Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday
Flashback Friday

Second Time Sweeter

Second Time Sweeter
Second Time Sweeter by Beverly Jenkins

Friday, April 19, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- The Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell- Feature and Review


An American in Paris navigates her family's secret past and unlocks her own future, in this emotionally evocative novel by New York Times bestselling author Juliet Blackwell. 

As a girl, Genevieve Martin spent the happiest summer of her life in Paris, learning the delicate art of locksmithing at her uncle's side. But since then, living back in the States, she has become more private, more subdued. She has been an observer of life rather than an active participant, holding herself back from those around her, including her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Paris never really left Genevieve, and, as her marriage crumbles, she finds herself faced with an incredible opportunity: return to the magical city of her youth to take over her late uncle's shop. But as she absorbs all that Parisian culture has to offer, she realizes the city also holds secrets about her family that could change her forever, and that locked doors can protect you or imprison you, depending on which side of them you stand.



The Paris KeyThe Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Genevieve slid open the 'special' drawer. It was full of ancient keys—many of which, like her necklace, bore little resemblance to keys today. She smiled as she picked up a black iron ring, from which jangled a dozen different skeleton keys: she remembered her uncle explaining that this was a Victorian-era thief's ring. Dave had always intended to write a book about such historic hardware.”

“Complete with photos, Genevieve, what to do you think? C'est super, n'est pas? I am going to call it: Love Laughs at Locksmiths. Or maybe, The Paris Key, because really, Paris is the key to happiness! What do you think?

I enjoyed this charming ode to Paris, France, and loved walking along the streets of Paris with Genevieve as she comes full circle back to the place that makes her happy and gives her hope.

I recommended this book to those who enjoy contemporary fiction, Chick-lit, or women's fiction.





Juliet Blackwell was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, the youngest child of a jet pilot from New York and an editor from Texas. She graduated with a degree in Latin American Studies from University of California, Santa Cruz, and went on to earn Masters degrees in Anthropology and Social Work from the State University of New York, Albany. While in graduate school, she published several articles based on her research with immigrant families from Mexico and Viet Nam, as well as one full-length translation: Miguel León-Portilla's seminal work, Endangered Cultures. Juliet taught Medical Anthropology at SUNY-Albany, was producer for a BBC documentary about Vietnamese children left behind by US soldiers, and worked as an elementary school social worker in rural New York. Upon her return to California she became a professional artist and ran her own decorative painting, historical renovation, and domestic design studio for more than a decade. In addition to mainstream novels, Juliet pens the New York Times Bestselling Witchcraft Mysteries and the Haunted Home Renovation series. As Hailey Lind she wrote the Agatha-Award nominated Art Lover's Mystery series. She is past president of Northern California Sisters in Crime and former board member of Mystery Writers of America. Juliet lives in a hundred-year-old house with extensive botanical gardens in Northern California, but spends as much time as possible in Europe and Latin America. She believes in the magic of language, travel, and cultural exchange to open hearts, minds, and souls.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Second Time Sweeter by Beverly Jenkins- Feature and Review


NAACP nominee and USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins continues her beloved Blessings series with a new heartwarming novel set in Henry Adams, Kansas.

Malachi “Mal” July has run into trouble in the past. With a reputation as a player, he’s now a recovering alcoholic and has made progress in redeeming himself in the eyes of his family and the citizens of Henry Adams, Kansas. He’s not only turned his diner into a profitable business, but also mentors the town’s foster kids. And he’s even staying true to one woman—Bernadine Brown.

But all it takes is a moment of pride to blind Mal to his blessings—a moment that makes him betray his friends and family, and lose Bernadine’s trust and love. Will he ever be able to win her forgiveness?

Meanwhile Homecoming Weekend is fast approaching, and store owner Gary Clark is reunited with his high school sweetheart. All it takes is a few minutes for them to realize the spark is still there, but is it too late for second chances?

A little help from the good people of Henry Adams may give both Mal and Gary the best second chance at the happiness they missed the first time around…



Second Time SweeterSecond Time Sweeter by Beverly Jenkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second Time Sweeter by Beverly Jenkins is a 2018 William Morrow publication.

I added this book on a whim because I was so surprised to see a contemporary novel written by Beverly Jenkins, an author, who for me, has always been associated with historical romance novels.

