Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Organic Dog Biscuit Cookbook by the Bubba Rose Biscuit Company


Those of you who visit here often know I love dogs (and cats) and that they are an important part of my life.

The Organic Dog Biscuit Cookbook coverFor that reason, I was intrigued when I saw a cookbook devoted just to making wholesome treats for dogs. I had to know more. Thanks to the lovely Alyssa at Cider Mill Press, I had the opportunity to review the cookbook. Here are my thoughts on this fun cookbook you shouldn’t miss if you have a dog in your life.

THE ORGANIC DOG BISCUIT COOKBOOK by the Bubba Rose Biscuit Company

For many the family dog is way more than just a pet, it’s a member of the family. So it’s no surprise that special care is given to finding the right food for them. As people become more concerned about the preservatives and additives in their own food, they are also worrying about what their dogs eat.

But what about the treats that dogs so love? Well, the Bubba Rose Biscuit Company has created the most delightful and useful cookbook to aid in this matter – THE ORGANIC DOG BISCUIT COOKBOOK. This fully revised and updated edition offers over 100 tail-wagging recipes.

The charming hardcover cookbook is divided into six chapters and includes resources, a recipe index and a sidebar index. In addition, there is an introduction section that details the helpful tools of the trade you’ll need to prepare the recipes (simple items you’ll probably already have on hand), as well as substitutions, storage tips, and much more beneficial advice.

Here’s an example of one of the various chapters. Chapter 1 (Forget-Me-Nots) offers a unique recipe for each month of the year making it a special time for your four-legged fur baby. For instants, while the humans are enjoying Halloween candy your dog can enjoy Pumpkin Bites.

The recipes are simple and easy to prepare. Many of the recipes contain only a few ingredients and can be prepared and ready for tasting within an hour. While the main ingredients include such items as oat flour or brown rice flour, most can be found in the specialty/organic aisle of your grocery store.

‘Snickerdoodles’ was the first recipe I decided to try. After purchasing the oat flour and brown rice flour, I had the other five ingredients (cinnamon, egg, honey, vanilla, and water) already on hand. The recipe was quick and easy to fix. When the treats cooled, I offered a taste to our three English Shepherds. They sniffed, tentatively tasted and then devoured the treats

They love the new treats and I love the fact that they are good for them and contain no additives or preservatives. In fact, the treats looks so good you might be tempted to try one yourself. Since they are made with all natural ingredients that you normally cook with, why not?

THE ORGANIC DOG BISCUIT COOKBOOK is beautifully designed with 224 pages. There are no color photos of the finished treats, but charming dog illustrations throughout the book. With a handy bookmarker attached, you’ll never lose your place when making treats for your four-legged babies. This helpful and informative cookbook is a must-have for dog lovers.
 
The Bubba Rose Biscuit Company’s website is http://www.bubbarose.com/

The Organic Dog Biscuit Cookbook by the Bubba Rose Biscuit Company, Revised & Updated, Cider Mill Press, @2014, ISBN: 978-1604334654, Hardcover, 224 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Do you make treats for the four-legged fur babies in your life? BTW: I tried to get some photos of Jeremiah, Eli and Sundance enjoying the treats, but they gobble the treats up so fast it was a blur.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

When You Are Mine Autism Awareness Blitz (+Giveaway)Enter a post title


I’m honored today to be participating in author Kennedy Ryan’s WHEN YOU ARE MINE AUTISM AWARENESS BLITZ which runs through end of the month and April is Autism Awareness Month.

WYAM10.1Kennedy’s novel, WHEN YOU ARE MINE debuts through Grand Central/Forever Yours June 17. This book deal has given her the opportunity to marry two of her passions:  Writing and Autism Advocacy. 

Kennedy’s son was diagnosed with Autism 11 years ago, and she started a foundation for Georgia families living with Autism about six years ago. She is partnering with a national organization, Talk About Curing Autism (TACA), and 25% of her personal royalties will go toward resourcing families with Autism.

In honor of Autism Awareness month, Kennedy is offering a giveaway and she’s sharing just a little about her journey with autism. The giveaway is for two gift cards, several books from Forever authors, and Godiva chocolate goodness! Please see the end of the post for more giveaway details.

A Message From Kennedy Ryan 

April is Autism Awareness month. That might not even register on some people's radars, but my family has lived with Autism for the last 11 years, since my son was diagnosed. My book WHEN YOU ARE MINE releases June 17 and provides a unique opportunity for me to combine my passion for writing and Autism advocacy. I'm donating 25% of my royalties from this book to resourcing families living with Autism.  

Learn more about Autism and the 1 in 68 children diagnosed from my charitable partner,
Talk About Curing Autism (TACA).

Celebrate all the gladiators out there - kids, adults, families, siblings - living with Autism by entering the Autism Awareness Giveaway! Great cause! Great prizes!

Thank you!
Kennedy Ryan

You can connect with Kennedy at the following sites: Twitter, Facebook, Website, Amazon, B&N, and Goodreads.

