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July 26, 2017

A Sure Way to Ignore Presidential Tweets - THE NIGHTINGALE

by Kathleen Barker



We tremble and hesitate to open a newspaper, turn on the news, or click on a link that details the events of the day. War, murder, and chaos are expected, everyday events. Should we despair or slog along, working diligently to make things better?

July 25, 2017

Sun at Midnight by Rosie Thomas

Review by Susan Roberts

This is the first book I've ever read about Antarctica and the setting was absolutely beautiful.  The author gives wonderful descriptions of the landscape and the ice and it almost makes the reader feel chilly even when reading on a hot day.

July 24, 2017

July's Reading Round Up #MondayBlogs

by Donna Huber



I have been reading 8 or 9 books a month, but this month it looks like I'm only going to read 5, maybe 6 books (I still have a week!). Work has been really busy with long hours on the computer which makes my eyes tired. Also I haven't listened to any audiobooks this month. I'm on the wait list for 2 at the library (one is Victoria, which I started last month but then when on vacation and didn't get it finished before it was due back). Also I've been listening to the lectures on Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction on Coursera.org. It's been really enjoyable.

So here are the books I've read, am reading, and will read forthe month of July. See if you can spot my summer reading trend (which was totally not planned on my part).

July 23, 2017

Engaging: Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

Review by MK French

Billie Flanagan, a former radical, had become a Berkeley mother with some need for freedom. She had started hiking and backpacking by herself on weekends, so it wasn't unusual for her to go away, until she didn't come back at all. A year later with no contact, the courts are ready to declare her dead. Her daughter Olive starts having visions of her, and her husband Jonathan is trying to write a book about his marriage as a way to cope with his grief. Both start feeling that Billie is still alive and try to search for her.

July 22, 2017

A Lovely Book: Luellen & Lucy by Dee DeTarsio

Review by Susan Roberts


The Civil War has just ended and after all the hardships that they suffered during the war best friends Luellen and Lucy are living together in a run-down house with their possessions that survived the war. They have been best friends for their entire lives and almost seem to be able to read each other's thoughts.

July 21, 2017

Get Paid for Your Influence

by Donna Huber


You have worked hard to grow a following on social media. You take the time it needs to nurture a fan base that interacts with your content. Don't you deserve to be compensated for that time and effort?

July 20, 2017

#BookReivew: Oola for Women by Dave Braun and Troy Amdahl

Review by MK French


I will admit right off the bat that I'm not usually the kind of person that will go for self-help books because my free time is so limited that I'd rather read something fun. When the request for this book came through, it happened to come at a time when work had gotten markedly more stressful with a change of computer system along with less ancillary staff, my youngest deciding that tantrums were fun, and my older two children deciding that yelling was much better than screaming. Feeling a little frazzled, I figured that I could give this book a try. The world is certainly unbalanced, and I'd never heard of the Oola system before. Why not?

July 19, 2017

The Special Power of Restoring Lost Things by Courtney Elizabeth Mauk

Review by Susan Roberts


Set against a layered Manhattan landscape, The Special Power of Restoring Lost Things explores a fractured family through the alternating perspectives of the mother, father, and brother of a young woman during the aftermath of her disappearance. A year of silent but collective anguish culminates in the fateful thirty hours after a body with a striking resemblance to hers is found, and we see her buttoned-up Upper West Side family spiral in different, dangerous directions: Her mother, Carol, nearly comatose by day, comes alive at night in a vigilante-like attempt to track down her daughter’s killer. Her brother, Ben, once the “good kid,” adopts her bad habits along with her former friends who may have been complicit in her death. And after failing to keep his family from splitting apart, her seemingly stoic father, Drew, finally allows himself to crack.

July 18, 2017

July Surprise Pack #Giveaway



It's time again for another surprise pack giveaway. I hope you are enjoying these giveaways as much as I am. It's fun to find something other than bills in the mailbox. If you are in the U.S. you will win a surprise pack that contains at least one book and other bookish stuff. If you are outside the U.S., then I will select a book from the Book Depository to ship to you.



a Rafflecopter giveaway



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July 17, 2017

#BookReview: Library of Light and Shadow by M.J. Rose #MondayBlogs

by MK French


Delphine Duplessi has a talent for drawing "shadow portraits," pictures drawn while she is blindfolded that reveals the secrets that the subject wants to hide. Most are rather innocuous, which allows her to use it as a party trick in 1925 New York City. But some secrets are not so petty, and the book opens with a party that ends in tragedy. Delphine retreats into depression, and her twin brother brings her back to France for a change of scenery. A tragedy had sent her away from France, however, and it haunts her as much as the doomed romance she had run away from. But her brother is working with an opera singer obsessed with finding the works of Nicholas Flamel, and Delphine will try to find the alchemist's book if it saves her brother's life.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free book was provided for an honest review.

July 2017; Atria Books; 978-1476778129
ebook, audio, print (368 pages); gothic romance
Library of Light and Shadow is amazingly well done. The characters are solid and real, even in their worst moments, and Delphine's past is deftly interwoven with her present.

