Sunday, June 28, 2015

Books In For Review

Check 'um out!  Here's a sampling of the books that have just arrived for review.  Stop by in a few weeks to read the reviews!




The Wrong Man by Kate White Finn couldn't be tamer in her personal life. While on vacation in the Florida Keys, Kit resolves to do something risky for once. When she literally bumps into a charming stranger at her hotel, she decides to make good on her promise and act on her attraction. But back in New York, when Kit arrives at his luxury apartment ready to pick up where they left off in the Keys, she doesn't recognize the man standing on the other side of the door. Was this a cruel joke or part of something truly sinister? Kit soon realizes that she's been thrown into a treacherous plot, which is both deeper and deadlier than she could have ever imagined. Now the only way to protect herself, her business, and the people she loves is to find out the true identity of the man who has turned her life upside down.  

Drop Dead Punk: A Coleridge Taylor Mystery by Rich Zahradnik Coleridge Taylor is searching for his next scoop on the police beat. The Messenger-Telegram reporter has a lot to choose from on the crime-ridden streets of New York City in 1975. One story outside his beat is grabbing all the front page glory: New York teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, and President Ford just told the city, as the Daily News so aptly puts it, "Drop Dead." Taylor's situation is nearly as desperate. His home is a borrowed dry-docked houseboat, his newspaper may also be on the way out, and his drunk father keeps getting arrested. A source sends Taylor down to Alphabet City, hang-out of the punks who gravitate to the rock club CBGB. There he finds the bloody fallout from a mugging. Two dead bodies: a punk named Johnny Mort and a cop named Robert Dodd. Each looks too messed up to have killed the other. Taylor starts asking around. The punk was a good kid, the peace-loving guardian angel of the neighborhood's stray dogs. What led him to mug a woman at gunpoint? And why is Officer Samantha Callahan being accused of leaving her partner to die, even though she insists the police radio misled her? It's hard enough being a female in the NYPD only five years after women were assigned to patrol. Now the department wants to throw her to the wolves. That's not going to happen, not if Taylor can help it. As he falls for Samantha--a beautiful, dedicated second-generation cop--he realizes he's too close to his story. Officer Callahan is a target, and Taylor's standing between her and some mighty big guns.  

A Lady of Good Family by Jeanne Mackin Raised among wealth and privilege during America’s fabled Gilded Age, a niece of famous novelist Edith Wharton and a friend to literary great Henry James, Beatrix Farrand is expected to marry, and marry well. But as a young woman traveling through Europe with her mother and aunt, she already knows that gardens are her true passion. How this highborn woman with unconventional views escapes the dictates of society to become the most celebrated female landscape designer in the country is the story of her unique determination to create beauty and serenity while remaining true to herself. Beatrix’s journey begins at the age of twenty-three in the Borghese Gardens of Rome, where she meets beguiling Amerigo Massimo, an Italian gentleman of sensitivity and charm—a man unlike any she has known before...  

Beyond Suspicion by Catherine A. Winn Her mom’s remarriage has been hard on fifteen year old Shelby. Roger is strict and treats her like a child. At least they’re letting her go to her first boy-girl party. That is until she gets home from school and finds that Roger has changed his mind—he wants Shelby to babysit her year-old brother Josh. It’s so unfair! Fuming, Shelby takes Josh in his stroller to the park. After all, it’s not his fault. Someone sets off fireworks, distracting Shelby. When she turns around—Josh is gone. Shelby tells the police she’s seen a white van cruising the neighborhood lately, and she thinks she saw it at the park as well. But to her horror, the police are not interested: Pointing to angry texts to her girlfriends about getting back at Roger, they accuse her of causing Josh’s disappearance! The police focus on the woods around the park, driving Shelby wild with fear and anger that the kidnappers will get away. With TV reporters all over the front yard, Shelby sneaks out the back to find her brother, any way she can. So begins Shelby’s race against time—and against a world that has turned on her. And yet she finds help along the way. There’s mysterious Matt, who says he wants to help, but doesn’t seem to want anyone to know it. And there’s Jess, who watches out for Shelby as, against the odds, she tracks down the kidnappers down just as they are leaving town.  

