Joining with A Book, A Beer, & A Dream

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After much thought about time, it seems Kinsey and I have decided to team up at her blog.
http://abookabeeradream.blogspot.com 
All my items will be transferred there. When that happens, they will eventually be removed from here and this post will be left so that you can find the reviews.
I'm finding that I'd really like to get back to designing, so that's another thing I will be working on in the coming months.
http://illusionsofchaos.blogspot.com/
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#BookReview ASH: Return of the Beast by Gary Val Tenuta

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Title: ASH: Return of the Beast
Author: Gary Val Tenuta
Genre: Detective, Occult, Thriller, Black Magic, Demons, Mystery
Book Details: 340 pages
Format Reviewed:ebook
Blurb:   Ash: Return of the Beast is an occult crime thriller, a work of fiction based on a little known factoid about the death of Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), the notorious occultist the British press once called "The Wickedest Man In The World". Crowley’s body was cremated but the whereabouts of his funerary ashes has remained a mystery… until now.

This diabolical tale carries the reader through a series of the most curious (and sometimes unsettling) events spanning the years from 1947(and the death of Aleister Crowley) to the 1990s and the coming-of-age (and eventual stardom) of a "death-metal" rocker named Rodney Duckworth.

The time-line shifts to the present day where Brian Kane, a gruff and gritty, street-worn Seattle Police Detective, reluctantly teams up with the mysterious Rowena Ravenwood, an attractive female FBI agent. Their task is to figure out why good, healthy, God-fearing preachers in their fair city are suddenly dropping dead.

What is the meaning of the strange symbols branded onto the bodies of these hapless victims? Are they all part of some bizarre cult? No eyewitnesses. No fingerprints. Is it really murder? Where’s the evidence? And what is the disturbing secret that Detective Kane is holding so close to his chest?

The investigation catapults Kane and Ravenwood headlong into life-threatening situations as they wind their way through the strange, dark labyrinth of the world of the occult and find themselves battling the powerful forces of ritual magick.

Problem is, the clues to help solve the case are in terribly short supply. Worse yet, so is the amount of time left to stop the mysterious killer's reign of terror before all Hell breaks loose. And – according to Special Agent Ravenwood – that’s not just a figure of speech.
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Warning: This book is intended for adult readers due to strong language and some implied sexual content of a violent nature. Note: the sexual content is implied as opposed to graphic. It is not included as a gratuitous element. Rather, it is specific to the background of one of the primary characters and his personal development as well as to an aspect of certain elements of what is known as "ritual magick", one of the key elements woven into the storyline.
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Available On Amazon


My Review: What a wonderful scary read. You can tell extensive research was done for this book. All I can really stress are two points. 1. I am going to be searching and reading any other books he may have. 2. I hope he writes fast because this is one author I won't tire of.

One of the things I really loved about this book is that I really couldn't predict the exact ending. So often with thrillers and mysteries I have everything long figured out and the book is still going and going. Not this time. There's a thrill and a chill with each turn of the page. And, you go through bouts of "no, I don't want to know. I won't turn the page." .... to "Oh my gosh, I have to turn the page."

I spent the day reading this book and only took the breaks I had to in between. A must have for every reader's collection.


Rating: 5/5
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#BookReview A Masterless Man by Sarah Pernell

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Title: A Masterless Man
Author: Sarah Pernell
Genre: Historical, Mediaeval
Book Details: 
Format Reviewed: ebook
Blurb:   When Walter, a young peasant boy, attacks his abusive stepfather in order to protect his sister, Elisabeth, the consequences leave him no choice but to flee, alone and penniless, into the unknown and dangerous world beyond Cottesham, his home village. He is a runaway, a masterless man, and can never return.

For the next 10 years Walter's travels take him throughout England and eventually to the Holy Land. Kind and courageous Walter makes friends easily, but fate is cruel and his life seems to be beset by sorrow and misfortune  


Available On Amazon



My Review: Walter is a good guy trying to do the right thing but it seems fate is not on his side. One trial after another confronts him in this book.

While there seemed to be a little too much trouble for me within the book, I loved the historical aspect of it -- brilliantly told. This is a good one to pick up just for the history.


