Wednesday, July 31, 2013

THE FIRST PILLAR (Everville #1) by Roy Huff - #GIVEAWAY


Epic Fantasy and Young Adult  fans, I have great news for you! 

1 Kindle e-copy of Amazon's #1 international bestselling epic fantasy novel EVERVILLE: The First Pillar (Everville #1) by Roy Huff is up for grabs here on Mina's Bookshelf. 

Please leave a comment below with your email address and use the Rafflecopter widget to enter the contest. Ends August 15, 2013. Open to all. 

*If you don't own a Kindle reader, no worries! You can download the free Kindle App on your PC, Android, iPhone.

About the book
Owen Sage is the emblematic college freshman at Easton Falls University. With all the worries about his first year in college, he was not prepared for what would happen next. His way of life was flipped upside down when he mysteriously crossed into another dimension, into the beautiful land of Everville. His excitement was abruptly halted when he discovered that there was a darkness forged against both the natural world, which he knew well, and the new land which he discovered, Everville. He must devise a plan to save both worlds while joining forces with the race of Fron and The Keepers, whom both harbor hidden secrets he must learn in order to gain power over the evil that dwells in The Other In Between. With a race against time to save both worlds, his short time at Easton Falls did not quite prepare him for the evil, dark forces he must fight in order to conquer The Other In Between. 

About the author
Roy Huff is the author of Amazon's #1 international bestselling epic fantasy novel, Everville: The First Pillar. He is a man of many interests including science, traveling, movies, the outdoors, and of course writing teen and young adult fantasy fiction. He holds five degrees in four separate disciplines including liberal arts, history, secondary science education, and geoscience. Roy Huff's background includes work in art, history, education, business, real-estate, economics, geoscience, and satellite meteorology. He was born on the East Coast but has spent more than half his life in Hawaii, where he currently resides and writes his epic fantasy sagas. Find him on Amazon, Twitter@Evervillerseries and Twitter@EvervilleFans.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"SWORN SWORD by JAMES AITCHESON" #BlogTour (Author Spotlight & Excerpt)

ISBN 9781402280764; Historical Fiction 
 Hardcover; $24.99; Sourcebooks Landmark 


The thrilling epic set in eleventh-century England and France marks the beginning of James Aitcheson's breathtaking saga of the Norman Conquest

January, 1069
Less than three years have passed since Hastings and the death of the usurper, Harold Godwineson. In the depths of winter, two thousand Normans march to subdue the troublesome province of Northumbria. Tancred a Dinant, an ambitious and oath-sworn knight and a proud leader of men, is among them, hungry for battle, for silver and for land. But at Durham the Normans are ambushed in the streets by English rebels. In the battle that ensues, their army is slaughtered almost to a man. Badly wounded, Tancred barely escapes with his life. His lord is among those slain. Soon the enemy are on the march, led by the dispossessed prince Eadgar, the last of the ancient Saxon line, who is determined to seize the realm he believes is his. Yet even as Tancred seeks vengeance for his lord's murder, he finds himself caught up in secret dealings between a powerful Norman magnate and a shadow from the past. As the Norman and English armies prepare to clash, Tancred begins to uncover a plot which harks back to the day of Hastings itself. A plot which, if allowed to succeed, threatens to undermine the entire Conquest. The fate of the Kingdom hangs in the balance.

James Aitcheson was born in Wiltshire, England in 1985 and studied History at Cambridge. Sworn Sword is his first novel, praised by The Mail on Sunday, Historical Novels Review, Publishers Weekly, and bestselling author Ben Kane, among others. The second installment, The Splintered Kindgom, is forthcoming (August 2014). To know more about him, please visit his website