The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet. For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the ironfisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets. As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive.  

Weightless by Sarah Bannan When Carolyn Lessing moves from New Jersey to Alabama with her mother, she rattles the status quo of the juniors at Adams High. Gorgeous, stylish, a great student and gifted athlete without a mean girl bone in her body Carolyn is gobbled up right away by the school's cliques. She even begins dating a senior, Shane, whose on again/off again girlfriend Brooke becomes Carolyn's bitter romantic rival. When a make-out video of Carolyn and Shane makes the rounds, Carolyn goes from golden girl to slut in an instant, with Brooke and her best friend responsible for the campaign. Carolyn is hounded and focused on, and becomes more and more private. Questions about her family and her habits torture her. But a violent confrontation with Shane and Brooke in the student parking lot is the last attack Carolyn can take.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Hashtagging Your Way To Social Media Relevance

Those Seemingly Inconsequential Hashtags Are
Crucial To Gaining More Exposure For Your Brand

By Jay York
 
Not so many years ago, many people probably paid little attention to that pound sign on the computer keyboard. You know, the one that looks like this: #.
Then along came Twitter and what we have come to call the “hashtag,” and social media marketing was changed forever.

Yet not everyone takes advantage of hashtags the way they should, and that’s unfortunate because if you are not using hashtags you are missing out on exposure for you and your brand.
When you are on social media sites such as Twitter or Instagram, your goal should be to become part of the conversation. The hashtag allows more people to find your contributions to that conversation. Without them, you miss out on lots of eyes that could be viewing your content.
For example, let’s say 1,000 people follow you on Twitter. Not counting re-tweets, only 1,000 people will see your posts if you don’t use a hashtag.
Add the hashtag, though, and you start picking up momentum because the post has the potential of being seen by, and re-tweeted by, any number of people.  A common hashtag, such as #love, can position your post to be seen by potentially millions of people.
But be warned.  While there are great benefits to hashtags, there also are pitfalls. Hashtags don’t come with exclusivity. Anyone can use them, so a hashtag can become a weapon that works both for you and against you. Critics of your brand, or just the usual assortment of Internet trolls, may attempt to hijack your hashtag, putting you or your business in a bad light.
A prime example of a hijacked hashtag happened a few years ago when McDonald’s, apparently hoping for a flattering conversation about the restaurant chain, introduced #McDStories on Twitter.
#McDStories went viral, but not in a good way as the Twitter world had a field day tweeting unflattering tales of their alleged bad experiences with the restaurant.
Don’t let such cautionary tales deter you, though. March boldly into hashtagging, but as you do keep in mind these suggestions for getting the most out of your efforts.
•  Use proprietary hashtags. One of the advantages to a proprietary hashtag, such as “Orange is the New Black’s” hashtag #OITNB, is that it is linked directly to your brand. These hashtags typically are not used as widely as a more generic hashtag, but the goal is to brand yourself through the hashtag with the hope it could go viral.
•  Don’t overdo it. A post littered with too many hashtags can be difficult to read, so your message might become obscured as your followers see what appears to be gibberish. Perhaps you saw the skit Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon once performed in which they spoofed the device’s overuse by lacing their spoken conversation with seemingly endless hashtags. It was hilarious and annoying all at the same time.
Twitter itself suggests using no more than two hashtags per Tweet. Certainly, three should be the very maximum on Twitter. A different etiquette exists on Instagram, though, and most Instagram followers will tolerate excess hashtags. Meanwhile, although hashtags can be used on Facebook, there’s little reason to include even one. That’s not the way people use that social media site.
•  Think geographically. If you are a local company that depends mainly on local clientele, a hashtag that links to your location works well. Hashtags such as #Seattle or #Bangor drop you into numerous conversations about your hometown.
Since social media has become such a vital element of any comprehensive marketing strategy, understanding all of the nuances is critical.
A hashtag may not look like much, but it’s really a powerful tool that is a double-edged sword.  If used correctly it can greatly bolster your marketing reach.  Used incorrectly, it can have adverse effects or unintended consequences.
With social media, your hashtag is your brand, so use it wisely.

