Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Finds [59]

I usually add a lot of books on my TBR list throughout the week. This is just a small glimpse into the ones that were added on recently. Maybe you'll find something you like =)

Please let me know your thoughts on a book you've read from the list. Or tell me about a good book you've found this week.

My Finds This Week:

Baby Love (Kendrick/Coulter/Harrigan, #1) by Catherine Anderson
But I Love Him by Amanda Grace
The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

Blood Ties (Castings Trilogy, #1) by Pamela Freeman
American Vampire by Jennifer Armintrout

Chime by Franny Billingsley
Lily of the Nile (Cleopatra's Daughter, #1) by Stephanie Dray
Bumped (Bumped, #1) by Megan McCafferty

The Thirteenth Chime (Sense of Truth, #1) by Emma Michales
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
The Lost Gate (Mither Mages, #1) by Orson Scott Card

Thursday, September 29, 2011

From the Desk of... Jeanette Baker!

How Do We Know What to Leave Out?

Research, for a historical author, is the most exciting part of the writing process, with the added benefit of travel. Research is where we find our inspiration, settle on our plots, come up with our characters and, of course, travel to locations where our heroes could have lived out their lives. Historical novels, for the most part, combine realistic settings with fictionalized characters, although they frequently include recognizable names from the past.

For me, a writer of Celtic fiction, the researching process begins and ends with travel, usually driving the country roads of Scotland and Ireland, countries rich in history. When I spy one of the ubiquitous brown markers indicating a historical site, I turn in to explore it. I’m intrigued by ancient castles, especially the unrestored ones in a state of ruin. These allow my imagination to soar.

CATRIONA began in just such a manner, with an unplanned trip to Stirling Castle. That particular day was windy and blinding in its brilliant blueness, an unusual occurrence for Scotland, the land of mists. After exploring the grounds, I climbed the stairs to the watchtower where Margaret Tudor, daughter to Henry VII of England and James IV of Scotland, waited for her husband to return from the Battle of Flodden Moor. This was a particularly difficult time for her because her husband and father fought on opposing sides. I’d read in the small brochure handed out when I turned over my nominal fee for visiting the castle, that she had carved a poem into the wall. The poem is no longer legible and no one really knows what her thoughts were, but standing there with a death grip on the parapet because of the terrifying wind, I imagined what they might be.

Jamie Stewart was a handsome, charismatic king who spoke 8 languages, fathered 38 illegitimate children, founded universities and demanded that the nobility learn to read. History tells us the marriage was not a love match, I decided, for purposes of my novel, that it was. That very day, the idea for CATRIONA was born. Why not, I thought, create a woman, a cousin, with ties to England, who needed Jamie’s protection for her own purposes? Why not pair her with her equal in intelligence, Jamie’s favorite, a border lord, who’d helped him win the crown? Why not set the two of them amidst the intrigue of the Tudor and Stewart royal courts?

Now my research gained focus. Had there been such a lord? Where could I find him? This is where the heaviest part of research takes place, locating information, reading, reading and more reading, learning about the time period, the political situation, alliances, religious affiliations, clothing, architecture, food preparation, weapons and flora and fauna of the time, familiarizing myself so that all of the above become second nature. Thank goodness for the Internet.

Sure enough there was such a man. His name was Patrick Hepburn, Laird of Hailes and his castle, Hermitage, a ruin, still stands, a sentinel of the fractious borders between England and Scotland.

At this point, when I find my focus, I create my fictional characters, filling in plot points, conflicts and resolutions. The best novels are those which combine internal and external conflict. History makes a historical writer’s external plot very easy to come by. Determining what to include and what to leave out becomes the challenge. My rule of thumb is, does the event or scene move the story forward? Is it necessary for the plot? Will it be interesting to readers who don’t have my background or stake in the subject? This is when I need the opinion of a fresh reader. Fortunately, I have people I can ask, usually my critique group, but others as well, to read and comment on my works in progress.

Finally, when everything is in place, once again I make my travel reservations and visit the actual sites of castles, villages and battles. Times have changed enormously in 500 years. The great forests and boglands once filled with oak, yew and animals of every kind are now fields and pasture lands. But with a little imagination, I find a spot away from everyone else, lean against the stones and close my eyes. Then the images come.

