June 29, 2010

Review of "Psychic: My Life in Two Worlds" by Sylvia Browne

Synopsis:  At the age of seventy-three, New York Times bestselling author Sylvia Browne is ready to tell the whole story of her extraordinary life. In Psychic, we meet the woman behind the public figure: from the child receiving her first visits from the spirit world to the teenager doubting her own sanity; from the new mother living through staggering highs and lows to the burgeoning celebrity, and, ultimately, the successful, happily married woman she is today. Filled with never-before-told stories and otherworldly encounters, Psychic is a riveting account of how Sylvia Shoemaker, a traditional girl from Missouri, became world-famous psychic Sylvia Browne.



Nothing is off-limits. Sylvia tells the little-known truths behind her three failed marriages—including physical abuse, bankruptcy, and legal troubles—and the financial and emotional damage they wreaked. She revisits her personal demons and describes her physical challenges, including her relatively recent discovery that she'd suddenly gone blind in one eye. And then there is the greatest surprise of all: Sylvia tells how, once she had reached her seventies, and believed her romantic life was over, the real Mr. Right finally—impossibly—showed up.


While the press has freely, often bitterly, weighed in on Sylvia's most painful stories, she has remained quiet—until now. Unlike any other book Sylvia has written, Psychic reaches deep beneath the surface of her life, including professional and personal experiences that she is sharing publicly for the first time. With candor, warmth, and a great deal of humor, Sylvia Browne has written the singularly captivating tale of a life lived in two worlds, filled equally with harsh earthly realities and mesmerizing spiritual insights.  (from Amazon)


I was absolutely thrilled to have the chance to read and review this book because I have been a fan of Sylvia Browne's for years.  Reading a Sylvia Browne book, for me, is like coming home.  It's the literary equivalent of that wonderful baking smell that was always present in my grandmother's kitchen, or the childlike feeling you still get when sleeping in your childhood room while visiting parents.  Safe, secure and utterly serene. 

On the surface, this book appears to closely mirror Sylvia's earlier publication Adventures of a Psychic.  But trust me when I tell you this book is quite a bit different.  Sylvia has written throughout the years with bits and pieces of her birth, childhood and family life.  In Psychic, she delves into her personal history, sharing such candid events as her troubled relationship with the dark entity who was her mother, her first psychic experiences as a child, her beloved Grandma Ada (psychic) and father (not psychic) who loved and supported her and believed in her.  Sylvia also shares the stories behind her failed marriages, including one that was suffused with abuse.  She also includes the facts behind her past financial and legal troubles.

Sylvia also includes various stories of The Other Side and earthbound spirits who either don't realize their time in this world has ended or don't want to go Home.  She mentions specifically a woman trapped on The Queen Mary, two employees still looking after The Winchester House, many decades after their employer's death, and a bitter mobster who refuses to leave Alcatraz. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, in part because it is a Sylvia Browne book after all, but also because I felt as though Sylvia was confiding in me, opening up about her past.  It was somehow reassuring to realize that someone as gifted and successful as Sylvia Browne can stumble (relationship-wise and financially) but then get back on her feet and rise like the infamous Phoenix from the ashes.

My favorite parts of any of Sylvia's books are the beautiful descriptions of The Other Side and messages from those who have already returned there.  Reading such words give me comfort and a sense of knowing, and even hazy memories.

I think that is why I find Sylvia Browne's books so appealing and fulfilling.  They are positive, uplifting and in the end, I feel as though I "know" Sylvia.  Her writing is so warm, so encouraging, who wouldn't want to sit down and chat with her? 

I would highly recommend this book to any fan of Sylvia's, or any reader who is interested in her background and/or stories of those earthbound beings who "haunt" homes and buildings.

Psychic:  My Life in Two Worlds by Sylvia Browne is available for purchase at major booksellers, including Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

For more about author and psychic Sylvia Browne please visit her website HERE


Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.









June 28, 2010

In Memory of Sparky

Sparky 1993-2010
  

Some of you may know that I lost my wonderful, devoted little furbaby Sparky on Saturday, June 26.  Today, in what would have been his "official" 17th birthday, I wanted to commemorate Sparky and the special kind of joy he brought me. 

I say "official" birthday because I don't know his exact birthdate.  When he ran through my front door on December 28, 1993 while I was unloading groceries I first guessed he was some kind of rodent because all I saw was a blur.  Once I saw he was a cat, I thought he was quite possibly the ugliest little cat I had ever seen.  Let me explain - - he had big, huge ears, big green eyes and was an electric orange color.  Poor little guy.  My cat Dylan typically didn't like other cats.  Let's just say that Dylan was a bit of a male diva.  But he liked the bright little orange cat that ran in.  And so did I.  I guessed he was around 6 months old, an opinion confirmed by my then-vet.  So I went back 6 months and came up with June 28 as Sparky's official birthdate. 

Little did I know then that this friendly, affectionate and very bright orange boy (and the orange would settle down into a very attractive, more muted color) would turn out to be a true companion to me for almost 17 years.  We would go through much together, Sparky and I.  We shared many moves (at least 10 by my count, with more than half being cross-country moves), job changes, my first (owned) home, new friendships, lost friendships, a new feline addition to the family (Mathis), a new marriage and the addition of a human child, the loss of both Dylan and Mathis, tears and happiness.  The world changed a lot during Sparky's lifetime too - - four different presidents of this country, the Oklahoma City bombings, the new millenium, even 9/11. 

