Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Chalk Circle, Tara L. Masih Guest Post and Giveaway

The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning EssaysThis book contains the voices of many people, people who have faced hate, racism, prejudice, questions, anger, confusion...and now voice their own frustrations. Some of the stories/essays impacted me more than others. The woman who was taught that it was a shame to come "from the dirt" only to return to the dirt because she loved it. (You'll have to read it, okay.) There were other stories that made me think as well, but the one that stood out the most for me was the one about Where Are You From? 

As a person who is of numerous ethnicities, was born in one country, raised in another, grew up in one state yet resides in a different one, I never know how to answer that question either. I can't sum up who or what I am in a single word or place. So for me, that essay held a lot of impact.

The rest of the book deserves one's attention too, but I'm not going to go on and on all day. LOL Instead, I want to introduce you to a wonderful lady, a mentor of mine, a woman I admire. I would not be in the writing industry if not for this woman's patience and kind words. She edited The Chalk Circle. Please welcome Tara L. Masih. (Does she have a lovely name? *grins*)

Thanks to Book Babe blogger Tara Chevrestt for inviting me to be a guest. While it’s always nice to be asked to guest blog, I’m especially grateful because the topic I want to discuss isn’t an easy one. And I’m grateful she opened the door by asking me:  Have you ever experienced prejudice? How did it made you feel?

Tara L. MasihWhy is she asking me this? Because I edited a forthcoming anthology that tackles the subject of race and ethnicity, subjects that are often off limits to discuss in public. The essays are compiled from an annual contest I judge on Interculturalism.

The roots of why I started this contest begin in my own bicultural background. My father is from India, my mother is mostly German and English, raised in the States. Mixed marriages are becoming more common now, but they were few and far between in the early sixties.

I was lucky not to experience much prejudice when I was growing up. But there were those awkward questions: What are you? Which kind of Indian are you? Does your father wear one of those diapers? As someone with a bicultural background, I was able to sit back and observe all ethnicities and to empathize with those minorities who experienced a deeper daily bias.

However, I did experience more prejudice when I left home and came to Boston. For the first time in my life, I was followed around in stores by anxious shopkeepers, who worried I might be stealing. I still experience this, no matter how well I’m dressed. And I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to it.

How does it make me feel? It is a complicated feeling that starts in my core. In my gut. It’s a sick feeling of nervousness (like when you are completely innocent of speeding but still slow down when you see a police officer on the roadside), and of mild depression and suppressed anger. What can I say to this person, this stalker? Nothing, because in our culture, confrontation is not encouraged and is a sign of aggression. And can lead, in extreme cases, to arrest and even death.

It’s why I empathize with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., when he was confronted on his own front porch. After years of this kind of abuse, how can one not lash out? It’s why I cry for young men like Miami resident Trayvon Martin. And it’s why I want to provide a forum for other such authors to voice their innermost feelings, in the hopes that maybe a police officer, a shopkeeper, or a neighborhood watchman will read this book and learn something about what it’s like to be on the other side.

Thank you, Tara for sharing this with us.

I know many of you, my blog followers/readers, have faced prejudice at some time or another. Remember, keep your chin up. Their words can only hurt you if you let them.

Now, I'm hosting a giveaway for this book. Please leave a comment to be entered for a chance to win a copy of The Chalk Circle. Contest runs for one week.

The blurb: Award-winning editor Tara L. Masih put out a call in 2007 for Intercultural Essays dealing with the subjects of “culture, race, and a sense of place.” The prizewinners are gathered for the first time in a ground-breaking anthology that explores many facets of culture not previously found under one cover. The powerful, honest, thoughtful voices—Native American, African American, Asian, European, Jewish, White—speak daringly on topics not often discussed in the open, on subjects such as racism, anti-Semitism, war, self-identity, gender, societal expectations. Their words will entertain, illuminate, take you to distant lands, and spark important discussions about our humanity, our culture, and our place within society and the natural world. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Wild Night's Bride by Victoria Vane

A Wild Night's BrideJust released today from Breathless Press.

I can't rate this because I helped edit it. But, if I was reading it as a reviewer, I would give it a five. Why?

Humor: I bout fell off my stool the first time I read it. Funny!!!

Sex: At one point, I had to turn the ceiling fan on. Yes, I did.

Romance: It's there. Ned says some words that melt me where I sit. Beautiful stuff.

So it has it all...and then some.

I highly recommend it for fans of historical romance, people that like some sex with their humor and vice versa.

A brief summary: Ned has been celibate for some time. He hooks up with his friend DeVere who has some plans for him...they don't call him the Devil DeVere for nothing... Enter Pheobe, a struggling actress.