She was driven from France to New York by fear, and she has to find her way back from that darkness. The shadow portraits are a kind of magic, which her family is known for, and trying to keep from using her gift isn't any better than trying to control her emotions or keep them locked away. They're very tied together, which is often a theme for books about creative people.

Emotions and talents are intertwined, and unlocking talents usually involves coming to grips with emotions and not being afraid of them.

The subplots all come together neatly at the end, and the lush scenery is so deftly described you almost feel like you're there. This is the first book by M. J. Rose that I've read, and I doubt that it's going to be my last.



Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.



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July 16, 2017

#BookReview: The Act by Nicole Waggoner

by Susan Roberts

The first two books in The Circus of Women Trilogy by a wonderful new author have been released and I am anxiously waiting for book 3 in early 2018.  Book 1, Center Ring, was released in 2016 (read my review) and book 2, The Act, was released in May 2017.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Act
May 2017; 978-1544867458
ebook, print (306 pages); women's fiction
I really couldn't wait any longer to get back into the lives of these five friends that we first met in Center Ring last year. Nicole Waggoner left us with a life or death cliff hanger and it's been a long wait to find out what happened.

The Act is a fantastic continuation of the series. (Warning: this is a trilogy that needs to be read in order. I re-read book 1 last week so that I could remember all the intricacies of the characters lives when I started book 2.)

This series is about 5 best friends. They all have problems in their lives - work, husbands, families, boyfriends... but they know that they can always depend on each other to help them overcome their obstacles and to love them no matter what they are going through.

It's difficult to write a book from five points of view, but Waggoner does a fantastic job of creating five characters who feel like people that we know in our own lives.

As with book 1, The Act ends with a cliff hanger so we'll have to wait another long year to find out what happens with our five new friends.

Buy The Act at Amazon


Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends.  She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with  her on Facebook.


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July 15, 2017

#BookReview: Our Only Chance by Ray Else

by MK French


Manaka Yagami is the first female tech millionaire, and she had started as a grad student interested in imprinting memories onto brains. One of her supervisors drafted her into his project, and soon the world's first AI was born. Einna is like Manaka's daughter, and she wants to make sure that the Yakuza can't use her tech for untoward purposes. Einna, however, has plans to better mankind and be more human.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free book was provided for an honest review.

March 2017; ELSE; 978-0996507134
ebook, print (300 pages); science fiction
The themes in the novel are very poetic, but I found it hard to get past the language style. Sentences are broken up and choppy, often fragmented thoughts, and it was difficult to get a feel for any of the main characters.

Perhaps Manaka is supposed to be more standoffish, but it was difficult to care about her struggles. The background characters and Einna were more engaging, and their sections of the novel did seem to flow a lot better.

There isn't a neat ending to the novel, so it almost feels like a let down at the end. All of the characters had their own agendas, even Einna, though her naivete means that she has good intentions behind them. She doesn't explain herself, and the very dry tone of the book is a stark contrast to the sudden chaos at the end. On top of that, it all came to an abrupt stop. I'm not sure if this is meant to have a sequel, but I don't find the story engaging enough to read a follow-up.

 Buy Our Only Chance at Amazon


Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

Get even more book news in your inbox, sign up today!. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

July 14, 2017

Fantastic! In This Moment by Karma Brown

by Susan Roberts

I loved Karma Brown's first two books and was excited to find her new book was as fantastic as the first two. Karma's books show how one event can take even the best life off track and create a ripple effect that resonates through the family.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free book was provided for an honest review.

In This Moment
May 2017; Park Row Books; 978-0778329916
ebook, audio, print (304 pages); women's fiction
The characters in this novel - especially Meg - are so well written that many of us can identify with them. Meg works as a full-time realtor while trying to be the perfect wife and mother. She is stressed and takes care of everyone but herself. When an accident happens at her daughter's school, she is consumed with guilt even though the accident wasn't technically her fault. The accident brings back the unresolved guilt from an accident that happened when she was 16 that she had never forgiven herself for. As her guilt begins to alienate her from her husband and daughter, she sees her family life slipping away.

This is a wonderful novel by a fantastic author who is able to create characters that the reader identifies with and cares about. Be sure you clear your calendar before you start In This Moment because you won't want to put it down until the last page.

Buy In This Moment at Amazon

About the book

Meg Pepper has a fulfilling career and a happy family. Most days she's able to keep it all together and glide through life. But then, in one unalterable moment, everything changes.

At after school pick up one day, she stops her car to wave a teenage boy across the street…just as another car comes hurtling down the road and slams into him.

Meg can't help but blame herself for her role in this horrific disaster. Full of remorse, she throws herself into helping the boy's family as he rehabs from his injuries. But the more Meg tries to absolve herself, the more she alienates her own family—and the more she finds herself being drawn to the boy's father, Andrew.

Soon Meg's picture-perfect life is unraveling before her eyes. As the painful secrets she's been burying bubble dangerously close to the surface, she will have to decide: Can she forgive herself, or will she risk losing everything she holds dear to her heart?


Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends.  She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with her on Facebook.


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July 13, 2017

#YourLegacy Blog Tour: Rasputin's Legacy by Lee Jackson


We are so excited to bring you a preview of Rasputin's Legacy set to be released on the 28th of July! But don't wait for the release, pre-order and get FOUR Bonus Prizes!

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post.


Rasputin's LegacyWhen Ronald Reagan sends West Point graduate and covert operator Atcho to execute a deadly mission, he finds himself deep in Siberia with no support. His foe is a Soviet general bent on a coup and gaining control of the USSR’s nuclear weaponry. At the back of Atcho’s mind is that the country he is sent to save is the same Superpower that helped enslave Cuba, his beloved birthplace.

Out of the gloom surrounding the murders of the brooding mystic Rasputin and the Russian royal family, emerges the evil that survived World War II. It fomented the Cold War and propelled their effects into the modern age. Atcho must avert their horrors, yet to be imagined on a global scale.

In a style reflective of Vince Flynn, Robert Ludlum, and Tom Clancy, Book 2 of this Cold War series is sure to thrill, and if you have not read Curse The Moon, check out the back of this book for a sneak-peek of the story of how Atcho became Atcho.



BOOKS ON FIRE TOURS REVIEW:  

They don't write books like this anymore, and though it took an agonizing wait of 3 years for me, it all paid off! I savored every word, as Lee Jackson's meticulous research, well developed plot, realistic characters, exact locations and plausible events took hold of me. Though this work of art is pure Historical fiction, Lee Jackson executed his story so well, it was hard to distinguish fiction from fact. Far from being just Histfic, the plot lines flowed effortlessly from one action packed scene into another, with ample twists, nerve wrecking suspense, intrigue and rich dialogue. One of the few books in my opinion that not only served as entertainment, but it was thought provoking and educational too. When the last page is turned you are left with a jaw-dropping ending and yet Lee Jackson left room for book three in the series too. The best part is that you don't have to read Book 1 in the Cold War Series to enjoy this book, but you wouldn't want to miss out on a beautiful father/ daughter story, now would you?

So go on and splurge on an electrifying action packed emotional journey about a man who has to save the very country that betrayed him, all whilst staying one step ahead of his stubborn girlfriend and a relentless reporter.

WHAT SOME LEGENDS HAD TO SAY ABOUT THE BOOK: 

Carmine Zozzora, Producer of Die Hard with a Vengeance and Color of Night. "Pure Gold! Atcho grabs you at the beginning, and won't let go."

Bill Thompson, Editor of Stephen King's Carrie and John Grisham's The Firm. "With this page-turning thriller, Lee connects the brooding mystic Rasputin to the Cold War, traces his dark influence into the present, and makes it relevant to today's churning world events. Stunning!"

Lieutenant-General Rick Lynch (Retired), former Commanding General, 3rd Infantry Division during the Surge in Iraq. "Clearly one of the best books of historical fiction I have ever read. Extremely entertaining and educational at the same time."

Joe Galloway, NYT Bestselling Author of We Were Soldiers Once...and Young (adapted to a Mel Gibson movie) and We Are Soldiers Still. "Wow! The story is gripping and plausible, the warning real. A must read."

Kris "Tanto" Paronto, Hero of Benghazi, Bestselling Author of The Ranger Way. "Riveting! Lee Jackson takes you on a thrilling ride through the intrigue of the Soviet Union as it races toward its final days. Feel the fight of those reaching for freedom against the chaos brought on by Rasputin. Couldn't put it down."

D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review. "It takes a deft hand and clear mind to weave past and present events together in such a manner that several possible future paths become crystal clear, but the main strength of Rasputin's Legacy lies in its ability to introduce a cast of characters that swirl around Presidential politics and dangers without becoming confusing or overly complicated. Thriller readers who enjoy stories of espionage, subterfuge ... will find high-octane action throughout Rasputin's Legacy, with the special note that its exceptionally swift pace does not translate to an iota of confusion, and its conclusion is absolutely stunning.... (It) will keep readers guessing and on edge ... from start to finish.

EXCERPT


Burly thrust his hands deep into his pockets. “That’s right. You never spoke to either of them. They will both disavow you.” He studied Atcho’s face as if to discern whether he fully understood.

Atcho’s eyes narrowed.

“Got it. Has Yermolov made contact inside the Soviet Union?”

“Don’t know. A good bet is that he has. He’ll move cautiously. The CIA guy in Paris was monitoring a group with a lot of money. They might provide Yermolov safe haven until he’s built a base of support inside the Soviet Union, and then finance his return.”

“What’s their skin in the game?”

Burly seemed reluctant to go into depth. “C’mon,” Atcho urged.

“I need to know this stuff.”

The big man spoke deliberately. “Elections are coming up in the Soviet Union in four months. They’re the first that resemble free elections since the Russian Revolution. Any disruption of voting could set up a return to a Stalin-like dictatorship, and you know what that could mean for US-Soviet relations.”

“None of that explains why a group in Paris would help Yermolov.”

