Category Archives: Review

Book Review: ‘Success with Stress’, by Jae Ellard

About the Author

After years in senior communication roles crafting content for executives, Jae collapsed from stress-related adrenal fatigue. This life-altering experience propelled her to research human behavior, neuroscience, mindfulness, and organizational relationship systems.

The Five Truths about Work-Life Balance by Jae Ellard on Sahar's BlogIn 2008, Jae founded Simple Intentions and developed the Mindful Life™ Program, which includes four group coaching workshops to generate reflection, awareness and action at the organizational and individual levels. Jae has taught the skill of awareness to thousands of employees at multinational corporations in more than 50 countries including China, Russia, India, Japan, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Germany, United Kingdom, Norway, and the United States.

Jae contributes to the Awareness at Work column for Mindful Magazine, the Healthy Living section on Huffington Post as well as the Simple Intentions blog. Jae has a master’s degree in Communication Management from Colorado State University and a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Communication from Metropolitan State College of Denver. She holds certificates in co-active coaching and organizational relationship systems coaching and is the author of seven books.

About the Book

Success with StressBelieve it or not, stress isn’t all bad; in fact, it’s an important part of the natural world. Stress helps us survive as a species – because of that we want the ability to be stressed. That said, being able to MANAGE STRESS WITH GREATER SUCCESS is the difference between surviving and THRIVING. Success with Stress explores five simple ideas to spark your personal power to change the level, duration, and frequency of the stress in your life. With workplace stress being linked to quality of life, health, and workplace morale, this is a must-read for any team looking to improve morale and individuals looking to improve their quality of life.

Book Review

The previous Jae Ellard book I reviewed, The Five Truths About Work-Life Balance, became (and still is) and notebook of sorts.  While I have only had Success With Stress for a week now and have yet to jot anything down, I know it’s going to become the same thing: an on-going tool that I will use for quite some time to come.

Yet again, despite being void of either a ton of pages (total page count: 85) or a wealth of words on each page (some count only three words!) or of the trappings ones usually associates with a book that needs studying—I’m thinking a thick book with lots of words and maybe even some tables and graphs, covered in colour-coded sticky notes with sections highlighted in different colours and a stack of notecards on the side—Ellard manages to engage readers in a deep study of the stress in their lives, in such a way that they can accept it as a positive thing and mould their way around it, skillfully, gracefully, and almost painlessly.

Because I have experience with her books, I was anticipating the self-explanatory statements, made with the assumption that the reader is not, as is most often the case, a passive recipient of wisdom, but rather an empowered protagonist in his or her own life.  Each of these statements serve as a beginning, tracing the broad direction of the road, but leaving to the reader the responsibility of figuring out its twists and turns.

If you are looking for a magical, quick-fix solution, then don’t bother.  But then again, you shouldn’t be looking for such a thing.  Rather, you should engage in a long-term, thoughtful process of reflection and action, and this book is a great coach of sorts in this regard.  And you will know that you are working well with this coach if your copy ends up covered in notes, preferably jotted at different times during different readings.

It feels like, after being encouraged to see stress as one of the many evils we have to conquer, we, as a North American society, are starting to realise that stress is a great tool—if we don’t overdo it and if we learn how to manage it.  We are also taking a big step back from the understanding that we are meant to be passive recipients and taking our place as active protagonists in our personal development.  Ellard’s Success With Stress, just like The Five Truths About Work-Life Balance, can come in as quite the handy companion in this regard.

More information is available on the Simple Intentions’ website and Facebook page; you can also reach out to the team on Twitter.

Thank you to iReads Book Tours for providing
a copy of this book for me to review!

Music Round-Up: K.P. Wolfe’s ‘Exodus’, Michael Van & The Movers’ ‘A Little More Country’, Thorin Loeks’ ‘Thirsty Hearts’, April Martin’s ‘In the Blink of a Life’, and Dylan Tauber’s ‘Dolphin Trance 2’

K.P. Wolfe’s ‘Exodus’ EP

The main attention-grabbing element in K.P. Wolfe’s debut seven-track EP, Exodus, is her voice.  Her vocal range is wide and embodies a lot of attitude, firmly setting the tone throughout the entire set of attention-grabbing and catchy tracks.  While they do at times sound familiar, Wolfe’s special attention to writing thoughtful lyrics sets her apart—in a good way.