What goes down when these three get together will have you laughing and gasping as they defile...the King of England's bed! :o (Note: No, there is no menage. Get your minds out of the gutter!)

Available Here

The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner

The Queen's Vow by C.W. GortnerI think C.W. Gortner is a man, so I was exceptionally surprised and pleased at the woman's POV being done so well. Her insecurities, her love for her husband, her strengths and weaknesses were so real to me. To be honest, I didn't expect to like this queen. She was behind the murder of so many...but the last part of the book, the Inquisition, showed me another side and reason to it all. Same history, different POV.

I preferred the beginning of the book. Young Isabella, her friend, Beatriz, her passion for Fernando. I fell in love with Fernando there for a while myself...till he was a bad boy. Young Isabella shows us her brothers' reigns. Her half brother, the sodomite and his wife trying to throw a daughter of questionable lineage on the throne... Her second brother takes the throne, only to die. Isabella tries to play nice and fair and it bites her later. She's threatened, imprisoned of sorts, they want her to marry against her wishes...but she only wants Fernando.

I found it wonderfully romantic. I was completely enthralled with the first half of the book. The second half with her as queen showed me a determined and strong woman and mother, then the Inquisition. I grew a tad bored with all the court intrigue. I always do. Those parts about wars and traitors start to lose me for some reason, but I thought this was a great book. It's the first novel I have read about Queen Isabella. Well done, Mr. Gortner.

Favorite quote:

"Women breed and men provide. What I ask is: Why? Why must we have only one path? Who said a woman can't take up the sword and cross, and march on Granada to vanquish the Moors? Who said we can't make our own decisions or manage our ow affairs as well as any man?"

Four bikes. I received this, an ARC, via Amazon Vine. Quotes in the final book may be different. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Zakia and the Cowboy by Lorraine Nelson

"He gave her a leg up, their bodies brushing against each other, causing a heated friction that certainly wasn't due to the heat of the sun."
Zakia and the CowboyWow! I think that's my favorite line and just had to throw that out there. This is a romantic/western suspense. Zakia is a single mother with two twin boys who has a nasty stalker. She escapes to the only place she feels safe: her ex husband's ranch.

Luke is a hot cowboy who gets a shock of his life when he discovers he has two twin sons. Once her and Zakia get over their awkwardness and in his case, anger, things start to heat up. It was obvious these two never shoulda been separated.

Enter Blake and Sam. I loved Sam. She was my favorite character. I had a hard time liking Zakia at times. I just like my heroines tough; I like them to save themselves, not cry or go to sleep rather than walk on a sprained ankle. LOL. Though I  hand to hand it to her when she got ahold of the duct tape and got creative. She redeemed herself then. And then there is Sam, my kinda woman.

"I do not need your permission to go riding. No man tells me what to do."

I understand this ex military chick with a fake hand is featured in book two. I cannot wait! Anyway, her and Blake (another hottie!) and a bunch of ranch  hands mean to go on a cattle rustling expedition. The goal is to make the stalker show himself and at the same time, keep Zakia and her kids safe.

Things backfire...and that's all I'm gonna say. You gotta read it for yourself to figure out what happens next.

And one last favorite line of mine that I think you will all get a kick out of...

"Bouncing over the fields with her on his lap must be hard on his hard-on."

LOL!!! In case you're wondering, that was a tractor scene. :)

Four bikes. I def recommend it, and I obtained this book through Amazon's lending program. Thanks, mum, for the loan.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Penny Bangle Blog Tour/Giveaway/Review

The Penny BangleToday, I'm pleased to be hosting Choc Lit's blog tour for The Penny Bangle by Margaret James. For this post, we've done something different. I've interview NOT the author, but the book's heroine instead, Cassie Taylor.

Tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born and grew up in Birmingham, which is a big industrial city in the heart of England. My mother died when I was a baby, and nobody knows where my father went – not that we miss him, anyway. My grandmother Lily brought me up. She’s very religious and she worries all the time about my body and my soul.
I was working in a factory making tanks, having a good time and earning good money, when Lily decided that if I stayed in Birmingham I was going to be killed in a bombing raid. She nagged me into applying to join the Land Girls, which meant I’d have to go and work on a farm. I knew nothing about farming and I didn’t want to go, because apart from anything else I’d earn half what I was earning in the factory. 
But Lily wore me down – she’s good at wearing people down – and in January 1942 I was on a train to Dorset, setting off into the unknown.
When you first arrived in Dorset, what did you think of it?
I hated it. I’d grown up in a city where there were shops and trams and houses and people, and in the countryside there was just – nothing. I took one look at the place where I’d be living – a tiny little cottage in the middle of nowhere – and decided this Land Girl stuff wasn’t for me. 
When I met the Denham family, I could see they didn’t think much of me. I must admit I didn’t think much of them, either – they all talked like members of the Royal Family, and I’m sure they looked down on me. 
Did they grow on you?
Mrs Denham turned out to be all right, and so did her son Stephen, who was kind to me from the start. But Robert did nothing but scowl and glare and shout and criticise. Okay, Robert looked like Clark Gable, but handsome is as handsome does, and all that stuff. 
He mellowed a bit when he could see I was doing my best to learn. But it took me a long time to realise he was a really nice person – a man I could love. You have to stand up to men like Robert Denham, even if you’re terrified, and Robert could be pretty terrifying! But he could also be very kind. When he noticed my work boots were too big, he bought me a pair that fitted perfectly. 
Robert and Stephen are twins, but they sound very different? 
Stephen’s quiet and sweet and considerate. Robert’s loud and aggressive and confident – too confident, in fact. But, as I got to know them better, I realised Stephen was very complex and difficult to know well, while with Robert everything was on the surface. He also knew how to turn on the charm! When Robert realised he liked me, I couldn’t help but find him irresistible. 
Rob and Steve are both very good-looking, both tall and dark and handsome, but they’re not absolutely identical. Rob’s nose is straight, but Steve’s has a bump in it – he must have broken it when he was a child. Steve’s ears stick out a little, but Rob’s sit close to his head. I’m so shallow that I’ll always go for the man with the straight nose, but Rob is just that bit more attractive. He’s bigger and stronger than his brother, and he’s a natural leader. There’s a confidence about Robert that draws people to him, even if he’s shouting at them. 
You came to like the countryside, didn’t you?
Yes, I did, because it’s clean and pretty and there’s no way Birmingham could be called clean or pretty. I’m happy to live in the countryside as long as I can escape to a town now and again, go shopping and feel the buzz of a big city. I love London and am glad my sister-in-law lives there, because this means I can go and stay once in a while. 
What’s been the proudest moment of your life? 
I grew up in a very poor part of Birmingham among people who knew nothing about the world, and I was so happy when we opened Charton Minster as a holiday home for children from the big cities – children who had never run along a beach, never paddled a canoe, never climbed a tree, never caught a fish. I love knowing I can change these children’s lives like the Denhams changed mine.

I asked her to describe some scandalous knickers she lost on a train platform, but she clammed up. :) Ladies just didn't talk about things like that during WWII. 

And this book...I assume you're all wondering at this about a land girl during WWII. A city girl taking to life on a farm, making new friends, milking cows, and yes, finding love in the middle of all the heartache and fear.

This is the third book in a series, but I'm pleased to say it can stand all by itself. I hadn't read the first two, but never at any point did I find myself confused, actually, I was just curious about the other two books and they've moved up the TBR pile now.

Anyone interested in WWII, what went on on the home front and I mean England, should take a gander at it. It's in both print and ebook. And today, a lucky commentor will virtually walk away with a paperback copy of this book. :) Leave a comment and a winner will be randomly chosen at the end of a week.

Please, leave an email address if your blogger identity doesn't provide a way to contact you. Thank you.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Prophet by Amanda Stevens

The Prophet (Graveyard Queen #3)I loved the first two books in The Graveyard Queen series. I think the second was my favorite though. The horror of Asher Falls... this one just can't compare to that.

They had to bring that whole Devlin, Robert, Mariama, and daughter thing back. I didn't like Devlin in book one and liked him even less this time. And Amelia Gray...why oh why, do you want a man, pine for him even, when he was just nuzzling some other woman's neck? What the hell is wrong with you, girl?

The entire novel was Amelia  making one bad choice after another (You left the gun there?? Duh!), having drug induced hallucinations, talking to ghosts, and stalking Devlin as she tries to find out who killed Robert, another ghost from book one.

What was Asher Falls for???? Just to make her a more haunted woman in this book? Hm... Something isn't panning out here.

However, the book didn't totally bomb. The beetles.. OMG. That was scary. The cowering under a desk next to a dead body... creepy stuff.

In the end, however, I was displeased with Amelia and her blasted Devlin obsession. I think she needs to go back to Asher Falls. It also raised more questions, namely, for me, is Amelia alive or dead?

Three bikes. I got this on netgalley.

Free Book and Half Price Book! This Weekend Only!

