The Great American Slow Cooker Book: 500 Easy Recipes for Every Day and Every Size Machine

The Great American Slow Cooker Book: 500 Easy Recipes for Every Day and Every Size MachineThe Great American Slow Cooker Book: 500 Easy Recipes for Every Day and Every Size Machine by Bruce Weinstein

The ultimate in slow-cooker books–with 500 recipes, each adapted for three sizes of appliance. From breakfast to soups, mains to grains, vegetables to desserts, this guide is the only book you’ll ever need to master your slow cooker or crockpot.

Millions of people are turning to slow cookers for their weeknight meals yet often can’t find recipes that match their exact machine. Adapting recipes meant for a different-size cooker doesn’t work–getting the right level of spice in your Vietnamese soup or keeping pulled pork tender requires having ingredients in the right proportion. But now, Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough have decoded slow cookers, and each of their recipes includes ingredient proportions for 2-3 quart, 4-5 quart, and 6-8 quart machines, guaranteeing a perfect fit no matter what machine you own. Each recipe is labeled for its level of difficulty and nutritional value, and they cover every kind of dish imaginable: delicious breakfast oatmeals, slow-braised meats, succulent vegetables, sweet jams and savory sauces, decadent desserts. This is the slow cooker book to end them all.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is really good for the cook who doesn’t have a tremendous amount of time to prepare meals big enough for an entire family. I liked that there were measurements for various sized slow cookers, so you don’t have to guess how much of something you will need to make an adjustment.

There are a lot of recipes in this book (500 to be exact) and many of them do not require special ingredients that most people won’t have on hand. The recipes are not time consuming and are easy enough that even the kids can help.

There are recipes here for every meal and even for drinks and desserts, so it will cover all the basics. The recipes can be easily adjusted to suit your personal tastes and become family favourites.

I enjoyed the way this book is set up, with variations on basic recipes. There are a lot of things I never would have thought of doing with a slow cooker that I discovered in these pages.

This would make a nice gift or just a good go-to book for anyone’s kitchen.

Recommended.

Mirror Interview # 5 Luccia Gray

*Today our guest is the lovely and talented Luccia Gray. Please welcome her and take a moment to say hello and check out her work! If you would like to do your own mirror interview–it’s a lot of fun talking to yourself–go to the contact me page and send me an email :) CIMG4315

Why do you use a pen name?

There is a long literary tradition of writers using pen names. 19th century authors were keen users; Currer, Acton and Ellis Bell (the Brontes), George Elliot, (Mary Anne Evans), George Sand, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain. There are many contemporary examples, too: Anne Perry, Anne Rice, and Toni Morrison, among others. No doubt their reasons are/were varied. There is no one reason why a writer decides to write with a pen name.

I started using a pen name because I wanted my ‘writing persona’ to be distinct to my ‘ordinary persona’. I don’t consider it a pseudonym because I don’t keep it a secret. I consider it my ‘artistic name’. I’m trying to keep both ‘personas’ apart professionally, although they sometimes overlap.

Why Luccia Gray?

My pen name is part of me, so it’s an anagram of my birth name: Lucy Garcia. I changed the letters around to produce Luccia Gray. I feel comfortable using it. I consider it a tribute to myself, because I’m finally accomplishing my life-long dream to publish my work and become an author.

How does Lucy feel about Luccia?

Luccia is very special and fragile. She’s insecure, sensitive, and very creative. Lucy is assertive, strong-minded, and very practical. Lucy is very proud of Luccia, and Luccia is glad Lucy found the time, and peace of mind, to give birth to her. I know it sounds weird, but we both feel very pleased with this arrangement!

Why should I read your novel?

All Hallows at Eyre Hall, is a great read. It’s an intriguing and exciting neo Victorian, gothic novel, set in an imposing mansion, frequented by villains, heroes, lovers, and ghosts. I challenge you to read chapter one, and you won’t be able to put it down!

Which are your favourite lines in the novel?

All Hallows is a powerful novel. The characters who breathe life into the narrative are all unique and impressive, that is why so many have been given a voice and a point of view.

