Friday, February 28, 2014

Risking It All by Lucy Oliver

Risking It AllA decent read. Sometimes I like a quickie, something I can read in an hour, a break from that longer book that is taking a week.

What I appreciate the most about this story is the look at flight operations during WWII. I'm just assuming the author did her research--even though I've never heard of a yoke called a wheel. Regardless, it's kinda neat to see what all could go wrong in the days before computers. Trying to safely get planes in the air in a timely manner during a war is no easy task. I also liked that we have a female control tower operator. Like I said, NOT an easy job.

Also appreciated the moral: It's better to have some happy memories, to have loved and lost, than to have nothing at all.

I felt the romance was awful quick and it didn't wow me. I got that they knew each other from before but it's not like that went well. But I expected that with the word count being what it is and I didn't pick it up for romance/sex anyway, but the war-time story.

It's well-written and edited as well. I believe there were only two typos in the entire tale. I've grown weary of small-press books and normally expect a hot mess, but this did not have those issues.

Not bad. At least it's different from most of the short historical romances out there. I give points for that. Terrific cover too. I can't resist a bomber.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Strong is Sexy Heroine of the Week: Kate, Sarah, Patrice

Book: Women's Work
Author: Kari Aguila
Heroine: Kate, Sarah, Patrice

About 50 years in the future, there is a revival of 'traditional' gender roles. Men in power decide things would be better if women revert to subservient roles -- women are removed from political positions, new laws are passed that limit the health care women can get, clothes women can wear, jobs women can do, etc. At first glance, this feels far fetched, but one need only look at the millions of girls and women in other parts of our real world to see that it is not.

Then a global war breaks out which devastates the planet, destroys the infrastructure, and kills hundreds of millions of people. Because women were not allowed in the military, most of the dead are men. Four years into the Last War, women decide it is up to them to stop it, and take control by both force and persuasion. They design new laws and new governments with women in charge. Under the banner of peace and equality,women keep the men in their neighborhoods close to home and under tight supervision, and are terrified of the small groups of men that roam the country, viciously indicating that the pendulum may have swung too far.

Women's Work is full of strong women, with a range of characters that will remind readers of mothers, sisters and friends they have respected and loved. The main character, Kate, is a widowed mother of three struggling to survive in a post-war landscape. She has learned to hunt for, grow, and preserve the food upon which her family and her neighborhood depend. Through clever engineering and persistence, she has designed and built simple machines to make her work easier. She is devoted to her children, and loves them courageously. And most importantly, she is beginning to see that the rules of their new society might not be as perfect as they had hoped. When a strange man shows up on her porch one night, gaunt and filthy, Kate is forced to begin a journey that will change her life forever.

Kate's neighbors and friends include Sarah, the teacher, who shows her strength through thoughtful insights into what it means to love a man and be loved in return; Iris, the leader, whose intelligence, kindness and courage saved the whole neighborhood during the darkest times; and even Patrice, who has struggled with her demons for years and, though we cannot agree with her decisions at times, we can understand the fear and anger behind them.

“So, when most of the men were dead, women saw their chance to take over?” 

Kate searches her son’s eyes as he asks this. “Not take over,” she says. “Fix things.”

It wasn’t hard to justify what the women had done since the end of the Last War. They rebuilt their bombed-out neighborhoods as best they could and worked to established peace and gender equality. But small groups of men roam the country, viciously indicating that the pendulum may have swung too far. When a bedraggled man shows up on Kate’s doorstep one night, will she risk everything to help him? Does he deserve her help? 

Women’s Work is set in a dystopic world in the Pacific Northwest, where women struggle to survive through sustenance farming, clever engineering, and a deeply rooted sisterhood. In this suspenseful thriller, Kate and her family are asked to let go of their anger and fear on a journey to forgiveness and understanding. It is a compelling story that challenges all of us to question traditional gender roles and to confront the fragility of love.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Three Custom T-shirts for Three Book Babes!

"I'm a woman. I can be a contrary as I choose."
--the Dowager

Some time ago, I had a T-shirt giveaway and up for grabs was a pink Strong is Sexy Book Babe shirt, size large. That limited how many entries I got, because some of you are small, medium, and so on. Beautiful women come in all sizes!
I have great news! Thanks to PrintKeg, three Book Babes who comment on this post --U.S. residents only, please-- will get T-shirts of their own, in any size or color they want, with anything they want on it! Got a favorite saying? Put it on there. Got a favorite quote from Downton Abbey? Put it on there! Got a graphic you've purchased the rights to and something you'd like to add to it, put it on there! Got a business you want to promo?

Put it on there!

I had my favorite Dowager quote placed with a graphic and voila!

You merely choose a shirt you want, click on it, upload your image, add your text, center this and that, fiddle with your font 'till you like the look of it, and then check out. You'll have your T-shirt in a few weeks. It was an easy experience and when the company turned out not to have the shirt I picked out in the color I wanted, I received a polite email offering me a different shirt in the same color. 