Burly arched his eyebrows. He sat back as if reluctant to proceed.

“We’ve known each other a long time, buddy. Stay with me. What I’m going to tell you is way out there.”

“Get on with it.”

Burly leaned toward Atcho. “Do you know anything about the fall of the tsar, or a Russian mystic called Rasputin?”

“I’ve heard of that Rasputin guy; and I know that the tsar’s family was executed. What does that have to do with now?”

Burly told him, in detail. Atcho listened, stunned. “Yermolov,” he whispered. “I suppose they want me to make sure he stays dead.”

As he spoke, visions swirled in his head, of unspeakably small torture boxes in dank, dark dungeons; of an impossible escape attempt under the unforgiving glare of an accursed full moon; of coerced training in a non-existent camp outside of Moscow; of years lost while separated from his beloved daughter. Would I risk that again?

Burly exhaled slowly. “I’m your friend. Believe that, even if I’m the guy sending you into harm’s way.” His reluctance to say more was palpable. “Reagan wants him alive.”

Atcho’s disbelief showed. “You can’t be serious. Reagan wants me to bring Yermolov back to Washington?”

Burly shrugged. “We need to know the damage he’s done, and we can’t allow him to pass more military secrets to the Soviets. But if you can’t catch him, kill him. Your call.”

Atcho closed his eyes and leaned his head back. “Does Gorbachev know about that part of the mission?”

“No.”

Atcho sat back in his chair, deep in thought. After some moments, he lifted his head and looked at Burly. “Anything on the burglary at my house?”

“Yeah.” Burly was somber. He reached into his pocket, pulled out several small objects, and held them in his open palm. “The cops think it was a burglary, but my guys did a sweep of your apartment.

Whoever it was planted these bugs there.”

Atcho stared at the listening devices. “So, someone is already on to this mission,” he said slowly.

“Maybe. The cops don’t know about the bugs. I’ll get them to downplay the burglary. Maybe that’ll keep Collins from going down that rabbit hole.”

Atcho stood. He felt fatigue seeping into his bones. “We can talk about this again tomorrow. I’ll give you my answer then.”


THAT"S RIGHT!!! Pre-Order purchasers will receive these 4 BONUSES FREE!

  • Bonus 1:  The True Story Behind Atcho
  • Bonus 2:  SMACKDOWN - An Excerpt From a Work in Progress
  • Bonus 3:  Aleksey’s Account of Rasputin’s Murder
  • Bonus 4:  A Complimentary eBook of CURSE THE MOON*

* To receive your CURSE THE MOON eBook, email a copy of your purchase receipt to GetDigitalCurseTheMoon@gmail.com.

For those who purchase paperbacks during the Pre-Order period, email a copy of your purchase receipt to GetDigitalCurseTheMoon@gmail.com. You’ll receive back all the bonuses in eBook form.

If you would like your book autographed, tell us that in your email. We’ll provide back an address to which to send your copy. When sending, be sure to include pre-paid shipment materials to send the autographed book back to you.

Pre-order Rasputin's Legacy at Amazon


Lee Jackson is a bestselling, award-winning thriller author. He was an Infantry officer with a front row seat on world affairs, and spent 38 months in Iraq and Afghanistan. Book 1 of his Cold War Series, Curse The Moon was published in 5 countries. Book 2, Rasputin’s Legacy, is due to go on pre-order on June 28, and will be fully released by July 28. Curse The Moon follows Atcho, a counter-revolutionary leader in Cuba turned unwilling spy in the U.S. The odds he faces seem overwhelming as he must choose between saving the world from nuclear holocaust – or his daughter. In Rasputin’s Legacy, he faces a surreal challenge: he must save the country that enslaved his own, or deliver control his personal desire for revenge? Lee Jackson lives and works with his wife in Texas.
Connect with Lee Jackson: Facebook  *  Twitter  *  website  *  Google+  *  LinkedIn  *  Goodreads


Curse the Moon
The Cold War. A backdrop to betrayal. A playground to power. When his daughter is kidnapped, Cuban-born, West Point Graduate Atcho must be a sleeper agent to men he'd rather kill. Atcho's rise opens doors into US National Defense even as a seemingly omniscient KGB officer holds unflinching sway over his actions. His public life clashes with secrets that only he and his tormentor share, isolating him in a world of intrigue among people whom he is determined not to betray. His choice: save his daughter, or save he world from nuclear holocaust. 

When the darkness of night is your only camouflage, you learn to Curse the Moon. Get your copy here now. 

Curse The Moon is the first book in Lee Jackson’s Cold War Series. The sequel, Rasputin's Legacy, will be released in late-April 2017.

In the tradition of Robert Ludlum’s page-turner, The Bourne Identity, Atcho fights against overwhelming odds, bleeds when hurt, and won’t back down. Think: Jason Bourne meets Dr. Zhivago.

To experience the violent intrigue of Cold War Cuba and Russia vs. the United States, get Curse The Moon today.