About Jay York
Jay York, senior digital marketing strategist for EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), is an internet marketing expert with extensive experience in social media marketing dating back to the early days of MySpace and LiveJournal. Since graduating from the University of South Florida Business School, Jay has worked as marketing coordinator for an international IT training company; business development and branding manager for a startup restaurant management group; and CEO of his own social media management firm.

Book Review - InterstellarNet: Enigma


InterstellarNet: Enigma

By: Edward M. Lerner
Publisher: FoxAcre Press
Publication Date: June 2015
ISBN: 978-1-936771-64-6
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: June 2015

Being a historian was much more than a career for Joshua Matthews as he was fascinated by the facts of the past and how moments through time have been linked together. His latest theory was that the InterstellarNet, a community of worlds in the solar system, have had similar historic occurrences around the same time even before these worlds were able to communicate with each other. Finally, he is given the chance to write down the history of InterstellarNet and have it published. However, before he has the chance to get started he disappears for a full month with no recollection of where he was or who he was with. One day he is just dropped off by a driver in a taxi cab feeling as if he was hungover from the night before, but that night was nearly thirty days ago.

Suddenly completely disgraced, Joshua is unemployed and loses the chance to publish the history of InterstellarNet. Not wanting to give up on his idea so easily Joshua continues to wonder exactly what happened to him as there was no security camera footage of him anywhere, no phone calls, and no memories. How could someone completely disappear off the grid for a full month? It comes to his attention that someone could have planned this, that someone did not want him to write the history of InterstellarNet so before he even got started they made sure it could never begin. As Joshua starts investigating he gets into a conflict that reaches across the entire solar system.

Reporter Corinne Elman survived the Hunter Invasion and that has been her ticket to fame for the past twenty years as they are still doing stories on it. However, the nightmares of that time still haunt her and even though it has brought her fame she is ready to find a real story again that she can dive into. When Joshua Matthews shows up and seems to have had a month long drunken party, Corinne decides this is her chance to become a reporter again and get to the bottom of what really happened to Joshua. She never dreamed it would take her as far as it does.

As I've mentioned in other reviews, science fiction is one of my favorite genres to read so when I saw this particular one it looked like it would be right up my alley. There were many elements of this book that I enjoyed as the incredible futuristic setting of the solar system was immensely fun to imagine as were all of the different worlds within it. Also, whenever the plot is so interwoven and each new chapter brings to life new pieces of the puzzle, that definitely makes a book a fun read and this one did do that. The one thing I did not enjoy was that I sometimes found myself reading over the same few lines to understand what I was reading. The writing was at times just so detailed and technical that it took me a little while to compute exactly what I was reading.

Quill says: An intriguing science fiction novel that creates an unforgettable view of what the future could be.





Book Review - Resorting to Murder


Resorting to Murder: Holiday Mysteries, A British Library Crime Classic

Edited by: Martin Edwards
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publishing Date: June 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0375-6
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: June 26, 2015

There are fourteen stories in this collection, gathered by the British Library Crime Classics and Spy Classics series. The holiday mysteries in the title refer to all types of holidays, not just the big ones (Christmas, New Year’s, etc). The entries are all Classic British writers including such amazing authors as Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton, Helen Simpson, and Patricia Highsmith.

As always, the holidays let us all get away from it all and so does a really good detective novel. This collection is full of vintage mysteries that combine sitting on the beach with a good book, especially a murder book. The reader is able to go to the golf course in England and on to a small hotel in Paris and then on to the Swiss Alps and the White Cliffs of Dover. The authors are right on the mark, and the stories are varied and even include the victims and suspects on a summer holiday.

