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Friday, April 18, 2014

After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman

  
 Felix Brewer is not exactly what you would call an ethical businessman.  Though some might frown on his ethics, his works has enabled his family to have a quite comfortable life.  His wife, Bambi, who Felix met at a Valentine’s Day dance years before, has given him three beautiful daughters.  He even has enough money to keep his mistress, the former dancer Julie Saxony, happy.  When Felix is convicted and jail is imminent that is when After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman really gets started.
 
         Felix decides to flee before he can begin serving time, and his decision leaves a wake of misery behind it.   Is he alive and living it up somewhere?  Will he send for Bambi or Julie to join him?  Ten years passes, and when Julie Saxony is murdered ten years after Felix leaves, a retired detective tries to get to the bottom of the story.

         Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez, is working as a consultant for the police department when the Julie Saxony case catches his attention.  Sandy, who has suffered losses of his own, tries to pin down the complicated lives of each member of the Brewer family and how each has learned to cope with Felix’s abandonment.  As he gets closer to solving the mystery of Julie’s disappearance, he also comes to terms with his own past.

         I would not call After I’m Gone a mystery so much as I would call it a family drama.  While the mystery of what happened to Julie is a thread of the novel, far more important is the effect that Felix’s leaving had upon his family.  Each of the Brewer women is affected by this abandonment and betrayal.  Bambi, left financially strapped by Felix, tries to hold her family together and to reassure herself of her significance in her husband’s life.  The three daughters try to make sense of an adulterous father who left them without looking back.

         After I’m Gone was not at all the book that I was expecting it to be.  While I concede it was well written, the characters seemed to go nowhere for me.  I think this is because of the frequent changes in timeline and character point of view.  I never did get the daughters straight, and I think I ended up with reader’s whiplash from the back and forth of the timeline.  Though we did not hear from Felix for most of the novel, I felt that some input from him would have made the story better.

         I did not care much about these people and though I felt as though there were some points to be made about keeping secrets, family and the roles within it, and integrity, I just was too confused and uninterested to care much.    I have read other Laura Lippman books that were awesome, but After I’m Gone was a pass for me.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Regina

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Silence the Dead by Simone St. James Spotlight & Giveaway

In 1919, Kitty Weekes, pretty, resourceful, and on the run, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House, a remote hospital for soldiers left shell-shocked by the horrors of the Great War. Hiding the shame of their mental instability in what was once a magnificent private estate, the patients suffer from nervous attacks and tormenting dreams. But something more is going on at Portis House—its plaster is crumbling, its plumbing makes eerie noises, and strange breaths of cold waft through the empty rooms. It’s known that the former occupants left abruptly, but where did they go? And why do the patients all seem to share the same nightmare, one so horrific that they dare not speak of it?

Kitty finds a dangerous ally in Jack Yates, an inmate who may be a war hero, a madman… or maybe both. But even as Kitty and Jack create a secret, intimate alliance to uncover the truth, disturbing revelations suggest the presence of powerful spectral forces. And when a medical catastrophe leaves them even more isolated, they must battle the menace on their own, caught in the heart of a mystery that could destroy them both.



Simone St. James is a lifelong reader of ghost stories and other spooky reads, but it wasn’t until she was an adult that she discovered two wonderful genres: romances and old, classic gothics.
Wishing she could read something that combined the three, with a 1920′s setting thrown in as well (and having written two full novels that were rightfully rejected everywhere and will forever live under the bed), she wrote THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE, which was the book she really wished to read. An agent’s representation and a publishing contract soon followed, and she has been happily writing in her chosen, made-up genre ever since. THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE won two of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® awards, as well as Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Book.


Simone spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to become a full-time writer. She lives just outside Toronto with her husband and an elderly cat who is probably sleeping as we speak. When not writing, Simone can be found traveling, cooking, staying active and healthy, gardening badly, and reading, reading, reading. Among her favorite authors (besides the geeky history and research books she loves) are Mary Stewart, Daphne duMaurier, Deanna Raybourn, Susanna Kearsley, Jacqueline Winspear, Victoria Holt, Kate Morton, George R. R. Martin, and Stephen King. How’s that for a mix? And of course, along with the rest of the planet, she is eagerly awaiting the next season of Downton Abbey and Sherlock on the BBC.

Simone loves to chat with readers on Facebook and Twitter, or through her contact page. You can also see her reading lists on Goodreads and the latest behind the scenes pictures she’s pinned on Pinterest.

GIVEAWAY
One lucky reader will win their own copy of Silence the Dead

*USA only
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*Contest ends April 28, 2014

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop



Welcome to the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader & Read Now, Sleep Later! This hop runs from April 17 -24th!





