deliberately,
he retraces the lines and redraws the figure. Then letter by letter, he spells
out his name under the drawing. He looks back up at Miss Stephanie, and points
back and forth between the picture and the word. “Angel,” he says. “That’s me!”
“That’s you, all
right,” Miss Stephanie cheers. She reaches down for a hug and a pat. “You’re
the Angel.” The she points to the third figure, midway in height between Angel
and his mom. “Is that your dad?” she asks.
Angel looks at her
like she asked which one is the elephant. The question makes no sense. “I don’t
have a dad,” he says.
“Surely, you have
a dad somewhere,” protests Miss Stephanie. “Are your parents divorced?”
Angel stays
silent.
“Does he live in a
different state?”
“Mom says he died
in a car accident,” Angel explains at last. “With my mom’s parents too. It’s
just the three of us that’s left.” He pauses as if he’s going to have more to
say, but then nothing follows, and he looks blankly down to the page.
“So who is this?”
Miss Stephanie asks, her finger is still on the third figure. “Your older
brother?”
“She’s my sister.”
“Why is she drawn
in brown?” Angel and his mom are stick figures drawn in pink crayon, but his
sister is brown.
“Because she looks
like her.” He points toward Veronica West. “She says to tell the truth when I
draw.”
Lights are
starting to go off in Miss Stephanie’s eyes, as if she is starting to
understand. She looks carefully at Angel, who clearly has no African blood in
his veins. “Do you and your sister have the same mom?” she asks.
“No,” says Angel. “She
has her own separate mommy.”
“The same dad?”
“Nope,” Angel
replies. “She has her own daddy too. His name is Zeb. She tells me that I met
him once. But I was a baby. I don’t remember it.”
Now Miss Stephanie
is again looking confused. “If you have a different mom and a different dad,
what makes her your sister?”
“She’s not legally my sister,” with an emphasis
that suggests he’s heard it said this way before. “She’s in a different foster
family but she lives with us.”
“Why’s that?”
“She likes us
better. We’re nicer than the foster family. I met them a couple of times. They
have lots of foster kids and my mom—my real
mom—says they only do it for the money.”
All this time Miss
Stephanie had been standing up over Angel, and leaning down toward him. Now she
gets down on her knees so she’s nearer his height. “What’s your sister’s name?”
“Monet. Like the
artist.”
Miss Stephanie
smiles. “Does she like to draw?”
“She loves it!
Especially with colors. We draw all the time.” He leans in close, takes
advantage of her proximity to whisper confidentially in her ear, “She’s in
sixth grade.” Then he gathers himself to say something difficult, and minding
his diction, he concludes, “She’s in Sidney Lanier Middle School.”
“Good work,” says
Miss Stephanie, beaming. “That’s great. I was an intern at Sidney Lanier.”
Angel looks
brightly back at her. “Her bus leaves at 7:10, a whole hour before mine.”
“Thanks for
telling me,” says Miss Stephanie. “Do you know where Monet’s parents are? Her real parents?” She smiles as she echoes
his way of saying it.
“Yes.”
“Where are they?”
Angel slows down
and straightens up to tackle something difficult again. “The Virginia
Department of Corrections,” he says. He pauses to make sure he got it right.
Miss Stephanie
stands up and steps away.
“Mom is in
Fluvanna and Dad’s in Nottoway,” Angel concludes with a triumphant smile,
naming the prison where each is held. He got it all right.
And just in time,
too. Because at that moment, Ms. Milton calls everyone’s attention back to the
center of the room. “Time to pack up,” she says. “All done drawing. Now it’s
quiet time.”
 
