February 26, 2010

Review of "truly, madly" by Heather Webber

Synopsis: Lucy Valentine is as smart as can be, as single as you can get, and so not qualified to run a matchmaking service. But when her parents temporarily step down from the family business, Valentine, Inc., it’s Lucy’s turn to step up and help out—in the name of love.

Plus, her rent is due.

Here’s the problem: Lucy doesn’t have the knack for matchmaking. According to family legend, every Valentine has been blessed by Cupid with the ability to read “auras” and pair up perfect couples. But not Lucy. Her skills were zapped away years ago in an electrical surge, and now all she can do is find lost objects. What good is that in the matchmaking world? You’d be surprised. In a city like Boston, everyone’s looking for something. So when Lucy locates a missing engagement ring—on a dead body—she asks the sexy private eye who works upstairs to help her solve the perfect crime. And who knows? Maybe she’ll find the perfect love while she’s at it…

Take a spunky, determined heroine who believes her family has been cursed in the love department. Mix in an element of the supernatural, a murder mystery, a sexy firefighter turned private investigator, a three legged cat and a one eyed hamster and you’ve got truly, madly!

If you think from my brief description that this book sounds humorous and fun, even on the silly side, you’d be right. From the moment I met Lucy Valentine on page one, I fell in love with her. She is witty, she’s worried that she will never be meant to find The One, she adores her adopted pets and she finds her parents a tad bit embarrassing. She is the kind of girl that I would love to go shopping with or chill out with one evening while watching a Colin Firth DVD.

Yes, readers, this is paranormal mystery romance chick lit at its delicious finest.

Despite being able to locate missing items by merely touching the owner of the lost item, Lucy is very much like the rest of us. She has tried her hand at various jobs before attempting her hand at the family business and feels out of her element and even inferior compared to her larger than life father.

I thoroughly enjoyed the side mystery, which had just enough twists to keep the story compelling and yet still light. Die hard mystery lovers, however, might find the mystery aspect of truly,madly a bit anemic though, so reader beware.

truly, madly, however, is more about Lucy and her follies rather than a mystery and it succeeds on this front. Besides the aforementioned praise regarding Lucy’s character, I thought Lucy’s long term girlfriends Marisol and Em, were strong supporting characters and I would actually like to hear more about them in future Lucy Valentine novels. The trio played off each other wonderfully and they sounded (and acted) like real girlfriends.

Now to Sean, our leading man . . . a perfect counterpart to Lucy. He is a private eye, who is covering for his brother who is on vacation - very much like Lucy who is covering for her father. Like the best literary couples, the two of them may on the surface appear to have little in common but behind the scenes, fireworks!

truly, madly isn’t a deep read but it’s a satisfying and fulfilling one, the equivalent of a literary carnival ride- - fun and definitely worth the price of admission.

I would recommend it to any lover of chick lit and who enjoys their heroine with a paranormal ability and serious spunk.

For more about truly, madly and author Heather Webber, please visit Ms. Webber’s website HERE.

deeply, desperately, the second Lucy Valentine novel is due in August 2010.

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in connection with Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program, in which a fair and honest review is requested. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.

Thank you to Eileen Rothschild and St. Martin's Press for the opportunity to read and review truly, madly.

February 23, 2010

Review of The Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer . . . and a Giveaway!

Synopsis:  Four murders.  Three accidents.  Two suicides.  One left…

Michael Palmer’s latest novel pits a flawed doctor against a ruthless psychopath, who has made murder his art form. Dr. Nick Garrity, a vet suffering from PTSD—post traumatic stress disorder—spends his days and nights dispensing medical treatment from a mobile clinic to the homeless and disenfranchised in D.C. and Baltimore. In addition, he is constantly on the lookout for his war buddy Umberto Vasquez, who was plucked from the streets by the military four years ago for a secret mission and has not been seen since.

Psych nurse Jillian Coates wants to find her sister’s killer. She does not believe that Belle Coates, an ICU nurse, took her own life, even though every bit of evidence indicates that she did—every bit save one. Belle has left Jillian a subtle clue that connects her with Nick Garrity.

Together, Nick and Jillian determine that one-by-one, each of those in the operating room for a fatally botched case is dying. Their discoveries pit them against genius Franz Koller--the highly-paid master of the “non-kill”—the art of murder that does not look like murder. As doctor and nurse move closer to finding the terrifying secret behind these killings, Koller has been given a new directive: his mission will not be complete until Jillian Coates and Garrity, the last surgeon, are dead.

I have not read many medical thrillers. As much as I enjoy a good thriller or suspense book, I discovered that some medically themed books become tedious with so many medical terms and jargon, turning a relaxing pastime into a chore.

Not so with Michael Palmer’s The Last Surgeon. I found Mr. Palmer’s tale of a surgeon suffering from PTSD, intertwined with missing men, accidental deaths that may be murders and a character that has rightfully been compared with the ultimate literary sociopath, Hannibal Lecter, to be utterly engrossing and suspenseful.

Nick Garrity was a wonderful central character - - traumatized, yes, but strong, determined and most definitely worth rooting for. So well written and rounded was the character of Nick that I could easily visualize him in my mind and hear his voice throughout the story.   (In fact, I continued reflecting throughout the story what a fantastic movie The Last Surgeon would make.)

Jillian Coates was a very good match for Nick, both in spirit and intelligence. In my reading experience I have found that some books that are primarily thrillers force feed the romance, causing it to feel overly scripted rather than a natural progression. Nick and Jillian, however, feel like a natural match and their relationship doesn’t detract from the main story.