Apparently, this book is a part of an ongoing series I knew absolutely nothing about. I didn’t intend to start reading another series- I know, you’ve heard that a million times- much less start in on the ninth book. I don’t have time to binge read the previous eight installments, so I just took a leap and dived in, hoping for the best.

The story appears to be centered around Bernadine Brown, the owner of the small Kansas town of Henry Adams. As the story begins, we learn that Bernadine is broken hearted after the man she was dating, Malachi July, pulled a terrible stunt, putting everything he had worked so hard to achieve at risk.

If that weren’t bad enough, Mal, knowing he has disappointed so many people and hurt Bernadine terribly, is behaving almost as if HE is the injured party.

Meanwhile, store owner, and single father, Gary Clark is hoping to reconnect with the woman he was forced to give up years ago, but never really got over. However, his ex-wife has other plans…

As the title suggests this is a story about second chances and forgiveness, which is the kind of story I’m always a sucker for. I loved Gary’s daughters and the solid family life he provided for them. I was rooting for him, hoping he would finally have a chance to regain what he lost.

While the story with Mal seemed more front and center, I confess I was a little flummoxed by his behavior, and his motives were a little weak. It took me a long time to warm up to him. I was hoping for more of a grand gesture from him, however, since this is an ongoing series, maybe Mal will get his chance to impress Bernadine in more sincere and thoughtful ways- Maybe with things money can’t buy, perhaps.

Although, I couldn’t shake the feeling I was missing out on some pertinent backstory with a few of these characters, I thought this was a super sweet story. I definitely want to keep up with the Henry Adams gang in the future, and hope to add a few of the previous chapters in the series into my reading schedule so I can get caught up to speed.





Beverly Jenkins is the recipient of the 2018 Michigan Author Award by the Michigan Library Association, the 2017 Romance Writers of America Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the 2016 Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for historical romance. She has been nominated for the NAACP Image Award in Literature, was featured in both the documentary Love Between the Covers and on CBS Sunday Morning. Since the publication of Night Song in 1994, she has been leading the charge for multicultural romance, and has been a constant darling of reviewers, fans, and her peers alike, garnering accolades for her work from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, and NPR. If you would like to be notified when Beverly has a new release, you can sign up for her newsletter at http://www.beverlyjenkins.net.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir by Victoria Riskin- Feature and Review


A Hollywood love story, a Hollywood memoir, a (dual) Hollywood biography--the woman who stole the heart of King Kong and the man, Robert Riskin, one of the greatest screenwriters of all time, an Academy Award winner, producer, and longtime collaborator with Frank Capra on eight pictures. By their daughter, an acclaimed writer and producer.

A Hollywood love story, a Hollywood memoir, a dual biography of two of Hollywood's most famous figures, whose golden lives were lived at the center of Hollywood's golden age, written by their daughter, an acclaimed writer and producer.

Fay Wray was most famous as the woman--the blonde in a diaphanous gown--who captured the heart of the mighty King Kong, the twenty-five-foot, sixty-ton gorilla, as he placed her, nestled in his eight-foot hand, on the ledge of the 102-story Empire State Building, putting Wray at the height of New York's skyline and cinematic immortality.

Wray starred in more than 120 pictures opposite Hollywood's biggest stars--Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper (The Legion of the Condemned, The First Kiss, The Texan, One Sunday Afternoon), Clark Gable, William Powell, and Charles Boyer; from cowboy stars Hoot Gibson and Art Accord to Ronald Colman (The Unholy Garden), Claude Rains, Ralph Richardson, and Melvyn Douglas. She was directed by the masters of the age, from Fred Niblo, Erich von Stroheim (The Wedding March), and Mauritz Stiller (The Street of Sin) to Leo McCarey, William Wyler, Gregory La Cava, "Wild Bill" William Wellman, Merian C. Cooper (The Four Feathers, King Kong), Josef von Sternberg (Thunderbolt), Dorothy Arzner (Behind the Make-Up), Frank Capra (Dirigible), Michael Curtiz (Doctor X), Raoul Walsh (The Bowery), and Vincente Minnelli.

