Required Reading

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Books I have authored.

Many times I receive books for FREE to give them an honest review. I do not get paid to give a good or bad review. Spotlights are promotional and should be regarded as advertising for the book spotlighted. Regardless of where or how I got a book, my review will be as honest as I can make it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

City of The Dead by Daniel Blake

This is another complex mystery by Blake set in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina as a back drop

Franco Patrese is back and in New Orleans.  We met Franco in Blake’s book Thou Shalt Kill.  Franco left Pittsburgh after the horrendous events in that book and joined the FBI.  

Black uses the color and characters of New Orleans as the perfect backdrop for a series of horrific killings.  Franco finds himself far more involved than just an investigator.  

The story has voodoo and hoodo, sex and violence, snakes and politicians (unless that is a given redundancy) with big business and Mexican drug lords.   You could hardly ask for more action and head scratching trying to put it all together.   Blake is a master at sensible complexity.

Daniel Blake did an excellent job with this book. 

I highly recommend the book.

Body of work of <a type="amzn"> Daniel Blake </a>

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Friday, August 24, 2012

An Echo Through The Snow

The Single Act of Kindness That Changed Everything
College professor uncovers a rich and colorful history of a little-known population

MADISON, Wis. – It's 1992 in the Red Cliff Indian Reservation on Lake Superior and Rosalie McKenzie has several lifetimes already packed into her 18 years, including a long line of dead-end jobs and a destructive marriage. Stuck and feeling hopeless, she can only envision a bleak future for herself...until she meets Smokey.

The exquisite Siberian husky is suffering greatly from neglect, and Rosalie, moved by more than just a gut feeling, sticks her neck out and rescues him. United by a bond deeper than love, the two become a natural pair as they enter the world of competitive dogsled racing. Curious about the history behind this sport and ancient breed of canine, Rosalie digs around and discovers a rich background colored by tragedy and maybe even the supernatural.

Through of a series of mysterious events, her life begins to intertwine with that of Jeaantaa, a young Chukchi woman from eastern Siberia, who lived in the early 1900s. When Stalin's Red Army displaces the Chukchi in 1929, many were killed and others lost their homes. Jeaantaa's devotion to her Huskies, called Guardians, creates a rift with her husband and with the ancient ways of her people, and her stunning choice haunts her family for years to come.

When Rosalie's life in the present day begins to summon the spirit of Jeaantaa, all the strength and potential she failed to see in herself earlier can no longer be denied, and the two narratives meet together in a dramatic present-time conclusion.

An Echo Through The Snow (Forge, August 2012, Hardcover, $23.99) is ultimately a story about the relationship between unlikely people who forge ahead with the belief that a better world is possible.

"Much of my inspiration for this novel has come from watching my students over the years," says Thalasinos, a sociology professor. "It's been moving to note how resilient they are; how they bounce back from trauma and move on to find their lives and save themselves."

For ANDREA THALASINOS, it was the newspaper ad that changed everything. A husky puppy needed a home. Thalasnios, a sociology professor at Madison College, and naturally curious about origins, delved into research about this particular breed. What she found out about these little-known historical and political events spanning 60 years; they inspired a novel. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her own dogsled team. Find out more on

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Winner of Vince Flynn GiveAway!

The Winner of the Vince Flynn GiveAway is: Stephen from Kentucky

Thank you for participating in my GiveAway, please check back often as I frequently host GiveAways.

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Guest Post by Sandra Brannan Author of Widow's MIght

Name Game…

Names are critical to my character development.  To me, it’s the essence of the person I create.  So when I choose a name for one of my characters, it must mean something to me, symbolize who they are.  

Liv Bergen is of Norwegian heritage so her Scandinavian roots would indicate ‘Liv’ meaning ‘life’ and ‘Bergen’ meaning mountain dweller.  Liv Bergen was a miner in the mountain states of the west, so why not be ‘Life As A Mountain Dweller’?  But her given name was Genevieve, the patron saint of disasters.  How fitting, don’t you think?  Considering how Genevieve ‘Liv’ Bergen is constantly at the epicenter of everything disastrous.  Actually, St. Genevieve was a man and Liv works in a male-dominated industry, another tie to her patron saint’s name.  Finally, St. Genevieve is more accurately the patron saint for disasters, Paris, and fever.  Isn’t Paris the city of love?  And fever is the pace at which Liv operates at work and in life.  And hopefully she’s known for causing a few men to get feverish in her presence.  