Miss Stephanie and
Ms. Milton shepherd the kids to a giant double-door closet, filled with rolled-up
soft mats, one for each kid. The two boys in Redskins jerseys have a little
push scuffle about who goes first, but it is quickly broken up, and soon enough
each child has unrolled a mat and is lying quietly on the floor. Angel picks a
spot on the edge, between Miss Stephanie’s desk and the window. He doesn’t
sleep, but he lies quietly listening to the sounds. Some kids are reading, and
turning pages in their books. Other kids are breathing in a way that makes
Angel think they’re asleep. Outside he hears birds. They sound like the same
ones he has at home, sometimes singing at random, and sometimes in response as
if they’re talking to each other. A teacher quickly hushes any children who
talk.
What seems like a
few minutes later, a church in the distance chimes one o’clock. Ms. Milton
starts to circle the room. “Wakey, wakey,” she says. “Time to roll.” She and
Miss Stephanie supervise the kids standing up to roll their mats and use the
bathroom. Angel is the first one with his mat rolled and returned to the
closet. He helps some other kids roll their mats and work out the tricky
elastic bands that hold them shut.
“Thank you very
much,” says a blonde haired girl in a blue tank top.
“You’re welcome,”
Angel replies.
Veronica West has
her mat rolled but can’t get the elastics to stay in place. “Want a hand?” says
Angel, scooting in beside her.
She looks at him
like he’s holding a gun to her head. “I can do it,” she declares. The elastic
snaps loose again and the mat starts to unroll. She scowls at him. “Look what
you made me do!”
Angel reaches down
to arrest the mat. “Hold it like this,” he suggests.
“Like as if you
know,” says Veronica West, as she rips the mat away from him and sets it down
to start anew a few steps away.
Angel leaves her
be and stands quietly to the side until all the mats have been put away.
Veronica West is last, until Miss Stephanie takes her mat away, fixes the
elastics and replaces it gently into the closet.
“Story time,” says
Ms. Milton. “Goldilocks and the Three
Bears
.” She holds in the air a giant book, with a picture of a little blond
girl and a family of bears on the cover.
Some children
shout out in enthusiasm. “Hooray!” Angel hears, and from behind him, “My
favorite!”
Other kids aren’t
so happy. “Not again,” says one of the boys in a Redskins jersey. His friend
grumbles but Angel can’t make out the words.
Angel himself
doesn’t know the story of Goldilocks and
the Three Bears
. Indeed, he doesn’t know many stories at all . . . though
he knows he likes them. The other kids all push around Ms. Milton, and she
directs them to sit around her in a loose circle. Angel soon finds himself on
the outside edge.
Ms. Milton opens
the book so it stretches across her lap. He’s never seen a book so large in his
life. Miss Josephine had a scattering of books, though none nearly so big, and
she rarely read them.
“Once upon a time,
there was a little girl named Goldilocks,” begins Ms. Milton. She holds up the
book so everyone can see the giant picture of the pretty blond girl.
“She went for a
walk in the forest.” Again she holds up the book to show the pictures. Trees in
the sunshine, a deer in the shade and birds flying above.
“Pretty soon, she
came upon a house.” Ms. Milton holds up the picture of a wooden cottage. “She
knocked and, when no one answered, she walked right in.”
The audience
murmurs in anticipation. Angel, too, senses the possibilities.
Showing the
pictures as she goes, Ms. Milton tells the class how Goldilocks explores the
house. One bowl of porridge is too hot and one too cold, but the third is
perfect so she eats it all up. One chair is too big and one is too small, and
the small one breaks when she tries to squeeze in. Then at last Goldilocks
comes to the beds. One is too hard and one is too soft. But the third bed is
just right. She lies down to take a nap.
“Don’t do it!”
cries one of the Redskins boys. Other kids laugh.
“Stay awake,”
warns another.
But Goldilocks can’t
hear them. Soon she falls asleep in the bed.
Angel leans
forward in anticipation.
Soon the owners of
the home come back, and they’re bears! Ms. Milton holds up the pictures for all