The book's--and Wray's--counterpart: Robert Riskin, considered one of the greatest screenwriters of all time. Academy Award-winning writer (nominated for five), producer, ten-year-long collaborator with Frank Capra on such pictures as American Madness, It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Lost Horizon, and Meet John Doe, hailed by many, among them F. Scott Fitzgerald, as "among the best screenwriters in the business." Riskin wrote women characters who were smart, ornery, sexy, always resilient, as he perfected what took full shape in It Happened One Night, the Riskin character, male or female--breezy, self-made, streetwise, optimistic, with a sense of humor that is subtle and sure.

Fay Wray and Robert Riskin lived large lives, finding each other after establishing their artistic selves and after each had had many romantic attachments--Wray, an eleven-year-long difficult marriage and a fraught affair with Clifford Odets, and Riskin, a series of romances with, among others, Carole Lombard, Glenda Farrell, and Loretta Young.

Here are Wray's and Riskin's lives, their work, their fairy-tale marriage that ended so tragically. Here are their dual, quintessential American lives, ultimately and blissfully intertwined.



Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood MemoirFay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir by Victoria Riskin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Faye Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir by Victoria Riskin is a 2019 Pantheon Books publication.

“You will star opposite the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood” – Merian C. Cooper, co-director of King Kong, 1933

I don’t recall the first time I watched the original version of King Kong, but it was aired frequently on television when I was very young. I watched it over and over again. I never felt afraid, only fascinated by it. Fay Wray’s performance probably had a lot to do with that fascination. It has been over a decade, at least, since I watched the old, original classic, which, if memory serves, aired on the Turner Classic Movie Channel, at the time.

However, I remember the movie vividly, and despite remakes of the film, the Fay Wray classic is the only one I have ever seen, or ever will watch.

Yet, not once, can I ever recall feeling the slightest bit interested in Fay Wray’s personal life. However, when I stumbled across this book on Overdrive, my interest was piqued.

Written by the daughter of Fay Wray and famous screenwriter, Robert Riskin, this is not only a biography, but a piece of unique history and a real, authentic Hollywood love story.

This book is well-researched and very organized- the first things I look for in any kind of memoir or biography. The book is packed with wonderful memories of some of the best old movies, with plenty of wonderful bits of behind the scenes information. The book alternates between Fay’s career and personal life and Robert’s, leading up their marriage, which wasn’t until Riskin was in his forties.

From there the author explains the ups and downs the couple initially encountered due to world war two and the climate in Hollywood at the time. This portion of the book is a very interesting and informative period of history.

The information is backed up with lovely letters written to Fay from Robert while he was away from home. Unfortunately, Fay and Robert had a limited time together, due to Robert’s health, but one can practically feel the humming chemistry between them while reading this book.

“Every time I’m in New York, I say a little prayer when passing the Empire State Building. A good friend of mine died up there.”
Fay Wray

I didn’t know anything about Fay personally, and embarrassingly, didn’t initially recognize Robert’s name. Now, of course, I do recall his name and understand his vast contribution to films, many of which were collaborations with Frank Capra. I also learned that Fay appeared in many feature films prior to and after her most iconic role. I had a lot of fun looking up these old movies!

Overall, this not a standard biography, it feels like a labor love for the author- a tribute to her mother, and a vindication for her father, who didn’t always get the credit he deserved. It’s a movie lover’s dream, and, is also a treat for those who enjoy history. It will even appeal to romantics who enjoy a good love story- especially one that is true!

I for one, found this book endlessly fascinating, and enjoyed the overall tone of the book. It is obvious the author poured herself into this project, remaining objective, yet allowing her love for her parents to flow through the pages. But, course, no one could blame her for setting the record straight when it came to her father’s work. Victoria’s research is impeccable, but most importantly, I felt like I got to know her parents in an intimate way, which is a feat most biographers rarely accomplish.

I came away with a deep respect for Fay and the life she carved out for herself and the impact she had on cinema and pop culture.

I also feel Robert’s work, is equally important, and I was awed by his body of work and the amazing movies his writing helped bring to life.

However, the most important impression I was left with is that in a business notorious for self-absorption, Fay and Robert prioritized home and country giving them the levity and attention they should have.

Anyone who loves old Hollywood, movies, pop culture, and history will find this very personal, touching, and quite impressive biography of great interest.






