Saturday, July 30, 2011

Shelter - Blood Haze: Book 1 by Tara Shuler - Review

Blood Haze Book 1
Author: Tara Shuler
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 9781461167020


Two guys, one vampire girl, and two dark secrets that threaten to tear her world apart.

Alice Wright is a young vampire going to high school for the first time at the age of seventeen at the behest of her eccentric mother. In many ways, she's more afraid of the human students than they would be of her.

She feels lost and awkward in human society, but she soon develops a strong bond with the cousin of one of her human classmates, nineteen year old Kai. He is beautiful, but somewhat of an enigma. She discovers a dark secret in Kai's life, and she instantly wants to shelter him from the pain that has tormented him all his life.

Then she meets Maksim Augustine, the incredibly gorgeous guy who seems more like he should be a model than a high school student. She is overwhelmingly attracted to him physically, but her love for Kai causes her to continually push him away. Eventually, she discovers a frightening secret about Max, too.

But Max's secret threatens to destroy everything...

My Thoughts:

I enjoy YA fiction and found this to be a captivating and interesting read. I liked the different take on vampires -  not being portrayed as immortal and had families and children. To me this was an interesting baseline for the story.

Alice, the main character is a vampire, and this is told from her point of view. I enjoyed all the characters but found myself getting frustrated with Kai's immaturity - a total difference from the self-confident Max. This created a conflict for me of who I really liked better.

This is a captivating read and will appeal to those that enjoy Twilight and other YA paranormal romances. Be warned that this is a cliff-hanger (UGH! Now I NEED to know what happens next!) that contains no sex, but some offensive language.

To learn more about the Blood Haze Series or more about Tara Shuler, please visit:
You can also find Blood Haze on Facebook:

I received this book from the author through LibraryThing for me to honestly review.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Follow Me Friday - Which T-Shirt?

Follow me Fridays are always so much fun. You find new blogs, friends and follows - what could be better than that?!

The question this week is:

Let's step away from books for a second and get personal. What T-Shirt slogan best describes you?

This one fits me to a "T" (no pun intended!)

Can't wait to see your pick for this week's question!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Theme Thursday - Any Action

Theme Thursdays is a fun weekly event that is hosted by Reading between Pages. It will be open from one Thursday to the next. Anyone can participate in it. The rules are simple:
  • A theme will be posted each week (on Thursday’s)
  • Select a conversation/snippet/sentence from the current book you are reading
  • Mention the author and the title of the book along with your post
  • It is important that the theme is conveyed in the sentence (you don’t necessarily need to have the word)
    Ex: If the theme is KISS; your sentence can have “They kissed so gently” or “Their lips touched each other” or “The smooch was so passionate”
This will give us a wonderful opportunity to explore and understand different writing styles and descriptive approaches adopted by authors.

This week's theme is ANY ACTION (ex: go, walk, close, clap, etc.)

Serena sprinted through the downpour across the stable yard, kicking up mud in her wake.

~Confessions of an Improper Bride
by Jennifer Haymore

page 148

What is your "Any Action" for this Thursday?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday - The Best of Me

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This event spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

 One book that keeps popping up on my Amazon recommended list is Nicholas Sparks new book, "The Best of Me". The targeted release date is October 11, 2011.

The Best of Me
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Published By: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 978-0446547659

Synopsis (from Amazon):
THE BEST OF ME is the heart-rending story of two small-town former high school sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks. Now middle-aged, they've taken wildly divergent paths, but neither has lived the life they imagined . . . and neither can forget the passionate first love that forever altered their world. When they are both called back to their hometown for the funeral of the mentor who once gave them shelter, they will be forced to confront the choices each has made, and ask whether love can truly rewrite the past.

What are you (impatiently) waiting for?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Summer Promise" Christy Miller Bk 1 by Robin Jones Gunn

Summer Promise:
Book 1 in the Christy Miller Series
Author: Robin Jones Gunn
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
ISBN: 9781601424044


Fourteen-year-old Christy Miller has the dream summer ahead of her in sun-kissed California, staying with her aunt and uncle at their beachfront home. Aunt Marti loves to shop, and those surfers are cute-especially Todd. Christy promised her parents she wouldn't do anything she'd regret later, and some of her beach friends are a little wild. But Todd and his "God-Lover" friends are giving Christy a new image of all things eternal. Can this summer live up to its promise?

My Thoughts

Targeted toward tweens to young teens, this well written story tackles the challenges of being a teenager and kicks it up a notch by focusing on the Christian teen. Christy is the average teen who only wants to be accepted and ends up in some very uncomfortable and unsafe situations. She lives on a farm, goes to church every Sunday, and is the all around "good" girl. She is soon to be 15 and not only wants friends, but wants a summer romance while she stays with her Aunt and Uncle. Her being boy crazy has an influence on how she looks at things and at times, her attitude is down-right annoying.

This book focuses heavily on peer pressure and how it can change one's life by making wrong decisions. After a particularly disturbing incident that happens to one of Christy's friends, there comes to light a very strong salvation message making this a wonderful tool to give to the teen that is beginning to question things about God.

All in all, this is a great book to give to any girl who struggles with peer pressure!!