Here’s a brief blurb about WHEN YOU ARE MINE - Book 1 Bennett's Trilogy:

Forever is a heartbeat away . . .
        Kerris Moreton knows how to make things work. Bounced from foster home to foster home as a kid, she adapted; when opportunity arose, she thrived. Now, about to open her own business and accept a marriage proposal, Kerris is ready to build the life she's always wanted. The only thing missing? A passionate connection with her would-be fiancĂ©, Cam. Kerris wants to believe that sparks are overrated-until Walsh Bennett lights her up like the Fourth of July.
. . . but what about love?
        As one of the East Coast's most eligible bachelors, Walsh enjoys financial independence, fulfilling work with his family's nonprofit, and plenty of female attention. But lately he's been distracted by the one woman he can't have. Lovely to look at and even sweeter to know, Kerris is the soul mate Walsh never thought he would find. The problem is, his best friend found her first . . .


GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

This giveaway is for a $25 Amazon Gift Card, a $25 iTunes Gift Card, several books from Forever authors, and Godiva chocolate goodness! To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. It may take a few second for the widget to appear, please be patient.

Thanks so much for stopping by today and participating in this AUTISM AWARENESS BLITZ. Do you know of any other wonderful organizations that help with autism? a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Author J.T. Patten talks about Safe Havens: Shadow Masters



It’s my pleasure to welcome ‘new-to-me’ author J.T. Patten here today to talk about his recently release, SAFE HAVENS: SHADOW MASTERS, the first installment in his Safe Havens Black Ops series.

Here’s a brief synopsis of this new thriller:

Father, Husband, Warrior. Target.
      Sean Havens served the government black ops underworld for over twenty years. He lived and operated through corporate cut-outs and within the dark recesses of humanity to protect the country he loved. But when the family he loved was unprotected by his country, Havens' clandestine double life follows him home colliding two very separate worlds.
      As a corrupt oversight-exempt program drives him to soldier on, Havens struggles to hold on to what he has left of a now distanced life. Shock awaits as he learns who is friend or foe in the obscure domestic battlefield. To find sanctuary, he must navigate the intertwined shadows of conspiracy, underhanded proxy surrogate schemes, staged terror attacks, and a long thought to be disbanded CIA rival--The Pond.
      If Havens survives as both protector and punisher, will his righteous soul be among the body count? Few will find safe haven amidst those seeking revenge and refuge within the twisted wreckage of covert eliminations and espionage set-ups. 

J.T. has graciously answered some questions for me about his book and his writing. Please join me in welcoming J.T.

Mason - As readers, we always wonder where book ideas come from. What inspired you to write this book?

J.T.:
My professional career has entailed developing creative solutions to wicked problem sets. Within government and military experience, I applied a lot of that creativity into innovative plans for some rather unconventional outcomes. Marrying that with an interest in reading thrillers, has developed a lot of fun book ideas that constantly race through my mind. I remember reading a Stephen King interview while I was still in grade school about what scares him most that helps inspire some of his horror writings. He had some very vivid descriptions. I’d say that the Safe Havens series applies a lot of what scares me most in operational planning and what would happen if an x,y, or z situation came knocking on my personal life. I have put some of those fears to the pages. I can’t say that I was hugely compelled to write this or that, but as I keyed the story on my laptop the reality of what I have seen, what happens to soldiers, and what gets compounded with lies and deceit, pretty much unfolded itself.

Mason - What type of research did you do for this book?

J.T.:
For the first Safe Havens book, SHADOW MASTERS, not much research went into it. I was traveling and often wrote in locations where I had limited internet connectivity, few resources, and sparing time. The opening chapter, which is a complex crime scene, required some technical research. Oddly, it became so technical that some of my beta readers lost interest right away. I ended up back to what I knew with the exception of some details of forensics and medical jargon. The rest of the book was what I know, albeit what I am allowed to share. Then again, in fiction, there is a lot of creative license. For the next book in the series, PRIMED CHARGE, I had to put a bit more effort into researching Thailand, explosives, and some political ties with foreign nations that were outside of my immediate knowledge base.

Mason - Are you inspired by actual people for your book?

J.T.:
I can’t think of any one character who is a full embodiment of a particular person in my life. Most characters in SHADOW MASTERS take on some traits of people who could fit the shoes. My wife’s friends have been challenged when reading the book to not envision our home as the scene and my wife as one of the characters. And frankly, some wonder if there are unknown parts of me who are manifested in Sean Havens. It’s really a hodge-podge. How Sean may respond to his wife and vice versa may sound familiar to some because that’s all I know, or what comes naturally in my relationship experience. It’s subliminal or fanciful. I’d say throughout the novel, I may take ten percent of reality and then I twist it all up in a number of shapes, sizes, and other characteristics that a reader may find interesting or whom they can relate to.

Mason - Have you always wanted to write or was there an event that lead you to writing?

