Tuesday, February 26, 2013

And the winner is:

Liz Flaherty!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I determined the winner by a very sophisticated method. (Yeah, right.)

I printed out a template of squares. Wrote an eligible name in each square.

Then I pulled out my trusty wooden dolphin. I was given this dolphin by a former water massage teacher. Here she is in the middle of the ocean on my world map mouse pad:

Next I dropped the dolphin onto the template of names:

I must confess I had to drop her 2 or 3 times before she landed clearly on just one square cause she is kind of big for this procedure.

I uncovered the square she was swimming on and voila...

Congratulations Liz. Send your email address to RobenaGrant at aol dot com and she will send you a PDF file of The Blue Dolphin.
Thanks everyone for the great response to Robena's interview. This was fun.
Remember, Unlock the Truth and The Blue Dolphin are out on kindle only right now. They will be out on other media forms in May. And Desert Exposure comes out later this year.
My favorite win off of a blogpost so far was an ARC of Linda Grimes second book, Quick Fix, which isn't out yet.
What was your favorite thing you've won from a blog contest?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Romance Suspense Novel: The Blue Dolphin by Author: Robena Grant

The Blue Dolphin by Robena Grant - Free Book!!!!

Updated to add: Robena has generously offered to give away a free PDF file of The Blue Dolphin to a lucky person who comments on this blogpost!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Robena Grant has written three books in her series, Desert Heat. I talked about the first book, Unlock the Truth, which I highly recommend here. After reading the second book, The Blue Dolphin, which I also highly recommend; I asked Robena if she would let me interview her and she graciously agreed.
Thanks so much for putting me in the spotlight, Judy. It's my pleasure to be a guest on your blog, and I'm thrilled that you enjoyed The Blue Dolphin.
Question 1: As a former massage therapist I loved the idea of the Blue Dolphin therapy and I had to bing it to see if it was real. And it is! So have you had Blue Dolphin therapy?
There was a young spa owner who lived in La Quinta. She started a therapy called Virtual Dolphin Therapy and was actually on several TV talk shows speaking about it. I knew of it because I went to her spa for a monthly massage. While I never actually took the therapy myself, she explained it, gave me a tour of the room and a brochure about it, and gave me permission to use it in my book. Between the time the story was written and then became published, the spa owner met the man of her dreams, sold the business and relocated. Just to be on the safe side I changed the name of my dolphin therapy. : )
Question 2: Your heroine, Debbie Williams, is strong and vulnerable at the same time. Her two weaknesses are her daughter and a light case of asthma that acts up when she is stressed or excited. The asthma made her all the more endearing. What made you decide to give her asthma?
I'm glad you saw Debbie as vulnerable yet capable. She has her weaknesses due to an arrested emotional development, in that she had her daughter at such a young age, felt guilty, and tried to always be the "good girl" afterward. I used asthma to show that she is easily stressed and when her condition is weakened she can easily get asthma or a panic attack. I suffered with mild allergic asthma when I first moved to the U.S. and it was frightening.
Question 3: Your hero, Jack Davis, is a DEA agent who has just lost his partner. Your portrayal of him in the book seems very realistic. He arcs into a much more settled man and less of a loner, also in a very realistic manner. Do you know someone like this or did you create him from nothing?
I created Jack from what I thought it might be like to live a life like he does. To assume an identity and to go undercover, to live life without commitment because he feels it's better not having to be responsible for a loved one, to be a loner and self-sufficient, and yet to have that capacity to love although it's suppressed, and of course that meant for me that I could give him that happiness he deserved.
Question 4: I’ve spent some time in the desert in the southwest and the west and the town of Almagro with all of its quirky characters could be one of many towns I’ve actually visited. Did you model it after a specific town?
I interviewed a deputy at the small La Quinta PD. I found it interesting that the deputies are contracted out of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. My deputy wanted me to make the town La Quinta, but I explained about karma. ; ) In my mind the town is south east of La Quinta where there are many citrus farms, date plantations and other farming and that makes for a nice contrast to the wealthy, golf- loving, second-home owners in the city proper.
Question 5: Janet Evanovich says that when she writes she starts with a crime. Your Desert Heat series definitely has crime. Kate George says that she starts with a character. Your books have great characters. Where do you start? Plot? Character? Or somewhere else?
I really think character is plot. The story grows out of how the ordinary character, when thrown into extraordinary circumstances, deals with the situation. The plot thickens due to the decisions the character makes, and the trouble she gets into from her choices. But I'm also a very visual person and often times it's a location/setting that speaks to me first. Then I pop in a character and what I think might be an interesting journey, do a lot of daydreaming until I know where I want my story to begin and end, and then I start typing. The story always evolves out of character, and often I'm totally surprised.
Robena was born in Australia but now resides in California. She has two adult children, loves reading, travel, working out, and has three vices: dark chocolate, strong coffee, and red wine. And that's why she has to keep her gym membership current. She may be contacted at www.robenagrant.com where she blogs on a slice of life on most Mondays, or at FB, Twitter, and   Google +. 
Unlock the Truth - good. The Blue Dolphin - even better. Imagine how good Desert Exposure is going to be. (Hint - it was nominated for the RWA Golden Heart award in 2012).
Unlock the Truth and The Blue Dolphin are available now until May exclusively through amazon for kindle only. They will come out in other forms in May. Publication date for Desert Exposure is to be announced.
You walk in the room. You keep your clothes on. You lie down in a water massage bed where jets of water send pressure through your body. All around you the walls are screens for a film of dophins and their sounds. You are surrounded by dolphins as you are being massaged.
I love the idea. What about you?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Romance Mystery Novel: Trail of the Spellman's by Author: Lisa Lutz