Rating: 3/5
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#BookReview 50 Underwear Questions by Tanya Lloyd Kyi

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Title: 50 Underwear  Questions
Author: Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Genre: Non-Fiction, Children, Biography, Autobiography, History
Book Details: 120 Pages
Format Reviewed: ebook
Blurb:  You are what you wear (underneath)!

Most of us take our underwear for granted, but throughout history our undies have revealed a lot about who we are (king or peasant), how we work (in fields or factories) or the shapes we value (manly calves or tiny waists).

The third book in Annick's 50 Questions series tackles questions such as "What's that smell?" (Medieval Europeans thought bathing made you sick) and "Did boxers arrive in the Nick of time?" (When blue jean model Nick Kamen stepped out of his denims to reveal his boxers, sales of the underwear soared.)

Underwear has played a role in ancient crusades, city sieges and even modern economic predictions. Obviously, it's time to uncover the facts about everything from loincloths and T-shirts to bloomers and lingerie. Young readers will laugh their pants off at the accompanying cartoons and get the bare, but fascinating, facts about the history of our unmentionables.


Available On Amazon



My Review: I have to say this was an interesting read. Being that I enjoy history, I knew about a lot of the various underwear worn at different stages of history, but reading it as a book and with explanation as to why some were worn (they were often more than simply a status symbol or a nether regions covering, they often served other purposes as well).

Let me also say that we've come a long way from some instances of rather unkept hygiene and long wearing of our underclothes.

A great read for children around 8-12 years of age.


Rating: 4/5

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#BookReview The Detour by Andromeda Romano-Lax

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Title: The Detour
Author: Andromeda Romano-Lax
Genre: Biographical, Historical
Book Details: 320 Pages
Format Reviewed:ebook
Blurb:   Ernst Vogler is twenty-four years old in 1938 when he is sent to Rome by his employer--the Third Reich's Sonderprojekt, which is collecting the great art of Europe and brining it to Germany for the Fhrer. Vogler is to collect a famous Classical Roman marble statue, The Discus Thrower, and get it to the German border, where it will be turned over to Gestapo custody. It is a simple, three-day job.

Things start to go wrong almost immediately. The Italian twin brothers who have been hired to escort Vogler to the border seem to have priorities besides the task at hand--wild romances, perhaps even criminal jobs on the side--and Vogler quickly loses control of the assignment. The twins set off on a dangerous detour and Vogler realizes he will be lucky to escape this venture with his life, let alone his job. With nothing left to lose, the young German gives himself up to the Italian adventure, to the surprising love and inevitable losses along the way.

The Detour is a bittersweet novel about artistic obsession, misplaced idealism, detours, and second chances, set along the beautiful back-roads of northern Italy on the eve of war.


Available On Amazon


My Review: I absolutely was entranced by the vivid descriptions in this book. I like to "see" a book as I read it and this one was wonderful for that. This novel was extremely well written. To me, this book was a learning process. To learn to not always live to please everyone else. To learn that while you must work, work cannot be everything. To learn to live and let go and be somewhat free. To live your life.

Most of this book is told as a memory, but it's still captures your attention (think The Notebook with glimpses of memories and then moments of the present. However, their present isn't 2012, it's late 1940's).

This book is worth the read and even a re-read.


Rating: 5/5
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#BookReview The Whipping Club by Deborah Henry

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Title: The Whipping Club
Author: Deborah Henry
Genre: Biographical, Historical
Book Details: 312 Pages
Format Reviewed: ebook
Blurb:  Deborah Henry's new historical novel, THE WHIPPING CLUB (T.S Poetry Press, March 2012, available in print and e-book formats) is a literary page-turner and a tale of redemption, set against the backdrop of violence and deeply entrenched prejudice in 1960s Ireland as told through the heartrending experience of one inter-faith family. In it, an Irish Catholic woman, Marian, in love with a Jewish journalist hides the birth of her out-of-wedlock child to save her future marriage. The child she has relinquished does not end up with an American family as promised. Instead, he is committed to a notorious Catholic orphanage where there is little hope for his survival.

