Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Giveaway! "Haunting Jasmine" WINNER Announced

Congratulations to Kristi of Books and Needlepoint
who is the winner of my giveaway.

Please go by and visit Kristi's blog...she loves both of our favorite things!

"The Last Track" ~ New Suspense Author: Sam Hilliard!

About the Author: Sam lives outside of NYC with his girlfriend and an army of four cats--one feline under the legal limit. Working at an all-girls boarding school, he knows world-class drama firsthand. It's also the reason he studies Krav Maga and Tai Chi.

Book Summary from Cover:
Mike Brody--the man you want, when the one you love is missing.

More than just a master tracker, Mike is a former Special Forces operative, smoke jumper, and now extreme adventure tour guide who can tap into the memory and emotional state of those he pursues.

In The Last Track, Mike is recruited to find an asthmatic boy lost in the dense woods surrounding a dude ranch in Montana. An unwitting murder witness, the boy burrows ever deeper into the rugged terrain, fearful of being found by the killer.

While Mike tracks the boy, his ex-wife, a journalist, uses her contacts to unravel the truth behind the murder. Her discoveries threaten to snare them all in a treacherous conspiracy...

My Review:

Sam Hilliard needs to quit his day job and write full time. He's a born writer of the first caliber. "Get out of prep school," as my preppie, grown children say, Sam, and go for your true profession. You have what it takes.

In "The Last Track," Mr. Hilliard introduces us to a cast of unforgettable characters. If he isn't writing a series of books about his main character, Mike Brody, the infamous tracker in question, I'm liable to send out a posse to track him!

With all the panache of a seasoned, gripping suspense writer, new author Sam Hilliard scores a direct hit with this book. Character development and His creation of an environment for them is at it's height. I actually saw myself there.

His tracker, Mike Brody, is a complex, infinitely intriguing man displaying a keen ability to track the lost in this wilderness situation. He also is an apparent student of how to handle people, including those in positions of authority. His military background lends itself to his tracker abilities.

Using a sort of sixth sense that guides him, comes from an unknown source, and that he keeps close to the vest, Mike Brody is a quietly capable, and virtually unknown man. Personally, I loved this twist on an otherwise familiar protagonist. One not necessarily psychic, but just the right amount of odd. We never quite get a bead on this ability and I'm thinking that leads to another book.

Much could be said about the insights we gain into advanced computer espionage, wilderness survival and law enforcement cooperation, but these things play in accompaniment to the human story of the lost boy and Mike's connection to his family. His spicey ex-wife is an asset to Mike and the story overall. This balance of story lines renders a wealth of knowledge that keeps the entire piece flowing. "The Last Track" is a page-turner.

Much can be said about Mr. Hilliard's themes of self discovery, coming of age, awareness of womens' issues, and loyalty in this book. It is a mark of excellence that he manages to get so much value into his book without being "preachy" and spoiling it. What an accomplishment, particularly for a first time writer.

If I were to give a black-eyed critique of the book, I would say this one thing: it starts off too slowly to capture the average reader. Having said that, I can only encourage readers to persevere. Believe me when I say that this book is worth the effort.  I would simply encourage Sam to start his novel off with a way to grab his readers in the first paragraphs next time.

Given Sam's astuteness and his obvious writing skills, we can only believe there are more Mike Brody tracker books in the future. He's left too many unanswered mysteries for us. We are left begging for more explanations on a couple of major things! This is one of the great things about this book.  I, for one, love a novel that sets me up for the coming sequel if it's done well.

Recommended for all lovers of mystery and suspense novels. For all who love Jeffrey Deavers, James Patterson, Michael Connelly and Patricia Cornwell. Yes, Sam Hilliard is that good.

Go to my sidebar to order this book from


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Riding on Empty" ~ Faith in God and Motorcycle Therapy Healing!

Book:   "Riding on Empty"
Author:  Craig Stephan
Copyright:   2010
Pages:  145
Summary:      "What happens when a loved one dies--and you suddenly find yourself riding on empty?