Love / strong dislike / acceptance

In the past I have had a love / hate relationship with Lisa Lutz as a reader.

I love her because she is dry humor, irreverant, a rebel and she writes like she's filing case reports as a private investigator. If you want a taste of her off kilter humor here is a blogpost I wrote about an April Fool's joke she did in her newsletter that I originally fell for.

I've hated* her because not only does she refuse to give her main character, Izzy Spellman, a happily ever after with Henry Stone; sometimes Izzy goes for whole books with no soft place to land whatsoever. I think both those things are just too harsh.

*Hate is probably too strong a word there.

Don't go building up or foreshadowing a relationship and then refuse to close the deal. Purportedly she does that because not everyone in life gets a happy ending. So fucking what? This is not life. This is fiction.

I've said this a hundred times or more - if I wanted reality I would read non-fiction.

Anywho - she relented and put Izzy with Henry together at the end of Document 4. I knew this from spoilers so I ended my boycott and read the book.

Now Document 5, Trail of the Spellmans, is out and guess what - Henry and Izzy end their relationship. It's like a bad television comedy where they rely on that tired, overused -  on again - off again - bullshit.

For some reason, though, it didn't bother me this time. Izzy seems stronger. And even though it's never the same ally, she always seems to drag up an ally when she needs one.

And it has my favorite thing; a fictional passage that resonates with truth that is useful in everyday life in the real world:

  "The unfortunate tattoo I have on my ass goes against nature," Gerty said. "Modern medicine, electricity, cars, cell phones, four-inch heels, fake tits, Botox, hair color, all go against nature. And there are a lot of natural things that I wouldn't abide. Like an overgrowth of nose hairs or foot fungus. We have an infinite number of choices in front of us. All you can do is make the choice that's right for you. Of course, I wouldn't give this same speech to a serial killer, but I think you get my drift." Gerty from the Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

So simple, yet so true.

Robena Grant expands on that thought in her current blogpost (unknowingly - not a planned thing or even related to Lutz's book that I know of) when she beautifully paraphrases Deepak Chopra:

"To paraphrase: there is a giant river that flows through all reality and once you have found your true self, there is no more cause for action. The river picks you up and moves you forward. All of that busy work, all of that worry, becomes pointless. No one gives you the job of steering the river so all you have to do is relax, enjoy the ride, and appreciate the scenery."