I also loved the character of Junie and found her to be a wonderful compliment to Nick. She was descriptive and fleshed out and other than the character of Franz Koller, possibly my favorite supporting character.

It may seem strange to feel that someone like Franz Koller would be a favorite character but Mr. Palmer has made such a vivid, frightening , fearful and fearless individual that surely deserves a place in literary infamy along with the aforementioned Hannibal Lector, Dracula and even Harry Potter’s Voldemort, to name but a few. Franz is evil and he is completely free of conscious and yet he’s a fascinating and complex character that steals the show from anyone else on the page. He brings to light our worst fears - - another human walking among us that is completely devoid of normal, human behaviors and makes certain scenes of The Last Surgeon a scary read.

This was my first book by Mr. Palmer and my first exposure to his writing. Despite the medical aspects of the writing and the intense scenes of war and violence, the writing flowed as easily as good wine. And like good wine, I thought The Last Surgeon was worth savoring.

I would highly recommend The Last Surgeon to anyone who enjoys a thriller or suspense novel and, most especially, an excellent read. 

The Last Surgeon is available for purchase now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or author Michael Palmer’s website.

For more information about author Michael Palmer, please visit his website HERE and The Last Surgeon’s Facebook page HERE.   Michael Palmer's Twitter page is HERE.

The Last Surgeon counts toward my progress in the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge
Review copy of this book provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.  In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.

Author Michael Palmer is offering a signed copy of The Last Surgeon to one of my lucky readers!  Residents of the U.S. and Canada are eligible to enter (with no P.O. boxes please). To enter, simply reply to this post and be sure to leave me an email address where I can contact you. The contest will run through Tuesday, March 2 and I will choose the lucky winner via Randomizer on Wednesday, March 3.

Good luck!

February 21, 2010

Must Read Review: Reading With Tequila's review of "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

"Must Read Review" is where I highlight reviews from other bloggers whose posts not only send me to be TBR list but that I consider "must read".

This time I've chosen Jennifer from Reading with Tequila's review of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.  I have owned my own beautiful library bound version of this classic for a handful of years but have never read it.  No excuse really, other than being complacent since I own the copy.  For further insult, I have seen the 1940s film twice and know it's an incredible story. 

One thing I appreciate from Jennifer's review is that while she does commend the book, she is also mentions an aspect of the book she didn't particularly care for. 

Enjoy these little snippets from Jennifer's review:

"He [Dorian] tried to experience everything the world has to offer (a noble pursuit) and finds that life can become pointless without boundaries. . . .

 Dorian's friend, Harry, is the absolute shining star of this novel . . .

The one thing I disliked about The Picture of Dorian Gray was that it seemed like the most interesting pieces of the story were missing. Oscar Wilde was very vague about exactly why Dorian actually did in the years he spent corrupting his soul."

For the full review, go HERE

Thank you, Jennifer, for that insightful and inspiring review. 

Did anyone else come across a must read review this past week? 

February 19, 2010

New Look!

The new, revamped Psychotic State is here! 

Thanks to the wonderfully talented and lovely Rachel at Parajunkee Design, the new look is a bit more sleek and (dare I say it?) glamorous.  Bear with me over the next few days as I get the bits and pieces in order - - but what do you think?

I cannot praise Parajunkee Designs enough for providing me with what I was looking for and deciphering my disjointed ramblings.  Please check out the Parajunkee Design's homepage here

Many thanks and much love, Rachel!!

February 18, 2010

Review of "The Bride Collector" by Ted Dekker

Synopsis:  FBI Special agent Brad Raines is facing his toughest case yet. A Denver serial killer has killed four beautiful young women, leaving a bridal veil at each crime scene, and he's picking up his pace. Unable to crack the case, Raines appeals for help from a most unusual source: residents of the Center for Wellness and Intelligence, a private psychiatric institution for mentally ill individuals whose are extraordinarily gifted.

It's there that he meets Paradise, a young woman who witnessed her father murder her family and barely escaped his hand. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Paradise may also have an extrasensory gift: the ability to experience the final moments of a person's life when she touches the dead body.

In a desperate attempt to find the killer, Raines enlists Paradise's help. In an effort to win her trust, he befriends this strange young woman and begins to see in her qualities that most 'sane people' sorely lack. Gradually, he starts to question whether sanity resides outside the hospital walls...or inside.

As the Bride Collector picks up the pace-and volume-of his gruesome crucifixions, the case becomes even more personal to Raines when his friend and colleague, a beautiful young forensic psychologist, becomes the Bride Collector's next target.

The FBI believes that the killer plans to murder seven women. Can Paradise help before it's too late?

This was my first Ted Dekker book and after immersing myself in Mr. Dekker's prose for the last week, I feel like Augustus Gloop might have felt after drinking Willy Wonka's chocolate river - - satiated and happy to have done it, despite the messiness. 

The Bride Collector is the type of genre book I have always been drawn to, a mystery/thriller.  I don't mind if I solve the mysteries/thrillers before the end (provided that if the clues are obvious the hero or heroine figures it out as well).  What I do mind is if the hero or heroine does something completely out of character or something that is so obviously to make him or her have a run-in with the killer or bad guy but is the type of move that defies common sense (such as taking a midnight stroll while a serial killer is on the loose, right smack in the middle of the killer's hunting ground). 

Fortunately Mr. Dekker avoids illogical character actions and reveals the identity of the Bride Collector fairly early on.   The mystery isn't so much the killer's identity but why he's doing what he's doing and whether or not hero Brad Raines can stop him. 

