The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

When Truly Plaice's mother was pregnant, the town of Aberdeen joined together in betting how recordbreakingly huge the baby boy would ultimately be. The girl who proved to be Truly paid the price of her enormity; her father blamed her for her mother's death in childbirth, and was totally ill equipped to raise either this giant child or her polar opposite sister Serena Jane, the epitome of femine perfection. When he, too, relinquished his increasingly tenuous grip on life, Truly and Serena Jane are separated--Serena Jane to live a life of privilege as the future May Queen and Truly to live on the outskirts of town on the farm of the town sadsack, the subject of constant abuse and humiliation at the hands of her peers.

Serena Jane's beauty proves to be her greatest blessing and her biggest curse, for it makes her the obsession of classmate Bob Bob Morgan, the youngest in a line of Robert Morgans who have been doctors in Aberdeen for generations. Though they have long been the pillars of the community, the earliest Robert Morgan married the town witch, Tabitha Dyerson, and the location of her fabled shadow book--containing mysterious secrets for healing and darker powers--has been the subject of town gossip ever since. Bob Bob Morgan, one of Truly's biggest tormentors, does the unthinkable to claim the prize of Serena Jane, and changes the destiny of all Aberdeen from there on.

When Serena Jane flees town and a loveless marriage to Bob Bob, it is Truly who must become the woman of a house that she did not choose and mother to her eight-year-old nephew Bobbie. Truly's brother-in-law is relentless and brutal; he criticizes her physique and the limitations of her health as a result, and degrades her more than any one human could bear. It is only when Truly finds her calling--the ability to heal illness with herbs and naturopathic techniques--hidden within the folds of Robert Morgan's family quilt, that she begins to regain control over her life and herself. Unearthed family secrets, however, will lead to the kind of betrayal that eventually break the Morgan family apart forever, but Truly's reckoning with her own demons allows for both an uprooting of Aberdeen County, and the possibility of love in unexpected places.

After reading the back of this book, I really wasn't sure what to expect when reading it. This book centers around Truly Plaice. When Truly's mother is pregnant, the whole town places bets as to how big the boy is going to be, and the guesses are high due to the enormous size of her belly. When Dr. Robert Morgan examines her, he notices a lump in her breast, a lump she keeps secret, even though it will kill her. When her water breaks and contractions start, Dr. Robert Morgan tries to help her through the delivery to the best of his ability, but the size of the baby proves to be too much. When he asks her what name she has chosen the last word she utters is Truly. Thus is the beginning of Truly's existence.

Truly is destined to be miserable. Her sister Serena Jane is beautiful by anyone's standards, and not only is Truly homely, she is enormous besides. Her father blames her and the doctor for the untimely death of his wife (even though she would have passed from cancer shortly after her birth) and refuses to seek medical attention for his daughter, even though it is obvious there is something wrong with her.

After the death of their father, the girls are separated. Serena Jane, who is treated as a princess by most of the town, but especially by Amanda Pickerston, is welcomed with open arms into their home. But there is no way they are going to take in something as homely and huge as Truly. Instead, truly is sent to the Dyerson farm, a home of outcasts where she is bound to fit in.

The girls continue to meet weekly, but grow apart even more...not that they were ever really close. They both fall into a pattern with their new families. And Truly continues to grow.

She does have a friend in Amelia, the daughter of the Dyerson's, who becomes like a sister to her. She also catches the eye of Marcus, even if he is the smallest boy in the class, he is full of knowledge and love for Truly, something that get exploited by Bob Bob Morgan, the son of Doctor Morgan, and a boy destined to be the next town Doctor, a tradition that goes all the way back to his great-great-great-grandfather, and his wife Tabitha, who it was rumored was a witch. Bob Bob also has his eyes on Serena, and one night he finally gets her where he wants her, a union that prompts a swift marriage due to her unexpected pregnancy.

Serena and Bob Bob move away and Truly doesn't hear from them for quite some time, with only the occasional letter and picture of her nephew Bobbie. So, when they move back to town she is hopeful that things will change. They don't. That is until Bob Bob (who is now called Robert) comes to tell her that her sister has left and wants her to help him raise Bobbie.

This is the beginning of a fascinating relationship, and a story full of love and incredible deceit. I found the story to be excellent, and truly loved the way the author described the characters. I went through a full range of emotions while reading this, and although it had a happy ending, it was really bittersweet when you realize everything that led to it. Highly recommended!

Tiffany Baker lives in Tiburon, California with her husband and three children. This is her first novel.

Thanks so much to Miriam Parker, of The Hachette Book Group for sending me this ARC to review!

The 2009 ARC Reading Challenge

This sounded like a great challenge to me and I am going to follow Teddy's version of ARC - anything sent to me by a publisher or author-as an ARC. I do know that this isn't truly what an ARC is, but this will help me keep track of the books I receive.
Here are the rules:
1. To sign up, leave a comment and a direct link to your blog post about this challenge that includes your list from rule #2.