Do you know how hard that is - not to act - or rather not to act TOO MUCH? For me it's very hard. I'm a doer. What about you?

Back to Lisa Lutz - the books are, in order:
Document 1 - The Spellman Files
Document 2 - Curse of the Spellmans
Document 3 - Revenge of the Spellmans
Document 4 - The Spellmans Strike Again
Document 5 - Trail of the Spellmans
Document 6 - The Last Word* (due out July, 2013)
* In typical Lutz fashion this is  not the last Spellman book. She is contracted for 2 more.

Double back to Robena Grant - I talked about her first book, Unlock the Truth, which I highly recommend, here.

Robena has graciously agreed to let me interview her regarding her second book, The Blue Dolphin, which I also highly recommend, here, on Friday!!!

Do you like irreverant humor?

Do you like romantic suspense?

Do you like the questions that are obligatory at the end of blogposts?

Will Alfonso survive the winter now that my mother has moved him away from his beloved La Diabla? Do houseplants whine? If so, is Gladys going to murder Alfonso in a case of houseplant romantic suspense?

For the answer to these questions and more - report here Friday. Same url, same silly author.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Romance mystery novel: Notorious Nineteen by Author: Janet Evanovich

She's baaaaaack...
Janet Evanovich, I mean. Have you read Notorious Nineteen?
I don’t want to rehash a bunch of history. If you want more details go here.
I’ll just recap in a nutshell, so to speak. Books 1 to 4, Stephanie Plum is establishing a relationship with Joe Mirelli. Books 5 and 6 they are in that dysfunctional relationship but Ranger is starting to be interested in Stephanie, too. Book 7 she is broken up with Joe and she sleeps with Ranger once. Books 8-16 she is again in her dysfunctional relationship with Joe.
In those books where she is in a relationship with Joe, there are countless near misses with Ranger, all accompanied by a conversation about why she can’t cross that line into an actual sexual encounter with him because she has this relationship with Joe.
Then suddenly in books 17 & 18 she is having sex with both Joe and Ranger. Which infuriated me. Why? Not because a woman was sleeping with two men. No. Because Evanovich had spent many books creating a world in which it was disrespectful and disloyal to Joe for Stephanie to have sex with Ranger and she suddenly threw her in bed with both of them without any explanation as to why it was suddenly okay.
And I felt betrayed. I felt like she had drastically changed the 3 characters I loved for the worst. Joe was suddenly a pathetic man who was being made a fool of. While Ranger constantly trying to get into Stephanie’s pants even though she was with Joe was funny, him succeeding made him seem cruel. And Stephanie lost her moral compass.
I read 17 and it made me so angry I didn’t buy 18. I picked it up one day in the library and skimmed it. I almost didn’t even acknowledge 19 but something made me put my name on the library hold list.
And I’m glad I did.
Because Evanvich has gone back to her original ‘formula’. Joe and Stephanie are together again and Stephanie is fending off Ranger.
Does this mean I will stop reading them again if Stephanie ends up back with Ranger or both of them? That depends. If Evanovich wants to do that and not betray her readers, she just needs to put in a conversation or two explaining why it’s okay for Stephanie to do that when it wasn’t okay before.
She created this world. She can change it. But she can’t ignore pages and pages of dialogue building a world one way without spending some effort creating dialogue justifying the change.
Anywho – she’s back and Notorious Nineteen is the usual laugh riot.
In other Evanovich news – she’s co-creating a new series with Lee Goldberg who wrote for the television show, Monk. The blurb at the back of Notorious Nineteen says:
“What’s an FBI agent to do after she’s caught the world’s most wanted—and irresistibly charming—con man? Partner up with him…”
Sounds like fun. First book is set to roll out in June of 2013.
In the crazy world of gorgeous Diesel and Lizzy Tucker, Wicked Appetite and Wicked Business are out. I’m not sure what the third Wicked will be or when it will come out.