J.T.:
I have been writing articles and work products for most of my career. They could be rather constraining based on the style and guidelines that were required. As a kid, I loved creative writing. When I decided to try and pen a novel, it really was enjoyable and I found a new passion. I’d love to write more, or even full time, but there is a certain economic hitch to it that I have yet to overcome.

Mason - If you could write a book with any author (living or dead) who would it be and what type of book would you like to write?

J.T.:
This is a no brainer. I have a back-burner project called Mister Mortimer. It is about a ninety-year old Nazi hunter who had been a victim of the heinous medical experiments of the concentration camps. There are so many directions that I can take this that I would love to have the master, Stephen King, guide me through it. I could develop it in the style of Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, it could go horror, or it could be pulp. I’d like to see it pulp but in a multi-layered plot that a Tarantino could play with for big screen. But bottom line, King would be the person.

Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?

J.T.:
I’m writing SAFE HAVENS: PRIMED CHARGE right now as fast as I can. It is hard to balance writing time now since I am traveling less and pay the bills with other full time work. As an indie, I also have to market SAFE HAVENS: SHADOW MASTERS so I can pay off the cost of the editor, advertising, and other related expenses.

PRIMED CHARGE should really resonate with the current readers and reach a wider audience. The book will still have that non-linear plot line that appeals to some of the more cerebral fans, it will tie family and emotions again, we of course have our underdog — Sean Havens, recurring characters both good and evil, and since I have already covered the background story, the pedal is going down to the floor, which will quicken the pace throughout. I have not decided on how much breathing I will allow the reader. I want to emotionally give the reader tears, breath holding, shouting at the book, and addiction, so they love the book but hate me for writing it in such a roller coaster way.
 
J.T., thanks so much for joining us today and answering these questions. It’s always a delight to get the backstory of how a book comes about.

Now here’s some background on J.T.

J.T. Patten has worked with the intelligence and special operations community in support of national defense and policy. He has a degree in Foreign Language, a Masters in Strategic Intelligence, graduate studies in Counter Terrorism from the University of St. Andrews, and numerous expertise certifications in forensics, fraud, and financial crime investigations. 

J.T. shares these unique experiences with readers to give them a taste of "the black."

For more on J.T. and his writing, visit his website and connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Hi all, thanks so much for stopping by today. Do you enjoy reading about ‘back ops’ or do the stories get too technical for you? I leave you today with a book trailer for J.T.’s SAFE HAVENS: SHADOW MASTERS for your viewing pleasure and to tempt you a bit more to read this fascinating thriller.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Murder in the Worst Degree On Tour (+Contest)

 

I’m delighted to be participating in author F.M. Meredith’s virtual book tour for her recent release, MURDER IN THE WORST DEGREE, the latest installment in her Rocky Bluff Police Department series.

As part of the tour, F.M. (aka Marilyn Meredith) is holding a unique contest. Be sure to check the end of the post for details.

Here’s a brief synopsis of MURDER IN THE WORST DEGREE:

        The body that washes up on the beach leads Detectives Milligan and Zachary on a murder investigation that includes the victim’s family members, his housekeeper, three long-time friends, and a mystery woman.

Here are my thoughts on this fun cozy murder mystery.

MURDER IN THE WORST DEGREE by F.M. Meredith

It’s always fun to return to author F.M. Meredith’s fictional town of Rocky Bluff where you’re bound to find an intriguing murder, typical crime and delightful characters to re-connect with.

Murder in the Worst DegreeIn the latest installment, MURDER IN THE WORST DEGREE, the body of a wealthy, elderly man – Harlan Knight – washes ashore. It’s up to Detectives Doug Milligan and Felix Zachary to find out what really happened to him. During their investigation, they find out the son, grandson, daughter, housekeeper, and housekeeper’s son stand to inherit with Knight’s death. They also discover Knight’s three Marine buddies and a mysterious secret girlfriend are also included in the will.

Meanwhile, a serial rapist seems to be on the loose in Rocky Bluff. When one of his victims gets a look at his face, the description she gives officers looks a lot like one of their own.

As the officers are dealing with the daily problems of crime, they are also adjusting to a new police chief. Changes are being made by Chief Chandra Taylor and the officers aren’t quite sure what to make of them or her.

The author has created a cast of characters that are likable and realistic. She blends the ongoing police activities with each of the officers’ home life creating a well-balanced story. Meredith combines a number of activities together demonstrating how small towns handle the pressure of rising crime with budget cuts and the shortage of manpower.

MURDER IN THE WORST DEGREE moves at a fast pace and holds the reader’s attention with a number of twists and turns. While this is the 10th installment in the series, it can be read on its own.

The story is an enjoyable cozy murder mystery that will have you laughing and guessing as officers get closer to the real killer.

Murder in the Worst Degree by F.M. Meredith, A Rocky Bluff Police Department Novel Book #10, Dark Oak Mysteries, @2014, ISBN: 978-1610091459, Paperback, 176 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the author as part of her virtual book tour in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

F. M. Meredith (aka Marilyn Meredith) is the author of over 35 published books. She enjoys writing about police officers and their families and how what happens on the job affects the family and vice versa. Having several members of her own family involved in law enforcement, as well as many friends, she’s witnessed some of this first-hand. 