Dog Tails: Three Humorous Short Stories for Dog LoversStarting today until the end of Monday, April 23rd, Dog Tails is FREE on Amazon Kindle! So...go scoop it up HERE and then read it! If you like it, I have another surprise for you. My historical fiction young adult novel, Ride for Rights is half price for this same time period. This is a one time thing. It's dropping from 5.50 to 2.75. That's a great deal. It's my longest piece, my only novel. Pick it up HERE

Thank you to all my readers/reviewers/friends for your support. I hope you enjoy your new books. :)

Unscripted by J.S. Marlo

Available today from Breathless Press:

I can't rate this because I edited it. So, of course, I think it's good. What I will say is fans of television shows, firefighting, suspense, good clean romance, people that have faced the loss of a loved one, mothers, there's something for all of you in this book. 

Riley is a writer who gets a fun, exciting job writing for a television show called Wild Rescue. She friends a handsome man, Blythe, who has some troubling stuff going on his life. Writing for the television show isn't all fun though...there's a coworker who is most unpleasant. 

Meanwhile, Riley's husband is back home on the ranch fighting fires and tracking down an arsonist who shoes no signs of stopping. 

Riley, Blythe, Ollie, Chad, Rowan... A wonderful cast of characters that will really draw you into their lives.

Buy Here: Unscripted on Breathless Press

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Proper Lady's Gypsy Lover by Juliet Chastain

A Proper Lady's Gypsy LoverHaving read this author's The Captain and the Courtesan and enjoyed it, I bought this as soon as it was made available. I sat down and read it in a sitting as it's another novelette.

I liked this because we have a headstrong heroine who does not want to marry against her will and thwarts suitors at every turn because her heart belongs to another...but he's a gypsy, and her oh so proper aunts won't let her see him. Imagine Lucy Ann's surprise when Liberty shows up at a dance dressed as a gentleman!

But he's not a gentleman. He's trying to weasel money from the rich. He loves her and yet spurns her to save her. There's no future for there? Well, there could be, but they'll have to make one for themselves.

Well written, engaging, and just a good, simple romance. I recommend it for when you just want to escape briefly to another time, place, and to a fictional character's problems. Or for when you need that HEA and soon. Stories like this are what I like to call "spirit lifters."

Four bikes. I think it could have been fleshed out a bit more.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kissing the Captain by Kianna Alexander

Kissing the CaptainThis was as short, sweet novella. 1879. A young woman's father passes away, leaving her alone...but not destitute. However, the 26 acres of farmland she's inherited comes with a string attached: marry her father's best friend's son, Ricardo.

Her dilemma: She has to marry a man she doesn't know. This is scary.

Ricardo is a sea captain who can no longer handle being at sea. His dilemma: Making Lily want him when it seems he pisses her off at every turn. 

They argue over whores, drinking, and after they wed, a woman's place in the home. I really liked Lily. She won't take any lip from this guy. She'll take the lovin' and all, but when it comes right down to it, she says she's going to do her thing and he can't stop her. I also liked how she sorta saves him, not the other way around. Trouble falls on them and I didn't really see him as protecting her. She ended up looking out for herself in my opinion.

It was a decent and entertaining read, I didn't buy the whole suicidal woman thing at the end though. I also found something a bit irritating as I read: It was all very proper English. We are. You will. I am. No we're, you'll, or I'm. I can see having them speak that way, but even the narrative? It was a minor irritant.

Three bikes. I received this from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Women Heroes of World War II by Kathryn J. Atwood

Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and RescueNot all the heroes of WWII were in the trenches, some were behind the lines and they were women.

This book talks about 26 of those women. Women who hid Jews right in Nazis' basements, women who were radio operators, women were underwent torture, were purposely infected with gangrene, sterilized, women who smuggled fake papers, tried to save sick Jewish kids from ghettos, transported bombs in the bicycles, parachuted into enemy territory... I could mention each one, but the review would be as long as the book.

One that stood out for me: Josephine Baker. Despite her ill treatment in America, she helped the Allies by hiding secrets in her underwear. She was a spy. This woman's chapter was fascinating. There's so much more to her.
Marlene Dietrich...this really shocked me. I confess I'm not a fan. I think she's always a hussy in her movies. (Yes, I watch those old back and whites.) She was German by birth and canceled her citizenship out of disgust for the Nazis. She sent money to get friends out of the country and joined the USO, traveling with the American  troops, pistol in her pocket, as she sang over the radio, sad German songs in an attempt to dissuade German soldiers. She was also a member of the OSS. I didn't know that!