I found Brad to be a hero you can root for.  I liked his character and I particularly enjoyed that Mr. Dekker didn't say so much with words that Brad was a faithful and loyal man who was adept at his job, he let Brad's actions shape and mold his character.  If you've read my past reviews you know that I like characters with flaws and Brad is no exception. 

The Center for Wellness and Intelligence was an interesting and fascinating locale for a portion of the book.  Supporting characters Allison, Andrea, Roudy and Cass added extra dimension and flavor to the story and I found the psychiatric and psychological themes to be appealing without being heavy handed or overly academic.  These characters on their own formed unusual stories that could have demanded more.

As much as I liked Paradise, I also felt she was a bit weak and I wished her family storyline and connections could have been further developed and identified.  I enjoyed her "ability" and I would have appreciated reading more about that.

The Bride Collector himself, however, was a powerful and satisfying character.  As much as you root for Brad and hope for the Collector's failure, you also hope that these two strong men will come face to face, a good versus evil, if you will.    Mr. Dekker did an outstanding job with fleshing out the Collector and making him more than just "the serial killer". 

In short, I found The Bride Collector  to be an intense, action-packed, and ultimately very satisfying, read.  Mr. Dekker threw one or two unexpected curveballs in the book that kept this reader on her toes and anxiously flipping each page.  I thought the story was absorbing, as well as Mr. Dekker's writing, which made me care about the characters and what happened to them.  I plan on adding Mr. Dekker to my "must read" list and am pleased that I had this opportunity. 

The Bride Collector is available for pre-order now through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  It may also be pre-ordered through Hachett's website.

For more by and about author Ted Dekker, visit his Facebook page, his Twitter account and/or his website.

The Bride Collector counts toward my progress in the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge.

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review

February 17, 2010

In Memory of Colette, Kimberley and Kristen MacDonald

Colette MacDonald 1943-1970
Kimberley MacDonald 1964-1970
Kristen MacDonald 1967-1970

Forty years ago today (February 17, 1970), Colette, Kimberley and Kristen MacDonald lost their lives at the hands of Jeffrey MacDonald.  Also lost was the unborn baby boy that Colette was carrying. 

Please take a moment today to think of them. 

For more information about this sad crime, Joe McGinniss' book Fatal Vision is an excellent resource, as well as Christina Masewicz' book Scales of Justice.  Both can be purchased through Amazon by clicking the links. 

For my personal feelings on this case, including my long journey from probably guilty to possibly innocent to absolutely guilty, please read my post here

February 15, 2010

The Winners of "Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World"!

The lucky winners of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy:  The Last Man in the World by Abigail Reynolds are . . .



The Ladybug Lounge

Congratulations to SandyM204 and The Ladybug Lounge!  If you will forward me your mailing addresses, I will see that your new book gets out to you.

Thanks to everyone who visited my blog and entered the giveaway. Please stick around for future reviews and giveaways.

Thanks again to Danielle Jackson and Sourcebooks for making this giveaway possible.

Mailbox Monday: February 15, 2010

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page where we share what reads we have received in our mailboxes the previous week.

Here are the goodies that arrived for me last week:

Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine (author contact)

"Bette Davis and Joan Crawford: two of the deadliest arch-rivals of all time. Born in the same year (though Davis swore 'Crawford is five years older than me if she's a day'), the two fought bitterly throughout their long and brilliant Hollywood careers. Joan became a star first, which always irked her rival, who suggested her success had come via the casting couch. 'It sure as hell beats the hard cold floor' was Crawford's scathing response. According to Davis, Crawford was not only a nymphomaniac but also 'vain, jealous and about as stable and trustworthy as a basket of snakes'. Crawford, in turn, accused Davis of stealing her glory and planning to destroy her. The two rivals fought over as many men as they did parts - when Bette fell in love with her co-star in DANGEROUS, Franchot Tone, Joan stepped in and married him. The women worked together only once, in the classic thriller WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, in which their violent hatred of each other as rival sisters was no act."

Try Darkness by James Scott Bell (publicist contact)

"In Try Dying (2007), L.A. trial lawyer Ty Buchanan’s fianceĆ© was killed, and Ty himself was brought up on murder charges. Now he’s trying to put that disastrous period in his life behind him. He’s living in a trailer on the grounds of a monastery, easing back into professional life, when a case involving a woman and her young daughter, who are being tossed out of their apartment by an unscrupulous building owner, draws him back into the dangerous world he thought he’d left behind. The case seems a simple enough matter, but soon after Ty makes it clear he will pursue his client’s rights, the woman is found dead, and now Ty must protect the little girl while trying to find out who’s behind her mother’s murder. Bell builds on the numerous strengths of the first novel, firmly positioning Buchanan as a strong series lead and once again telling a story that is equal parts crime drama and human emotion.

Original Sin by Allison Brennan (publicist contact)

"Haunted by chilling memories of demonic possession and murder, Moira O’Donnell has spent seven years hunting down her mother, Fiona, whose command of black magic has granted her unprecedented control of the underworld. Now Moira’s global search has led her to a small California town that’s about to become hell on earth.