There are some beautiful and intriguing letters in the novel. The following extract is from a letter written by one of my favourite characters:

‘My hand trembles as I write this letter. I humbly entreat you to consider it a token of my eternal loyalty and adoration. I can no longer wait in silence while I watch you suffer unjustly. You are not alone. The place I most cherish is by your side, or better still, in your shadow. I offer myself to you in humble and loyal service for the rest of my days. For you alone, I live, I hope, and pray. I will do anything to alleviate your distress and contribute to your contentment. You alone shall be my mistress. My only wish is to remain as close to you as I should be allowed.’

What are you working on now?

I published All Hallows at Eyre Hall as an ebook in May, and it will also be available in print, soon. It is book one of The Eyre Hall Trilogy. I’m currently writing book two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, which should be out at Christmas 2014. Book three, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, is due next summer, 2015.

Why did you decide to self-publish?

It seemed to be a daunting task to find an agent and/or a publisher, and I didn’t want to wait around for replies to query letters, so I just got on with it! I wrote my first novel, found wonderful beta readers, to test my novel and get quality feedback, a proof-reader, and a cover artist. I finally formatted for Amazon and CreateSpace on my own. Now I’m busy writing and promoting my book, myself.

Quite honestly, it has been a fascinating journey, and I’ve met so many wonderful people along the way, in the last eight months, that I’m really glad I decided to do it by myself. On the other hand, I would be delighted to find an agent and a publisher, to help me with practical matters, so that I could get on with my writing…

More Information and to contact Luccia Gray:

Visit Luccia Gray’s Blog at http://www.lucciagray.com

Read the first chapter of All Hallows at Eyre Hall: http://www.amazon.com/All-Hallows-Eyre-Hall-Breathtaking-ebook/dp/B00K2G4SXW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405987048&sr=8-1&keywords=luccia+gray#reader_B00K2G4SXW

If you are interested in reviewing this novel, please contact me at luccia.gray@gmail.com

Follow Luccia on Twitter: @LucciaGray

Visit Luccia on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8186541.Luccia_Gray

Like Luccia’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LucciaGray?ref=hl

Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living by Paul Collins

Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called LivingEdgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living by Paul Collins

5 Stars

Looming large in the popular imagination as a serious poet and lively drunk who died in penury, Edgar Allan Poe was also the most celebrated and notorious writer of his day. He died broke and alone at the age of forty, but not before he had written some of the greatest works in the English language, from the chilling “The Tell-Tale Heart” to “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”—the first modern detective story—to the iconic poem “The Raven.”

Poe’s life was one of unremitting hardship. His father abandoned the family, and his mother died when he was three. Poe was thrown out of West Point, and married his beloved thirteen-year-old cousin, who died of tuberculosis at twenty-four. He was so poor that he burned furniture to stay warm. He was a scourge to other poets, but more so to himself.

In the hands of Paul Collins, one of our liveliest historians, this mysteriously conflicted figure emerges as a genius both driven and undone by his artistic ambitions. Collins illuminates Poe’s huge successes and greatest flop (a 143-page prose poem titled Eureka), and even tracks down what may be Poe’s first published fiction, long hidden under an enigmatic byline. Clear-eyed and sympathetic, Edgar Allan Poe is a spellbinding story about the man once hailed as “the Shakespeare of America.”

 

My review:

 

As with other historical authors of note, there have been so many different biographies and books written about the life and times of Edgar Allan Poe. Yet, as I am a curious sort, I tend to read every one that I can get my hands on. Previously to this one, I found myself quite disappointed with the vast majority of them. Most of the time this was for two main reasons, which I shall note later in this review. This book delighted and surprised me.

This author took a different approach. Rather than treating this man as though he were a villain or a hero, he instead took a much appreciated far more neutral approach. In this particular book, Paul Collins did not treat Poe as if he were some rare anomaly, but rather discussed the hardships and high points of Poe’s life. I think this is the first work of non-fiction about Poe’ life that I actually felt like he was being portrayed as human in. No parlour tricks, no illusions that he was something dark and macabre to be feared. Just a man on a streak of bad luck and bad decisions.

I was impressed by the author’s meticulous research and that he seemed to hit most of the valid and important parts of Poe’s personal life and career from the beginning. Unlike many other biographies on the man, this book did not centrally focus on the publication of the Raven, nor the drinking habit which the author later became synonymous with. His actions are debated somewhat here and there, but are not put under a 21st century microscope of morality. I like it when the author can allow a story (especially in non-fiction) to tell itself with little interference in the way of the author’s personal interjections.