The pop rock title track is aggressive and passionate, with guttural vocals and a relentless beat.  The repetitive call to move on and the seeming push forward by the guitars and drums give it an anthemic quality.  Combined with Wolfe’s theater experience, a live performance of this song could be potentially unforgettable.

The slower “Icarus” delves deeper into the pop genre.  Here we see another side of Wolfe: her attitude towards life, for one, is not just one of angry sass; she is also hopeful, sunny, and almost sweet.  For another, her vocal range spreads out even more.  The throbbing “Louder” brings together elements from the first and second numbers on her EP: an aggressive front with a sweet, hopeful layer underneath.  The plucked electric guitar in the pop rock “Puppeteer” comes across as auditory metaphor for the being strung along, in one of two numbers that could pass off as an early Lady Gaga offering.  The second one, “Take Back The Ring”, is a lot slower and more intense, with the emotional range Wolfe’s vocals can touch upon on full display: hope, pain, despair, and even touches of joy.  Youthful angst is combined with a mature look towards the future, with tracks hopefully soon available for streaming on SoundCloud.  More information can be found on the artist’s Facebook page.

Michael Van & The Movers’ ‘A Little More Country’

It’s well worth starting this part of the round-up with Michael Van’s rather tongue-in-cheek statement that cowboy boots hurt his feet.  Oh, and that he’s from the San Francisco Bay Area, a place that isn’t usually associated with country music.  How even more ironic is it, then, that, in so many ways, his album is so country that it can’t be in any way misfiled.  All 13 tracks on the December 2016 release, titled A Little More Country, are soothing and smooth, be they a slower ballad or a quick-paced festive number.  There is a richness in composition, lyricism, and delivery and yet, there is a certain straightforwardness that could be taken for a reflection of the simple things in life that Van wanted to explore in this work.  It might seem at first contradictory, to be searching for the richness in the simple things in life, or, for that matter, to create simple songs that embodies this richness.  But after a little thought (and a lot of slowing down), it becomes somewhat self-evident that each moment in one’s life is filled more than we could ever imagine.

Van explores the richness in the simple things in life, which can come across initially as a contradiction but only after a little thought, one realises how true it is. Fans of traditional country music will love this album.  It’s all about the good, old-fashioned, and well-know country “formula” that is well used and well performed.  From smooth numbers such as the title track to the fun, toe-tapping ones such as “Skeddadle Mountain Lullaby”, Michael Van and the Movers guide listeners expertly through a kaleidoscope of emotions and feelings.  Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud.  More information is available on the band’s Facebook page.

Thorin Loeks’ ‘Thirsty Hearts’

Canadian indie folk artist Thorin Loeks released in May 2016 his debut album, Thirsty Hearts, which brings together eight tracks inspired by years of struggles and growing pains.  Pensive, meditative, and ultimately uplifting, Loeks delves into various aspects of the human experience with the purpose of developing a greater understanding of ourselves, each other, and the world

The title—and opening—track sets the tone for the rest of the set.  Wistful and hopeful, it combines the delicate plucking of an acoustic guitar with a uptempo beat, accompanied by warm vocals that seem to embody that wise, loving friend everyone wishes they had (and some are lucky enough to actually have).  “For Love” is a slow and soulful, piano-driven ballad in which Loeks shares some of the higher notes in his register.  It is a heartfelt call for people to reach across the divide to create unity, a message that is quite à propos now more than ever.  Loeks also shares how such a thing could happen in “Bare Bones”, a brisk and to the point call for authenticity which can be achieved by stripping yourself to the bare bone to feel what’s real.

Listeners searching for thoughtful, insightful, and inspiring tracks should take a listen at Loeks’, available for streaming on SoundCloud.  More information is available on the artist’s website.

April Martin’s ‘In the Blink of a Life’

Listeners thirsty for even more thoughtful, insightful, and inspiring tracks can give New York City’s April Martin’s In the Blink of a Life a try.  Released in December 2016, the folk-inspired album was put together by a woman holding a Ph.D. in clinical psychology who is maintaining a successful practice.  After the success of her first album, 2010’s Pennies in a Jar, Martin decided to continue her exploration of the human condition, sharing her thoughts and insights through honesty, humor, and gentleness.

Most of the tracks are built on softly played instruments and vocal harmonies.  Martin begins in a way by setting the tone, melodically, lyrically, vocally, and, most importantly, conceptually in the opening number.  “One Breath” sounds like the most cheerful and happy meditation session ever.  “Heart Break Doesn’t Come” is a refreshing love song based on the reality of love, in all its glorious imperfection, rather than the maudlin and romanticized one that is usually the focus of so many songs.  The harmonies are particularly attention-grabbing in “My Rock and My Rain” another number with a refreshing take on love.

