Monday, May 31, 2010

What's on the cover?

The Sound of a Wild Snail EatingThe Haunting of Andrew Sharpai

First off, Happy Memorial Day everyone!! Unlike me, I hope you have the day off. Enjoy the sun (hopefully you have some wherever you are), music, food and (if you can) your family.

Today is the first of many "What's on the cover?" Mondays. I want to take a look at the covers of books I'm reading. The cover usually draws me in first, then the jacket copy. What draws the rest of you in?

I'm currently reading "The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating," by Elisabeth Tova Bailey and "The Haunting of Andrew Sharpai," by Jerome Peterson. Bailey's cover is rather simple. Of course since this is an Advance Reading Copy, the cover could change. But for now all there is a blue background with a snail sitting on top of the text. A busy cover usually draws me in because I think that writer has a story to tell. The only thing that sparks my interest about this cover is the snail. Without the snail I'm not sure I would have read the summary on the back. I'm about 40 pages from finishing, and perhaps the simplicity of the cover reflects the simplicity of the story. It's about Bailey's relationship with a snail.

Peterson's cover has a little more depth to it. A mysterious woman on the glossy cover appears to be dancing during sunrise. If you look a little closer you can see Native American art in the background. The artwork has some very spooky looking yellow eyes staring at me. Perhaps they're trying to warn me that their is something scary on the horizon. Without reading the summary, the first thought I had was this woman is haunting Andrew Sharpai. I'm not sure what the significance is of the dark bird sitting on the branch. Perhaps the bird is a foreshadowing of things to come. I'm about 60 pages in, it's probably too early to discover the secret.

Note: I'm still hosting a giveaway for "The Souls of the Fire Dragon," by John Wrieden. Check the post and let me know if you're interested.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A change will do this blog good !!

Two days of learning at BookExpo America and the Book Blogger Convention have taught me a few things. No. 1 it will take me awhile to find my voice. It's only be a month, so I'm not quite sure what my voice is. But I hope you all will stick around for the ride.

My first order of business: I'm instituting a rating system. I see so many other book bloggers have one. I'm going to give it a try. From this point on every review I post will get a rating from me.

O.M.G.!!! = What are you waiting for? Go buy it now!!
Superb = It's wonderful, but wait until you get a coupon.
Give it a try = It's good but I would wait for the paperback.
Meh = It will be in the library eventually.
Nahhhhhhhhhh!!! = Do I really need to explain?

I'm also putting in two new weekly items. Unless I'm sick, I will always participate in the Friday night blog hop. That seems to be a good night for conversation. Starting tomorrow and every Monday after that (unless I have a really good reason not to) I will be discussing the wonders of cover art in a weekly feature called "What's on the Cover?" Not the most original title but if I come up with something more catchy I will change it. On Thursdays we will be taking a departure from books with "Blubbering Thursdays." Thursday and Friday is my weekend. By the time Thursday comes around I'm usually annoyed by the shenanigans at my job, what happened on TV during the week or just the random events of the week. If you all need to babble about something, feel free to stop by.

I'm sure there will be more changes on this journey, but that's all I've go for now. As always, happy reading!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Book giveaway

I received a copy of The Souls of the Fire Dragon from the author, but I've come to realize I'm just not into it. It's been years since I read a sci-fi novel. When I read the press release sent to me I thought this was another opportunity to step outside my comfort zone. But after about 60+ pages I realized it's just not for me. I am giving it away to the first fellow blogger who responds to this post. You must be a blogger and promise to review the book on your web site. If you're really not interested please don't post just to receive a book. I will include all of the information I received with it.

Here is a little taste of the press release I received:

John Wrieden announced the release of The Souls of the Fire Dragon, a product of the U.K. author's love of science fiction.
Herefordshire, U.K. - May 11, 2010 - U.K. author John Wrieden announced the release of  The Souls of the Fire Dragon, his first venture into sci-fi adult fantasy. Wrieden introduces unmarried, twenty-seven-year-old Akea, a telekinetic computer programmer who resides in Ordinea City where CCTVs monitor activity and a dictatorship government rules. His book unfolds a fascinating plot of a dystopian world with an oppressive government controlled by the Patrician, and the Watchman - a secret police.

Book Blogger Convention

Today was my second straight day of waking up at 7am!! I work at night, and I don't normally rise before 11am at the earliest. I didn't know the sun was that bright. While I lost out on some sleep the last two days, it was all worth it to go to BookExpo America and the first Book Blogger Convention.