to see. A big scary papa bear, a friendly momma bear, and a cute little baby
bear. A family of bears who live in the woods. Before long they find the chairs
that didn’t fit and the smallest one that broke. They find the porridge that
Goldilocks tasted and the perfect one she’d finished off. Each discovery makes
them angrier than the last. Eventually, they find her upstairs in their bed.
Goldilocks wakes
up in horror at the three hairy beasts . . . “and runs straight out the door
and into the forest, crying mommy, mommy, mommy all the way home.”
The kids all
cheer. Ms. Milton holds the giant book aloft, pages open to Goldilocks tearing
through the woods with the bears chasing behind.
One girl echoes, “Mommy,
mommy, mommy all the way home.”
Another cries out,
“Run faster!”
Ms. Milton lets
them celebrate awhile, then encourages them onwards. “How’d you like it?” she
asks the class.
The children
respond with more cheers.
“Do you think she
made it home?”
Again more cheers.
“Does anyone have
any questions?”
At first the room
is silent. The children don’t seem to know quite what to say. Eventually Veronica
West raises her hand.
“What’s on your mind,
Miss Veronica West?” Ms. Milton inquires.
“I want to know if
bears can have dogs.”
“I didn’t see any
in the story . . . but yes, I suppose they can. I don’t see why not.”
The blonde girl in
the blue tank top who Angel helped with her mat raises her hand.
Ms. Milton singles
her out. “What’s your name?”
“Tammy Atford.”
“What’s your
question, Tammy Atford?”
“Does she get in
trouble?”
“What do you
think?”
“I bet she does.”
“Then I bet you’re
right. Seems like she didn’t even make the bed!”
All the kids
laugh. Ms. Milton keeps the conversation moving on along those lines, calling
on every child by name and sometimes asking them to repeat their names for all
to hear. Some kids are worried about the broken chair and want her to say she’s
sorry. All of them hope she gets home safely. Angel doesn’t say a word. But he’s
sitting in a place with a good view of the book and he studies the artwork on
the cover, especially the red cardinal in the tree.
“Is there anything
else?” Ms. Milton asks at last. Does anyone have anything else to say or ask?”
The room is silent while she looks around.
Finally, Angel
sits up straight and raises his hand. Ms. Milton sees him immediately and leans
his way in encouragement. “What’s on your mind, little Angel?”
“My name is Angel
Thompson,” he says.
“Thank you, Angel.
What’s on your mind?”
He gathers himself
to speak deliberately. “It’s about the porridge,” he says. “That’s like
oatmeal, right?”
“Yes, porridge is
like oatmeal.” She makes a gesture as if stirring and eating from a bowl in her
hand. “Is there something you’d like to say about the porridge?”
“Why doesn’t she
mix it?”
Ms. Milton looks
at him in confusion. “Mix it?”
“One bowl is too
hot. One is too cold. She could mix them. Put too hot and too cold together.
Then she’d have more porridge that’s all just right.”
Ms. Milton’s eyes
open wide in comprehension. Mix the porridge, of course!
Angel forges ahead
boldly. “She could still eat the bowl that’s just right. But if she’s hungry
she can eat even more.”
Now all of the
kids seemed to understand. A positive murmur fills the room. He catches some
words behind him. “Mix the porridge, mix the temperature!” Someone else says “hot
and cold together” while a different voice says “more to eat!”
Veronica West’s
voice rises above the hubbub. “She’d get fat.”
“Not from one bowl
of oatmeal,” protests Angel. “And she seems to be hungry.” He finishes with
words he’s heard many times around the house. “You never know where your next
meal is coming from.”
The kids fall silent
and look at him in surprise. They don’t seem to have heard that before.
“But she still
needs to pay for it,” he concludes. He looks deeply troubled, like he’s solved
one problem but raised another. “I don’t know how she can do that.” He turns to
Ms. Milton for answers. “Does she have any money? Does her mom work at night?”
Still Angel is the
only one talking. The room is silent while Angel waits for an answer, but at
that moment the school bell rings. The kids all jump up like they know what it
means, though Angel waits for Ms. Milton to make the announcement. “All done
for the day. See you tomorrow!”
 