Book &Press Guild Reviewer: Natasha Johnstone
Curse The Moon: Cold War Rising
ISBN: 978-0-9898025-0-5
Lee Jackson
Stonewall Publishers, LLC

RATED 4 GUILD STARS
Atcho is known by many names but his only goal is to find his daughter who was kidnapped by a Russian General called Govorov. All he wants to do is find her and flee to the US where he was a former student at West Point when he was younger. His friend Juan convinces him to go to a secret meeting with members of the CIA who wanted their help to rise up against Castro and might help him find her.

In a cruel twist of fate, just as he hears of her release, he is thrown into the middle of the Cuban Revolution where actual events are true and based on fact. He leads the revolutionaries through the battle of the Bay of Pigs, but things don’t go as planned and he gets caught where he spends fourteen years in the Boniato prison. He is sent to the Isle of Pines prison for another five years. He goes from planning and training men for revolution to planning and training men to escape out of prison. Though, he did not escape it was not in vain as years later one of the prisoners he helped escape is responsible for his release. Just when he reunites with his daughter, who’s own story is gripping, he finds himself working for the very same General Govorov and the Soviet Union to once again keep his daughter safe.

Curse The Moon is an action-packed, deeply moving story about a man’s desperate struggle to reunite with his daughter amid political, social and personal change. It grips the reader from the starts as depicted in this excerpt from the first paragraph: ‘Atcho slouched against a wall, alone in a small plaza illuminated by the dim yellow light of a single streetlamp. His eyes probed the surrounding darkness. His fine, aristocratic features were hidden behind a week’s growth of unkempt beard, while his normally well-groomed hair fell in shaggy brown locks below his ears. Since state Security Police, commonly referred to as G-2, had never seen Atcho, at least not as himself, they knew him only by reputation. Tonight, they would be looking for his messenger. Atcho’s ears strained for the sounds of approach. His powerful frame ached to be released from its tense stance. “For Isabel,” he muttered.

From there, the mystery and intrigue incorporated into this action packed book by the ever present General Govorov in Atcho’s life ensures that the pages turn themselves!

But, there is more to this book than a thrilling personal story with a political backdrop. This remarkable book with very deep rooted plot lines portrays a very emotional story, which had a huge impact on me. The book integrates both the history of a country and a man, in an intelligent and gripping manner as well. In this beautifully written book, and in the ever-changing landscape that is Atcho’s life, the only constant remains the moon as taken from this excerpt,  “You’re always there,” Atcho murmured to the moon. “It seems you are the only benign constant in my life.” His mind drifted. (sic)

The book is available at the following online stores: Amazon and Barnes & Noble 






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July 12, 2017

Summer Salad and a Book: #HomemadeCaesarSalad and #BirdBoxReview

by Alison DeLuca


“How about homemade Caesar Salad?”

fresh salad greens
image courtesy of Pixabay

We just made our annual trip to Lake of the Ozarks, where we stay with lots of cousins and uncles and aunts. Since it’s such a large group, we trade off cooking one meal for the everyone. And each year, I spend weeks trolling Pinterest for recipes that will feed a huge crew.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post.

This summer I was clueless. Should I make lasagna? (Too hot.) Chili? (Too blah.) My brilliant idea was homemade pizzas until our host ordered pizza for everyone the night before I had to cook. That ended that.

At a loss, I considered PB&J’s or cold cereal until I had a brainwave. “How about homemade Caesar Salad?” I asked the host. “With side toppings everyone can add to create a personal entrée?”

This idea got an enthusiastic thumbs’ up. I made my own dressing and croutons. A dish of shrimp and one of roast chicken flanked the display to turn it into a do-it-yourself bar.

Not only did the family eat up every scrap, one person told me the dressing was the best he’d ever eaten. And – guess what?

The recipe is super easy, and there are no raw eggs in the dressing.

Here it is so you can offer a fresh take on summer with your family and friends:

Caesar Salad Bar

4 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ cup + extra olive oil
At least 4 cups bread cubes cut from an Italian loaf
Salt
Fresh-ground pepper
Finely grated Parmesan, as fresh as possible
1 lemon
Worcestershire sauce
Good-quality mayonnaise (I used 8 ounces of Sir Kensington’s classic)
At least 3 hearts of romaine (no matter how much lettuce you prep, they will eat it)
Shrimp (I used 2 bags of 16-20 cooked and frozen)
Rotisserie chicken

Process the 4 cloves of garlic; as the machine is running, add the ¼ cup of olive oil. Run the processor for at least a minute. Set aside to allow the garlic to soak into the oil for another 5 minutes. 

Strain oil with fine-mesh strainer, reserving the processed garlic.

Prep lettuce. Tear into bite-size pieces, wash well in a spinner, and put into a large salad bowl. Store in the fridge under a damp paper towel to keep it fresh.

Prep the dressing: squeeze the lemon into a small container. Whisk 1 cup of mayonnaise, at least 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, ½ teaspoon of Worcestershire, half the reserved minced garlic, one tablespoon Parmesan, and a touch of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings (I suggest you try a little dressing on one leaf of the lettuce you just prepped.)