At the convention I today I ate lunch with some very passionate YA (that's young adult) bloggers. I haven't read a young adult book since I was a young adult. I always thought only teeny boppers read those books. I don't think I'm old at 27, but it's hard to see myself reading a book not geared toward my age group. But I'm going to make an exception for author Maureen Johnson. She was the keynote speaker, and Maureen had me and the entire room in stitches of laughter. She spoke of going to a Catholic school even though she's not Catholic. If she is that engaging just speaking for 90 minutes, I think her books might be too. An audiobook of her novel Suite Scarlett was in our swag bags. When I get the time I'm going to listen and go from there. Who knows Maureen Johnson might have opened my eyes to another genre.

Some of the bloggers mentioned that they take notes while reading books that they review in addition to making dog ears. I'm not sure if I want to take notes while reading. What about all of you? Just read the book or do you take notes??? It would make me feel like I was back in school. I never really liked school despite getting an internship in college that lead to my current job. I don't always like to dog ear my pages, but in this blogging world I realize I have to do it.

Today at BBC I got so many useful tips for driving content on here, I don't know what to do with all of them. In the coming days I will be introducing some weekly items to the blog. Not just "It's Monday, What are You Reading?" and the Friday night blog hop, but weekly items that are my own. I learned about those two by researching other blogs, and now it's time for me to do things I like. One change I am making immediately is to my review policy. At the convention today I overheard someone say you should have a 50-page rule. If you don't like something after 50 pages stop reading. It pains me to do this. Up until now I have always read the entire book no matter how much I dislike it. This has always been my rule before I even started blogging. But in the month since I've started this, I realize I need to adhere to the 50-page rule. A press release or e-mail pitch is designed to draw you in, but you never know what's going to happen once you have a book in front of you.

Even though attending BBC was a hit to my wallet, it was worth it. The advice I got and the people I met was priceless. I swapped business cards with so many people, I don't know which blog to check out first! I hope they do this again next year. I already put my penny in the jar to start saving for next year!!! Many thanks to Trish at ( Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? Thanks to everyone who made BBC possible, but a very special thanks to Trish. From what I understand she was the driving force behind it. Thank you Trish!

It's Friday, time to hop

Every Friday night Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books ( hosts a Friday night blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. Check it out!

Here are a few I came across:

P.S: I might be a little late in responding to every one today. I will be at the Book Blog Convention. Happy reading!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

BEA luncheon photos

Sara Gruen was very heartwarming                 William Gibson bored me!

Patton Oswalt had the crowd in stitches.                       Christopher Hitchens was entertaining!

BEA=Sensory overload

Take a kid and put him or her in a building the size of a football stadium with every piece of candy in the world and see what happens. That kid won't know where to turn, they'll want every piece of candy they can get their hands on. That's how I felt today at BookExpo America. There where so many books, talks and author signings I wasn't sure where to go first. That picture to left (I know it's not great, but I can't expect much from a cell phone camera) is the haul I came home with. A grand total of 30 books, and that's not including the ones I gave to my family.

I arrived just before 9am, this after working the night before. I work a night job, so I got about four hours of sleep before heading to Manhattan. But I had a plan. I mapped out the 25 booths I wanted to hit. I had a big bottle of water. And I was ready to hit the floor.

The day started with a bit of comic relief at the Javits Center. I asked a guard where I could register, and he points me to the other side of the convention center. I make my way through the sea of people only to be told I had to go back where I came from and register at the press office. Ugh!!! It's no easy task getting from one side to the other. When the doors finally opened you would think some people hadn't seen a book in years. It has to be said, some people were like vultures. They took four or five copies, when one or two would have sufficed.

I had a plan of hitting at least the 25 booths on my list, going to one of the conference sessions and get an autograph or two or three or 10!! Not only did I get to all of the booths on my list, I also walked every aisle of the Exhibit hall. Not an easy task. After a while it felt like I was hauling bricks instead of books. I tried to get on the lines for autographs from Mary Higgins Clark and Tim Gunn, but those lined stretched from Manhattan to Texas!!! I did get an autographed copy of Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon. I didn't care for Promise not to Tell by McMahon, but I told a little white lie and told her I did like it. This new book might be good. Besides what are the odds she'll read my blog??? Shhhhhhhhhhh!!! Don't tell!!!

The author's luncheon was equally entertaining. Not just for the funny stories told by Patton Oswalt, Sara Gruen, Christopher Hitchens and William Gibson, but because it gave me a chance to sit after walking around for hours. I popped my head into the Book Blogger Reception before hitting the road. I'll get to know more of my brethren tomorrow at the convention.

I have to tell you, that walk from Penn Station to the Javits Center was rather quick for me in the morning. But heading home it was another story. My legs felt like they were sticking together in the heat. And that walk was like climbing Mount Everest. I don't think I'll be able to lift my arms very high for a while!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Q&A with Pola Muzyka

Here are a few questions I had for Pola Muzyka, author of Escape the Hezbollah

1. Choosing Christianity over Islam can get people killed in Iran. What made you want to give a voice to this topic?

Not many people know about what you just said. If they know, they don't realize the full impact of that. I wanted people to know - to understand. To feel it inside. How it would feel if you could not choose or change your religion. Or worse. If you were forced to take a life because they believed the way you do. God gives us free will and desires us to choose Him. What God has given us should not be taken away by man. I hope I made the 'choice problems' clear in Escape the Hezbollah.