Special Agent Streeter Pierce’s name was chosen because I had a bloodhound named Streeter and loved him to pieces before he was struck by a car one Christmas.  And Pierce was chosen as it means transfixed or to go into or through.  I wanted him to be completely transfixed on his work… until Liv Bergen came along. 

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Winner of Widow's Might by Sandra Brannan

 Winner is C. E. of Georgia!
This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Interview with Sandra Brannan Author of Widow's MIght

Widow’s Might is a sequel to Lot’s Return to Sodom.   As an aside, I did enjoy Lot’s Return to Sodom.   I would like to thank you for your willingness to take the time for this interview.  

1.)   This is the third book in a series.  Did you plan for Liv Bergen, your protagonist, to be a series from the beginning?

When I sat down at the keyboard many years ago, I don’t even know if I intended to write a novel.  I just flicked on my computer, turned my mind free, and readied my fingers to fly.  Liv Bergen emerged somewhere along the way and ten novels later, I decided to see if I could get a series published.  In The Belly of Jonah is actually the last of the ten novels I wrote, intending the book to start a series where the others could be edited to follow, if fans fell in love with Liv.  Thank God they did!  I have since edited only one of the other nine novels – Lot’s Return To Sodom – and am finding it’s better that Liv Bergen and her friends take me where they want to go, instead of the other way around.  Widow’s Might arose from editing Lot’s Return To Sodom, a book I’ve enjoyed writing to explore my home, the Black Hills of South Dakota.

2.) Did the series grow organically or was it a gestalt experience?

Each story is born organically.  I never force a novel from one of my crazy premises.  Instead, I let a premise tumble in my head for a few months, like a stone needing to be polished, and if it comes out a gem, I have my story.  If in the process I lose my train of thought, I figure the stone was just a stone.  A rock miner like me recognizes all stones are important, but not all stones should be mined.  They have to have a purpose.

Once I have my gem, which means I’m happy with the basic storyline, I suppose how I plan for its inclusion in the series would be considered a gestalt experience.  If the storyline doesn’t work for Liv Bergen, the gem may become a stand alone.  What is not a gestalt experience for me is writing an intended relationship between characters, like with Liv Bergen and Special Agent Streeter Pierce.   Relationships are best suited for growing organically, don’t you think?   

3.) What was the most difficult part about writing a book?

Finding time to write is the most difficult part for me.  I have so many stories that are bouncing around in my gray matter that I really don’t do them justice. I know that if I wrote every day, as many authors do and good authors should, rather than a couple times a year, I would be a much better writer.  Time for writing is a luxury for me at this point in my life and I spend every spare minute writing, rather than outlining or storyboarding or character profiling.  And I know my flaws are evident in the final pages because of the limited time I spend with these necessary endeavors.  Choices have consequences and I choose to prioritize being a mother first.  So hopefully when my youngest graduates from high school, you’ll see my writing improve.  Until then, my focus has to be on my teen. 

4.) Are you and Liv alike?

I tried very hard to keep a distance between me and my protagonists and antagonists when I began writing novels.  What I discovered was the characters became uninteresting to me because I didn’t really know them or feel their emotions.  Now when I write, I really try to become that character.  For me, writing ten pages every day doesn’t cut it.  I have to immerse myself in the story and become those characters, good and bad.  The balance in the characters becomes more interesting to me. Secluding myself for a month of weekends or a good solid week is a process that helps me get into character more easily, including the voice, the style, and the diversity.  Growing up in the woods and playing every make believe game known to mankind must have trained me for this.  So as for Liv, we share the same passion for mining, a cold Guinness, and a deep devotion to family.     

5.) What do you like the most about writing?

Two things: Seeing the end product of hard work and happy endings.  There’s no greater high in my life then typing ‘The End’ because in every other aspect of my life, I rarely get to enjoy completion.  My job is to secure reserves for future mining one hundred years from now so I have to predict where developments will grow in relation to the geology.  I’ll never know if my decisions were right but my great grandkids will.  So writing a novel is a short-term venture and thought process for me.  It feels good to complete something and know if readers are buying it or not, loving it or not, moved or not.  Life is good yet has so many tragic moments.  I have experienced a few.  I try to create something positive from all that might otherwise seem so wrong as a source of incredible strength. 

