Monday, June 30, 2014

Spirits of the Pirate House by Paul Ferrante


My three favorite teenage sleuths are at it again in Paul Ferrante’s book, Spirits of the Pirate House.  TJ, Bortnicker and Louanne team up as junior ghost hunters for the Adventure channel to learn more about Hibiscus House and why no one will work there any more.
They head to Bermuda but not until TJ and Bortnicker are trained scuba divers.
Bermuda is a beautiful island, known for its friendly residents but the teens and their pal from the ghost buster show, Mike Weinstein, are rebuffed when they ask about the house and its famous owner, Sir William Tarver.  Even their Beatles-loving driver, Chappy, is closed mouthed when it comes to that subject.
The head of the society that called the Adventure Channel in is the least enthusiastic to say the least.  She would do anything to stop the investigation.
A sunken pirate’s boat reveals something that promises to make the adventure even more thrilling but will they get a chance to use what they found?
In the meantime, TJ and his adoptive cousin, Louanne get closer to one another and a romance begins to bloom between the two.  Bortnicker meets Ronnie, the divemaster’s daughter, who seems to take a shine to him right away.  It looks like Bortnicker is in for a little romance of his own.
Once again, Ferrante shows his expertise on the subject of diving and Bermuda itself.  The story is full of details that educate as well as entertain the reader.
I was happy to see Bortnicker come into his own and I was delighted that even TJ’s dad and Mike  get to have a little romance on this beautiful island too.
The teens have matured and are even more interesting than they were in the first book I read.
The only thing that bothered me was that the ghost who started out as a dastardly sort did a 180 when the teens confront him for the last time and kindly explains his whole story.  I wish there could have been some little changes before that so we knew Tarver wasn’t all bad.  Maybe he just needed someone who was willing to listen.

If ghost hunting is for you, then pick up this book.  I think you’ll really like it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Monday, June 23, 2014

Guest Post: Mysti Parker

I want to welcome Mysti Parker to my blog today.  Mysti caught my attention with her Tallenmere series.  I really enjoy your work and here is a glimpse into her new project. Thanks, Mysti!!