I'm offering a $10 Amazon Gift Card!

*Fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter and then hop on over to the next blog on the hop!

Happy Easter and Happy Hopping!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Scott's Liquid Gold Review & Giveaway

Liquid Gold is a cleaning and protecting product that you can use on your wood.  As opposed to other products, it fills in nicks and cracks.  It doesn't just make your furniture dust-free, but the oils also sink into the wood, helping it to be 'healthier'.

I started with using this on my old buffet china cabinet.  You can see by the picture the amazing difference.  The 'before' side was previously dusted.  Not only that, but it's been two weeks since I dusted the buffet and it still has the same clean shine to it.  I took an old useful piece and turned it into an object of beauty with a little Liquid Gold and a cleaning rag.  Also, considering the fact that I do dust it weekly, I couldn't believe the amount of ground-in dirt and grime that came off on my cloth.  


I was so impressed by the change in my buffet, that I grabbed my can and a few clean cleaning cloths and went in search of more items in my house to clean.  I started with obvious items, like the dresser.  Then I went on to the not-so-obvious.  It added a new depth and shine to my counter tops.  It made my 70's chandelier look like brand new.  It removed all of the dirt and added a new look to my hinges and drawer pulls.  Then I turned it to my window sills and that metal part surrounding the window glass.  Again, I was rewarded with a deep clean and shiny look.

Before trying out Liquid Gold, I'd obviously heard of it, but it was something that people used who had expensive and fancy wood to protect.  I'm a normal girl with hand-me-downs and child-safe furniture.  I whole-heartedly admit that I was wrong.  I'm now a Liquid Gold addict.  From large pieces of furniture to candle-holders to exercise equipment, this stuff cleans and shines everything.  It does get smeary on glass, so be sure to have some glass cleaner nearby just in case you overspray.  It's quick.  It's easy.  It restores and protects without stripping and staining.  It has a light almond scent that makes it pleasant to use.  Also, it's made from natural and organic oils, contains no CFC's, and is made right here in America.
GIVEAWAY
One lucky reader will win their own can of Scott's Liquid Gold
*Fill out the Rafflecopter to enter
*USA only
*Ends April 23, 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

Adovia Dead Sea Mud Mask Review


Adovia Mineral Skin Care is made in Israel with minerals from the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea differs from oceans in many ways. It has a much higher salt content but it also has a much lower sodium chloride measurement.  For normal ocean water, 85 percent of the salt is sodium chloride while the Dead Sea salt is measured to only have 2.5 percent sodium chloride.  This means more of other minerals since there is less sodium chloride.

Historically people have visited the Dead Sea for therapeutic reasons, dating back to the ancient Egyptians. Soaking in the minerals can reduce pain from different types of arthritis.  It can be a huge aid for psoriasis and acne and is reported to reduce the depth of wrinkles from aging by 40 percent. 

Purifying Mud Mask is made with Dead Sea Mud, Aloe Vera and Vitamins A and C.  You can tell how good this is for your skin, just by me telling you that much.  Then they add in Beeswax, Jojoba Oil, Evening PrimroseOil and other soothing natural ingredients.  The purpose is to renew and rebuild your skin to make it smoother, healthier and younger looking.  The nutrients replenish your skin cells to give you a rejuvenated and healthy complexion.  

Putting the mud mask on is both cooling and soothing.  It actually has a fine mud texture rather than feeling like chemical goop.  It has a pleasant, earthy scent.  Instead of getting a dry, tight feeling while the mud mask is drying, it actually feels like it's sending moisture into your skin while removing the dryness.  After rinsing, pores are noticeably smaller and skin has a much healthier look.  My face actually became radiant.  It also felt soft to the touch.

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. Shawn

Sapphires Are an Earl's Best Friend (Jewels of the Ton #3) by Shana Galen


She Wants Him...

She Wants Him Not...



Lily Dawson, dubbed the Countess of Charm by the Prince Regent himself, plays the role of the courtesan flawlessly while her real purpose is spying in the service of the Crown. Her mission now is to seduce a duke to test his true loyalties. She'll do it, even though the man she really wants is Andrew Booth-Payne, Earl of Darlington—the duke's son.



Andrew is furious when he finds himself rivaling his father for Lily's attention. When he uncovers Lily's mission, Andrew is faced with impossible choices. It seems he is destined to betray either his family, his country, or the longings of his own heart...