Riding on Empty is the chronicle of an inspiring true story of two indomitable spirits: a mother who inspires her precious son to awaken to life and triumph over dyslexia and seemingly insurmountable odds to discover his authentic path and find the strength to heal from watching her tragic struggle with cancer.

Join Craig Stephan on this exhilarating tour of the Grand Canyon and beyond, as he and his wife Beth traverse the southwestern U.S. on his 1995 Electra Glide Harley Classic, looping through Sedona in search of inner peace, where he encounters a new perspective on life."

My review:

"Riding on Empty" was a risk book for me.  I have experienced the loss of a loved one by cancer, my husband; and, more recently the death of my best friend.  Craig Stephan's book about dealing with the death of his mother, therefore, made me take a second look, but I certainly didn't see how on earth I could relate to a biker guy!!  I was so wrong.  Good thing in my older years I'm determined not to let my superficial ideas and prejudices hold me back from learning something new to evaluate the world around me.  Craig Stephan has a story to tell~~and one that will encourage and enlighten others.

Mr. Stephan is a good writer whose work distinctly comes from his heart and spirit.  Throughout the book, his words continually reach to communicate with the reader. He readily shares the significance of his pain in the process; and, then the actuality of losing his mother to cancer, as well as the aftermath of grief.  I heard recently that "grief is a ride you have to take, you can't get off of it until it's over."  That is so true, and Craig Stephan gives us the ride of our lives when he shares his path with us.

How does it help him and us?  It helps because it's a testimony that we will all pass this way in our lives and we can survive it with God's help, and the help of those He puts in our lives to anchor and support us.  It helped Craig because he was surrounded by a constant of love that never left him, a foundation of faith and love from his mother that he knew lasted past death, and would be with and inside him for all eternity. It helps because Craig was given the gift and the sense of urgency to tell us his story in such a way, a simple way, that could impact the lives of those who are walking through the gates of grief.  His way works.

I learned so much about motorcycling!  It was unexpected.  I absolutely loved every second of it!  There is so much symbolism about life in the 'cycle and the trip Craig and his wife took...the 'cycle that took them.  It was just magical.  We gain much from just that reading experience.

And, Craig shares very profound descriptions like this:

"My heart was road rash, burning like skin of a biker who had just hit unforgiving pavement at high speed and slid for hundreds of feet.  I sipped my drink and tried to swallow.  I visualized road rash throughout my gut.  This is death by broken heart, I concluded.  This must be how it starts."

There are many examples of his descriptions that make you stop reading in your tracks.  One can actually feel the harshness of that pain, right?

In "Riding on Empty" this fine author is looking for an end to his grief.  He wants understanding and a resolution about the loss of his mother.  He realizes the needs a spiritual awakening.  He finds all of these things, and he blazes a trail for those who may want to listen to him and to find the same peace.

If I may, I would have one comment that wasn't explored too much by the author.  That would be the thing that is obvious to the reader and not so much expressed or perhaps "seen" by the author:  that is that much of his insecurities and needs were transferred to his wife to fill in where his mother had left a gap.  More and more during the trip he relies upon Beth to "read the map," to move the right way with him to keep the bike on the road safely, to get them entre' into the hotels, and to make decisions for their well-being.  This is mothering in its rawest form!  There are more important lifestyle examples.  So, I think Beth is responsible for much of his healing, as well.

I recommend the book particularly, of course, for those who are experiencing grief and/or the death of a loved one, for Hospices everywhere, for those who know their lives are "missing something," but they don't know what, and for those seeking a spiritual awakening.


"Made in America, Sold in the Nam" Book Written by Veterans & Loved Ones!

"Made In America, Sold In the Nam" is a long-awaited book for me. As a child of the '60's, and a military brat at the same time, I lived through the residuals of the Viet Nam War and have always felt a sense of displacement, or perhaps an "unfinishedness" about it. This book was a salve to my emptiness. It was a "yes" to my heart's cry for my friends who had to go there when they were too young, too confused about it all, hadn't had time to grow up, didn't want to go to war; and, who sometimes came home and sometimes, didn't.

