Saturday, June 21, 2014

New Release Spotlight - Blackout by Madeleine Henry

"Blackout" by Madeleine Henry is a superbly written dystopian novel, full of action, suspense, romance and adventure.

The story begins after the world is plunged into darkness and America is divided by a concrete wall (the Frontier). The northern part of the nation above the wall has electricity, the bottom part below the Frontier does not. The lives of those without electricity in the Dark Zone is harsh, dangerous and barely above existing for most of the inhabitants in the region. The lives of those with electricity is much easier (thus the term, "Easies" used to describe them).

The main character, Phoenix, and his girlfriend, Star are selected along with several other teenagers to be allowed into America. In exchange for this, their families are given electricity and Star hopes it will be the answer to her younger brother's chronic illness.

Once in America, Phoenix and Star are thrown into a contest given by the richest families in the country. At first glance, the intentions of the families appear to be genuinely altruistic and the teens quickly adapt to the lifestyle. However, during the course of the contest, secrets are revealed that shake Phoenix to his core and make him question the true reasons for the contest.

"Blackout" was an easy read and it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire story. Ms. Henry has delivered a great story with a wonderfully thought out plot. I loved the ending and am looking forward to the sequel.

I would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy books such as The Hunger Games and other young adult dystopian, post-apocalyptic type novels.

About the Author

Madeleine Henry was born and raised in New York. This spring, she graduated from Yale University and began her adult life in New York City. Madeleine majored in psychology and wrote her senior essay on the extreme popularity of the Twilight book series. In college, she also ran a marathon and had a brief but enthusiastic stint as a stand-up comedienne.

BLACKOUT is Madeleine's first book. Parts of the story are drawn from two weeks she spent foraging for food and water in desert Utah while enrolled in a survival skills field course. She has since recovered.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Review Spotlight - Fleischerhaus by Melissa Bowersock



"Fleischerhaus" by Melissa Bowersock is another great read from this extremely talented author. I loved "Stone's Ghost" and was eager to read Ms. Bowersock's latest offering.

The story centers on Julia, who is recently divorced and decides to visit her friends (Denis and Maggie) in Germany for the summer. While there, she and Maggie visit a historical area which includes what was once a concentration camp. Julia is drawn to a cottage off the main area of the camp. Once she enters, she feels as though she is being strangled and runs out of the building in fear for her life.

After Maggie helps her regain her composure, they go to the medical office where Maggie and her husband, Denis are employed as physicians. This is where Julia meets Dr. Theo Seiler and is quickly attracted to the handsome, single doctor.

With encouragement from Theo and a reference to another doctor who performs hypnosis, Julia decides to delve further into her belief that she was murdered in a past life at the concentration camp. Under hypnosis, she finds out much more than she could have imagined of the life of the girl who was murdered in the camp.

"Fleischerhaus" is indeed a suspenseful, intriguing, well-crafted story of a past life experience and a summer romance. One that will surely keep you interested from the very beginning to the very end.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Book Review Spotlight - Written in Hell by Jason Helfold

Book Review Spotlight - Written in Hell by Jason Helfold

"Written in Hell" by Jason Helford is a well-crafted tale of the journey through Hell for a very "bad" author.

Nathaniel Blovey is a writer whose collection of books failed miserably to garner much readership while he was alive. He also was a pretty awful person in real life, just ask his girlfriend. Although his girlfriend was no prize either.

The story begins where Nate's life is cut short is a most horrific way and he is sent to Hell. Well, actually, he has been asked to write in Hell. Since his books have been a big hit there, the Devil decides to allow the hoards their request of more books from this famous (in Hell) author. But, Nate has a problem. He has writer's block. What is an author to do if writing a best-seller is the key to him NOT spending eternity in the worst level of Hell (the Hall of Mediocrity and in his own mediocre mind)?

The plot is unique, original and different with a touch of "Dante's Inferno", yet this version of Hell is masterfully created with a fresh newness about it. The book is strange, creepy and at times flinch-worthy, but not so much as to take away from the storyline.

I would recommend this to those who appreciate fantasy, however, be warned that there is a large peppering of profanity throughout the book.

Overall, a very good read and one that I will not soon forget.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Book Review Spotlight - The Mine by John A. Heldt

"The Mine" by John Heldt is a cross between a time travel, science fiction novel and a love story, blended quite nicely into one perfectly packaged piece.

In the beginning of the book, Joel is nearing graduation from college in the year 2000. He is on a road trip with his friend, Adam in Montana and they take a detour on their way home to Seattle. Adam is not very happy about the change of plans and the abandoned gold mine, but allows Joel a few minutes to go into the cavern.

While in the mine, Joel is swept into the past. The portal only opens during a certain alignment of the planets, which occurs about every 60 years. When he steps out of the mine, Joel ends up in the year 1941, just six months before the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.