The shirt itself is of good quality. You'd think that being cheap, they'd be those really thin shirts that you have to wear a tank top underneath and won't last but three washings, but no, ma'ams, the shirt I received is the real deal: sturdy, wearable, thick, and should last a long time.

PrintKeg is also a great place to get cards, flyers, and posters done.

And authors, they also do bookmarks!!!

That being said, three commenters ***Tell me what your favorite quote is!*** on this post will each win a T-shirt. Winners will have 48 hours to respond once the giveaway is over. If I don't hear from you within 48 hours, I will choose a new winner. Winners can have the Book Babe Strong is Sexy graphic to upload to a T-shirt of their choice, or they can make their own shirt altogether. Just let me know when I email you.

Giveaway runs for one week, ending Thursday, March 3rd.

Thank you for following!! You're all awesome Book Babes. Remember strong is sexy!

*Book Babe is not responsible for lost, damaged, stolen, unreceived items, or injury resulting from any items.*

Flight to Coorah Creek by Janet Gover

Flight to Coorah CreekThis is a very nice, pleasant read. I wish this town was real, 'cause I want to go live there. Imagine a town in which people come to escape, but instead they heal, in which people help others out, and everybody knows your name.

Just like real life, this book contains some sad moments, some bad things, some happy bits, and some love.

Ellen is escaping an abusive marriage and trying to protect her kids, but you can't just run away without consequences. Jess is the pilot and she's trying to escape from the press and a crime that just follows her everywhere. Adam was hurt as a boy and in a way, he escaped to the Creek too. He's the town doctor. Jack is the only main player who isn't trying to escape something. He's the aircraft mechanic.

Anyway, all these people bring their problems, their pity parties, their fears to Coorah Creek and fate throws them together and they can all make choices: keep up their pity parties or share their secrets and fall in love.

Two romances happen, both clean. I love it when there's a romance novel without the sex. We don't need it. I love that these people fall in love and truly get to know each other before they even kiss. That's how it should be. That's real love.

The town is full of amazing people, from the lady who runs a pub to the sheriff who while he abides by the law, he knows to look the other way for a time, to help a woman in need. Really liked this town. I actually Googled it to see if it existed so I could add it to my "to visit" list.

The book is very well written. I can tell the author did her research or just plain knows what she's writing about, from the flying to the medical issues the crew faced. Perfect blend of description/telling/showing/emotion. My only quibble would have to be that I grew tired of Adam at times. His pity party seemed to go on too long. Though the ending revealed to me why this was so.

Jess and Ellen are both very strong women, I'd like to add. Jess for having done the right thing when many women would have balked, Ellen for escaping. Both of them for facing their fears.

I received this from Choc Lit in exchange for an honest review. I hope to see more books about Coorah Creek. Could this be the start of a series?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Winters in Paris: A Guest Post from Vicki Lesage

From stock.xchng
Doesn’t winter seem to drag on just a little too long? It’s always amazed me that the official season of winter starts December 21 and doesn’t end until March 20. It sure got cold WAY before December 21, so by now it’s like, let’s hurry this up and be spring already, right? Flowers blooming, couples holding hands strolling down the street, drinking mochachinos instead of hot chocolate.

But, since I live in Paris, even this isn’t as enjoyable as it sounds. Don’t get me wrong - spring is still better than winter. But just a heads up for anyone planning a trip to the famed City of Lights, the weather is crap until June.

The kicker is that it looks good from your apartment - sunny, dry, fresh. So you leave the house in typical spring attire, happy to shed your coat and show off your chic Parisian wardrobe (or at least happy to shed the coat).

At first it feels fine, but by the time you’re just far enough away from home that you don’t want to turn back for a jacket, a gust of wind blows your skirt up and chills you to the bones.

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson after having lived in Paris for 9 years. But then what would I write about?

If you’ve always dreamed of Paris, but want to hear what it’s really like to live here, then you’ll enjoy my book. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, you’ll feel like popping open a bottle of bubbly right alongside me. Santé!


Wine, romance, and French bureaucracy - the ups and downs of an American's life in Paris. This laugh-out-loud memoir is almost too funny to be true!

Drinking too much bubbly. Meeting sappy Frenchmen who have girlfriends or are creeps or both. Encountering problème after problème with French bureaucracy. When newly-single party girl Vicki moved to Paris, she was hoping to taste wine, stuff her face with croissants, and maybe fall in love.

In her first book, this long-time blogger and semi-professional drinker recounts the ups and downs of her life in Paris. Full of sass, shamefully honest admissions, and situations that seem too absurd to be true, Vicki makes you feel as if you're stumbling along the cobblestones with her.

Will she find love? Will she learn to consume reasonable amounts of alcohol? Will the French administration ever cut her a break?

“Her writing brings the characters she meets to life, her friends, boyfriends, fellow Metro travellers and French officials, and the stories she tells are full of humour, even the truly frustrating ones.”