The focus of the emotional “Looking Back” is on the life of a friend, with Martin’s vocals and the guitar work wrapping around each other beautifully.  The ballad “Everyday I Love You More” is another retrospective but this one on the singers’ own relationship which, although she couldn’t have known at the time, went from its humble beginnings to a beautiful, strong, and still growing relationship.

Knowing that Martin is a psychologist gives the album another unique layer of meaning—as if her perspectives on life, shared here in a non-threatening manner, as a type of therapy on their own.  Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud.  More information is available on the artist’s website and Facebook page.

Dylan Tauber’s ‘Dolphin Trance 2’

Israel’s Dylan Tauber is back with the release, in September 2016, of Dolphin Trance 2, the DJ’s tenth album to date.  On the one hand, it does come off a lot like its predecessor, 2015’s Dolphin Trance.  On the other hand, there is a lot that clearly was left unexplored in the first volume of Tauber’s dolphin series, to the point that one cannot help but wonder if there is potentially a third volume that could come out in 2017.

While overall the album can be filed under electronica, there are a lot of dance, ambient, chill, and trance influences throughout.  The pace is perfect, grabbing listeners just before their attention wanes by an expertly applied uptick or downturn.  Guest vocalist Enlia adds further smoothness and depth to the listening experience provided, with Tauber’s confident guidance.  There are so many uses to this album—the soundtrack to a summer party, an auditory backsplash to a fun get-together, or the backdrop of a quiet, introspective afternoon at home.

Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud.  More information is available on the artist’s website and Facebook page.

Music Round-Up: Danophone’s ‘Rerun’, Dino Jag’s ‘Breakthrough’, Joan Torres’ All Is Fused’s ‘Of The Musical’, Gert Taberner’s ‘Fallen’, and Coral Creek’s Self-Titled Album

Danophone’s ‘Rerun’

When a science journalist takes on a musical project, one doesn’t quite know what to expect.  Will said science journalist apply the same approach to his music as he does his work, or will he go in a completely new direction?  Danish Carsten Nielsen seems to have chosen the latter approach, exploring through his music a world complementary to that of his day job.  “Rerun” is all about the darker side of the emotional ride that is life; however, Nielsen never dips into depths from which one cannot return.  Rather, each of the numbers retains enough joy and hope to be considered as part of a soundtrack for the “hopeful-realist”, someone skillfully straddling the line between reality and utopia.  This is the kind of music to indulge in on a bad day–music that will embrace our dark cloud only to dispel it, one note at a time.  Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud.  More information is available on the artist’s website and Facebook page.

Dino Jag’s ‘Breakthrough’

With vocals that embrace something of both Adam Levine and Chris Martin, Australian Dino Jag ‘s six-track EP “Breakthrough” is brimming with energy, even on the slower and darker tracks.  Energizing pop rock fun from beginning to end, “Breakthrough”‘s only disappointment is in its length; the five tracks seem like a tease that whet one’s appetite for more.  The pop-laden “Two Young Hearts” is filled with optimism and very radio-friendly, potentially the most so after the rockier “You Make Me Feel So Good”.  Jag has fun experimenting within the pop rock genre with “Nothing But You”, while his vocals are particularly showcased in the title track.  Australia’s summer energy is something we just might need up here during another harsh northern winter.  Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud.  More information is available on the artist’s website and Facebook page.

Joan Torres’ All Is Fused’s ‘Of The Musical’

Eight tracks of almost experimental jazz goodness make up Joan Torres’ All Is Fused’s “Of The Musical”, Joan Torres’ latest release.  While the building blocks of good old jazz numbers abound, and solidly so, there are a lot of tweaks and turns that keep listeners engaged and on their toes.  Each of the numbers in the set is to be listened to as a number in a musical, and are separated in two acts.  Ups and downs are included, such as the rich and upbeat “Invaded”, the bass heavy “Demiurge”, and the deft keyboards leading “Explore”.  These contrast with the melancholic imagery of “Ultramarine”, and the eight-minute long languidly dark “Stream of Melancholy”.  Just like with some stories, the beginning of the album can sound at times a little halting and confusing, only for it to come all together in a satisfying ending that makes a whole lot of sense—even if you don’t agree with it.  Tracks are available for streaming on Bandcamp.  More information is available on Joan Torres’ website and Facebook page.