Excerpt from Sworn Sword
The first drops of rain began to fall, as hard as hammers and as cold as steel against my cheek. My mail hung heavily upon my shoulders, and my back and arse were aching. We had risen at first light and had spent much of the day in the saddle, and now night lay once more like a blanket across the wooded hills.
Our mounts' hooves made hardly a sound against the damp earth as we pressed on up the slope. The path we followed was narrow, little more than a deer track, and so we rode in single file with the trees close on either side. Leafless branches brushed against my arm; some I had to fend away from my face. Above, the slender crescent of the moon struggled to make itself shown, casting its cold light down upon us. The clouds were rolling in, and the rain began to come down more heavily, pattering upon the ground. I pulled the hood of my cloak up over my head.
There were five of us that night: all of us men who had served our lord for several years, oath-sworn and loyal knights of his own household. These were men I knew well, alongside whom I had fought more times than I cared to remember. These were men who had been there in the great battle at Hæstinges, and who had survived.
And I was the one who led them. I, Tancred a Dinant.
It was the twenty-eighth day of the month of January, in the one thousand and sixty-ninth year since our Lord's Incarnation. And this was the third winter to have passed since the invasion: since we had first mustered on the other side of the Narrow Sea, boarded ships, and made the crossing on the autumn tide. The third winter since Duke Guillaume had led our army to victory over the oath-breaker and usurper, Harold son of Godwine, at Hæstinges, and was received into Westmynstre church and crowned as rightful king of the English.
And now we were at Dunholm, further north than any of us had been before: in Northumbria, of all the provinces of the kingdom of England, the only one that after two years and more still refused to submit.
I glanced back over my shoulder, making sure that none were lagging behind, casting my gaze over each one of them in turn. In my tracks rode Fulcher fitz Jean, heavy-set and broad of shoulder. Following him was Ivo de Sartilly, a man as quick with his tongue as he was with his sword, then Gérard de Tillières, reticent yet always reliable. And bringing up the very end of the line, almost lost in the shadow of the night, the tall and rangy figure of Eudo de Ryes, whom I had known longer and trusted more than any other in Lord Robert's household.
Beneath their cloaks their shoulders hung low. They all held lances, but rather than pointing to the sky as they should have been, ready to couch under the arm for the charge, they were turned down toward the ground. None of them, I knew, wanted to be out on such a night. Each would rather have been indoors by the blazing hearth-fire with his pitcher of ale or wine, or down in the town with the rest of the army, joining in the plunder. As too would I.
"Tancred?" Eudo called.
I turned my mount slowly around to face him, bringing the rest of the knights to a halt. "What is it?" I asked.
"We've been searching since nightfall and seen no one. How long are we to stay out?"
"Until our balls freeze," Fulcher muttered behind me.
I ignored him. "Until daybreak if we have to," I replied.
"They won't come," Eudo said. "The Northumbrians are cowards. They haven't fought us yet and they won't fight us now."

Sworn Sword Blog Tour

July 31 - Mina's Bookshelf

August 8 - Devourer of Books

August 11 - Radiant Light

August 12 - Broken Teepee

August 23 - Booksie's Blog

August 26 - Booked and Loaded

Monday, July 29, 2013

INFERNO by Dan Brown (Books & Wine #3)

INFERNO (Robert Langdon #4)
Author: Dan Brown
Published May 14, 2013 by Doubleday
Genre: mystery, thriller, suspense, historical fiction, contemporary novel, sci-fi
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
BUY IT on Amazon

"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their  neutrality in times of moral crisis."

From the cover - "In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces . . . Dante’s Inferno. Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust . . . before the world is irrevocably altered."

My review -  Dan Brown doesn't shine for the pristine quality of his prose: his narrative style is far from flawless and, in more than one occasion, those historical facts and cultural references that normally represent the best asset of his writing were simply too extensive to absorb...Don't get me wrong. I admire Brown's ambition to incorporate history, art, and science in a work of fiction. I am all for it. But when an author veers off course with minute descriptions that would better serve as footnotes, and disrupts the action with frequent and distractingly lengthy digressions, then the result is and again I lost track of Robert Langdon and I had to rewind in order to locate his whereabouts. Obviously, Brown's appeal lays elsewhere.
Despite the drawback of an uneven narration, Inferno remains an intellectually rewarding read, grand in scope and thought-provoking. 

Firenze, Italy

Meticulously researched and well documented, Inferno paints a suggestive portrait of some of the most enchanting European locations and their history (Florence, Venice, Istanbul). Sumptuous descriptions and an elaborate game plan inspired by the rich symbolism of Dante Alighieri's monumental masterpiece (La Divina Commedia) are the pillars of Brown's conspiracy thriller, but what sets it apart from his previous books is a stronger sci-fi spin. 