This is not a long book, but has more than just the simple, basic Poe info in it. If you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or just curious about a man who led an intriguing life of poverty and moderate success, then this would be a good book for you to choose.

Recommended.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Special friend and a great book

wpid-20140717_132727.jpg   I got a wonderful surprise in the mail today. My dear friend Pamela sent me a copy of her latest book with a very special dedication inside.

She made me cry. Happy tears.

 

Do you have someone like this in your life? Someone who always knows what to say even when you are at your worst? Someone who you know you can count on no matter what life throws your way?

I feel blessed to have Pamela in my life each day. Hug the people you love.

Thank you, Pamela, for the special gift.

 

If you haven’t checked out Pamela’s poetry yet, you can do so here:

Poetry by Pamela

 

And check out her books:

 

Love: Lost and Found

 

and

 

Dreams of Love

 

Both available now!

 

 

Salvation by W.A. Heisler

SalvationSalvation by W.A. Heisler

Salvation is a fast-paced book of horror garunteed to raise the hairs on the back of the neck. It’s style has been compared to the works of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Salvation begins with a frantic phone call to Father Brian Halloway from Eric Parkins, a parishioner in his church, who is desperate to find answers to his wife’s strange behavior following the death of her mother. It seems to Halloway that the woman is simply having difficulty coping with her grief, and nothing seems out of the ordinary. Until he is told about the “thing” in the basement. And how Sylvia changes after nightfall. It is then, the priest begins to worry. After witnessing Sylvia’s disturbing and violent behavior for himself, Halloway comes to the conclusion that something has gone horribly wrong at 1312 Lafayette Drive. Fearing for the safety of the couple, Halloway enlists the help of his longtime friend and fellow priest Father Michael Constantine, a priest chosen to fight the deadliest of wars, and the keeper of New York Dioceses’ darkest secret. It is then the dark war begins. Constantine, joined by Father James Connelly, a young priest eager to prove himself to his mentor, along with Halloway, Sylvia’s husband, and her brother, Mark Barnett, a doctor who is hiding his own dangerous secret set out to engage the invading entity. The men quickly come face to face with a savage, brutal being that snakes its way into the darkest depths of their psyches in its unyielding and vicious attempts to destroy them and all who participate in its “game.” The book climaxes with the entrance of Arandavius, a dark, tragic figure, fallen with Lucifer after The Great War. A fallen angel who walks the earth and claims hismission is to send the demon back to its “Realm.” A being Constantine knows has held one title since his expulsion. Arandavius: The Overlord of Legion. Constantine finds himself trying to save a woman who is now caught in the middle of a vicious game of cat-and-mouse between two demons-one, a brutal, sadistic being who holds the life and soul of its victim in its clutches-the other, the most savage and merciless of Legion’s warriors. A game both beings are willing to play out to its explosive and bloody end. Welcome to darkness. Welcome.to the game.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this book!

The horror genre can go either way for me. Sometimes I really like the idea, but the execution seems off, or the book is too bloody and gory. It is hard to find a horror novel that keeps up an intense pace without coming off as silly or losing speed as it goes along. This book never slows down and is interesting right to the very end.

If you have ever read a book and wished that you could keep one of the characters as a friend or ally once the book is finished, then you will know what I mean when I say that I was sorry to see fallen angel Arandavius go. He was the type of character that you can’t help but love. He should get his own series.

The author did a fantastic job of coming up with an original idea about what happens with fallen angels and creating a scenario that made me stop and think. I was very impressed with the possession scenes as they stayed consistent throughout the story and didn’t waver. I didn’t want to go to sleep with the light off.

This book takes what happened in the exorcist and makes it look like a mild case of PMS. I appreciated that the author was able to make this possession not only span the entire book, but involve multiple characters. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the story unfolded. I expected most of the cast to be wiped out before the end of the book, and that did not happen. I love it when you can’t predict an ending.

The only thing that left me a little disappointed in this novel was that Eric and Sylvia didn’t get more of the stage for their last act. For a story that was built surrounding them from the beginning, I thought thy should have been followed up a bit more before the close of the book.