About the Author:

ROBIN JONES GUNN is the best-selling and award-winning author of more than seventy books, with over 4 million copies of her titles sold worldwide. Best known among them are the Christy Miller, Sierra Jensen, and Christy and Todd: College Years teen series. A Christy Award winner and a two-time finalist for excellence in fiction, Robin has also been a Gold Medallion finalist. She and her husband have a grown son and daughter and live in Hawaii. Visit her at

Book was supplied by the publisher through NetGalley via LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program for me to honestly review.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mailbox Monday - Tons of Goodies This Past Week!

Mailbox Monday is hosted by a different blog every month. You can find which host when you visit Mailbox Monday and look at the left hand column. Anyone can play along. Just leave a link to your Mailbox Monday post at the Mailbox Monday host blog and follow the links to other blogs to see what books are finding their way to mailboxes around the world. WARNING!! Participation in Mailbox Monday can cause your "to be read" list to grow exponentially!!

This week was a great mail week for me!!

An ARC of:
Road from the West: 
Book 1 of the Chronicles of Tancred
Author: Rosanne E. Lortz
Publisher: Madison Street Publishing
ISBN: 9780983671909

A tale of Courage, Conquest, Intrigue, and Honor.

You've heard of the Knights Templar, you've heard of Richard the Lionheart—now learn the story that started it all with the adventures of the First Crusade.

Haunted by guilt from the past and nightmares of the future, a young Norman named Tancred takes the cross and vows to be the first to free Jerusalem from the infidels. As he journeys to the Holy Land, he braves vast deserts, mortal famine, and the ever-present ambushes of the enemy Turks—but the greatest danger of all is deciding which of the Crusader lords to trust. A mysterious seer prophesies that Tancred will find great love and great sorrow on his journey, but the second seems intent on claiming him before he can find the first. Intrigues and passions grow as every battle brings the Crusaders one step closer to Jerusalem. Not all are destined to survive the perilous road from the West.

Ransom's Quest
Book 3 of The Ransome Trilogy
Author: Kaye Dacus
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
ISBN: 9780736927550

This fast-paced, engaging end to the Ransome Trilogy follows a tale of love and danger on the Caribbean Sea in the early 1800s.

Commodore William Ransome is searching for his sister, Charlotte, who has been captured by Salvador, the infamous "Robin Hood of the West Indies." When word comes that his wife, Julia, has been kidnapped by the evil pirate, Shaw, Commodore Ransome and his crew frantically search the horizon for the two women he loves. After Charlotte is found, she emerges with revelations about Salvador's true identity and his willingness to help search for Julia. It's news that sends shockwaves through the family.

Will Commodore Ransome trust Salvador to help rescue his beloved wife? And what other secrets have been buried like long lost treasure in these waters? Romance, intrigue, and swashbuckling leaps of faith create a wonderfully heroic close to this beloved series.

An ARC of:
Along Wooded Paths:
A Big Sky Novel
Author: Tricia Goyer
Publisher: B&H Fiction
ISBN: 9781433668692

Although proud of living apart from the world, Marianna Sommer's newly relocated Amish family is discovering that life in the remote mountains of Montana requires working together with the Englisch. As Marianna pours her life into helping those around her-and receiving their help-her heart further considers two directions. She's torn between the Amish man from Indiana whom she has long planned on marrying and the friendly Englischer who models a close walk with God like she’s never seen before.

Who should have young Marianna's heart? What is God asking of her through ongoing family struggles and this romantic and spiritual tension? The answer is found along the wooded paths.

Review copy in e-book form
Freedom's Sword (Volume 1)
Author: J. R. Tomlin
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 9781461004158

Before William Wallace... before Robert the Bruce... there was another Scottish hero... In 1296, newly knighted by the King of the Scots, Andrew de Moray fights to defend his country against the forces of the ruthless invader, King Edward Longshanks of England. After a bloody defeat in battle, he is dragged in chains to an English dungeon. Soon the young knight escapes. He returns to find Scotland under the heel of a conqueror and his betrothed sheltering in the hills of the Black Isle. Seizing his own castle, he raises the banner of Scottish freedom. Now he must lead the north of Scotland to rebellion in hope of defeating the English army sent to crush them.

Review copy in e-book form
A Kingdom's Cost:
Book I of The Douglas Trilogy (Volume 1)
Author: J. R. Tomlin
Publisher: CreateSpace (April 28, 2011)
ISBN: 9781463526795

Eighteen-year-old James Douglas can only watch, helpless, as the Scottish freedom fighter, William Wallace, is hanged, drawn, and quartered. Even under the heel of a brutal English conqueror, James's blood-drenched homeland may still have one hope for freedom, the rightful king of the Scots, Robert the Bruce. James swears fealty to the man he believes can lead the fight against English tyranny. The Bruce is soon a fugitive, king in name and nothing more. Scotland is occupied, the Scottish resistance crushed. The woman James loves is captured and imprisoned. Yet James believes their cause is not lost. With driving determination, he blazes a path in blood and violence, in cunning and ruthlessness as he wages a guerrilla war to restore Scotland's freedom. James knows he risks sharing Wallace's fate, but what he truly fears is that he has become as merciless as the conqueror he fights.

Review copy in e-book form
Homeward: A Novel
Author: Melody Carlson

From bestselling author Melody Carlson comes this award-winning story of three generations of Lancaster women. For twenty years Meg Lancaster has avoided Briar Hedge, the Lancaster family estate. Now she has been drawn back to her grandmother's home to uncover secrets that have been hidden for decades and to try to regain the family she long ago abandoned.

