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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

October 29, 2016

Book Spotlight: Set Free by Anthony Bidulka (@abidulka)

The truth will set you free. Can lies do the same?

Within minutes of arriving in the exotic, enigmatic, sweltering city of Marrakech, renowned author Jaspar Wills is kidnapped, blindfolded, bound, and beaten. As Wills struggles to survive the ordeal, he recounts his rise to fame and the tragic events that led him to Morocco. With the kidnapper’s demands left unmet, Wills faces death with fear, grief…and guilt. Is what happened in the past tied to his abduction? Is someone he loves responsible? Or is this payback for his sins? Living with a loss far greater than his own death, Jaspar yearns to be set free. But do some kinds of freedom come at too high a cost?

Six months later, struggling reporter Katie Edwards travels to Morocco to stake her claim on the story with everything—international intrigue, mystery, celebrity, violence, sex, heartbreak, betrayal. Once there, she discovers a shocking truth. As the young journalist’s career soars, Jaspar Wills’ is destroyed…until an act of revenge leads to a stunning revelation that will change everything.

Book info: September 2016; Bon Vivant Books; ISBN13: 9780995229211; ebook and paperback (283 pages); thriller

Start reading:

Buy Set Free at Amazon

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October 28, 2016

Review: Some Like It Perfect by Megan Bryce

by Donna Huber

December 2013; ebook (245 pages);
romantic comedy
A fun, lighthearted story perfect for cool fall evening reading.

Do you have books on your eReader that you picked up for free and then never got around to reading? Some Like It Perfect by Megan Bryce is one of those books for me. However, last week I found myself with some time to read and my Nook was dead. Thankfully, my trusty Nook app on my phone was working.

I've wanted to start this book for a while and I'm glad I had the chance. I definitely in the need of a lighthearted story. I didn't know it until I started reading it, but it hit the spot.

I loved the main characters. Jack is a hard-nosed CEO of a paper corporations. Delia is a painter that needs a job. And there is Augusta "Gus", Jack's half-sister who needs to learn to be an adult.

The secondary characters add nice flavor to the story but their storylines felt unnecessary. Jack and Gus's mother provides some explanation to why Gus and Jack are who they are. However, I felt Justine and her boyfriend's story line was mostly a distraction, though possibly a setup for a future book.

Some Like It Perfect is the third book in the Temporary Engagement series. I was a bit worried that perhaps I would need to have read the first two books, but these appear to be standalone novels, at least this one was. Maybe these characters played a minor role in one of the first two books, but I couldn't tell.

The plot was predictable. Delia is hired (by Jack's mother) to to paint Jack's office ceiling. She is free-spirit. While she doesn't fully embrace the hippie commune upbringing she received, her worldview is definitely colored by it. Jack lost his father as a young boy and then when his step-father dies when Gus is a child, he steps up to be a father substitute. This is further compounded by his mother going into full mourning and refusing to take an interested in raising Gus or keeping the family company going. A lot of responsibility is suddenly thrust upon Jack's shoulders. Of course, opposites attract in this fun-loving story.

I worried at the beginning that Bryce would drag out the love-hate back and forth, which with the predictability of the plot would have had me rolling my eyes. Instead, Bryce strikes the right balance in pacing the story. There is just enough buildup to provide tension but progresses quickly enough to give readers the fun, feel good story they're craving.

If you are looking for lighthearted escapism, then look no further than Some Like It Perfect. And if you are like me and want more stories from Megan Bryce, you can get the first book Some Like It Charming for FREE right now.

Buy Some Like It Perfect 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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October 27, 2016

Review: A Night of Forever by Bronwen Evans

by MK French
Night of Forever
October 2016; Loveswept; 9781101883181;
ebook (240 pg); regency romance;
a free ebook was provided by the publisher

Isobel Thompson is a proper young lady hoping to meet someone that will marry her so she no longer has to live with her stepmother Victoria. Arend Aubury had amassed a fortune overseas, but only trusts his fellow Libertine Scholars, and certainly not beautiful women. As a result, when he meets Isobel, he immediately thinks she's in league with Victoria, who is targeting Arend and the Scholars for crimes their fathers committed. Just to complicate matters, Isobel believes that Victoria had murdered her father. She proposes that they work together to find the truth, and Arend suggests a false betrothal to explain their closeness Unfortunately for Arend, he is drawn to Isobel, and soon believes in her innocence. That plays right into Victoria's plans, and she is determined to get her revenge, even if it means sacrificing Isobel to do so.