For more on Marilyn and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on her blog, Facebook and Amazon Author's Page.

CONTEST DETAILS:

Marilyn is once again offering readers the opportunity to have their names used for a character in one of her upcoming books. To win the contest, you have to comment on the most blogs during this tour for MURDER IN THE WORST DEGREE

Tomorrow you can find Marilyn here: http://sweetnotspicy.blogspot.com/. For other stops on the tour, CLICK HERE.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. What kind of character would you like to be, if you were in a mystery murder story?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Baseball, Baseball, Baseball, Indy 500 and Happy Easter



When it comes to sports, I’m a somewhat typical girl – I don’t really care that much for it. (Sorry for the gender hypothesis.) I can watch the various types of sporting events and sometimes even get interested in it. But, I’m not what you would call a big diehard fan that has to watch every game. Well, maybe that not completely true. I do enjoy football and have been known to follow some teams pretty close.

Anyway, I’m getting away from the topic at hand – baseball and Indy racing. These are two sports that strike fun and pride in many a heart. Fans follow the players and racers with much enthusiasm. Today I have four books I want to tell you about that every sports fan should have in their library. I found the historical aspects of the books quite intriguing.

St. Martin’s Press and Thomas Dunne Books (a division of St. Martin’s Press) are gearing up for the baseball season with three intriguing books dealing with major players and how the game is played. In addition, Thomas Dune Books is offering a fascinating look at a dark day in Indy racing history. Let’s start with that.


Black Noon coverThe 48th running of the Indianapolis 500 took place 50 years ago on Memorial Day weekend, 1964. It would prove not to be a celebration of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, but rather, the darkest day in the event’s history.

A.J. Foyt was the winner of the race that day, but as acclaimed writer Art Garner details in his terrific narrative history of the events of May 30, 1064, BLACK NOON: The Year They Stopped the Indy 500, tragedy was the tone set early in the race and remained throughout.

A fiery, seven-car crash, along the straight-away on the second lap of the race took the lives of racers Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald. The result was that for the first time in the nearly-half century of the race, the Indy 500 was stopped. It was obvious to all that day that this crash was truly horrendous. When the announcement came from the track announcing that Sachs had died in the crash, it inspired an impromptu on-air eulogy from radio announcer Sid Collins. When MacDonald died a few hours later from the terrible burns he suffered, the true magnitude of the day was forever etched in the minds of all in attendance.

BLACK NOON brings readers behind the scenes of the events leading up to that fateful day. Informed by extensive interviews including six of the seven surviving racers, Garner brings to life the greatest names in racing – A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, and Bobby Unser. Readers will learn of the car designs and manufacturers, the race strategy of the teams, and the psyche of the men who lived for a need for speed. MacDonald, for instance, drove a Mickey Thompson designed rear-engine car that other drivers were leery of getting behind the wheel.

The conclusion of the tragic race saw sweeping reforms to all of racing and Indy in particular. In a sport where the specter of death looms on every curve there really is no way to make the race completely free of risk. The events of May 30, 1064, cast a spotlight on how suddenly the tragic side of auto racing can rear its ugly head. 

Unique aspects of the 1964 Indianapolis 500
· Winner A.J. Foyt was the last driver to win Indy in a front-engined roadster.
· Foyt went the entire race without once changing tires.
· The 1964 race was the first one shown live, flag-to-flag, on closed circuit TV in theatres around the U.S.
· Since 1965 all Indy race cars are rear-engined formula-style cars.
· The 1964 Indy 500 was the last race before the switch from gasoline to methanol.

BLACK NOON: The Year They Stopped the Indy 500
By Art Garner
On Sale: May 6, 2014
Price: $27.99
Pages: 352 plus 8-pages black and white photo insert
ISBN: 978-1250017772
A THOMAS DUNNE BOOK


Brooks coverFrom 1955-1977, opponents of the Baltimore Orioles knew that they were at the plate, the crack of the bat and a sharp hit ball down the third baseline, invariably meant … an out. Many a stand-up double died in the vacuum glove and pinpoint arm of third baseman and Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson.

In an era of baseball heroes that truly could be looked up to with respect, Brooks Robinson stood out among the crowd. Doug Wilson, a member of the Society for Baseball Research (SABR), and lifelong fanatic of the game, returns to baseball’s Golden Era to pen what is truly the first complete biography of the Orioles quiet gentleman superstar in BROOKS: The Biography of Brooks Robinson.

Robinson grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, to a family that instilled a sense of hard work and appreciative accomplishment in him. From the beginning of his career he never took anything for granted and was devoted to improving every facet of his game. He was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, and played his entire 23 year career with the Orioles retiring as a Baltimore legend. In this day and age of free agency and salary-dump trades, that achievement alone by Robinson may never be seen again. While this loyalty is unheard of today there are so many other accomplishments as well that stand out in one of the great careers in MLB history.