Cut up the rotisserie chicken into small pieces and place on a platter.

Prep the croutons. Put the cubes of bread into a large bowl and shake half the garlic-infused olive oil over them. Stir, repeat.

Prep two frying pans. Coat them with 1 tablespoon olive oil in each pan and put over medium-high heat. Add the rest of the garlic to one and thaw the shrimp in the mix. Stir repeatedly until the shrimp is warmed through.

Put the coated bread cubes in the other. Stir repeatedly until the bread cubes are browned on all sides.
Serve the salad with the dressing on the side, the chicken and shrimp on platters, and the croutons in the big bowl for your guests to add. 

You can also put out extra cheese, the pepper shaker, and lemon wedges so they can personalize as they wish. Dishes of fresh parsley, sliced cucumbers, walnuts, and fresh summer tomatoes are all nice touches as well.

Enjoy!

*****
 
cover of Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

After all that slicing and dicing, you definitely deserve some Me Time. How about a novel filled with thrills, tension, and constant emotion?

I loaded up the Kindle before our plane ride, but Bird Box stood out as a novel I Could. Not. Put. Down.

This post-apocalyptic novel is set inside a house, where several survivors cower with a diminishing supply of canned food. One of them, Malorie, is pregnant when she arrives at the house – a perilous journey, since going outside with your eyes open makes you insane.

In order to get to a safer place, Malorie has to escape with her two children, known as Boy and Girl. They must travel twenty miles in a boat on the river behind the house – all while being blindfolded.

The unseen menace creates a rising sense of danger that never degrades when the monsters come out of the shadows – because they can’t. One sight of them, so the theory goes, drives humans into a murderous and suicidal frenzy.

In order to reach safety without killing herself or her children, Malorie cannot lift her blindfold.
No matter what happens.

The author, Josh Malerman, is the lead singer for The High Strung. His writing style is simple, not overblown at all. I found it perfect for the devastating story he tells. In fact, Malorie’s POV is told so well I was convinced the book had been written by a female.

Not only is the book exciting, it also touches some very interesting themes, including trust and, more importantly, what it means to be a parent. Motherhood, Malorie discovers, quickly changes in the face of disaster.

Enjoy the dinner and the book, but you might want to leave the lights on.

Buy Bird Box at Amazon

What are you reading this summer?




Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain. Currently, she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.




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July 11, 2017

Two Fantastic Books to Read in July

by Susan Roberts


July is filled with blockbusters, don't miss these two fantastic books!

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. Free advance reader copies were provided for an honest review.

Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale

Everything We Left Behind
July 2017; Lake Union Publishing;
978-1477823972; ebook, audio, print (318 pages)
women's fiction
I have been anxious to read this book since I finished the last page of Everything We Keep last summer.

Everything We Left Behind was all I hoped for and more. Once I started it, and I was back in the lives of these characters, I didn't want to put it down until the end.

Warning: you really need to read Everything We Keep (buy at Amazon) BEFORE you read Everything We Left Behind.

This book was mainly about James/Carlos life and how he coped after waking up from a fugue state and found out that he had basically lost over 6 years of his life. After 6 years living in Mexico as Carlos, an artist with 2 young sons, he had no idea that he was really James a rich young American who had been engaged to be married. When he woke up from his fugue state, he had no memory of his life as Carlos and didn't even remember his sons. As he struggles to connect his lives, James has to learn who he can trust and who it is safe to love.

This novel is told in alternating chapters with one chapter being present day James and the next chapter being 6 years earlier with him as Carlos. The author handles this very well and it fills in all of the information in the story line.

I definitely enjoyed this book and will read anything that Kerry Lonsdale writes in the future.

You can read my review of Everything We Keep which is included in 10 Books for Fans of Chick-Lit, Women's Fiction, and Family Sagas.

Buy Everything we Left Behind at Amazon


The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

The Breakdown
July 2017; St. Martin's Press; 978-1250122469
ebook, audio, print (336 pages); suspense  
Before you start reading this book I advise you to clear your calendar and find a comfortable place to read because you aren't going to stop reading until you get to the end. This book literally had me so interested that I couldn't do anything at all until the last page because I was so absorbed by the story and anxious about the outcome.

Cass is a high school teacher with a loving and devoted husband, Matthew. One night returning from a school get together, she takes a short cut through the woods during a blinding thunderstorm. When she sees a car stopped along the road, she decides to stop but she is reluctant to go to the car in case it might someone who wanted to harm her. She decides to go home and is shocked the next morning to find out that the woman in the car had been brutally murdered. She is consumed with guilt and remorse once she realizes that she knew the woman who has murdered and starts struggling to remember things. Knowing that her mother had been diagnosed with early onset dementia made all of her forgetfulness convince her that she too had the disease. As her life spirals further out of control, the tension in the book continues to build as no one has been charged with the murder in the woods.

I am reluctant to tell you any more about the plot because I don't want to give anything away. What I will tell you is that I had the culprit figured out by the middle of the book and then changed my mind another fifty pages later only to be totally surprised for the last 40 pages of the book.

