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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Review: The Last Word by Lisa Lutz

The Last Word (The Spellmans #6)
by Lisa Lutz

Genre: Chick Lit, Contemporary, Humor
Publication: July 2013
Format: ebook, 352 pages
Source: NetGalley
Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
The latest installment of the New York Times bestselling Spellman mysteries, finds private investigator Izzy Spellman on the verge of losing everything.

Isabel Spellman is used to being followed, extorted, and questioned—all occupational hazards of working at her family’s firm, Spellman Investigations. Her little sister, Rae, once tailed Izzy for weeks on end to discover the identity of her boyfriend. Her mother, Olivia, once blackmailed Izzy with photographic evidence of Prom Night 1994. It seemed that the Spellmans would lay off after Izzy was fired for breaching client confidentiality, but then Izzy avenged her dismissal by staging a hostile takeover of the company. She should have known better than to think she could put such shenanigans behind her.

In The Last Word, Izzy’s troubles are just beginning. After her hostile takeover of Spellman Investigations, Izzy’s parents simply go on strike. Her sister, Rae, comes back into the family business with questionable motivations. Her other employees seem to be coping with anxiety disorders, and she has no idea how to pay the bills. However, her worst threat comes from someone who is no relation. Within months of assuming control of the business, Izzy is accused of embezzling from a former client, the ridiculously wealthy Mr. Slayter, who happens to have Alzheimer’s, which Izzy and he are diligently trying to keep under wraps. Not only is Slayter’s business and reputation on the line, but if Izzy gets indicted for embezzlement, she’ll lose everything—her business, her license, and her family’s livelihood. Is this the end of Izzy Spellman, PI? The answer makes The Last Word, hands down, the most thrilling book in this bestselling, award-nominated series.
Oh well. I’m not sure how to begin. I love the Spellmans and have been looking forward to read this one. I was really worried that this might be the last book in the Spellmans series. I didn’t want the series to end. I love every single of Spellmans book. I’ve reread them a few times because I thoroughly enjoy them.

In The Last Word, Izzy has taken over the management and her employees (her mother and father) decided to boycott work. She found out that she is being investigated by the FBI for embezzlement from her benefactor, Mr. Slayter. Her sister, Rae is starting her own side business as a CRS (Conflict Resolution Specialist) which involved blackmail and other things. Her brother, David, is a stay at home dad to his daughter, Sydney. 

I love reading about Izzy and her dysfunctional family. There are tons of laugh-out-loud moments as well as serious ones. Mostly I love them because I can never grow tired of them. I love watching them going through changes and grew up. Well, maybe Izzy hasn’t grown up much, but she learned a lot about responsibility. (I can’t believe how Rae is now all grown up! I still remember her in the first Spellmans book). I didn’t really like how the book ended. It wasn’t the kind of ending I was expecting, but I can’t deny that it was a good ending.

*I received an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Friday, January 24, 2014

On Tour: Mounting the Whale by Colleen McCarty - Q&A & Excerpt


Colleen McCarty is now on tour with CLP Book Tours with her book, Mounting the Whale. Please visit her tour page for more blog stops.

by Colleen McCarty

Publication:  December 2013

"Cartel got me, tell mom"

The siblings, drowning in their own problems, are forced to focus on the task at hand: a half-cocked rescue mission that involves a borrowed yacht, a favor from a notorious drug kingpin, and a shocking reunion none of them expected.

When the family decides to sneak into Mexico, mother Cybil is forced to deal with a rival CEO whom she's developed feelings for in secret. Her only son, Tom, is willing to risk bodily harm to save Janine while his other sisters, Carlyle and Valerie, suspect that the kidnapping is less than legitimate.

The long sea voyage tests the limits of the family's already frail bonds. Dark secrets of infertility, drugs, gambling and extreme taxidermy begin to float to the surface. But nothing compares to what they begin to learn about their missing sister.

If they're going to make it out alive, they have to recognize they're fighting the same battles and facing life's greatest challenges: love, loneliness, and the struggle to find a place in the world.

Amidst all the chaos, the Pierce family is brought face-to-face with the ugliness of Janine's addictions, the truth about their mother's fortune and the most terrifying question of all: Can you really save someone who doesn't want to be saved?
Excerpt  
“Hello,” Carlyle answered the phone as she walked out of the television studio. 
“Me again. Found something.” Marius was curt and Carlyle could picture him reading from a lit computer screen. “I found this undercover blog—Blog Del Narco, it’s amazing. It’s written by someone inside a cartel that operates out of Progreso. They’ve been putting up journal entries every few days about what it’s like to work in the cartel, and the writer even names people—big important people—in the ring. This person says Diego Malec√≥n is the Don—er, the boss. They call him El Toro. He—El Toro—is pretty bad news. It looks like he is the main source for most of the cocaine and heroin in the Miami area. 
He’s actually a Cuban, but he runs drugs by boat which is why he likes to be in Progreso—easy access to water.” 
“So you think this guy is connected to all of this somehow?” 
Carlyle’s heart was blocking her esophagus. 
“I don’t know. Most cartels run out of border towns like Laredo or Juarez. Even Tijuana. He’s the only one I can find who has any connection to the Progreso area. It’s pretty smart, really, he’s bypassing a lot of bloodshed by taking everything to the water.” 
“But he has to go a hell of a long way out of the way.” Carlyle knew from managing some of the Nature bar distribution channels that the goal was to get the product to its destination in the fewest amount of steps. The Yucatan was a long way from Miami. 
They paused and Marius wasn’t sure if he should continue. “Here’s the strange thing. This blog—it’s gone dark for the last three days.” He was silent, waiting for his words to sink in. 
“Three days ago… but you said you got the email yesterday.” 
“Yeah, but let’s say she’s the leak—or the blogger, or whatever—they find out and they are going to kill her. She barters with them and tells them she has a rich family, yada yada yada, they settle on asking for a ransom in return for her swift exit of the organization. That could take a few days—getting the plan together and all that.” 
“Maybe. I don’t know if Janine is the ‘undercover blogger’ type. 
Last time I saw her, her hands were shaking so much I doubt they could rest on a keyboard.”