Through everything, Sparky was there for me.  He always guaranteed a laugh when, as a younger cat, he would get stuck on the carpeting by attempting to walk on it while his claws were out.  Or when preparing to jump, he would bob up and down, taking a few test pre-jumps.  I could always count on him to be waiting by the door for me when I came in, his "motor" running (what we always called his purring because it could get pretty loud and it was very consistent).  When I lost Mathis, I had Dylan and Sparky to comfort me.  When I lost Dylan, Sparky was there to help assuage my grief.  When I was missing my deployed husband, I knew Sparky would be there to sleep beside me.   What a gift this selfless, unconditionally loving little creature has been.  

So when it looked like Sparky's life here was coming to an end on Saturday, I had to remind myself that after over 16 years of utterly selfless, unconditional love I had received from him, it was my turn to be selfless and let him go.  Other pet parents - - and by pet parents I mean not just people who are pet owners but people who love their pets like children - - will understand how painful and gut wrenching it is to make the decision to let their pets go Home.  We want them with us - - no matter how much time we have with them, it's really never enough. 

Throughout the years, many friends and acquaintances told me that Sparky was a lucky cat indeed to have me as his mommy.  I was lucky too.  Not just because I had him as long as I did, but because I was blessed to have this incredible little being in my life and I will be forever grateful for that. 

So happy birthday, Sparky.  Thank you for the years of joy and love you gave me.  I will always remember those affectionate head bumps.  You were a very loved boy, you still are and always will be. 

June 27, 2010

Mailbox Monday: June 28, 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:

The Partnership by Steven J. Harper (publicist contact)

Debut novel from the author of the true-crime award winner Crossing Hoffa: A Teamster's Story, The Partnership opens a window into a secret world. A mysterious death, illicit romantic liaisons, courtroom drama, and crises of personal conscience frame a titanic struggle at the nation's most lucrative law firm. A twenty-first-century legal thriller with a twist, The Partnership reveals what happens to rich and powerful insiders as the business school mentality extends its tentacles across a once-noble profession. The themes resonate; The Bonfire of the Vanities still burns.

Albert Knight has reached the pinnacle of power as one of the "magnificent seven"-leaders of the international legal powerhouse Michelman & Samson. Only one step remains: Knight and his archenemy Ronald Ratkin are front-runners to replace the Executive Committee's retiring chairman. Knight and Ratkin were once best friends, but that was long ago. Despite their twenty-year animosity, each has embraced the firm's transformation to a bottom-line business and the stunning wealth it produces. As the price of success, they endure and inflict profound personal damage along the way. When gifted trial lawyer Ronald Ratkin's $100 million client defies protocol by interrupting the sacrosanct Executive Committee meeting, all seven attorneys are suspicious. The news, Ratkin suspects, could upset his ongoing billion-dollar trial, send stocks plummeting, and destroy his client, his law firm, and his personal wealth. But the wily Ratkin has a foolproof plan. Or will his own greed and that of his fellow partners undo him?
So what goodies arrived in your mailbox last week?



The Winners of "Strange Neighbors"!


Thanks to all who posted and shared their favorite paranormal being.  I think Team Vampire took it - - but they are all fascinating!

The lucky winners of Ashlyn Chase's Strange Neighbors are

Shirley
Rhonda

Congratulations, ladies!  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. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed the comments and appreciate everyone taking the time to post here. Please stick around for future reviews and giveaways.


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

Compliments to randomizer.org for picking the lucky winners.






June 25, 2010

Must Read Review: The Crowded Leaf's Review of "31 Bond Street"

During the week I normally run across at least one book review that is so inspiring, so well-written and whets my appetite for the book so much so that it sends me scurrying to my Goodreads To-Be-Read list like Scrooge scurrying after a penny.  My Must Read Review for this week is . . 




ALAYNE from The Crowded Leaf's review of 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan

Earlier today I came across a link to Alayne's review from back in March.  I had heard of 31 Bond Street and in fact, had it on my Goodreads TBR list.  From the brief synopsis I had read, it sounded like my kind of book - - an atomospheric period piece concerning a murder mystery.  Better yet, it's a fictionalized account of a real crime.  I'm on board! 

Alayne's review provided more information not only about the story in the book but the real life story behind the novel and cemented my desire to read this little gem.

Enjoy these little snippets of her review:

Well crafted, with experienced execution, 31 Bond Street is a delicious debut novel that exhibits the author’s talent with an intriguing narrative.

Intrigued, Horan researches the story regarding the murder, and skillfully puts down on paper a tale of intrigue, suspense, betrayal, and murder.

Horan switches back and forth, tantalizingly leading us up to the actual murder, but leaving us frothing with questions as she nimbly skips forward to the trial at hand.

In all, I was swept away in a believable interpretation of what could actually have happened back in 1857

For the full review, go HERE

For more information about author Ellen Horan and/or the real life mystery at 31 Bond street, go HERE

Thank you, Alayne, for the fantastic review!

Did anyone else come across a must read this week? 





Book Beginnings on Friday: Pride and Prejudice


Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners.  Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

(With thanks to the lovely Juju at Tales of Whimsy for directing me to this meme).




"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen  

Okay, so this was a bit of a cheat since this is not my current read but as this is the last week of Book Rat's JANE IN JUNE, I thought it would be appropriate to select one of the best known, and best written, opening sentences ever to be put to paper.  With this one opening line, Jane Austen tells us that not only is Pride and Prejudice going to be about men and women and wealth (or lack thereof) but that her book is also going to have biting wit.   This sentence is dripping with irony, is it not?  Particularly given that the man in the book with the greatest fortune (Mr. Darcy) appears to be anything but in want of a wife.