Tormented by his own terrifying past and driven by powers he can’t explain, ex-seminarian Rafe Cooper joins Moira’s dangerous quest. But Fiona is one devilish step ahead. Hungry for greater power, eternal youth, and stunning beauty, the sorceress is unleashing upon the mortal world the living incarnations of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Together with a demonologist, a tough female sheriff, and a pair of star-crossed teenagers, Moira and Rafe are humanity’s last chance to snatch salvation from the howling jaws of damnation.
  A Woman of Influence by Rebecca Ann Collins (publicist contact)

"Acclaimed author Rebecca Ann Collins once again turns to the rich tapestry of Pride and Prejudice, moving the beloved characters forward and introducing new characters into a complex social history of an evolving period in English history. Contrary, opinionated, and headstrong, Becky Collins—daughter of Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins—has always defied her staid upbringing with a determination not to submit to the pressures of Victorian domesticity and class distinction. She marries Anthony Tate, a man of wealth and power, believing it will enhance her opportunities to make something significant of a hitherto ordinary life, but quickly discovers that it brings her neither happiness nor contentment. Becky's story is a glimpse behind the scenes of the complicated struggles that often lay behind the seemingly calm exterior of Victorian womanhood.

A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware (publicist contact)

"Some might call it running away . . .

But after a scandalous Hollywood divorce, Blythe Stowe considered it damage control for body and soul. The pain, the humiliation, the daily tabloids shouting details as her famous husband dumped her for her own sister demanded a serious getaway: to the wild coast of Cornwall and a cottage by the sea that her Wyoming grandmother claimed had been home to her ancestors.

Some might call it chance . . .

But Blythe encountered more than just a quaint retreat nestled amid vivid skies and gorgeous ocean. And she had the odd sensation that her wickedly handsome neighbor Lucas Teague was more than a British gentleman going broke. He might be her destiny . . .

Strange Neighbors by Ashlyn Chase (publicist contact)

"When all-star pitcher and shape-shifter Jason Falco buys a small apartment building, he sees it not only as an investment but as a place to escape the demands of major league baseball. That is, until he meets his tenants— a sarcastic unemployed crime-fighter vampire; a wereraven with a morbid sense of humor; a super-friendly salesman werewolf; and two witches with an owl who work as phone sex actresses. Not to mention a beautiful, all-too-human nurse. But with all the hooting, howling, and hollering going on, how's an all-American shapeshifter supposed to sweep a girl off her feet?

The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice by Abigail Reynolds (re-release of the formerly titled Pemberley by the Sea) (publicist contact)

"Marine biologist Cassie Boulton likes her coffee with cream and her literature with happy endings. Her favorite book is Pride and Prejudice, but Cassie has no patience when a modern-day Mr. Darcy appears in her lab. Silent and aloof, Calder Westing III doesn’t seem to offer anything but a famous family name… But there is more to Calder than meets the eye, and he can’t get enough of Cassie Boulton. Especially after one passionate night by the sea. But Cassie keeps her distance. Frustrated by Cassie’s evasions, Calder tells her about his feelings the only way she’ll let him—by rewriting her favorite book, with the two of them in the roles of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. But it’s up to Cassie to supply the ending...

So what goodies arrived in your mailbox last week? 

February 14, 2010

Favorite Literary Couples

In observance of Valentine's Day and following Mary from The Sweet Bookshelf's lead, I am sharing my favorite literary couples.

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

This one is painfully obvious, isn't it?  But there's a reason this couple makes nearly every favorite couple list - - they are perfect for each other, despite an initial dislike and preset judgment of the other.  Mr. Darcy turns out to be a kind and considerate gentleman with a tender heart who finds his lovely and spirited bride despite the many obstacles in their paths.

Richard Collier and Elise McKenna from Somewhere in Time.

How can the story of a man from modern day (circa 1980) who falls in love with the portrait of a stage actress from 1912 and wills himself to travel back in time to meet and woo her fail to pull at your heartstrings?  Richard and Elise's love story is touching and it's romantic and it guarantees a healthy supply of tissues on hand.

Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility.

Honestly, Colonel Brandon is the character that allows this couple to make my list.  Marianne is spoiled, a bit silly and quite childish but Colonel Brandon brings her a maturity and self-awareness that the cad Willoughby never could.  Colonel Brandon may not be the most dashing of men but this is a case where the nice man finishes first.   

Mr. Knightley and Emma Woodhouse from Emma.

This couple is very similar to Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood.  Emma is flighty and silly and the equivalent of a busybody.  And like Marianne, she is too immature to realize the wonderful man in front of her.  Fortunately for Emma, Mr. Knightley, despite his lectures, deeply loves her and sees her for the woman she will become. 

So who are your favorite literary couples and why? 

Guest Post by Author Jacqueline E. Luckett

Today I am pleased to welcome Jacqueline E. Luckett, author of the newly released Searching for Tina Turner to Psychotic State.  Welcome, Jacqueline!

Writing Strong African American Characters by Jacqueline E. Luckett

Searching for Tina Turner is the story of Lena Harrison Spencer, a woman who seems to have it all, and yet cannot find a happy medium between who she is and what she has. Tina Turner’s strength inspires Lena to move forward with her journey to reinvent self and start all over again. It’s a universal story with a few interesting twists and turns. It’s that across-the-board connection that I hope will endear Lena to readers.

Writing about forceful African American characters is easy. (Getting people to read about them is often another matter.) How African American writers develop goals and dreams, how we give insight into their lives and perceptions of the world, how we portray them facing and surviving challenges is the essence of the stories we write.

Readers shouldn’t be surprised to find strong characters in novels written by African American authors. Nor should they be surprised to find weak, gullible or even detestable characters—such is the nature of the world; such is the nature of fiction. Strong African American women are everywhere: in fiction and real life. These women don’t have to be famous for any of us to view them as role models. They are mothers, daughters, neighbors, and coworkers. They clean hotel rooms, fight battles in courtrooms, scan luggage at the airport, live in big houses, or represent constituents in Congress.