Gert Taberner’s ‘Fallen’

Having grown up in Germany before moving, after finishing school, to Vancouver, British Colombia, Gert Taberner is yet another hope-driven artist whose bright view of the world and its future is embedded at the core of most of his songs, even the darker ones.  The now New York-based artist melds folk, rock, and pop in his EP titled “Fallen”.  The combination of his soothing vocals, soothing melodies, and poetic lyrics makes for a potent elixir that evokes many an emotion.  The title track is gentle, builds up to a satisfying climax before ending with a lingering aftertaste.  Tarberner’s vocals, although enjoyable throughout, are best appreciated in “Places” which is also where his fun side is the most evident in its funk-flavoured fun.  Tracks are available for streaming on Bandcamp.  More information is available on the artist’s Facebook page.

Coral Creek’s Self-Titled Album

A different kind of fun inspired Coral Creek’s 10-track long self-titled album.  Feet will and heads will bob, without the listener even being aware of it.  That’s just how infectious this band is, creatively mashing its main Americana base with bluegrass, Cajun, country, folk, and rock, all of this come seamlessly together.  Rather than diluting its main genre, however, it adds a meaningful depth to it: Americans are, after all, a diverse group of people that have come together in one great nation.  A broad breath of inspiration was also blown into this releases’ lyrics, that tell quite the selection of stories that seem all relatable in some way or form.  The warmth and emotion behind every story is carried extremely well by Chris Thompson (guitar, vocals), Bill McKay (keyboard, vocals), Luke Bulla (fiddle, vocals), and Nathan Peoples (saxophone, vocals), not to take away though from Rob Garland (bass) and Jack Watson’s (drums) great work.  It is easy to feel despair when watching the news, but things will look far better just a few, energetic notes into this album.  Tracks are available for streaming on Bandcamp.  More information is available on the band’s website and Facebook page.

Book Review: ‘How to Raise a Smart Ass: Parenting That Should Not Be Tried at Home’, by Lucia Walinchus

About the author

Lucia Walinchus is an award-winning journalist, author and ice hockey addict.  She has written more than 500 articles for various publications throughout her career and was recently named to the 2016 Fulbright Berlin Capital Program.  She has been featured as a guest speaker on CNN and is a contracted freelancer for the New York Times.  Walinchus currently lives in Oklahoma because she enjoys wide, flat golf courses that make her think she isn’t actually that bad.  More information about the author can be found on her website; readers can also connect with her through Twitter.

About the book

How to Raise a Smart Ass is a funny, witty, rollicking ride through the joys of early parenthood.  The so-titled “Best Butt Wiper in the World” delights audiences by recounting tales of ninja nurses, naughty knights, and super-duper poopers.  Whether you’re a proud parent or you aspire to populate the world with tiny terrors of your own someday, this book will have you laughing out loud, or at a minimum buying lots of sanitizer.  Kids are messy.


Don’t let the title fool you; this book is not a parenting guide.  This might be the only recommendation I wold have to give the author, actually: to reconsider the title.

Other than that, this auto-biography of sorts, was a quick, easy, and hilarious read.  Between the stories my friends have shared with me over the years and my own experience, I could relate to most if not all of Lucia Walinchus’ stories, be they about pregnancy, labour and delivery, breastfeeding and other early month concerns and issues.  They were told in such a helpless, tongue-in-cheek, and resigned voice that I couldn’t help but burst out laughing quite often.  Because of that, I had to stop reading How to Raise a Smart Ass while the baby was feeding or sleeping or suffer the consequences of startling her out of her peaceful food coma or nap.

While the book is recommended for audiences with children or looking to have children, it comes in most handy to parents who have recently had children.  It was a form of therapy for me; I felt less alone in some of the most tiring moments of my day and felt encouraged in my laugh-it-off attitude.  At times I felt like I had met up with the author and, over a cup of coffee, exchange anecdotes and leave the date feeling reinvigorated.  Because parenting is hard and it’s refreshing to just unapologetically share anecdotes rather than be bombarded with advice left, right, and centre.

A must-read for all new parents struggling through the first months, if not years of the lives of their little bundles of joy.

Thank you to iReads Book Tours for providing
a copy of this book for me to review!

Book Review: ‘The Murders at Astaire Castle’, by Lauren Carr

About the author

Sahar's Reviews 2016 02 15 Book Review Cancelled Vows Lauren Carr 'Cancelled Vows'Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries.  The twelfth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series, Candidate for Murder, was released in June 2016.  Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry (WV).  Visit the author’s website or connect with her on Twitter.