2. List all of the ARC's that you have to read right now. Then throughout the year, you must continue updating that list as you receive more ARC's. (This is important). You should also strike out the ones that you finish.

3. a. All of us who have or will have more than 12 ARC's must read and review 12.

b. All of us who have or will have less than 12 ARC's must read all of the ARC's we have. Note, that if you have 11 ARC's and then receive a 12th one you will be bumped up to catagory a.

4. You don't have to make a list of which ARC's you plan to read, but you can if you want.

5. Crossovers with other challenges are allowed and Audio-books are allowed as long as they are ARC's.

6. Read the books and review them on your blog. If you don't have a blog, you can post your review on sites like Powells, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. Leave a comment on this post with a link to each of your reviews.

7. Please subscribe to my blog, as I will be posting updates to the challenge periodically.
To sign up click here.
Here is my current list:
1. An Offer You Can't Refuse by Jill Mansell
2. Sucks to be Me by Kimberly Pauley
3. Ruby River by Lynn Pruett
4. Modern Magic by Anne Cordwainer
6. Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst
7. Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand by Carrie Vaughn
8. Be Strong and Curvaceous by Shelley Adina
9. Drood by Dan Simmons
10. Rock Bottom by Michael Shilling
12. Houston, We Have a Problema by Gwendolyn Zepeda
13. Love and Other Natural Disasters by Holly Shumas - finished 01/02/09
14. Above the Law by Tim Green
15. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
16. Cross Country by James Patterson (audio)
17. Call Me Ted by Ted Turner (audio)
18. Along Stone's Throw by Alphie McCourt (audio)
19. No Experts Needed by Louise Lewis
20. Katie and Kimble by Linda Thieman
21. Blood Harvest by Brant Randall
22. Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell
23. Kissing Games of the World by Sandi Kahn Shelton

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Wicked Game by Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush

About the book:

ONE BY ONE, THEY’LL DIE…Twenty years ago, wild child Jessie Brentwood vanished from St. Elizabeth’s high school. Most in Jessie’s tight circle of friends believed she simply ran away. Few suspected that Jessie was hiding a shocking secret—one that brought her into the crosshairs of a vicious killer…

UNTIL THERE’S NO ONE LEFT…Two decades pass before a body is unearthed on school grounds and Jessie’s old friends reunite to talk. Most are sure that the body is Jessie’s, that the mystery of what happened to her has finally been solved. But soon, Jessie’s friends each begin to die in horrible, freak accidents that defy explanation…

BUT HER…Becca Sutcliff has been haunted for years by unsettling visions of Jessie, certain her friend met with a grisly end. Now the latest deaths have her rattled. Becca can sense that an evil force is shadowing her too, waiting for just the right moment to strike. She feels like she’s going crazy. Is it all a coincidence—or has Jessie’s killer finally returned to finish what was started all those years ago?

My Review:

20 years have passed since the disappearance of Jezebel “Jessie” Brentwood, but the case is back in the news after bones are discovered at St. Elizabeth’s school. Detective Sam NcNally is hoping that he will finally get the break he deserves, and prove to all of the skeptics that she was murdered all those years ago.

Becca Sutcliff is shocked when she receives a phone call from her ex-boyfriend and true love Hudson Walker. The group of friends that hung out with each other at the time of Jessie’s disappearance is meeting to compare stories. The common belief is that the remains will be identified as Jessie, but they want to make sure that their stories haven’t changed. There seems to be a dark cloud hovering among the members of the group, and when tragedy starts to strike, Becca feels it’s only a matter of time before she’s next.

This paranormal romantic suspense thriller was well thought out and it was impossible for me to tell that it was written by two sisters. I have a feeling I know where the added romance came in, as this isn’t common in most of Lisa’s books. I felt it added nicely to the storyline, and made it appealing to a more diverse crowd.

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Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

About the book:

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Brilliant and entertaining, OUTLIERS is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.

My Review:

I received this book audiobook from Anna Balasi with Hachette Book Group. This is the first audiobook that I had listened to in a very long time, and boy was I glad that I started with this one. To be honest, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect when I started listening to it.

I found this book to be fascinating! Although some of the things he talks about may seem like common knowledge, for instance the fact that if you look at some of the best in their field and corelate that with the amount of time they spent to get there, you will see something very similar. The best musicians, The Beatles included, owe their success to the amount of time they spent practicing. While this may seem like a "duh" moment, the way the author brings these facts to light is new and innovative. It really makes you think.

There are many aspects of this book that I enjoyed, but quite possibly my favorite was the section on the hockey players and birth order. It actually had me looking on the internet to check birthdates of the "best" hockey players that ever played the game (by the way, Wayne Gretzky was born on January 26).