6.)  Where do your new story ideas come from? 

Ideas come at me from everywhere.  I have no concept of writer’s block.  I think I suffer from having way too many ideas that make storylines too complicated or disjointed at times and normally my great editors rein me in.  And I definitely ascribe to Mark Twain’s ideology that truth is stranger than fiction.  When I read the paper or listen to the news or even hear a neighbor reciting an account about something that happened earlier in the week, the strangest stories emerge and my mind immediately fixates on the strangest part then morphs the strangeness into a ‘What If’ premise.  That’s how I start every story.  For example, in the news this week where I live, a blind Lakota elder came forward claiming when he awoke from heart surgery months ago, a nurse told him someone had carved a ‘KKK’ on his abdomen. You can’t make this stuff up!  At first, my community mind thinks how terrible for all parties and my prayers go out to everyone involved.  My writer’s mind goes to all the fictional ‘What If’s’, like what if this happened to Liv Bergen?  What if someone who hated mining carved something on her?  Some sick mind thought to do such a horrific thing to this man in real life, so my mind reaches beyond what I could conceive to write a suspenseful storyline. 
7.) What advice has helped the most in your writing?

My mom taught all nine of us kids to be bumblebees.  She used to tell us that scientists determined the bumblebee is not aerodynamically designed to fly, considering its massive body compared to the wing size and the beats per second necessary to get the bee airborne.  Then my mom would tell us, “But that the bee doesn’t know that, so he goes ahead and flies anyway.”  I’ve heard several different accounts, but I’ll credit my mom for teaching me to be a bumblebee and let everyone else argue about where the folklore originated.   The point is not to let anyone tell you that you can’t.  You decided for yourself that you can and you will.

8.) Who is your favorite author and why?

Every chance I get I read.  I’m a reader first, a writer second.  I have so many favorites, but of course I love Lee Child, Sue Grafton, James Patterson, Harlan Coben, Michael Connolley, Robert Parker, Patricia Cornwell, Robert Crais, C.J. Box, Jonathon Kellerman, Dan Brown, Janet Evanovich, Lisa Lutz, Sandra Brown, just to get started.  Again, there are so many, I’m sure I’m forgetting dozens.   

I was so excited when someone told me at a mystery writer’s conference that my Liv Bergen was as if Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone had a love child.  She’d be Liv.  The highest form of flattery, since I’ve read every single one of those great authors’ books.   I love their style of writing because I feel like I know those characters, can see myself having a beer with those characters, and would have either of their backs in a scrap.  Jack Reacher is as different from Kinsey Milhone as he can be, but the characteristics of both fictional protagonists make them likeable in their own unique way.  That’s what I want for Liv Bergen.

9.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer?

The first question I’d ask someone who wants to write is what’s stopping you?  If you want to write, write.  It’s that simple.  Now the more complex advice would be for the writers who want to get published.  My advice would be that there are no short cuts.  You absolutely have to be patient, to love writing, to dig deep for all the ‘sticktoitivity’ you can muster, and to be that bumblebee.  If work hard regardless of the countless rejections, you’ll succeed.

10.) Will we be seeing more of Liv Bergen?

Liv Bergen must be kin to the unsinkable Molly Brown, who also called Colorado her home.  That indomitable spirit will assuredly lead her on more adventures.  As I work on the fourth in the series, Noah’s Rainy Day, scheduled for release in 2014, I am once again reminded why I like this character so much.   She never gives up, particularly when family members are involved.  Just as in Widow’s Might, where her sister Elizabeth’s life was in danger, Liv finds an intense motivation, working harder than ever, to help her find a kidnapped child that only her nephew Noah has seen.  The premise or ‘What If’ for this story was inspired by my own nephew:  What if a boy witnesses a crime, a younger child’s life hanging in the balance, until he can communicate what he knows?  Only, the witness suffers from severe cerebral palsy and can’t speak.  Motivation for Liv, since she loves Noah to death.  You’ll be seeing much more of Liv, because I have such loyal fans who are buying the books.  Thank you for choosing Liv!

Thank you so much for your time and candid answers, best of luck with the book. 

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

GiveAway of Kill Shot by Vince Flynn 8/15/12 to 8/21/12

 This GiveAway is for one hard copy of Kill Shot by Vince Flynn.   
The contest is limited by the publisher to United States only. The contest runs from today to 8/21/12.   Winner announced 8/22/12  Each entry is assigned a number, when the contest is over, the range of numbers will be put into a random number generator to determine the winner.   Good Luck!