Are you a Stephanie Plum fan? Do you like the Wicked series so far? Do you have pets named Ranger or Diesel or Mirelli? Come on,  fess up.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Romance novel: This Time Forever by Author: Kathleen Eagle

Who knew?

I just finished ANOTHER truly fabulous book by Kathleen Eagle; This Time Forever.

When I read The Last Good Man, also by Kathleen, I loved it so much, I couldn't stop reading it.

This book is the same. What is it about her books that affect me this way? It's a lot of things.

In both of these books, the characters are wonderful. And, I am always captured by healthy, present, aware, loving interaction between a man and his children or the children he is responsible for.

"Just teaching him how to arm wrestle. He always wants to use his right hand, but if I don't let him use it--see?" He pinned Sam's right arm to his side and let him use his left to grapple with two of Cleve's fingers, which Sam wanted in his mouth. "He works his left side a little more." This Time Forever by Kathleen Eagle

Kathleen writes compelling stories. Sometimes it is easy to see that love is inevitable, as in The Last Good Man where Clay and Savannah had grown up together and been sweethearts before. And sometimes it's not as in This Time Forever when the two who eventually end up a couple, meet in circumstances that don't lend themselves to falling in love.

The twists and turns that Kathleen employs to bring about that love, are unexpected, yet ordinary and completely believable.

The thing about these books is, they break the rules that I have in my head as something I would want to read.

I chose to read The Last Good Man because someone I trusted, I think Lois Greiman, recommended it. This Time Forever is a book I won. They are not books I would have chosen based on reading a synopsis or their back covers. And, yet, as I said, I go back and reread them over and over again because I love them so much.

I think of myself as not wanting to read books that feature diseased characters. Savannah, whom I loved in The Last Good Man, is recovering from breast cancer. Little baby Sam, in This Time Forever, is a special needs child. Yet, these books are hopeful and upbeat but not in a whitewash-the-truth way.

I think of myself as not wanting to read books with people in really bad circumstances. Cleve is in prison for something he didn't do for a major part of This Time Forever. Again, loved it. Again, hopeful and upbeat while not whitewashed.

The hero of both of these books is A COWBOY. A cowboy. I fell in love with 2 cowboy heroes. How did that happen? If I were in a bookstore and I picked up a book and read the words, cowboy hero, I'd have dismissed it out of hand.

Turns out, I would have been wrong.

Turns out, I don't want to read only light, funny, love stories where no one has any real problems. Who knew?

It's possible Kathleen has changed the way I choose a book to read. She's that good.

How do you choose a book to read? Are there things that will automatically attract you to a book or things that will make you instantly put a book back on the shelf at the bookstore?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Y'all - I'm versatile.

Delia, whom I admire greatly for her wit, intelligence and VERSATILITY (I'm sure she's beautiful, too, judging by the pics of her that I've seen), nominated me for The Versatile Blogger award. Aww thanks, Delia!

Now according to award rules, I get the pleasure of nominating other versatile bloggers* for the award.

Here goes:

Wynded Words - I love Sarah Wynde's books and her blog is enjoyable reading also.

Life Echoed Photography - the beautiful blog of my daughter, Ruthie, the photographer.

Welcome to Julieland - the daily, fascinating blog of the good, stitchin, bike-riding, tarot card reading witch, Julie.

Mabel Talk - wise and witty words of London Mabel who actually lives in Canada.

The Simple Dude - the blog of a simple dude, Jon, living in a complex world, who turns his thoughts on life into comedy for all his readers.

Miss Steps and Milestones - talk about versatile - Judie speaks on a wide variety of subjects from her writing life; to her j.o.b.;  to her dogs; to going sailing with her husband; to her unreasonable home owners's association.

Things In the Skye - all about the trials, tribulations, triumphs and joy in the life of Skye.

Aunt Bean's Third Blog - about going back to school, turning fifty, family and pets.