Lena is a determined woman (she’s forgotten this, but gets back to it), who happens to be African American. Her spirit and her story transcend economics, sometimes age and more importantly, race. Women like Lena come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors. She offers yet another side of African American women, and, hopefully, dispels stereotypes about diversity within our community.

Before Lena found the book, I Tina, she was already on the verge of change. The serendipity of her discovery triggered her to do something about it. Because Tina Turner’s talent and fame are so amazing, and her music so fabulous, some may not think of her as an icon for strength. I’m, not sure if I did before I read I, Tina. People forget what she went through mentally (and physically, too). No matter when her light bulb moment came, it came. She left her marriage with her name and the belief that she could make it on her own. It’s that strength that inspires Lena.

Enjoy the read!

* * * * *
Thank you, Jacqueline for stopping by my blog today and thank you for a terrific read in Searching for Tina Turner

About Author Jacqueline E. Luckett

As a teenager, Jacqueline enjoyed telling stories to her younger cousins. To this day, they describe her as a master storyteller. So, it wasn't a surprise to her family when she began writing a novel. She kept diaries, wrote poetry and had stories published in a local newspaper. But Jacqueline put writing aside while attending college. After graduating from California State University, Hayward in sociology, she worked in sales for a major corporation. She married, raised a family and in 1999 took a creative writing class on a dare, from herself, and happily found her love of writing re-ignited.

By a lucky coincidence, that same year she discovered the Voices of Our Nations (VONA) writing workshops and participated over the next four years in workshops with Christina Garcia, Danzy Senna, Junot Diaz, Ruth Forman and Terry McMillan. VONA provided a safe haven for a new writer still unsure of her abilities, yet eager to learn. She attributes much of her growth as a writer to the VONA workshops.

In 2004, Jacqueline formed the Finish Party (featured in O Magazine, October 2007) along with seven other women writers-of-color. The Finish Party meets monthly to workshop their projects-in-progress. Jacqueline calls these outstanding women her mentors and advisors, her friends and the toughest (and most loving) readers around. The group provides strong support for each other's writing, good meals, friendship and fun.

Jacqueline describes herself as an avid reader and lover of books, excellent cook, aspiring photographer (all the photos on this site were taken by Jacqueline) and world traveler. She lives in Northern California and, though she loves that city and all of the friends she has there, she takes frequent breaks to fly off to foreign destinations.

Searching for Tina Turner, her first novel, was published by Grand Central Publishing in January 2010 — and, as you can imagine, she is thrilled!

For more information on Jacqueline E. Luckett, visit her website here.  To read my review of Searching for Tina Turner, go here

February 11, 2010

Sneak Peek: "The Last Surgeon" by Michael Palmer


“I know you can’t believe this is happening, Ms. Coates, but I assure you it is. I have been paid and paid very well to kill you.”

Belle Coates looked up at the intruder through a glaze of tears.“Please. Just tell me what you want,” she said.“Just tell me what you want and you can have it. Anything. Anything at all.”

The man sighed.“You’re not paying attention, Ms. Coates,” he said with the accentuated patience of a third grade teacher. “I am not here to bargain. I told you that. I’m here because this is what I get paid to do.”

“But why? Why me?”Belle made yet another futile attempt to stand. Her wrists and ankles were lashed to her kitchen chair by the sort of Velcro restraints she and other hospital nurses used so often on difficult patients.

“Those restraints look amazingly simple,” the intruder said, “but I tell you they are a marvel of engineering and ergonomics. No pain, no marks. None at all. That’s why I have a dozen or so sets of them in the drawer at home.”

The man, six feet tall and wiry, had been hidden inside Belle’s apartment, probably behind the couch in the living room, when she arrived home at nearly midnight. Her nursing shift - three-to-eleven in the cardiac surgery ICU at the Central Charlotte Medical Center–had been a tough one, and she had relished every stair of the trudge that brought her closer to her apartment, a cup of tea, and a steamy shower.

She was just choosing a tea when he appeared in the doorway of her kitchen, an apparition in sky blue surgical hair and feet covers, and latex gloves, black jeans, black long-sleeved T. She was so fixated on his appearance that it was several seconds before she noticed the huge, gleaming knife dangling at his side.

Her hesitation was more than enough. In two quick strides he was beside her, seizing a handful of her hair, snapping her head back, and pressing the blade against her throat. With just enough restraint to keep from drawing blood, he forced her down onto one of the oak chairs she had recently refinished, and in moments, the restraints were on her. It had happened that fast.

A dozen or so sets in my drawer.The statement was as terrifying as the knife.Was he a serial rapist? A psychotic killer?

Desperately, searching for even the smallest inroad to understanding the intruder, Belle tried to remain calm and remember if she had read about such a man in the papers, or heard about him on the news.

"What do you want?” she said. “My fiance will be home any minute.”

He fixed her with pale, translucent blue eyes, that were devoid of even the slightest spark of humanity.

“I don’t think so. We both know about your failed engagement. Celebrate Belle and Doug’s love. I’m very sorry about that.”

Belle froze at the words, quoted from her wedding invitation.

“Who are you?” she managed again. “What do you want from me?”

“Now we’re getting someplace.” The man produced a vial from his pocket and set it on the table. “I want you to swallow these sleeping pills I found in your medicine cabinet the last time I was here. I have augmented what was there with some that I brought with me tonight, so there will be more than enough to achieve our goal. But before you take these pills, I want you to copy and sign a brief note I have composed explaining your despondency and your desire not to live anymore. And finally, I want you to undress, step into your tub, and go to sleep. See? Simple and absolutely painless.”