Close-up and Personal—
Drawing Inspiration from the Harsh Reality of the Civil War
Mysti Parker
If we compare our nation to those in the eastern hemisphere, we might say we are lucky to have had only one war fought within our borders. But the Civil War claimed more American lives than WWI & II, the Korean War, and Vietnam combined. This war between our states has probably been studied and reenacted by history enthusiasts more than any other conflict. A million intriguing stories and other fascinating tidbits can be found with a simple internet search. Yet, when we look through a close-up lens, we discover the reality during the conflict and in the aftermath is much less intriguing. It’s downright tragic.
The Southern states endured the most suffering, with women being left behind to raise the children and run the farms when their men were drafted into the fighting. The North cut off supply routes, and passing armies often took what little livestock or crops they had to sustain themselves, resulting in widespread hunger.
We don’t see the details of these stories in the history books. We must turn to personal accounts to get a view from the inside. In “A Woman’s Civil War”, for example, Cornelia Peake McDonald, a Confederate widow from Virginia, kept a diary from the time her husband left for battle until after the end of the war. She describes in detail the reality of rearing nine children on her own, having to stand in line to get a little bread to feed them, Union soldiers confiscating their home, and the death of her baby girl.  
From the soldiers’ point of view, those who were lucky enough to make it home had a good chance of returning with a missing limb and a morphine addiction, and to decimated farms and dead loved ones. We can imagine the burden these veterans carried throughout the rest of their lives. How do you rebuild and provide for your family when you are disabled and have no money, materials, and very little help?
It is these personal stories of desperation and loss that I’m drawing from to write “A Time for Everything”. There’s Portia McAllister, a Confederate widow who lost her husband and only child, and Beau Stanford, a Union veteran who came home to find his wife dead and his horse farm on the verge of collapse. How will they find the strength and heart to love again when the world they knew has been turned upside down and the battle of Reconstruction has just begun?
I hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from my work-in-progress, and I hope you will see it in its entirety within the next year. In this passage, Beau is recovering from an injury he received while saving Portia and his son from an accident. While she sits at his bedside, they share some of the horrors they faced during the war:
[Portia said,] “….During the war, men from both sides found their way to my door, asking for help from me and Ellen. Some had minor wounds that needed stitching. Others were starving. I did what I could, but…”
            “But what?”
            She fiddled with the handkerchief on her lap. “There’s always a cost.”
            “Tell me. What happened?”
            “Typhoid.” Fresh tears dripped from her eyes as she twisted the handkerchief into a tight rope. “A Rebel soldier came to the house sick. That’s how Abby took ill. I should have turned him away. She’d still be here. My baby would still be here.”
            She buried her face in her hands. Wracking sobs shook her body. Beau pushed himself up, steadying himself as the room wobbled. Reaching out, he took her in his arms and let her cry it out. He stroked her half-fallen hair and rocked gently back and forth. Things like money and marriage seemed trivial now; his heart ached for Po. On one level, he understood her pain. He’d lost Claire, but to lose Jonny too? He’d have probably put a bullet in his head.
            “Shh. It’s not your fault. It’s nobody’s fault. You did what you could, like any good woman would. And you put yourself in harm’s way for my son. I can’t thank you enough for that.”
            After a little while, her crying subsided and her body relaxed, but she remained in his arms and rested her head on his shoulder. Beau closed his eyes, glad that she felt comfort in his embrace.
            “Beau,” she said, her voice muffled against his bare skin. “What was it like? The fighting, I mean. What was it like out there?”
            His jaw tightened, as did his hold on Portia. “I don’t think you need to hear about all that now.”
            “What are a few more tears in the sea I’ve already shed?”                      
            Elbows resting on his knees, he hung his aching head. He’d never spoken about the specifics to anyone, not even Harry, though they’d lived through the same hell together.
            “I want to know,” she said, though her voice quaked. “I heard the cannons and gunfire, and I heard stories from the men who sought our help. But, Jake never talked about it in his letters, and I never got the chance to ask him face to face. My mind sculpts images of what he must have seen and felt, but I can’t sort truth from fiction. It haunts me, not knowing, and I fear I may lose the courage to ask about it again.”
            An inner war raged inside him, but courage won the battle. Po’s husband fought and died out there, so she deserved to know the truth of how things really were. Or at least part of it. He swallowed hard and forced himself to speak.
            He scratched the stubble on his jaw, focusing on the rug and her little feet. “At first, we didn’t think the war would amount to much. We enlisted and went through training, learned about formation, how to use cover fire, things like that. It was all orders and marching, forming columns and dressing the line. We got to know each other, and we learned to hate the enemy.”
            Portia let out a soft groan. He looked up to see if he’d said too much. Her fingers curled around the ends of the armrests with white-knuckled tension, and she averted her eyes. But, she wasn’t leaving, and she wasn’t asking him to stop, so he continued.
            “Once the real fighting began, everything changed. One minute you’re cuttin’ up with your friends, and the next minute, you’re watching them get blown apart. And you forget all the strategy, you forget the reasons you’re there in the first place. All you want to do is stay alive. You want to get back home. Nobody’s your enemy—not in the smoke and blood and sweat. It’s life or death, shoot and don’t think. Just get back home.”
            She turned to him again, with tears budding from the corners of her eyes. Without a word, she reached for his hand and took it in both of hers. When she nodded for him to continue, his muscles relaxed; her strength gave him the courage to keep talking.
            “And when it’s all over, if you’re not dead or wounded, you have to bury the bodies. You have to bury your friends. And God…some of them were just boys, Po. Little boys who would never get back home.”

Mysti Parker

Can't wait to read Mysti's newest book when it is released.  Until then check out her Tallenmere series, A Ranger's Tale, Serenya's Song and Hearts in Exile.  You can buy them here:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Happily Never After by Missy Fleming


Savannah, Georgia is an old town full of ghosts and nobody knows that better than Quinn Roberts.  She is an orphan who is left to live with her stepmother and her two stepstisters.  Any and all comparisons to Cinderella are encouraged in this story.
Quinn is hypersensitive to spirits who all seem rather benign and mean no harm until she suspects her stepmother is possessed by an evil spirit.
Quinn has always been treated badly by Marietta but things are escalating out of control.
Things are not all bad for Quinn however.  She has a true and good friend in Abby, whose home has been a refuge and where Quinn is treated like a loved one.  She also develops a relationship with Jason Preston, a movie star who is in Savannah for a shoot.
She tries to hold him off with a cool attitude but Jason is persistent and before long, Quinn gives into her feelings for him.
Quinn realizes she needs to deal with the evil spirit and protect her home which is her legacy so she decides to take matters into her own hands and confront the spirit who turns out to be an ancestor who has a vendetta against the Roberts family.

Quinn was a good heroine.  She had few fears and entered into dangerous situations with determination.  She also had her vulnerable side which her stepsisters took advantage of by spreading vicious gossip about her and Abby in school.  When Quinn had questions, she went to get help from the appropriate sources and showed good sense.  I liked her relationship with George, the little ghost who lived in the attic of her home.
Her best friend, Abby was a great girl.  She was honest and brave and supportive.  I hope as the series continues we get to know her better.
Jason was the anti-Hollywood stereotype.  He was interested in Quinn from the beginning and also was curious about spirits due to the death of his brother.  He had no ego problems and was genuinely interested in finding out more about Quinn and the spirits around her.  He was a prince of a guy because he even had the proverbial ball where Quinn in disguise was his date.