About the book

Never tell Mac Faraday not to do something.

Spencer’s police chief, David O’Callaghan, learns this lesson the hard way when he orders Mac Faraday to stay away from the south end of Spencer’s mountaintop – even though he owns the property.  It doesn’t take long for Mac to find out what lies on the other side of the stone wall and locked gate, on which hangs a sign warning visitors to Keep Out!

Sahar's Blog Lauren Carr The Murders at Astaire CastleTopping the list of the 10 top haunted places in America, Astaire Castle is associated with two suicides, three mysterious disappearances, and four murders since it was built almost a century ago – and Mac Faraday owns it!

In spite of David’s warning, Mac can’t resist unlocking the gate to see the castle that supposedly hasn’t seen a living soul since his late mother had ordered it closed up after the double homicide and disappearance of Damian Wagner, a world-famous master of horror novels.

What starts out as a quick tour of a dusty old castle turns into another Mac Faraday adventure when Astaire Castle becomes the scene of even more murders.  Mac is going to need to put all of his investigative talents to work to sort out this case that involves the strangest characters he has run into yet – including a wolf man. No, we’re not talking about Gnarly.


Much like with any good series, picking up The Murders at Astaire Castle was like saying hello to old friends who have been on some sort of unique adventure.  While the book was quite familiar to those who have read the previous installments in the Mac Faraday Mystery series, it was also unique in its setting, its plot, and, of course, its dénouement.

It is also familiar in the amount of sleep I have lost getting through it, and adding onto Carr’s now long-standing caffeine debt.  I believe she has chalked up at least five or six strong mochas to date.

This latest addictive page turner features many of the characters seen previously in, for example, Cancelled Vows and Candidate for Murder.  The mystery this time arises from a place that is typically associated with the genre, that is, a musty old haunted castle in the middle of nowhere.  The book is just as weighty as its predecessors and yet again doesn’t come off as a drag, thanks to Carr’s writing skills and the wit with which she infuses every chapter.  The pace continues to be, even with so many installments under her belt, quick with an uninterrupted, comfortable flow, with thought-provoking conversations peppered throughout.

Carr makes the case to become a well-known author who can easily rival with some of the big names, and hopefully will never strip out of her stories the weight that makes her books satisfying and memorable, weight that has been removed from most (if not all) mass produced, quickly turned around mysteries and thrillers that are only meant to sell a story without a brand or a set of characters.  You have been warned: picking up just one title from this series is bound to whet your appetite for more.

Thank you to iReads Book Tours
for providing a copy of this book for me to review!

Book Review: ‘House of Eire’, by June Gillam

About the author

June GillamJune Gillam teaches literature and writing at a Northern California Community College. She describes this series as psychological suspense novels in which Hillary Broome, reporter and ghostwriter, fends off complex villains of many kinds: a berserk butcher, a demented daughter and a haunted theme park developer.  Visit the author’s website or connect with her on Twitter.

About the book

House of Eire by June GillamIn House of Eire, Hillary Broome, a reporter-turned-ghostwriter from Lodi, California, and her detective husband Ed fly to Ireland—Ed for a gang conference in Dublin and Hillary to research her ancestors in Galway. Hillary plans to meet up with her friend Bridget, who’s pushing a greedy developer to include a memorial museum inside his proposed Irish theme park. As Hillary travels through Ireland and learns more about her friend’s crusade, she uncovers secrets and mysterious forces nudging her to fly away home.


Like a spider wrapping its victims one fine thread at a time, June Gillam will manage to do the same to readers.  The layers of the story add on one thin thread at a time until we find ourselves stuck in the middle of it, struggling to figure it all out.  Thankfully though, unlike a spider’s victims, readers are happy to be caught in this situation and the outcome is quite satisfying.

Gillam’s writing style, at the beginning of the book, seemed kind of heavy to me—I struggled past the first few pages, feeling almost burdened by the amount of details bombarding me.  But once I got into the style and rhythm of the book, I got hooked.  Not just that—the details became part of the tools Gillam uses to capture her readers.  While there are some sections that remained a little difficult to wade through, they were few and far in between.

Another great thing about Gillam’s style of writing is that Ireland really comes to life both for those who have and have not been there.  It was an interesting experience to be caught in a description only to be taken by complete surprise by the plot of the story.