Tormented by feelings of remorse and guilt that have plagued her throughout her marriage to the boy's father, the woman must confront the truth and reveal her long-buried secret. While putting her marriage and family at risk, she determines to save her son and in so doing correct the terrible wrongs of her own past and challenge a system that chronically serves up children to abusive clergy.


Using a hidden Ireland as a backdrop, an island in which thousands of adults and children were forcibly separated in the 1950's and 1960's, the novel explores the sacrificial secrets we keep to protect our loved ones and their impact on a marriage, a family and a society. THE WHIPPING CLUB raises powerful questions about the nature of sin, guilt and redemption by chronicling a young boy's perilous travels through a corrupt system and one couple's heartbreaking struggle to bring him home.

Deborah Henry attended American College in Paris and graduated cum laude from Boston University with a minor in French language and literature. She received her MFA in creative writing at Fairfield University and has the passionate support of many first-class novelists including Jacquelyn Mitchard, Robert Olen Butler, Da Chen, Michael White, Martine Bellen and Irishman Thomas Cooke, Emmy-award winning writer and director, who have already provided endorsements. Deborah is an active member of The Academy of American Poets as well as a patron of the Irish Arts Centre in New York.


Available On Amazon


My Review: A distraught tale of child abuse and choices made. Henry tackles some very hushed topics and choices in this book. I definitely have to commend her for it. I do feel that it could have been done in a shorter way (less wordy).

Unwed mothers were judged harshly at the time of this book. The characters were well rounded and thought out for the time period, location and direction of the book. I felt myself feeling their pain and shaking my head in disbelief. How could people be so stupid? I know there is still judgment and prejudice, but i do hope it all comes to an end.

Still a well written book of things that tend to stay buried.


Rating: 3/5
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#BookReview Sophie and the Rising Sun by Augusta Trobaugh

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Title: Sophie and the Rising Sun
Author: Augusta Trobaugh
Genre: Biographical, Historical, Romance
Book Details: 200 Pages
Format Reviewed: ebook
Blurb:   An unforgettable story of an extraordinary love and a town’s prejudice during World War II. Sophie and the Rising Sun “suggests the small but heartwarming triumphs made possible by human dignity and courage.” –Publisher’s Weekly.In sleepy Salty Creek, Georgia, strangers are rare. When a quiet, unassuming stranger arrives—a Japanese man with a secret history of his own—he becomes the talk of the town and a new beginning for lonely Sophie, who lost her first love during World War I.Middle-aged Sophie had resigned herself to a passionless existence. That all begins to change as she finds herself drawn to the mysterious Mr. Oto. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Mr. Oto's newfound life comes under siege; his safety, even in Salty Creek, is no longer certain. Sophie must decide how much she is willing to risk for a future with the man who has brought such joy into her life. Visit the author at: www.AugustaTrobaugh.com


Available On Amazon


My Review: What a wonderful "old-fashion" type love story. But it's not all bliss. There is turmoils as well. There is war and prejudice. This was one of those books that had surprises lurking around corners and I loved that.

This book came to life with wonderfully written characters and a real life atmosphere. I must warn, there is some story telling changes. I know some people don't care for that. For this book, it seemed a perfect and even appropriate fit.

The ending was my only dissatisfaction. I was left with many unanswered questions. I'd love to see a sequel.


Rating: 4/5
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#GuestBlog GG Vandagriff

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When I began writing my twelfth book, The Crazy Ladies of Oakwood, I didn't know if it would be literary fiction or chick-lit. I knew only that it would be about four troubled women on a "healing journey" to Florence, Italy. I had no idea what the Lord had in store for me.

My husband accompanied me on two research trips, and I enjoyed visiting a cooking school, a spa--all the places my "Crazy Ladies" would go. I didn't realize the potential of my story. These first two trips gave me plenty of atmosphere, but I was completely blinded by the art and countryside. I failed to see Italy's true treasure.

Then in the middle of the winter, I got a strong impression to go back to Florence, this time on my own, and for the period of 3 weeks. The first week I raced around in a frenzy, exhausting myself and not really learning anything new. Finally, I spent some timeplanning. 