This is the second book by B.A. Paris and even though I loved her first book (read my review), I thought that this one was even better. Can't wait for her next book!

Buy The Breakdown at Amazon  


Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with her on Facebook.


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July 10, 2017

Fast-Paced Book: The Devil's Muse by Bill Loehfelm #MondayBlogs

by MK French


Maureen Coughlin is a New Orleans police officer working part of the Mardi Gras parade route. It's a tough job because of the locals and the sheer number of tourists. The job becomes even more complicated when a shooter harms three people, a fellow officer starts to emotionally unravel, a camera crew tries to capture video for their YouTube channel, and possible gang activity could make everything spiral out of control.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free advance reader copy was provided for an honest review.

The Devil's Muse
July 2017; Sarah Crichton Books;
978-0374279776; ebook, audio, print (272 pages)
hard-boiled mystery
This is a very fast paced book. Even so, I was surprised to realize that the bulk of the book took place in one night of the Mardi Gras parades.

I didn't understand the title of the book, but there are streets in New Orleans named after the Greek Muses, and there are a number of Krewes named after Greek gods and goddesses. The afterward specifically names the Krewe of Muses, who likely helped give Bill Loehfelm background into the parade route and all of the little ways that criminals could take advantage of the madness that is Mardi Gras.

This book gives a great feel for what it's like to be in the city with the police, and even the characters that are meant to be background ones sparkle and crackle with life.

Buy The Devil's Muse at Amazon


Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.



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July 9, 2017

Fantastic Debut: The Good Widow by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

by Susan Roberts

I have read all of Liz's and Lisa's previous books and loved them all. This is their debut suspense novel and WOW is it fantastic. Clear your calendar before you open this book because you won't want to put it down until you read the last page.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free ARC was provided for an honest review.

The Good Widow
June 2017; Lake Union Publishing;
9781503943445; ebook, audio, print (300 pages)
suspense, women's fiction
Jacks and her husband have been married for 8 years - it's an ok marriage with what she thinks are normal problems that most people have. He travels as part of his job and is gone most of every week. Her life is pretty calm until the police show up at her door to tell her that her husband has died in a car accident in Hawaii. The problem is that he was supposed to be in Kansas, and he was with another woman when the accident occurred. The woman that he was with left behind her fiancé- Nick - who was also stunned at what happened. To try to find out what happened in Hawaii, Jacks and Nick travel to Hawaii to trace the dead couple's last days. To say that things are never what they seem is putting it mildly!

I don't want to say any more about the plot because I don't want to give anything away but I will tell you that you are in for one fantastic read, and the last 25 pages will provide you with an ending that I never saw coming. Fantastic book by two wonderful authors!

Buy The Good Widow at Amazon

About the book

Elementary school teacher Jacqueline “Jacks” Morales’s marriage was far from perfect, but even in its ups and downs it was predictable, familiar. Or at least she thought it was…until two police officers showed up at her door with devastating news. Her husband of eight years, the one who should have been on a business trip to Kansas, had suffered a fatal car accident in Hawaii. And he wasn’t alone.

For Jacks, laying her husband to rest was hard. But it was even harder to think that his final moments belonged to another woman—one who had left behind her own grieving and bewildered fiancé. Nick, just as blindsided by the affair, wants answers. So he suggests that he and Jacks search for the truth together, retracing the doomed lovers’ last days in paradise.

Now, following the twisting path of that fateful road, Jacks is learning that nothing is ever as it seems. Not her marriage. Not her husband. And most certainly not his death…


Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends.  She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with her on Facebook.



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July 8, 2017

Terrific Romantic Suspense: Broken Bits by Kel O'Connor

by Donna Huber



Are you looking for a bit more intensity in your summer reading, but still want to the wonderful fun of a typical beach read? Then you will want to pick up Broken Bits by Kel O'Connor.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free ebook was provided for an honest review.


cover of Broken Bits by Kel O'Conner
September 2016; Kel O'Connor Books
978-0692772089; ebook, print (300 pages)
romantic suspense
I liked how the book sounded when the review pitch came in, but I didn't know how much I would end up loving. I loved the main characters of Kit and Mick. We get to know them pretty well while they hike 2 days out of the North Carolina mountains.

Kit has been in the mountains to try to gain some perspective and direction after her world was turned upside down by her mother embezzling money from the family charity. Mick is dropped out of a blacked out helicopter unconscious. Turns out Mick work for a secret agency and while civilization usually means safety, Kit and Mick possibly in even more danger once they reach the trailhead.

Broken Bits is one of the better romantic thrillers I've read in a while. As I'm more of a thriller reader than a romance reader, I would have liked a little more plot, more focus on what Mick is doing. I could have done without so much sex, especially since I felt that the sex scenes were put in there at the expense of plot.

While the danger made the story more intense it was still a fun romantic story, great for summer escapism reading. I read the book in two days and I'm looking forward to more books in the DAG Team series.

Buy Broken Bits at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.



