Thursday, 29 September 2011

Review & Giveaway - The Night Circus


The Night Circus
BY: Erin Morgenstern
PUBLISHED BY: Doubleday
PUBLISHED IN: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-385-53463-5
Pages: 387
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

Over the past few months there has been a lot a buzz over the debut novel of Erin Morgenstern. I was delighted and honored to receive a review copy from Doubleday. When I removed the book from the packaging, the enchanting cover dazzled me. After I finished reading another book, I picked up The Night Circus and entered into a new magical world that I have never seen before. As I began reading, I couldn’t help but think of the book Something Wicked This Way Come by Ray Bradbury, where a mysterious night circus suddenly appears. Obviously the author is heavily influenced on old fairy tales. The descriptions are written in such detail that I could imagine being right there in circus tent, even breathing in the air.

Despite all the hype, I think the book was somewhat flat in places, especially at the beginning, where there was too much telling and not enough showing. The second  half of the book is written better and is more intriguing to read. The love story between the two illusionists is realistically written, but there was just something missing from the characters - not enough depth to them. However, I did enjoy the Burgess sisters. The Night Circus does have originality to it, but it is not flawless as critics have observed. It is a decent debut novel, full of magical descriptions and a refreshing plot. I look forward to Erin Morgenstern’s next novel.

*I would like to thank Doubleday for sending me a copy to review.





GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

2 copies of The Night Circus courtesy of Doubleday. 
Open to followers of this blog with a US mailing address
Ends October 13, 2011

(+2) Old GFC Followers
(+1) New GFC Followers
(+1) Each for Twittering, Facebook Share/Like, or Google Buzz/+1 this post
(+3) For "Like" my Facebook page, following on Twitter, Shelfari, or Goodreads.


You must leave a comment to enter.


Your comment should also include any of the above actions for additional entries and your email (EXAMPLE: coffeeramblings AT hotmail.com)

The two winners will be announced in a seperate post on October 14, 2011.




CymLowell

Review - The Betrayal by Jerry B. Jenkins




The Betrayal
BY: Jerry B. Jenkins
PUBLISHED BY: Tyndale
PUBLISHED IN: 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4143-0908-8
Pages: 290
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

I’m a fan of Jerry B. Jenkins novels, but I didn’t like his pervious precinct novel, so I hesitated before signing up to review an ARC copy of The Betrayal. I’m glad that I did, as The Betrayal is major improvement over his last novel.  This time around Detective Boone Drake is recovering from bringing down the biggest street gangs in Chicago history. After a near-fatal attempt on a witness, Detective Boone must unravel the mystery. Someone inside the Chicago Police Department has leaked information to the shooter. Detective Boone doesn’t know who to trust as he tries to protect the witness.

The Betrayal is an intense, fast read from the very first page until the very ending, but that’s not to say there aren’t a few problems. Midway through the novel, the plot does get a little predictable. Despite this, I was still able to enjoy the book. A must read for mystery lovers.

* I would like to thank Tyndale for sending me a copy to review.

Review - Vigilante by Robin Parrish





Vigilante
BY: Robin Parrish
PUBLISHED BY: Bethany House
PUBLISHED IN: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0608-5
Pages: 363
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

In a world where the economy has collapsed and violence has increased on the streets, an ex-elite solider, Nolan Gray, decides to clean up the streets himself as The Hand. He gets help from his former military commander, Arjay - whose talent is engineering, and Alice. Soon Nolan has an archenemy - crime boss Yuri Vasko.

Vigilante is full of cliché’s and unsuccessfully rips off the comic genre, like Batman and The Punisher. There are a few well written action scenes throughout the novel. Nolan Gray is an interesting character, but I felt there was just something missing. I like the plot premise, but it would have been better executed as a graphic novel or comic book instead of a Christian novel. Vigilante is written for male readers who love action novels, crime novels, and the occasional comic book. Overall, it was fun read, but the plot is not original and has been done to death.



*I would like to thank Bethany House for sending me a copy to review.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Review - Once Upon a Groom by Karen Rose Smith




Once Upon a Groom
BY: Karen Rose Smith
PUBLISHED BY: Harlequin
PUBLISHED IN: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-373-65628-8
Pages: 224
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

  Zack Decker left his family ranch and his first love, Jenny, to go to film school. It’s now fifteen years later, and Zack is a successful Hollywood director determined to never go back to Miners Bluff. Out of the blue, Jenny Farber leaves a message informing him to attend their high school reunion. The reunion doesn’t go as plan as Jenny’s real intentions was to get Zack to talk to his father, Sila. Zack flies back to L.A., only to get another message from Jenny. This time she tells him that his father has collapsed.