Each of these stories is a real gem as the readers will find out in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot which brings us to a case where Doyle tells the readers how it was solved by Mr. Sherlock Holmes. It’s a really terrific story. A few stories by Dame Agatha Christie are mentioned in the book along with the fact that she loved holiday mysteries. Unfortunately, those stories are not included in this collection. Regardless, it's still a great selection of stories. Finally, the editor, Martin Edwards, has written a very interesting introduction to the book and told a little about each story before beginning the narrative.

Quill says: Resorting to Murder is a perfect holiday book or, for that matter, a perfect read for any time of the year.




Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book Review - Finder's Keepers


Finder’s Keepers

By: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: June 2015
ISBN: 978-1501100079
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 25, 2015

What happens when you have a crazed fan, a stack of unread manuscripts from said fan’s favorite author, and an unlucky teen who happens to get in the way? In the hands of author Stephen King, you get an intense, nail-biting thriller that will take over every crevice of your mind.

Author John Rothstein is an elderly man who, after writing the famed Jimmy Gold trilogy, retired to New Hampshire where he lives as a recluse. Rumors abound about additional Jimmy Gold books. Rothstein’s number one fan, Morris Bellamy, will do anything to get those manuscripts including killing Rothstein. The story opens with Rothstein’s death at the hands of Bellamy but before Bellamy can read his bounty, he is arrested for another crime and sentenced to life in prison.

Before his arrest, Bellamy managed to bury his treasure in an old trunk and as he rots in prison, the only thing that keeps him going is the thought of one day getting out and reading more Jimmy Gold books. Unknown to Bellamy, a young teen, Pete Saubers, who has the misfortune of living in Bellamy’s old house, stumbles upon the trunk and, together with a stash of cash that was also stolen, finds the manuscripts. Like Bellamy, Saubers is a big John Rothstein fan and devours the unpublished stories of Jimmy Gold, careful to hide the manuscripts from everybody, lest he be accused of stealing them. At the same time, he slowly and anonymously dishes out the cash to his parents. Of course, the reader of Finder’s Keepers knows that Bellamy will get out of jail one day and that he will go after Saubers. And that’s where the story really explodes.

I’ve been a long time fan of King’s, dating back to the Cujo and Pet Semetary days. The last few books of his that I have read, however, haven’t kept my interest like those previous books. I’m happy to report that Finder’s Keepers grabbed me on the very first page and while I finished the book last night, it still hasn’t let go. King slowly, methodically, builds the tension from the time of Rothstein’s murder in 1978 to present day where Bellamy and Saubers will meet.

Finder’s Keepers is the sequel to Mr. Mercedes, but you needn’t read the first to dive right into this newest offering. There are numerous references to the first book, and some chilling scenes between the villain from that first book and Hodges, a detective out to save Pete Saubers, that nicely sets things up for a third book, but again, King guides the new reader through those characters/events so there’ll be no problems following along.

Quill says: Finder’s Keepers is Stephen King at his absolute best. I loved it!






Book Review - It's You


It’s You

By: Jane Porter
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: June 2015
ISBN: 978-0-425-27715-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 2015

Jane Porter treats her audience to a good read in her latest novel, It’s You.

Alison (Ali) McAdams is the ‘it girl’ in It’s You (no pun intended). She is a successful dentist. She loves her work. She is bright, easy on the eyes...lives in glorious Scottsdale, Arizona. When the sudden derailment of her happily ever after rocks her world, however, ‘it’ is soon replaced with ‘lost.’ How could she know when she went out to pick up ice cream that her return home would be a greeting of her fiancĂ© Andrew swinging from the chandelier—the end result of his successful suicide mission.

Compound the death of Andrew with the recent passing of her mother and Ali is grateful her Dad is still alive; albeit their relationship isn’t the greatest. He lives in Napa in an assisted living facility. When Ali is summoned to California by her father for a visit, it was perfect planetary alignment. Call it coincidence, but it seems Ali’s business partner insists (mandates) she take a break around the same time. Once in Napa, Ali begins to understand the full depths of her sorrow and fears she doesn’t have the strength of facing her future without Andrew by her side. Unbeknownst to Ali, brusque and cantankerous Edie is about to enter her life and with her, she brings the prospect of hope and healing for Ali.