I hope you enjoy reading CATRIONA as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Check out the blog tab on my website,, and read about my thrilling discovery of the forgotten, vine and lichen-covered tomb of Gerald Fitzgerald, last Earl of Desmond, beheaded in 1592, one of the characters in my novel, NELL.


Jeanette Baker is the award-winning author of fifteen novels, published by Pocket, Kensington and Mira Books, many of them set in the lush countryside of historical and contemporary Ireland where she lives and writes during the summer months. Her ancestors, the O’Flahertys, hail from Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands located off the coast of Galway. She takes great pride in the prayer posted by the English over the ancient city gates, 'From the wrath of the O'Flahertys, may the good Lord deliver us.'
Jeanette graduated from the University of California at Irvine and holds a Masters Degree in Education. For the remainder of the year, she teaches in Southern California, reads constantly, attempts to navigate the confusing world of Facebook and, more recently e-publishing, concocts creations from interesting cook books and enjoys the company of friends and her grown children. She is the RITA award-winning author of NELL.

Click here to find out more about Catriona and Jeanette's other novels.

**A big thank you to Pump Up Your Book and Jeanette for letting me be apart of Catriona's tour. I really enjoyed the book and I'm excited to read more about Scottish history and more by Jeanette! Be sure to check out my review of Catriona if you haven't already.**

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Blog Tour Review: Catriona

Jeanette Baker

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone

Release Date: August 2011 (paperback)

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Pages: 464 (paperback)

Author Site:

My Rating: 3.75/5

Source: Received for review from Pump Up Your Book


Kate Sutherland always felt out of place in brash and modern Southern California. But when she comes to her ancestral home in the Shetland Islands to seek a mystical guide who may shed light on her true heritage, she is caught between the present day and visions of a life from five centuries past....

A fiery young woman of royal English blood, Catriona Wells is determined to save her family from the deadly political clashes of 15th-century Britain. But Cat's cunning is no match for Scottish border lord Patrick MacKendrick. When this powerful warrior betroths her against her will, Cat must decide whether she dares to love him--and to trust him with lives that are more precious to her than her own.


Catriona started a bit rocky for me. I had a bit of a rough time staying focused and getting used to the jumps between Catriona Wells and Kate Sutherland. I didn't mind the different perspectives or even the different time periods...there were just moments where I felt things were moving too quickly. But when I finally found my comfy little niche I was captivated by the story and plot! I loved the historical parts of the story. This is my first time delving into Scottish history so it was a real treat! As soon as I was done I wanted to know more about James IV's story and more about Scotland. Jeanette Baker brought a lot of the characters to life and I really became interested in them.

The modern story involving Kate was more of a backdrop for me. I liked seeing how Kate's life was unfolding after she found out she was adopted and traveled to Scotland for answers. I got a bit lost when she met Maura though...The paranormal aspect of the story was also a bit iffy for me. I definitely felt the magic at times, but other times I was left a little perplexed. But don't let these observations deter you from checking this out... Catriona is a beautiful story that will appeal to a lot of readers. There are two romantic arcs to follow in the plot and like I mentioned earlier I leaned more towards the historical one involving Catriona and Patrick. Kate and Niall's relationship moved a bit too fast for me...but I still enjoyed reading it. I think I'm just in more of a historical fiction niche at the moment...

I can't express enough how strong and developed the characters were. Characters are so important to me and many other readers I'm sure. I loved the latter part of the story when the secondary characters really start to get involved with the plot. The Scotland setting, both historical and modern, was detailed and so easy to picture. Reading Catriona has definitely gotten me more interested in Scotland and I love that about good stories. I'm excited to read more of Jeanette Baker's work and I recommend Catriona to romance lovers of all kinds!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Book Arrivals

For Review:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: Broetry

Brian McGackin

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone

Release Date: July 2011

Publisher: Quirk Books

Pages: 128 (hardcover)

Author Site:

My Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Received for review from publisher

As contemporary poets deliver entire volumes on subjects like incest, menstruation, and pine cones, regular guys are left scratching their heads. Who will speak for Everyman? Who will articulate his love for Xbox 360, for Mama Celeste’s Frozen Pizza, for any movie starring Bruce Willis?