Belle felt her breathing stop. This couldn’t be happening. She wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t be able to pry her jaws apart with a crowbar. She began to hyperventilate and shake, grabbing and releasing the arms of her chair.

“I won’t do it.”

“You will.”

“I won’t!” she began screaming. “I won’t! I won’t! Help! Someone help m–!“

Her words were cut off by exquisite pressure around her throat. A hard rubber ball was forced expertly between her teeth and into her mouth. The killer remained absolutely calm during the insertion.

“That was stupid, Ms. Coates. Do anything stupid again, and you will be responsible for causing both yourself and your sister a great deal of pain.”

Belle stared up at him, wide-eyed. The mention of her sister was a dagger. Hyperventilating through her nose, she still could not seem to get in enough air.

“That’s right,” the man said. “I know all about Jillian. Just like I know all about you. Now, refuse to do exactly as I say, try anything stupid again, and I promise, both you and Jillian will die prolonged and painful deaths. Understand? I said, do you understand?”

Belle nodded vigorously.

“I’m still not certain you do. Now listen, Ms. Coates, and for your sister’s sake, believe me. I have no contract to kill Jillian.  Only you. And with very rare exceptions, those I am not paid to kill, I don’t kill.”

He took out his mobile phone, made a gentle tap on the screen’s touch display, and held it up for Belle to see.

“I assume you recognize your sister’s condo in Virginia.  Arlington, to be exact, four-eighty-nine Bristol Court to be even more exact. Nod if you agree that is the case. Good. I know how close you two are. You see, I read your journal, or diary, including entries from the trip to Nassau that Jillian took you on after you learned about Doug’s how shall I say, dalliance with your friend Margo. Surgeons. They are just so full of themselves, aren’t they. I see you are having a little trouble breathing. Okay, here’s the deal: I’ll remove that ball if I get your assurance you will stay quiet and still.”

Belle grunted her agreement and again nodded. The man pulled the ball out keeping his fingers clear of her teeth, and dropped it into his pocket.

“Now,” he said, “what you are about to watch is a live video feed, as in it’s happening in four-eighty-nine Bristol Court right this very instant.”

Belle stared in disbelief at the full-color projection. The footage was unquestionably taken from her sister’s tastefully and lovingly decorated condominium. She was certain that the woman sleeping alone in the queen-size bed, was Jillian, also a nurse, and one of the main reasons Belle, herself had chosen the profession. Upon the automobile deaths of their parents, Jillian had stepped in to raise her fourteen-year-old sister, often making major sacrifices in her personal life. Belle considered her to be the kindest, brightest, most centered person she had ever known. The camera had been placed above the valance in the bedroom. At the sight of Jillian, rolling languidly from her left side to her back, Belle began to hyperventilate again.

“Easy,” the man warned. “Slow down. That’s it. . . . That’s it."

“Please. Please don’t hurt her.”

The apparition holding the phone leaned forward. Belle cringed as his empty eyes came level with her own. His pale white skin was tinted blue, a ghoulish illusion cast by her ecologically friendly halogen lights.

“You must calm down your breathing and listen, Ms. Coates. To save your sister’s life, and yourself from a great deal of pain, it is essential that you believe I will do as I say.”

“I believe. I believe. Turn it off. Turn that camera off and leave her alone.”

“I’m going to make you a promise Ms. Coates,” he whispered, his lips brushing her ear. “I promise that if you fail to follow my instructions, Jillian will die, and die quite horribly. Do as I say and she lives. Want proof? Look here.”  He held the phone at eye-level.

“Enough,” Belle pleaded. “Don’t hurt her.”

“I’ve placed small canisters of a potent nerve gas above the door frame inside the closet. From this phone, I can control how much of the gas is released simply by tapping my finger. Incredible, yes? I am a virtuoso operating this set-up. I put another camera in Jillian’s bathroom because I want you to see what happens when just a smidge of this gas is inhaled.”

“No, please. Please stop this. I believe you.”

The intruder paid no attention. It was as if he had planned this demonstration all along. Belle’s brain was spinning. How could she believe him? How could she not? What choice did she have? Would he really spare Jillian as he promised? Why would he? Why wouldn’t he? The unanswerable questions roiled on and on.

“If I wanted to,” he said as if reading her thoughts, “I could kill your sister. I could kill anyone–any time, any place, and in any way I wish. But the point is I don’t have to. I don’t even want to. She seems like a nice woman. And as I said, there is nothing in her death for me.”

He made two gentle taps on the phone’s display, and Jillian’s quaint bathroom came into focus, illuminated by a night light beside the sink, and small a diamond-shaped window above the tub.

“There are four levels of gas I can administer. The first three will cause increasing pain and the symptoms you are about to see. The fourth will kill . . . slowly. This is level one.”

Within seconds, Jillian, wearing flannel pajamas Belle had bought for her, burst into the frame, fell onto her knees, and began retching violently into the toilet. Between bouts, she lay clenched in a fetal position on the tiled floor, shivering uncontrollably.

“Can you believe that’s only level one?” the man asked. “I think I should patent this delivery system.”

“Stop it! Stop doing this to her,” Belle cried.

“Keep it down or I’ll cut your larynx out and set it on the table. I’m sensing you need a bit more motivation Ms. Coates. Allow me to oblige by upping Jillian’s misery to level two. I’ll keep it on level two until you start copying this note. Audio is really a must to get the full effect.”

He tapped his phone’s display again and now Belle could hear Jillian’s grunting, labored breathing, interrupted by fits of gut-wrenching vomiting and sobs of pain.