Sapphires are an Earl’s Best Friend is the third in the Jewels of the Ton series.  I haven’t read the first two books, but did see a couple of really good reviews for them.  So I was excited to start this book.  Unfortunately it didn’t exactly match my expectations.  Right from the beginning I was a little lost about events that had happened in the other two books.  Lily and Andrew had a back story that I knew nothing about and was hoping that as I kept reading Shana Galen would fill in the blanks, but unfortunately they didn’t get answered. 

The plot of this book is the typical romance novel format.  Boy and girl don’t like each other, but are attracted to one another; boy and girl have a fight and end up in bed and love each other happily ever after.  I really don’t mind those kinds of romances, unless the main story is a bit forced.  Which this one is. 

Lily is supposed to be a spy and good at her job, but at all turns she is.  She is constantly “rescued” by Andrew; and really isn’t a well-developed character that you can relate too.   
Andrew is a typical male who wants to be right at every turn; and must rescue someone in the process.   

I really wanted to like Lily and Andrew together.  I thought they would be strong and fun to be around, but they didn’t seem to click.  They went on a few adventures but after this story I don’t think they would live “happily ever after”.   Even the villains in this story didn’t seem to have any punch.  They just sort of showed up to give Lily and Andrew something to do. 

Shana Galen is a good writer, and this book was good to read.  Unfortunately I think this was a little forced and not up to her usual standard.   If you have nothing else to read and have read the other two books in this series, pick it up.  It wasn’t a bad read, just not an exciting one. 


Shana Galen is the bestselling author of fast-paced adventurous Regency historicals, including the RT Reviewers' Choice The Making of a Gentleman. Her books are published all over the world and have been featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. She taught English at the middle and high school level off and on for eleven years. Most of those years were spent working in Houston's inner city. Now she writes full time. She's happily married and has a daughter who is most definitely a romance heroine in the making. Shana loves to hear from readers: visit her website at www.shanagalen.com or see what she's up to daily on Facebook and Twitter.  

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Stephanie

Out of the Shadows by Pam Thorson - Book Spotlight!

“I heartily recommend this book for anyone and everyone who deals with disability in the family!” ~ Joni Eareckson Tada, Joni and Friends International Disability Center

No place is so dark, no shadow so deep, that God can’t find us.

Does the suffering you witness or experience seem pointless? Do you feel like your problems are endless? Do you wonder if God cares about you?

Caregivers live in the daily shadows of death, countless duties, and shattered dreams. But they don’t have to exist in the shadows of their faith.

Nurse and veteran caregiver Pam Thorson offers weary families hope and insights gained from her own struggles. Out from the Shadows is a collection of thirty-one stories that pull back the veil on the unique joys and challenges of caregiving. Each devotion draws from the author’s own experiences to reveal a fresh understanding of Jesus’ call upon our lives as we care for others.



Pamela Thorson is a licensed practical nurse, author, speaker, and full-time caregiver. She pioneered in the homeschooling movement from 1982-2006 and authored her first book, Song in the Night, in 2008. She resides in the Pacific Northwest with her family. Contact her at pamthorson.com.  






Sunday, April 13, 2014

Exposure: A Virals Novel (Virals #4) by Kathy Reichs

Tory Brennan - great niece of Dr Temperance Brennan - and the Virals return for their most terrifying adventure yet.

Morris Island has barely had a chance to return to normality after the high profile trial of the Gamemaster, when two local students seem to vanish into thin air.

Tory Brennan and the Virals pack move quickly in their attempts to discover what has happened to their twin classmates. But the pack's canine powers are growing wilder, and it is becoming ever harder to conceal the secret which protects them.

When Tory and her friends find evidence of blood in the students' basement, they realise that the disappearance is no game.

But in order to save the twins, the Virals must risk the exposure of their powers, and in doing so put even their own lives in terrible danger.



I have to be honest, at first I was concerned when I discovered that this was the 4th book in a series but my fears were quickly allayed as I got into the story. The authors did a great job of creating a stand-alone story with minimal ‘flashback storytelling’.


From what I gather, the Virals Series is about a group of four teenagers who were accidentally exposed to an experiment that changed their DNA. They gain the ability to “flare up” which allows their senses and abilities to maximize to almost superpower levels. The only problem is that they don’t know how to control something they are barely starting to understand. This specific books picks up with the Virals pack having to investigate what is going on when students from their school start being abducted. 

This book has Reichs’ signature crisp and detailed writing but a little less complex given that this is a young adult series. But don’t let the ‘young adult’ label fool you, this older adult will be putting in an order for book 1-3 to further continue (or catch up) with this highly interesting cast of characters. An interesting tidbit for Kathy Reichs fans is that one of the characters is Dr. Temperance Brennan’s niece so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Bones TV series spin off developed from these books in the near future.   