 Q&A with Colleen McCarty

1. Please introduce yourself and your book.
Hi, I'm Colleen. I am a mom of one, a wife of...well, also one, and a dog-mom to two. I write what I would consider literary fiction with a thriller/crime bent. My first novel just came out in December. It's called Mounting the Whale. It tells the story of an affluent, self-made family who believes their sister has been kidnapped by a drug cartel in Mexico. 

2. What inspired you to write this book?
The idea came to me while dealing with some personal family drama. I am a control freak through-and-through--I think most writers are--and it was very frustrating to me that I could not control the people around me. They were making choices that I maybe didn't agree with--choices related to drugs and alcohol. I wanted to play out the story in my mind, looking back now, I think I needed to play it out to learn that I can't control anyone but myself. 

3. Can you see yourself in any of your characters?
I see myself in all of them! As much as writers are control freaks, we are also schizophrenic. If we see an intriguing person on the street we speculate about what it might be like to be that person. We imagine ourselves as twenty different people before breakfast. However, as much as they are me, my characters are their own people now too. 

4. What's the thing most lacking about yourself right now?
Wow, tough crowd! I tend to set extremely outlandish expectations for myself and then crumple when I fail to fulfill them. So, you know, just regular mom stuff.

5. Grade your book. How many stars out of a perfect score of 5 stars? Please give the reason too.
I'm going to go with 4 stars. I actually really love this book, but I think I rushed it a bit and didn't give the writing enough space. I shouldn't have been in such a rush. But once it was done, I was so excited to share it with the world! 

6. What are you working on right now?
I'm still promoting, but am in the process of laying out a new book. Cuba. Human Trafficking. Revolution. Intrigue. Need I say mas?

7. Anything you would like to say to your readers?
I just want to thank anyone who's taken a chance on the book, it's an enormous compliment. To take the time to read someone's book is peering into their soul and I thank you. 

Author Bio:

Colleen McCarty is a graduate of the University of Tulsa and an entrepreneur. She and her husband own Tulsa restaurant Mod's Coffee and Crepes. She's been featured onEntrepreneur.com, and in the Wall Street Journal. This is her first novel. Though Colleen has ghostwritten books for CEOs and New York Times Bestsellers, this is her first foray into publishing her own work. Colleen lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband, daughter and two large dogs. Follow her writing at colleen-mccarty.com.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Review: The Cuckoos of Batch Magna by Peter Maughan + Q&A

The Cuckoos of Batch Magna
by Peter Maughan

Genre: Contemporary, Humor
Publication: First Published March 2004
Format: Kindle Edition, 308 pages
Source: ARC
Connect: Website
When Sir Humphrey Miles Pinkerton Strange, huntin' shootin' and fishin' Squire of Batch Magna, goes to his reward (doubtless to find God as true-blue British as his more recent but equally worthy ancestors), his rambling but rotting estate passes to distant relative Humph, a hapless dollar doodler in New York.With $$ in his eyes, Humph decides to make a killing by transforming the sleepy backwater of Batch Magna into a theme park image of rural England - a vacation paradise for free-spending US millionaires.But while the village's threadbare businessmen see the plan as a windfall, the tenants of the estate's dilapidated houseboats are above any consideration of filthy lucre and stand their ground for tradition's sake . and because they consider eviction notices not to be cricket.Each disgruntled faction sees the other as the unwelcome cuckoo chick in the family nest!So, lead by randy pulp-crime writer Phineas Cook and Lt-Commander James Cunningham DSO, DSC and Bar, RN (ret) - a man with a glass eye to suit every occasion (and all painted with naval battle scenes where the Union Jack flies triumphant) - the motley crew takes on Wall Street . broadside to broadside.

I received a copy of this book from the author to provide an honest review.

Truthfully, The Cuckoos of Batch Magna wasn’t really the kind of book that I’ve always read. But I decided to give it a try, when I heard that this was going to be a humorous book. 