It was at that time that the extraordinary things began to happen. I became acquainted with agape. This is how I described the first episode in my blog:

“From Florence: God Had Other Plans

Scarcely was I out the door this morning than I tripped and fell FLAT on my face. I sustained a real whack to my right hand, shoulder and knee. The wind was knocked out of me, and despite the wonderful Florentines that instantly surrounded me with solicitude, I couldn’t get up right away, though I kept reassuring them that I was fine.

That is when God opened the windows of Heaven. A young man, not more than thirty,(I am sixty-three)stayed by me, gathered my scattered belongings, and coaxed me off the sidewalk a little at a time, finally hoisting me all the way. Then he put my hand through his arm and insisted on getting me to the corner where there was a cafe where I could sit down. Overcome by his kindness, I was further amazed when he asked me what I would like to drink. I asked for a coke and went for my purse to get the money (they are expensive over here). He waved me off and went for my coke and coffee for himself.

He sat with me, calming me. We were soon talking about the genius of Brunelleschi (who invented the first dome, seemingly brick by brick) and how it gives him such joy every time he passes the Duomo. He went on to say how much he loves seeing views of it from high places. I have not yet been to Fiesole (the town perched in the Tuscan hills over Florence), but he drew me a map with roads, showing me the best place to walk for a good view. We talked for approximately 45 minutes. Then he went to pay the bill. To my surprise, he returned to the table with a ticket for four bus rides! I thanked him over and over in English and Italian. And the thing that is beautiful about it, is that he is not alone. The Italians are just like that. I am reminded that that kind of selfless love is what my characters are moving towards in the book I came here to write. This young man was a reminder of why I had to come to Italy to write it."

Vague remembrances of my Western Civilizations class stirred, and I recalled Plato's word for this amazing kind of caring that I hadn't ever met with before. Agape. I looked it up on line and found many definitions, which really boiled down to "selfless love." I had to fall on my face before I understood the theme of my book--that agape or charity is the ultimate healer.

There were too many instances of agape to count. Perhaps the most amazing experience with these Italian angels came the night I thought I was going to the Opera. Again, an exerpt from my blog:

"Why All Florentines Will Go To Heaven

This blog has been full of posts about the kindness of strangers that I have met with in Florence, but I think that last night must take the cake.

It started with the opera that didn’t happen. I was feeling unwell, and when the program still hadn't begun by 9:30, I went out to the lobby to ask for a taxi to be called. Well, you never saw such a furor. Italians: “Why do you want to leave the concert?” Me: “I’m not feeling well.” Italians: “Ah! You need a doctor! We will call a doctor.” Me: “No, no, please no. I will get better. I just need to sleep.” Reluctant promise to call a taxi. A few moments later, beaming Italian approaches me. “You go outside to wait! I get for you Milano25!” “Milano 25?” I repeat. “Si Si! Go. Go.”

Milano 25 turns out to be the most famous taxi in the world. My latest Florentine angel proved to be called Catarina. She bowled me over in her enormous pink hat with flowers that looked like something from Alice in Wonderland when combined with her purple cape and her gracious bow. I really thought I'd gone "through the looking glass" when I entered her cab: plush pink upholstery, video screens on the seat backs and dashboard showing Bugs Bunny cartoons in Italian, an overpowering smell of roses, and at least a dozen footlong pink plastic pigs! Caterina, spoke to me in soothing if sparse English, "We will get you to your home. You will lie down on your bed. In the morning you will feel all better." The fare was half what my government-controlled taxi fare had been on the way."

I told my Italian "son" Cosimo about the extraordinary experience. "Oh, you have been very lucky. Catarina is on TV, on the Internet (http://bit.ly/g217UN), even they make a movie about her. She get the taxi from her fiance when he die of the cancer. She use it all the time, every day to help people. Children who are sick with the cancer and must go to the hospital for treatment. Anyone with a problem, Catarina make them feel better."

I went to bed with my mind in a whirl. The theme of my book slapped me upside the head: Agape is the balm that would be applied gently into the weary souls of my Crazy Ladies. Slowly, they would transform while embracing this virtue. It would bind them together and put them on the road to recovery.

In the night, I woke up and received the title to my Crazy Ladies Book: The Only Way to Paradise. There is only one way to Paradise and that is love. I 
found love in Italy.

