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Review: Fear of Dying by Erica Jong

[ 0 ] November 28, 2015

fear of dying book coverReviewed by Lauren Cannavino

In Erica Jong’s Fear of Dying, former actress Vanessa Wonderman is coming to terms with many of life’s mysteries as a woman in her 60’s. Vanessa is facing a lackluster sex life with her own elderly husband, caring for her dying parents and undergoing shifts that humans all have to face as time continues on. Vanessa decides to sign up for a website seeking sex as a “happily married woman” but life and those she meets often have other plans.

The site, called Zipless, leads Vanessa to some interesting characters, but their inclusion in the novel doesn’t really seems to blossom or fit. Instead, it fills just another dimension to show the importance of sexuality lost at any age. Much of the sex talk will be lost on younger readers who may not be able to relate to Vanessa and her issues at this stage of her life or even want to read it. I think that the importance in the story lies in Vanessa’s handling of aging, life changing, how she views memory and the importance of every relationship, no matter what.

Vanessa is tough to engage with as a main character as she jets between moments of wise, profound observations to quickly seeming like an out of touch billionaire’s wife who never thought any of this could happen to her. Vanessa seems to be scrambling amidst her tragedies and changes, but the sex site sign up and her selfish behavior makes it less sympathetic. Jong’s prose about Vanessa’s parents and lessons they taught their daughters was a highlight and a beautiful glimpse into previous lives of the elderly that once shined. Isadora, Vanessa’s best friend, a writer, provided insightful and wise dialogue, but it wasn’t enough to carry the novel all the way through.

Erica Jong is an excellent writer; her story is full of poignant words, tender moments and careful, not overabundant descriptions. The book moves quickly, as does much of life, but Vanessa stands in her own way as well as the readers. There are insightful moments on life, love, dying and aging, but the importance and influence gets lost against the background

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Wrong Bride by Gayle Callen

[ 1 ] November 27, 2015

the wrong bride book coverReviewed by Bethany Kelly

The Wrong Bride, written by Gayle Callen, is a novel focused around two feuding families: the McCallums and the Duffs. In this novel, Catriona “Riona” Duff is taken in the middle of the night by a Scot, Hugh McCallum, who claims that their marriage was arranged to one another as children to end feuding between the two families. However, what Hugh doesn’t know (but what Riona tries to tell him) is that he kidnapped the wrong bride.

Riona and her cousin, Catriona “Cat” Duff, have the same birth name – hence the reason behind the nicknames – and with Cat (Hugh’s true betrothed) being away, Riona is mistakenly taken. Although Riona tells this to Hugh, he believes that the Earl is just trying to trick the McCallums in order to get out of the contract made many years ago. This causes Hugh to start trying to seduce Riona to make her see that they can have a happy marriage even though it was arranged for them. Can two people who do not know one another fall in love? Can Riona develop loving feelings towards her captor?

I was a little wary when I saw that this book was labeled as being a historical romance novel, because some historical romances are hard to relate to and sometimes dry and weighed down with too many historical facts. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how The Wrong Bride turned out. I loved that Callen used the Scottish dialect throughout the novel. There were a few instances where a word was left out or a typo was made, but there weren’t any major grammatical or spelling errors. I also really liked reading the descriptions that Callen provided about the Scottish landscape and traditions.

I thought that Hugh’s courtship of Riona was romantic and sweet and in some instances very passionate. Callen also has a talent for making the characters relatable and real, as if they are real people and not characters in a book. Another aspect of the novel that I appreciated was having fleshed out supporting characters. Callen paid just as much attention to making the supporting characters seem real as she did the main characters.

I wasn’t fond of the book’s abrupt ending. Hugh’s seduction of Riona was slow and realistic, but instead of continuing with that in their journey to be with one another (instead of Hugh being with Cat), the resolution was way too easy, almost like Callen was running out of time to get the book done and just gave it a quick ending. I would say that if Callen would’ve extended the book another fifty or so pages to give the ending the length and attention that it needed, this book would’ve been a five star rating for me.