What about you?  What is your Book Beginning on Friday? 


This meme is part of Book Rat's month-long event JANE IN JUNE.



June 24, 2010

Review of "The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice" by Abigail Reynolds

Synopsis:  (Previously published as Pemberley by the Sea) 



Marine biologist Cassie Boulton likes her coffee with cream and her literature with happy endings. Her favorite book is Pride & 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. Behind the veneer of scientific accomplishment, wit, and warmth, she is determined to hide secrets from her past. That means avoiding men who want to get too close, especially tempting and dangerous ones like Calder.


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 only Cassie can decide whether to risk her future by telling him the dangerous truth.


The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice is the first book of The Woods Hole Quartet, a series of interlocking novels set in the seaside village of Woods Hole.  (from the author's website)


The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice was my first book by author Abigail Reynolds and from one Pride & Prejudice lover to another, she did the classic justice. 

The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice wasn't what I thought it was going to be and yet I still found it a romantic and engrossing read.  I thought the book would be a modern retelling of the beloved classic and while it wasn't exactly a perfect retelling, there were reminders, coincidences and unmistakable parallels to Darcy and Elizabeth that made this book a joy.  Indeed, I felt somewhat like an amateur Austen sleuth as I tried to pick up some of the  more subtle nuances to the book that would correspond to the trials of the original Darcy and Elizabeth, from heroine Cassie's first meeting with aloof (soon to be) hero Calder to their uncomfortable perceived dislike and finally, to the realization that both had been painfully wrong about the other. 

Heroine Cassie was a strong willed and intelligent character, who was perfectly capable of taking care of herself, thank you very much.  It was refreshing to see a lead female character who had a prestigous job but wasn't considered icy or who was married to her career to stave off bitterness against men.  And a marine biologist was genius - - I, for one, cannot recall the last time I read a book about any character who was a marine biologist.  Cassie did her part as well to keep up with Elizabeth Bennet's zinging wit, aiming more than a few well placed barbs at Calder. 

Knowing that Calder was the Mr. Darcy of this book, I absolutely loved him.  Yes, he's aloof and a bit rude in the beginning of the book and seems downright borderline antisocial and more than just a bit of a party pooper but I knew he would turn out to be the exact opposite at some point during the book, making it easy for me to root for him.   I liked that through the book's progression we find out more about his character and his family which, sadly, we were not given the luxury of with the original Mr. Darcy. 

The story moved quickly - - perhaps too quickly in places to my Pride & Prejudice addled mind, where I wanted to savor more of the conflict and chemistry - - but the plot flowed along in natural ebbs and tides.   There was also a subplot involving Calder's friend Scott and Cassie's friend Erin that mirrored Bingley and Jane nicely, as well as a character on Calder's side that would rival Lady Catherine for sheer audacity and meanness.

The only thing I didn't care for in the book personally was Cassie's continued habit of wantonly misreading Calder, and thereby assuming the worst, although it did fit into the overall Pride & Prejudice theme.  I had hoped that at certain points in the book Cassie would have realized that she could have trusted Calder, or at least asked him before making assumptions.  Truly, I wanted to jump through the pages of the book to shake Cassie and tell her "He's your Mr. Darcy!  Helllllooooo!"  

All in all, there was far more to like and to love about the book.  I immensely enjoyed the book within a book that the reader is treated to midway through.   I also liked the family connections Calder has, as well as his secret that shocks Cassie and begins changing her perception of him.   The descriptions of the marshes and various forms of marine biology were interesting and  informative without bogging down the story or sounding as though the reader is thumbing through notes from a college lecture.  Most of all, I loved the adult love story between Cassie and Calder and the warm, satisfying comparisons between their tale and that of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.

While this was my first book by Abigail Reynolds, it certainly won't be my last.

I would recommend The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice to any Jane Austen/Pride & Prejudice enthusiast, as well as readers who enjoy a good romance (albeit one that does have some sexual situations, although they are not overly graphic).  The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice will leave you happy, satisfied and desiring a re-read of Jane Austen's brilliant classic.

The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice (formerly published as Pemberley by the Sea) is available for purchase at major booksellers, including Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

To learn more about author Abigail Reynolds and her "Pemberley Variations" series, please visit her website HERE.

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.


This review is part of Book Rat's month-long event JANE IN JUNE
 
 

June 23, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: June 23, 2010

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


This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:


Ghost Shadow (Bone Island Trilogy #1)
by Heather Graham
Publication Date:  June 29, 2010
Synopsis (from Barnes & Noble):

There are those who walk among us who are no longer alive, but not yet crossed over. They seek retribution…vengeance…to warn. Among the living, few intuit their presence.



Katie MacDonald is one who can.


As she’s drawn deeper and deeper into a gruesome years-old murder, whispered warnings from a spectral friend become more and more insistent. But Katie must uncover the truth: could David Beckett really be guilty of his fiancĂ©e’s murder?


Worse – the body count’s rising on the Island of Bones, and the dead seem to be reenacting some macabre tableaux from history. The danger is increasing by the moment – especially as Katie finds herself irresistibly drawn to David, who may be responsible for more than just one killing….

I love ghost stories - -throw in a murder mystery as well and it's the equivalent of Christmas morning for me.  I've never read anything by Heather Graham but I'm willing to try this book!