This is an excellent book, and even for those who aren’t a particular fan of horror, I think this could still be appealing.

Recommended.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Mirror Interview # 4 Rishika S.

Thank you so much Rishika, for joining us on Readful Things today. It is so much fun to get a glimpse into the mind of an author and learn about their process. If you would like to do your own mirror interview, please email me from my contact me page here on the blog. Thanks everyone, and please take a moment to check out her work and spread the word!

 

Tell us a little about you and your work.

My name is Rishika and I publish under the name of Rishika S. My first piece of published fiction is One Chance. It’s a short story based around the life of a married couple that is torn apart by deceit. The story follows their path to finding trust and love again. A Bond Unbroken is another love story, and is based on the reunion of two people who had been greatly in love but were forced to take different paths in life. Both of them are short stories that fall in the genre of love stories – the kind of books that you would read while travelling, on holiday, or if you wanted to read something quick.

So how do these story ideas come to you?

Most times, any one scene from the story will play itself out in my head. This generally happens through my dreams. I see these vivid dreams that come with their own back stories and that, I know, will lead somewhere. And if I remember them long enough after waking up to write down some pointers, I have a starting point around which the entire story falls into place.

You have a scene, you have an idea of a story surrounding it – then what? Do you write a haphazard first draft, just getting it all out there, or do you detail an outline? What is your writing process?

I generally just work on it in my head, forming connections and subplots until it all comes together. A lot of research goes on during this phase which often aids the process. Sometimes, I may make a brief outline. But mostly, I’ll just start writing. I write individual scenarios and bring them together and I also write from beginning to end. But I’ve never done a first draft as such. Most of my work is already quite ready to be read and structured. I guess the first draft is getting cleaned up in my head itself.

But you do follow through the outline you’ve set, whether down on paper or not?

Not necessarily. The odd thing is that you create characters, you give them personalities, and then they just start behaving the way a real person with those personalities would. The characters can turn a story differently than I’d planned – basically take a different route to get where the story needs to. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I always go along with it just to see if it works better than what I’d thought of, and I’ve very often found myself agreeing with the paths they choose. That is actually the most beautiful part about writing a story. You create people, and they live out their own lives, just about following the idea you have. That’s what makes a story great, in my opinion. You have to really associate with your own characters if you want others to do so. And I want people to associate with my characters and their emotions. Only then can they associate with their situations and with the story. I want my characters to feel as alive to the readers as they do to me. I’ve found that from the many books I’ve read; the ones I’ve loved are the ones in which the characters just pull you in, all on their own. It was reading such books that made me want to write so that I could create that kind of pull in readers.

So do you think that reading is essential to being a good author?

Immensely! I think that if you don’t read, you can’t write. I read a lot as a kid, and still do. I miss reading when I need to take a break so that I can concentrate on writing. Reading is a major part of me; it’s what made me want to write. It’s what successfully pulls me out of writer’s block – just taking a break and reading for a couple of days. And there are some fantastic authors out there, who make reading not a hobby, but an experience that you live out with the characters.

If you could meet any author, past or present, who would it be and why?

J.R.R. Tolkien, because he is one author who writes beautifully and whose work, to me, is charming. His work is truly unique.

Michael Crichton, because he made me love science fiction even though I had always disliked science as a subject in school. But more importantly because his character development is brilliant – he really knows how to depict human beings and he does it so subtly that you won’t even realize it’s happening. That is why you can love, hate, and feel for his characters.

Stephen King, because from the little of his work that I’ve read (I’m really scared of reading horrors, but I’ve tried his books), and from the many quotes and interviews of his that I’ve read, I think he’s a brilliant man who voices his thoughts in a quirky, but very honest manner; and I think he’d be a great conversationalist. And I think anyone could learn a lot from him.

Let’s look at the opposite end for a moment – are there any authors, or even characters (since they’re the ones that make or break a story for you) that, given the chance, you would… I don’t know… punch in the face?