The Things We Cherished: A Novel
Author: Pam Jenoff
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 9780385594208

An ambitious novel that spans decades and continents, The Things We Cherished tells the story of Charlotte Gold and Jack Harrington, two fiercely independent attor­neys who find themselves slowly falling for one another while working to defend the brother of a Holocaust hero against allegations of World War II–era war crimes.

The defendant, wealthy financier Roger Dykmans, mysteri­ously refuses to help in his own defense, revealing only that proof of his innocence lies within an intricate timepiece last seen in Nazi Germany. As the narrative moves from Philadelphia to Germany, Poland, and Italy, we are given glimpses of the lives that the anniversary clock has touched over the past century, and learn about the love affair that turned a brother into a traitor.

Rich in historical detail, Jenoff’s astonishing new work is a testament to true love under the worst of circumstances.

An ARC of:
Confessions of an Improper Bride
A Donovan Novel 
Author: Jennifer Haymore
Publisher: Forever
ISBN: 9780446573146

Serena Donovan left London six years ago, her heart broken and her reputation ruined by devilishly handsome Jonathan Dane. Now, with her family's future in peril, she reluctantly agrees to return to England and assume her late twin's identity. The price? Marry a man she doesn't love and spend the rest of her days living a lie.

Jonathan Dane, Earl of Stratford, has become an incorrigible rake, drinking, gambling-and trying to forget Serena Donovan. Yet the moment he's introduced to the prim and proper "Meg", he recognizes the sensual young woman who captured his heart. Haunted by his past mistakes, he refuses to lose Serena again. But convincing her to trust him is no easy task. Claiming his lost love means exposing the truth and destroying the life Serena has sacrificed everything to rebuild. With the future of all the Donovans at stake, and their undying passion capable of triggering yet another scandal, how much will Jonathan and Serena risk for a chance at true love? 

River's Song
The Inn at Shining Waters Series
Author: Melody Carlson
Publisher: Abingdon Press
ISBN: 9781426712661

Following her mother’s funeral, and on theverge of her own midlife crisis, widow Anna Larson returns to the home of her youthto sort out her parents’ belongings, as well as her own turbulent life.

For the first time since childhood, Anna embraces her native heritage,  despite the disdain of her vicious mother-in-law.

By transforming her old family home on the banks of the Siuslaw River into The Inn atShining Waters, Anna hopes to create a place of healing—a place where guests experience peace, grace, and new beginnings. Starting with her own family . . .

PHEW - that's it for this week. What's in your mailbox?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Only 6 of 100?

I had found this list posted a couple of years ago and printed it out for my children. I came across it the other day, and thought I'd share.

According to the BBC, they apparently believe that most people will have read only 6 out of the 100 books posted here.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare - read some
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy.
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth.
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

How did you do?
Are there any you think don't belong on this list?
Are there any missing that you think should be there?

I put those that I read in bold and came up with a grand total of 19. I have to say I hang my head in shame because more should be listed as being read. They were required reading in high school, but at that time, well... let's just say kids know ways to get out of reading them and still make the grades.

Will be slowly working on this list and hope to one day complete it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I Want to be a Vampire - Guest Post by Karen Essex

I Want to be a Vampire (and you should too!)
By Karen Essex

Friends and readers, let me give it to you straight.  I do not want to die.  It’s that simple.  And now that I have written a vampire book, Dracula in Love, and fully explored the advantages, I really, really thirst to be an immortal. 

Oh, I am not afraid of death.  I believe beyond a shadow of doubt in the immortality of the soul.  I am absolutely certain that death will be a pleasant, if not ecstatic experience.  I always believe that the best is yet to come, and I extend that belief to life after death.   If life is good, then death will be great.     

On the other hand, I am conflicted.  I know that my consciousness is eternal and that I have probably lived many lifetimes in one body or another.  But I really like this body.  It looks good enough, is aging better than I expected, and most of all, is very healthy.  It has always done what I ask it to do: crawl, walk, run, shoot baskets, dance, contort into weird yogic positions, sprawl on the couch.  What more could I ask of a hunk of flesh and corpuscle? 

I also very much like this mind; the one that is communicating with you right now; the one I educated for years and years; the one that has read thousands of books and written six of them.  Do you have any idea how much work that’s entailed?  Why would I want to start over with a mushy baby mind that can’t string a proper sentence together when I already have this finely tuned machine that once did calculus and can still turn out five pages of smoking prose even on a down day?  Why?

So you see, despite my optimism about the glory of the death experience, in the end, this birth-age-death-rebirth cycle just does not work for me.  I’m sure many of you feel the same way.  That is why I decided to look into other options. 

In fact, to write Dracula in Love, I studied every sort of magic and mythology having to do with immortality, and I concluded (along with Dracula) that the best and most attractive option, at least for me, is vampirism.  As Dracula himself might have worded it, if life is good and death is great, then how much greater is undeath?

Practically speaking, vampirism could facilitate sweeping globally change!  We could amortize the enormous investment we’ve made in ourselves over a few centuries at the very least.  One of the most depressing things about studying history is that humans do not learn by the mistakes of their ancestors.  Every generation has to learn its own lessons in its own time.  But imagine a world in which a good segment of the population was immortal.  These ancient beings, having been witnesses to so much history, could be our most valuable advisers and our most trusted and wise voices.  The accumulated wisdom and knowledge in each undead brain would rival the world’s greatest libraries, and, being immortal, would not be vulnerable to the sorts of things that have destroyed the great libraries of the past such as fire, flood, earthquakes, or marauding hordes of warriors. 