2. Escape the Hezbollah is based on a true story. Did you base the novel on one person or a collection of stories?
ETH is inspired by a true story. But it is based on a collection of stories - people I know personally who have experienced the impact that radical Islam has had on their lives. People who came to know the truth in the Messiah of the Bible.

3. Without giving away too much, the novel has a happy ending. Did the real-life character or characters have one as well?
Most. Yes. One, who was previously Islamic, actually moved to another country and became a pastor. He still calls himself a Muslim at times but he is a born-again Christian.

4. Throughout the novel Joseph is told to be strong and not show weakness, especially by his father Jalal. When Joseph gives his father a hug in their final meeting, Jalal seems to weaken just a bit during it. Jalal doesn't say anything about it, but was that scene a way of giving his character some vulnerability?
Yes. I believe that every man is given a knowledge or sense of the true God. I believe that every man really wants to do good at some point in their life. So, every man is vulnerable. Particularly when it comes to children. We can see God in the eyes of a new born baby. That's something you don't forget when it's your own child. That is why some of us have a hard time resisting the maternity ward. :-)

For more information on Pola Muzyka visit: and

My take on: Escape The Hezbollah

Ever since he could remember, Joseph Rabbani was taught by his father, Jalal, to be strong. Don't show weakness or fear because where Jalal is from in Iran little boys must become men very early. In his teen and adult years, Joseph would come to realize how true that sentiment was.

Escape the Hezbollah, which is inspired by a true story, begins with an adult Joseph making a dangerous journey out of Iran on a smelly fishing boat. As the novel progresses we learn what brought Joseph, a Jewish-American Christian, to this point. A pre-teen Joseph was living a worry-free life with his parents and younger brother, Jonathan, on a small island just off the coast of Savannah, Georgia. His father, a Muslim, and his mother Dorothy, a Jewish-American Christian, had forged a life for themselves in the U.S. In the U.S. Joseph also had the freedom to be who he was, and most of all he had the freedom of religion. The freedom to be a Christian right along with his mother Dorothy. But that all changed when Jalal, a Muslim, decided he wanted to go home to Iran. Even before Joseph learns of the move, his crying mother Dorothy warns him that he must keep his faith to himself because in other countries believing in Christ can get you killed.

After the move Joseph notices a change in his parents. In America, Dorothy was more apt to challenge her husband, but in Iran Jalal puts a stop to that. In Iran, women must know their place and it's not to question their husbands or men in general as it can have dire consequences. Slowly, Joseph begins to make friends. His life changes completely when he meets Azita, a young woman whom Joseph calls his "Persian Princess." They promise themselves to each other. Joseph vows to have at least seven children, while Azita playfully says they will have less. As their love grows, Azita also becomes a Christian. Choosing to denounce Islam in their hearts becomes dangerous as friends and family members begin to disappear. It becomes increasingly difficult for Joseph and Azita to know who they can trust.

The young sweethearts are pulled apart when Joseph and his friend Fareed are kidnapped by armed soldiers of the Hezbollah army. Once in training camp, Joseph and Fareed are subject to numerous horrors. They witness women raped, beaten and tortured to death. Joseph must participate in killing drills, failure to comply could result in his own death. As much as he doesn't want to, Joseph must go with the program. He unwittingly kills the mother of a fellow soldier. All the while he begins to question his faith in God. He begins to wonder if God even exists. If he does how can these violent acts continue. The Hezbollah army is fortifying it's troops, so the U.S. and other countries can't fill their heads with propaganda. But the Hezbollah army wants to do the exact same thing to those who don't embrace Islam. The irony wears on Joseph. He sees his friend Fareed embrace the Hezbollah, and wonders who he can trust now. While on leave, Joseph finally sees his family and tells them of the horrors in the camp. It is then that Dorothy stands up to Jalal. She wants Joseph to be free of Iran. The family forms a plan to get Joseph out of Iran. It takes years of hiding and money before Joseph is finally free.

I myself am not a very a religious person, but I always love learning and reading outside of my comfort zone. Escape the Hezbollah by Pola Muzyka doesn't mince words when it comes to the subject matter at hand. But Muzyka is not trying to be heavy-handed with the material either. There is a nice balance. Muzyka does explain in graphic detail how people were tortured for their faith, but it balances nicely with how Joseph feels tortured inside with his own faith. The book will make you question your own faith. What does one do in this situation? How much can the human psyche take before you give in? Do you give in or do you worship in secret?