COPYRIGHT 2015 BY ERIC LOTKE
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


 
 
 

 

 


 
 

 


 
 

 

 
 

Sweet Seduction with Daire St. Denis

All it takes is one sweet taste… 

Daisy Sinclair knows how to make a guy moan with raw pleasure. She should, as owner of the best damn bakery in Chicago. Her cinnamon buns are borderline orgasmic! Of course, standing in front of the city's biggest (and sexy-as-hell) food critic in her skivvies isn't the most professional first impression. Especially when he has a wicked glint in his eye…

Jamie Forsythe isn't exactly a food critic; his twin brother is. One look at Daisy's mouthwatering curves, and Jamie knows only that he wants to have his cake and Daisy, too. Attraction mixed with deception is a recipe for disaster—the naughtiest, hottest kind imaginable. And there's no way Jamie can resist being sent to bed…with Daisy as dessert!





My Review

This book sinfully delicious as Daisy's pastries in her bakery. You know you are in for a fun, comedic, sexy joyride when the first opening scene involves Daisy stripped down to her Victoria's Secret underwear set and Jaime taking it all in strides. Then the next scene involves Daisy kneading dough. Jamie says "Your really letting that dough have it." Daisy replies "Some dough needs a gentle touch. Others need a good, hard spanking."

From here the story just gets better and better. There were many times when I found a smile on my face reading this book. The chemistry and witty banter between Daisy and Jaime was hot. I like that it was not all about the sex. The author kept the sex scenes to a minimum where they really mattered and felt natural, while keeping the rest of the story and the characters strong. I can't wait to read the next book, Big Sky Seduction which features Daisy's friend, Gloria.






Monday, March 28, 2016

Pound for Pound




The brave, inspiring story of one woman's recovery from a debilitating eating disorder, and the remarkable shelter dogs who unexpectedly loved her back to life.

“The dogs don’t judge me or give me a motivational speech. They don’t rush me to heal or grow. They sit in my lap and lick my face and make me feel chosen. And sometimes, it hits me hard that I'm doing the exact thing I say I cannot do. Changing.”

Pound for Pound is an inspirational tale about one woman’s journey back to herself, and a heartfelt homage to the four-legged heroes who unexpectedly saved her life.

For seven years, Shannon Kopp battled the silent, horrific, and all-too-common disease of bulimia. Then, at twenty-four, she got a job working at the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, where in caring for shelter dogs, she found the inspiration to heal and the courage to forgive herself. With the help of some extraordinary homeless animals, Shannon realized that her suffering was the birthplace of something beautiful. Compassion.

Shannon’s poignant memoir is a story of hope, resilience, and the spiritual healing animals bring to our lives. Pound for Pound vividly reminds us that animals are more than just friends and companions—they can teach us how to savor the present moment and reclaim our joy. Rich with emotion and inspiration it is essential reading for animal lovers and everyone who has struggled to change.



My Review

I was first drawn to this book by the book cover. I own three pitbulls. I used to have the impression that they were vicious dogs but now I am an advocate for them. All they know is love. Plus my three can't stop smiling. Back to the book.

Second I wanted to read this book because I am a sucker for a good animal story. I felt like I did get to know the author, Shannon. I have never experienced the urge to be model thin like the girls in magazines, although there was a short period where I did wish I was taller and bigger in the chest area. However as I grew older I grew out of this stage and love myself for who I was born. I am so glad that Shannon learned this with the help of the shelter animals she cared for before it was too late.
This book is spilt into parts. The first part talking about Shannon's life in her teens and collage years, then as she got older and was introduced to the animals. The final part focused more on the animals and a happy ending. There are some cute pictures featured in this book of some of the animals that Shannon and others at the shelter helped care for.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Fool Me Once...Shame on Me



In the course of eight consecutive #1 New York Times bestsellers, millions of readers have discovered Harlan Coben’s page-turning thrillers, filled with his trademark edge-of-your-seat suspense and gut-wrenching emotion. In Fool Me Once, Coben once again outdoes himself.

Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya’s husband, Joe—who had been brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery: Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to? To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about her husband—and herself.  

My Review

Another great read by Mr. Coben. When I saw this book advertised around the internet, I was excited and put it on my wish list right away. I could not wait to get a copy to read. The last couple of books I have read by Mr. Coven have been quick, nice reads. This book is no exception.

Maya is a good heroine. She is a strong leader, smart, and takes no shit from anyone. In the beginning I did not put the pieces together but when it the puzzle started coming together I was not surprised by the outcome. Yet, I was still in it for the ride. I could not stop reading to see how Maya would figure it all out. In fact, I read the first sixteen chapters in one sitting. I am sad that I finished this book because now I have to wait for the next one.


No One Knows


In an obsessive mystery as thrilling as The Girl on the Train and The Husband’s Secret, New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison will make you question every twist in her page-turning novel—and wonder which of her vividly drawn characters you should trust.

The day Aubrey Hamilton’s husband is declared dead by the state of Tennessee should bring closure so she can move on with her life. But Aubrey doesn’t want to move on; she wants Josh back. It’s been five years since he disappeared, since their blissfully happy marriage—they were happy, weren’t they?—screeched to a halt and Aubrey became the prime suspect in his disappearance. Five years of emptiness, solitude, loneliness, questions. Why didn’t Josh show up at his friend’s bachelor party? Was he murdered? Did he run away? And now, all this time later, who is the mysterious yet strangely familiar figure suddenly haunting her new life?

In No One Knows, the New York Times bestselling coauthor of the Nicholas Drummond series expertly peels back the layers of a complex woman who is hiding dark secrets beneath her unassuming exterior. This masterful thriller for fans of Gillian Flynn, Liane Moriarty, and Paula Hawkins will pull readers into a you’ll-never-guess merry-go-round of danger and deception. Round and round and round it goes, where it stops…no one knows.