Thing is, we are very close to being vampires already.  Every generation has longed for a fountain of youth but today we actually have youth-extending tools that enable us to reject the very idea of aging. We have stem cell treatments, hormone therapies, miracle herbs and vitamins, cosmetic surgery, and loads of medicines that can keep us alive and looking good past our expiration date.  I often run into people who look better than they did twenty years ago!  It seems that we are vampirizing ourselves already.

The idea is definitely catching on.  For centuries, vampires were terrible monsters reflecting cultural fears; now they are more glamorous than rock stars and reflect our deepest fantasies.  You can’t throw a stone without running into a woman looking for a Dracula or a Cullen to give her Eternity (and I don’t mean the cologne). 

Did the vampire community secretly finance a multi-billion dollar image improvement campaign?  I think so, and I also think it’s working;  I don’t suppose you want to join me for a snack?

About the Author:

Karen Essex is the author of five novels of historical fiction. The latest, DRACULA IN LOVE, retells Bram Stoker's tale from the female perspective. STEALING ATHENA chronicles the fantastic journey of the controversial Elgin Marbles. The national and international bestseller LEONARDO'S SWANS, for which she won Italy's prestigious 2007 Premio Roma for foreign fiction, is the story of the rivalry between Leonardo's muses. Essex also wrote two acclaimed biographical novels, KLEOPATRA and PHARAOH, about the infamous queen of Egypt.

She is also an award winning journalist and a screenwriter, and wrote BETTIE PAGE: LIFE OF A PINUP LEGEND, the only authorized biography of the late pin-up icon.

Presently dividing her time between London and Los Angeles, Karen invites friends and readers to follow along as she chronicles her adventures, joys, and sorrows in putting together a complex work of historical fiction on her blog:

If you would like to find out more information about Karen or her books, you can find her at:

Her Website:
and her Facebook Page:!/profile.php?id=1060811184

Want to see what others are saying about "Dracula in Love"? Make sure to visit the other bloggers involved in this tour! You can find them listed here.

© 2011 Karen Essex

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Dracula In Love" by Karen Essex - Virtual Book Tour

Dracula in Love
Author: Karen Essex
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
ISBN: 9780767931229
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384

Everyone remembers Bram Stoker's "Dracula". It was a tale of horror and everyone knew that vampires were the "bad guys". But were they? Karen Essex takes Stoker's tale and gives it a twist. Following the same timeline, using the same characters and written in much of the same format "Dracula in Love" gives a total different view.

In the Prologue of the book, Mina Murray Harker states:
"Unlike most people whose lives remain private, my story has been written by another, sold for money and offered to the public for entertainment. The author of the fiction claims to be above reproach because his records are "exactly contemporary". But these "records" are falsified documents, based on the the lies of a cabal of murderers desperate to conceal their dark deeds."

She then continues on with the "real" story. The story of her life, her engagement, Lucy, the doctors, and of course, The Count. This story is a tale of erotic obsession and a romantic love that goes deep - centuries deep. It is also a tale of horror and sadness and a realization that all is not as it seems.

I adored the original "Dracula" and really was wondering how Ms. Essex was going to pull this one off. Ah, she did an impeccable job making me wonder and feel that her story was really the truth and the other was just a fabricated lie to make money. Oh, yes. Mina's story was powerful and captivating.

I took my time reading this novel. It screamed that it needed to be savored, and savor it I did. This book will be one that will stick with me for a while. Being a Dracula fan (it's one of my favorites) this novel shook and twisted my views of many of the characters. It now feels like it belongs with the original story - like the flip side of the coin.

If you haven't read Stoker's "Dracula", don't worry. You won't feel you are missing a thing, but you will most likely want to read it after you've finished "Dracula in Love" because you'll need to know what is in the original story. If you have read and enjoyed Stoker's Dracula, you will want to read this version!

This is one of my favorite reads this year! Highly recommended.

Parental warning: Contains some descriptive sexual content.

Want to see what others are saying about "Dracula in Love"? Make sure to visit the other bloggers involved in this tour! You can find them listed here.

For more information about the author you can visit Karen Essex at:
Her Website:
Her Blog:
and her Facebook Page:!/profile.php?id=1060811184

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. Make sure to stop back tomorrow as we continue this tour with a guest post from Karen. You won't want to miss it!

This book was provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for me to honestly review.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"College Safety 101" by Kathleen Baty - Review

College Safety 101
Author: Kathleen Baty
Publisher: Chronicle Books; 1 edition (May 4, 2011)
ISBN: 9780811869492
Paperback: 208 pages

A must-have for every young woman headed off to college, this comprehensive guide to personal safety covers everything from daily life to more serious threats on campus. Safety expert and speaker Kathleen Baty offers young women essential advice for protecting themselves in the dorm, at parties, on Facebook, during spring break, and while studying abroad. She also advises on sexual harassment, domestic violence, and self-defense. Written in a friendly, accessible tone, and packed with checklists, personal anecdotes from students, safety secrets, and invaluable resources, College Safety 101 is the handbook every college student needs on her nightstand, and a priceless gift for high school grads.