BROOKS covers how the start of Robinson’s illustrious career aligned simultaneously with the birth of a franchise that would become a model of greatness in its own right. Having moved from St. Louis in 1954, the Orioles were in need of identify. When the following season saw them select a young kid from Arkansas in the player draft hopes were high he could become a building block for the franchise. What a building block he became. More than two decades later and 2 world championships (coupled with 18 All Star game appearances, 16 straight Gold Gloves, a league, World Series and All Star MVP award, and the friendly face of a franchise), it’s safe to say the Orioles were well rewarded for picking Robinson.

BROOKS takes readers back to an era when player’s salaries were hardly astronomical, often putting many players in the position of having a second job in the off season. Wilson also takes into account the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, the dawn of free agency, and labor unrest that would change the game and the perception of the fans. Through it all, though, Brooks Robinson remained a model of professional decorum and a player all fans could look up to.

Wilson’s efforts, through the life and career of Brooks Robinson, reminds up there is a right way for a man to go about his job both in the public eye and behind the scenes. Playing the game the right way and honoring what it means to wear a major league team’s uniform has been the hallmark of the life and career of one of the game’s greatest players and greatest gentlemen: Brooks Robinson.

BROOKS: The Biography of Brooks Robinson
By Doug Wilson
On Sale: March 4, 2014
Price: $26.99
Pages: 352
ISBN: 978-1250033048
A Thomas Dunne Book


Throwback coverTHROWBACK is an inside look at big-league baseball and how the game is actually played – as opposed to how we think it’s played – from the perspective of three-time All Star major league catcher Jason Kendall.

Written with the Kansas City Star’s Lee Judge, whose website, ‘Judging the Royals,’ has an enormous following, the book shows baseball fans what to look for when they watch a game. In talking with Jason Kendall, Judge discovered that despite a fan most of his life, and covering the game for many years, there are enormous differences in how ballplayers see the game from sportswriters and fans.

Kendall and Judge take the reader through all the details the manager and his coaching staff have to pay attention to including game preparation for pitchers, catchers, infielders, and outfielders. They discuss the strategy of calling pitches, advancing the runner, how hitters and runners have to prepare and focus.

The language of the game vividly comes to life for the reader. Most fans know that coming after a hitter means the pitcher is aggressively throwing fastballs to the batter, but what does squeezing refer to when players say it? Station to station is easy – advancing a base runner one base at a time, but what do the players mean when they say getting big? And then there’s the non-verbal side of the game the players and coaches use like their own foreign language. All the answers and inside tips to this secret signage are all told with great humor, care and respect for the game by the authors.

THROWBACK is loaded with all the insider signs and lingo of the game, as told by one of the straightest straight shooters to play in the majors. After devouring this book you will feel like a major leaguer, even if you might never get the bat head around on a big league curve ball. This is one of the more unique and fun baseball books to come along in ages and fans of all levels of the game will love every page.

THROWBACK: A Big-League Catcher Tells How the Game is Really Played
By Jason Kendall and Lee Judge
On Sale: May 13, 2014
Price: $25.99
Pages: 304
ISBN: 978-1250031839
A St. Martin’s Press Book


Stars and Strikes coverWhen our nation celebrated its 200th birthday in 1976, it marked a year in which the United States hadn’t been involved in an active war for over 12 years, the radio airways saw an overflow of songs dedicated mostly to carnal pleasures, TV comedies started getting a little more daring, clothes became more outrageous with disco on the horizon, and baseball saw a re-birth like it hadn’t experienced in decades. Award-winning journalist and esteemed pop culture chronicler Dan Epstein takes the reader back in time to an amazing year of baseball – amazingly wonderful and amazing crazy – in STARS AND STRIKES: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76.

By the 1976 season, baseball was beginning to be defined by big afros and long hair, by cookie-cutter multi-purpose stadiums that truly did look exactly alike, and by more than one team donning some of the most hideous looking uniforms the game has ever witnessed. Oh, and Astroturf, way too much Astroturf. The ’76 season also saw a clash between the last feel-good moments and outrageous personalities of the game as well as the looming labor angst and the full onset of wide open free agency. Change had subtly been taking place, but by the end of that 1976 season much of the game’s innocence would be lost forever and baseball would never be the same again.

Each chapter of STARS AND STRIKES is titled for a famous song of that year and the baseball exploits covered therein truly follows the theme of the songs themselves. Along with baseball coverage, Epstein also highlights the events of the world around the game of baseball: Olympic exploits, a new President signaling the end of the Watergate era, busing riots, the trial of heiress Patty Hearst, the tragic Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak in Philadelphia, and so many more.