There has been undeniable tension between Zack and his father over the years, but Zack returns to the ranch, the Rocky D, where Jenny works. Actually Jenny is more like a daughter to Sila than anything else. She persuades Zack to stay and help run the ranch until Sila is back on his feet, in which Zack agrees. Soon, their past feelings resurface, along with a secret Jenny has been hiding for fifteen years.

Once Upon a Groom is book two in the Reunion Bride series and is an irresistible read from the very first page. The love story between Zack and Jenny is realistically written. As a reader, you’ll easily connect with both characters as they must confront their past emotions. I recommend Once Upon a Groom to all romance readers.


*I would like to thank the author for sending me a copy to review. 



Sunday, 25 September 2011

IS CINDERELLA STILL RELEVANT?


IS CINDERELLA STILL RELEVANT? 
By Karen Rose Smith

Remember the furor over the royal wedding? Kate became a princess and William became Prince Charming. We watched the vows with tears in our eyes and couldn't wait for that first kiss. Cinderella might be an ages-old fairytale but the storyline encourages dreams from the little girls who watch Disney-princess movies to the women who faithfully follow the Bachelor and the Bachelorette. Subliminally, our curiosity in relationships and interest in public romances is all about the happily-ever-after storyline. Can two people fall in love and commit to each other for a lifetime?

My husband and I recently celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary. I wouldn't be able to write romances from my heart unless I believed in them. When I was a little girl, I remember pretending a lace curtain was a bridal veil. My girlfriends and I reenacted the marriage ceremony.  Recently by BFF's daughter asked if she could play dress-up with her mom's wedding gown. Are the dreams of little girls now any different than ten or twenty or forty years ago? Loving and being loved drive our collective consciousness. Have you ever been in the midst of a crowd at a wedding and watched everyone grow misty-eyed? The emotion that takes over—other than the love we have for the couple saying the vows—is hope. The Cinderella fairytale can give a woman hope that she can find love, look beautiful in a bridal gown and believe in the vows she recites on her wedding day.

Little girls aspire to be princesses. Many women long to believe they will find their one true love who is kind, gentle, charming and the man they can spend the rest of their lives with. Prince Charming doesn't have to be a "prince" on a white steed. He just has to convince the woman he loves that she's his Cinderella.  Are fairy-tale endings possible?  I believe women long to believe they are. That's why the romance genre lives on and why our hearts melt when a couple says, "I do."


Karen Rose Smith is the best-selling, award-winning author of 75 published romances.  Readers can visit her website @ http://www.karenrosesmith.com, follow her on Twitter @ karenrosesmith and on Facebook (Karen Rose Smith author), and access her e-zine In Touch @ karenrosesmith-ezine.blogspot.com for new releases and contests.

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Friday 56 - The Night Circus


Hosted by Freda's Voice




The curious guest will return to the mysterious plate in front of her,
perhaps remarking that, whatever the secrets, the dish is quite impressive,
and continuing to wonder where the peculiar flavor might originate as she
savors each bite with profound thoughtfulness.

page56 -The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


Thursday, 22 September 2011

Revew - 90 Days of Freedom








90 Miles to Freedom
BY: K.C. Hilton
PUBLISHED BY: Night Publishing
PUBLISHED IN: 2011
ISBN: 978-1463566494
Pages: 202
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

Living just outside of Key West Florida, twenty-four-year-old Collin was enjoying his life by taking tourist fishing on his large boat. He was engaged to the lovely young lady named Morgan. His parents, George and Betty, supported his decision not to go to college, and allowed him to dock his boat almost literally in their backyard. His younger brother, Joey, was going to graduate high school and then go on to college. Despite all future plans, fate steps in and wrecks havoc onto Collin's world. After a freak accident on Joey’s graduation day, George and Betty are killed. Collin and Joey’s world is turned upside down. Collin goes into a deep depression and pushes Morgan away from him. Joey delays going to college and becomes the adult of the household, as Collin begins drinking his problems away.

When Joey is out of the house, Collin sneaks out to his boat to earn money, but he isn’t taking tourist fishing - he never was. He has been keeping a dark secret, one that started before his parent’s death.