Truly a thought provoking book and one I would highly recommend!

About the author:

Malcolm Gladwell is a staff writer for The New Yorker. He was formerly a business and science reporter at the Washington Post.

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2009 Pub Challenge

Well, here we go, another challenge. This one is right up my alley as well. Here are the details:

Here are the 2009 rules:
Read a minimum of 9 books first published in 2009. You don’t have to buy these. Library books, unabridged audios, or ARCs are all acceptable. To qualify as being first published in 2009, it must be the first time that the book is published in your own country. For example, if a book was published in Australia, England, or Canada in 2008, and then published in the USA in 2009, it counts (if you live in the USA). Newly published trade paperbacks and mass market paperbacks do not count if there has been a hardcover/trade published before 2009.
No children’s/YA titles allowed, since we’re at the ‘pub.’
At least 5 titles must be fiction.
Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.
You can add your titles as you go, and they may be changed at any time.
Sign up at
Have fun reading your 2009 books

Not sure what my 9 will be yet, but will update as soon as I do:)
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2009 TBR Challenge

Well, here I go with my challenges. I have them all picked out (of the current ones) least I think I do. The first one I joined was the 2009 TBR Challenge. This one sounded like a lot of fun, and seeing how my to be read pile seems to never stop growing I thought it was appropriate to pick this one to start.

If you are interested, here are the rules:

* the challenge is to read 12 TBR books in 12 months -- you can read those all in one month if you want, or one a month, or however you wanna do it.
* you need to have a list posted somewhere for others to see (even if it's in a comment here)
* you CANNOT change your list after January 1st, 2009!!!* you can create an Alternates list of MAXIMUM 12 books, if you want, in order to have options to choose from (you can read these in place of books on your original list).
* audiobooks and e-books ARE allowed
* re-reads are NOT allowed, as they aren't TRUE "TBRs"* you CAN overlap with other challenges
* OPTIONAL: you can join the Yahoo! Group created for participants of the TBR Challenge, if you want to have a place to keep your list, or just to share with others about how you're doing! :)

Ok so here's my list and my alternate list:

1. A Book Thief by Markus Zusak
2. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
3. 19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult
4. A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey
5. Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley
6. True Evil by Greg Iles
7. Hide by Lisa Gardner
8. All the Numbers by Judy Merrill Larsen
9. I Am Legend by Richard Mattheson
10. Eat, Drink, and Be From Mississippi by Nanci Kincaid
11. Roads to Quoz by William Least Heat-Moon
12. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire


1. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
2. Duma Key by Stephen King
3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer
4. House of Leaves by Mark Danielwski
5. Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
6. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
8. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
9. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
10. The Little Friend by Donna Tart
11. Gap Creek by Robert Morgan
12. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
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Drama and Diplomacy in Sultry Puerto Vallarta by Jenny McGill

Jenny McGill grew up in the Deep South in Mississippi. After schooling she moved to Dallas where she met her husband, Howard. Their love of Mexico brought them to an early semi-retirement in 1973 in Puerto Vallarta.

About the author:

Jenny and Howard, moved to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in 1973. She was appointed consular agent by the U.S. State Department in 1982 and spent fourteen years in that position.

Upon retirement, the McGills sought out the tranquility of the western Sierra Madres in the small village of Talpa de Allende, Jalisco. There she devotes her time to writing, promoting local artists and gardening. She says, "My love of robin-egg blue skies, breath taking sunsets that only God could paint, and music, which falls softly on my ear, is reason enough to be in Mexico."

You can visit her website at

About the book:

The non-fiction account begins in 1954 when an eager to see the world young woman looks for a path to explore.The first chapter, MEXICAN LOVERS, deals with meeting her husband and their retirement at an early age to a fast social life in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.She was removed from the fast lane with her appointment as consular agent by the U. S. Department of State, and placed into an even faster lane.

The majority of the book is compiled of vignettes of what the Foreign Affairs Manuals of the Department of State likes to call the 4 D’s: Death, Detentions, Destitutes, and Disappearances.The author has added a few D’s of her own: Dope, Dames on my Path, Dirty Old Men, to name a few. Primitive medicine, native superstitions, and sloppy bureaucracy mix and mingle within these pages, while visiting dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth, ambassadors, secretaries, governors and movie stars rub elbows. Although the American flag is given the highest respect, diplomacy takes on a new meaning as the author slips and slides through the darker side of consular work on foreign soil.


DRAMA & DIPLOMACY VIRTUAL BLOG TOUR '08 will officially begin on December 1 and end on December 23. You can visit Jenny's blog stops at a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available.