“Her struggles with French men, love, work and bureaucracy made me laugh out loud, I could not put it down!”
- Sissi de Beauregard, Chick-lit et autres Love Stories

Piqued your interest? Buy now at Amazon: Paperback | Kindle

Vicki Lesage is an IT Director by day, writer by night. And a full-time nerd. She loves fondue, wine, math, and zombies. She lives in Paris with her French husband and rambunctious son.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Giveaway and Blitz: Scarlet Revenge by Ann McGinnis

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Scarlet Revenge - PROMO Blitz
By Ann McGinnis
Date Published: January 21, 2014
Romantic Suspense

The FBI doesn’t know what to do with Analyst Caycee Scarlet. She’s brash, brilliant & brutally relentless when tracking a serial killer. But she also has a temper, problems with authority figures and recognizing the chain of command.

Things go sideways for Caycee when she uncovers a lead that saves the Omega Killer’s latest victim. Rather than working the system and making nice with her pompous boss, sparks fly and she gets into an altercation with the lead Special Agent on the case, resulting in a transfer to another assignment.

Caycee finds herself transferred to an FBI interrogation facility where she assesses the most dangerous of criminals in custody. She struggles to get over the loss of her dream job, but her new boss, handsome Special Agent Gil Graham, may soften the blow. Sparks, of a different variety, fly between the Special Agent and his new Analyst, as they work together to crack the most difficult cases.

Just when Caycee’s wounds are healing from her expulsion on the Omega Killer team, she is dragged back into the thick of it. Caycee and her new team are front and center, focused on an interview of a bombing suspect, when Omega comes looking for revenge. His attack wounds her team, leaving Caycee with only one option for help—the devastatingly handsome bombing suspect. It will take all of Caycee’s wits, and a kiss for luck, to stop Omega and save her co-worker.


Chapter One

Our steps echoed down the stark hallway. Clean. Institutional. And utterly amazing. Caycee Scarlet was finally walking along the hallowed hallways of the FBI. It was a good day for me.

"Say nothing, Scarlet," Special Agent in Charge Tony Wilkes ordered. He threw me a look over his shoulder. "Even if someone asks you a question, keep your mouth shut." He laughed to himself. "No one will ask you a question.”

Wilkes had already made it clear that I was the newest member of the Omega Killer Task Force. As such, I should listen more than talk, act fast when given orders, and let the seasoned team members guide my every move. It seemed like the equivalent of an FBI-whipping boy. Or girl, in my case. I didn’t care. Everyone started at the bottom. I was ready to put in the time needed to earn their respect.

At least, I looked good in a form-fitting black suit. It was more than I could afford, but I figured I would live in the outfit. Besides, it sent a message. I valued my appearance, even if I had to dress like a man, I'd still look like a woman.

I'd had the suit cut to fit my curves, which were on the athletic side. My auburn hair pulled into a no-nonsense ponytail. It hung past my shoulders, showing off my best feature – my eyes. As a window into my soul, they were unflinching. I did admire my own intelligence, probably a character flaw, but hopefully that wouldn’t show in my eyes. The traits I wanted to show: no nonsense, quick witted, relentless.

"You get the crap jobs," Wilkes said, acting as if his honesty was attractive. A few hours in the gym and hair implants, maybe. Not that I didn’t find bald men attractive, just not this one. "I can't lie," he continued, "we'll be throwing you every crap job that this case delivers, but you're on a big case. That don't happen to many newbies."

I wasn't that new, but I guessed he didn’t count the eight months of testing and background checks. I did. Or my training at Quantico. It all counted to me.

The agency gave us two years to prove ourselves. After that, candidates either earned their spot or were let go. I couldn't imagine putting in all that time and failing.

I had a feeling success would require long hours and serious ass-kissing. I just needed to find someone with a cute ass. It sure wasn't Wilkes.

We passed three large rooms filled with personnel. One looked to be the size of a football field filled with cubicles. “You’ll be in here,” Wilkes waved, “but first I want you to see the Dugout.”

He led me to a large conference room, its walls filled with crime photos, running news feeds and a huge whiteboard for pertinent case data. “The Omega Killer is priority number one,” Wilkes said, opening the conference room door for me. “This is where the main players are at bat.”

I slowed at the door, sensing a real sports theme to the way he liked to operate. Perhaps one day, I’d be his most valuable player. It looked competitive, though. Wilkes’s team already consisted of veteran agents and analysts. They seemed a cohesive group, working in unison to stop a psychotic killer.

Wilkes quickly ran through Omega’s deadly stats, but he didn’t need to bother. I knew the case inside and out. Killers were my hobby.

I made the mistake of saying that to a date once. I never saw a man escape faster, admonishing me by exclaiming: “You’re sick, truly sick.” Hopefully, my academic interest in killers wouldn’t repel men in the FBI.

Not that I was here to find a man, but I was twenty-eight and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake the feeling that somewhere in this organization was my perfect match. After all, I needed a man who liked to catch killers.
“Are you listening to me?” Wilkes sounded irritated.

“Yes, sir,” I answered. “The Omega Killer marks his victims’ forehead with the sign of the Omega. All indications are that it signals the moment he’s ready to make the fatal cut, into his victim’s left breast. Such a wound, based on other serial killers, suggests Omega has mommy issues, but I personally believe that it signals a desire to find love.”