Sir Humphrey inherited an estate in England from his distant relative whom he never met. He wanted to turn the estate into a theme park, but the villagers were against it. When Sir Humphrey met and came to know the villagers, he began to like them.  I love how the villagers each have an interesting personality, like the Commander and Phineas. And I think it’s exciting to see how Humphrey came to like the village.

I have to admit that at first I was a bit confused on what the book was about. And the synopsis wasn’t really helping. I thought that there were too many characters introduced in the earlier chapter. But as the story progress, I found that the story wasn’t that bad. It was quite an enjoyable read, even though it wasn't my cup of tea.

Q&A with Peter Maughan

Q: Please tell us about this book
It's a Kindle edition called The Cuckoos of Batch Magna. It's what might be described as a feel good book, set in the mid-1970s in a river valley in the Welsh Marches, the borderland between England and Wales. The death of the  squire of the village leads to the title and what's left of his estate being left through the ancient law of entailment to a distant relative. And so it is that Humphrey Strange, or Humph, as he likes to be called, an amiable short-order cook from the Bronx, finds himself most remarkably to be the 9th baronet and squire of Batch Magna. Manipulated by his Uncle Frank, a small-time Wall Street broker with his eye on the big-time, and a new girlfriend with her eye on the title, Humph is persuaded he  has plans for the old place: the entire estate is to be turned into a theme-park image of rural England - a vacation paradise for free-spending US millionaires. 

The tenants of the  dilapidated houseboats on the estate's stretch of the river are given notice to quit - and it's then that Humph's problems begin. 

Each faction sees the other as the cuckoo in the family nest, so led by randy pulp-crime writer Phineas Cook and Lt-Commander James Cunningham DSO, DSC and Bar, Royal Navy (ret), the motley crew run up the Union Jack and battle ensign and prepare to engage. 

Q. Can you tell us about the journey that led you to writing?
Well, I started out as an actor, and worked as a fringe theatre director and as a script writer (scripts for pilot films for independent film companies). I had quite a few short stories and non-fiction writing on the English countryside published, and a novel  seemed to be the next logical step. And I was helped by that background – actor, director, script writer, I am all of those when writing. I write the script, see the scene through the eye, as it were, of the camera, and then act it out on paper.

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Getting down on the page – I write in longhand first –  what I, the director, ‘see’. Somerset Maugham said that there were three rules when it came to writing a novel – the  trouble is, that no one knows what they are. Well, as far as I am concerned, there is one rule that if not kept will leave your story on the page, when it should take on a second life in the imagination  of your reader (because reading should also be creative; should be more than mere intellectual comprehension). And it is this: you must ‘see’ the scenes you are writing – or, to put it more actively, you must ‘watch’ them happening, as they happen (particularly necessary I think for thrillers and crime novels, and noticeable when it’s absent).

Q. Do you have a musical playlist you listen to while writing? If so, what kind of music?
No. I need silence. I need to concentrate, to fully see and hear that life on the other side of the camera (‘Quiet please!’ on the set.)

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I don’t think I have one. I’ve read about other writers arranging their pens or paper in a certain way before starting, and can only wonder at their evident neatness.  I write in a blitz of paper, yesterday’s work waiting to be typed up, scraps of character details, bits of dialogue, notes on future scenes, etc.     

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?
The Cuckoos of Batch Magna is the first in a planned series. I have two sequels finished and waiting their turn – and that particular hiatus is, in part, the reason I left my last publisher to go solo.

Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!).
Interest (and so far it is only that) shown by a UK independent film company in the novels.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Yes: thank you. And to add that I have had quite a few references in reviews and other feedback to Batch Magna being a place people have enjoyed visiting and were reluctant to leave.  I find that extremely satisfying, the thought that I have taken those readers out of themselves, given them, as feelgood books/films should, for that short while another  world to live in. That, as a writer, will do me.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Review: The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

The Future of Us
by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Time Travel, Young Adult
Publication: January 2012
Format: Paperback, 356 pages
Source: Own
Connect with Jay Asher: Website | Facebook | Goodreads
Connect with Carolyn Mackler: Website
It's 1996 and very few high school students have ever used the internet. Facebook will not be invented until several years in the future. Emma just got a computer and an America Online CD. She and her best friend Josh power it up and log on - and discover themselves on Facebook in 2011. Everybody wonders what they'll be like fifteen years in the future. Josh and Emma are about to find out.
I was very excited to read The Future of Us after reading the summary. I was intrigued by the idea of finding about your future through the internet. 

Emma just got a computer. When she and her best friend, Josh, logged on into the computer, she found out about Facebook and their life in 2011. I think it is interesting to see how a small action that Emma and Josh took could alter their future. It was fun reading this book in both Emma and Josh’s POV. But mostly, I enjoyed reading it in Emma’s POV. She wasn’t a likeable character, but I thought she sounded more… human. It was interesting to see how she was going to change her fate when she assume that she wasn’t going to be happy with her future husband. Then, starting from that, she continued to try and changing her future to be better, to be perfect. But in the end, nothing can really satisfy her. 

The Future of Us is a fun, quick read that you can finish in one sitting. I think anyone who was a 90’s kid with a computer back then would find this one nostalgic.


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