“Please stop. I believe you. I believe you.”

He loosened her left hand and pushed the note she was to copy in front of her.

“Start writing your farewell letter, Ms. Coates. When you do, I’ll stop killing your sister,” he said.

Belle’s face contorted in agony at the sound of Jillian’s unrelenting anguish.“Please.”

“Do you need more volume? Write the damn note!” the monster barked, pounding the table with each word. “You’re dead regardless. But you can still save your sister’s life, that is if you have the courage to do the right thing.”

The man shut off the gas as soon as Belle began to write. In just a minute, Jillian’s moaning stopped. Belle managed to pen the first four words before she began to sob.

“Finish,” he said, “or, I’ll fire it up again.”

“Why me? I haven’t done anything wrong. I don’t even know you. Why do you want me to die?”

“Not my call. Somebody in this great big world of ours has decided you have to go. And that somebody is paying me to make it happen. I can do it to you alone or to both of you.”

“This is insane,” she said, as much to herself as to the man who was about to murder her. “This is absolutely insane.”

“I guess you enjoy listening to your sister scream. Allow me to show you level three.”

The tormented retching Belle heard could scarcely be described as human. On the tiny video display, Jillian’s body convulsed more violently than before. Soon as Belle lifted up the pen again, the man pressed a button on his phone and her sister’s screaming stopped. Belle found the strength to finish copying the note.

“I’m a man of my word, Ms. Coates. I’m also very good with handwriting and I have a large sample of yours from your journal. Mess with this and I’ll dismember you joint by joint with that ball stuck back in your mouth. You’ll still be alive to watch when I finally jack up the gas in Jillian’s pad to level four.”

“I did as you asked. Let her go.”

“Sign it.” The man studied the note with great care. “Okay, now the pills.”

He shook the pills onto the table, motioning her to take one.

“Please,” Belle begged, still trying to make inroads into the utter helplessness she was feeling. “Who’s paying you? Why do they want to kill me?”

“I’m running out of time and patience.”The man pressed a button on his phone like a puppet master pulling on invisible strings. Jillian’s body again twitched with violent spasms.

“No! You promised!” Belle cried.

“You have the power to make this easier on Jillian. Think of all your sister has done for you. You owe it to her, don’t you? Make me stop. I want you to stop me, Ms. Coates.”

She could not listen to her sister’s cries anymore. Her only thought was of the man’s chilling proclamation.  You’re dead regardless. As though in a trance, her hand shakily reached out. Jillian’s moaning abated soon as Belle swallowed the first pill.

“Please don’t. No more.”

“Keep swallowing and that’s the last time you have to hear that nasty sound, Ms. Coates." 

Belle tightened her jaw and nodded that she understood.“Promise?” Her voice sounded like a child’s. “I said, do you promise?”

“Ms. Coates, I might be a killer, but I’m a professional. You have my word. But I’m going to resume torturing your beloved sister unless all these pills are down the hatch.”

It was too much to take. Belle raced to swallow the pills.What else can I do? her mind kept asking. What else can I do? . . . What else can I do?  The action, in a way, was liberating. Her heart rate slowed and her tears stopped. In minutes, she no longer felt agitated or even frightened. The man’s eyes, once haunting, now made her feel nothing at all.

“Good girl You are simply going to close your eyes and go to sleep.”

Her tongue already felt heavy. “You promised,”Belle managed.

“You have my word.”

After a while, he filled the tub, then undid her restraints.“Clothes,” he said.

Feeling the wooziness of the drug take further hold, Belle stepped out of her scrubs and dropped her bra and panties onto the floor.  Then she stepped into the tub.“I love you Jillian,” she murmured. “I love you.”

Excerpted from The Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer with permission of Michael Palmer.

Copyright © 2010 by Michael Palmer.

Published in February 2010 by St. Martin’s Press.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
Sound good?  Stick around for my review of this suspenseful medical thriller!

For more information on The Last Surgeon and author Michael Palmer, please visit his website here, his Facebook page here or his Twitter page here

February 5, 2010

Review of "Searching for Tina Turner" by Jacqueline E. Luckett

Synopsis: On the surface, Lena Spencer appears to have it all. She and her wealthy husband Randall have two wonderful children, and they live a life of luxury. In reality, however, Lena finds that happiness is elusive. Randall is emotionally distant, her son has developed a drug habit, and her daughter is disgusted by her mother's "overbearing behavior." When Randall decides that he's had enough of marriage counseling, he offers his wife an ultimatum: "Be grateful for all I've done for you or leave." Lena, realizing that money can't solve her problems and that her husband is no longer the man she married, decides to choose the latter. Drawing strength from Tina Turner's life story, SEARCHING FOR TINA TURNER is Lena's struggle to find herself after 25 years of being a wife and mother. (from Amazon)

I have sat and thought about how to describe Searching for Tina Turner. The subject matter isn’t the cheeriest - - the breakdown and dissolution of a marriage against the backdrop of legendary singer Tina Turner’s struggles. And yet, Searching for Tina Turner left me pleased and satisfied.

What stands out most to me about this first time effort from author Jacqueline E. Luckett is that this book is a veritable smorgasboard of affection for France. Reading the portions taking place in France, I yearned myself to see Paris and the French countryside, as well as the wonderful little cafes and restaurants with their delicious chocolates and pastries. Lena came alive during this portion of the book and as a reader, I felt I did too.