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When Life Stinks, It's Time to Wash the Gym Clothes by Kelly Epperson

Join Kelly Epperson, author of the humor book, When Life Stinks, It's Time to Wash the Gym Clothes (RWG Press, Apr. '08), as she virtually tours the blogosphere in December on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion.

About the Author:

Kelly Epperson has been dubbed “Everywoman” and “Rare woman” in the same breath. Kelly’s style is uniquely her own, yet she can relate to all of us. Her weekly columns of life, real everyday life as well as travels through Europe, bring a warmth and a wit that we all long for.

Leaving her job at the IRS ten years ago (it was “sucking the life out of her”), she then embarked on a new career, and served as resident court jester, at a local nonprofit agency that taught English and reading to adults.

Kelly’s motto and quote that hangs over her desk is “To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?!” After a year in France, Kelly returned to the states and launched a fulltime career of writer, ghostwriter, and speaker. Every day, she does the happy dance in her kitchen.

To maintain connection and spread a little joy with friends, family, and readers, Kelly recently started a weekly “happy mail” – When Life Stinks, Find Your Joy. To check it out, send Kelly an email to

Kelly lives in Loves Park, IL (city with a heart) with The Man of the Place, her two teenage sons, who are brilliant and witty of course, and a sweet dog Starburst who sheds like crazy. FYI-Kelly hates dog hair, hence, the essay, “It’s Not Easy Being Cruella DeVil.”

For more info, please visit

My Review:

This was exactly my kind of book - a light hearted, easy read. I flew through this book and was able to relate to many of the tales she told. If I was forced to pick a favorite it would most certainly be "When In France..." (September, 2005). It cracked me up to read that her kids were willing to try foie gras du canard (something that I wouldn't even d0) and then labeled it "duck spam".

What I really enjoyed is the fact that I felt like I was sitting down chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee. Each piece had a reference point which I could relate to, and this really is a great way to draw your readers in and make them feel like they are part of the story.

Very well done!

About the Book:

Kelly Epperson, former IRS agent turned English as Second Language teacher turned writer and speaker, unabashedly tells it like it is, heartwarming and hilarious. From tales of life in France to going blonde to buttwear, you'll bust out laughing, you'll get a little misty, and you’ll be sad when this little book comes to an end.

When Life Stinks, It’s Time to Wash the Gym Clothes is a collection of her newspaper columns and no topic is taboo. From the “Job Hazards of Parenting” to “Mysteries of IQ Testing Revealed” to “The Scary, Hairy French Doctor,” you’ll share a hearty laugh as Kelly’s conversational style makes you feel you are a part of the happenings. She also grabs your heart with poignant tales of walking the D-day landing beaches, Grandma O, and her reflections as the days in France come to a close.

Kelly’s fans call her writing “witty, pithy, and real.” A freelance columnist since 2001, Kelly viewed her writing gig as a soul-fulfilling side job. The year in France was a break from reality that propelled her into a new career, that of fulltime writer, ghostwriter and speaker.

In an interview, Kelly states, “Ghostwriting – writing for others under their name – is a fascinating job, and I’ve written for New York Times best selling authors. But to have a book in my own name with no confidentiality clauses is a joy.” Kelly, always the dreamer, may see her name on the New York Times list someday.

Loyal readers are already screaming for more. “Words can’t describe how great your writing makes others feel.” Kelly’s essays are called charming and delightful, and her favorite, “a hoot.”

Some people devour her debut book in one sitting and others savor an essay a day. When Life Stinks, It’s Time to Wash the Gym Clothes reads like a letter to a friend because that is how Kelly sees her readers. In fact, she is now organizing a trip to Ireland with her readers!

Beautiful, inspiring, funny, When Life Stinks defies categories. Certainly women feel a kindred soul, but men too are captivated by Kelly’s writing. All ages too find a warmth and a wit that they can relate to; if ever there was a perfect gift for anyone at any time of year, it is When Life Stinks, It’s Time to Wash the Gym Clothes.


The Message Is: “Look At My Butt”They’re everywhere. I thought it was a passing fad, but this fashion statement is sticking around. Teenage girls wear sweat pants with words emblazoned across the rear end. No matter the word, “Cute,” “UCLA,” or “Pinch Me,” the real message is “look at my butt.”

I shake my head with envy. Do it while you can, girls.

My fashion consultants, my boys, tell me I could wear sweats like that. “BIG” or “WIDE LOAD” tickle their fancy. They think “Danger: Hazardous Gas” would be hilarious. I think “Made You Look” would be clever.

As women age, more words fit on the gluteus maximus. The classic, “Does this make my butt look fat?” could be popular. Depending upon my mood, I’d wear “Yeah, baby, I still got it,” or “Thanks! No one has checked out my butt since 8th grade.”

Mother-daughter sweats could become a trend. Daughter butt: CHEER. Mom butt: “Would you believe this butt used to fit into a cheerleader skirt?” Mess with minds by stating “Objects in sweat pants are smaller than they appear.” Just for fun, print in vertical letters: Cheek 2 Cheek.