Venezia, Italy

Brown leaves the beaten path of esoteric doctrines to take on a more secular and alarmingly current subject, a subject that resonates with a strong socio-political underscore. More than ever before, his signature mind boggling theories provide a springboard for social commentary: the villain of the story, a genetic engineer of exceptional skill and vision, has been trying in vain to bring the risks of overpopulation to the attention of government agencies and world organizations.

Istanbul, Turkey

Unhinged and ostracized by the scientific community, he believes that extinction is impending and that the catastrophic circumstances of our species require an 'uncomfortable' solution. Is his transhumanist approach an act of genetic terrorism or a way to fix the fatal flaws in our evolution? Is it unethical to use technologies that advance and help the human kind to survive in a changing world? Should we consider genetic engineering as just another step in our evolution (like fire and wheel) rather than an unnatural deviation? After all, scientists dabble in the gray areas of science every day, indisturbed; government agencies are among the first ones to weaponize ground-breaking technologies:

"...expect the worst from people who hold power.

For once, the evil genius may have a point.

Botticelli's Map of Hell



Sommelier extraordinaire Andrea Mussone is on the blog today to share his expertise and offer his tips on books and wine pairing. Big fan of Dan Brown and passionate about the art of wine tasting, Andrea recommends a classic Italian red.
 "Since Inferno is mainly set in Florence, Tuscany, I've immediately thought of a territorial pairing, and this region offers a wide choice of wines. More specifically, being Inferno an intriguing and complex book, rich in historical references,  the perfect wine match would be a Brunello di Montalcino. The town of Montalcino is located south of Florence, in the province of Siena. Brunello is one of Italy's most famous and prestigious wines, historically one of the oldest. The "terroir" (soil) contributes to the vast range in characteristics and potential complexity of Brunello di Montalcino. It is made from Sangiovese grape, an indigenous grape variety. Following fermentation, the wine is aged three years or more in oak casks or small oak barrels. At the nose it generally offers a wide range of aromatic notes: spices, pepper, herbs, underbrush, then ripe red fruit, berries, currants, violet, tobacco, leather. On the palate Brunello is warm, seductive, rich, deep, intense, complex, velvety, mineral, spicy, balsamic. This full-bodied wine is particularly suited to accompany a beef filet,  "Fiorentina" style. Being also a meditation wine,  Brunello is the perfect 'sipping companion' to Inferno". 

Andrea Mussone, Italy


BELLA ANDRE "Summer Of Love" BLOG TOUR - 1 print copy of FROM THIS MOMENT ON (The Sullivans #2) GIVEAWAY

And the winner is...


Congratulations, Sandy! Please check your email for instructions to claim the prize.  I would like to thank all the nice gals who entered the contest. Stay tuned! Book #3 in The Sullivans series (CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE) will be up for grabs very soon. Happy reading!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

THE KING'S DECEPTION by Steve Berry (Books and Wine #2)

THE KING'S DECEPTION (Cotton Malone #8)
Author: Steve Berry
Hardcover: 409 pages
Published June 11, 2013 by Ballantine Books
Genre: thriller, suspense, mystery, international thriller, contemporary novel, historical fiction
Rating: 5 plus out of 5 stars

"She went to her grave with her secret inviolate" 
Cover jacket blurb - Cotton Malone and his fifteen-year-old son, Gary, are headed to Europe. As a favor to his former boss at the Justice Department, Malone agrees to escort a teenage fugitive back to England. But after he is greeted at gunpoint in London, both the fugitive and Gary disappear, and Malone learns that he’s stumbled into a high-stakes diplomatic showdown—an international incident fueled by geopolitical gamesmanship and shocking Tudor secrets. At its heart is the Libyan terrorist convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103, who is set to be released by Scottish authorities for “humanitarian reasons.” An outraged American government objects, but nothing can persuade the British to intervene. Except, perhaps, Operation King’s Deception. Run by the CIA, the operation aims to solve a centuries-old mystery, one that could rock Great Britain to its royal foundations. Blake Antrim, the CIA operative in charge of King’s Deception, is hunting for the spark that could rekindle a most dangerous fire, the one thing that every Irish national has sought for generations: a legal reason why the English must leave Northern Ireland. The answer is a long-buried secret that calls into question the legitimacy of the entire forty-five-year reign of Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch, who completed the conquest of Ireland and seized much of its land. But Antrim also has a more personal agenda, a twisted game of revenge in which Gary is a pawn. With assassins, traitors, spies, and dangerous disciples of a secret society closing in, Malone is caught in a lethal bind. To save Gary he must play one treacherous player against another—and only by uncovering the incredible truth can he hope to prevent the shattering consequences of the King’s Deception. (Cover jacket blurb)