Speaking of which, secrets and mysteries abound in House of Eire.  There are details pertaining to the story that clearly were broached in the prequels; however, this didn’t affect the reading experience in a negative way, as Gillam skillfully brought in the necessary information in a way that didn’t seem overbearing or awkward.  Similarly, the characters were brought to light in a natural and easy way, many of them quite relatable despite being very different from me—and, for that matter, from each other!

Word of caution: You might be starting a long term relationship once you have finished reading this book.  I started with House of Eire and now I feel compelled to read the prequels, as well as to give any sequel a try.  Thankfully, there are only two prequels at the moment, because I can’t really afford another couple of days of being trapped in Gillam’s web, what with the beginning of the school year and all.

But there is always the upcoming Christmas holidays…

Thank you to iReads Book Tours for providing
a copy of this book for me to review!



Book Review: ‘Bossy Flossy’, by Paulette Bogan

About the Author

Paulette Bogan 'Bossy Flossy'Paulette Bogan admits she was bossy as a child. She is the author and illustrator of Virgil & Owen, which was chosen as one of Bank Street Best Children’s books of the Year 2016, Virgil & Owen Stick Together, which won a Mom’s Choice Award Gold Medal for Picture Books, and Lulu The Big Little Chick, which won a Children’s Choice Book Award. She lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and two dogs. They ALL think she is STILL bossy. But they’ve never told her to go to her room! More information about Bogan can be found on her website.

About the Book

Paulette Bogan 'Bossy Flossy'Flossy is the bossiest girl around. She’s bossy at home and she’s bossy in school. She’s bossy to her friends and she’s bossy to her cat. Sometimes she’s even bossy to her teacher! Flossy doesn’t understand why no one will listen to her. One day, Flossy meets Edward, a boy who may be just as bossy as she is. Has Flossy finally met her match?

Book Review

Paulette Bogan’s ‘Bossy Flossy’ is a great book in that it offers parents of children, bossy or not, the opportunity to think about what the meaning of that word.

The drawings are great both artistically and educationally speaking.  Each image is eye-catching with plenty of details for children to pour over.  The characters are drawn in a way that makes them very identifiable for children and rather endearing.  Educationally-speaking, there is a lot of information to digest in the facial expressions and body language of each character, be it Flossy, Edward, or the ones around them whom they boss around.  This can and should be used as a way for parents to reflect with their children on the effect of bossiness on those who are bossing others around and those are being bossed around.

I particularly appreciated the different expressions of bossiness portrayed throughout the book.  Well-know sentences are used, such as “You’re not the boss of me” which can really make a child think about his or her own potential bossiness—or that of another.

Another thing I appreciated is the way the bossiness got resolved—Flossy saw her own bossiness mirrored in Edward and realises the consequence of her behaviour on others.  This book therefore not only teaches children not just what bossiness is, but also the act of reflecting on one’s behaviour, which needs to be done quite literally at this age.

Thank you to iReads Book Tours for providing a
copy of this book for me to review!



Book Review: ‘Candidate for Murder: A Mac Faraday Mystery’, by Lauren Carr

About the Author

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries. The twelfth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series, Candidate for Murder will be released June 2016.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

About the Book

It’s election time in Spencer, Maryland, and the race for mayor is not a pretty one. In recent years, the small resort town has become divided between the local year-round residents who have enjoyed their rural way of life and the city dwellers moving into their mansions, taking over the town council, and proceeding to turn Deep Creek Lake into a closed gate community—complete with a host of regulations for everything from speed limits to clothes lines.

When the political parties force-feed two unsavory mayoral nominees on the town residents, Police Chief David O’Callaghan decides to make a statement—by nominating Gnarly, Mac Faraday’s German shepherd, to run as mayor of Spencer!

What starts out as a joke turns into a disaster when overnight Gnarly becomes the front runner—at which point his political enemies take a page straight out of Politics 101. What do you do when you’re behind in a race? Dig up dirt on the front runner, of course.

Seemingly, someone is not content to rest with simply embarrassing the front runner by publicizing his dishonorable discharge from the United States Army, but to throw in a murder for good measure. With murder on the ballot, Mac Faraday and the gang—including old friends from past cases—dive in to clear Gnarly’s name, catch a killer, and save Spencer!

Book Review

Lauren Carr has put together another addictive page turner.  Featuring many of the characters in “Cancelled Vows”. It is yet another mystery that emerges from an unlikely place, rather than a good old fashioned case, which makes it all the more interesting to read.