All in all, I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series, The Groom Wore Plaid, set to come out in March of 2016.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Bethany Kelly is currently getting her MFA at Goddard College and has a BA in English. She is a writer, editor, and stay-at-home mother and wife who spends her spare time (when she has some) reading and cooking.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Avon. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Witches by Stacy Schiff

[ 3 ] November 27, 2015

the witches salem 1962 book coverReviewed by Alisha Churbe

Schiff’s strength is in narrating history and bringing new light to an old story. The Witches: Salem, 1692 is impeccably researched and it’s dense with historical facts. The book begins with six pages for a “Cast of Characters”. With this, you know right away the book will be intense and you should be prepared for the endeavor. It’s not a quick read and the sheer number of characters made it a difficult read.

Schiff has done a great job retelling the story of the Salem Witch Trials in a new way, adding so much to the story that isn’t available in the history. Schiff’s narration is distant, which is fitting to the subject, but it makes the story hard to get through. Schiff’s retelling adds details and sarcasm that wasn’t necessarily in the historical texts.

Within The Witches, Schiff takes on an unsettling topic. In the end, she tells an engaging and engrossing story as well as presenting a conclusive historical text. Deductions are made, connections are determined and emotion is assigned to characters, such as a passage like this one, “Hawthorne harped on it for some time, pummeling Corey for an explanation.” The history doesn’t include the “harping” or the “pummeling,” but Schiff added these descriptors to make the book/retelling read more like fiction.  Another example being, “either she fell speechless or Parris could not make out her answer amid the commotion. He left a blank in the record.” Schiff’s storytelling allows the reader to experience the confusion in Salem. Schiff’s explanations are convincing and credible.

Overall, the book fell a little short for me. I felt there was just too much distance to become involved with any one character’s story and the details. While compelling and interesting, the pace of the story was much too slow for me. I suppose the time and place take the center stage in the book. I think the story is interesting and it’s thick with details that make the history more entertaining. In the end, although interesting, the extra descriptions and the liberties she’s taken with the emotions of the characters didn’t sustain the story enough to make it an enjoyable read.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Euro.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Little, Brown and Company. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: An Endless Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti

[ 0 ] November 27, 2015

an endless christmas book coverPlease join Cynthia Ruchti, author of An Endless Christmas, as she tours the blogosphere with Litfuse Publicity!

Reviewed by Charity Lyman

It is that time of year when I start pulling out those Christmas titles and snuggling up with a good book under a blanket. For my novel last week, I picked up An Endless Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti and indulged in a snow covered story set in the wilds of Stillwater, Minnesota. It was a romantic and emotional tale that had me crying at times but also left me with that good feeling that readers of Cynthia Ruchti have come to know and love.

This little novella packs a super punch in only 225 pages. And it opens with Micah Binder proposing to his girlfriend in front of his family. Unfortunately for Micah, she responds with a big no. So begins the tale of Dodie and Wilson Binder, grandparents who may not have long to live but want to make this Christmas the best one ever. And when Katie refuses their dear grandson, all is not lost as we follow them over the Christmas weekend, playing pranks, helping Katie find her own way and the close family relationship she so dearly craves. Will Katie realize that her own marriage is not doomed to fail just because her parents’ did? And what will be the outcome of her stay with the Binder family?

When the book opened I could not believe the author started it with a failed marriage proposal. It definitely got my attention and I wanted to read more, if only to see why Katie told Micah no in front of his whole family. Ruchti definitely set the story up in a way that made me want to keep reading! I fell in love with Micah from the beginning and though Katie refused him, I knew how she felt and her reasons became more clear as the book went on. Ruchti knows how to pen a tale that gives you warm fuzzies and makes you happy for the family you have. A great little book that you definitely want on your shelf!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Charity lives in Illinois and is the oldest of 6 children. The family also has 3 dogs and a cat. Reading is a hobby when not cooking, baking, sewing or enjoying music. She reads many different genres but Christian fiction is a favorite. Charity can be found often at her blog, Giveaway Lady

Review copy was provided by Worthy Inspired. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Killing Maine by Mike Bond

[ 3 ] November 25, 2015

killing maine book coverReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Killing Maine is the second book in the Pono Hawkins series. I had mixed feelings about this book as I read it. Mostly because it felt that the author, Mike Bond, was really pushing his own political point of view. It wasn’t just his character having issues with the windmills and Democrats but his own almost hatred coming out.