My Review

Mrs. Ellison is one of my favorite authors. Her Lt. Taylor Jackson series is great. Also, I like the books from the Dr. Samantha Owens series as well. While those books are more on the murder suspense side, with Mrs. Ellison's newest book, No One Knows, it is a psychological thriller. I like this different side of Mrs. Ellison. If you are a fan of psychological thrillers like Gone Girl then you will enjoy this book.

I must admit that I did struggle with Aubrey. She got on my nerves as being more of a wilting flower than a strong woman. Although I would never want to be in her situation, I would hope that after five years that while I would still miss my husband dearly but that I would still be a strong woman. It was easy to put all of the puzzle pieces together in the beginning of the story, however I really like how the ending came together. I can't wait to read the next book by Mrs. Ellison. I hope that there are more books like this to come in the future.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Sweet Misfortune

Rachel Matthews isn't one to rely on others to take care of her. Destitute and alone, she still wants to make her own way and her own money--even if she's forced into the life of a dance hall girl. Horrified by her circumstances, Rachel's brother sends a friend--the widely admired cattle baron John McIntyre--to rescue her, then sets off to earn enough money to buy back the family ranch. But when months pass without her brother's return, Rachel isn't sure she can take one more day in John McIntyre's home--especially once she discovers that he's the one who holds the deed to her family's ranch.

Sparks fly between this spunky, independent heroine and the ruggedly handsome hero as they navigate the snarled terrain of pride, greed, faith, and love in Maggie Brendan's delightful series set in the Old West.


Review by Blanche Mancuso
 
Author, Maggie Brendan brings a great story of the life and times of ranch life in Montana. Where people are concerned and supportive of each other and are even sacrificed to help one another to where their lives are turned around by praying for each other and using their money and talents for the greater good of the community. You will find lots of romance, mystery and intrigue in this book. This book is guaranteed to keep you interested to the very end. While this book is the second in a series, it can be read as a stand alone novel. However after reading this book you will want to check out the first book in the series like I do.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Just sitting here with my Heart of Glass




In this edgy and romantic follow-up to her New York Times bestselling debut memoir, Chanel Bonfire, Wendy Lawless chronicles her misguided twenties—a darkly funny story of a girl without a roadmap for life who flees her disastrous past to find herself in the gritty heart of 1980s New York City.

Before downtown Manhattan was scrubbed clean, gentrified and overrun with designer boutiques and trendy eateries and bars, it was the center of a burgeoning art scene—both exciting and dangerous. Running from the shipwreck of her glamorous and unstable childhood with a volatile mother, Wendy Lawless landed in the center of it all. With an open heart and a thrift store wardrobe, Wendy navigated this demi-monde of jaded punk rockers, desperate actors, pulsing parties, and unexpected run-ins with her own past as she made every mistake of youth, looked for love in all the wrong places, and eventually learned how to grow up on her own.




My Review

I read this author's first book Chanel Bonfire and enjoyed it a lot. Although to be honest it was not my typical reading material. Yet, what I really liked about that book is the "rawness". Everything about the character to the story was exposed like an onion. Peeling off layer by layer added to the depth of the story. That is why I was intrigued to read the author's memoir. I wanted to get to know more about the author behind the book.

I did feel like I got to know who Wendy is as a person and not just a writer or actress. If I had to describe Wendy in three words I would say: "fearless", "intriguing", and "kind". Just like Chanel Bonfire in this memoir, Wendy does not hold back. Everything that Wendy experienced made her grow into a strong, independent twenty something woman. Yet as much as I did enjoy reading about Wendy's life I was not always focused on what I was reading. However this is a good memoir. I can not wait to read the next book written by this author.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Invisible Guardian



 



Already a #1 international bestseller, this tautly written and gripping psychological thriller forces a police inspector to reluctantly return to her hometown in Basque Country—a place engulfed in mythology and superstition—to solve a series of eerie murders.

When the naked body of a teenage girl is found on a riverbank in Basque Country, Spain, homicide inspector Amaia Salazar must return to the hometown she always sought to escape. A dark secret from Amaia’s past plagues her with nightmares, and as her investigation deepens, the old pagan beliefs of the community threaten to derail her astute detective work. The lines between mythology and reality begin to blur, and Amaia must discover whether the crimes are the work of a ritualistic killer or of a mythical creature known as the Basajaun, the Invisible Guardian.