Elizabeth I, Darnley Portrait, c. 1575
My review - Who says that history cannot be entertaining? Historical anomalies actually are among the most intriguing topics: popular myths and urban legends fire our imagination more than tomes and tomes of official history will ever do. I've always been fascinated by the argument that Elizabeth I of England might have been the real author of plays and tragedies attributed to obscure commoner (and most likely illiterate) William Shakespeare. Another interesting theory about the real identity of The Virgin Queen has recently surfaced and, although regarded as a preposterous curiosity, it could shake the British Crown to its foundations if proved to be true.
Multiple clues hinting at a fraud were dropped during her longevous kingdom and they have been uncovered by scholars, writers, even lawyers, over the course of five centuries (the Bisley Boy legend, Famous Imposters by Bram Stoker, a group of Irish Nationalist lawyers). None of those clues led to an irrefutable evidence, an evidence that may remain buried forever in a tomb at Westminster Abbey. 
Queen of England, France and Ireland, the 'iron fist ruler' provided her kingdom with stability and wealth for an exceptionally long time (1558-1603). Spinster and childless, she didn't possess any grace or beauty. Marriage proposals (and there were many) were all turned down, no doctor was ever allowed to examine her body when she was ill, and no autopsy was authorized and performed at her death. Bad-tempered and prone to cursing, she was depicted as commanding and authoritative as a man. And she might have been one.
Elen Mirrer in 'Elizabeth I' (HBO tv drama)
One of the best kept secrets in history, and the grave repercussions this secret may have on the United Kingdom's fate, lay at the heart of Steve Berry's conspiracy thriller. The King's Deception swept me away with its non-stop action, flawless writing, and fleshed-out characters. Cotton Malone's multi-layered arc (ex US Department of Justice, newly divorcee and antique books amateur) unfolds throughout eight novels, yet his charismatic personality and back story are fully delineated, portraying him not only as a highly regarded intelligence agent, but also as a flawed man with a failed marriage on his belt and all the post-divorce challenges a father has to face in order to strengthen his bond with a teenage son. The introduction of two adolescent characters (Cotton's son Gary and street urchin Ian) allows the author to enrich the dramatic texture of his action-driven plot with a good insight into the emotional world of kids coming from dysfunctional families. Kudos to Berry for his ability to incorporate historical references and architectural descriptions in his narration, without breaking momentum and without disrupting the action flow with anti-climactic changes of pace. Keeping the chapters short and ricocheting from scene to scene as more frequently as we approach the final pages of the book, Berry managed to enhance the suspense factor: intrigues, shifting loyalties, a rich cast of players, a high-octane opening chapter and a relentless escalation of pulse-pounding action, all played out in an effortless and adrenaline-spiking fashion. Berry's 'deception' excelled where Brown's 'inferno' fell short. Clever, solid, and extremely well-crafted. From now on Steve Berry's novels will be on my 'must-read' shelf.

*Review copy graciously offered by the publicist in return of an unbiased and fair review



For this complex and engrossing thriller I have decided to upgrade my wine suggestion to a Scottish single malt with a regal name. The Royal Lochnagar 12 year old, a scotch whiskey with a royal connection, is legendary for his classic and mellow flavor. With upfront flavors of earth, freshly cut grass, and spice, light notes of  sandalwood and hay, it became a favorite of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert during their visits to their Scottish estate at Balmoral. Great on ice or with a splash of water, you will find it irresistible in a cocktail of bold, fruity flavors. Cheers!

BLOOD & SAND Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients for 1 serving:
3/4 oz scotch whiskey
3/4 oz rosso vermouth  
1/4 oz cherry brandy
1 1/2 oz orange juice

Shake over ice cubes, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and serve.