90 Miles to Freedom is an emotional journey about a young man who must confront his own actions and explore what is really important to him. The narration switches back and forth throughout the novel, from Collin’s point-of-view to the point-of-view of a doctor trying to escape the horrors of Cuba and his long journey to America. One simple act of humanity can cause a change reaction in many peoples’ lives. I enjoyed reading 90 Miles to Freedom, which is more sentimental and realistic than most of the mainstream novels on the market. I recommend the book to all readers!

*I would like to thank the author for sending me a review to copy and for providing the bookmarks.

About the Author:

K.C. Hilton was born and raised in Aurora, Illinois. She spent her childhood playing street games with the neighborhood kids. When she wasn’t outside, she spent much of her time reading and getting lost in adventurous world and whirlwind courtships. At the age of seventeen, she moved to Kentucky and eventually began to raise a family of her own.

K.C. has always been entranced by stories of magical adventure, and though she had to live in the practical world, running a family business as well as two of her own; she discovered that writing was an entirely new, exciting adventure all on it’s own!

K.C. has a large family and their get-togethers are so much fun! She is a photographer and takes tons of photos! Her family also has a mini dachshund; her name is “Roxy” weighing in at a whopping ten pounds. Roxy is a huge part of their family and she’s is spoiled rotten!

Visit her website at: www.kc-hilton.com

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Review - Ghost on Black Mountain

Ghost on Black Mountain
Ghost on Black Mountain
BY: Ann Hite
PUBLISHED BY: Gallery Books
PUBLISHED IN: 2011
ISBN: 978-1-45160642-3
Pages: 344
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

Ghost on Black Mountain is a haunting tale set in North Carolina during the depression-era, and is told through multiple narrators, all who have been emotionally affected by a hateful-spirited man named Hobbs Pritchard. Nellie Clay’s mother warned her not to marry Hobbs, but she was head-over-heels for him. Shortly after marrying and moving to Black Mountain, Nellie discovered her husband was indeed a horrible person. Nellie befriends a young girl, Shelly Parker, who has a special gift of seeing the lost spirits that roam the mountain. Shelly warns Nellie of bad things to come, but Nellie has faith in her marriage, until Hobbs begins beating her. With only one way out of the marriage, Nellie makes a drastic decision that will not only change her life, but the lives of other women.

I read Ghost on Black Mountain in one sitting, as I was instantly pulled into Nellie’s story. Ann Hite has crafted a character, Hobbs, which every reader will despise. The plot does involve the supernatural, as there are lost spirits that haunt the mountain and can be seen by the young Shelly Parker. Through out the book the narration changes several times and is not told chronologically. Each narrator is a woman whose life has been destroyed or altered by Hobbs. I enjoyed reading the book and I recommend it everyone!

*I would like to thank Gallery Books for sending me a copy to review.

About the Author

Ann Hite has written short stories, personal essays, and book reviews for numerous publications and anthologies. Ghost on Black Mountain, her first novel, is inspired by generations of stories handed down through her family. She lives in Atlanta.


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Book Review - The Realms Thereunder

The Realms Thereunder (An Ancient Earth)
The Realms Thereunder
BY: Ross Lawhead
PUBLISHED BY: Thomas Nelson
PUBLISHED IN: 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59554-99-9
Pages: 378
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

Eight years ago thirteen-year-olds Daniel Tully and Freya Reynolds disappeared while on a class trip to a church in Abbingdon in the British Midlands. Months later they returned home, but the teenagers kept quiet about what really happened to them. Fast forward to the present time, Daniel Tully is living on the streets of Oxford and is being stalked by a wraith-like creature with sharp teeth, and he kills the creature. He’s been keeping track of the reports of maimed animals and many suicides that have occurred around a particular mountain in Scotland. He worries that his worst fears have come true.

Freya Reynolds has been living with OCD while she attends college. She has become obsessed with mystical creatures and folklores. Soon she is reunited with her childhood friend, Daniel, and they both must return to the mystical world, a hidden city underground. A war is coming against an enemy the world has never seen. With the help of a Scottish police officer, Alex Simpson, they must confront their past in order the defeat the upcoming evil.

Knights, crazy creatures, and hidden cities are what you’ll find in this full-length novel by Ross Lawhead. Don’t let the fact that the book is considered Christian pull you away from reading this book. I don’t read much fantasy, but I couldn’t put the book down. The main characters, Daniel and Freya, will stay in your mind long after you have finished reading. With all the vampires, witches, and werewolves novels coming out every month, it is nice to read an original, creative novel. Do you know what is great? This is only book one of the Ancient Earth Trilogy. I can’t wait for the sequel to come out next year.