STARS AND STRIKES: Baseball and American in the Bicentennial Summer of ‘76
By Dan Epstein
On Sale: April 29, 2014
Price: $ 28.99
Pages: 400 plus an 8-page black and white photo insert
ISBN: 978-1250034380
A Thomas Dunne Book
Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you are having a safe and joyous holiday (whether you celebrate Easter or not). If you’re a sports fan, I hope these books grab your attention. If you’re not a sports fan, maybe the history aspect will draw you in. Do you think baseball (and sports in general) has changed for the better or worse?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O’Neal


THE ALL YOU CAN DREAM BUFFET by Barbara O’Neal The All You Can Dream Buffet coveroffers readers/listeners a smorgasbord of emotions to digest as the story unfolds.

Narrator Joyce Bean does an excellent job bringing the various characters to life, each with their own unique voice. With her cadence and mannerisms, Bean is able to switch genders with ease as well as various age groups. She adds depth to the author’s work.

This is a delightful story about four blogging friends and how one birthday celebration changed all of their lives forever. The story explores how the four women – so diverse in backgrounds, age and location – could become so close forming their own unique family unit.

Lavender Willis, owner and operator of Lavender Honey Farms, is determined to keep her organic farm thriving after she’s gone. A food blogger, Lavender turns to her three closest online friends (also food bloggers) for help. She invites them to her 85th birthday bash in hopes of finding someone to carry on her legacy.

The other foodies include: Ginny, a cake baker and photographer, who lives in Kansas, has never been anywhere, and whose marriage is crumbling. Ruby, a vegan and organic lover, is young, pregnant and shattered after her boyfriend of six years walks out on her. Val, wine enthusiast and former dancer, is trying to make a new life for herself and her teenage daughter after tragedy took her husband and two other daughters.

While you may be able to figure out how some of this story plays out ahead of time, it’s the emotions and energy getting there that will stay with you. The author presents the characters in such a way you want to be friends with them. Their dreams and hopes are inspiring. If you are a blogger, you can especially relate to some of the issues they deal with and dream of achieving their success.

O’Neal’s vivid descriptions of the lavender fields and farm activities draws you in. Her rich accounts of the foodies journeys to the farm makes you feel you’re along for the ride. The story will have you laughing, crying, worrying, dreaming, wondering and planning.

THE ALL YOU CAN DREAM BUFFET serves up a delicious read that is entertaining and inspiring. The only pet peeve I have with it, what happened to Willow?

The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O’Neal, Performed by Joyce Bean, Brilliance Audio, @2014, ISBN: 978-1480511774, Unabridged, 9 Discs, Listening Time: 11 Hours 

FTC Full Disclosure - This audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Are you a food blogger? Do you follow any food blogs? What about lavender, do you enjoy the smell of it?

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Whole Cat and Caboodle (+Giveaway)

It’s a pleasure to welcome author Sofie Ryan to Thoughts in Progress today to talk about THE WHOLE CAT AND CABOODLE, the first book in her new Second Chance Cat Mystery series.

The cover of this brand new series is so inviting, but it may be missing something. Sofie stops by to tell us what it is. In addition, thanks to Sofie and the lovely Danielle at Penguin Group, I have a print copy of THE WHOLE CAT AND CABOODLE to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for the details.

Here’s a brief synopsis of this fun book:

        Sarah Grayson runs Second Chance, a repurpose shop in North Harbor, Maine. When her beloved grandmother volunteers Sarah to teach one of her do-it-yourself workshops for free to a group of seniors, Sarah ends up discovering the body of Arthur Fenety. She also reconnects with hunky Nick Elliot, an investigator for the medical examiner’s office.
        It turns out the charming, silver haired Fenety was a con artist with a string of wives and fiancĂ©s, who were all left a lot poorer after their time with the man. Since he’d been in North Harbor, Fenety had been seeing Madeline Hamilton, and when the police arrest Maddie for Fenety’s murder, her friends — including Nick’s mother, Charlotte — decide to investigate.
        Sarah has never forgotten how kind Maddie was when Sarah’s father died, and she refuses to believe the older woman could hurt anyone. Before she knows it, Sarah and her would-be detectives, with some help from Mr. P., a geriatric computer whiz, and Elvis, a cat with an uncanny nose for sniffing out the truth, are on the trail of a cold-hearted killer.

Please join me in welcoming Sofie, who is going to tell us about ‘Cats, Dogs, and Buxom Blondes.’

What do you have against dogs, an email I got a couple of weeks ago began. There are never any dogs in your books. For the record, there is one dog in my Magical Cats series that I write as Sofie Kelly, a German shepherd named Boris, but so far, there’s only a cat, Elvis, in the Second Chance Cat mysteries. No dogs, no fish, no gerbils. 

And for the record, I don’t have anything against dogs even though I am a cat person. Two houses from mine there’s a wonderful golden retriever named Mona. When I go out to shovel she comes over to keep me company. We’ve spent a lot of time together this winter. All the cats in the neighborhood have the good sense to stay inside when it snows.