Enter Broetry—a stunning debut from a dazzling new literary voice. “Broet Laureate” Brian McGackin goes where no poet has gone before—to Star Wars conventions, to frat parties, to video game tournaments, and beyond. With poems like “Ode to That Girl I Dated for, Like, Two Months Sophomore Year” and “My Friends Who Don’t Have Student Loans,” we follow the Bro from his high school graduation and college experience through a “quarter-life crisis” and beyond. Packaged in a small gifty hardcover and illustrated with tasteful black and white illustrations, Broetry is a funny and sly look at modern masculinity.


I admit I can't quite remember the poetry lessons I had in school...and I'm definitely not a connoisseur in poetry (or literature, or writing, or anything actually...). I don't remember all the different type of poems or the technicalities of creative writing so take what you will from my review. Broetry is basically for the men in the world who don't like poetry... being a female who sometimes enjoyed (when I could understand it), if not always appreciated, poetry didn't deter me from enjoying the collection. From a person who enjoys all forms of humor, be it crude and vulgar to cute and corny, I found Broetry to be full of funny moments ranging from laugh-out-loud to indiscreet smiles. I even recognized some of the poetic forms McGackin used and found them clever and interesting. And I may not be able to relate to everything in the poems I still found them funny as hell!

As I was reading through the short collection of poems I found myself marking pages of my favorites and wanting to share them with everyone. Some of them include:
  •  Not Another Teen Movie - composed of movie titles that are arrayed in a pretty clever relationship timeline
  • I'll Take "Crazy Bitches" for $200, Alex - a play on Jeopardy and ex-girlfriends
  • Whorecrux - a very clever usage of a Harry Potter term in reference to 7 "important" ex-girlfriends
  • Pocahotness - about crushing on animated characters
  • Yes, I Cheated on You - Being a woman I wasn't offended by this poem because I was that girl in some of my relationships...It was interesting to see a guy's perspective on the uneasy subject abou fidelity. This one is also an example of a specific type of poem, I just don't know which kind lol
  • (American) Ninja Warrior - I'm having a hard time really explaining what this one was could be a dual personality thing going on or different point of views arguing...its funny though!
The poems were also broken up into parts, or time periods, of a person (or man's) life. It started with high school, through college graduation, to "real life" with a "quarter-life" crisis thrown in for fun! The subject of the poems varied, sometimes wildly, and I just had a blast reading them all. Broetry is a keeper in my opinion. It may not be the best collection of poems but its a book that I know will bring a smile to my face when I need it. It's clever, funny, cute, and just plain fun! And yes, it can be educational because it does show some of different examples of poetic writing. I also think it will accomplish its goal and hit home with its target audience: the men in the world who could care less about the poetry they had to read in school...this may be the book to get them =)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday [87] - Born Wicked


A Great and Terrible Beauty meets Cassandra Clare in this spellbinding fantasy.

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they're witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word . . . especially after she finds her mother's diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family's destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren't safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

Reason: I need some more witchcraft in my life and I love the dramatic pull of the synopsis. It sounds like it could have a lot of potential to be an engaging and exciting YA series =)

Cover Discussion: Eye-catching and pretty. I like the addition the flowers make on the model and the colors are vibrant. Great job!

Expected Release DateFebruary 7th

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Teaser Tuesday [65] - Catriona

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

-Grab your current read
-Let the book fall open to a random page.
-Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12
-You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given.
-Please avoid spoilers!


Her voice was muffled. "I'm not ashamed."
"What is it then?"
She hesitated and then spoke. "I've never slept beside a man before. 'Tis an awkward feeling, and I don't know what to do."

**Find out more about Teaser Tuesday at Join in the fun!**

Monday, September 19, 2011

Winner Announcement

The winner of To Die For by Sandra Byrd is:


You have until the end of Wednesday, September 20th to email me back. Thanks so much to everyone who entered!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday [86] - Blood Rights


The lacy gold mapped her entire body. A finely-wrought filigree of stars, vines, flowers, butterflies, ancient symbols and words ran from her feet, up her legs, over her narrow waist, spanned her chest and finished down her arms to the tips of her fingers.

Born into a life of secrets and service, Chrysabelle’s body bears the telltale marks of a comarré—a special race of humans bred to feed vampire nobility. When her patron is murdered, she becomes the prime suspect, which sends her running into the mortal world…and into the arms of Malkolm, an outcast vampire cursed to kill every being from whom he drinks.