 My Thoughts:

Hand a teen a book that even looks like a safety instruction manual, and you will see the eyes roll and the "I'm not reading this - everyone knows how to be safe" look appear. I know - I have a teen leaving for college soon.

When I got this book, I wanted to read it and to see what safety issues I might have missed that could clue her in on. So, in somewhat the same mindset that my teen had, I sat down to read it. All I can say is "WOW!" Written in a conversational tone, this book is not only instructional, but engaging. It is written by a stalking victim that speaks to teens at their level and addresses things like the first month of college life, parties, road trips, dorm life, credit cards... everything a teen will be faced with in their new phase of life.

The book is written so it doesn't have to be read cover to cover, but instead, is broken down into chapters. Going on a road trip? Skip to the chapter that deals with it. It covers many essentials: ie: what should be taken, what to do in an emergency, etc.

Each chapter starts out with a true story in which someone was either victimized or could have been. The chapter then deals with what to do to prevent things from happening, or what to do in certain situations when you can't prevent it. There are even fun exercises that the teen and her roommate can do to increase awareness.

Honestly, even as a seasoned adult with a child already in college, I learned things: I didn't know that security reports for colleges were posted for the public and until now, I didn't have the first clue what one would do if they were a victim of identity theft.

Truly an amazing book that should be read not only by teens but every woman!

This book was supplied through the Amazon Vine Program for me to honestly review.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

3 Autographed Copies of Death After Midnight Giveaway

Dean Fetzer has contacted me with a wonderful surprise. He has offered 3 autographed copies of "Death After Midnight" to give away to our readers!!! Three lucky winners will each receive one (1) autographed copy. He is also willing to mail anywhere - international readers are welcomed to enter. A huge thank you to Dean for his amazing generosity!

The fine print:

To enter, please fill out the form below. If you missed Dean's 3 day stay, you can find it here, here and here. Winner will be drawn at random and will be contacted by email. If winner has not provided a mailing address, they will have 48 hours to respond to email. If no response, book will be offered to another entrant. Books are shipped directly from the author.  I am not responsible for non-receipt of this item.

Drawing is international - no location restrictions.

Drawing ends August 31, 2011 at 11:59 EST.

Dean Fetzer - Exclusive Guest Post

As we wind down our 3-day visit with author Dean Fetzer, he has gifted us with a very insightful look at publishing. His guest post should be noticed by all - he takes on a subject that many book bloggers talk about... Indie publishing.

It has been an honor to spend the last few days getting to know Mr. Fetzer and more about his work. I'm a bit saddened that we've come to the end, as he is an absolute pleasure to work with, but as the saying goes, "all good things must come to an end". Thank you so very much, Mr Fetzer!!!

State of the Publishing Nation - Indie vs Establishment

That title has probably put you off already - a lot of people read ‘indie’ and substitute ‘vanity’ or ‘crap’ or worse. And probably with good reason in some cases, as a lot of independently published books don’t stack up against offerings from traditional publishers. 

Notice I said ‘a lot’, not ‘all’. More on that later.

What does it really mean, indie vs traditional publisher?

I read a lot of writer blogs, publishing pages and twitter posts from authors (too many, according to my wife), musicians and creative types. A lot of them say the same thing, but there are some common themes. Things like Kickstarter and just internet viral word of mouth are proving to be great tools for anyone wanting to drum up support for a new book or project - it’s amazing what you can get money for via Kickstarter! But that’s not my point, the point is nothing’s changed here.

You heard me, getting people to buy books is the same as it always was: it’s about getting bums on seats, getting the reviews and making sure potential readers have access to what you’re selling. All that’s changed is some of the mediums we as authors use to get those messages across.

I’ve been traditionally published (twice) and have published two of my own novels myself. (Don’t groan, I’m working hard not to be one of the indies that gives the rest of us a bad name). I laid out both books myself - having a print design background wasn’t a total waste of time - I got my covers designed and I’ve had the contents edited by someone else, although one is better for that than the other. That done, I’ve organised printing and distribution, electronic versions of both books and then concentrated on getting exposure.

The experience from the publishing end is different but similar: our traditional publisher sorted out the cover, edited both books and printed copies of them, sent out a press release and… wait, that’s about it. But that’s the point, they produce a FINISHED article to a certain standard that’s expected of them - many indies don’t manage that.

Besides the finished product, a point I know a lot of people miss: getting a publisher doesn’t mean there’s less work to do; there’s exactly the same amount of work, unless you’re James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell or Stephen King (and lets be honest, their names do all the work). No one promotes your book but YOU whether you’re an independent publisher or land that dream book deal.

Talent wins out - and hard work

When I suggested this as a topic for my guest blog, Theresa replied with this comment:

"One thing I hear among bloggers is that they don't like reviewing vanity or indie books because they are either awful or the authors don't want anything besides glowing reviews."

It’s true. Most wannabe writers are unrealistic in their expectations and while a HEALTHY belief in one’s abilities is important, I know a great many are crushed when the reaction is not the ‘glowing review’ they expect from their favourite blog (go read the review and comments of a recent high profile crash and burn - it’s enlightening). And while everyone may have a book in them, I don’t necessarily want to read it.

I learned a long time ago - over 25 years ago, now - if you do anything creative you have to develop a thick skin. The simple fact is: not everyone’s going to like what you do. That’s fine, because it’d be a very strange and boring world if we all liked the same things, regardless of what you believe about “popular” culture.