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Review of "Strange Neighbors" by Ashlyn Chase

Synopsis:  He’s looking for peace, quiet, and a little romance…



There’s never a dull moment when hunky all-star pitcher and shapeshifter Jason Falco invests in an old Boston brownstone apartment building full of supernatural creatures. But when Merry MacKenzie moves into the ground floor apartment, the playboy pitcher decides he might just be done playing the field…


A girl just wants to have fun…


Sexy Jason seems like the perfect fling, but newly independent nurse Merry’s not sure she’s ready to trust him with her heart…especially when the tabloids start trumpeting his playboy lifestyle.


Then pandemonium breaks loose and Merry and Jason will never get it together without a little help from the vampire who lives in the basement and the werewolf from upstairs…  (from author's website)



If you are looking for a sexy, fun beach read, look no further, dear readers.  Strange Neighbors by Ashlyn Chase will fit the bill . . and how! 

I love books with elements of the supernatural and paranormal and this little book delivers.  Author Ashlyn Chase has described Strange Neighbors as a supernatural "Friends" and really, I can't top that description.  It's a fantastic concept and opens the door for an interesting and energetic new series. 

I found central character Merry likable and very down to earth, as well as her overprotective father and her ADHD brother.  I could recall my own first apartment as I read of Merry's leaving home, the excitement, the fear, the trepidations and the pride of ownership in your very first adult home.  The only flaw that I found with Merry was how quickly she jumped to conclusions about Jason and how mercurial her moods tended to be, with the only explanation being the ubiquitous PMS.  While I can overlook the mood swings, I did have a small issue with the hot and cold signals she gave Jason.

Ah, Jason.  The professional ball player who is Merry's landlord.  I liked him immediately and found him very engaging, if relatively passive (which may have been due to his aunt's extroverted and borderline obnoxious behavior, among others).  I do think his and Merry's romance moved quicker than necessarily need be but I found them a rootable couple and was quickly invested in their relationship. 

For me, the best part of Strange Neighbors was the wacky menagerie of characters residing in the apartment complex, from the vampire who lives in the basement to the witchy duo upstairs, the unusual morgue employee to the ghost who refuses to leave his former residence, even after half a century.   Any page with these characters made the book hard - - if not downright impossible - - to put down and I actually found myself wishing that the book delved more into their stories than some of the Merry and Jason angle.

That being said, I thought Strange Neighbors was a lighhearted, fun read -  absolutely perfect for summer!  I read it relatively quickly, finding it a quick read and also one that I was anxious to continue.  If you like contemporary romance with a very healthy dose of sex, this is for you.  Readers preferring their books sex-free, or implied but not described, should possibly steer clear of Strange Neighbors.  Paranormal romance fans will no doubt be delighted with this book.   

I was pleased with the ending and it left me hoping that Ashlyn Chase would delve into Merry's "strange neighbors" with her next book. 

Strange Neighbors is available for purchase at major booksellers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble

To find out more about Strange Neighbors and author Ashlyn Chase, visit Ashlyn's website HERE

To read my interview with Ashlyn Chase and enter for your chance to win a copy of Strange Neighbors, go HERE.

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.






June 21, 2010

Mailbox Monday: June 21, 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:


The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson (publicist contact)

Water for Elephants meets Geek Love in this riveting first novel, an enchanting love story set in P. T. Barnum's American Museum in 1865 New York City



Bartholomew Fortuno, the World's Thinnest Man, believes that his unusual body is a gift. Hired by none other than P. T. Barnum to work at his spectacular American Museum—a modern marvel of macabre displays, breathtaking theatrical performances, and live shows by Barnum's cast of freaks and oddities—Fortuno has reached the pinnacle of his career. But after a decade of constant work, he finds his sense of self, and his contentment within the walls of the museum, flagging. When a carriage pulls up outside the museum in the dead of night, bearing Barnum and a mysterious veiled woman—rumored to be a new performer—Fortuno's curiosity is piqued. And when Barnum asks Fortuno to follow her and report back on her whereabouts, his world is turned upside down. Why is Barnum so obsessed with this woman? Who is she, really? And why has she taken such a hold on the hearts of those around her?


Set in the New York of 1865, a time when carriages rattled down cobblestone streets, raucous bordellos near the docks thrived, and the country was mourning the death of President Lincoln, The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno is a moving novel about human appetites and longings. With pitch-perfect prose, Ellen Bryson explores what it means to be profoundly unique—and how the power of love can transcend even the greatest divisions.



So what goodies arrived in your mailbox last week?

June 16, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: June 16, 2010

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



This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:


Murder on the Bride's Side
by Tracy Kiely
Publication Date:  August 31, 2010
Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Drawing from the classic Sense and Sensibility, Tracy Kiely continues the adventures of Elizabeth Parker, the likable Austen-quoting sleuth, in this witty and charming series.



Elizabeth Parker suspected that fulfilling her duties as maid-of-honor for her best friend, Bridget, was going to be murder. And no sooner is the last grain of rice thrown than she finds herself staring into the dead eyes of Bridget’s Aunt Roni, a woman whose death is almost as universally celebrated as Bridget’s nuptials. The horror only increases when Harry, Bridget’s cousin, becomes the chief suspect. The idea is ludicrous to the family, because Harry is one of the kindest, most compassionate people imaginable. To complicate matters, Elizabeth’s boyfriend, Peter, appears to be falling for an old flame, a gorgeous wedding planner. Determined to clear Harry of the crime, reign in Bridget’s impulsive brand of sleuthing, and figure out where Peter’s heart lies, Elizabeth sets her mind to work.


Tracy Kiely has again brilliantly combined the wit and spunk of Austen’s protagonists with a contemporary, traditional mystery. With a vibrant cast of characters, the lush setting of a Virginia estate, and irresistible humor, she delivers on all counts.