Before I became a writer I was a late night disk jockey. Back in the early 80s, tuned in to the right place on the 9780451419941_medium_The_Whole_Cat_and_Caboodledial, you would have heard my voice in between songs from the Rolling Stones and Air Supply. I even had my own fan club of sorts. Yes, my fans were mostly guys. Yes, most of them had a thing for my voice and definite ideas about how I looked. And they were almost always disappointed when they finally saw me in person. You see it seems that on the radio, I sounded like a tall blonde. That's right, blonde. And, apparently, I also sounded… endowed.

In reality I'm a short brunette and no one would ever call me statuesque. But it never failed. I'd be out doing a public appearance, and at least one man would come up to me and say, “But I thought you were blonde,” in a voice that was a mix of annoyance and disappointment. And he’d never be looking at my face when he said it.

I learned a lot of things working in radio. I heard an amazing number of swear words used in some pretty creative ways. (I worked with seven guys.) I could give you a list of one-hit wonders. I could tell you more than you probably want to know about the Rolling Stones and Air Supply. And I learned that you're never going to make everyone happy. Some days you're not going to make anyone happy. Still, I hope you like the first book in the Second Chance Cat mysteries, THE WHOLE CAT AND CABOODLE. And it’s okay if you’re not a cat person. Trust me. Not everyone likes Air Supply, either.

Sofie, thanks so much for joining us today. It’s funny that a reader wanted a dog in your book. I don’t think I’ve ever considered someone’s hair color just by listening to their voice, interesting.

Here’s a bit of background on Sofie …..

Sofie Ryan is the pseudonym of young adult writer and mixed-media artist, Darlene Ryan. Sofie/Darlene lives on the east coast with her husband and daughter. In her spare time she practices Wu style tai chi and likes to prowl around thrift stores. And she admits to having a small crush on Matt Lauer.
For more on Sofie, visit her website.

Now for my thoughts on 


When a spunky cat is among the main characters in a book, I can’t resist.
In author Sofie Ryan’s THE WHOLE CAT AND CABOODLE, a lovable black cat named Elvis is front and center. Elvis is cared for by Sarah Grayson, owner of Second Chances, a repurpose shop.

Sarah is busy with her shop and doing volunteer workshops at the senior center. When one of her grandmother’s friends – Madeline Hamilton – is arrested for murdering her boyfriend, Sarah steps up to help (if nothing else than to keep her grandmother and her friends out of trouble). It seems the boyfriend, Arthur Fenetry, had a good many wives, even more girlfriends and was busy scamming everyone.

Sarah, aided by Elvis and a group of zany seniors, searches for the real killer amid a few twists and turns.

The author has developed a group of realistic characters with likable personalities and humor. She combines the various age groups in a loving and respectable manner. Ryan blends the suspense of the murder, the mystery of the killer and the light-hearted humor of her characters into a well-balanced read.

The setting of North Harbor, Maine, is quaint and inviting. Ryan’s vivid descriptions brings the area to life.

You don’t have to be a cat lover to enjoy THE WHOLE CAT AND CABOODLE. But if you are a cat lover, you’ll enjoy the antics of Elvis. This is an energizing start to a fun-loving new series that promises to regale cozy mystery lovers.

The Whole Cat and Caboodle by Sofie Ryan, Second Chance Cat Mystery Book #1, Signet, @2014, ISBN: 978-0451419941, Paperback, 336 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

This giveaway is for one print copy of THE WHOLE CAT AND CABOODLE and is open to residents of the U.S. only. To enter the giveaway, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. It may take the widget a few seconds to load, please be patient.

Thanks so much for stopping by today and visiting. Do you enjoy visiting repurpose shops? Have you made any great finds while shopping at such a store?
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Murder on Bamboo Lane on Tour (+Giveaway)



It’s my pleasure to welcome author Naomi Hirahara to Thoughts in Progress today to talk about her latest release, MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE, the first installment in her new Officer Ellie Rush Mystery series.

Naomi joins us to tell where Ellie Rush came from and I’ll share my thoughts on this fun new series. In addition, Naomi is giving away a print copy of MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE. Please see the end of the post for the giveaway details.

Here’s a brief synopsis of MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE:

Trouble awaits rookie LAPD Officer Ellie Rush as she patrols the mean streets of Los Angeles on her bicycle…
      Bike cop Ellie Rush dreams of becoming a homicide detective, but it’s still a shock when the first dead body she encounters on the job is that of a former college classmate.
      At the behest of her Aunt Cheryl, the highest-ranking Asian-American officer in the LAPD (a source of pride for Ellie’s grandmother, but annoyance to her mom), Ellie becomes tangled in the investigation of the coed’s murder—with equal parts help and hindrance from her nosy best friend, her over-involved ex-boyfriend, a smoldering detective, and seemingly everyone else in her extended family…only to uncover secrets that a killer may go to any lengths to ensure stay hidden.  


Please join me in welcoming Naomi to talk about ‘Finding Ellie Rush.’

For the past five mystery novels, I’ve been in the head of a man significantly older than me (although as the years pass, that gap is closing in!). His name is Mas Arai, a gardener in Southern California, Hiroshima survivor, and, of course, a reluctant detective. Mas was modeled after my father and men like him – working class and seemingly ordinary on the outside, but with intricate secrets and strength within.