Visiting Reality - Linda Grimes blog. Linda wrote the book In A Fix which caused me to laugh for days. She writes a very funny blog. She posts pics of camels on hump day. Need I say more?

Jessica Lemmon - she wrote a very sweet book, Tempting the Billionaire. Her blog is good reading, too, despite the fact that she seems to have abandoned ThurSTUDday.

Robena Grant - whose book, Unlock the Truth, is excellent reading if you like romantic suspense, which I do, and whose blog sometimes gets hijacked by her cigar-smoking stuffed bear, Humphrey.

The other thing I'm supposed to do is tell Delia - and you - 7 things about myself. Some of these you'll know if you read my blog; some you won't.

1-  I name my houseplants and some of them even have lives. One of them, Alfonso, is a cross-dressing cactus who dons brilliant pink blooms at Thanksgiving. Alfonso is an incorrigible ladie's man who likes to drop little love-babies in the pots of any female who gets close to him. Gladys is an aloe who doesn't appreciate Alfonso and throws his babies out. It's best not to put them too close to each other.

2 - I have 2 cats. One with the unimaginative name of Blackie - because he is black. The other with the name Bernie. Bernie used to live with a cat named Clyde and his name was Bonnie until we discovered Bonnie was not an appropriate name for him.

3 - I'm a night owl which is okay because at my  j.o.b. I work nights.

4 - I have bouts of insomnia.

5- I love the indoor pool at the local wellness center. I've been every day this month so far.

6 - I've recently started taking an actual pool class called Pure Energy and I love it.

7- I make delicious vegetable soup and can generally accomplish it without burning down the kitchen, which is saying something for me since I once set nachos on fire and killed the old stove.

So, again, thank you Delia. I'm honored to have been nominated.

*Nominated bloggers if you want to play - go here for rules and a link to the blog button.

Do you consider yourself to be versatile? If so, how?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Romance suspense novel: Unlock the Truth by author:Robena Grant

Diamond in the rough

That's how I would describe this debut novel by Robena Grant. It's a compelling murder mystery with intense pacing and a sweet love story with just enough sex.

When a determined Dena proposes to be Zeke's PR person for his business that has been hit with press trouble because two bodies have been found buried there, he's resistant:

"He didn’t want to talk about the murders with a woman, any woman, but especially not with one so young and attractive. When exactly had he decided she was attractive? He blew out a gust of air and turned around."

I say it's 'in the rough' because there are passages that could flow smoother but it's a diamond, nonetheless. It had me up all night reading it because I didn't want to stop.

Energetic Dena brings light and love into the life of lonely Zeke as their unfolding love story wraps itself around the dark mystery of who killed Dena's sister, Carli and Zeke's friend, Susie.

“I’m Dena Roman. Zeke’s girlfriend.” She blinked hard as once again her impulsiveness took over. She didn’t care. She stood her ground. “I demand an explanation.”
Stanton glared down at Zeke. “You never said anything about dating anyone—”
“I’m as surprised as you are,” Zeke said, with a flicker of a smile."

The secondary characters are done really well also. I loved the ones I was supposed to love, questioned the ones I was supposed to question, hated the ones I was supposed to hate and went back and forth with the complex ones who did not reveal themselves so easily.

The mystery is solved and the happy couple gets a very believable HEA.

"Irma gasped, gripped her hands together over her heart, and her eyes filled with tears. “Ni┼łos,” she whispered.
Zeke dropped a light kiss on Dena’s lips. “Yes, Irma. Children…and knowing Dena’s enthusiasm for new projects, the Cabrera name stands a good chance to live on, and on—”

This book is the first in her Desert Heat series and I will definitely be going back for book 2, The Blue Dolphin, out now.  The third book, Desert Exposure, due out later this year, is sure to be a good read. It was a finalist for the RWA Golden Heart Award.