Hmmm . . . a new mystery series featuring Jane Austen inspired characters?  This was a no brainer for this meme!  Can't wait for this one.  And don't you just love the cover?  The colors are just gorgeous and I can almost feel the grass under my feet, the sun on my face and the birds chirping just from gazing at this cover.  And who wouldn't want to go into that lovely house for a glass of lemonade?  Well, outside of dealing with a murder, that is. 

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?


Reading Indulgences?

I was recently contacted by Jason at the CSN Stores with a fabulous opportunity to review an item of my choice from their more than 200 stores.  If you're not familiar with CSN, be prepared to be amazed!  As mentioned, they have more than 200 stores and over a million products.  Yes, that was a million. 

So I spent hours - - literal hours - - browsing through their many stores, probably resembling Augustus Gloop upon first seeing that choco river in Willy Wonka's factory.  Need kitchenware?  Check!  Pet items?  Check!  Outdoor decor?  Check!  Recessed lighting?  Check! Honestly, I think they have everything, including the proverbial kitchen sink. 

I wanted to select an item that would tie in with my blog and therefore, reading.  I also wanted an item that would be easy to pack and transport, as we will be moving cross country by August.  So after much thought, not to mention enjoyable hours browsing and salivating, I selected the Back to Basics Cocoa Latte Machine (SKU #: BTB1010)! 



Isn't it scrumptious looking? 

I enjoy a cup or mug of hot cocoa or tea when I'm curled up with a good book - - even in the summertime! - - and so I cannot wait to put this lovely item to good use, accompanying me on a reading adventure. 

How about you?  Do you have any reading indulgences?  A bubble bath?  Comfy blanket or pillow?  A book holder?  Or a cup of your favorite beverage, like me? 

Do share!



June 13, 2010

Mailbox Monday: June 14, 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:

Psychic: My Life in Two Worlds by Sylvia Browne (publicist contact)

"At the age of seventy-three, New York Times bestselling author Sylvia Browne is ready to tell the whole story of her extraordinary life. In Psychic, we meet the woman behind the public figure: from the child receiving her first visits from the spirit world to the teenager doubting her own sanity; from the new mother living through staggering highs and lows to the burgeoning celebrity, and, ultimately, the successful, happily married woman she is today. Filled with never-before-told stories and otherworldly encounters, Psychic is a riveting account of how Sylvia Shoemaker, a traditional girl from Missouri, became world-famous psychic Sylvia Browne.


Nothing is off-limits. Sylvia tells the little-known truths behind her three failed marriages—including physical abuse, bankruptcy, and legal troubles—and the financial and emotional damage they wreaked. She revisits her personal demons and describes her physical challenges, including her relatively recent discovery that she'd suddenly gone blind in one eye. And then there is the greatest surprise of all: Sylvia tells how, once she had reached her seventies, and believed her romantic life was over, the real Mr. Right finally—impossibly—showed up.

While the press has freely, often bitterly, weighed in on Sylvia's most painful stories, she has remained quiet—until now. Unlike any other book Sylvia has written, Psychic reaches deep beneath the surface of her life, including professional and personal experiences that she is sharing publicly for the first time. With candor, warmth, and a great deal of humor, Sylvia Browne has written the singularly captivating tale of a life lived in two worlds, filled equally with harsh earthly realities and mesmerizing spiritual insights." (Amazon)

Great Taste No Pain! by Sherry Brescia (personal purchase)

"If you like to make great tasting food, here are 112 recipes that will improve your health and make your taste buds sing all in one easy to follow, convenient cookbook. All the recipes taste fantastic. And they are quick and easy to make, so you can eat tasty gourmet meals that are perfectly balanced, highly nutritious, and healthy for you and your family! I personally own over 80 cookbooks from the biggest book publishers and celebrity chefs. I have tried them all. And honestly, most of them are pretty bad, overall with only a few great recipes in each book. Not this one. Believe me when I tell you... you will never find a recipe book with better tasting food, cover to cover, like you will find in Great Taste No Pain! Imagine a cookbook full of recipes that are not only great for your health, but that don't taste like cardboard! If you own many cookbooks, you can't even imagine it... because you know most of your cookbooks are pretty bad. You will not be told to eat grapefruit at every meal or drink special shakes or eliminate entire food groups from your daily meals or to eat an apple at night (THAT could make you violently ill!). Instead, you will simply be making great tasting, healthy food that makes your mouth water! What I'll teach you is a complete lifestyle. It's not just dinner recipes. They are all types of meals for all types of occasions. I'll show you how to eat wherever you are... travel, home, work, play, dining out... " (Amazon)

Movie Confidential: Sex, Scandal, Murder & Mayhem in the Film Industry (won through Library Thing)

"Truth really is stranger than fiction — just look at the film industry. The product on the screen is no match for what goes on when the cameras stop rolling. Movie Confidential lays out the story-behind-the-story of Hollywood’s most sordid true tales. Encompassing sex, scandal, murder, and mayhem, it dishes the dirt on stars of the past and present. From what really happened in Fatty Arbuckle’s infamous room at the St. Francis Hotel to Eddie Murray’s "I was just giving her a ride" defense, from PCP-laced chowder on the set of Titanic to Judy Garland’s strange visions, to mysterious deaths, mistakes in filmmaking, and a multitude of other irresistible tales, this cheeky collection covers the gamut. Packed with photos and presented in the style of vintage scandal magazines from the 1950s, Movie Confidential is a compulsively readable look at filmdom’s seamy underbelly." (Amazon)


So what goodies arrived in your mailbox last week?