Torn between the rational procedures of her job and the local superstitions of a region shaped by the Spanish Inquisition, Amaia fights against the demons of her past in order to track down a killer on the run.


My Review

This is the first book I have read by this author. Sometimes with international authors there is a bit of a language barrier that can come across in the book. Yet I did not experience any issues like this with this book. I got into this book right from the beginning, yet I admit that then after the first four chapters I started to loss a little interest but this passed quickly and I was in for the whole journey from the beginning, middle and the ending. Which the ending was a good one. Worth the whole read.

Although if you are squeamish, then you might not like this book. This is because the details about the murders are some what graphic. This book is not just a murder story but also a character driven story as well. I felt that the back story about Amaia was just as important. Also, I have said in the past that I am not really a fan of romances in my murder stories. This is because I can take them or leave them, at times I find that they distract from the overall experience of the story or they don't feel real. Yet this time it was just right. I guess you could say that I have now become a fan of this author's and look forward to reading more work by the author.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

On Lone Star Trail



If there's one thing Gillian Hodge never wants to see again, it's a man on a motorcycle. Her last encounter with one left her right hand crushed, ending her promising career as a concert pianist. But as she heads to Rainbow's End Resort, a sudden thunderstorm causes a motorcycle to crash in front of her.

When TJ Benjamin's wife died, he lost more than his best friend; he lost his faith. He's spent the past year wandering the country on a motorcycle, trying not to think about his future. When he finds himself stranded with a busted bike and a reluctant rescuer, he has to wonder about God's sense of humor.

Can this woman without a future and this man running from his past find romance in the present? Or are they too tied to the way life used to be?


Review by Blanche Mancuso

This is the third book in the Texas Crossroads series. It can be read as a stand alone novel. Yet every book I have read in this series is a good one. On Lone Star Trail is an inspiring story centered around likable characters.

Gillian was a concert pianist whose career was cut short and who goes to a friend's RV part for help and support. Gillian finds TJ who is also trying to put his life back together after losing his wife. Both Gillian and TJ seek to find the faith they have lost and in the process find they can help one another and others on the way.

You will want to read this book and get to know Gillian, TJ, and the other characters who find a renewed faith in God and faith in their fellow companions at the RV park. I would highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more books by this author.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Skinny Dipping with Murder




Welcome to Otter Lake, where the relaxing, restorative atmosphere is to die for.

Erica Bloom is in no rush to return to Otter Lake, the site of her mother's spiritual retreat for women. Erica met her inner goddess years ago and she's happy to have forged a new identity on her own, thank you very much. But her new-age-y, well-meaning mother is losing her grip on the business, and needs Erica's help. So she heads back to her New Hampshire hometown, where nothing much has changed-except for maybe the body in the well...

SKINNY DIPPING WITH MURDER
When Erica was a teenager, she fell prey to a practical joke that left her near-naked in Otter Lake's annual Raspberry Social. The incident was humiliating, but it wasn't like anyone got killed-until now. Those who were behind that long-ago prank are starting to turn up dead, and Erica's appearance in town makes her a prime suspect. To make matters worse, the town sheriff just happens to be Erica's old nemesis, Grady Forrester...who also happens to be hotter than ever. Can Erica find a way to dig up the truth-before someone digs her grave?

The first book in Auralee Wallace's Otter Lake Mystery series is a killer good time!


My Review

The title of this book is what drew me to it. Instantly I fell in love with this book from the humor to the eccentric characters like Kit Kat, Tweety, Freddie, Rhonda, and Grady to name a few. I knew that I was in for a fun, entertaining journey ride when I read the following line "Dickie Morrison... dead...impaled by a weenie skewer."

There was so many funny antics that Erica found herself in that I found myself carrying a smile on my face. In fact, a few times I had to stop reading to read a line or two to my husband because it was so funny. If you are a fan of cozy mysteries then you will enjoy this book. I can't wait to read the second book in this series and visit again with the people of Otter Lake.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Who are the Urban Boys + Giveaway




The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses is an action-adventure story about five teen boys who are mysteriously exposed to a foreign energy source that gives them extremely heightened senses. Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell become hypersensitive gifts that forever change the world!