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher at the request of the author in exchange for an honest review

Monday, May 24, 2010

It's Monday, What are you Reading?

It's Monday, What are you Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of books ( where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list. I'm deeply engrossed in Escape the Hezbollah by Pola Muzyka. I'm about 90 pages from the end, and I should have a review and a Q&A with the author up by Wednesday or Thursday. The Souls of the Fire Dragon by John Wrieden is a scifi/fantasy novel. So far it's reminding me of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  

Up next on my reading list: I'm so busy getting ready for Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Before the week is up I will have so much to choose from. Right now I'm deciding between "The Haunting of Andrew Sharpai" by Jerome Peterson, "Rolling with the Punches" by Jamie Kerrick and "We Need to Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver. Decisions? Decisions?

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Friday, it's time to hop

Every Friday night Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books ( hosts a Friday night blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. Check it out!

Here are a few I came across:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Celebrating with a giveaway!

This blog is officially one month old!! For me it's a huge milestone. To go from one follower to 16 in one month has brought a huge smile to my face. To celebrate I am having a giveaway! My first giveaway comes to us courtesy of Wett Giggles soap ( The products at Wett Giggles are Natural glycerin handmade soaps, each bar is made one at time with essential oils and shea butter. The soaps are aimed at children and families, and a lucky winner will get all three of their new Planet Soaps and a T-shirt. To win you must be a registered follower of my blog. The first person to post the correct answer will win.

To win just tell me who wrote this passage and what novel it comes from, " Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. Especially in the summer of 1912. Somber, as a word, was better. But it did not apply to Williamsburg, Brooklyn."
For my first giveaway I wanted to make the question as easy as possible, rather than the standard random drawing. If no one gets it after a week, then I'll resort to the random drawing. Hopefully at some point, everyone has read this book. I've read it at least four times. As always happy reading everyone!!

My take on: The Case of the Great Granny

Bradley Daggers is a long-suffering Los Angeles police detective. He lives alone. Drinks too much alcohol. He tries to make up for it the next day by drowning himself in coffee, doughnuts and work. Daggers does his best to alienate himself from the rest of the police force, especially the sneaky Frank Brooks. There are days when the 35-year-old detective wants to quit the force, but as always Daggers gets drawn back in. Now, all that is about to change with the murder of elderly heiress Emily Hoover.

Someone tried to kill Ms. Hoover not just once, but three times before succeeding. There's no shortage of suspects. Her greedy granddaughter, Jennifer Hoover. The two often fought over money, leading the elderly Ms. Hoover to briefly cut Jennifer out of the will. Or perhaps Jennifer got her boyfriend Patrick Stevens to do her dirty work. Even Ms. Hoover's own children are not above suspicion. But there is something about Jennifer that Daggers just can't resist. He begins to question his attraction to the beautiful blond.

Daggers has made a career of solving cases on his own, but a recent shooting brings that to a halt. The once loner detective must now work with a partner, Jane Yung Kim. His new partner is assertive when she needs to be, but mostly Kim is willing to defer to Daggers. Despite his initial reservations, Daggers knows Kim has his back. He will need it as someone very dangerous tries to thwart the investigation.

At times the novel can seem a little formulaic. Daggers is the classic disgruntled cop, who thinks he is smarter, and more witty than the next guy. He's also that cliche cop who can't resist coffee and doughnuts. But Pisano does a good job of breaking down one's reason for murder -- good old-fashioned greed!! Clocking in at 143 pages, Pisano doesn't waste the reader's time. His writing style is very crisp and to the point. Pisano is also very blunt with his language. Some pages are violent and others are overtly sexual, which I suppose can offend some people. But speaking as an adult, I wasn't one of them. It is refreshing to find a writer who isn't afraid to mince words.

For more information on the author visit
Note: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's Monday, what are you Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme, hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list. I'm currently reading The Case of the Great Granny by Thomas Emmon Pisano and Escape The Hezbollah by Pola Muzyka. Last week I finished The Missing Element by John L. Betcher and Quicksand by Marilyn Randall.

Just arrived in my mailbox: "The Souls of the Fire Dragon" by John Wrieden is up next:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My take on: Quicksand

Romance novels are foreign territory for me, but in the short time since I've entered the blogging world I knew I would have to step outside my comfort zone at some point. One can't survive on a diet of literary fiction and memoirs alone.

"Quicksand: An Interracial Love Story," tells the story of the widowed Natalie Broom, a white woman, and Randy, a complicated black man. Two years removed from the death of her husband, 63-year-old Natalie is struggling to get her life back together. Her husband's death from cancer took a toll on her emotionally and physically. She tries to focus on her career writing and illustrating children's books. Soon she is ready to find love again. Natalie decides to give online dating a try, and after weeding out the crazies she starts communication with Randy, a divorced father of three who is also 11 years her junior. This relationship is all new to her, and as she puts it "had never corresponded with a black man before let alone dated anyone of that race."