Steve Berry is the New York Times bestselling author of the Cotton Malone series featuring The Jefferson Key, The Emperor's Tomb, The Paris Vendetta, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Venetian Betrayal, The Alexandria Link, and The Templar Legacy. He also has three stand-alone thrillers: The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room (and two e-book original short stories, The Balkan Escape and The Devil's Gold). Silver Bullet Award winning author, he has 12 million books in print, which have been translated into 40 languages and sold in 51 countries. He's also an accomplished instructor, having taught writing to audiences across the globe. When Steve's not writing, you can find him either on a beach, a golf course, or traveling (discovering more things lost) and thinking of the next novel. He lives in the historic city of St. Augustine, Florida. Steve and his wife Elizabeth have also started a foundation, History Matters, dedicated to aiding the preservation of our heritage. To know more about him, please visit his website 


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

ThrillerFest VIII Recap: 2013 ITW THRILLER AWARDS

International Thriller Writers Announce The Winners Of The 2013 Thriller Awards - One of the most anticipated literary events of the year has just come to an end: high profile writers, novices, and publishing world professionals gathered last week at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City for a four-day marathon to celebrate the art of the thrill and mingle with their fans.

And what a treat for lovers of all things mystery and suspense! Queen of the Gothic Thriller Anne Rice made a rare appearance to serve as the 2013 ThrillerMaster. The legendary novelist, author of 31 novels, including The Vampire Chronicles, Songs of the Seraphim and the new Wolf Gift Chronicleswas also the recipient of the 2013 ThrillerMaster Award

ThrillerMaster Award Winner Anne Rice

Last Saturday night, during the closing gala banquet, the names of 2013 most thrilling writers were announced and awarded by the International Thriller Writers (ITW). The winners of the prestigious awards are:

Meryl Moss (Media Muscle) and RL Stine

2013 THRILLERMASTER AWARD - Anne Rice With 31 novels and nearly 100 million books sold around the world, she is one of America's most beloved and celebrated authors. The award was presented by R.L. Stine, 2011 ThrillerMaster Award.

Anne Rice and MJ Rose

2012 SILVER BULLET AWARD - Steve Berry The New York Times and internationally best-selling author of The King's Deception, The Jefferson Key, The Columbus Affair and nine more novels, was honored for his philanthropic work on behalf of fellow writers and historic preservation. The award was presented by Brad Meltzer, 2009 Silver Bullet Award.

Bullet Silver Award Winner Steve Berry



BEST FIRST NOVEL - Matthew Quirk, THE 500 (Reagan Arthur Books)

Andy Gross at Fan Fest



BEST SHORT STORY - John Rector, LOST THINGS (Thomas & Mercer)

Lee Child

There's only one event where you can find New York Times best-selling authors lurking around every single corner, literary agents actually appearing in broad daylight and fans openly plotting and conspiring with the most feared and revered names of the thriller genre. Join the ThrillerFest IX next year from July 9-12, 2014 for the International Thriller Writers' ninth annual celebration of all things Thriller. The highlight of the festival will be the gala ITW Banquet during which a fresh batch of authors will be announced as the chosen heroes of suspense. Visit the ThrillerFest website for more details.

Brad Meltzer

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

FROM THIS MOMENT ON (The Sullivans #2) by Bella Andre - REVIEW & GIVEAWAY...and a wine suggestion (Books & Wine #1)

Author: Bella Andre
Paperback: 384 pages (expanded edition)
Published: June 25, 2013 by Harlequin MIRA
Genre: contemporary novel, romance, erotic, women's fiction, chick lit
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

"All it took was one moment, one look in your eyes, one taste of your lips, to know that you were the one..."
Oh Bella Andre...if your intention was to bring the heat level of summer 2013 from 'scorching' to 'combustion', please know that you succeeded. Whereas THE LOOK OF LOVE (The Sullivans #1, read my review here) sizzled with a heart-squeezing romance and sultry sensuality, in FROM THIS MOMENT ON, book #2 in the sensational saga of eight Californian siblings and their quest for love, sexual chemistry escalates and emotional angst intensifies.  

Marcus Sullivan and Nicola Harding's story features two larger-than-life lead characters (the wealthy owner of a Napa Valley winery, head of the Sullivan clan, and a famous pop songstress), worlds apart in terms of age, lifestyle, and expectations, but united by the common experience of disappointed love. Solid, dependable, 'family man' Marcus, and young, impossibly sexy but 'more innocent and pure than portrayed by gossip tabloids' Nicola will both look for a balm to their wounds in some no-string-attached, mindless night of pleasure. But when on a Friday night their two worlds collide in a crowded San Francisco club, a lightning bolt strikes them right through their hearts: they fall for each other instantly and against their better judgement, their path to a 'happily ever after' paved with reciprocal doubts and lack of confidence that a relationship between a self-possessed thirty six year old business man and a twenty something glitzy showgirl could ever work. 