Wilkes made a face at me. Clearly he did not care for my analysis. “That’s not what I was talking about. Geez, he wants to find love? Table that thought, quickly, and get back in the game.”

He raised his arms, showing off the Dugout. "Welcome to the nerve center of our investigation. We call this the show," he said, then clapped his hands together to get the room’s attention. "Everyone, this is Intelligence Analyst Caycee Scarlet."

The agents, analysts and techs turned from their work. Some at laptops along one side of a long mahogany conference table and others working on reports across from them. Several agents were standing, talking in a small group. They barely looked over at me, too busy for someone below them on the FBI food chain. The analysts nodded an acknowledgement. Matter-of-fact. No smiles. No words of welcome.

I gave a half-hearted nod to the room, hoping I'd make a better impression later. Probably much later, if I was reading the total lack of interest correctly. It must be the pressure of catching Omega. Tension hung in the room. With twelve victims to date, catching the killer had them all wound up.

Wilkes pointed to a side table stacked with boxes. The top one filled with old cell phones, victim personal effects and police reports. "We need them properly catalogued. You know, a searchable database. I’m told you were the most anal student in your class. Go at it."

His voice trailed off, but I didn't know if he'd stopped talking or I'd stopped listening. Maybe a little of both, because I read the whiteboard. One of the hand-scribbled numbers was written incorrectly.

Without thinking, I went over to the board and used the heel of my right hand to wipe off an area code. Everyone in the room stopped working and screamed at me.

"What have you done?" Wilkes shouted louder than anyone else.

I came out of my trance and blinked at him. Whatever I said next could make or break me, so I said nothing.

"Every piece of information is vital to solving the case," he scolded. He turned to the room. "Can we fix it? What was that number?"

Blank stares.

I quickly picked up a dry erase marker and wrote the numbers back on the board. It was only three digits.

Screams went up all around me again.

"What?" I asked. "That's the number I erased. But it's wrong. It's a phone number, right? Someone transposed the area code. 3-7-1 is not an area code, but 7-3-1 is New Jersey."

No one screamed at me that time, but their looks were deadly.

"Is that right?" Wilkes asked the room. His eyes darted from the whiteboard to the closest agent. He wanted confirmation before his head exploded.

"Shit," the agent said.

Wilkes grabbed his head.

The agent couldn't look at me. "She's right, sir.”

“Okay, we’re okay, fix it and double-check everything that goes on the board, people,” Wilkes barked.

The agent took the dry erase marker from me and fixed the numbers. Wilkes waved two fingers at a petite woman with raven hair twisted into a bun. “Take care of this.” He pointed at me.

FBI Analyst Nina Dunbar instantly responded. She rolled her eyes and grabbed a stack of boxes, indicating with her elbow that I was to take the rest. “Follow me,” she sighed. “Consider this your first and last favor.”

I shot a glance at Wilkes, but he already had his nose in a file folder, barking orders to the closest agent. He had no time for me. No one did. I exited the conference room, utterly deflated by my welcome to the FBI.

Ann McGinnis

 photo Ann20Photo_zps844d346c.jpgAnn McGinnis started writing romantic suspense to combine two things— thrillers & foreplay! Connect with Ann and upcoming news about the Scarlet Suspense Series:

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

My Reading Radar 2/22/2014

Spotted on a friend's blog and on my wishlist/TBR: Gold Rush Girl by Suzanne Lilly.

Gold Rush Girl Book One of the California ArgonautsWhen Lucinda Martin York arrives in California at the beginning of the gold rush, she is alone and destitute, but holding fast to her dream of becoming one of the first women doctors. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to achieve her goal.

George Arnold has a dream of his own, one he left his family and friends behind to pursue, one that will make him a key investor in California’s golden future. He’s willing to sacrifice everything for his goal.

Although their dreams are divergent, Lucinda and George team together for survival in the mining town of Diggers Flat. They grow close as they deal with thieves, fire, and tragedy, but in the end, it is their very dreams that may tear them apart.


Was free on Kindle. I've read about this princess before and I'm intrigued to read this take on her life. Very interesting woman. Mistress of the Throne by Ruchir Gupta.

Mistress of the Throne1631. The Empress of India Mumtaz Mahal has died. Yet, rather than anoint one of his several other wives to take her place as Empress of India, Mughal King Shah Jahan anoints his seventeen-year-old daughter Jahanara as the next Queen of India.

Bearing an almost identical resemblance to her mother, Jahanara is the first ever daughter of a sitting Mughal King to be anointed queen. She is reluctant to accept this title, but does so in hopes of averting the storm approaching her family and Mughal India. Her younger siblings harbor extreme personalities from a liberal multiculturalist (who views religion as an agent of evil) to an orthodox Muslim (who views razing non-Muslim buildings as divine will).

Meanwhile, Jahanara struggles to come to terms with her own dark reality: as the daughter of a sitting King, she is forbidden to marry. Thus, while she lives in the shadow of her parents unflinching love story, she is devastated by the harsh reality that she is forbidden to share such a romance with another.