 

June 11, 2010

Lost in Austen: Mixed Feelings



In honor of Book Rat's Jane in June, I thought I would chat today about Lost in Austen.  If you haven't seen it, there may be slight spoilers below so reader, please beware.

To start off, I love the concept of Lost in Austen.  Time travel has intrigued me since my first viewing of Somewhere in Time (and I have seen it many, many times since) and as most everyone here knows, I love all things Pride and Prejudice.  Win-win, right? 

Well, not so much.  At least not at first. 

Let's just get the gripes out of the way, shall we?  Upon first viewing, I didn't care for Amanda Price.  At all.  She struck me as an absolute whiner and I just couldn't identify with her.  I didn't understand how someone who realizes they have managed to travel back in time to the fictional Bennet household and who harbored a self-professed Pride and Prejudice obsession could make the many mistakes, both in conduct and P&P storyline, that she did.  And this is coming from someone (me, obviously) who can easily and quickly buy into the character, any character, not only traveling through time but into a fictional household.  Hmph. 

Moving on to the Bennet family.  My only complaint about them was their apparent lack of shock, surprise or puzzlement over Amanda.  Not just Amanda showing up, unannounced and unaccompanied, in their house, having never seen or heard of her before but also Amanda's attire and her general appearance.  Remember, this was a time when ladies had long hair that was put up, not a shaggy cut right above the shoulders and bangs.  And leather jackets and jeans had yet to make an appearance, and would not for quite some time. 

I also took issue with Mr. Darcy developing feelings for Amanda.  Part of this may be chalked up to the fact that I am a massive Darcy-Elizabeth 'shipper and it seemed flat out sacrilege to have Darcy with anyone else but even letting go of that for a moment, I just didn't see how Darcy, with his upbringing and social mores, could remotely consider Amanda for one moment.  

The liberties Lost in Austen took with some characters I found horrifying, as I imagine many Austen purists might.  Not just mere rewriting of Pride and Prejudice but total and complete personality changes and distortions.  

Now, on to the better part.  What I recognized on my second viewing.  Because it took a second viewing for me to appreciate what Lost in Austen offers.  

I still wasn't crazy about Amanda.  But perhaps I understood her better.  Thrown into the Bennet household, unprepared and certainly not dressed for it, and knowing the outcome of the story, as well as the futures of each character, you can almost feel sympathetic for her.  She is horrifically out of her element, where not even her usual method of dealing with stress (having a smoke) is tolerated or possible, and she feels the future of the literary world, not to mention the ire of the many Pride and Prejudice fans, rests squarely on her shoulders. 

I did like Amanda's relationship with Jane and Jane's relationship with Elizabeth, which Jane spoke about.  I also appreciated that this Jane was showcased very much as Austen's original Jane must have been intended - - without a mean spirited bone in her body.  She's just caring enough and devoted enough to her family duty to not come off as a pushover.  Her resignation in some scenes is palpable.  

I liked Elliot Cowan as Mr. Darcy, even if he wasn't Colin Firth (my personal dream Darcy).  He exemplified just the right mix of apparent haughtiness and pride to make it work.  I found his scenes with Amanda believable, even if I still didn't particuarly care for them together. 

The way the production was wrapped up was pleasing, although purists may feel faint with the very differing conclusions to this version's resolution versus Ms. Austen's.  

In short, I felt Lost in Austen was an interesting and, yes, even worthy addition to the library of Austen sequels - - but only after a second viewing.  Is it the best?  No.  But it's certainly worth a nice afternoon or evening of Austen-inspired time.







June 10, 2010

Interview with Author Ashlyn Chase

I am delighted to welcome Ashlyn Chase, author of the newly published Strange Neighbors, to Psychotic State.  She has graciously agreed to answer some questions for me and my readers.

Hi Ashlyn!  Welcome to Psychotic State and thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers.


Thanks for having me.

Congratulations on having your first mainstream novel published! What can you tell us about Strange Neighbors?


I'm in love with this series! It's a lighthearted look at what happens when birds of a feather flock together...literally. Our apartment building at 496 Beacon Street attracts unusual tenants. Most of them are paranormal misfits who couldn't belong anywhere else. When the occasional human moves in, they get some unexpected surprises. Jason Falco, a professional baseball pitcher bought the building and resigned all the tenants' leases, without looking into their backgrounds. When normal nurse Merry Mackenzie moves into apartment 1B, it's love at first sight. As the series unfolds, we discover that anyone who moves into 1B finds the love of their lives almost instantly. By the end of book two, 1B is known as the love shack. I'm having the best time with these quirky characters. They constantly surprise me!


What made you choose vampires, werewolves, witches and shape shifters as the basis for Strange Neighbors?


I wanted to begin with paranormal characters readers were familiar with. As characters move out and new ones move in, we add even more unusual paranormals! I won't spoil the surprises. Let's just say my imagination got a workout! (Snicker.)


Strange Neighbors is the first book in a new series. Did you originally conceive it as the first book in a series or did it evolve as you wrote?


I had wanted to write a series for a while. It was just a matter of waiting for the right idea. When I populated the building with the original tenants, my editor came up with the idea of one apartment acting as a catalyst for true love. We both got excited about it, realizing the series could go on and on.


If you could use one word to describe Strange Neighbors, what would it be?


Quirky and fun. Sorry. That was two words.


What made you choose the romance genre over any other?


They say, "write what you know." I've always been a die-hard romantic. As soon as one relationship ended, I'd think, "Okay, not the one. Next..."