Lettters and phone calls soon lead to the inevitable first meeting. Natalie pays for Randy to fly from Orlando to her home just outside of Seattle. She shares the stories of her previous bouts of alcoholism and childhood sexual abuse. Randy tells her what it was like to live in Tennessee during the '60s and 70s. This all leads to walks, dinners, playful outings and vacations together. It sounds like sunshine and roses, but at seemingly every turn this couple is met with racism. There are stares from strangers, rejection from neighbors and people she thought were friends. Natalie's own family is against the relationship. While Natalie knows she is totally in love with Randy, their relationship is not perfect. Natalie detests paying for everything. Randy has shown he can be sweet, but can also have violent bursts of anger. Despite all this, Natalie can't bring herself to fully break free from Randy.

Randall begins each chapter with a poem. With each subsequent poem, you get a sense of the euphoria and at times anguish that Natalie is feeling. The subject seemed very interesting to me at first, but I felt the presentation was uneven. Some aspects of the book are clearly modeled after Randall herself. Randall also lost her husband to cancer, was an alcoholic and was sexually abused as a child. The entire book feels more like a diary, than a novel. Up until the ending, everything is told from Natalie's perspective. There is nothing wrong with that, but the novel is mainly composed of narrative passages and poetry. The quotes are few and far between. As a reader, I was craving more character interaction rather than Natalie telling us what happened. The reaction to the couple's interracial relationship also seems a little contrived. Interracial couples do face bigotry, but the way it is presented in the novel just seems off. From Natalie's perspective just about everyone is against them. Without giving too much away, the ending came out of left field for me. I ended up feeling sad for Natalie and Randy.

Randall is also accomplished writer and illustrator of children's books, but this is her first foray into writing fiction. For more information on Marilyn Randall visit

Note: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Reading habits

I came across this list of questions at I thought it was interesting enough to give it a try.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favourite reading snack: Occasionally. It depends on the weather. Usually some chips or a popsicle if it's nice enough to read outside.
What is your favourite drink while reading? Can't go wrong with a cold glass of water. I'm pretty simple with that one.
Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? I haven't marked up a book since college. Textbooks I have no problem marking, but a personal book I just couldn't do it.
How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open? Always with a bookmark. If I don't have one, then I'll resort to dog-ears.
Fiction, non-fiction, or both? Fiction most of the time, but if the person had an interesting life I will give a biography or a memoir a try.
Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere? If I'm sleepy I just have to stop where I'm at. But, if I'm not I like to finish to the end of the chapter.
Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you? No, but I will open my mouth in shock if I don't like a particular part of the book.
If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away? If I can't figure it out from the surrounding passage I will look it up.
What are you currently reading? Quicksand by Marilyn Randall and The Case of the Great Granny by Thomas Emmon Pisano.
What is the last book you bought? Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton. I saw them on Dr. Phil and just had to buy the book.
Are you the type of person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one? Two at a time is my limit. More than two books at a time and I start to get plots mixed up.
Do you have a favourite time/place to read? Whenever I have the time. Mostly it's just before bed.
Do you prefer series books or stand alones? I don't have a preference but most of the books are read are stand alones.
Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over? Jodi Picoult. If you're not moved by My Sister's Keeper I wouldn't understand. I hear the movie was a disappointment, but trust me the book is very moving. I had tears in my eyes by the ending.
How do you organize your books? (by genre, title, author's last name, etc.) Ha!!! There's is no organization for me. It's really a matter of putting the newest book on the neatest stack in my room!

It's Friday, it's time to Hop!!

Every Friday night Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books ( hosts a Friday night blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. Check it out!

Here are a few I came across:

Q&A with John L. Betcher

The following are just a few questions I had for John L. Betcher author of The Missing Element.

After practicing law for 25 years, what motivated you to write a book? Was writing a book something you always wanted to do?

Writing fiction is a vocation I came upon gradually. I had never really pictured myself as an author before I decided -- about a year ago -- to become one. Having an English major in college and doing a lot of legal writing certainly helped writing skills along. But I hadn't really aspired to be a writer. In fact, until last summer, I had been very involved in my two daughters' school, artistic and sporting activities. Parenting occupied most of my time outside of lawyering. Then my youngest graduated from high school, and my schedule changed dramatically. Suddenly, I had time to do something else.
Actually, coaching youth volleyball for the past ten years was the impetus that got me writing for publication. I published three articles in "COACHING VOLLEYBALL, the Journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association" between 2006 and 2009. The last article turned out to be the cover story for the April/May 2009 issue. In May, 2009 I wrote a small book on volleyball coaching philosophies entitled The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching. By this time I was ready to move on to more challenging writing projects.