VICTORIA RISKIN is an award-winning writer and producer, adapting Willa Cather's "My Ántonia" for television and producing Carson McCullers's "The Member of the Wedding". Riskin was president of the Writers Guild of America West and served for twelve years as a director of Human Rights Watch. She lives on Martha's Vineyard.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Hunger by Alma Katsu- Feature and Review


Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.

Tamsen Donner must be a witch. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the pioneers to the brink of madness. They cannot escape the feeling that someone--or something--is stalking them. Whether it was a curse from the beautiful Tamsen, the choice to follow a disastrous experimental route West, or just plain bad luck--the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are at the brink of one of the deadliest and most disastrous western adventures in American history.

While the ill-fated group struggles to survive in the treacherous mountain conditions--searing heat that turns the sand into bubbling stew; snows that freeze the oxen where they stand--evil begins to grow around them, and within them. As members of the party begin to disappear, they must ask themselves "What if there is something waiting in the mountains? Something disturbing and diseased...and very hungry?"



The HungerThe Hunger by Alma Katsu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Hunger by Alma Katsu is a 2018 G.P Putnam’s Sons publication.

Deeply engrossing!

The Donner Party is an epic tragedy that has been explored and analyzed for ages. It’s a gruesome and ghastly tale all on its own. But now, Alma Katsu has added a paranormal tint to the story which only adds yet another horrifying possibility into the mix.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. It has been categorized as a horror novel and since it is centered around the Donner party, it certainly should fall within that genre. However, this is not your typical novel of horror by any means.

Bad luck plagued the Donner party from the start. The wagon train was filled with those hoping for a better future and those who were running away from problems, and those trying to make trouble.
Yet, in this re-imagining- the Donner Party was pursued by something worse than the winter storm of the century. Yes, food is running out, but the survivors are suffering from a different kind of hunger…

This is an ambitious novel, which features both real life characters-The Breen family, William Eddy, and The Donner’s, of course- and fictional ones, pitting them against the unusually harsh realities of a plan gone horribly awry as they make desperate choices just to survive, but also putting them into a supernatural element, offering an alternative theory about what may have been beleaguering the travelers.

The author did a fantastic job with describing the scenery, and an even better one with the character analysis. This story grabbed me right away and kept me glued to the pages from start to finish. It is atmospheric, and truly creepy, but I did feel lost on a few occasions wondering about the various conjectures implied. While the reader is focused on the puzzling ‘hunger’ that is quickly spreading, the true evil may be the one lurking in the hearts of humanity and the sinister motives behind their actions.

I was drawn more towards the characters and the horrible circumstances they found themselves in that the folklore and history of the ‘Hunger’. I did find the trail to the ‘carrier’ of the strange affliction to be quite interesting, although I still felt as though I was missing a key element, leaving me to draw my own conclusions.

Overall, this is a solid chiller, made all the more absorbing due to its basis in factual events. This is one you might want to read in the light of day- for to attempt it in the dark of night, may have consequences!





NPR 100 Favorite Horror Stories

Author of THE HUNGER, a reimagining of the Donner Party's tragic journey (Putnam);
THE TAKER, THE RECKONING and THE DESCENT (Gallery Books). The Taker was selected by ALA/Booklist as one of the top ten debut novels of 2011.

Monday, April 15, 2019

MONDAY'S MUSICAL MOMENT: Play it Loud by Brad Tolinski and Alan Di Perna- Feature and Review


By the longtime editor-in-chief of Guitar World and a veteran rock journalist, an unprecedented history of the electric guitar, its explosive impact on music and culture, and the people who brought it to life.

Spanning a century and encompassing some of guitar's greatest builders and players, from Les Paul to Keith Richards to Eddie Van Halen, Brad Tolinski and Alan di Perna bring the evolution of the guitar to roaring life. This is a story of inventors and iconoclasts, of scam artists, prodigies and mythologizers, as varied and original as the music they spawned.
Play It Loud uses twelve landmark instruments, each of them a milestone in the progress of the electric guitar, to illustrate the chaos, conflict and passion it has inspired. It introduces Leo Fender, a man who couldn't play a note, but whose innovation helped transform the classical guitar into the explosive sound machine it is today. Some of the most significant social movements of the 20th century are indebted to the guitar: it was an essential part of Beatlemania and Woodstock; a mirror to the rise of the teenager as a social force; a linchpin of the punk movement's sound and ethos. And today the guitar has come full circle, with contemporary titans such as Jack White of The White Stripes and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys bringing some of those earliest electric guitar forms back to the limelight.