Mistress of the Throne narrates the powerful story of one of Indias most opulent and turbulent times through the eyes of an unsuspecting character: a Muslim queen. It uses actual historical figures to illuminate the complexity of an era that has often been called Indias Golden Age.


Wedded to War (Heroines Behind the Lines, #1)On my wishlist after having spotted book three about to release, one about a girl dressed as a soldier. Of course, I had to go back and check out the previous two. Decided to try this one first.

Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green. Tending to the army's sick and wounded meant leading a life her mother does not understand and giving up a handsome and approved suitor. Yet Charlotte chooses a life of service over privilege, just as her childhood friend had done when he became a military doctor. She soon discovers that she's combatting more than just the rebellion by becoming a nurse. Will the two men who love her simply stand by and watch as she fights her own battles? Or will their desire for her wage war on her desire to serve God?

Wedded to War is a work of fiction, but the story is inspired by the true life of Civil War nurse Georgeanna Woolsey. Woolsey's letters and journals, written over 150 years ago, offer a thorough look of what pioneering nurses endured. This is the first in the series "Heroines Behind the Lines: Civil War," a collection of novels that highlights the crucial contributions made by women during times of war.


The Devil's Grin (Kronberg Crimes, #1)Came across book two of this series. It was on sale. But then I read it was a book two. I can't buy a second book without reading the first so I went to dig up more data and now book one is def on my radar/wishlist/to-read. Woman masquerading as a doctor and partnering with Sherlock. How cool is that? The Devil's Grin by A. Wendeberg.

At the turn of the 19th century, bacteriological research has made a tremendous leap. When epidemics were still untamed and claimed thousands of lives, Pasteur and Koch isolated deadly bacteria to develop vaccines. Biological warfare was but a small step away...

In Victorian London's cesspool of crime and disease, a series of murders remains undiscovered until a cholera victim is found floating in the city's drinking water supply. Dr Anton Kronberg, England's best bacteriologist, is called upon to investigate and finds evidence of abduction and medical maltreatment. While Scotland Yard has little interest in pursuing the case, Kronberg pushes on and crosses paths with Sherlock Holmes. The detective immediately discovers Kronberg's secret - a woman masquerading as a man in order to practice medicine - a criminal deed that could land her in prison for years to come. But both must join forces to stop a crime so monstrous, it outshines Jack the Ripper's deeds in brutality and cold-bloodedness.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Shadow Princess by Mary Hart Perry

The Shadow PrincessThis was a fun book. It's not something to taken as accurate historical fiction. Queen Victoria's daughter certainly didn't run around Whitechapel searching for Jack the Ripper, but it does make a great yarn. Ms. Perry knows how to tell a tale, how to keep readers on their toes. I even had dreams of Jack the Ripper when I read this one before bed!

First of all, big applause to having an older heroine: 48, I believe, is the Queen's eldest daughter, the one who was briefly Queen of Germany (Is that right?). Austria? Something like that. She's recovering from her husband's death and in this tale, she finds herself a mission/purpose again and it turns out to be some badly-needed drive. She also realizes that she's not dead, that it's okay to move on. Very nice little side theme. I could relate to this. I totally understand the need to have a purpose, a mission.

The Jack the Ripper case was a great touch of suspense. Technically we never knew who the Ripper was, but Ms. Perry comes up with her own. Well done. A bit contrived, all of it, but as I said above, this isn't a story one reads expecting accuracy, though from the author's note, she utilized real letters and whatnot, and apparently the queen's own grandson was a suspect!

There's a romance. I will admit it sorta appears out of thin air. I had some trouble believing it, but in the end I liked their connection. Vicky falls for a detective, which back then was considered a commoner.

Something that really, really put me off however is her daughter, Sophie. What an awful girl. Horrid. A terrible snot and brat. I question why she was made this way. It was a tad OTT. I hope the next book isn't about her, if there is one. She turned my stomach. 

Ooh, but I liked that we see a softer side to Queen Victoria in this. Her parts were minimal, but she exhibits a surprising concern for those afflicted with mental illness. Just a nice touch. And I liked Vicky, the heroine. She is stubborn and takes what she wants. And never lets others boss her around. 

I received this via Netgalley.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Strong is Sexy Heroine of the Week: Ana

Book: Calculated, Avenged
Author: R.S. Novelle
Heroine: Ana

Though Ana is described in the book as being very beautiful - a Victoria Secret model lookalike - it's her constant desire to go against the stereotype that makes her so unique. This is shown in her professional choices, as well as her love interests. As a pansexual, Ana displays strength by remaining true to herself, despite the little jabs occasionally thrown her way for her unconventional choices.

She also portrays strength through her feisty persona. While it's hinted that she survived an abusive adolescence, she chose to not to let it define her as a victim and grew into a woman who doesn't back down to anyone. Smart and witty, she can win any verbal altercation, and she demands respect from everyone - even those who aren't eager to serve it to her. Her inner drive for justice, a repercussion of her childhood experiences, has lead her to a career as an investigative journalist, where she often finds herself uncovering uncomfortable truths about conventionally respected people. And to do this, she has to go up against many powerful men in key positions. But for Ana, the story is more important than the social suicide this could cause her, and she's resourceful in her instrumentation.