The plot this time is entwined with the political life of the town of Spencer.  This provides Carr with the opportunity to delve into various topics related to politics, namely the corruption that is so intimately related with it as well as the frustrations of a populace who doesn’t feel taken care od by those whose job it is to do just that.  Another related topic she touches on is that of gentrification and it’s relationship with corrupt politics.

It is a sign of Carr’s writing and wit that yet again, the weight of the book doesnt become a drag.  Oftentimes it can feel like an author pads his or her book with awkwardly placed and phrased statements that are meant to make a point about a certain aspect of our society that turns out to be an interruption to the flow.  But Carr’s book is packed with thought provoking conversations that are such a natural part od the story that one only notoces them by the number of times one starts reflecting on the points raised and insights shared by the characters.

I have come to accept that Carr’s work will cost me more than a night’s sleep; she now owes me a good, strong mocha (or rather, three) instead.  Unless she finds oit that the sleepless nights were well worth it.

Thank you to iReads Book Tours for providing
a copy of this book for me to review!

Book Review: ‘The Wish Rider’, by Barbara Casey

About the Author

Reviews 2016 05 05 Book Review The Cadence of Gypsies Barbara CaseyOriginally from Carrollton, Illinois, author/agent/publisher Barbara Casey attended the University of North Carolina, N.C. State University, and N.C. Wesleyan College where she received a BA degree, summa cum laude, with a double major in English and history. In 1978 she left her position as Director of Public Relations and Vice President of Development at North Carolina Wesleyan College to write full time and develop her own manuscript evaluation and editorial service. In 1995 she established the Barbara Casey Agency and since that time has represented authors from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. In 2014, she became a partner with Strategic Media Books where she is involved in acquisitions and day-to-day operations and oversees book production.

Ms. Casey’s two middle-grade/young adult novels, Leilani Zan and Grandma Jock and Christabelle (James C. Winston Publishing Co., Trade Division) were both nominated for awards of excellence by the SCBWI Golden Kite Award, the National Association of University Women Literary Award and the Sir Walter Raleigh Literary Award. Shyla’s Initiative (Crossquarter Publishing Group), a contemporary adult novel (occult romance/mystery), received a 2003 Independent Publisher Book Award and also an award of special literary recognition by the Palm Beach County Cultural Council. The Coach’s Wife (ArcheBooks Publishing), also a novel for adults (contemporary/mystery), was semi-finalist for the 2005 Dana Award for Outstanding Novel and listed on the Publisher’s Best Seller List. The House of Kane (ArcheBooks Publishing), released in 2007, was considered for a Pulitzer nomination. Another contemporary novel for adults, Just Like Family, was released at Christmas 2009 when it received “Special Recognition from the 7-Eleven Corporation.” The Cadence of Gypsies, a novel written for new adults, was released in 2011 and was reviewed by the Smithsonian Institute for its List of Most Notable Books. Her novel for adults, The Gospel According to Prissy, received a 2013 Independent Publishers Book Award for Best Book in Regional Fiction. In 2016, Ms. Casey’s biography/true crime Kathryn Kelly: The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly was released as well as The Wish Rider, the sequel to her young adult book The Cadence of Gypsies.

About the Book

Reviews 2016 07 11 Book Review The Wish Rider CoverSeventeen-year-old Dara Roux and her two best friends, Mackenzie Yarborough and Jennifer Torres, the three collectively referred to as the F.I.G.’s (Females of Intellectual Genius) because each has an intelligence quotient in the genius range, have just returned from Frascati, Italy. It was there that their much loved teacher and mentor, Carolina Lovel, discovered that her birth parents were gypsies, and that she had a connection to the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world.

Now, with graduation from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women behind them, Dara asks her friends to help her locate her birth mother when she learns that she might be living in New York City. Relying on Dara’s gift for speaking and understanding foreign languages, the black and white images that stir musical cadences in Jennifer’s mind, and Mackenzie’s mathematical calculations that normally provide numerical solutions and answers to life’s most difficult questions, the determined young women tirelessly go from one address to another in search of Dara’s mother.

Their determination turns to desperation, however, as they encounter a dark hidden society more dangerous and terrifying than they could have imagined. It is there that Dara hopes to find out why she was abandoned in a candy store all those years ago.