Now Chrysabelle and Malkolm must work together to stop a plot to merge the mortal and supernatural worlds. If they fail, a chaos unlike anything anyone has ever seen will threaten to reign.

Reason: This pretty much sounds amazing... I can't wait to read it or hear some more thoughts on it!!

Cover Discussion: Very complex but I actually really like all the details when the cover is blown up. I think it's an eye-catcher!

Expected Release DateSeptember 27th (US)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Review: Bedbugs

Ben H. Winters

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone

Release Date: September 2011

Publisher: Quirk Books

Pages: 256 (paperback)

Author Site:

My Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Received for review from publisher
FOR RENT: Top two floors of beautifully renovated brownstone, 1300 sq. ft., 2BR 2BA, eat-in kitchen, one block to parks and playgrounds. No broker’s fee.

Susan and Alex Wendt have found their dream apartment.

Sure, the landlady is a little eccentric. And the elderly handyman drops some cryptic remarks about the basement. But the rent is so low, it’s too good to pass up.

Big mistake. Susan soon discovers that her new home is crawling with bedbugs . . . or is it? She awakens every morning with fresh bites, but neither Alex nor their daughter Emma has a single welt. An exterminator searches the property and turns up nothing. The landlady insists her building is clean. Susan fears she’s going mad—until a more sinister explanation presents itself: she may literally be confronting the bedbug problem from Hell.


Bedbugs is creepy, creepy, creepy! But oh so good... It isn't just a thriller/horror story. Bedbugs instills a sense of paranoia that I found frightening. The reader doesn't quite know whether to trust the state of mind of the main character which always makes an interesting read.

The characters were very realistic, which I appreciated. Susan has recently left her legal aid job to pursue her artistic dreams while leaving it to her husband, Alex, to take care of the financial obligations. They have a young daughter, Emma, who is very bright and energetic. A nanny comes by to help Susan so she can concentrate on the housework and her artwork. The family has been trying to find the right place to move to for some time and they find their dream apartment when they least expect it. I liked the landlord and her eccentricity...but there are sinister things going on in "too-good-to-be-true-land". Susan's family, her life, and her sanity are soon in a danger Susan never, ever thought to encounter.

I admit I was a little annoyed by all the modern references, especially in the beginning of the book. I felt the author didn't need to constantly name everything the characters used, i.e. Craigslist,  Ray-Bans, Facebook, etc  I just didn't feel that I needed to know every brand name the author could slap onto the pages...It was just unncessary in my opinion...But I quickly got over it as I got more into the plot of the story. I loved how realistic everything was. Bed bugs are scary, period. The stigma concerning bed bugs is very real and I hate to admit I may even contribute to it. I liked how the reader was able to witness all of suffering that took place in Susan's life and her relationships because of what was happening to her. There are many points in the story where Susan's state of mind is (with good reason) questioned. I couldn't help but imagine what I would do in her position and I honestly didn't even want to...

The ending was very good, I wasn't quite expecting it...I liked that I was kept on the "edge of my seat" during parts of the story. I'm a fan of Ben's work. It's unique and different and I like that. I'm looking forward to seeing what he dishes out next. I think Bedbugs will be a smashing hit with thriller will leave you itching for more...!! Haha, sorry I had to do it =D

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Book Arrivals

For Review:

Friday, September 02, 2011

Friday Finds [58]

I usually add a lot of books on my TBR list throughout the week. This is just a small glimpse into the ones that were added on recently. Maybe you'll find something you like =)

Please let me know your thoughts on a book you've read from the list. Or tell me about a good book you've found this week.

My Finds This Week:

The Wild Hunt :: Elizabeth Chadwick
Plague of the Dead :: Z.A. Recht
Vampire Rising (Alex Van Helsing, #1) :: Jason Henderson
Pulse (Pulse, #1) :: Kailin Gow
The Ghost and the Goth (The Ghost and the Goth, #1) :: Stacey Kade
Abandon (Abandon Trilogy, #1) :: Meg Cabot

Blood Soup :: Kelly A. Harmon
Starstruck :: Cyn Balog
Fall for Anything :: Courtney Summers

The Goose Girl (The Books of Bayern, #1) :: Shannon Hale
Edge of Sight (The Guardian Angelinos, #1) :: Roxanne St. Claire
Trapped :: Michael Northrop

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