I don’t usually like stories about ghosts but I have to say, I really got interested in this group of teens and their adventure.  I’m looking forward to reading more of this series and I hope it continues to be so entertaining. I would definitely recommend you read this book if you are a fan of ghosts or not.
You can buy the book here:  Fire and Ice YA

Monday, June 9, 2014

Seasons of Love and War by Brenda Barry

Rated 4 STARS

Beth Ann and Kaylob have been together ever since childhood.  They had an instant connection and forged a bond that couldn’t be broken.  They grew to adulthood and became engaged.
We first meet Kaylob in Viet Nam fighting for his life and the lives of his comrades.  He is unable to save his best friend but makes him a solemn promise that he will avenge his death.
Beth Ann is living in their little apartment and going to school, just waiting for the love of her life to return so they can plan the wedding of their dreams.
But Kaylob shocks and disappoints Beth Ann when he reveals he has signed up for another tour of duty.  He goes off and isn’t heard from again.
Enter Blake, another man they knew in school, who has become rich and famous and has always loved Beth Ann from a distance, knowing he never had a chance with her because of Kaylob. 
He wines and dines Beth Ann and they become a couple.  Beth Ann is still grieving for Kaylob and Blake is an understanding and thoughtful and sexy lover. Even though they share a bed, he accepts that Beth Ann will always have a place in her heart for her first love.
Meanwhile, poor Kaylob is suffering near death in a Vietnamese prison.  He is deep in the jungle and is tortured beyond belief.  He only holds on so he can return to the love of his life, Beth Ann.

Beth Ann is the luckiest woman in the world.  She meets two wonderful men who adore her beyond belief, she falls into a part in a review that makes her and instant star, and she is totally beautiful.  Also, feisty and irresistible.  Every man loves her and the women in her life are her good friends.
Kaylob is a long suffering hero.  His time in the prison camp sounds like hell on Earth.  He holds on for dear life as long as he can.
Blake is a little cocky, but fun and willing to do anything to win Beth Ann’s heart.  He is under the assumption that Kaylob is dead and Beth Ann will grow to love him as much as she loved Kaylob.  Poor guy is a little delusional too.  He has great looks, a winning personality and tons of money so he is confident in reaching his goal.
I was really looking forward to reading this book and I was a little disappointed in it.  The story was pretty interesting but the characters were just too good to be true for me.  Some of the dialogue seemed a little repetitious.  This is the first book in a series which I hope will keep improving and sketch the characters out a little more so we can see some of their imperfect parts.

This book has some adult language and adult situations so I wouldn’t give it to my twelve year old.  If you like modern historical romance, I think you would enjoy this book.
You can purchase this book here: Amazon
or here: Melange Books

Monday, June 2, 2014

Love You to Death by Melissa March

 Rated 4.5 STARS

 Cherry is a street kid who lives in Baltimore and is really down on her luck.  Her mom is dead and her father is in jail for life for doing the deed.  She has no one except for Stewie, a fellow street kid who is developmentally delayed and has an innocent mind.  Cherry does everything she can to help and protect Stewie but one night she takes him to a park and a tragedy occurs.
In the meantime, Cherry has met a police detective who seems to be interested in her welfare and after a bad beginning to their relationship, she and Cass become friends.
She lets herself open up to him a little and she begins to trust him in spite of her initial misgivings.
Thinking that Stewie is dead, Cherry moves in with Cass and becomes the victim of his vicious jealousy and is almost trapped in their home.  As time passes, Cherry (whose real name is Arden) begins to plan her get away but before she can escape, Cass forces her to marry him.
Arden finds out through eavesdropping that Stewie is alive and she sets out to save both of them.  She finds Stewie, but Cass is hot on her trail and tries to shoot Stewie but Arden gets in the way and is shot herself.
She and Stewie manage to escape and find themselves in a horse trailer with two young men.
The two fugitives make a home in Kentucky with the family of the young men and Arden and Gideon fall deeply in love.  Is Arden finally safe?

I loved reading this book.  It is a stand-alone and that was a refreshing change for me.  I like series but I needed a break.  And what a break it was, I loved Cherry.  She made a lot of mistakes but she was only a young girl thrown out in the street so I could understand when she didn’t make a good choice.  I wanted to scream at her not to get involved with Cass and follow her gut.  Her romance with Gideon was sweet.  I loved the descriptions of the horse farm and enjoyed getting to know the Shepherd family.
Cass was among one of the most vicious villains I have read.  He beat Arden senseless and used Stewie as a pawn. 
Stewie was well written and his developmental delay was not overdone or silly.  As a former teacher, I really appreciated that the author respected her character.
The story was action packed and moved along at a fast pace.  I could never wait to find out what would happen next. This book was a real winner.