Misconceptions are hard to fight and will keep our characters from putting their hearts on the line for a good part of the book, yet their chemistry is 'mind-blowing hot' from the get-go, and even if they try to convince themselves that their first kiss will seal the end of their spellbinding encounter, their hearts will tell otherwise. Through incandescent love scenes and a cleverly crafted 'ultra-romantic' resolution, Andre's novel will inflame your senses and quench your thirst for a gratifying romance, " the first perfect cool glass of wine on a hot, dry day...".

                     BOOKS & WINE

Treat yourselves to a steamy summer read and, in honor of the male protagonist, Marcus Sullivan, match it with a glass of rich Napa Valley Bordeaux wine. My suggestion would be a Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Proprietary Red 2009 (Bordeaux), at once elegant, rich, and powerful. Brilliant purple in color, aromas of wildflower, and rose oil deepen as wine opens. Flavor of cassis, huckleberry, and tar are accented  by notes of smoked meats and cardamon. Polished, fine-grained tannins are supple and silky. Multi-layered finish relaxes and evolves with time indicating age-worthiness...just like gorgeous Marcus.

Bella Andre is generously offering 1 print copy of FROM THIS MOMENT ON to a lucky follower of this blog. Stop by and leave a comment (don't forget your email address) about Bella's books for a chance to win. Good luck!!!

***Review copy graciously provided by the publicist in return of a fair and unbiased review

"Marcus Sullivan has always been the responsible older brother, stepping in to take care of his seven siblings when their father died. But when the perfectly ordered future he's planned turns out to be a lie, Marcus needs one reckless night to shake free from it all. Known throughout the world by only one name—Nico—pop songstress Nicola Harding is seen as the ultimate sex kitten. But it's all a lie. After a terrible betrayal she refuses to let anyone else close enough to find out who she really is…or to hurt her again. Especially the gorgeous stranger at the bar. One night is all Nicola and Marcus agree to share with each other. But instead, a deeper connection than either of them could have anticipated begins." (from the cover)


Friday, July 12, 2013

WOMEN'S FICTION, ROMANCE & PINA COLADA: Summer Reading Suggestions... With a Twist #2


"A woman's heart is a deep ocean of secrets", all soft currents and crushing waves, raising and falling like the tide. Fears and tears blend in like rain drops in the sea. A myriad of shattered dreams lay on the beach like fragments of a shell, resting like a relic on the deeper end of the ocean. Passion rages in a storm, rocking cradle, soothing melody, shimmering reflection of a pale moon in a star-studded summer sky. Like Jules Verne once said, the ocean is the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. "It's nothing but love and emotion. It is the Living Infinite." It's Woman.


Rosemary Cottage by Colleen Coble 

Paperback 336 pages, Thomas Nelson Publishers, July 9,  2013

"The cottage by the sea offers Amy a refuge to mourn her brother’s death and perhaps even discover a new love. But what if Ben’s death was no accident? Rosemary Cottage on the Outer Banks of North Carolina has been in Amy Lang’s family for generations and offers her a haven within its peaceful walls. There she hopes to discover what really happened to her brother, Ben, even as she tries to come to grips with his death in the ocean months before. She hopes the Coast Guard team will help her find closure, but they are quick to dismiss her concerns of foul play. Everyone in Hope Beach regards the suspicious e-mail she received as a vicious prank. When it seems discovering what happened to Ben will take longer than she expected, Amy moves her midwifery practice to Hope Beach. Coast Guard officer Curtis Ireland may hold the key to many of her questions, but he also hides a secret that will change her world forever. And her own secrets could tear apart the fragile love developing between them. Will Amy have the courage to put down her mask and let Curtis love her for who she is? And can they both weather the danger that threatens to destroy the most precious thing in their lives?" (Goodreads) Amazon