*I would like to thank Thomas Nelson for sending me a copy to review.

Developing Plots by Fiona Ingram

Developing Plots
by Fiona Ingram


Many young writers feel challenged by what seems to be such a daunting task—writing a story. They wonder how they will ever remember the who, what, why, when and where of their proposed story. Nothing is easy without practice and as we all know, practice makes perfect. My suggestion for a young writer wanting to put their own story down is to start with stories they already enjoy.

Read some of your favorite books, the ones that had you longing for more excitement. Or the one that was so fascinating you read it more slowly so the book did not end too soon. Or the one where you were so tired but could not put it down until you knew the hero was safe … for now. Think about why the author had you captivated from the start. The author probably came up with a great idea right away, an idea that gripped you. It could have been a mystery, a quest, a journey, a mission, and perhaps something that seemed impossible for the hero to accomplish. The author then drew you into the story which had unexpected twists and turns, surprises, and sometime disasters that affected the hero. The plot is what makes a hero or heroine who they are. Every plot has a story to tell, and that story follows a certain sequence. Sure, you can jump around and have side excursions, but every writer should bring his hero back to the main story soon enough.

Creating a great plot. Write your initial plot down in a few words. Keep it simple. “My story is about (my hero) who is faced with (a challenge, a dilemma, a problem) and how he/she overcomes the challenge or solves the problem. A tip: stick to the kind of story that you like to read, or else material that interests you. If you love football, then don’t make your hero a hockey player. Place your story in a setting that you either know about, or would enjoy researching.

How to Construct your Storyline. Structure is very important otherwise you’ll forget something important, and your story will fall to pieces. Carefully outline your initial plot with more detail. You may not stick to it exactly, but it’s important to map out where the story is going. You don’t want to give away the plot too soon, or tell the reader everything all at once. So begin with a simple 3-point system: the Beginning (your hero appears—what is he doing? What does he want to achieve?); the Middle (something will happen to him and he has to …?); the Ending (your hero resolves the situation). From those three vital points you will fill in your other plot points—how did… why did… what happens next. You can introduce new characters and other story lines to add interest to your main plot. Don’t forget to always bring your readers back to the main plot.

As your plot develops you’ll find your characters will grow by their experiences. A tip: as your characters appear in the story and new developments take place, keep a notebook on the side and make notes to remind yourself of all the small details. Don’t forget that depending on the situation and location of your story, you may have to research facts. Make sure your information is as accurate as possible to make your story more enjoyable for your readers.


About the author:


Fiona Ingram’s earliest story-telling talents came to the fore when, from the age of ten, she entertained her three younger brothers and their friends with serialized tales of children undertaking dangerous and exciting exploits, which they survived through courage and ingenuity. Haunted houses, vampires, and skeletons leaping out of coffins were hot favorites in the cast of characters. Although Fiona Ingram has been a journalist for the last fifteen years, writing a children’s book—The Secret of the Sacred Scarab—was an unexpected step, inspired by a recent trip to Egypt. The tale of the sacred scarab began life as a little anecdotal tale for her 2 nephews (then 10 and 12), who had accompanied her on the Egyptian trip. This short story grew into a children’s book, the first in the adventure series Chronicles of the Stone. The author has finished the next book in the series—The Search for the Stone of Excalibur—a huge treat for young King Arthur fans. Although Fiona Ingram does not have children of her own, she has an adopted teenage foster child, from an underprivileged background who is just discovering the joys of reading for pleasure. Naturally, Fiona is a voracious reader and has been from early childhood. Her interests include literature, art, theatre, collecting antiques, animals, music, and films. She loves travel and has been fortunate to have lived in Europe (while studying) and America (for work). She has travelled widely and fulfilled many of her travel goals.






Friday, 9 September 2011

Book Review - A Lancaster County Christmas - & Contest

Lancaster County Christmas, A

A Lancaster County Christmas
BY: Suzanne Woods Fisher
PUBLISHED BY: Revell
PUBLISHED IN: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8007-1995-1
Pages: 206
Reviewed by Billy Burgess


A sudden snowstorm changes the holiday plans for an elementary school teacher C.J. Fitzpatrick and his photographer wife, Jamie, who were on their way to Jamie’s father’s wedding on a cruise ship. They had been slowly drifting away from each other when a freak accident causes them to take shelter at an Amish farmhouse. Sol and Mattie Riehl eagerly take in the stranded couple until the storm ended.