Quite a few actually. The first would be Bella, from Twilight. I’ve read the books, and I just couldn’t like her. The entire clumsy, modern damsel in constant distress needing rescuing thing didn’t work from me. Her need for a guy’s support at all times, the way she breaks down when Edward leaves, was all a bit over the top. I mean, a normal woman, I think, would pick herself up and move on. The second would be Edward Cullen – only because he sparkles like diamonds. I mean, come on! You’re a vampire! And Dracula is one of my favourite books. So I just can’t digest this new twist on the ‘why vampires can’t get out in the sun’ thing. I’m even okay with the ‘I hunt only animals’, though vampires don’t exactly have consciences, but that’s creative liberty. But shining like diamonds – nope, sorry! As someone who loved Bram Stoker’s Dracula, that’s a bit much to take. My third choice would be Frodo Baggins. Odd, I know, but not because I hated him. In fact, I thought the way his character is influenced by the ring and the way he begins to slowly change was awesome. I just feel so bad for him – he was a good guy who was entrusted with something that began to break him. And I’d punch him in the hopes of breaking him out of that spell (even though it wouldn’t work).

You clearly don’t like the Twilight saga! What about another series that has garnered just as much popularity – the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy? You must have tried that one?

I did actually, but I couldn’t really get past the first half of the first book. It had nothing to do with the theme. BDSM has been around before Fifty Shades and will continue to be around. In fact, it’s an interesting genre to read too. But there was something about the story that just dragged on and I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it, making it only the third book I’ve ever left midway! The same goes with the Twilight saga. Vampire fiction has always been popular. I’ve read others in the genre like Katherine Sorin’s City of Lights trilogy which I really liked (the vampires were all gory and bloodthirsty in those, fitting my idea of a vampire). And there is nothing wrong with the Twilight saga or the Fifty shades trilogy. They really work for some people and, like all books, have been created through effort which I respect. But I just can’t associate with them, or really like them either.

Say you were hanging off a cliff and the only way to save yourself was to read either Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey. Which one would it be?

I’d brace myself for the fall! No, but seriously, can I watch the Twilight movies instead? That way, I get popcorn and save a lot of time… and my life!

You like giving honest reviews. But what would you do if someone gave your work a bad review?

I’d recognize that just how I can’t like every author’s work, not every reader can like mine. But like every storyteller, there are stories that I can tell in my own way which is different from others. And those that like my way, will like my work. You cannot please everyone, that’s part of every writer’s life. Accepting that isn’t easy. But I think I’ll get there with some effort.

Do you plan on continuing with short, love stories or is something else coming up?

I’m not genre limited. I write what comes to me. So I’ve got a lot of ideas for romances, fantasy, and mysteries and thrillers, which happens to be one of my favourite genres. But right now, I’m working on a full length novel – a historical fiction based in 700 CE, India, which should be up for sale end of this year or early next year.

Last question before we wrap up – how can one know more about you?

To know more about my work and me, you can visit any of the following links to my Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon author pages.

http://on.fb.me/R4HfLU

http://bit.ly/1ga5Hkp

http://amzn.to/1oOt1h5

The Art Restorer by Julian Sanchez

The Art RestorerThe Art Restorer by Julián Sánchez

Enrique Alonso travels from his new home in Manhattan to San Sebastián, Spain, to attend the reopening of the San Telmo museum, where his ex-wife, Bety, works in public relations. There he meets American Craig Bruckner, a retired art restorer studying the museum’s collection of works by Sert—a contemporary of Picasso and Dalí who worked for the most famous billionaires of his time and whose mural American Progress graces the walls of Rockefeller Center. When Bruckner is found drowned in La Concha bay, Bety suspects foul play and Enrique agrees to help her look into the man’s death. Their investigation reveals a mystery connected with Sert’s checkered past, which provides fertile ground for the new thriller Enrique is writing, and the plot develops in parallel to his research.

Enrique and Bety’s reconstruction of the artist’s clandestine activities during World War II leads them to Paris, Barcelona, and New York, and in the process forces them to face their own past. But they are not the only ones interested in Sert’s work, and it appears there is more to his paintings than meets the eye.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The Art Restorer” Is a very relaxing, well written book with a lot of careful mystery.

This is my first work by Julian Sanchez, as I did not read the first book in this series. I don’t think that it is necessary to do so in order to understand this book. There are frequent references to things that happened previously, and I felt like I had enough of an overall picture of the main character’s life to navigate this book just fine.

Whilst I greatly enjoyed this book, there are a few strange passages, where the sentence construction seems off, but that is likely due to translation. For the most part I found this to be a well-paced, interesting journey.