Certain communities are banning billboards so I predict derriere advertising will be common in the future. Young girls can make bucks renting their rumps to Nike with a big swoosh on the tush. Your daughter could earn cash for college by plastering Heineken on her heinie. The Army could attract more recruits with “Be all you can be” brandished on All-American behinds.

It’s bumper stickers, plain and simple. My more mature bumper could work for Jell-o.™ See it wiggle; see it jiggle. Plastic surgeons could drum up business for lipo suction: 1-800-SUCK-FAT. Fitness clubs could do a dual campaign. Tight buns wear “Gold’s Gym.” Doughy buns wear “Gold’s Gym? Is that next to the donut shop?” Sort of the opposite of the old public service ad, “this is your brain/this is your brain on drugs.” This is your butt at Gold’s; this is your butt if you don’t go to Gold’s.

Certain songwriters think bigger is better regarding the backside. Their lyrics could result in size appropriate butt wear slogans. Small: “Bootylicious.” Medium: “I like big butts, and I cannot lie.” Large: “Fat bottom girls, you make the rockin’ world go round.”

“If you don’t use it, you lose it” does not apply to butts. If you don’t use it, you get a whole lot more of it. Sit on it and it will grow. My butt used to be a separate entity from my legs. Over time, they have merged into a new flesh I call the “bleg,” the combined area of drooping butt into upper leg.

I need a butt bra to lift and separate my butt from my leg, giving me back the fanny of my youth. Bleg be gone. Then I’ll wear words across the seat of my pants: “The butt stops here.”


Kelly Epperson proudly displays her dirty laundry on the pages of When Life Stinks, It's Time to Wash the Gym Clothes. A collection of her famed newspaper columns, the book is a series of heartfelt observations and a well-balanced start for a brilliant writer. This is the kind of book that could easily launch an entire series of collections. It's light and warm-hearted, yet unmistakably comprehensive and soulful.--R. Pulfer, Rockford Review

Win prizes!

WHEN LIFE STINKS VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on December 1 and end on December 23. You can visit Kelly's blog stops at in December to find out where she is appearing!As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner(s) will be announced at the end of every month!

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My Splendid Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse

Join Lloyd Lofthouse, author of the historical fiction novel, My Splendid Concubine (iUniverse, Dec. '07), as he virtually tours the blogosphere in December and January on his first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion!

About the author:

As a field radio operator, Lloyd Lofthouse was a walking target in Vietnam in 1966. He has skied in blizzards at forty below zero and climbed mountains in hip deep snow.

Lloyd earned a BA in journalism after fighting in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine. Later, while working days as an English teacher at a high school in California, he earned an MFA in writing. He enjoyed a job as a maitre d’ in a multimillion-dollar nightclub and tried his hand successfully at counting cards in Las Vegas for a few years. He now lives near San Francisco with his wife, with a second home in Shanghai, China. Lloyd says that snapshots of his life appear like multicolored ribbons flowing through many of his poems.

This link takes you to Lloyd's 'Vietnam Experience' page filled with photos. He took many of them. Since Lloyd still has to edit the photos so they load faster, this page may load slow for older computers.

This link will take you to a media piece from a Southern California newspaper that Lloyd copied and posted on his Website that will give you an idea about his teaching years.

If you are interesting in learning more about Lloyd's teaching experience, you are welcome to read about it at AuthorsDen. 'Word Dancer' is a memoir of the 1994-1995 school year. He kept a daily journal that year. He is using that journal to write 'Word Dancer'. Everyday, when he arrived home, Lloyd wrote an entry in that journal. It sat on a shelf in his garage for fourteen years gathering dust. Spiders moved into the binder and built a nest. After all those years, Lloyd forgot he'd written it. When he was cleaning the garage, he found it again. Lloyd started reading, remembering and writing. Everything he writes in 'Word Dancer' happened. He's using a primary source as his guide. Memory may be faulty, but a daily journal written the day an event took place is as accurate as it can get from the author's point-of-view.

Accomplishments: Lloyd's short story "A Night at the Well of Purity" was named a finalist for the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.

As a teacher, Lloyd found satisfaction in the number of students that published nationally and internationally while attending his English and journalism classes.

You can visit his website at

About the book:

Driven by a passion for his adopted country, Robert Hart became the “godfather of China’s modernism,” inspector general of China’s Customs Service, and the builder of China’s railroads, postal and telegraph systems, and schools, but his first real love is Ayaou, a young concubine.

My Review:

What is a concubine? Concubines are women who cohabit with men but are not married to them. In ancient China it was common for successful men to have several concubines – the Chinese Emperors often kept thousands. Concubines’ situation ranged from pseudo-wives to poorly treated prostitutes. In this book, Robert Hart reveals the information about his concubine, Ayaou, to the Empress before he leaves China and heads back to die surrounded by his family.