Book Review

Heavy to read at the beginning, a large chunk of “The Wish Rider” goes over what happened in he prequel, “The Cadence of Gypsies”.  Actually, it’s more than going over—there is a lot of repetition, from character description to location description to historical information, at times feeling like a never-ending, redundant synopsis of the prequel more than anything else.  While its great for a first time reader, it becomes quite tedious for recent readers of the prequel.

Just like with “The Cadence of Gypsies”, there is a lot of interesting information to be learned about history as well as about certain locations featured in the book.  This time a lot of the information was based on various locations and historical details pertaining to New York City and its Grand Central Station.  I didn’t look up all this information to check its accuracy, but I’m assuming that author Barbara Casey did a lot of research before writing both books.

The emotions driving the story were tougher to get into than they were in “The Cadence of Gypsies” mainly because the context of the story wasn’t well fleshed out.  For example, at one point in the book, the main characters go somewhere dark and dangerous (which I am purposefully not describing in more detail for fear of spoiling the story).  But because the context wasn’t well-described, I didn’t get a feel for why the place was dark and dangerous and even just how dark and dangerous it was.  For that reason, the section of the book in question didn’t affect me emotionally as it should have.

Add to Bookshelf?

The previous tome was interesting enough and the next one has enough to potential to warrant adding to your bookshelf.

Thank you to iReads Book Tours for providing a
copy of this book for me to review!


Book Review: ‘Freshly Brewed’, by Pamela Ford

About the Author

Reviews 2016 07 11 Book Review Overwasy Pamela FordPamela Ford is the award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance. She grew up watching old movies, blissfully sighing over the romance; and reading sci-fi and adventure novels, vicariously living the action. The combination probably explains why the books she writes are romantic, happily-ever-afters with plenty of plot – and often lots of laughter.

After graduating from college with a degree in Advertising, Pam merrily set off to earn a living, searching for that perfect career as she became a graphic designer, print buyer, pantyhose sales rep, public relations specialist, copywriter, freelance writer – and finally author. Pam has won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best, the Laurel Wreath, and a gold medal IPPY in the Independent Book Publisher Awards. She is a Kindle Book Awards finalist and a two-time Golden Heart Finalist. She lives in Wisconsin where she is working on her next novel.

About the Book

Fresh BrewedBreanna Mitchell is on her way to a relaxing vacation at the ocean. Maybe she’ll even have a beachside fling to help her get over a recent breakup.

ut when a tropical storm makes her destination hotel uninhabitable, a chance encounter at continental breakfast delivers a fabulous option—with a catch. She and her friends can stay at a privately-owned, three-story oceanfront home—if she pretends to be the girlfriend of the owner’s heartbreaker grandson, Ethan. Since he won’t even be there, how hard could it be?

Everything is going swimmingly until Bree drinks too much wine and regales the family with romantic tales about her relationship with Ethan. His adorable brother Adam gets suspicious. His marriage-minded grandma gets engagement fever. The beautiful woman next door gets teary-eyed.

And then, Ethan unexpectedly arrives. Suddenly Bree is about to get everything she’s ever wished for—but is it what she really wants?

Book Review

More believable than its predecessor, Pamela Ford’s “Fresh Brewed” brings back the characters from “Overeasy” with a small switch in roles.  This time the story focuses on Bree while Allie takes a back seat to the action.  Bree’s story is quite different and a little more believable than Allie’s, which makes this series all the more readable—nothing like an obvious copy-paste to discourage me from reading the second book in a series!  But not only the story is different, the main character is also quite different, although she and Allie share one major thing in common that kept both their stories going: the ability to make the wrong decision again and again.

A cute, fun, well-written and engaging quick read, Bree’s story is that of a series of unfortunate decisions, not a series of unfortunately events like Allie’s was.  Although I chuckled my way through the book, I have to admit that I also rolled my eyes a few times and groaned a many others as well.  I can’t help but wonder: do people like this actually exist?

There are two complaints I have, but they are not major enough for me to not recommend this book.  The first is that lack of deep enough realisation like Allie had; long time readers of my blog know how I like me some sort of deeper level understanding to emerge from any book that I read.  The second complaint is that although we get to meet a fun new character who will be featured in a future book, we don’t get to see Allie or Megan, Bree’s sidekicks who were also present in the first book featuring Allie’s adventure, as much as I’d like to.  But, again, these are minor quibbles that don’t take much away from the reading experience.

Add to Bookshelf?

If you are looking for an easy, fun, unrealistic read, then yes.

Thank you to iReads Book Tours for providing a
copy of this book for me to review!