This is a Disgraced Lords novel; while I haven't read the others in the series, it clearly is a separate book per Libertine Scholar. While there are references to the other Scholars' stories, it's not blatant and not necessary to understand Isobel and Arend's story. Isobel is driven by her devotion to her father's memory and her need for the truth. Arend wishes he could forget his past and hopes that he doesn't lose the esteem of his friends. His distrust is explained very clearly, and we get hints of the trauma that Arend had suffered in his past. Isobel is a likable heroine, and you can't help but root for her to get closure. It's inevitable that the two of them get together, as this is a Regency romance. There is always a happily ever after, and this novel is no different. I was surprised by the reappearance of a particular character at the end, and how easily Isobel let go of her insistence that Arend tells her everything about his past in order to better understand him. They both learn to give in a little, and it does feel a little sudden. Still, there were quite a few events that occurred rapidly, and near-death experiences often change people. At least, that's how I chalk up the conversation in the last chapter. A thrilling and fun read, and one that I'll definitely be rereading often.

Buy A Night of Forever at Amazon

MK French, reviewer. Born and raised in New York City, M.K. 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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October 26, 2016

From Tiara to Tough Guy, the Rise of Luke Cage

by Ross Kitson

Luke Cage comic book
Image from 
The latest installment in the great Netflix-Marvel partnership is Luke Cage, and it follows on with the mature style that the current TV adaptations of the Marvel Universe have set. Fortunately for my 14-year-old son the producers have opted to run it as a '15' (which is an R in the US) as per Jessica Jones and Daredevil season 1, rather than the uber-violent Daredevil season 2's '18.'

Those who read my posts will be aware that (a) I'm a happy superhero and comic-loving geek, and (b) I'm a big fan of what they're doing on Netflix. Of the latter point, it's telling that the guys behind Stranger Things went through a dozen studios before settling with Netflix. And what further marks of quality do you need beyond House of Cards, The Killing, and Narcos? Truly Netflix is on the verge of rivaling the remarkable HBO and AMC.

What I loved about Luke Cage was that they took a fairly B-movie hero (agreeably who had a boost in recent years by being in the New Avengers team) and did him perfectly. Here was a Black-American superhero, whose origins in the comics were firmly entrenched in the mires of 70s stereotype (afro, tiara, open-neck yellow shirt, lots of talk like 'jive'). The comic had a burst of popularity in the 'Blaxploitation' era, whilst the cinemas were replete with Superfly, Shaft, and Cleopatra Jones, but its odd mix of lighter comedic tone with gritty street-level setting meant that the comic-line ultimately merged with another (Iron Fist) to sustain it. This partnership, of invulnerable dude, Cage, and martial-artist, Iron Fist, was surprisingly readable—and I recall really enjoying it during my childhood in the late 70s to early 80s.

The duo were put out to pasture in the mid-80s when every Marvel comic not involving the letter X or with mature undertones was felt to be passé. Luke Cage was relaunched with a newer modern look in the 90s, and after a few stop-re-starts came under the magical pen of Brian Michael Bendis, whose runs on the Avengers, and gift for big cross-over events brought Luke back into the mainstream (not least in the mature title, Alias, which Jessica Jones is based on).

Luke Cage
Image from 
So how to reflect this chequered forty year history on the small screen? Well, the first move was to give Luke some space and a fresh backdrop. We find he's left Hell's Kitchen (where he appeared in Jessica Jones), and settled in Harlem. This was a smart move, as there are few other areas as intrinsically linked with Black American culture as Harlem. And the writers exploit this to its full potential, using the characters, and the history, and the vibe of the setting to frame the struggle of moralistic Luke against the villains of the tale.

The story is solid enough—nothing exceptional, with the necessary origin episode, some unresolved past issues, a few revelations and surprises, and a pretty effective finale. It shines for me in three ways, however.

Firstly, the series felt far more a part of the Marvel Universe than the prior three Netflix series. The Avengers were referenced repeatedly: the dude with the hammer, the big green guy, and even Captain America by name, are all mentioned. The use of Justin Hammer's tech is a great inclusion. More than the other series it examines the nature and effect of a hero, and a vigilante, whose identity is not a secret.
Mike Colter as Luke Cage

The second stand-out is the music. Just superb. Ideally chosen for the setting of Harlem, it mixes soul with rap with funk. The guest appearances by Method Man and Delfonics set the tone, and the soundtrack had some excellent songs from Issac Hayes, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Rakim, Wu Tang Clan, Gang Starr, and even Nina Simone and John Lee Hooker. Given that the soundtrack was such a big deal with Stranger Things, Netflix's huge success of the summer, I think that we'll find that the soundtracks become significant features in these series.