Was it difficult going from erotic romance to paranormal romance?


Not at all. The erotic romance genre is just a hair hotter than what I've written in Strange Neighbors. The language might be a little less crude. Sometimes my erotic romance editor will encourage me to go beyond my comfort level, but I don't like to cross certain lines, so I'm enjoying the heat level of my mainstream books.


Are there any particular authors that inspire you or that you enjoy reading?


I love reading Mary Janice Davidson, Gerry Bartlett, Katie MacAlister and others like them. I've often said that if MJ Davidson and Katie MacAlister had a baby, it would be me.


Can you take us through a normal day in the life of Ashlyn Chase?


Sure, why not? My morning starts with a cuddle from my husband. When we're good and ready, we get up and make coffee. Yes, together. One gets the water, the other measures the coffee. Then we watch the news until we're fully conscious and the coffee pot is empty. Hubby goes to work in Boston, so he hits the road early and I go to my office upstairs. I answer email first, then try to be writing by 9 a.m. each day. Someday I'll fit exercise in there, but so far, well...I haven't been inspired.


If you could offer one piece of advice to an unpublished author, what would it be?


Don't give up. It might not be the first novel that catches the eye of an industry professional. So, as soon as you finish one and send it out to the appropriate agents and editors, begin another. Rinse and repeat until it happens.


And lastly, are you Team Vampire, Team Werewolf, Team Witch or Team Shape Shifter?


(Laughs) I'm team Ashlyn. You can decide what kind of abnormal I might be.




Thank you, Ashlyn, for taking the time to stop and chat with us today. I hope everyone got as much of a hoot from you as I did.  I wish you the best of success with Strange Neighbors and your blog tour!






STRANGE NEIGHBORS BY ASHLYN CHASE—IN STORES JUNE 2010


He’s looking for peace, quiet, and a little romance…


There’s never a dull moment when hunky all-star pitcher and shapeshifter Jason Falco invests in an old Boston brownstone apartment building full of supernatural creatures. But when Merry MacKenzie moves into the ground floor apartment, the playboy pitcher decides he might just be done playing the field…


A girl just wants to have fun…


Sexy Jason seems like the perfect fling, but newly independent nurse Merry’s not sure she’s ready to trust him with her heart…especially when the tabloids start trumpeting his playboy lifestyle.


Then pandemonium breaks loose and Merry and Jason will never get it together without a little help from the vampire who lives in the basement and the werewolf from upstairs…


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


A multi-published, award-winning author, Ashlyn Chase specializes in characters who reinvent themselves, having reinvented herself numerous times. Among her many day jobs, she has worked as a psychiatric nurse, run blood drives for the Red Cross, and now uses her degree in behavioral sciences to avoid writing exhaustive character sketches. She lives with her true-life hero husband in beautiful New Hampshire. For more information, please visit http://ashlynchase.com/.




And now for the GIVEAWAY! The lovely Danielle Jackson at Sourcebooks has offered a copy of Strange Neighbors to TWO lucky readers!  I am currently reading this fun, imaginative and sexy book and, trust me, this is a terrific giveaway, so don't miss out!




To enter, simply leave me a comment and let me know if you are Team Vampire, Team Werewolf, Team Witch or Team Shape Shifter.  That's all!  Leave me a comment with your name and email address and you're entered to win your own copy of Strange Neighbors!  U.S. and Canada only (my apologies to our overseas friends) and no P.O. boxes. NO EMAIL ADDRESS WITH YOUR ENTRY = NO ENTRY! Contest to end on Friday, June 25, 2010 at 11:59 P.M. EST and the lucky winners drawn on Saturday, June 26, 2010.




Good luck!

June 9, 2010

True Blood Returns!

True Blood is back this Sunday!  Are you as excited as I am?  I simply cannot wait to get back with my neighbors in Bon Temps. 

I have not read the Charlaine Harris books the show is based on.  Nor have I read any books in The Vampire Diaries series and yet I love both shows.  Have you read either series?  If so, in  your opinion, is the t.v. show tops or do the books take the honors?




Guest Post: Author Pamela Samuels Young

Today I am pleased to welcome author Pamela Samuels Young, author of the fantastic thriller Buying Time,  to Psychotic State.  Welcome, Pamela!

Digging Out of a Writing Slump by Pamela Samuels Young



You’ve been working on your novel for months, maybe even years, and lately you feel more discouraged than ever. Perhaps it’s the disappointment of not having finished the book yet. Maybe you don’t know where to go next with your story. Or it’s possible that you’re just physically and emotional drained from all the time and effort you’ve poured into this dream. I’ve been there!


Occasionally falling into a writing slump isn’t reason for alarm. What’s important is that you don’t stay there too long. Here are five tips for re-energizing yourself when you feel like giving up.

Read Inspirational Stories About Writing and Writers


Take a writing break and read about successful writers who weathered the storm. Here are two excellent books to get you started:

Knit Together: Discovery God’s Pattern for Your Life by Debbie Macomber.


This book was such an inspiration to me. Macomber, a best selling writer with more than 100 million books in print, openly shares her story of writing rejection. Once you read about her writing journey, you’ll close the book anxious to get back to your own novel.


Rotten Reviews & Rejections, edited by Bill Henderson and Andre Bernard.

This book shares the rejection letters and stinging reviews received by many successful and prolific writers, from Stephen King to Upton Sinclair to James Joyce and more. You’ll scratch your head at the discouraging rejection letters these wonderful writers received. They didn’t give up, and you shouldn’t either.