Sadly, a lot of indie authors are buying the X-Factor/American Idol model of life: basically, “I’m going to write a book and it’ll be a best seller over night!” Reality check: it just doesn’t happen that way (for most people). I think one of the most depressing things to hear a kid say today is “I want to be famous!” That may be, but they don’t want to do the work involved to get there, either.

I mentioned Stephen King earlier and he’s a prime example. It took him a lot of years and a lot of work to become a household name. A lot of people forget (or choose to ignore the fact) he published short stories in the likes of Playboy magazine and lived on his wife’s income while he wrote. Hey, there are no shortcuts - writing is work!

I know she’s been in the press a lot recently, but Amanda Hocking is a good example of getting it right in the digital age. She’s very good at getting her message out there, but she can also write. It’s not just that people knew about her, she also managed to reach and connect with her audience - the difficult bit. And she’s not afraid to put in the hours it takes to get something done.

Advice for writers

Here’s the advice bit for anyone considering the self-publishing route: the biggest complaint I (and many, many others) have is about editing your final manuscript. No matter how good you think you are, you CAN’T edit it yourself. GET AN EDITOR. At the very least, you’ll get an outside perspective from someone without any axes to grind or sucking up to do. And they’ll fix those troublesome commas and apostrophes, too.

Last bit of advice. Writing the book is only half the battle - maybe a third - the rest is about getting people to read it. My favourite J.G. Ballard quote is apropos here:

“Any fool can write a novel but it takes real genius to sell it.”


That’s not the whole story with the indies; I’d say there’s a good portion of indie publishers who are getting it right, an attractive (DESIGNED) cover, good story that shows it’s been tightened up and any sloppy bits sorted out before it’s unleashed on the public. 

Cory Doctorow at the London Book Fair told how he’s offered a ‘bounty’ on spelling mistakes in his books. With the benefits of digital publishing, if you spot a spelling mistake in one of his books, he’ll correct it and footnote the contribution with your name and date. It’s a great idea and one I might ‘borrow’.

So give the indies a chance. Yes there’s dreck out there - but that was there before, it was just published by the traditional publishing houses. There’s still a lot of gems to uncover, too, I’m just going to be careful where I step…

About the Author

A keen lighting designer, Dean visited the Edinburgh Festival with a theatre company from the University of Colorado and then stayed for a year, before moving to Washington, D.C, then London. After moving to London, he took up a career in graphic design and then web communications in the City before starting pub review website with a friend. Editor of Fancyapint? in London and author of the first Jaared Sen book, Death in Amber, Dean lives in East London with his wife and two cats and dreams of that house in France.

If you would like to find out more about Dean or his books, you can visit his webpage at:
You can also find him on twitter at:!/deanfetzer/
or become a fan of his Facebook page at:

© 2011 Dean Fetzer

Once Upon a Time Read-a-Thon Wrap Up

Once Upon a Read-a-Thon

When I signed up for this Read-a-Thon I was sure I would have time get a few books out of the way and a lot of time to read. I mean, hey, the kids are working and I am home alone all day, so what could interrupt all that great reading time?!

Well, a couple of surprise visitors really took a huge chunk out of my time, and then there were a few things that popped up that needed taken care of. Oh man - I had to kiss all those hours good-bye.

What did I learn? The next read-a-thon that I participate in will be done from a hotel room with room service, no phone, and sound-proof walls! :)

My accomplishments are meager:

448 pages

288 pages


a mere 51 pages

For a grand total of:
787 pages... sigh....

Still in all, I had a great time and finished a couple of books that have been on my TBR pile for a long, long time!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dean Fetzer Author Interview

I am so very excited to be able to feature an amazing writer today.  Dean Fetzer is the author of the Jaared Sen Quartet, a series whose main character is a blind investigator. If you stopped by yesterday, you had a glimpse of his new book, "Death After Midnight", the second book in the quartet. If you missed it, you can read my review here.

It is such a pleasure having you here with us, Dean. As you know, I'm crazy about your main character in The Jaared Sen Quartet. However, before we get started discussing your new book, could you please tell us a little about yourself.

Hmm… where to start. I’m originally from a small town in eastern Colorado (the flat bit) but I’ve lived in London for the best part of 20 years now. I studied Architecture at the University of Colorado in the ‘80s but spent a lot of time in the Art department, the Music building and basically doing technical support for theatre and opera productions. When I graduated, I got to accompany a theatre company to Edinburgh, Scotland, for the “Fringe Festival” as their lighting designer and tech. As I was done with Uni, I stayed in Edinburgh for the best part of the next year. I ended up in Washington, D.C. with my former theatre companions who’d set up a company called Consenting Adults there. So I did the usual theatre thing, and worked during the day and did theatre at night. To cut this long story short, we went back to the Edinburgh Festival and I met a girl, moved to London, got married and went to work for British Telecommunications as a graphic designer. Met a good friend at BT and we set up, a pub review website. We’ve been doing that for over a decade now and it’s allowed us to do our own things - like writing!

You've led a fascinating life and it sounds like you are one of the lucky ones that gets to do what he loves. Since you brought up writing, please tell us about your latest novel, "Death After Midnight".