I remember several conversations with friends of that time about whether it was better to study hard and get the grades to go to college~potentially; or whether to just "goof off," and enjoy their senior year since they were probably going to be drafted anyway.  There was a fatalism in those times.  There was no peace of  mind or heart with a draft in this Country. 

I remember the song lyrics by either Dylan or Creedence, "I ain't no Senator's son, no,"  the idea that the only way out of the draft was big money and pull with the government...Senator's sons...big buisness's boys.  Otherwise, look out, they were coming for you any day now.  Imagine the anxiety and terrors those young boys must have felt...watching the Viet Nam War on the television all day and night and wondering if they would be there soon.

The writers in this beautiful, heartwrenching, chilling and uplifting book are simply angels of another time, 'though at times they seem to be demons expressing otherworldly horrors. They are artists and witnesses, survivors and grievers, husbands, children, friends, pilots and others who know what it's like to taste a little bit of Hell on Earth, and to share it with us. They are to be commended and honored for that simple act alone, as if their other actions and reactions didn't mean the world, as well!

It is writers such as these that remind us ever that War is futile in the end; that it is destructive to the minds, spirits, hearts and bodies of those we cherish.

It is writers such as these that remind us that lives are taken in the Game of War...forfeited as if they were like chess pieces on a board to politicians and distant world leaders.  Lives taken, lives and families destroyed and/or left with wounds that take a lifetime to heal, if ever.  Lives that are taken away and can never be replaced for a political save face for a government...not necessarily because it's for the good of the people of the United States of America or the invaded country.

Not necessarily because the rhetoric is true, but because the polls need stabilizing.  Young men, fathers, brothers, sons, children, priests, preachers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, chefs, construction workers, mechanics, and on and on....those who aren't here today to actually help our own Country and economy when we need them!

For that alone, I beg you to read this precious book.  And, to remember and think about the times we live in now.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Giants in the Lands" ~ Biblical Words Are True ~ HOAX

So sorry to have found out this was all a HOAX perpetrated by a photo contest earlier in the 2000's.  Wouldn't it have been great if it weren't?!   Thanks to Courtney (see comments) for exposing it!

I just wanted to share this with you. It's such a wonderful thing when archaeologists make finds like this one for those who need evidence of what the Bible tells us.

These astounding photos are from a recent archaeological discovery in Greece ; This totally unexpected find furnishes proof of the existence of "Nephilim". Nephilim is the word used to describe the giants spoken of in biblical times by Enoch as well as the giant David fought against (Goliath).

Note the incredible size of the skull...

Gen 6:4

"There were giants on earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bear children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown."

Num 13:33
 "We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim).  We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."

Just to show that the Bible is true with history lessons that are applicable both then and today, and it is not just a spiritual book written by men alone.

This is amazing. Not that the scriptures haven't already proven true, but now more evidence for our times.

I am so happy to be able to share these photos with you.  What do you think of them?


PS:  Having a happy St. Patrick's Day???   :]

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"After" by Amy Efaw ~ A book you'll remember!

"After" is a book that will challenge your sense of morality. It's a book that will draw you in to her heart of a teenaged girl, Devon, who finds herself accused of giving birth to a baby by herself, and then getting rid of it in a dumpster.

With attention to characterization in the finest detail, Amy Efaw gives us memorable moments with Devon, her mother, her attorney, and others. I found myself really resenting the guards, policemen, and prosecutors on her case, having strong feelings about her fellow juvenile offenders, and worries about the judge.

Ms Efaw, if I may be so bold as to make a comparison which I hope is not offensive to her, is a writer much like Jodi Picoult. Not in every way, but in that she calls upon us to put aside our inital reactions to a moral situation, and to walk alongside the perpetrator whether we like it or not...only to consider and make an educated decision about her in the end.

While every case isn't packaged and "right or wrong" we are left with ourselves and our own conclusions, but more enlightened, hopefully. That is one of the rewards of this beautiful book. The other is simply the wonderful writing, descriptions and the look into human frailty.