I guess you could say that my passion for coaching volleyball, and a recent appearance of some free time in my family schedule, were the major factors that allowed me to explore writing fiction. And like Beck, when I take on a challenge, I do so wholeheartedly. I now consider myself a full time lawyer and a full time author.

The book contains alot of computer technology that can be difficult for some to understand. What kind of research did you do? The book implies that humans are 'The Missing Element" in computer technology. Do you believe that?

In 1980, I was fortunate enough to have access to one of IBM's very first personal computers -- the IBM XT -- through my part-time job during law school. I've kept up with computers ever since. So on one hand, computers and technology have been parts of my life for a long time.

The really deep and involved aspects of computer chip design and manufacturing featured in the book came to me through an engineer friend of mine whose family has its own technology business. I invited him to my home one evening to share a beverage. I kept asking technology questions. And he kept giving me more and more intriguing answers. I backed up that personal interview with some web research to make sure I had all the terminology straight. It was my engineer friend who first expressed to me his concern over humans becoming increasingly absent in the technology equation. That idea blossomed into a good part of the book's plot.

Do I really believe that "technology is becoming an uncomfortably black box," as Beck would say? Yes. I'm not alarmist about it. But there are definitely Orwellian overtones to the expansive role technology plays in today's world -- mostly with little or no human intervention.

Did you model aspects of Beck's character after yourself? I ask because he's also a lawyer in the Red Wing area.

In writing The Missing Element, I tried to adhere to the common wisdom that an author should write about a subject with which he is familiar. I know a lot about lawyering, computers, the small town of Red Wing, Minnesota, and the Twin Cities metro area. So it is definitely true that there are parallels between my life and Beck's. And Beck and I share some personal philosophies.

But one must remember that this book is fictional. And so are its characters. No one should believe for a minute that I am Beck, or vice versa. It would be exciting if I were capable of some of Beck's heroics. But then I probably would be out saving people instead of writing books, wouldn't I?

Beck and Beth make a great team. Will she play as pivotal a role in future books?

I like the characters of Beth and Beck very much. They are a little too perfect. And maybe they're a bit self-absorbed. But their interaction with each other makes me feel good inside. Too few books leave you liking the main characters and happy about the ending. The Beck books will always be exceptions to that rule. And Beck and Beth will always be there.

I also like the characters of Bull and Gunner. Red Wing has substantial populations of both Scandinavians and Dakota Indians. So readers should expect to see more of Gunner and Bull in future books as well.
To learn more about the author visit

My take on: The Missing Element

James "Beck" Becker and his wife Elizabeth (Beth) return to his childhood home in Red Wing, Minnesota to enjoy a quiet life. They try to settle into small-town life after years of working on secret government operations. All that is about to change when computer nerd Katherine Whitson is kidnapped from her luxury apartment.

Upon first glance, it's assumed Katherine is just a woman who got tired of living with her obsessive compulsive husband, George. But her husband and friends refuse to believe that. Beck is drawn into the mix by his friend and cop Gunner. The most obvious suspect, George, is man with a secret. Could Katherine have done something that set off her husband? Did she discover George's secret? Or was it a jealous co-worker at Katherine's office ComDyne? Maybe Katherine was working on something that got her trouble? With help from his "computer goddess" wife and enforcer friend Bull, Beck sets off to explore the complex world of computer technology.

The Missing Element by John L. Betcher is a fast-paced, tightly written mystery novel filled with lively characters. The husband and wife dynamic between Beck and Beth is a source of much comic relief. Regardless of the stress of the day, they can still sit down to a glass of wine and mock each other. Beck's friend Bull is a man of a few words, but you just know he doesn't take any crap. He's a character who wants to get right to the point, and do away with all the nonsense. With just a look or a gesture, you know what Bull is thinking.

Just reading the blurb on the book, I initially got a little scared off. A book where computer technology plays a big part seemed daunting. I'm not very savvy in that area. But, Betcher's writing style makes it very easy to follow. If you're a mystery fan, sit down and get to know James "Beck" Becker.

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

BEA 2010 & Book Blogger Convention

It's official I'm headed to Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Con later this month. It was a hit to the wallet, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make new friends. And, best of all I could come home with a bag full of books!!! Barring a disaster on May 27 and May 28 I hope to regale you all with tales of my adventures. Hopefully, I won't look like a fish out of water!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My take on: Promise Not To Tell

I came across this one strolling through the shelves at Borders. Once I pulled it off the shelf, the cover attracted me more than anything. I knew I was going to buy the book just based off the cover. Perhaps not the best way to choose a book, but I felt those eyes had a story to tell.  The eyes of  Del Griswold do play a major part in "Promise Not to Tell" by Jennifer McMahon.