Don’t Strive for Perfect Prose


Many new writers think that everything that flows from their fingertips must be golden. Hence, if they write a few pages that don’t sound worthy of a Pulitzer, they’re disappointed. Forget about writing a perfect prose right out of the box. The most important part of writing is rewriting. Just concentrate on finishing your first draft. Then revise until you’re pleased with the final product.


Set a Writing Goal


Make a commitment to write a set number of pages per week. Can you commit to writing 10 or 15 pages per week? Or perhaps writing three hours a day or three days a week works better for you. Whatever goal you set, make sure it’s realistic. Start out small and once you get into the flow of things, increase your goal. And if you fall short one week, don’t beat yourself up. There’s always next week.


Start a Writer’s Group


Put the word out that you’re looking to start a writer’s group. Tell friends, family members and colleagues that you’re looking for three or four serious writers who would like to build a supportive writing environment for themselves and other writers. You’ll probably have a lot of interest in the beginning, but only the serious writers will be around for the long haul. Establish a regular meeting time (at least once a month) and require at least two members to produce work for the group to critique each month.


Think About Your Story


Most people assume that if you’re not putting words on paper, then you’re not “writing.” I don’t feel that way. The next time you’re taking a long walk, standing in a grocery store line, or stuck in traffic, use the time to mull over your story. Think about your characters or your plot. Imagine your protagonist having a conversation. Think about how you might describe a room. Challenge yourself to invent a predicament that creates conflict for your character. If you come up with some great ideas, don’t forget to write them down.


BUYING TIME BY PAMELA SAMUELS YOUNG - IN STORES NOW!

Waverly Sloan is a down-on-his-luck lawyer. But just when he's about to hit rock bottom, he stumbles upon a business with the potential to solve all of his problems.



In Waverly's new line of work, he comes to the aid of people in desperate need of cash. But there's a catch. His clients must be terminally ill and willing to sign over rights to their life insurance policies before they can collect a dime. Waverly then finds investors eager to advance them thousands of dollars—including a hefty broker's fee for himself—in exchange for a significant return on their investment once the clients take their last breath.


The stakes get higher when Waverly brokers the policy of the cancer-stricken wife of Lawrence Erickson, a high-powered lawyer who's bucking to become the next U.S. Attorney General. When Waverly's clients start dying sooner than they should, both Waverly and Erickson—who has some skeletons of his own to hide—are unwittingly drawn into a perilous web of greed, blackmail and murder.


ABOUT AUTHOR PAMELA SAMUELS YOUNG

Corporate attorney Pamela Samuels Young has always abided by the philosophy that you create the change you want to see. Fed up with never seeing women or people of color depicted as savvy, hot shot attorneys in the legal thrillers she read, the Compton native decided to create her own characters. Despite the demands of a busy legal career, Pamela accomplished her ambitious goal by rising at four in the morning to write before work, dedicating her weekends to writing and even spending her vacation time glued to her laptop for ten or more hours a day. The Essence magazine bestselling author now has four fast-paced legal thrillers to show for her efforts.


Pamela’s debut novel, Every Reasonable Doubt (February 2006), won the Black Expressions Book Club’s Fiction Writing Contest, received an honorable mention in the SEAK Legal Fiction Writing Competition and was a finalist for USA Book News’ Best Books of 2006 awards in the mystery, suspense and thriller category. Her second novel, In Firm Pursuit (January 2007) was honored by Romantic Times magazine as a finalist for Best African-American Novel of 2007.  Murder on the Down Low (September 2008), Pamela’s third release, was an “Editor’s Pick” by Black Expressions magazine and a finalist for the 2009 African-American Literary Awards in the mystery category. Pamela then published her first stand-alone novel, Buying Time (November 2009). The Black Caucus of the American Library Association honored Buying Time with its 2010 Fiction Award, calling the book "a captivating, suspenseful thriller." Her short story, Setup, was selected for the 2006 Sisters in Crime anthology, LAndmarked for Murder.

Pamela has achieved a successful writing career while working as Managing Counsel for Labor and Employment Law for a major corporation in Southern California. Prior to that, she served as Employment Law Counsel for Raytheon Company and spent several years with the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers, LLP in Los Angeles. A former journalist, Pamela began her broadcasting career as a production assistant at WXYZ-TV in Detroit, where she was quickly promoted to news writer. To escape the brutal Detroit winters, she returned home to Los Angeles and worked at KCBS-TV as a news writer and associate producer..

A former Coro Foundation Fellow, Pamela has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from USC and a master’s degree in broadcasting from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She received her law degree from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law and was formerly an adjunct professor at the University of Redlands’ School of Business. Pamela currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and is the Fiction Expert for BizyMoms.com.

Pamela is a frequent speaker on the topics of discrimination law, writing and pursuing your passion. She is married and lives in the Los Angeles area. To contact Pamela or to read an excerpt of her books, visit http://www.pamelasamuelsyoung.com/.



To read my review of Buying Time, go HERE


Thank you, Pamela, for stopping by my blog today and taking the time to share your thoughts with us. Best of luck with Buying Time and your upcoming projects! 



For my readers:  Are any of you struggling writers?  How long have you been working on your novel/screenplay?  Do you follow Pamela's advice and have a set schedule for your writing?  If so, how many hours per day or week, or how many pages, do you aim for? 

I have been writing since I was eight.  I always have a story in my head (some might call that "voices", ahem) and while I am not currently working on my long overdue novel (due to an upcoming cross country move), I do plan on setting myself up with a schedule of writing each day, Monday thru Friday, once the move is complete.

I'd love to hear what my fellow writers think!