Once again, I have found that historical fiction draws me in. I have to admit that I have never heard of Sir Robert Hart, but I have actually googled him to find out even more after reading this book. After reading the first few pages, the description made it easy to visualize the scenes the author was depicting in this story.

I have always had a fascination for the Chinese culture, and this book only piqued it more. Robert Hart leaves Ireland for a new beginning - he needs an escape from the disgrace that he has bestowed upon his family. He is thrust into a culture that he only slightly understands, but he vows that he will be a new honorable man. Then he meets Ayaou.

Robert feels more for Ayaou than he has ever felt for any woman before. He is willing to do absolutely ANYTHING to be able to keep her company, and when he finds out that her father is selling her he decides that he must have her. But sadly, it is not to be. Instead, he ends up buying her younger sister - and at 14 she is quite young to be owned by a man not of Chinese culture. This fact may be disturbing to some readers, but this is a fact based novel, and it is tastefully written. I for one was fascinated.

I found it hard to believe that this was the first book by this author. It was evident that there was much research and hard work put into it. I look forward to reading his next book.


MY SPLENDID CONCUBINE VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on December 1 and end on January 30. You can visit Lloyd's blog stops at in December and January to find out where he is appearing!As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner(s) will be announced at the end of every month!

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The Devil Can Wait by Marta Stephens

Join Marta Stephens, author of the crime mystery novel, The Devil Can Wait (BeWrite Books, Nov. '08), as she virtually tours the blogosphere in December on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion!

Editor's Note: Marta is the winner of a free virtual book tour sponsored by Pump Up Your Book Promotion. If you would like a chance to win a free book tour, leave a comment on our authors' blog stops and you could be the next winner! Winners are chosen at the end of every month!

About the author:

Marta Stephens is a native of Argentina who has made Indiana her home since the age of four. This mild-manner lady turned to crime with the publication of the first in her Sam Harper Crime Mystery series, SILENCED CRY (2007) which went on to receive honorable mention at the 2008 New York Book Festival and top ten in the 2007 Preditors & Editors Reader Poll. The second book in the Harper series, THE DEVIL CAN WAIT, will be released by BeWrite Books (UK) on November 3, 2008.

Stephens holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism/Public Relations from Ball State University (IN) where she is employed in human resources. She is a member of Sisters in Crime International, Sisters in Crime Speed City Indiana Chapter, and the Midwest Writer's Workshop.

Stephens believes learning is a life-long adventure. Aside from her writing, she is trained in graphic and web design. She co-designed the award-winning book cover of her debut novel, SILENCED CRY with friend Scott Parkison (IN), created the book trailer, and designed/administers her website,, her personal blog,, and the authors’ blog, MURDER BY 4

Stephens lives with her husband, daughter (22), and son (20). She enjoys oil paintings, gardening, the family’s pet Boston Bulls and mini Daschunds, and shared moments with family and friends.

About the book:

The city of Chandler, Massachusetts is plunged into terror when the bodies of three local teenagers wash ashore. While homicide detective Sam Harper hunts down the guilty, a sinister plot emerges overseas. From the Vatican to the jungles of South America, a cursed black pearl ring, the demonic prophecy it represents, and the men who pursue its powers find their unfortunate way onto Harper's turf.

Enthralled by the ring's story and a front-page spread, newspaper reporter Jennifer Blake agrees to pick up the ring at a local pawnshop for her former college professor. When she does, unforeseen events shoot Blake to the top of Harper's prime suspect list. Soon, the seemingly unrelated cases converge and the heat is on for Harper to expose the truth behind a Vatican secret and stop the self-righteous man who does the unthinkable in the name of God.


Marta Stephens knows how to feed the reader the clues and we’re given the opportunity to sit with the detectives as they hash over the cases. I recommend this series to any reader and am convinced it would interest anyone wanting to broaden their reading pleasure.Reviewed by Lucille P Robinson for Alternative Read

My Review:

It's been awhile since I've read a thriller - I have been trying to broaden my horizons when it comes to book reading and although this would have to be one of my favorite genres, I have tried to steer clear of it as of late. I sure am glad this is the one that I read first after being away for a short spell.

"The Devil Can Wait" is a Sam Harper Crime Mystery and is the second in the series. I have not read the first, and you certainly don't need to in order to appreciate this book. But I will certainly be looking for the first in the series, especially if it is anything like this book. The book focuses, or course, on the main character, Sam Harper. He is on the case of what appears to be a serial killer (I know some people will think I am strange, but serial killers, and books about serial killers fascinate me).