The story opens in New Canaan, Vermont in 2002 with four friends -- Opal, Tori, Sam and Ryan -- trying to scare each other with tales of the 'Potato Girl' a.k.a Del Griswold, who was murdered 30 years ago. Now, Tori is also murdered in the exact same way.  Opal and her friend Kate Cypher, who returns to town to care for her mother, work to unravel the mystery. Opal is so torn, she starts to think the Potato Girl is trying to contact her from the grave.

Kate grew up with Del, but always tried to deny their friendship to the cool girls at school. Del was the school outcast. She smelled like rotten potatoes, hence the nickname 'Potato Girl,' wore dirty clothes and marched to the beat of her own drummer. Kate truly saw Del as a friend, and for 30 years has blamed herself for her death. She has a chance at redemption when Kate believes Del is trying to connect with her from the grave via her memory-challenged mother, Jean. Clues to the mystery start popping up, including the images in a painting by Kate's mother. One of the key elements of the painting are the eyes. Eyes that immediately jump out amongst a sea of color. When Del's face starts to form in the painting, Kate starts to doubt her own sanity.

The novel also shifts back and forth between 1971 and 2002, for me that made some of the details a little hard to follow. Occasionally, I had to double-back and make sure I didn't overlook a detail. The story is a cross between mystery/ghost story. But by the ending it's more about Kate's fight for redemption. When approaching the last 50 pages, I found myself reading rapidly. I wanted to solve the mystery. I'm a skeptic when it comes to paranormal activity. When looking at the cover, it doesn't come off as a sci-fi or horror novel, so I had to believe the murders were the work of a person of flesh and blood. The clues point to several characters, whom McMahon takes to the time to invest in. When the killer is revealed, the ending feels a little rushed. If you're looking for a quick read, gives this one a try but borrow it from the library or a friend!

Monday, May 10, 2010

It's Monday, What are you Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme, hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

I'm currently reading The Missing Element by John L. Betcher. I'm about 50 pages in, and Mr. Betcher has my attention.  I'm also reading Promise Not to Tell by Jennifer McMahon. Those eyes are haunting me. I have to hurry up and finish.

Up next: I just received a review copy of "Quicksand" by Marilyn Randall. I'm debating reading all three at the same time, but I'm afraid of getting plots mixed up. Two at a time is usually my limit!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

First review copy!!

I'm still throughly engaged in "Promise Not To Tell" a.ka. "girl with the creepy eyes!" But I also just received my first review copy from author John L. Betcher. I love mysteries, hopefully this is another good one. Once I'm finished there will also be a blog Q&A with my review. Happy reading everyone!

My take on: the darkest child

I had to go to Atlanta to find this diamond in the rough. I'm sure I could have found this book at my local Borders, but since the story is set in Pakersfield, Georgia it made sense that his book was on prominent display.

This is Delores Phillips' debut novel, and after reading it I'm stunned at the graphic details and emotion that come out. As the story opens it is 1958, and we meet 13-year-old Tangy Mae and her mother Rozelle 'Rosie' Quinn in rural Georgia. This was a time when opportunities for African Americans were few and far between. Rozelle is in the midst of quitting her job as a maid and tells anyone who will listen that she is about to die. All nine of her children seriously doubt that. Rozelle would rather have people think she's about to die, than admit being pregnant with her 10th child.

Now that her mother can't work, Tangy Mae is expected to quit school and start supporting the family. More than anything Tangy Mae wants to graduate from high school and break free from her mother. To some in the community Rozelle is just a single mother trying to do right. But in her children's eyes, Rozelle is a monster. Any attempt at freedom is met with abuse. Tangy Mae's older sister Martha Jean, who is deaf, finds someone to love her but Rozelle beats her into submission upon finding out. Martha Jean's freedom is granted only after her future husband -- Velman -- is able to give Rozelle a car and driving lessons in exchange. A young Tangy Mae was branded with a fire poker for questioning her mother's authority. Their older sister, Mushy, ran away because she couldn't take the abuse anymore. Tangy Mae and her older sister, Tarabelle, are forced into prostitution by Rozelle, just so their mother can keep up her expensive shopping habits. Tangy Mae's brothers are spared some of the abuse because they bring money into the household. Her brothers also try to change things in their community, but are only met with resistance from the white authority figures in town.

Tangy Mae is made to believe that no one will ever want her because of her dark skin. Rozelle drilled into her children that the lighter your skin color, the more desirable you are. Whatever affection Rozelle did show, it was usually to her children with lighter skin.

There are moments when it feels like this novel is preaching about the ills of the racism in the 1950s, but as a whole it's about young children trying to break free of an abusive mother. Without giving away too much, the ending left me a little empty. Within the last few pages you get the feeling that Tangy Mae and her siblings are finally going to get their happy ending. But Phillips shakes their resolve and makes them doubt their futures.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday night blog hop

In my researching of the blog world I came across Every Friday night Crazy-for-Books hosts a Friday night blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. Check it out!