     For generations, the electric guitar has been an international symbol of freedom, danger and hedonism. Play It Loud is the story of how a band of innovators transformed a simple notion into a singular cultural force.



Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound, and Revolution of the Electric GuitarPlay It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound, and Revolution of the Electric Guitar by Alan di Perna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Play it Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound, and Revolution of the Electric Guitar by Alan di Perna, Carlos Santana (Foreword), Brad Tolinski is a 2016 Doubleday publication.

This is an in depth and interesting look back at the history of the electric guitar, beginning with the structure of the solid bodied guitar and the first awkward attempts to make the guitar louder. From there, we explore the history of Les Paul and Lou Fender’s inventions, which led us to Chuck Berry and the psychology and implications of the electric guitar.

The sexy shape of the guitar, its erotic and rebellious, iconic symbolism, and the many ways the electric guitar changed the shape of music and its many metamorphoses, over the years is explored comprehensively, as well the all business angle- where there were incredible advances and some epic fails and unfortunately, some very poor business deals.

As always, when a book such as this one is written, people will disagree with the author’s opinion of game changers, who made the most key inventions, were the trend setters, and who qualified for guitar god status. I’m no exception, often questioning some of the author’s choices, and can think of many other innovative guitarists, in various forms of music, who didn’t even get an honorable mention in this book.

The first portion of the book is quite interesting and it’s obvious the authors did some homework. While I am not a guitar player myself, I have several relatives who are musically gifted, and I’ve heard them talk endlessly about the various brands of guitars and amplifiers. However, unless one is interested in history, this section might be a bit dry.

Once the authors moved into the burgeoning days of rock and roll, the history is more familiar, but the information is very different from what one might find in the usual rock history book. While I was very knowledgeable about Woodstock and Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and the guitar hero heyday of the sixties and seventies, and some of the eighties, this book included a plethora of information I had never heard of before. The reason for this, I think, is because everything is centered solely around the electric guitar, not rock history, overall.

Of course, some trivia is included, and for some, a nice trip down memory lane. However, this book is all about history and it was one of the most entertaining history lessons a music lover can engage in. Looking at certain events focused exclusively on the electric guitar, many live performances come to life in a new and refreshing way.

I am reluctant to mention my disagreements with the author because I don't want to offend any hardcore fans, or begin a debate.


I loved Van Halen- I did, although my opinion of them now, is not the same as it was in the seventies and eighties. While I understand why the author spoke at length about Eddie, acknowledging his guitar inventions and ingenuity, I most definitely picked up on sycophant like hero worship here.

I think Eddie’s segment went on entirely too long. Only Jimi Hendrix equaled Eddie, as he too, got plenty of airtime- with a lot of feedback-😉 in this book.

In fact, the book seemed to be geared towards the Eighties guitar hero fans, many of whom still respected their elders, both from blues and from country music players. For me though, I’d rather talk more about Stevie Ray Vaughn than Steve Vai, but that’s just me.

I also bristled at the testosterone heaviness in the book. Almost as an afterthought, a small token list of female guitarists, were tacked on, in the last chapter, with only one contributor, explaining the changes she physically made to her guitar- an example which pointedly referred to the necessary physical requirements certain guitars demand from the player. Sly, subliminal sexism? Hmm.

So… what about Peggy Jones, Nancy Wilson or Bonnie Raitt, or if you really must go by fast and loud- Lita Ford or Joan Jett?

However, I did appreciate the respect given to country guitarists, especially in a book about a musical instrument synonymous with rock music. I am also pleased to see Frank Zappa and Mike Bloomfield is given a fair amount of credit in this book, as well.

But this is not a book list, or top hundred countdown of best electric guitar players. The business end of creating the electric guitar, is perhaps the most interesting parts of the book. The disputes, and competition, over who invented what, and how the onset of corporate rock and the originators selling out, significantly reduced the quality of the guitar, causing many to resort to using vintage guitars instead, is fascinating, especially you aren’t familiar with the guitar world on that level. This period is referred to by many in the industry as pre- CBS- referencing the sale of Fender to CBS.