*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Roberta

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Last Wild by Piers Torday

In a world where animals no longer exist, twelve-year-old Kester Jaynes sometimes feels like he hardly exists either. Locked away in a home for troubled children, he's told there's something wrong with him. So when he meets a flock of talking pigeons and a bossy cockroach, Kester thinks he's finally gone crazy. But the animals have something to say. And they need him. The pigeons fly Kester to a wild place where the last creatures in the land have survived. A wise stag needs Kester's help, and together they must embark on a great journey, joined along the way by an overenthusiastic wolf cub, a military-trained cockroach, a mouse with a ritual for everything, and a stubborn girl named Polly. The animals saved Kester Jaynes. But can Kester save the animals?




The Last Wild is a book that was a good read. The characters had interesting backgrounds and met each other in unusual ways. The writing style is different from what I usually read. There are misspelled words and the grammar is a little off. But, the overall plot is good.

The story takes place in a rehabilitation home for children. The author introduces Kester, a boy that can talk to animals. The author also tells you about his past and why he is mute.  After the wardens see him holding a cockroach, they take him to the headmaster of the school. They explain to you why Kester is in the rehabilitation home. Next, 99 pigeons fly into his room and tell him they are going to break him out of the rehabilitation home. This is a turning point for Kester because he realizes that he can actually talk to all types of animals. The pigeons then invite cockroaches into Kester’s room. The cockroaches break him out of the prison-like rehabilitation home by making him crawl down a sewer pipe and enter the nasty gutters to get to the ocean.

            When they come out of the sewer pipe, the birds tell Kester that they are going to take him to their home, The Last Wild, by flying him over the ocean. They hold him in the air by holding his clothing with their beaks. The pigeons finally touch down in the Last Wild and Kester meets a wise old stag called Wildness . Wildness tells Kester that he, Wildness, sent for him because Kester is the only person alive that can help them get a cure for the berry-eye. The berry-eye is a disease that kills an animal slowly, going from the inside out. Before the animal is going to die, their eyes blaze a bright red. That is why it is called the berry-eye.            

            From then on, we get introduced to lots of crazy characters and settings. At the end Kester goes back to the Premium, a city where multitudes of the rescued people live, and meets his Dad. The Premium is the place where Kester used to live.

            Overall, this book was okay and mildly interesting, although it could have been better. It also was very clean (there was no bad language/inappropriate scenes), so that is a neat bonus. 

On my “Amazingly Fabulous Book Scale” I would give this book a 5 because it was good but it could use a little improvement in storyline, setting, spelling and grammar.  


*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Hannah


Friday, April 11, 2014

The Terrorist's Daughters (T.O.G.G.L.E., #1) by Brian Arthur Levene Review & Giveaway

Born in Chicago, Illinois, three sisters are uprooted and brought to Pakistan, after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001. After becoming oppressed and abused by their radicalized father and drug-sedated mother, two of the girls decide to run away from home and soon they discover their inner selves. One is a twelve-year-old blessed with a gift she does not know she has, the other, a seventeen-year-old proficient in the methods of psychological warfare. Along the way they encounter a handsome young man, and his family who are also looking to start a new life away from their terrorist state. Their travels takes them to Afghanistan, Dubai, Mexico and the United States, leaving a chaotic but interesting trail behind.

Developing a family among a group of outcasts, including a young Asian girl who is prolific in computer hacking, their adventures continue with the girls making daring escapes from authorities, and fighting Al Qaeda extremists working for their father. The Terrorist's Daughter all leads to a dramatic conclusion revolving around love, faith, family, and the potential destruction of an entire city.


The Terrorist's Daughters is the first book in a new series by Brian Arthur Levene.  A fast paced book with an indepth look into terrorism, degradation and what lengths one will go to to achieve security and to do what's humanly right.   Zahra and Aalia are memorable characters who I really came to like as their story unfolded.

They make questionable choices many times but I don't know what I would do in their situations.  They have been through some unspeakable horrors and yet still, they manage to keep their sanity, humanity and have goals for a future.  They are strong, capable women, and aren't afraid to draw from their strength.  The writing is fantastic, with the plot points and the character development the shining focus of this novel.  The only surprise, for me, was the ending.  Although I know this is the first book in the series, I expected it to end in some fashion.  Instead, it just stopped.  Very frustrating. If you're looking for a new series, try The Terrorist's Daughters.  But, make sure you have some time on your hands as it's almost impossible to put down once you start!


*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

GIVEAWAY
One lucky reader will win their own copy of The Terrorist's Daughters

*Fill out the Rafflecopter to enter
*USA only
*Contest ends April 28, 2014