I’ve not had the pleasure of reading any of Ms. Porter’s previous work. However, I will say It’s You is a great introduction. Porter has a strong familiarity and connection with her first person narrative style and it resonates across the pages. Her main character, Alison (Ali) McAdams, is believable in that her story is relatable: true love found, true love lost and all that is left is the painful clean-up of emotional wreckage. After reading It’s You, I wanted to know more about Ms. Porter. As I often do with many authors I review, I want to learn more about the author to understand what inspires them to write what they write. I happened upon a nugget of a YouTube interview. Ms. Porter was posed with the question of (and I’m paraphrasing, here) ‘...what’s your winning formula...’ to which she answered to near perfection by explaining the reality that not everyone is going to like your work. There are naysayers as much as there are undying fans. The object is to know the audience YOU are writing for; stay true to your audience and go for it. Having such clear vision enables the writer to sit down and focus solely on the solid construction of a good story. I’d venture to guess this was how It’s You was born - a definite ‘must include in the beach bag’ summer read! I look forward to reading some of the author's earlier titles (and certainly her next novel). Congratulations Ms. Porter! Well done.

Quill says: This is a story with depth in that it has great pace and solid plot - the perfect formula for a good read!





Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book Review - The Art of Baking Blind


The Art of Baking Blind

By: Sarah Vaughan
Publisher: The Poisoned Pencil
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1-250-05940-6
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 24, 2015

Sarah Vaughan conjures up a yummy read in her debut novel, The Art of Baking Blind.

Eaden’s Grocery Chain is in search of the ‘New Mrs. Eaden.’ What better way to discover the best of the best than to hold a baking competition? The place is Chelsea, England and Kathleen Eaden, baker extraordinaire and wife of millionaire/owner George Eaden is the inspiration. Her portrait is the anchor image on display in every Eaden’s grocery marketplace. Fifty years after its doors opened, the grocer is in search of the New Mrs. Eaden; a coveted role to carry the chain’s reputation forward and breathe new life into its existence.

The choices are made and the competitors are in place. There is Karen: the epitome of physical envy with her lean and lithe physique. How is it possible that someone with enviable baking skills is able to maintain what appears to be a less than zero body fat count? Mike, the only male in the competition, may be the dark horse. Of course homemaker Jennifer (‘Jenny’) is one to watch. Her outward appearance is a threat in and of itself with her grandmotherly curves and sweet disposition—obvious credentials for the quintessential baker. Chloe has her own reasons for seeking the coveted titled—barely out of her teens she is a single mom and would do anything to secure the purse and the promise of finding a way to support her young daughter. Vicki is a perfectionist. She loves her adoring son and husband, but now is her time to prove to her mother she can succeed. Perhaps with this win, her mother will finally acknowledge her accomplishment. It’s time for the group to don their stations and fill their mixing bowls...let the competition begin and may the one who is worthy be the one who is victorious...

Sarah Vaughan establishes a velvety and smooth cadence from the onset of The Art of Baking Blind. In many respects, I found myself wondering if she too is a baker given the gradual and consistent procession of folding plot into the mix as the story progressed—i.e., a pinch of drama, followed by a balance of prose. The overarching theme of the story is the cooking competition and Ms. Vaughan cleverly breaks down the sections into select categories of baked goods: i.e., beginning with Cakes, once the concept is mastered and the contestants have presented their respective masterpieces, it is time to move onto the next section: Bread. Throughout the read, there is the back story of the famed “Kathleen Eaden” that delves into her life story and struggles not only to attain motherhood, but the demands of being the ‘perfet’ Mrs. Eaden. Ms. Vaughan stays true to her subject matter and demonstrates a solid knowledge of the ‘art of baking’ that creates strong credibility for the characters she has created. With summer upon us, this is a great read to take along on vacation. Well done Ms. Vaughan. I look forward to your next book.

Quill says: The Art of Baking Blind is a scrumptious read that will pair well with a shoreline, toes in the sand and just enough breeze to turn the pages!