I liked Lena as the central character. Reading a book dealing with such a heavy, emotional subject can be draining and it’s easy to find fault with your hero or heroine - - either they don’t grieve enough to be realistic or they grieve so much, while being realistic, that the book is simply too depressing to read. I found neither problem with Searching for Tina Turner. Lena grieved and she hurt, demonstrating she was nothing if not human, but she managed to go on. Not without difficulty but her struggle was rewarding. Lena was also strong - - strong emotionally and strong as a character.

Her husband Randall made me crazy - - but I could also see how and why Lena fell in love with him, an added bonus to comprehending Lena and developing a connection with her. 

I also enjoyed Lena’s friend Cheryl, a woman who is unapologetically happy to be and remain single and thrills at the dating scene. She provided a nice contrast between herself and Lena.

On a completely shallow note, I really love the cover. It makes the book look fun and jaunty and although the story isn’t exactly humorous or lighthearted, it was a rewarding experience to read it and share in Lena’s growth and progression.

Kudos to Ms. Luckett for a gratifying and worthwhile first book. I truly found pleasure in Lena’s journey and Ms. Luckett’s writing was descriptive, vivid and erudite. I look forward to her next literary effort.

Searching for Tina Turner can be purchased at major booksellers, as well as at author Jacqueline Luckett’s website here.
Further information about author Jacqueline Luckett and Searching for Tina Turner here:
Jacqueline Luckett's blog
Jacqueline Luckett on Twitter
Searching for Tina Tutner Facebook page
Hachette Book Group
Author Article

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Please visit these fellow sites hosting Searching for Tina Turner today: 

Libby's Library News
The Book Tree
Revenge of the Book Nerds!
Book Journey
You Wanna Know What I Think?
Books and Needlepoint
Freda's Voice

February 2, 2010

The Winner of "Eat Your Way to Happiness"!

The lucky winner of Eat Your Way to Happiness by Elizabeth Somer is . . .

Simply Stacie!!!

Congratulations, Stacie!  If you will forward me your mailing address, I will see that your new book gets out to you. 

Thanks to everyone who visited my blog and entered the giveaway. Please stick around for future reviews and giveaways.

Thanks again to Julie Harabedian and FSB Media for making this giveaway possible.

February 1, 2010

Sneak Peek: "Searching for Tina Turner" by Jacqueline E. Luckett

This Friday I will be posting my review of Jacqueline E. Luckett's Searching for Tina Turner.  In the meantime, please enjoy this excerpt from Ms. Luckett's website:

Searching for Tina Turner


Jacqueline E. Luckett

Chapter One

On their first date more than thirty years ago, Randall took Lena to an Ike and Tina Turner concert. From the minute they sat down in the fifth row from the stage, she knew he wanted to impress her even though he hadn’t needed to. She would have sat with him in the park, gone to the drive–in, eaten Wheaties in the narrow half–kitchen of his studio apartment, done whatever he wanted; she’d been that eager to be with him.

The Ikettes crowded onto the narrow stage while Ike’s deep bass warmed up the audience; like a chant his words tumbled soft and low. A hush fell over the auditorium as the guitar riff brought down the house lights. Blamp. The trumpets spit. Up, down, left, right. Blamp blamp. Suddenly, Tina pranced across the stage swinging her store–bought hair, the mike, the fringe on her sequined dress. Her taut legs pumped like a runner about to hit the finish line, her short dress came close to revealing all that was underneath. The music increased to a faster, throbbing tempo. Girls cried. Men beckoned to Tina. The Ikettes moved with Tina, step for step, pounding the stage in three–inch heels.

Lena inched toward the crowded center aisle along with everyone else to get up on the stage and dance with Tina. Randall caught her by the waist, leaned down and pressed his lips against her ear. “You’re as cool as Tina Turner,” he whispered, him as cool in a hip, sixties way as he meant she was. Trembling from the heat of his body, the ripple of his chest, the fuzz of his moustache, Lena kissed him. The clamorous crowd and loud music disappeared into the distance, and for years she remembered thinking that, as corny as it seemed, they were the only two people in the auditorium.

Now, those memories rush back as she watches a wrinkled TV personality melt in Tina Turner’s smile. Lena lifts her glass; it would be nice to ooze such charm and self–assurance in a way so subtle and subdued that it ought to be bottled. Randall believes that good liquor deserves a toast. So here’s to Tina. And Randall.

Tina looks directly into the camera, poised and straightforward; her eyes twinkle with humor and self–confidence. She is a perfect combination of wild and sexy. Of secure and comfortable freedom. The reporter sees it, remarks on it, and asks if it comes from celebrity or the people around her, and Tina lets him know that it comes from within. He goes over her history: regaining her place at the top of the pop charts, her refusal to focus on color or race, a misunderstanding with Elton John. Tina smiles again and changes the subject.

She talks of life, faith and love for her man. Her brownish–blond hair softens her ageless face, accentuates her full lips. The camera captures the warm beige and gold of her skin in a tight close–up and pans her hilltop home and the royal blue Mediterranean beyond. A happy blue, Lena thinks—the opposite of the blue she feels right now.

Copyright © 2010 by Jacqueline Luckett–Johnson


The Winner of the 3 book set of "The Darcy Saga"!

The lucky winner of the 3 book set of "The Darcy Saga" by Sharon Lathan is  . . .

E. J. Stevens!

Congratulations to E. J. Stevensl! If you will forward me your mailing address, I will see that Sourcebooks gets it and gets your new books out to you.
Thanks to everyone who visited my blog and entered the giveaway. Please stick around for future reviews and giveaways.

Thanks again to Danielle Jackson and Sourcebooks for making this giveaway possible.