In April of this year, I’m embarking on a very different mystery protagonist, Ellie Rush. She’s, well, first female and considerably younger, 23 years of age. And the biggest challenge for me – she’s a bicycle cop with the LAPD assigned to downtown Los Angeles’s central core.

Don’t ask me the last time I’ve ridden a bicycle, but take my word for it, I can. And in terms of shooting a gun, I have. In 2011, the same year my beloved father was battling terminal stomach cancer, I participated in a Southern California-based ATF Citizens Academy once a week for two months. There we learned about the hidden perils of cigarette smuggling (usually this crime is linked to more dangerous international gang syndicates), the adventures of going undercover, and how to follow an arson trail. 

9780425264959_medium_Murder_on_Bamboo_LaneProviding a brief break from sharing caregiving duties with my mother, these sessions let me escape into the shoes of someone completely different from me. We even donned earpieces and stuffed wireless radios in our jackets to do surveillance at a local mall, wore bulletproof jackets and aimed pellet guns inside an abandoned office which, for our pretend purposes, was supposed to be harboring suspects, and finally went to an outdoor gun range, where we shot firearms of various sizes.

The biggest eye-opener for me is how essential it is for law enforcement officers to work together as a team. But what about the lone rogue detective that we see so much on TV, the movies, and novels? In crashing a drug pad, often the Number Two ATF man or woman has to pull the collar of the person in front. “Hey, not so fast!”

As a lover of basketball, I could totally relate to team coordination. Everyone has a certain role and purpose. I had always viewed law enforcement as powered by adrenalin and emotion, but for it to work properly, quite the opposite is true.

During that same year, I also agreed to step in as an instructor of a UCLA undergraduate writing workshop. As I gazed at the beautiful, fresh faces of these 15 young people, I was transported to my college days, when despite a sluggish economy, we also remained optimistic about our futures.

Somehow these two experiences – the ATF Citizens Academy and the UCLA writing class – intertwined in my brain. The following year, my father passed away in a hospital bed in the room where he had watched his favorite samurai and Japanese soap opera programs on TV for decades. As I struggled with this great loss, I grappled with focusing on something new and young. Slowly this young woman, Ellie Rush, emerged – vibrant and enthusiastic, yet still wondering how she would make her mark on this world.

While the tone of the Office Ellie Rush mysteries are much lighter and breezier than my Mas Arai mysteries, there are still some common elements. I still want to take my readers on a tour of lesser known areas in my “homeland” of Los Angeles. And family and friends are important to both – although cranky Mas will not admit it publicly.

Ellie has her first mystery adventure in Chinatown, so the first book is titled MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE. Hope you might want to take a ride with her, and it won’t matter when you were last on a bicycle.

Naomi, thanks so much for sharing this look at how Ellie came to be. Your father sounds like he was a great influence in not only your life, but your writing.

Now let me share a bit of background on Naomi.

Naomi is the Edgar Award-winning author of the Mas Arai mysteries. The first book in her Officer Ellie Rush Mysteries has been released by Berkley Prime Crime and is available in both mass market and eBook format.

For more information on Naomi and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Now here are my thoughts …..

MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE by Naomi Hirahara

Being drawn into an unfamiliar setting, meeting new characters, and taking a fascinating journey are all part of the fun reading the first installment in a new series.

Author Naomi Hirahara doesn’t disappoint in her new cozy murder mystery, MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE, the first book in her Office Ellie Rush Mystery series. Hirahara introduces readers to a fun and determined young protagonist, Ellie Rush, an LAPD bike cop.

Ellie Rush may be a bike cop but when her college friend Jenny is found dead, she’s determined to help find her killer. Working with the handsome lead detective Cortez Williams, Ellie soon discovers there may be more to Jenny’s murder than first thought. The more they investigate, the more complex the case becomes taking readers on a roller coast ride of possible suspects and motives.

The author has created a well-blended cast of characters that readers will find likable, realistic and compelling. Their diverse backgrounds adds depth and richness to the story.

Readers are given a glimpse into Chinatown and various parts of L.A. through the vivid descriptions by Hirahara. Her eye for details and intricate accounts places the reader among the characters.

MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE moves at a good pace holding the reader’s attention. This is a riveting start to what promises to be an alluring new series.

Murder on Bamboo Lane by Naomi Hirahara, An Officer Ellie Rush Mystery Book #1, Berkley Prime Crime, @2014, ISBN: 978-0425264959, Paperback, 304 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the publisher as part of the author’s virtual book tour in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

This giveaway is for one print copy of MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE and is open to residents of the U.S. only. To enter the contest simply click on the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions. Be sure to include your email address in your comments, if it’s not included in your profile. The widget may take a few second to load, please be patient.

Thanks so much for stopping by today to visit with Naomi. When was the last time you rode a bicycle? Have you ever been to Chinatown?
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