I highly recommend this book to everyone!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

GIVEAWAY!! "Haunting Jasmine" by Anjali Banerjee ~ Closes April 1st

"Haunting Jasmine" is a novel that reminds me of early Alice Hoffman. Created with attention to her characters, including the ones that haunt her main character, Jasmine, Ms Banerjee gives us a story that will capture your imagination and your sense of the "suspension of belief" adventure.

From the book summary:

"Divorcee Jasmine Mistry is intent on restarting her life when she gets the chance to do just that. A call from the past brings her home to Shelter Island, a green dot in the middle of Puget Sound, to run her beloved aunt's bookstore.....Auntie's Bookstore, nestled in a quaint Queen Anne Victorian and believed, not incidentally, to be haunted."

This author is witty, wise and an accomplished writer. From the first paragraph she'll hook you into her world and her quirky ways. She's a master storyteller who can make you hoop with laughter one moment, have you heartsick in another, and sitting in eerie curiousity the next. Having written a number of children's books and other novels, she is seasoned and this books shows it.

Naming and talking about classic authors and books, delighting us in descriptions of her surroundings, she is bright and wiley, spinning a tale that will have you sitting up to finish "Haunting Jasmine"...even if it's the middle of the night. Truly, what bibliophile wouldn't love tidbits like the following:

"Lucia pulls a pocket notebook from her purse, licks her thumb, and flips to the first page. 'Was Jane Austen a realist? Charlotte Bronte said her work was like a "carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden." Ralph Waldo Emerson said that her depiction of life was "pinched and narrow."'

I was in love with her ghostly sweetheart, Connor. He is the man every one of us would want to know. So touching and such a deeply rendered love story that it rakes at one's heart like nothing I've read lately. And, he's such a contrast to Jasmine's cheating, self-absorbed ex-husband!

It is an added bonus that Ms Banerjee shares some Bengali traditions, fashions and recipes with us. This is always a treat to see in literary fiction, and allows us a small window into the exotic world of other peoples. The author seasons her prose with these additions, making it so natural within the American setting that it may delight and inspire one to go to the nearest shop selling such treasures! A great addition while reading the book.

All in all, I highly recommend this beautifully written book. It's a novel not to be forgotten. I expect it will do very well once readers get their hands on it! Ms Banerjee is an author I would love to hear more from very soon.

GIVEAWAY !!! Enter before April 1st, 2011
I will be giving away a copy of "Haunting Jasmine" along with a package of some Bangles and treasures!

Here's how to Enter:

1 pt. Follow my blog

1 pt. Follow me by Networking

1 pt. Comment on the book

1 pt. Blog about this on your blog and provide link

1 pt. Tell why you would like this book

2 pts. Add up your own points and PLEASE LEAVE YOUR EMAIL!!!

That's all you need to do. Each point will be added for winning chances.

Good luck!  This is a really fabulous book.


*Please check out my other blog:  for other reviews and a live video of Jodi Picoult

I miss my stitching friends!!      Deb

Friday, March 4, 2011

Alice in Wonderland meets Ava in "Swamplandia"

Like Alice in her Wonderland, Ava in Swampland has much to say about the goings-on in our world. Oh, what a riot of fun and fancy! And, yet, oh, what a dark and shadowy little novel at the same time.

This dark little story is of a very odd, quasi-native american, gator wrestlin' family who makes it their life work to create a side-of-the-road gator festing, museum and theme park tourist trap. At first it's difficult to know how truly invested Chief Bigtree, the patriarch of the little family is in their Swamplandia world, but it is obvious that his commitment to himself runs deep.

Included in the Swamplandia homestead and gator park are his two young daughters, an older teenaged son, and a wife who dies early of cancer. When the mother and primary "gater wrestler" of the theme park dies, their lives begin to unravel as the brutal realities of grief and loss of security overcome them. Soon, the Chief disappears and the children have to manage without him. Each and every one have a story to tell and a life-view that is both genius and pitiful.

I can't remember when I've had more bittersweetness reading a book. I can't remember when a book has set me back and made me want to think about what just happened in the chapter I'd just read. And, I can't remember the last time recently I've met characters I've so thoroughly enjoyed from so many perspectives!