Well, the DAM novel (as I call it) is about my hero from the previous book Death in Amber Jaared Sen, a blind detective, and the quest to find the Priory of Sion, which your readers may have heard of if they’ve read Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Along the way, he meets a historian, Stel Chambers and her boss, The Head, a culturally refined criminal kingpin who wants what the Priory is guarding. Set in London and southern France, we also meet Émile Bastien, an antiquities dealer in the southern French town of Limoux, who has an odd leg. It’s a quest novel, it’s just not always clear who the white knight is.

What inspired you to write this novel?

My wife Debra and I go to the south of France regularly and one year I was reading about the Holy Grail and found several references to a tiny, mysterious village called Rennes-le-Château. The place itself is a bit sleepy; the mystery surrounds the priest who took over the tiny church of St Mary Magdalene in the late 1800s. The church was practically falling down when Abbe Bérenger Saunière, born in the area, took it on. He borrowed money from the commune and a wealthy local to start a renovation project which led to him finding “treasure”, so the story goes. Whatever he found, it changed his fortunes and he very quickly seemed to gain wealth and influence, restoring the church and building a guest house and gardens next to it. He and his housekeeper, Marie Denarnaud hosted parties with distinguished guests from Paris, which was even stranger for a rural priest! There are enough oddities in the area to excite the mind, strange carvings on tombstones, hints at a vast hidden treasure left by the Visigoths – enough peculiar events to write several novels! Saunière died suddenly in 1917, providing more grist for the mill!

Visiting the little church of St Mary Magdalene is a strange experience — I don’t think I’ve ever been in a church quite like it. It is tiny, dark and the proliferation of statues, bas reliefs and decoration are quite terrifying. The name’s another flag to the conspiracy theorists, of course, as legend has it Mary Magdalene fled to France after the Crucifixion!
The place sounds fascinating, and the story behind it is amazing. No wonder you wanted to write about it. Now, on to my favorite subject... As you know, I adore, Jaared Sen. How did you come up with such an amazing character?

I’d say Jaared has his roots in my lack of 20/20 vision - I’ve worn glasses since I was six and I guess I’ve got a minor obsession with the idea of going blind. I read Follow my Leader by James Garfield as a kid and the idea of developing other senses in response to blindness stuck with me.

Then I found comic book hero Daredevil , mild mannered lawyer Matt Murdock who fights for the weak through the courts by day and fights crime as his alter-ego Daredevil at night - and he’s blind. That’s the character who really opened up the possibilities for me about what can be done and the potential for heightened senses and other abilities.

Of course, Jaared is also charged with eliminating ‘bad eggs’ where the need arises, what I’d call my latent sympathy with Judge Dredd and his “I AM THE LAW” ideals combined with Trevanian’s super-assassin Nicholai Hel from Shibumi  which I read in the ‘80s. I wouldn’t say it was an easy birth - too many fathers!

Brilliant!! All of those characters influences certainly make him complex and intriguing. Are there any characters in The Jaared Sen Quartet that you personally identify with?

It’s hard not to pick Jaared, as I’ve known him the longest and I wish I were that cool!

I think for his vulnerability, I’d have to pick Émile Bastien from the second book. He really doesn’t know what’s going on for a good portion of his life - I think we all feel that way, at sometime in our lives!
Who or what was your biggest influence in your decision to become a writer?

I think reading has been the biggest part of my life for as long as I can remember - I can’t remember not reading! As a kid I would always rather read than do something like homework or mow the lawn.

My Mother tells a story of a parent-teacher conference they had with my teacher, Mrs Stephens, when I was in the sixth grade. Apparently I’d been caught reading a book inside my math book (math’s boring, anyway!). My Mom asked if they should discipline me for it. Mrs Stephen’s response was perhaps telling at a time when “Johnny can’t read” was resurgent. She said, “Oh no, at least he’s reading!”

Having consumed a good portion of the books from various libraries over my school years, I decided one day I could do that. I think my first stories were around Junior High and, inevitably, science fiction as I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. It was only much later that I spent more time reading crime and mystery books and as one of my teachers suggested ‘read what you want to write’, hey presto, I’m writing mystery thrillers with a hint of sci-fi!

What a story. It would be great if there were more teachers like Mrs. Stephens. Now that we are on the topic of influential people, if you could spend one day with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

That’s a tough one. I’d have to pick two: William Gibson, the author and Stevie Ray Vaughan, the musician.

The inventor of the word “cyberspace”, Gibson totally blew my mind out of the water with his award-winning novel Neuromancer  - and he stopped a lot of traditional sci-fi dead at one go. I think my reading of the old pulp masters dropped off after the epiphany I had reading his book. I’ve met him a couple of times and he’s another one I’d describe as a “brain the size of the universe” kind of guy. But I’d probably just bore him for a whole day!

Stevie Ray Vaughan is one of my hero guitarists from the Blues tradition. Music’s been important to me for a very long time and I constantly have something on when I’m writing - and it varies widely as my tastes are eclectic to say the least! Stevie was a great guitarist (you’ve heard his work, he played with David Bowie on the album Let’s Dance in 1983) and I love the way he enjoyed himself while he was playing - I can hear it in the music. His early death - he was only 35 - reminds me to always try to live like this could be my last day on earth and squeeze every bit of juice from life. I’d love to have had the chance to just hang out with him, have a few drinks and listen to him play for a day (before I bored him, too).

Bore them? I seriously doubt that. I know some authors have strange rituals when they write. Some have to have a certain food, lock themselves in a room, only work at night, etc. What's yours?