In 1941, Joel is a homeless person in Montana with no money in his pocket and just the clothes on his back. He is able to sell his watch at a pawn shop and get food and other items with the proceeds. He teams up with other homeless men, down on their luck and hops a train to Seattle. This is where he meets Tom.

Joel breaks up a fight where Tom is being beaten up by a couple of thugs over a debt. For his heroism, Tom takes Joel under his wing and to his home. Joel settles in quite nicely in 1941 and becomes a star salesmen in Tom's father's furniture store.

One thing leads to another and Joel falls in love with Grace. This is where the story gets really good and you can see Joel maturing from the cocky college student to a caring young man.

Grace is the perfect girlfriend for Joel, but she is engaged to another man who will soon be shipped off to war. Their budding romance blossoms as the weeks go by while her fiancée is in training in another state. Joel and Grace become inseparable. That is, until Joel makes the decision to go back to the year 2000.

I loved the setting for this book, Seattle is one of my favorite places. I could see and feel the sights and sounds of the Pacific Northwest with the descriptive voice that the author used. To be in Seattle in the 1940's would have been a great time to be there.

Heldt has wonderfully blended a time-travel story with a romance, not something that is very easy to do. The balance of both was right on the mark for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and did not want it to end. When it did end, the smile on my face was one of pure satisfaction.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Fade to Gray – Part II



If you are wondering what happened after my initial attempt to "Fade to Gray" (perma-FREE on Amazon US only), then this post is specifically for you. 

The last time I colored my hair was June 15, 2013.

For the first several weeks after I had missed a month of coloring, I used a temporary color to dab on the roots. This was just to tone down the bright silver of the ever-increasing stripe of gray that covered by crown.

At month three of no color touch up, I decided to fully embrace the gray and get my bangs cut short enough to where there was no color on the ends any longer. Although there was still a wide silvery gray streak at the roots of my hair, at least my bangs were all one solid salt and pepper gray tone.

During this same time-frame, I also began experimenting with pony tails, headbands, scarves and hats that would cover the ever increasing length of gray. The wide-band head bands seemed to work the best and made the harsh transition from gray to dark auburn a little less abrupt.

Nine months into this, I became accustomed to the soft salt/pepper gray that was fully framing my face. I had even had musings of getting my hair cut short just to see what the overall blend of gray would look like without any color at all on the ends.

Just a few days ago, I gathered the courage to get every bit of color completely cut off of my hair.  I now have a very short, salt/pepper gray hairstyle.   Jamie Lee Curtis can be rest assured that I will not be stealing the limelight from her anytime soon.

This journey has been rough at times, especially when dealing with negative comments. Some have been rude and some have been just plain stupid.

Like these:

“Your hair looks like crap.”  More aptly, “Jamie Lee Curtis’s hair looks like crap since she got it cut so short and it is gray and of course yours would look the same if you get it cut that short ...”

“You really do not want to stop coloring your hair, you will look too old.”

“Your hair looks beautiful, I love that you have the courage to let it go like that.”

“No, it does not make you look old at all. You hardly have any wrinkles, so it just looks like you are prematurely gray.”

“I hadn’t noticed the last time I saw you, but did you do something different with your hair?”

The thing I have noticed most about all of these opinions during this transition from colored hair to gray hair is that everyone has an opinion – either a strong opinion for gray hair or a strong opinion against gray hair. There does not appear to be any middle ground on the subject.

Seriously, folks, it is just hair!

I did not think it would be such a huge topic of discussion from friends, family and strangers alike when I started this transition. But, apparently it is and it speaks volume for the shallowness of many people these days.

Today, I looked in the mirror and saw a nicely maturing woman in her late forties, on the cusp of becoming a half of a century old.  I thought, I still look pretty good for my age.

Sometimes I feel older, sometimes I feel younger, but most days I feel the exact age that I am – almost fifty.

Every gray hair on my head has been earned through a lifetime of trials and tribulations, of jobs started and jobs ended, of relationships enjoyed and separated from. But, mostly they were born from plain old stress that takes its toll on each one of us on a daily basis.

The main lesson I have learned from this past year's transformation is this:

Once I stopped worrying about my looks and about getting older, I became freer to experience life and not give much credence to what others think.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Indie Author Reviews - June 2014 (Part II)



Hope everyone is enjoying their summer so far and taking the time to get your own reading lists caught up before fall.

My summer reading list is never-ending ... So, for the next few months, I will post book reviews a few times per month.

Without further ado, below are the links to the next five reviews for June.  Enjoy!

by Linda Deane

by K.R. Hughes and T.L. Burns

by K.D. Emerson

by Suzie O'Connell

by Sean Patrick


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Indie Author Reviews - June 2014


Another month has passed and it's time to pick the top five reviews for June.

Below are some very good reads from some newly discovered (by me) indie authors.

Also, if you would like to request that I read and review one of your titles, please click on the "Book Reviews" tab.

by Siggy Buckley 

 by Bob Libby

by RP Dahlke

by Kenya Cagle

by Florence Osmund