The Amish couple has problems of their own. They are taking care of Zack, Mattie’s seventeen-year-old cousin, who has been into some trouble. Zack has been living with them since summer. Sol is praying that Zack isn’t a bad example to their son, Danny.

As C.J. and Jamie must face their marriage problems, Sol and Mattie pray for more children that they are afraid they can’t have.

I’m a fan of Amish fiction and I was anxious to read A Lancaster County Christmas, even though this is September and not December. It sure has gotten me in the mood for Christmas! The troubles that the couples face are realistically believable, and so is the situation with the teenager Zack. This is the second book I have read from author Suzanne Woods Fisher, and I look forward to reading more Amish novels by her. I recommend this book to all romance readers, or someone who is looking for a sweet, charming read. This would make a great Christmas gift!


About the Author:

Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, W.D. Benedict, who was raised Plain. She has many, many Plain relatives living in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and travels back to Pennsylvania, as well as to Ohio, a couple of times each year for research.

Suzanne has a great admiration for the Plain people and believes they provide wonderful examples to the world. In both her fiction and non-fiction books, she has an underlying theme: You don't have to "go Amish" to incorporate many of their principles--simplicity, living with less, appreciating nature, forgiving others more readily-- into your life.

When Suzanne isn't writing or bragging to her friends about her first new grandbaby (!), she is raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you just can't take life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.


Suzanne can be found online at: www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.

Link to buy the book:

http://www.amazon.com/Lancaster-County-Christmas-Suzanne-Fisher/dp/0800719956/ref=sprightly-20


The Contest:

To celebrate the release of her first Christmas book, Suzanne Woods Fisher has teamed up with her publisher, Revell, to bring you the "Christmas in September" iPad Giveaway! The winner will be announced on 9/27 at the A Lancaster County Christmas Facebook Party! Details below. Tell your friends and join in the fun (9/7-9/27).

Oh and be sure to follow the blog tour here - many of the bloggers have copies of the book to giveaway!







Suzanne and Revell will be presenting one merry winner with a Christmas Prize Pack (valued at over $600):



A Brand New iPad 2 with Wi-Fi
$25 gift certificate to iTunes
A copy of A Lancaster County Christmas


To enter, click here http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/text/13425768. But, hurry the giveaway ends on 9/26.



But, wait! There's more! The winner will be announced at the A Lancaster County Christmas Facebook Party on 9/27 at Suzanne's author page. During the party she'll be revealing something *BIG* - you won't want to miss it. She'll also be hosting a book chat, trivia contest and giving away a few early Christmas presents! Hope to see you there.



Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Book Review - Backyard Horses: Horse Dreams



Backyard Horses: Horse Dreams

BY: Dandi Daley Mackall
PUBLISHED BY: Tyndale
PUBLISHED IN: 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4143-3916-0
Pages: 156
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

Ellie James is a fourth grade student with a wild imagination. She loves to daydream during class about owning a horse. Whenever she is assigned a writing assignment, she wants to write about one thing - horses. One afternoon she glances outside and sees a beautiful horse galloping across the schoolyard. By the time she gets the teachers attention, along with her classmates, the horse had disappeared. The teacher has had enough of Ellie’s fibs and sends a note home for her parents to read. Ellie soon realizes that the horse was real?

A few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find complimentary copy of Horse Dreams in the mailbox from Tyndale. I don’t know much about horses, but I enjoyed reading about Ellie and her love for horses. Ellie may be a daydreamer during school, but her dreams do come true. The book was a delight light to read and I’m sure kids, especially horse lovers, will love reading it to.

*I would like to thank Tyndale for sending me a complimentary copy.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Friday Blog Hops



Book Blogger Hop

http://crazy-for-books.com/2011/09/book-blogger-hop-92-95.html

Question of the week: “What are you most looking forward to this fall/autumn season – A particular book release? Halloween? The leaves changing color? Cooler temperatures? A vacation?”

My Answer: I'm looking forward to some cooler weather, candy corn, horror movies marathons, watching Garfield's Halloween Special on DVD, and watching the 80's Midnight Hour



Bloggers of the week: http://www.jennielyse.com/; http://caughtinthepages.blogspot.com/

Question of the week: If you could change the ending of any book (or series), which book would you choose? Why and to what?

My Answer: None! I'm a writer and I wouldn't want anyone else changing the ending of my story.