The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice

Hardcover 300 pages, Pamela Dorman Books, July 2, 2013

"Year after year, Luanne Rice’s fans eagerly await her next book. Their enthusiasm is soon to be rewarded with The Lemon Orchard, Rice’s romantic new love story between two people from seemingly different worlds. In the five years since Julia last visited her aunt and uncle’s home in Malibu, her life has been turned upside down by her daughter’s death. She expects to find nothing more than peace and solitude as she house-sits with only her dog, Bonnie, for company. But she finds herself drawn to the handsome man who oversees the lemon orchard. Roberto expertly tends the trees, using the money to support his extended Mexican family. What connection could these two people share? The answer comes as Roberto reveals the heartbreaking story of his own loss—a pain Julia knows all too well, but for one striking difference: Roberto’s daughter was lost but never found. And despite the odds he cannot bear to give up hope. Set in the sea and citrus-scented air of the breathtaking Santa Monica Mountains, The Lemon Orchard is an affirming story about the redemptive power of compassion and the kind of love that seems to find us when we need it most." (Goodreads) Amazon


The Rosewood Whistle by Pat McDermott

Kindle Edition 180 pages, June 12, 2013

"Surrounded by Ireland’s music and myths, a widowed American writer meets a tour guide leery of love…On her own at the end of a long and difficult marriage, Gemma Pentrandolfo still hears the critical voice of her husband taunting her from his grave. To foster her independence, she schedules a summer vacation in County Mayo intending to write her first book, and she’s counting on Ireland for inspiration. An idea presents itself when she tours Achill Island with a silver-tongued tour guide whose good looks prompt her to write more than her high-minded novel: she transcribes her years of longing in a steamy fantasy no one is meant to see. Years have passed since an accident claimed the self-absorbed wife who scorned Ben Connigan and his music. Since then, the former tin whistle ace has avoided marriage, though he never lacked for female companionship before he traded his high-tech career for the slow-paced life of a hometown tour guide. Ben has accepted the end of his run of discreet affairs, until he takes Gemma touring. Her passion for Ireland impresses him. Her love of Irish music soon compels him to dust off his whistles. Knowing she’ll leave at the end of the summer, he sees no harm in keeping her company—until he dares to dream of spending the rest of his life with her. But he knows it can’t be, not while the ghosts of their partners still haunt them. Not unless the music and myths of Ireland can help them find their way…" (Goodreads) Amazon 


Saltwater Kisses: A Billionaire Love Story by Krista Lakes

Kindle Edition 150 pages, Zirconia Publishing, June 20, 2013

"When small-town girl Emma LaRue won a vacation to an exclusive tropical island, a last minute cancellation meant she would be going by herself. Shy and studious, she never had time to fall in love, and often wondered if she was just meant to be alone. However, that all changed when a handsome stranger literally walked into her life while on the beach and sparks began to fly. New York's most eligible billionaire bachelor Jack Saunders thought this vacation would be the perfect escape, one last hurrah, before taking full control of his father's company. When an innocent Emma didn't recognize him, he figured that he might get a chance to have a vacation from being rich. He didn't tell her about the cars, the yacht, or the penthouse. All he did was let her fall in love with him. Soon, Jack found that he was the one falling in love with Emma. When they enjoy a fantasy marriage ceremony on the beach, they thought it was a bit of harmless fun before returning to their normal lives. A bittersweet goodbye was supposed to be the end of their perfect vacation romance, but when photos of the ceremony were leaked to the press, everything changed. Feeling lied to and thrust into a world of wealth and privilege, Emma must choose between following her dreams or following her heart. Will she be content at being nothing more than the billionaire's wife, or will she return to her normal life with only memories of saltwater kisses?" (Goodreads ) Amazon 


True Love by Jude Deveraux

Hardcover 464 pages, Ballantine Books, July 9, 2013

"Just as Alix Madsen is finishing up architectural school, Adelaide Kingsley dies and wills her, for one year, the use of a charming nineteenth-century Nantucket house. The elderly woman’s relationship to the Madsen family is a mystery to the spirited Alix—fresh from a romantic breakup—but for reasons of her own Alix accepts the quirky bequest, in part because it gives her time to plan her best friend’s storybook wedding. But unseen forces move behind the scenes, creaking Kingsley House’s ancient floorboards. It seems that Adelaide Kingsley had a rather specific task for Alix: to solve the strange disappearance of one of the Kingsley women, Valentina, more than two hundred years ago. If that wasn’t troubling enough, Alix must deal with the arrogant (and extremely good-looking) architect Jared Montgomery, who is living in the property’s guesthouse. Unbeknown to Alix, Jared has been charged with looking after her while she lives on the island—an easy task for him, considering the undeniable chemistry between the two. But Jared harbors secrets of his own, which, if revealed, may drive a wedge between the pair. With a glorious Nantucket wedding on the horizon, sparks fly, and the ghosts of the past begin to reveal themselves—some of them literally. Finding their lives inextricably entwined with the turbulent fortunes of their ancestors, Alix and Jared discover that only by righting the wrongs of the past can they hope to be together." (Goodreads) Amazon