The story chronicles their effortless interrelations and later exposes the testing of their deep bonds, and introduces the reader to an array of supporting characters who alter the boys’ lives forever. The Urban Boys offers young and mature readers central themes of loyalty, responsibility, honesty, fear, and triumph, which become artfully integrated with cinematic-level action and high drama.


We wonder, will they pass the test of fate, and will each of us pass the test of our very own lives? Intriguing, intelligent, and full of action, The Urban Boys offers a memorable, emotion-packed, thrilling ride for traditional and digital readers of all ages! (first in a series)


Buy the book:  Amazon   Barnes & Noble
 
 
My Review
 
I went into this book looking forward to learning/experiencing the five senses. First off I thought there was a lot of detail spent talking about things I did not see really lent anything to the story. For example, details about some of the boys parents...their height, hair color, etc. Which in the beginning, I did have a hard time keeping all of the different boys separate. Their voices just seemed to blend into one another. Also, I did not experience the different senses the boys had too much in the beginning as well. I mean I got the heightened senses but they were subtle. Even to the point that after about a hundred pages into the story, I was wondering when it was going to pick up. The second half. That is when the story picked up and the voices of the different boys became clearer. However, I have to say that if this was just a story about five boys and their relationship as friends, than this is a good book. Yet, as it is more than that, I found that I did struggle some with this book and it was just ok.
 



K.N. Smith is an American author and passionate advocate of childhood and family literacy programs throughout the world. She continues to inspire students of all ages to reach their highest potential in their literary and educational pursuits. Her creative, lyrical flair sweeps across pages that twist, turn, and grind through elements of paranormal and action-adventure in diverse, exciting, edge-of-your-seat narratives. She lives with her family in California.


Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter   Facebook


 


Do you have another profession besides writing?
Yes, I'm a marketing communications consultant, creative director, and brand strategist. I work with organizations to develop their overall look and feel, messaging, and advertising strategies. I've been doing this for almost 20 years.

Is there a specific ritualistic thing you do during your writing time?
I don't really have writing rituals, but I will admit that I need it to be perfectly quiet. I don't like distractions, talking, and other noise going on when I'm trying to express my creativity through words. Earplugs work wonders! So does color noise and a pair of wireless headphones, if needed. Do what you have to do to block it out! Also, a hot cup of French vanilla tea, or a cup of decaf coffee with chocolate caramel creamer never hurt anyone.

If you’re a mom writer, how do you balance your time?
Although my daughters are older now, in their early 20s, I'm still a hands-on mom, as much as I'm allowed to be. Family is important to us, so making time for writing and family is important. When my girls were younger, I inched up their bedtime five minutes each night until they were in bed at 7:30 p.m. This worked until about 7th or 8th grade, so I always had my evenings free for writing and finishing up work. Sometimes a mom has to get crafty in order to get those precious few minutes to herself!

Favorite travel spot?
Definitely Catalina Island in Southern California. My husband and I travel there annually for the jazz festival. it's one of our favorite vacations, and it looks like a little Italy. Looking forward to our next trip there in October!

Favorite dessert?
There's one other thing that goes great with writing, and that's homemade cookies and cream ice cream! Sometime ago, I bought an ice cream maker and have never looked back. Although I eat it sparingly these days, it's still a favorite. I also love oatmeal raisin cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and sweet potato pie with breakfast the day after Thanksgiving. Watch out gym, here I come!



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The Bursar's Wife



Kocharyan is a private detective based in Cambridge. When he is approached by the glamorous Sylvia Booker, the wife of the bursar of Morley College, to help investigate her daughter’s suspicious behaviour, a series of strange events unfold: an unfaithful wife is found dead and Sylvia’s husband commits suicide. A mild stabbing and the unwanted intervention of female police DI Stubbings cause George to wonder if all the threads are connected

My Review

I have never heard of this author. Which to be honest I could not tell from the writing who the famous author really is behind the identity of E.G. Rodford. Yet, as I dived into this book, I instantly fell in love with Kocharyan. I like his no nonsense attitude. It showed he was not perfect and human. Although be warned as there is some language used through out this book with the "f" word. Yet it is not used excessively but in good content. Then there are the other characters in this story. They were not just like extras in a play but they were both good main characters and secondary characters as well. They added to the story Plus, I found a few of them to be wacky (in a good way). The story read fast and I will be looking for more books by this author and look forward to seeing Kocharyan again.