My final love of the series was the representation of black American culture. Given the style of the series, a black superhero, it could have so easily gone wrong. I was expecting a portrayal of gangstas battling Luke with escalating tech, and some black stereotypes tossed in. But the portrayals in this series were some of the best I've seen since the Wire, with well-rounded and intricate characters providing enough variety. And the writing was saturated with pop culture references, whether the jokes about kung-fu films, Shaft, Different Strokes, Dr Seuss, The Warriors, or the answer to 'who you goin' to call?' being... well... Ghostbusters! And Diamondback's reminiscing about being the Son of a Preacher Man, with Dusty Springfield playing. Just little touches that lifted the entertainment level above Jessica Jones and DD for me.

Luke Cage comic
So, all in all, a huge success and setting the bar even higher for the next series, Iron Fist, which surely has to feature Luke, and the spin-off Punisher series. And in the cinema, we have Dr Strange almost here, and then Guardians of the Galaxy 2, with Spiderman: Homecoming soon after. It's a great time to be a Marvel fan, and DC need to really up their game! Perhaps Wonder Woman or Justice League will be what they need….

Ross Kitson is a doctor, occasional blogger, full-time geek, and sporadic author of fantasy and YA sci-fi. Connect with Ross on Twitter.

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October 25, 2016

Brenda Perlin: GET YOUR REBEL ON!

Today (October 25) is Punk for a Day and author Brenda Perlin, who has compiled three books of stories and pictures from her days as a Punk Rocker shares how you can celebrate.

History of Punk for a Day

Punk for a Day was made up to celebrate the history of Punk Rock. This original  movement transformed rock music and the face of the musical world. Punk rock offered something different for people who were cynical and knew there was more to what came before. A little teen rage helped fuel the teenaged angst platform.

How to Celebrate Punk For A Day

Punk for a Day gives anyone an excuse to let their Inner Punk Rocker out for the day.

Here are the ingredients for being a punk for a day, though if you talk to some of the old punks (me included) we would say PUNK IS DEAD. Never mind that! In 2016 we are still busy reliving our youth and punk days so what does that say about the movement? It’s far from DEAD!

1) You have to be a fan of BLACK. Day glow is fine on occasion but black never fails. If you use spray on hair dye, YOU are a poseur.

2)  Start your day with The Damned, The Clash and the Sex Pistols. If you don’t know who they are then YOU are a poseur.

3) Venture out to thrift shops and secondhand stores. Pull out some old band shirts. And I don’t mean Journey or Kiss! If you buy your punk ensemble from say, Torid or Hot Topic YOU are a poseur.

4) Punks are not into blending in so make sure you are ready to get stares everywhere you go. If you think you look punk and dress like everyone else, YOU are a poseur.

5) If you think you know what punk music is and you are listening to Boy George and Flock of Seagulls, YOU are a Poseur.

6) Have plenty of hair products on hand. The more color the better but if you want to be more subdued dye your hair Jet black or Blue Black and spike it up.

7) If you are an old punk and still feel like one, get together with some friends (old and new) and do something you would have done back in the day. For example, bake a cake, have a party at a graveyard after dark or invite people over for a seance to bring back Darby Crash like I did right after his overdose.

 And by all means, get drunk, pop some pills (just kidding) and rock the night away!

If you want to want to relive, or experience for the first time, what life as a punk rocker was like here are the books…

at Amazon

And while you are looking at my photos from my punk days in L.A. Punk Snapshots you can also listen to the free playlist that goes along with it.

Brenda Perlin lives in Orange County, California. She spent most of her working life in the physical fitness arena. She loves the gratification that comes with helping people achieve their fitness goals and the fulfillment that comes with having a healthy body.
She moved from the Los Angeles area where she was raised to Orange County in the Spring of 2005. During that time she was a housewife with a couple of dogs. Now she is not. Instead she is writing her adventures for all to read.
Brenda has been writing just for fun since she was a young teen. For many years she wrote on paper napkins.