Old-style recipe for this popular drink. The coconut cream needs to have the right consistancy, some find the alternative, coconut milk to be too thin, however you can add condensed milk to coconut milk to bring up it's thickness. Add pineapple juice if desired.

INGREDIENTS for 1 serving

3 oz light rum

3 tbsp coconut cream

3 tbspcrushed pineapples

Put all ingredients into an electric blender with 2 cups of crushed ice. Blend at a high speed for a short length of time. Strain into a collins glass and serve with a straw.

Read more: Pina Colada recipe

(Poolside by Elise Remender, courtesy of Shinn Fine Art Gallery)

Happy Summer!












Thursday, July 11, 2013


Hardcover,  181 pages
Released June 18, 2013 by William Morrow Books
Genre: fantasy, horror, paranormal fiction, magic realism
Rating: 5 stars plus

"Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet, but they are never lost for good."
It's official. I have developed a 'literary crush' on Neil Gaiman. He had me at Coraline. After reading The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, I am spellbound for eternity. He is a wizard storyteller and, like in The Pied Piper Of Hamelin, I follow at his heels to the sound of his voice, mesmerized by the lyrical quality of his effortless prose, entranced by the intimate perspective and mournful tones of a bookish and nameless seven-year-old narrator.

In occasion of a funeral service, a middle-aged man returns to his childhood hometown in Sussex. Nothing in the English countryside looks like he remembered - his old house long gone. But as he drives down the narrow lane that connects his childhood home to a farmhouse at the end of the road, faded memories come back to him: an unlikely family of three kind women (the eleven-year-old Lettie, her mother Ginnie, and her grandmother Old Mrs. Hempstock) living on that farm, the duck pond his 'strange' friend Lettie claimed was an ocean that stretched from forever to forever and yet small enough to fit in a bucket, and the bizarre and incomprehensible events that unfolded forty years earlier on the edge of that land "where the barriers between life and death were thin".

Part dark fairy tale, part myth, Gaiman's narrative texture appeals to our primal self, our unstructured and buried 'child soul'. His highly imaginative tale is a powerful and moving metaphor of the distance existing between two different dimensions, two separate worlds: childhood and adulthood. Self-absorbed and distracted, grown-ups are deaf to their children's fears and insecurities, oblivious to the undeniable fact that while outside they are big, powerful and thoughtless, "inside they are really children wrapped in adult bodies, like children's books hidden in the middle of dull, long adult books, the kind with no pictures or conversations." As in Coraline, Gaiman's popular fantasy novella published in 2002 and adapted into a stop-motion picture (Focus Features 2009), in The Ocean At The End Of The Lane adults seem to be, once again, unhelpful and clueless, blind to the hidden and true essence of reality, completely unable to empathize with their kids' uneasiness and struggles. "Adults follow paths. Children explore", our nameless young narrator (Gaiman's alter-ego or Everyman of a morality play, intentionally devoid, by the author, of any mark of individuality) acutely observes. While choosing to never step off the beaten path, grown-ups miss all the patterns, the gates, and the backways hiding beyond the real. To a child's heart, instead, with its refined sensitivity and innate curiosity, this big and complicated world becomes simple and easy to grasp,  enjoyable in its small joys even when greater things crumble down. 
Of those 'greater things', hidden and sinister truths, our protagonist will become fully aware under the wise guidance and selfless protection of the Hampstock women, wonderful and timeless creatures, Maiden, Mother, and Crone (triple deity common to several pagan traditions), archetype of maternal warmth and symbol of an ancient matriarchal society. 
My verdict: brilliant and enchanting. An absolute gem. 5 stars plus the moon and the ocean.

"I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else."