You can order The Only Way to Paradise here.


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#BookReview The Bastard by Brenda Novak

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Title: The Bastard
Author: Brenda Novak
Genre: Historical Romance
Book Details: 204 Pages
Format Reviewed: ebook
Blurb:  To some men honor is just a word....

Jeannette Boucher, a young French beauty from a family left penniless by the revolution, must marry against her will to save them all from ruin. But almost immediately after the vows are spoken, she learns that her old English husband is impotent-and in his desire for an heir, he plans to compromise her in the worst way.

Determined to escape such a fate, she stows away on one of His Majesty's frigates. But a woman alone is in constant danger.

To Lieutenant Treynor, honor means everything....

Born a bastard to a wayward marquise, Lieutenant Crawford Treynor was given to a poor farmer to raise and was maltreated until he ran away to join the Royal Navy. Treynor is determined to prove he's as good as any other man and rise to captain his own frigate. But once he finds Jeannette aboard The Tempest he must decide whether to return her to the man he knows would abuse her-or risk everything, even his life, to keep her safe.


Available On Amazon

My Review: For those writers and publishers that don't think a cover matters, let me tell you this: I was drawn into an awful clichd book by a wonderful cover. I mean, that cover is just wow. The book however, was not.

On the other side of it, I also have to admit the blurb is very well written. It sounds like something that's going to be a great read and even a re-read.

The title was very fitting.

With honor meaning everything to Lieutenant Treynor, you'd think he wouldn't be quite the asshole all the time. Don't misunderstand. I do love a male character that can be an ass, that stands his ground, that is the man and not bending over to have a woman control him. However, there is a line and Crawford crosses it. He's not the hot dreamy hero.

The book wasn't written badly. I mean, the pacing and such were right on. I just feel the direction of the storyline failed for me. The ending was decent though.

Rating: 2/5
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#BookReview The Return of Black Douglas by Elaine Coffman

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Title: The Return of Black Douglas
Author:  Elaine Coffman
Genre: Highlander Romance, Time Travel, M/F
Book Details: novel
Format Reviewed:ebook
Blurb:   While visiting the Scottish tombs of her forebears, American archeologist Isobella Douglas encounters the ghost of her famous ancestor, Sir James, the Black Douglas. The matchmaking ghost seizes on her romantic fantasies, and before she knows it, Isobella and her twin sister, Elisabeth, a doctor, find themselves whisked to 16th-century Scotland, inappropriately dressed. When the dastardly Macleans capture Elisabeth, Alysandir Mackinnon, entirely fascinated by half-naked, strong-willed Isobella, offers to help her get her sister back. Bestseller Coffman (The Bride of Black Douglas) spins a rewarding love story between her two intelligent, stubborn protagonists, keeping their relationship fresh and their conflicts credible. Toss in a boy in need of a father, intriguing details of 16th-century customs, and a substantial but not overwhelming dose of sex, and the result is a satisfying time travel romance. (Apr.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Available On Amazon

My Review:  I have to admit to reading another Highlander time travel novel. This one kept me back and forth. One moment loving it, another almost hating it. At certain points the same issues kept going and going, making them seem to be on overkill.

Isobella's sister, Elisabeth was brought in as sort of a secondary storyline, but it wasn't done as well or as completely as it could have been. So, when you're reading the epilogue, it just feels as though you could have been told so much more on the story part rather than having all the additional repeat conflict between Alysandir and Isobella.

**SPOILER ALERT**
I normally try not to do these, but for me, it seems important to include due to my feelings on the book.

We never really find out why Black Douglas does what he does. I really don't like unclosed matters in a book. If there is a sequel, fine. However, things still need to be neatly wrapped at the end of one before going on to the next.

In the end, I really wanted to hear first hand about Alysandir's wedding and their children and their happily ever after. It was left with him stating he wanted her to be his wife. The prologue is about the girls' parents traveling to Scotland, visiting where they did a year later to try to determine how their daughters disappeared. They find their answers, but to me, the ending simply wasn't well done. I don't think the parent's closure needed the ending of a book that barely focused on them.



Rating: 2.5/5
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