According to my wife, I get up ridiculously early (around five, most days) and sit in front of the computer for a couple of hours before Debs gets up. It’s quiet and I can concentrate, have a cup of coffee and hopefully get a couple thousand words done. This doesn’t work every day, as there’s email to answer, things to edit and proof and blogs to write. I also take my laptop on holiday (vacation) - at least part of the time is spent writing as I guess I don’t need a break from that, it’s the day job that I’m getting away from!

How does writing work with your family life?

*Laughs* Good question! As the English say, they ‘rub along’ fairly well. It’s a bit like having two desks, one for work and one for writing (although mine are combined to save space) and they’re separate for the most part. Well, other than making Debs go to see authors talking about writing, of course! Seriously, most of my writing takes place in early mornings and happens as if by magic!

What things do you enjoy doing when you aren't writing?

As I said, I’m an avid reader and constantly have a book on the go. I got a Kindle after Christmas and it seems like I’m downloading new books all the time!

We try to get to concerts on a regular basis - we saw K.D. Lang a few weeks ago and she was amazing! Or the theatre, I think we’re off to see Richard III at the Old Vic this weekend with Kevin Spacey.

And I guess holidays in the south of France - we’ve been once already this year and it looks like we’re going three more times!

Would you share one thing most people don't about you?

I played trumpet for 15 years, put it down when I moved to Edinburgh and haven’t picked it up since. I keep toying with the idea, as I’d love to play blues, I just haven’t made the time!

Tell us about your next project. 

Phew! Once the Quartet is finished, I’ve got a book I started a few years ago about a revival tent preacher during the dust bowl years of the depression. It’s a departure from Jaared’s world, but I’d like to finish it. And then I’ve got a lot of other ideas to choose from!

I will miss Jaared when the Quartet is finished, but the storyline of your next book sounds like something I'd enjoy reading. I'm looking forward to it!

Thank you, Dean, for taking time out of your busy schedule. It has been a real pleasure talking with you.

If you would like to find out more about Dean or his books, you can visit his webpage at: 
You can also find him on twitter at:!/deanfetzer/ 
or become a fan of his Facebook page at:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Death After Midnight" by Dean Fetzer

I am very excited to have the privilege to host one of my favorite authors over the next few days. Dean Fetzer is the creator of Contractor Jaared Sen - the main and deliciously "hot" character and investigator extraordinaire of the Jaared Sen Quartet. Today, we will have a look at Mr. Fetzer's latest book, "Death After Midnight". Tomorrow we will be back with Mr. Fetzer with an exclusive interview, where we get a peek at the man who brought Contractor Sen to life!!

Death After Midnight
Author: Dean Fetzer
Publisher: GunBoss Books
ISBN: 9780956158123
Paperback: 320 pages

The Priory of Sion lives: January 17, 1917 – the infamous priest in the tiny village of Rennes-le-Château, Bérenger Saunière, is found collapsed in the door of his tower. Five days later, he is dead, leaving few clues as to his fabulous wealth and influence. Some say he found Visigoth hoards or Templar Treasure, Cathar artifacts or even more unbelievable, the Holy Grail. All traces died with his housekeeper and she told no one. Over a century later, Commander Jaared Sen is assigned to follow a shady character, known as ‘The Head’, pursuing the treasure of Rennes-le-Château at all costs. What is this mysterious treasure and who are the Priory of Sion? Aided by his mysterious benefactress and a beautiful art historian, Jaared follows the Head to the south of France, into the dark heart of the Languedoc, its soil and history soaked in the blood of crusaders and martyrs.
My Thoughts:

Contractor Jaared Sen is back, and this time he's involved with finding the Templar Treasure. Full of action, wit and suspense, "Death After Midnight" kept me captivated until the last page. It is no secret, I'm a die-hard Jaared Sen fan (see my review of "Death in Amber") so I may be a bit biased on one hand, but also probably harder to please on the other. I had large expectations from this novel, and Mr. Fetzer did not disappoint me.

"Death After Midnight" is the second novel in the Jarred Sen Quartet and although it can easily be read as a stand alone, I would highly recommend starting with the first book "Death in Amber" so that you can get to know who Jaared Sen is - a superb investigator with a sense of humor, who is also blind. Like most great detectives, Jaared has been know to bend the rules to get the job done.

Focusing on the myth of the Templar Treasure, "Death after Midnight" takes the reader to the southern part of France and immerses them in the richness of the area. Here the Crusades were fought and martyrs are many - and all adds a great realism to the possibility of the Templar myths. Mr. Fetzer plays on that myth with a supernatural twist - giving it an even more "spookier" feel and created an almost horror-like mystery.

The end holds a few special twists as well as answers from the first book. Being a quartet, it also sets the stage for the next book in the series, "Book of the Dead", which is due out in Autumn 2011. I can't wait for the next book - with the secrets that were revealed, I can't wait to see where things go. WOW!

About the Author

A keen lighting designer, Dean visited the Edinburgh Festival with a theatre company from the University of Colorado and then stayed for a year, before moving to Washington, D.C, then London. After moving to London, he took up a career in graphic design and then web communications in the City before starting pub review website with a friend. Editor of Fancyapint? in London and author of the first Jaared Sen book, Death in Amber, Dean lives in East London with his wife and two cats and dreams of that house in France.

Book was supplied by the author for me to honestly review.