It is sad to see the electric guitar’s power fade as the music industry continues to change. I’m told one doesn’t even need to know how to read music or learn to play an instrument these days as many guitar sounds can be replicated in a plethora of other ways, using various technologies.
The authors lament this is the last chapters, as the musical atmosphere now is a far cry from what it was in the electric guitar’s prime- at least as far as fame and fortune is concerned.

Yet, as much as I loved the mythos of the rock world, the larger than life personas, and the great memories- I still say the music from the 60s,70s, and some of the 80s, was the best music ever- I’m a fan of the smaller, more intimate setup we have today. It seems like the old timers, the same ones who whined about corporate rock, are now whining about the lack of household name rock stars.

(Check out Abigail Zachko on YouTube)

In my humble opinion, it’s more personal, more real, in a small venue setting and maybe more sincere, while maybe not always as polished. But at least the corporate giants don’t have control over the content and artistry in the same way, which hopefully retains the band’s creative license to some degree.

The garage band, where members do not necessarily depend on music as their sole source of income, is a back to basics trend I can get on board with. YouTube can give you a vast number of examples of successful electric guitarists, although that success rarely includes all those fabulous sports cars, ostentatious mansions, fame, or the overblown power from days past-and that’s okay by me. But, still, many are doing a lot better financially than you might be led to believe. Besides, household names do not necessarily mean better talent. As you will recall, lots of radio stations back in the day, were paid to promote one band, but not the other, no matter how talented they were. It was all about marketability.

But I’m rambling again…

Overall, you don’t have to be an expert guitarist or even own a guitar to enjoy this book. Anyone who loves music, enjoys history, education, or pop culture, or even nostalgia, will find this journey to be a fascinating one. It is also sure to spark debate and long discussions from guitar enthusiasts. I for one, was reminded of all the blues greats, old and new and that’s the genre I prefer these days. Although, I don’t recall a mention of him in this book- Robert Cray is the house!





Brad Tolinski was the editor-in-chief of Guitar World, the world’s bestselling magazine for musicians, for twenty-five years. 

A Contributing Editor of Guitar World magazine since the late ‘80s, di Perna also enjoys a longstanding professional relationship with the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He served as a member of the NARAS Publications Advisory Committee between 1995 and 2002, becoming a frequent contributor to Grammy Magazine and the Academy’s website. To this day he remains an annual contributor to the Grammy Program Book published to accompany each year’s awards ceremony.  

Friday, April 12, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Just the Way You Are by Christina Dodd- Feature and Review


New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd, one of the most acclaimed authors of historical romance, makes a dazzling foray into contemporary fiction in this intriguing and sensuous novel about a hard-working young woman who mistakenly falls in love with Boston's wealthiest bachelor. 
When Hope Prescott's parents disappeared, her carefree teenage life vanished forever. She and her three siblings were separated and sent to different foster homes around the country. Now, seven years later, Hope is still searching for them. To support herself, she works for an answering service, and cares for her clients as if they were family. When wealthy businessman Zachariah Givens hires Hope's service, Hope initially mistakes Zack for his butler. Tired of being coddled and flattered because of his money, Zack is charmed by Hope's candor, not to mention her sexy voice, and keeps up the charade. As their friendship turns into passion, Zack is determined to have her, even if that means the unthinkable -- marriage. But when Hope discovers his deception, Zack knows he must solve the mystery that haunts Hope's past in order to convince her that their futures lie together....



Just the Way You Are (Lost Hearts, #1)Just the Way You Are by Christina Dodd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This a feel good story about an orphaned girl who lost her parents tragically, and was separated from her siblings.

She eventually settles in Boston and starts college, determined to get the best job, that pays the most money, so she will be able to find her family.

While taking classes, Hope works for an answering service. She gets to know all her "clients" and they are all fond of her.

Then she starts taking messages for Zach Givens- a driven, arrogant, spoiled, very rich man. Hope believes the butler, Griswold, is the person retrieving the messages because he is so nice. But, Zach is the one she is really talking to. The two of them start having little chats over the phone. Then when "Griswold" comes down with a cold, Hope stops by the mansion to deliver some homemade soup.

The two of them start to fall in love with each other. But, Zach still holds off telling Hope who he really is, believing that once she falls in love with him, she will forgive him. ?????