I enjoyed this book tremendously.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Romance novel: By Bread Alone by author: Sarah-Kate Lynch

A Taste of Sourdough
Esme and Pog: 

     “Esme laughed and her husband let the sound he loved chase the tension and trauma of a long day’s work and worry out of his bones. She poured him some wine and they clinked glasses, each thinking their separate thoughts but both smiling at the shared triumph of making it through another day.” By Bread Alone by Sarah-Kate Lynch 

The baker’s kiss: 

     “She felt like a fizzy vitamin tablet that had just been added to water. She bubbled. She dissolved. She was desperate for him.” By Bread Alone by Sarah-Kate Lynch 


     “When you were little, you used to believe everything I said,” Esme heard herself say petulantly.
     "Henry got me a book on bees from the library,” her son answered. “I know stuff for myself now.”
     “Yes, well, I’m right about them not having a word for kidnapping,” Esme cried after his small retreating back…” By Bread Alone by Sarah-Kate Lynch 

The garden:

“Esme was summarily regarded as the kinkiest gardener in all of East Anglia. Nothing came out the way she expected it to. Her zucchinis had scandalized Gaga and Jam-jar by all growing in the shape of giant phalluses complete with bullocks that were apparently some sort of fungal parasite. A coachload of Americans had actually stopped to take photos of them and they’d been featured on the local TV news channel.” By Bread Alone by Sarah-Kate Lynch 

The House of Clouds: 

     “She clinched her buttocks, not because she was thinking of her father-in-law, but because her friend Alice, who was addicted to personal trainers, had told her that combined with climbing the stairs ten times a day, it constituted proper exercise.
     By the time she clattered up the last set of steps…she was puffing and wheezing like an old steam engine and wishing he (Rory) was old enough to know CPR so he could practice it on her.
     And her bum hurt. These were the ramifications of living in a house with seventy-eight internal stairs, but every time Esme looked out the window of the top floor in her nutty tower she remembered why it was all worthwhile.” By Bread Alone by Sarah-Kate Lynch 

The donkey and the goat: 

     “For God’s sake, don’t give the poor thing to her,” Henry said over Esme’s shoulder to Jam-jar.
     Esme felt a little catch at the back of her throat which she recognized as hurt. “Don’t be silly Henry,” she said as kindly as she could before turning to Jam-jar. “The goat was really not my fault. Apparently they go blind quite often without anything to do with spades.” By Bread Alone by Sarah-Kate Lynch 

The sourdough:

     “…Those weeks when she had stopped baking he’d been worried, but since her return to sourdough there had definitely been a change, a lift, in her spirits. Without that early-morning ritual, life had been torturous in the House in the Clouds. Without the rhythm of Esme’s breadbaking it had been hard to recognize the place as his own.  Practically every routine they had, from folding the washing to paying the bills to fitting in a quick shag, in the good old days, had been introduced around the various stages in the process, and once Esme abandoned her bread, nothing fell into place anymore.” By Bread Alone by Sarah-Kate Lynch

Granny Mac: 

     “I know everything you do,” said Granny Mac. “It’s just that sometimes I know it sooner. I’m good like that.”
     “You don’t think I’m wicked?”
     “Oh don’t flatter yourself. You’re just a girl in the world, Esme, trying to get through life without killing someone or having a nervous breakdown just like the next person.” By Bread Alone by Sarah-Kate Lynch 


     “You know I’m allergic to the country,” said Alice, standing up to leave as well. “I need dirt and grime and rude people and men with not the right amount of testicles and appalling breath and vulgar tattoos or I just fall apart.” By Bread Alone by Sarah-Kate Lynch 

The happily ever after: 

     “You’re going to bake at the bottom of your house and have people come here and buy the bread?”
     “People come here anyway,” Pog pointed out. “To marvel at Esme’s vegetarian protuberances and offer incontinent animals.” By Bread Alone by Sarah-Kate Lynch
Warning: This book is laden with insidious suggestions that one should bake or, at the very least, eat, sourdough bread. If you fall prey to the suggestions to bake, there is a recipe for starter and for sourdough. If, however, you resist the baking and only want to eat, you're up a creek without a paddle. Who makes real sourdough anymore?