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Widow’s Might by Sandra Brannan

When green is the red of rage, how green is it?  This book looks at obsession, land conservation, murder and love. 

Liv Bergen is still recovering from her brush with outlaw bikers when she becomes the guardian for Beulah.   Streeter, who may or may not be able to reciprocate her feelings, is in this book as well.  Liv is faced with too many handsome men and too much violence.

I enjoy the characters Ms. Brannan portrays as they are flawed and so very human.   There are not super heroes in her books, just people struggling to do what they think is right.

Elizabeth, Liv’s sister, portrays one of those people you hope to be fortunate to befriend.   Again, I like the characters.  

This is not a romance, it is a mystery with romantic undertones.   

I recommend the book.

 Body of  work of <a type="amzn" > Sandra Brannan </a>

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

GiveAway of Widow's Might by Sandra Brannan

A GiveAway of One Hard Copy of Widow's Might


Widow’s Might follows the brave Liv Bergen through the Black Hills of SD

RAPID CITY, SD – APRIL 2012 – In 2010 readers grew fond of the female crime-solver Liv Bergen as she went from limestone manager to amateur sleuth in the first installment of Sandra Brannan’s critically acclaimed murder-mystery series. After In the Belly of Jonah came Liv’s next intense case in Lot’s Return to Sodom, which revolved around the infamous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The intelligent and brave heroine continues her fight against evil in Brannan’s third book of her series, Widow’s Might (Aug. 7, 2012, Greenleaf Book Group). Once again set in South Dakota, Liv is on the lookout for a long-inactive killer known only as the Crooked Man.

“I am having fun showcasing the colorful life of ranchers in the Black Hills and underscoring the pioneering and indomitable spirit of the Dakotas,” said Brannan, who lives with her family and works in the mining business in Rapid City.

In true-Brannan style, the line between good and evil is blurred in Widow’s Might.

“The premise is simply what happens when a well-intentioned concept becomes so powerful, that it buckles under the weight of itself, crushing to death the very life it was designed to save,” the author said. “My goal with every book is to either change a reader’s plans or make him or her lose a night of sleep.”

Ladies can expect to see more of the dreamy FBI agent Streeter Pierce, who in book three sets in motion an unconventional way to recruit Liv for the FBI’s training camp as they work the case together. But is Liv falling for the brilliant, exotic agent Jack Linwood instead? The book showcases widow Helma Hanson as the unlikely heroine, accompanied by Liv’s sister Elizabeth and a support group of parents who lost their babies to SIDS.

An independent booksellers’ favorite book pick, In The Belly of Jonah went into a second printing within its first month of debut. And in 2011, its e-book version landed on the top 100 mysteries list nationally. Brannan’s success in the literary world led to her being named one of the top 25 most fabulous women by Black Hills Magazine.

Library Journal calls Brannan’s books “good and scary.” Booklist recommends the series “for hardcore crime fiction fans.” It’s a “fast-paced, gripping mystery to be read with the lights on and the doors locked,” says Maria Upichard of Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee. Brannan “lays a strong enticement to continue reading each offering in the proposed series,” raved Nancy Hansford of the Coloradoan. And Andrea Hoon, book department manager of Hastings in Gillette, Wyoming, said it’s the “best mystery series I’ve read in a long time.”

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Kill Shot by Vince Flynn

Action Adventure Addicts This Book Is For You!
I have not read this book except for the promo 1st chapter but I have read every Vince Flynn book I have been able to find.   The guy rights a terrific story and I am going to recommend this before I even review it, I am that confident.   Check out the trailers.

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Spider Mountain by P.T. Deutermann

Keep in mind, I see myself writing recommendations rather than reviews.   I can save you some time, I recommend the book.   Deutermann and this book once again, kept me up late reading.   Cam Richter who we met in Cat Dancers is back.    Cam, Frick and Frack once again face myriad dangers, psychopathic hillbillies, ravenous dogs and corrupt law enforcement.

I have all four books in this series and will be enlightening my readers with my reactions, sweaty palms and all.   I reviewed Cat Dancers on this blog a few weeks ago, this is every bit as good.   I have to feel that Deutermann is a dog person, he writes of Cam’s sidekicks with respect and love but also is able to be pragmatic about them.