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October 24, 2016

4 Books for Fans of Family Drama #MondayBlogs

by Susan Roberts

Books about family drama are usually real page turners.  Here are four excellent books that are about drama within families- one is about the death of a mother, one is about a mother being stalked, the third one is a historical fiction book about the Dust Bowl years, and finally love and loss across generations rounds out this list of family drama novels that you will want to add to your reading pile.

These books were provided by the author or publisher in exchange for a review.

cover Fractured
Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

This is a fantastic book full of twists and turns that you won't see coming. It's told by two different people in two different time periods and it doesn't take very long to get into the rhythm of how the author is unfolding the story.

Julie and her husband and two children move to a new community in Ohio to get away from a stalker in their old home. Julie has written a bestselling novel about the perfect crime and is trying to write her second novel. The family lives in a house with alarms and cameras to try to protect themselves in their new home. John is the neighbor across the street who has just lost his job in IT and starts running with Julie every morning. He isn't aware of the scope of her past but knows that she is hiding secrets. The entire book takes place in a seemingly friendly suburb where the neighbors have monthly parties and keep in constant contact with each other. But nothing in life is ever what it appears to be on the surface.

I loved this book and I especially enjoyed the way the author told the story from two very different viewpoints. It was a book full of twists and turns that kept me riveted to the story until the last page.

Buy Fractured at Amazon

cover All the Time in the World
All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell

All the Time in the world is a book about family and grief. It's a tough book to read in parts but was worth sticking with it. It's told in different time periods - basically before the accident and after the accident as the family struggles to adjust to their new normal.

Charlotte is the babysitter for Gretchen and Scott's two young sons - George and Matt. Gretchen works part time and Scott is gone most of the time since his job requires him to travel. They appear to be a normal family until Gretchen is killed by a car while walking across the street. The family (and Charlotte) are devastated and have to learn how to continue their lives. The most difficult parts of the book for me was watching the children deal with the loss of their mother.

This is an interesting read about love and loss and creating families out of the people who love us the most.

Buy All the Time in the World at Amazon

cover I Will Send Rain
I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows

I enjoyed Grapes of Wrath years ago and this is a period in history that has always interested me. I Will Send Rain is a novel that presents life during the Dust Bowl in all of its grittiness and the struggle that the families went through when their farms were no longer producing enough to keep their families alive. This is a book filled with characters that you won't soon forget after you read about their fight to survive the problems that nature has given them.

Annie and Samuel are the parents of Birdie and Fred and they all work to keep their small farm in Oklahoma producing in the summer of 1934. Annie was a preacher's daughter who fell in love with Samuel and decided to give up her life to be a farmer's wife. Birdie is 16 and newly in love. She knows that her new boyfriend will help her get away from the farm to a better life. Fred has never spoken and has asthma but he makes the best of his life. As the book begins, it's been over 70 days since the last rain and the first dust storm is getting ready to begin. The results of the dust storm are told in detail and make the reader wonder how the family could handle this new hardship. But they DO handle it and so much more in this lovely novel.

This is a beautiful novel about hope and love of family while dealing with unrelenting hardship. I loved all of the characters and the book was told in such a way that the readers sees their faults and the pain as well as their struggle to survive.

Buy I Will Send Rain at Amazon

cover Root Petal Thorn
Root, Petal, Thorn by Ella Joy Olsen

This is a fantastic book about love and loss and connections to past generations. One line in the book (from Ivy's list of how to survive) sums the novel up for me: "Understand there is a little sad in every story."

As the novel begins, Ivy is waking up and realizing, once again, that her husband Adam is dead. He was killed in a car accident and Ivy is having difficulty in accepting his death. Ivy and Adam lived in an old house with their two children and Adam spent a lot of time doing upgrades to the house. Ivy decides that she needs to tackle the home projects and as she works she finds small items from the previous owners of the house. As these items are found, Ivy decides to do research on the previous owners of the house. The novel consists not only of Ivy's attempt at recovery but also the stories of the lives of the previous owners of the house. The stories take the reader through WWI, the Depression, and WWII as well as modern times. All of the stories are interrelated with and the house that they lived in ties the stories together.

Often times when you read a novel with several characters telling their part of the story, you enjoy the story of one over the others. I must admit that I liked reading about Ivy the most but the rest of the characters were also wonderful and I didn't hurry through any of the stories to get to a character that I liked more because I liked them all.

This was a fantastic debut novel and I look forward to this author's future books.

Buy Root, Petal, Thorn at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in NC when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and helping to take care of their grandson.  Susan 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 Susan on Facebook.

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