In Calculated especially, we see her strength and compassion as she regularly puts her own physical safety on the line - despite the warnings of those close to her - in order to seek the truth about a master criminal plan, expose those who are participating, and bring justice to the victims who are being harmed. As events speed up, she realizes things are hitting very close to home for her, and bringing back memories and feelings about her past that she'd successfully suppressed over the years. She battles with her own emotions, but ultimately puts them to the side so that she can pursue this story and put a stop to the underground sex club that has lead to the murder of dozens of individuals.
By the end of the book, we see Ana as a mentally and emotionally strong woman who is filled with compassion for others and makes decisions for the greater good instead of just her own interests. 

An investigative journalist gets an unlikely tip from a mysterious informant. Dismissing it as impossible, she disregards the information and drops the story. Until the informant turns up dead, as predicted.

Plunged into the murky waters of a seedy underground prostitution ring, this psychological thriller provides twist upon dark twist in a story that would ultimately pin the church and several government officials in the largest murder cover-up the city has ever witnessed.

But is it true, or has the journalist merely been used as a pawn in a greater scheme? And how many people is she willing to sacrifice trying to figure it out?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Julius Romeros Extravaganza: A New Adventure (Julius Romeros, #2) by Hayley Lawson-Smith

The Julius Romeros Extravaganza: A New Adventure (Julius Romeros, #2)Having read and thoroughly enjoyed book one of this series, I was eager to read this latest installment of the Julius Romeros Extravanganza and mostly, Abigail, the bearded girl's, life. But having been a huge fan of Abigail in book one, I had some trouble with her this time. She's way too much of a victim for my tastes. I have a problem with people who ALLOW themselves to be victims. Thankfully, she does attempt to remedy this, but it was just a little too late for my tastes.

I mean, seriously, when faced with a choice of entering the real world or working for a very nasty man for the rest of your life...why don't you just shave your face and deal with the real world? Do I applaud Abigail for proudly sporting her beard? Yes, I do. She's been true to herself. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and this horrid man... I just...what happened to the fighting female? She bows down too easily.

Another reviewer, whom I greatly admire, posted a review and in it she talks about learned helplessness. She makes a very good point. Do go read it. But while I agree it's possible this happened with some of the performers, I am not convinced it could have happened to ALL, especially Abigail. Many other parts of this book, namely characters, were just too OTT and unbelievable also--the mayor for example. Seriously?? The ending also was a little far-fetched.

I also had some trouble with the historical setting. In book one I noticed this too--it's vague. I thought due to the references of war, that it was occurring during the great war or around then. My friend says it's the Victorian era, so book one must have occurred during the Boer war, I guess. Well, they didn't have plastic containers yet in the Victorian era, and that was mentioned in this book (the milking of the snakes), so it could use some more historical setting and whatever period chosen needs to be portrayed accurately.

That being said, I do appreciate how this book shows us the gritty side of the circus, how a certain attitude draws a certain crowd, and how the "freaks" are very much people who love, hurt, cry, laugh, and best of all--jest. The saving grace for me in this novel was the banter between the characters. The puns!! LOL  Even when I grew angry with how incredibly dumb and weak they all were, I kept reading just to see what Limber Jack or Mervin would say next. 

I must admit, the characters have really grown on me, and I think that's why this story was so hard for me to read. I like them, I want them to make it and be happy, and seeing them just cow-tow to this horrid new ringmaster ruined it for me. I wanted them to buck up.

As for the story itself, we once again follow the circus from town to town, only this time it's with a new boss, a not-so-friendly one who blackmails, kidnaps, steals, hurts, and manipulates. How does he know as much as he does? I don't know. That's another slightly unbelievably thing. Bad things happen in this book and there is no solid ending this time. We won't know what happens until book three. Do the "freaks" get away? Do the "things" get saved? I think I may sense a romance finally for the bearded lady too. We'll see.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Q: What Happens When the Pacific Northwest Secedes From the United States? Guest Lisa Nowak. #FREEBIE

A: A girl comes to the rescue.

Please welcome Lisa Nowak as she talks about her new release, the inspiration, and shares a free book with you.

I've always liked to write about strong female characters, so I was happy to stumble upon Book Babe while researching reviewers for the first book in my Full Throttle series. Ironically, that book had a male protagonist, but it also featured a female mechanic. I'm now working on a new series, and this one includes several gritty young women.

The idea came to me almost a year and a half ago, when my husband told me about a story he'd read in the Portland Mercury. According to the article, fifty years from now much of the United States will be devastated by climate change. The Pacific Northwest will remain relatively unchanged in comparison, which will result in an influx of climate refugees.