The setting is beautifully described and from the very beginning, the idea that the main character is such a real, down to earth type of person permeates the story. I felt close to him from the beginning, and as a result felt close to the characters he cared about.

Knowing that he is battling his own inner demons and trying to make decisions about his life was a good aside to the rest of the story he is a complex character with a big heart and a conscience that wills him to do the right thing in all situations. Most of the events that happened were believable and there is quite a lot of excitement after the first third of the story, where most of the setup happens.

I was very impressed with this book. If you are a fan of art history, captivating backdrops and imaginative writing, I am certain you will enjoy this novel.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Spooky Word Scrambles by Carolyn Kivett and Chris McMullen

Spooky Word ScramblesSpooky Word Scrambles by Carolyn Kivett and Chris McMullen

These word scramble puzzles consist of spooky words or phrases where the letters have been scrambled. Many of the puzzles relate to Halloween in some way. Solve each puzzle by rearranging the letters to form the word or phrase. For example, rearranging the letters M O B I Z E, we can form the word Z O M B I E. Each puzzle consists of a group of related words or phrases, such as words that relate to ghosts or different kinds of Halloween costumes. Knowing that the words in each puzzle are related may help you unscramble any words or phrases that you don’t see right away. A hints section at the back of the book provides the first letter of each answer, which is handy if you just need a little help; a separate section provides the answers so that you can check your solutions.EXAMPLES P A C EG S A F ND O B O LK A T E SN O C T UT A Y B TM A P R E V IA L C A R D UANSWERS cape, fangs, blood, stake, count, batty, vampire, Dracula.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Confession: I am such a kid. Really, I had as much fun with this book as the kids I work with did. There are a lot of benefits for children in exploring word scrambles. Elementary children will no doubt find these puzzles fun and challenging, and it is a great way to reinforce proper spelling. For ESL kids, word scrambles are a fun and easy way to help them rearrange letters and learn new words, plus the act of writing them down helps with memory retention.

I was particularly happy with the way this book was arranged, not only because of the fun Halloween theme, but because there is a challenging word at the bottom of each page that is the theme for that set of puzzles. The kids loved it and kept asking to do more puzzles. For a teacher, especially with a large group of kids, this was gold.

Don’t worry parents and teachers, if you don’t have time to figure out if the student was right about each answer, there is a key in the back for us big people.

This is definitely a book that I see helping kids to learn and retain correct spelling. An excellent choice and whole lot of fun. Recommended.

*If you haven’t run into Chris McMullen during your travels around WordPress yet, please do so here

Chris McMullen’s slightly more awesome and much less lewd blog than mine:   chrismcmullen.com

Aside from writing fine educational books, he also writes very helpful articles for authors about marketing, design and other writing essentials. Plus, he is really good at physics so you can ask him annoying questions about the human mind, naturalism, the philosophy of science, Steven Hawking, or Higgs Boson and he will surely blame me. Either way he’s a great guy with a lot of valuable info on his site. Go then. Why you wasting your time here? gooooo……

And this post would not be complete without:

*@$%

That Night by Chevy Stevens

This is the shereads.org monthly pick for July If you have not heard about she reads yet, you are missing out on some truly wonderful things. Please take a moment to check us out and support women’s literacy!

That Night

That Night by Chevy Stevens

As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent
complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn’t relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren’t easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night.

Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.

Now thirty-four, Toni is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she’s doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy—not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni’s innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni’s life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.

But the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book a lot. There were a few times when the writing felt a little stiff and formal, but the depth of the characters and the ability of the author to show us the past and the present without it becoming confusing was very good and made up for the minor quirks here and there.

For me, the most fascinating part of this book were the portions where prison life was discussed. The detail the author included kept me interested in the life of the main character and wondering what would happen next. Rather than having a main character that spent a lot of time feeling sorry for herself and the wrongs that were done to her, she was proactive and witty and I was happy to support her.

The plot of this novel is complex and keeps you guessing about what really happened many years ago, until the very end. I like mysteries as much as the next person, but it was the human element of this story that made me love it. I felt close to the characters and that feeling grew as the story progressed. There are a lot of mysteries out there, but this one is told in such a way that you feel you are there, going through the same things as the characters.