Teenage gang leaders are piling up in Chandler, Massachusetts. There is obviously a connection, but each is murdered in a different fashion, and there are no clues as to who is doing it or why. Sam is used to the nitty gritty involved in solving crimes that seem unsolvable to most, but this case will take him to a place most would never expect...the Vatican.

We also visit Colombia where we meet Alejandro. Recently beaten for skimming drugs from druglord Lorenzo, he is hiding with his mother, who is accused of being a witch and killing 3 priests...and she also possesses a black pearl ring - a ring that is wanted by some very dangerous people.

I really feel as if I am unable to do this book justice in reviewing it, without giving away too much of the story. Let me just say that if you are in the mood for a fast paced, well written novel there is no need to look further.


THE DEVIL CAN WAIT VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on December 1 and end on December 23. You can visit Marta's blog stops at in December to find out where she is appearing!As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner(s) will be announced at the end of every month!

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Testimony by Anita Shreve

About the book:

At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape. A Pandora's box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices--those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal--that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment.

Writing with a pace and intensity surpassing even her own greatest work, Anita Shreve delivers in TESTIMONY a gripping emotional drama with the impact of a thriller. No one more compellingly explores the dark impulses that sway the lives of seeming innocents, the needs and fears that drive ordinary men and women into intolerable dilemmas, and the ways in which our best intentions can lead to our worst transgressions.


Believe it or not, this is the first book by Anita Shreve that I have read. And am happy to say that it will not be my last. This book centers around an act at a prestigious private school in Vermont - an act that is sure to change the lives of more than a few people.

When the headmaster (Mike Borden) is handed a tape by his secretary, he has no idea what he is about to view. Never in his wildest dreams did he expect to view a sexually explicit tape involving a 14 year old girl and 3 other students. The thing I enjoyed the most about this book is the fact that it is told from so many different view points. I believe that there are people that did not like this aspect of the book, but I for one found it very intriguing. Maybe in the hands of a lesser author this wouldn't have worked, but that certainly isn't the case with this book.

That said, this certainly is not a book that can be rushed through. You really need to take your time reading this one, or you are sure to become lost and disoriented easily. Some characters are more involved in the story telling, but there are some "blurbs" by characters that are just a few pages in length. All in all it is a very interesting way to write a book - I would love to hear how she kept things straight while writing it.

Thanks again Miriam Parker and The Hachette Group for allowing me to review this fantastic book!

About the author:

Anita Shreve is the critically acclaimed author of 14 novels, including Body Surfing, The Pilot's Wife, which was a selection of Oprah's Book Club, and The Weight of Water, which was a finalist for England's Orange Prize. She lives in Massachusetts.

The Five Lost Days by William Petrick

Join William Petrick, author of the contemporary fiction novel, The Five Lost Days (Pearhouse Press, Nov. '08), as he virtually tours the blogosphere in December and January on his first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion!

About the author:

William Petrick is an Emmy Award-winning documentary producer/director who has created programs for National Geographic, Discovery, MTV, Court TV and many other cable and broadcast networks. He is currently a senior producer with Bill Moyers Journal on PBS. You can find out more about William's book by clicking here.

About the book:

Struggling documentary producer Michael Burns has traveled to the remote Maya Mountains of Belize to capture exclusive footage of the last surviving curandero. The traditional Mayan healer may hold the key to discovering new medicines among the vast, uncharted flora of the rain forest.

But with a violent civil war spilling across the border from neighboring Guatemala - and Burns inexplicably drawn to the aging curandero's American apprentice - the filmmakers stumble into a more explosive story than they ever could have imagined.

At once an adventure and an exploration into the nature of perception, THE FIVE LOST DAYS exposes the clash between modern culture and ancient beliefs.


“With spare prose, a fascinating location, strong characters and a damn good story, Petrick takes us into journalism’s heart of darkness; that is, the false sense of safety that comes with being the ‘outsider,’ the one who merely covers a story, versus the dangers of what might happen if one day you suddenly step away from of the middle of the road and fall into your story…”-- LINDA ELLERBEE, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR


THE FIVE LOST DAYS VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on December 1 and end on January 30. You can visit William's blog stops at in December and January to find out where he is appearing!As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner(s) will be announced at the end of every month!

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Divorcing Dwayne by J.L. Miles

Join J.L. Miles, author of the chick lit novel, Divorcing Dwayne (Cumberland House Publishing, Apr. '08), as she virtually tours the blogosphere in December on her second virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion!

About the author:

J.L. Miles (Jackie Lee), a resident of Georgia for over thirty years, hails from Wisconsin via South Dakota. She considers herself “a northern girl with a southern heart”. Her paternal grandfather was christened Grant Lee by her great-grandmother in honor of the many fallen soldiers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Ms. Miles is a former D.I.A.L. Systems Engineer for Baker/Audio Telecom, one of the premier forerunners of voice mail. In addition to systems application, she provided voice tracks for several major companies, including Delta Airlines and Frito-Lay Corporation. A former Miss Racine, Wisconsin, Ms. Miles, made television, print and fashion appearances, and participated in various stage productions, including “Joan of Lorraine”, “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” and “The Miracle Worker”.