"That sounds like a great set up for a dystopian YA novel," I said. Within minutes, I had the basic premise outlined. The Pacific Northwest, disgruntled over the population boom, secedes from the United States to form its own country with a closed border. Wealthy Americans want to buy their way in, so poor people begin disappearing off the streets. Naturally, I needed a romantic aspect, but I wanted to give it a twist. I decided my protagonist would be a girl whose family had disappeared, and the love interest would be the boy whose family had displaced hers.

Over the coming weeks, the idea grew to include an existing political movement to form a bioregion called Cascadia, Portland's major league soccer team and its rowdy band fans, the Timbers Army, and a rock star-turned-activist who becomes the first president of the new nation. My husband, friends, and fellow writers supplied me with myriad excellent ideas and educated me about the subjects of history, politics, computer science, medicine, and soccer.

So what about those strong female characters? Well, first there's Piper a tough, goal-driven teen whose life revolves around becoming a doctor-at least until that future is snatched away when her family is kidnapped. As little girl, she had her paramedic dad quiz her on the circulatory system and the names of bones for fun. She plays with a medical training simulator-Sim Surgery-the way most teens play video games. Her best friend Bailey, while equally strong, completely embraces her girly side. She's a fashionable flirt and a kickass soccer player with a gung ho love of adventure. A third character, Zoey is the 11-year-old sister of Piper's love interest. Though she's battling a terminal illness, she's a snarky computer genius who doesn't want anyone feeling sorry for her.

McCall_CVR_SML_LRSeveral writers I know have been experimenting with serialized stories, and this idea seemed perfect for that venue. I envision it much like a season of a television series. Each short episode gives you part of the story, with the entire plot-line playing out over a nine book "season." I currently have the first three episodes published, (you can buy them individually, or as a box set) and the fourth will be released in early March. If you aren't sure this is for you, fear not. You can try the first episode absolutely free at any of the retailers listed below.

What if the Pacific Northwest seceded from the United States? In 2063, it has.

The climate change that's devastated all but the Northwest corner of the U.S. has been around since before Piper Hall was born. She doesn't spend much time thinking about it, the secession that created Cascadia, or the closed border, erected to keep out climate refugees. All she wants is to get through high school and earn a medical degree so she can pull her family out of poverty. Piper's sure her little brother's stories about poor people vanishing are just rumors-until she comes home to an empty house. Losing her future, her family, and her freedom and forced into hiding, Piper has to find a way to get to the bottom of the disappearances. But the only one who can help might be the very boy whose family has displaced her own.

Lisa Nowak
In addition to being a YA author, Lisa Nowak is a retired amateur stock car racer, an accomplished cat whisperer, and a professional smartass. She writes coming-of-age books about kids in hard luck situations who learn to appreciate their own value after finding mentors who love them for who they are.

Lisa has no spare time, but if she did she’d use it to tend to her expansive perennial garden, watch medical dramas, take long walks after dark, and teach her cats to play poker. For those of you who might be wondering, she is not, and has never been, a diaper-wearing astronaut. She lives in Milwaukie, Oregon, with her husband, four feline companions, and two giant sequoias.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Let's Talk Suffragettes, With Ian Porter

As an historian/writer/researcher with a particular interest in women's history in the 19th and early 20th centuries, my first novel was set in the Whitechapel of 1888. I had been inspired to write the novel by my increasing frustration at all the poorly researched books and TV programmes about the identity of a serial killer. l wanted to tell the story of the women of the slums and the terrible choices that some of them had to make which led them into the path of a maniac. A social history novel.
Sylvia Pankhurst
I wanted the inspiration for my second novel to come out of a positive rather than a negative. And what could be more inspiring than the gaining of the vote for women. I was drawn to the idea of setting a novel in the world of Suffragettes. But when I thought about it I was shocked to appreciate that I knew very little about the Suffragettes. And I'm an historian! It is a subject that has received remarkably little coverage in the media, history books, novels or TV drama. I asked around and it appeared that the average person in the street knew even less - Mrs Pankhurst won the vote for women (sic); women won the vote at the end of the Great War (sic); a Suffragette committed suicide by throwing herself under the king's horse (sic); women chained themselves to railings, and not much else.

I decided I needed to research the subject thoroughly. I did this and quickly found that Suffragette history is full of distortions. Note the number of sics above. Consequently I was particularly keen to relay the true story of the Suffragettes.

I had no preconceived ideas as to what precisely I would write about. I would allow the research to lead me. A year later, with the research notes piled up, I realised that the work of Sylvia Pankhurst had most inspired me. In particular her years in the East End politicising working class women and galvanising working class men into joining the struggle. And it was clear that to do the subject justice, no one novel (I'm not one for writing huge 1000 page doorstop tomes) could cover the whole Suffragette era, so I decided my novel would start in April 1912, when the increase in Suffragette violence was turning public opinion against them. And Sylvia Pankhurst headed down to the East End to support a Votes for Women bye-election candidate, and to distance herself from what she believed were her mother and sister's failing tactics. And the war years would be a whole different novel, so my book would concentrate on the turbulent, dramatic years of 1912 to 1914.

It is clear from the novel that Sylvia is quite a heroine of mine, for which I make no apology.