Very intriguing book. Something I noticed in particular. At least half of the stories are about women trying to smuggle/hide/save Jews and when their male comrades were tortured, the men blabbered out names, turning in the women and the resistance organization..but when the women were tortured--sometimes for four months or more--they didn't break. Some died, but none of these women gave names. Interesting. Something to be said for a our pain tolerance there.

Quibble: Though the WASP was mentioned briefly in the opening of the U.S. part, there were no stories, no women pilots featured. I wasn't too pleased to find that. Many of the WASP and the ATA were def heroes. *frowny face*

Four bikes. I bought this on Amazon.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Prohibited Passion by Alyssa Linn Palmer

Prohibited PassionMore of a romance than an erotic. Major points for that. I'm not into more sex than story. I thought the story to sex ratio was perfect. The characters were engaging and realistic though the romance was a tad rushed.

Major thumbs up for uniqueness. A f/f romance in a town and a time that didn't tolerate such things. The sideline story is bootlegging/thugs. You got a minister's daughter, Ruth, who knows she's different (I'd have liked this dwelled on more.) and she immediately falls for a woman passing through with her gangster boyfriend. Gangster boyfriend gets mad and forces Ruth to help him with his bootlegging operation. Things go seriously wrong...

More points for not conforming to everyone's expectation of a HEA. Frankly, I'm sick to death of HEAs. Life isn't always a HEA. Let's be realistic.

I enjoyed it, was surprised at the short length. I love shorties, but in this instance, I think it could have been longer. Not by too much, just a bit more so the romance wasn't so quick. 

Three bikes. I bought this on Amazon Kindle. 

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)A very exciting read, if a bit long -winded. Anything over four hundred pages starts to lose my attention in the middle. I didn't realize it was so long when I first picked it up.
You've got a girl with special skills she's not really aware of...she isn't affected by the plague, heals quickly, and her family and village are terrified of her. She's death's daughter..death being Saint Mortain. She escapes from an abusive father and unwanted marriage and ends up in a nunnery of killer nuns.

"If you choose to stay, you will be trained in His arts. You will learn more ways to kill a man than you imagined possible. We will train you in stealth and cunning and all manner of skills that will ensure no man is ever again a threat to you."

Sign me up!

From the nunnery, she goes on to "work a case" so to speak alongside a handsome duke's bastard. Together, they are embroiled in a political mess involving the kingdom, the threat from Franch, who the duchess is to wed... Men die, there are attacks on her and her companion's lives... here is where it started to drag for me. As someone who is tudored out and just tired of ye olde court politics, my attention started waning. But comments like this one kept it lively:

"I have been in Guerande three days. As urgently as the abbess wanted me here, I would think there should be someone who needed killing by now."

LOL. And the heroine does some intriguing killing...from the pearls in her hair net to other ways... and did I mention there is budding romance and self-doubts? Can you really believe all you are taught?

I got this from netgalley.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall

Blue AsylumThis book had me mumbling the same question throughout the entire reading of it..."Who's really the crazy one?"

It's not the heroine, Iris who tried to save a slave from being whipped, tried to save a baby and ran away with the entire population of slaves from her husband and their overseer...No, she was pretty amazing.

Blue Asylum is about an insane asylum on an island during the Civil war. This is a time when men could toss their wives in the looney bin for being a suffragette. And it seems, in this asylum, everyone is nuts but Iris. 

The man she loves has PTS from a experience he went through in the war. There's a woman who eats everything. I think one of my favorite scenes was when she offered Iris a ring back, shiny as new, after having swallowed it a few days before. LMAO. The matron has a control and abusive issue, tearing up beds and demanding they be remade over and over. The doctor's wife is a sniveling ninny. The doctor's son has an obsession with fondling himself and masturbation. The doctor thinks he is in love with Iris.

Everyone but Iris is nuts. And the chef.. he seemed sane.

What I really liked about this, (besides Iris), was how the book raises the question..."You think you know it all, but do you? Who really has the problem here?"

"There's a woman in this asylum, Doctor, who never says a word. Who merely claps in delight at anything spoken to her. And I suspect that if I merely clapped at everything you said, I could clap my way to freedom."

The doctor is a pompous arse who needs to realize it, and his son needs help.

And all this unfolds with the Civil war in the background, and there's an escape plan and a surprising turn of events that I didn't predict. I also really loved the woman who refused to be widowed.. That was just too sweet.

What I didn't like: I'm not big on descriptions. Most reviewers seemed to love the descriptions. Me, I grow bored with that and want it to get on with the story. I don't have trouble visualizing an island. Nor did I care much for the son and his fondling/masturbation problems or his memories of Penelope. I didn't see how that added to the tale, really. And the romance... I didn't feel the love. 

Three bikes and I got this on netgalley.