Here are few I came across:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The eyes are watching me

I am deeply engaged in reading "the darkest child" by Delores Phillips. But I've finally decided to read "Promise Not to Tell" by Jennifer Mcmahon also. Not because I'm just itching to dive into the plot, but rather the eyes on that girl are creeping me out. Every time I enter my bedroom those eyes are STARING at me ! It was just time to give in. You can't look at that cover, and not be a little creeped out.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My take on: true colors

I came across this one on the discount rack at Walmart. I skimmed the summary, and thought why not?? The easiest thing I can compare to "true colors" by Kristin Hannah is a Lifetime movie marathon. The kind of marathon you get sucked into on a lazy Sunday afternoon. As the story begins we meet the teenage Grey sisters -- Winona, Aurora and Vivi Ann -- who are reeling from the death of their mother. Their father would rather tend to their ranch -- Water's Edge -- than give his daughters affection. As the oldest, Winona is the more practical sister, she goes to college and becomes a lawyer. But more than anything Winona just wants her father's approval. Aurora, the middle sister, is the family peacemaker. Vivi Ann is the golden child. Vivi Ann works on the family ranch and she's loved by everyone in town. Most of all she can do no wrong in her father's eyes.

The Grey family is at the top of the food chain in Oyster Shores, a small town in Washington. Oyster Shores itself is a walking cliche. It's a town where everyone knows each other. It's also a town where no one minds their own business. They don't take kindly to outsiders. But an outsider, Dallas Raintree, threatens to tear the Grey sisters apart. Dallas and Vivi Ann marry and eventually start a family. When Dallas is arrested for murder, the true test begins for the Grey family. The book spans nearly 30 years of the trials and tribulations of the Grey family.

Like a Lifetime movie, "true colors" feels very predictable. The language is a little too flowery for my taste. At some points it reads like a romance novel. In the beginning Vivi Ann fights the urge to go to Dallas, but you can see it coming a mile away that she will. Then the book turns into a family drama, one that takes too long to resolve itself.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Junk science perhaps?

In an earlier post I made it clear my disdain for e-readers. I came across this article.  While I'm giddy at anything criticizing an iPad, this article seems a little ridiculous. Can this gadget really mess with your sleep? I don't know the answer but when I get an extra $500, I'll let Steve Jobs know!! Check it out!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Looking for your next book?

Cutting for Stone (Vintage)
A few days after I finished, "the girl she used to be" I heard about a web site that helps you choose your next book. If you need a little help check out I put in "the girl she used to be," and got absolutely nothing!!! My first thought was "THANKS FOR NOTHING!!" So I had to go back a little further. I put in "The Help," by Kathryn Stockett and got a rather lengthy list. Most of the authors I had never heard of, but at least one was already on my list: "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese. Perhaps the makers of this site do know a thing or two! What does every one else think? Hmmmmmmmmmmmm?!?

My take on: The Girl She Used to Be

David Cristofano grabbed me with the first chapter. We meet a young woman, toiling away her time as a math teacher – a teacher who has lived 20 of her 26 years in the Witness Protection Program. She has gone through so many names, May Adams, Karen Smith, Anne Johnson, Jane Watkins, Terry Mills, Shelly Jones and Linda Simms. Each name has become more forgettable as the years went on. We meet her as Sandra Clarke, but after 18 months as a math teacher in Maryland she tells the United States Marshal Service that danger is near. In reality there is no danger. More than anything she just wants to be herself again – Melody Grace McCartney.

One day, a six-year-old Melody and her parents left their New Jersey home for a day out in Manhattan. While on that journey, they have the misfortune of witnessing a murder at the hands of mafia boss Tony Bovaro. From that day on the lives of the McCartney family are forever changed. They are forced into the Witness Protection Program. As a teenager, the Bovaro family catches up with Melody’s parents and kills them. Orphaned Melody is now without her anchors – her parents.

At 26, she has changed her name and hair color more times than she can count, now she has to deal with a new caseworker – Sean. Sean vows to keep her safe, but a new man Jonathan Bovaro offers Melody a chance to get her life and freedom back. The only catch is she has to come with him to face her past. Despite the danger, Melody goes with him. Along the way the two of them fall in love, but several forces fight to keep them apart.

Cristofano definitely knows how to pull the reader. He gets right to heart of the matter – a woman’s fight for freedom and love. There are definitely some Bonnie and Clyde and Romeo & Juliet qualities to this book. Jonathan and Melody come from different backgrounds. No one wants them together --- not the Feds and certainly not the Bovaro family. Jonathan and Melody don’t kill anyone, but they choose to go on the run and flout the law. While the situations in the book might not seem realistic to some, including myself, I enjoyed the book from start to finish. Cristofano manages to take a horrible situation and turn it into a love story. I highly recommend reading it.