If you like books that will stay with you when you are finished reading them, then this would be a good one to choose. Beautiful writing, haunting story, recommended.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided by Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

Cart before the horse (Not always a bad thing)

As any author will tell you, writing the book is the easy part. After that comes the fun of editing, cover design, book blurbs and the ultimate in evil, MARKETING.

Most authors are already aware of how this all works, but there is a question that many authors don’t think to ask until they are finished or nearly finished with their books. When should you start marketing your work?

Beginning the first stages of marketing before your book is complete can be an important factor in success. I’m not saying you should write your first sentence and then begin pushing the book. Sometimes books become something other than what we intended them to be, plus having a general idea of word count and the ability to put together a book blurb and some excerpts for promotional use is necessary.

There is no exact right time for promo, but there is definitely a wrong time. Don’t wait until after the book has already been published to start advertising. The more hits your book title gets in searches and the more times your author name is searched, the higher your book will climb in rankings. This is particularly true of Amazon.com. (They of the impossible algorithms.) Get the word spreading before you have a ranking.

Think about popular products, movies, etc. We know about them before they are available to the public. When people run out to buy the latest techy toy or go see the newest film in theatres it is because they have HEARD ABOUT IT. Through advertising, word of mouth and the determination of those behind the marketing, we are aware of things before they become physical property.

When you have a nearly complete novel, when you are close to having finished cover art and when you can provide a solid intent for a release date, you are in the zone to begin promoting. You may not have a bundle of cash waiting in the wings for you to market with, but that is not a problem. Here are some ideas on how to begin:

Get started on promo at least 30 days in advance of your release date

Maximize your exposure with blogs, author websites or other online platforms. Release small bits of info on the book. Some ideas include, character profiles, beginning and middle stages of cover art, contests for cover art suggestions, asking opinions on book blurbs, excerpts from your novel, interviews about your book(s), joining author groups on Facebook where you can discuss your upcoming release.

Get beta readers involved for your manuscript ahead of time. The feedback they give will be invaluable to you and everyone knows someone else. Popular books became popular because someone, somewhere knew the right people. The more hands you can get your work into, the better.

If you have previous titles, offer a sale on them to hype the release of the new book. They don’t have to be a series for this to work. If you are working with standalone novels, then you can easily hype the author name rather than the connection between books. “If you loved Jane Doe’s last book, then this one will thrill you even more.”

Build your brand during marketing. Using eye-catching materials in your promotion is a good idea. Handing out or offering giveaways of bookmarks or other themed items can help spread the word. This also gives you a chance to include your author website and where your books or future book will be available for sale. Business cards, stickers, or other paper promo items are an inexpensive way to help get the word out. About branding–it is also a good plan to stick with a familiar colour scheme or font type that people will then associate with your work. For a good example of this, visit author Charles E. Yallowitz. His Windemere series have covers and fonts that are unmistakably his. Why do we recognise Coke and Pepsi so easily? Branding. Memorable colours and shapes. You can do it too.

Get some reviewers reading. Reviews may not be able to be posted to the main retail websites until the book has been released, but they can be posted to blogs, goodreads and other platforms before release. You want people talking.

Ask your early readers to post their reviews to your Facebook page, tweet them and blog about them.

GO SIGN UP FOR GOOGLE AUTHORSHIP THIS CANNOT BE STRESSED ENOUGH!

Network on Linked in. Finding other authors and groups to join and discuss your work with offers a variety of opportunities.

Make a page for your main character on FB where fans can interact with him/her.

Some ideas for contests and fan/blogger involvement:

Post photos of you with your books

Ask readers to post photos of them reading your books

Run a photo contest for the best pictures people can come up with of the setting or characters from your book.

Offer to do guest blogs

Offer to host guest blogs

Approach the bigger blogs that offer guest spots

Run polls on your blog about characters

Make donations of your previous books and blog about it. There are plenty of library groups, shelters, homes for the elderly and schools that will be grateful for donations. Don’t forget to take photos.

Sign up for Authorgraph

Sign up for Authonomy

Create a book trailer or find someone who wants to help you create one

This is in no way an exhaustive list of ideas, and there are always plenty of new ones out there, just a few tips and tricks to get you started on moving some copies. Best of luck to you, authors!