Ava, the youngest of the daughters is a level-headed, precocious child who wants to take care of everyone, and yet, who struggles with her own escapism, fears and fantasies. The swamp, the spirits surrounding the family and their life options, combined with the horrors and charms of the outside world and the dying of the natural, sacred swamp grounds provides the reader with an otherworldliness as we follow the characters along this tale. Ava worked as a guide for me. She was the anchor I needed to sort through the illusions vrs the realities of her world. There was a "scary houses" carnival, nightmarish feel at times to the story. When the "Dark World" begins to encroach on "Swamplandia," it holds all the anxieties of the 21st century on us.

The core love and sense of family these people share becomes iconic and deeply moving. There's survival and humanity so touching and terrible, so earthy and real that you'll be offended if anyone should break the spell and interrupt your reading.

Karen Russell is an author with unique talents. She is a true creator. She has something real and true to say, and if one listens and can hear her, they will find a gold nugget in this book. Like "Alice in Wonderland," Ava in Swampland has much to say about the goings on in our world. There's much to say about our environment and how deadly it is to man and beast, flora and fauna, alike.

It's an extraordinary trip to "Swamplandia," but you'll love it! Highly recommended.  This would be a wonderful addition to intelligent book groups!

Please leave a comment for me on this one!


PS:  Have you read this other book by Karen Russell?

"Swamplandia" derives from a story written in this collection of Russell's.  Btw, she's only 26 years old!  Such genius in her own youth!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jodi Picoult's "Sing You Home" Live Interview!!! March 1, 2011 Release

Jodi Picoult releases her 17th novel and all we can do is wait in line to be the first ones to grab a copy! On March 7th, at her Opening Reception in New York City, Jodi will be answering questions about "Sing You Home," and I'll have the live video on this blog. So exciting for me to be a part of it. I was thrilled to get an actual invitation to the event, but travelling isn't possible for me, so I'm happy to use this method of communication. I love Jodi and Simon & Schuster!!!

If you link to you will see some pre-publication video by Ms Picoult with regard to "Sing You Home," and her personal connection to the story. One of her sons is gay and through him the family has been introduced to unique experiences. Jodi and her family are fiercely supportive of who this young man is.

After having read some of the book at this point, (I was given a pre-publication copy of grateful!) I've found it in the best tradition of Jodi Picoult's writing. Just makes one want to stay up 24/7 reading. She's written this one from a perspective of her own heart, however, which gives it a certain depth of feeling that I believe we'll find unique. I have a suspicion this book will be one her fans will rank as her best to date.

Along with her novel, Ms Picoult has collaborated with her dear friend, Ellen Wilber, to create a companion soundtrack! How unique in the industry...or, as I quote another author friend of mine..."the brave new world of publishing" is upon us. This beautiful recording, which Ms Wilber performs and has written the music for, and for which Jodi has written lyrics, is an accompaniment for each of the chapters of "Sing You Home." I'm distracted by singing when I read, so I've opted to listen after I've read a chapter. It will be interesting to see how you feel about this, and how it's used by readers in general.

As a sneak preview, I would like to give you the publisher's synopsis of the novel:

"In the aftermath of a series of personal tragedies, Zoe throws herself into her career as a music therapist. When an unexpected friendship slowly blossoms into love, she plans for a new life, but to her shock and inevitable rage, some people--even those she loves and trusts most--don't want that to happen.

Sing You Home is about identity, love, marriage, and parenthood. It's about people wanting to do the right thing for the greater good, even as they work to fulfill their own personal desires and dreams. And it's about what happens when the outside world brutallly calls into question the very thing closest to our hearts: family."

I will be posting my full review of "Sing You Home" in a few days. I hope you'll come back on the evening of March 7th, at 7PM to watch the live video with me!

*On another note~ I've failed to keep current on my blog reviews due to a nasty bout with a pneumonia virus. I'm better and hoping to catch up this week! Thanks for checking in with me.

Please leave me your comments. I so appreciate hearing from you! And, please check in as a "follower," which is also so important for me. It's nice to know you're out there! Thank you for stopping by,

Your friend and reader,