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July 7, 2017

Education vs. Entertainment: The Power of Fiction

by Chris



While most of us are preparing for the summer, making vacation plans and finishing off the leftover burgers and potato salad from this week’s barbecue, there are some of us who find it a little more difficult to enjoy the sun, warm weather and beaches. Not for lack of trying, you understand, but sometimes it’s hard to see the sun for the clouds.

I, like millions around the world, suffer from a mental illness. For me it’s a kind of depressive bipolar, which means I go through extended periods of severe depression, alternating with periods of happy, lightened moods.

I’m happy right now, which is a good thing, but that’s besides the point.

The point is, there are a lot of things going on in people’s lives, in their minds and in their spirits, and often the rest of the world seems to go on, oblivious. I can’t really blame anyone for this—it’s hard to pay attention to what you don’t know is there—but sometimes you can’t help wonder if there was a way to waker people up, get them to notice, and maybe, just maybe, help out.

Now, I speak specifically about mental illness because it’s something I’m familiar with, but the same could be said of poverty, sexuality, or racism. There are a lot of things wrong in the world, and it’s easy—in fact, desirable, most of the time—to turn a blind eye to it. It makes life a lot easier if you pretend problems don’t exist.

And human nature only has so much capacity for kindness; even with the most open of hearts, one person can only pay attention to so many things before they are overwhelmed, and shut down themselves.

But while one can’t reasonably expect people to care about everything equally, just like we can’t donate to every charity in the world, it is possible to ask that they open their eyes for a moment, let in the light (or darkness, as the case may be), and see if something sticks. Because knowledge is power, and education is the bringer of knowledge.

This is where things get a little fuzzy, though. Most adults, sadly, resent education; perhaps they have bad memories of school, or don’t want to feel inferior for not knowing something, but it’s very difficult to get an otherwise rational human being to change their mind or consider something from an outside perspective. But adults love entertainment. They love to be distracted, taken away from the mundane of the everyday, and spirited off to a fantasy world of ghosts and goblins, or even hitwomen and spies.

And there is a place here, in entertainment, to silently and subtly educate. It’s an interesting concept, because most people don’t tend to think of education and entertainment as compatible. Learning isn’t supposed to be fun, we’re taught from an early age; learning is boring, cramming for tests, and subsequently forgetting most of what we learned anyway.

But when something under the guise of entertainment reaches a deeper part of our soul, touches our heart and brings out tears or laughter, there’s a good chance that something will stick.

Alison wrote a few months ago about reading Thirteen Reasons Why with her daughter. I’ve written about it before, myself. It’s a book that has some teaching moments, certainly: educating people about suicide, bullying and the traumas that young people go through is vitally important, especially for parents. Yet it’s been heavily criticized for not delving into the psychology behind suicide, and the mental depression that invariably goes along with it.

Sometimes a book doesn’t have to be about a topic to have a learning moment; in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which is as much about childhood trauma as adolescence, there a significant homosexual relationship which is mainly accepted by the protagonist, though the book doesn’t strictly center around it. Yet there is a potential for a reader to question their own priorities, and reflect on the abuse they may have witnessed and never acted on themselves.

Ultimately, it becomes a question of why we write fiction at all. Is it for entertainment? Is it for education? Does every story need to have a learning point, or would that be too similar to an agenda?

Perhaps it can be a bit of all of that. While a Michael Crichton or Tom Clancy thriller might not have much to teach us in the ways humanity, it doesn’t necessarily make them any less valid as entertainment. And if Thirteen Reasons Why is meant to teach about social bullying and suicide, it doesn’t prevent it from being a thrilling recreation.

Undoubtedly, some people will walk away from these books without learning a thing. They will read it to distract, and to experience the emotions and feelings that come with powerful writing and difficult subjects, but they may not move on to act on it in any way. Some people might keep a wider eye out for something they had previously been oblivious to: I remember reading Her by Christa Parravani, and to this day I’m—perhaps subtly—more aware of the hidden sexual traumas that women must face every day.

And sometimes a book might just be powerful enough to cause a few people, or even one person, to change their mindset, the way they think, or even the way they behave. They might look at their coworker, their spouse or their children in a new light, and appreciate them just a little more than before. And herein lies the power of fiction: stories have the potential to change the world, one person at a time.

What is something you remember learning from a book, or a film? What’s the most impactful lesson that’s stayed with you, ever since?

Raised between the soaring peaks of the Swiss Alps and the dark industrialism of northern England, beauty and darkness have been twin influences on Chris's creativity since his youth. Throughout his life he has expressed this through music, art, and literature, delving deep into the darkest parts of human nature, and finding the elegance therein. These themes are central to his current literary project, The Redemption of Erâth. A dark epic fantasy, it is a tale of the bitter struggle against darkness and despair, and an acknowledgment that there are some things the mind cannot overcome. Written from a depth of personal experience, Chris' words are touching and powerful, the hallmark of someone who has walked alone through the night, and welcomes the final darkness of the soul. However, for now, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and eleven-year-old son. You can also find him at http://satiswrites.com.

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