I originally thought this book was a romantic suspense novel, since it wasn't one Christina Dodd's historical or paranormal romances. However, this is pretty much a straight up contemporary romance or romantic comedy.

Although Hope barely gets enough to eat, her clothes are worn thin and she lives in a bad neighborhood, she has grit and determination and values.

Zach, having power and privilege is used to getting anything and everything he wants. But, he never bargained for Hope.

This is pure entertainment. A sweet, funny, feel good romance with an uplifting Happy Ever After!






Go to Christina's website for her, "Books by Series" page and her printable book list sorted by genre, series and in order. Join Christina's mailing list for book updates, book sales, and humor. http://christinadodd.com

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Race Me in a Lobster Suit by Kelly Mahon- Feature and Review


Knit me into a cocoon...help me eat a burrito...pretend to be a chair at my dinner party...wrestle a komodo dragon...race me in a lobster suit. Author Kelly Mahon posts absurd gig ads online, and shares the conversations she had with the brave souls who wanted the job.

We're living in a gig economy. But would you respond to an online ad seeking someone to search for escaped ants? Or take an offer for a free tattoo by someone who "needs the practice?" How about a mattress for sale "tainted by geriatric love" or a workout plan that involves throwing Virginia hams? And if you hit reply, and the poster is sketchy about the details or offers to pay you with a gift card for clams, how long would you keep the conversation going? 
When NYC copywriter Kelly Mahon started posting weird, fake gig ads as a creative outlet, she found that there was someone interested in every bizarre offer she came up with. And the subsequent awkward email threads were equally hilarious and bizarre. Race Me In A Lobster Suit collects Mahon's funniest fabrications, plus the hysterical email conversations that followed as she ratcheted up the crazy. While some respondants become suspicious, others seem willing to play along with the joke. And don't worry, everyone involved agreed to share their emails in the book, so there are no hard feelings. 

In a world where it seems like everyone's suspicious of everyone else, it's nice to know that there are still people who will at least consider helping a stranger reenact a recurring spider nightmare, or explain the principles of pig Latin to a baffled mother of three.



Race Me in a Lobster Suit: Absurd Internet Ads and the Real Conversations that FollowedRace Me in a Lobster Suit: Absurd Internet Ads and the Real Conversations that Followed by Kelly Mahon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Race Me in a Lobster Suit by Kelly Mahon is a 2019 Quirk Books publication.

If you know anything about Quirk Books, you know to expect the unexpected. This book, however, almost goes beyond the pale.

I’m pretty picky about humor or comedy in movies, television and books, having long outgrown base humor, or anything too silly, which is most comedy is today. But, because this book is supposed to feature actual correspondence, the human element enticed me to take the bait.

I worked for the public all my life, so I know how people can be. After many years of witnessing so many insane human behaviors, I commonly boasted that nothing could possibly surprise me anymore. In fact, on more than one occasion, a friend or relative suggested I write down all my experiences and publish them. Of course, my experiences were not choreographed in anyway, but now I’m thinking these situations may not translate so well in print.

But, if the outlandish conversations relayed in this book are indeed true, and the author is not pulling a gag on us, which I suspected on more than one occasion, it proves that truth is stranger than fiction, and the next time I read a book and start to question the realism or plausibility of it, I will remind myself of this book.

Despite the bizarre-o set-up, some of these e-mail conversations did make me chuckle. They also horrified and mystified me. It is scary, and maybe a little sad too, that people responded to these ads. No matter how desperate I was financially, could I consider doing something so outrageous- like being hired to tickle someone, for example.

However, according to the author, the emails printed here were done so with the permission of those who answered the ads. So, I guess they must have a self- deprecating sense of humor, or maybe they were offered compensation- who knows.

Bottom line-

I was amused to some extent, but mostly I found it a tad disturbing. I’m not sure what that says about MY sense of humor- but I did try to see the appeal and humor here. For the most part, though, this type of gag/prank humor doesn’t really appeal to me. It was just a little too silly for my taste.

On a more positive note, I think this author does have a knack for coming up with quick witted comebacks. It is possible she could find a niche in improvisation or comedy writing, but perhaps it would be best not use real people to experiment on.




Kelly Mahon is an advertising copywriter based in New York City. She graduated from Fairfield University and Miami Ad School.