Mary Ellen Goode, the National Park Ranger, from Cat Dancers is back and needs help.  Cam feels obliged to stick out his neck again.  Deutermann portrays his protagonists with nearly bottomless loyalty and unbelievable persistence, often to their determent.

I’m sure there are some folks who live on mountains and down “hollers” will be dismayed at the portrayal of some of their own.  Realistically there are bad folks in suburbs, cities and the country but if these country folk don’t scare the “bejabbers” out of you, then you are tougher than I am.  This is a great follow up to the first book in the series,  I can’t wait to read the next one.

I highly recommend it.

Body of  work of <a type="amzn" > P.T. Deutermann </a>
Web Site:

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Out of this World Book Trip Contest (Texas)

PR by the Book's "Escape to Austin" Contest
To celebrate its 10th Anniversary, PR by the Book will award one literary lover a trip to the home of storytellers like O. Henry and Willie Nelson: Austin, Texas
Enter Here 

AUSTINNow in its 10th year of operation, with a growing pool of star literary talent and media personalities, PR by the Book has become a go-to firm in the book publishing industry for innovative publicity campaigns and top-tier media placement. 

Founded in 2002 by Marika Flatt, PR by the Book has grown from a one-woman operation to a team of 10, representing everyone from The Berenstain Bears series to Rex Pickett, author of the beloved book-turned-movie, Sideways.

Now, PR by the Book has decided it’s time to share the love. And what better way to do that than to award a trip to the town where it all got started: Austin, Texas?

"Austin has burgeoned into a bustling literary community. When I started in book publicity here in 1997, I’d meet people who would be surprised I wasn’t from New York or Los Angeles,” says Flatt. “Now, when I travel for work and people ask where I’m from and I tell them Austin, the response is something similar to: I adore Austin and what a literary town that is!”

The contest is called "Escape to Austin" and will be a truly one-of-a-kind trip for the lucky winner. The prize package includes round-trip airfare for the winner and a guest, a two-night stay at The Hilton Garden Inn downtown Austin, dinner for two at TRIO in the Four Seasons, a $50 gift certificate to historic Hyde Park Bar & Grill and a couple of bookish perks.

Drawing the likes of Susan Orlean and Chuck Palahniuk, the Texas Book Festival is one of the premiere literary fests in the country. Last year, the festival featured 243 authors and attracted 40,000 attendees. The winner of the "Escape to Austin" contest will be granted two VIP passes to the weekend-long festival October 26-28, as well as a pass to one of TBF's invitation-only author parties.

"We are very excited to partner with PR by the Book for this contest package," says Lidia Agraz, TBF's Executive Director. "We're still early in the talent line-up process, but I can say that this year's festival will offer attendees a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to commune with true literary icons."

To enter "Escape to Austin," contest hopefuls must simply "like" PR by the Book on Facebook and fill out the entry form. The contest runs August 1 – August 31, 2012, and a winner will be selected by September 7 (open to U.S. residents only.)

PR BY THE BOOK is a boutique publicity firm specializing in literary media relations campaigns, publishing consultation, small business publicity, and publicity tours for authors and experts. Our team of seasoned publicists has worked on books in nearly every genre, and with dozens of major publishing houses and small presses. Visit to learn more.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Eyes Wide Open by Andrew Gross

 This is a mystery that will put you on edge, particularly if you are old enough to remember the whole Charles Manson saga.  

Jay Erlich has a perfect life.  He is successful and happy.  The superficial gloss is only marred by a dysfunctional family history.   Take a moment and consider your friends.  If you are close to them you are aware that the majority of the people you hold closely have skeletons of some sort in their collective closets.
Almost everyone has a crazy aunt Agnes or a demented cousin Jethro.   Sometimes we try and ignore our family especially if there is a checkered history.  In this story, Jay endeavors to be the good brother and help his down in the mouth, unsavory brother.   Charlie isn’t bad as much as pathetic.   

The death of a family member crushes the survivors together in a tale that will most likely make you feel uncomfortable.   Mental illness is increasingly recognized as the root of many crimes.   Many folks who should be on meds are either not taking them or have never been diagnosed as needing them.

This book makes you think about many things and also grabs your attention and chokes the life out of your indifference.  Many of us have been touched in ways similar to Jay and it makes you wonder who really is watching.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of <a type="amzn">Andrew Gross </a>
Web Site:

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.