And coming as I do from Lewisham in South London, I was also very interested in the role that fellow Lewishamite, May Billinghurst played in the struggle. She was known as the 'Cripple Suffragette' ('cripple' being a perfectly acceptable word up until the Great War) because she was wheelchair-bound. She was an amazing woman, travelling on her own by train up to London and wheeling herself miles to bye-elections, protest marches, WSPU shops and coordinating a Suffragette pillar box sabotage campaign.

And I was brought up in Greenwich, a stone's throw from where Emily Davison was born, and having an interest in horse-racing I've always been interested in the most militant of the militants.

With a desire to tell the true story of the Suffragettes, and with so may interesting real-life women in my research notes, I decided that I would as often as possible use real people as characters in the novel, and where possible use their actual words in dialogue. Consequently, Sylvia Pankhurst, May Billinghurst, Emily Davison, Emmeline & Christabel Pankhurst, Mary Richardson, Nora Smyth, Melvinia Walker and the six women who finally succeeded in speaking to Prime Minister Asquith, are all characters in the novel.

But the main character, Ruby, is from my imagination. At many events she is either an addition to or replacement of real life women. For example at the two-woman assault on the Derby, she joins Emily and Mary at Epsom, and through her eyes the reader sees the terrible events of that day. You also see through her the horrors of force-feeding in prison.

The second main character, Nash, is an East End man and through him you see how men, as well as women, were important in the fight for equality. Working class men, like "convicts, lunatics and women" had no vote. He was one of the main characters in my first novel and I thought it would be interesting to have a character reappear 23 years later in a completely different story and environment, well out of his comfort zone. He's also a much needed protector of women at their meetings. We see how, even when the intellectual argument was being won, how women had to be wary of male mysogyny.

My first novel has been very well received but some readers have commented that the story took a while to get going. I took this literally 'on board' by starting this second novel on the Titanic just as it's about to sink. Not only does this get the story off to a fast start, but few things in history (except of course the war that was to follow 2 years later) better encapsulates the stubbornness, slapdashery and lack of human understanding of the British middle class male circa 1912. There are 1500 dead at the end of chapter one to support this. It's here, in a lifeboat, that a Suffragette is effectively born. 


Ian is an historian, writer, public speaker and walks guide. He spent his formative years living in St Johns, Lewisham, Catford and pretty much every other place in South East London (the full list sounds like a railway announcement) to which his restless parents moved. He obtained a degree in history at the University of Birmingham, where he was awarded the Chancellor's Prize, before becoming a ski journalist, during which time he wrote most of the original edition of the skiers' bible, Where to Ski. More recently he has written a novel, Whitechapel, set in the East End slums of 1888. This received very good reviews and has also proved popular with readers. he has also contributed to the non-fiction book, Jack the Ripper: the Suspects and writes articles and gives lectures on various elements of old East End life from the start of the industrial revolution through to the era of 'Call the Midwife'.

Having spent several years researching his second novel, which is set in the world of Suffragettes, he has become an expert on the militant fight for the vote for women, and regularly lectures on the subject. he has helped the National Portrait Gallery on a project involving Sylvia Pankhurst and regularly gives guided Suffragette tours through London's Westminster and Bow.
Ian's heroes/heroines are Sylvia Pankhurst, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, May Billinghurst and all the brave women and men who fought for the vote for women, and also the philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts and everyone with a plaque in Postman's Park.
Ian lives in mid Kent with another of his heroines, his wife (and novel editor) Jenny.

His site is here


This is the story of two Titanic survivors; a young crewwoman, Ruby, and an East End man, Nashey. The story begins in spectacular, if shocking fashion, aboard the Titanic as it’s sinking. An important scene, which Ruby later realises was the genesis of her becoming a Suffragette, takes place in a lifeboat. Ruby and Nashey are left traumatised and horrified – not just by the disaster itself, but by the failures of the ship’s officers. Ruby is also profoundly affected by the misplaced trust in, and subservience to, these men.
Readers are then taken to New York, and on to Halifax, Nova Scotia, before the novel unfolds in Suffragette London, 1912-1914. Much of the story takes place within the militant struggle for Votes for Women, into which both main characters become drawn through different avenues. Ruby gets involved in Mrs Pankhurst’s WSPU, which sees her imprisoned, hunger-striking and being force-fed. Nashey is initially interested in social change rather than the vote – but a different Pankhurst working down in the East End impresses upon him that the former will follow the latter.

Through the five p’s – publicity stunts, protests, political speeches, prison torture and police tactics – we see the lengths to which the women and government went to ensure they would prevail. A main character then questions the direction the movement is taking. But out of this apparent Suffragette autumn comes a women’s spring…

Suffragette Autumn Women’s Spring is, predictably, a fast-paced page turner, but characterisation and interpersonal relationships are important themes, brought in through cracking dialogue. This gripping work of historical fiction will appeal primarily to women and has been inspired by a number of sources, including Sylvia Pankhurst and her books on the Suffragette movement, Hilary Mantel and Arthur Morrison.