Pono Hawkins is ex-military and a bit of a player. He was wrongfully convicted of crimes twice and put in jail. Both times he was later proven innocent and released. Bucky – the man whose testimony put him away the first time – is arrested for murder. Unfortunately, Bucky also saved his life earlier and he feels he should try and help clear him since he knows the man is incapable of murder.

Bucky also happened to marry Lexie, the woman Pono was dating when he got sent to Leavenworth. So Pono stays with her as his base of operations. Shortly after Pono starts investigating he meets and then beds the widow of the man Bucky supposedly killed. While trying to find the killer, he stumbles into all kinds of trouble and is set up for several different crimes. A lover from his teenage past happens to be a big shot attorney and  keeps getting him out of trouble, and into her bed. He also keeps working on staying out of Lexie’s bedroom, at least until Bucky is out of jail.

While I got caught up in large parts of the book and enjoyed those, the political rants did distract from the story. While he seemed to be blaming all ‘liberals’ for drinking the cool-aid of ‘wind power is the  future’ most of the ‘reasons’ for it being ‘really terrible’ sounded more like conspiracy theory hogwash, and not what one would expect from a war and human rights journalist.

There were certainly things that happened in the book that really should be brought to light when they do happen, especially the blatant corruption.  However, there were plenty of things that seemed to not add up as likely. Of course, the biggest one is the sheer number of people that would need to be involved to keep the secret conspiracy going.

One ‘fact’ that this ‘war’ correspondent got wrong was military ammunition. One of the weapons used in the story was a .308. It was compared to the 7.62 round the military uses in many weapons. However, he claimed the ubiquitous M16 was one of them. It is not. The M16 is a 5.56 round. The only gun the Army still uses (that I am aware of) using the 7.62 is the M60 Machine gun (also affectionately named “the Pig”).

If the author had stuck to telling his story I think it would have been decent though it certainly tends toward the ‘Dick Lit’ category. Even though there were many far fetched things in this book, including him being in ‘love’ with three beautiful, intelligent and sexy women at the same time, that is the kind of stuff you expect in these. But rants that transcend the story without any evidence ruin it for me.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Meryl Moss Media. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Brokenomics by Dina Gachman

[ 2 ] November 25, 2015

brokenomics book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield

Brokenomics: 50 Ways to Live the Dream on a Dime by Dina Gachman is a funny, funny book. And it’s practical too. Who would have thought a book on personal finances could be so entertaining and humorous?

At its core, Brokenomics is a look at personal finance and how one might live better even on a minuscule paycheck. What separates Brokenomics from other (possibly all) personal economy books is a combination of Dina Gachman’s plausible stories, humor, and practical advice. Gachman peppers her personal finance self-help book with witty stories and real-world advice on how to really live rather than merely getting by. Gachman is straightforward in her narration. Some of Gachman’s rhetoric can be taken as tongue-in-cheek; at other times, her advice is like a smack on the forehead followed by a possible verbal “why didn’t I think of that”. Amongst her many topics, Gachman covers when one should haggle, tip, splurge, and the differences between living on a frugal budget and living on a cheap budget. She warns that there are just as many pitfalls to an over tightened budget as there are for being a spendthrift.

Although I could not relate with some of Gachman’s examples, – I have never wanted a mansion or luxury car or swank jewelry (etc.) – I found her wit charming and, at times, laugh out loud hilarious. Gachman is a natural storyteller. She has an amusing way of mixing stories and real-world advice regarding life and personal finances. Even though some of her examples seemed fanciful at times, her recommendations seem useful. There are takeaways for every walk of life. Whether struggling to make ends meet, trying to eliminate unnecessary debt, or desiring a keen business sense for when and how to haggle, Brokenomics could be a helpful read as much as it is entertaining.

If someone told me I would read a finance book within a few days and enjoy it, I would have never believed that person. Brokenomics is fun, well written, and easily manageable. There are no quick fixes within this book and no promises, yet it is a worthwhile and practical read. I would recommend Brokenomics even to the person with perfect finances just for a good laugh and the delightful read that it is.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Seal Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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