She resides in a suburb of Atlanta with her husband Robert. Her debut novel, the critically acclaimed Roseflower Creek, was Cumberland House Publishing’s lead book when it debuted in hardcover. It is also available in Trade paperback. Earl Hamner, creator of The Waltons called it, “A powerful, extraordinary novel.”N.Y. Times best-selling author William Diehl wrote: “The lyric prose will thrill you, the story is unforgettable, and the characters will stay with you forever.”

Cold Rock River, the journey of two young women born a century apart, debuted September 2006 in hardcover. N.Y. TIMES best-selling author DOROTHEA BENTON FRANK writes: “Cold Rock River by J. L. Miles is a powerful story of family, love and loss that will keep you up into the wee hours. Absolutely wonderful! Beautifully told and straight from the heart of an exquisitely talented writer.”

Miles latest project is the Dwayne Series, a three-book southern anthology featuring Francine Harper, who is under felony assault charges for shooting at her husband Dwayne and his stripper/lover Carla from the Peel ‘n Squeal. Francine finds her strengths and reclaims her dignity via a trial and many errors. Divorcing Dwayne debuted April, 2008. Dear Dwayne releases April 2009. Dating Dwayne to follow.

When not writing, Miles tours with The Dixie Darlin’s, four nationally published book-writing belles—with a passion for promotion—serving up helpings of down-home humor and warmth.

Visit the website at

About the book:

Francine Harper’s in the Pickville Springs County Jail facing felony assault charges. Her offense? She shot at her husband, Dwayne, and his lover, Carla, after catching them together— in the very bed her daddy had carved and given to Francine and Dwayne on their wedding day. Even though she hit the bed and missed the lovers, she soon learns she’s committed a felony, and the deputy district attorney—who’s never been fond of her since she jilted his brother—is determined to prosecute her to the fullest extent of the law. On the other hand, Dwayne is a local celebrity, a talented fiddle player with his own bluegrass band, the Rocky Bottom River Boys. Things are looking up for the band, and they have been selected to record the soundtrack for director Frederick Ford Gumbello’s latest film, Oh Mother, Oh Father, Where Art Thou? When Gumbello comes to town to meet the boys, he becomes enamored with the locale and stays to film the movie since Pickville Springs is the perfect setting for the film.

When Francine makes bail, aided by her best friend, Ray Anne Pickles, she discovers that the checking account she shares with Dwayne contains thirty thousand dollars she can’t account for, and she starts worrying about him. Strange things have been going on, and she still loves him. But she fears that he may have gotten involved with the local mob. Soon Francine finds herself in the arms of rising movie star Clay Carson, which is the last straw for Dwayne, who assaults Clay and disappears. When Dwayne can’t be found anywhere, Francine is suspected of foul play and is arrested for his suspected murder. But Francine is determined to find Dwayne, save him from the mob, and solve the mystery—with Ray Anne’s help, of course. In the interim, she discovers inner strengths and regains her dignity. Now the situation with Dwayne—that’s another story.

I jumped at the chance to be able to review this book. I read "Cold Rock River" a few months ago, and not only did I love the story, but J.L. has a writing style that I thoroughly enjoy. Although this book was totally different, my feelings on the author haven't changed. I loved this one as well!

Francine Harper hasn't ever thought too much of herself, and she knows that she has a more than an ample bottom half. But when she goes to the local pig-pull and sees Dwayne up on stage with the Rocky Bottom River Boys, she believes she has found the perfect man. It doesn't hurt when he compares her looks to Catherine Zeta-Jones. Six months later he asks for her hand in marriage and she jumps at the chance...if only she would have listened to her mother, who tried to warn her.

Not long into the marriage, Francine walks in on Dwayne and his Pamela Anderson wanna-be ex-girlfriend in bed together, with the headboard that was handmade for them by her daddy as a wedding present. Well, that was the last straw and she shoots at them...missing both of them. But, off to jail she goes and awaits trial on numerous charges.

Dwayne on the other hand hits the jackpot when his band lands the soundtrack for director Frederick Ford Gumbello's new film, "Oh, Mother, Oh, Father, Where Art Thou?". After Francine is released on bail, she notices an extra thirty thousand dollars in their joint bank account that she can't account for. And with the mob in town, she has a feeling he may have gotten himself involved with the likes of Joe Bob Banana.

There are so many twists and turns in this novel, but it is always upbeat and is easy to read. I especially loved Nanny Lou, who believes that her husband didn't die after choking on a piece of chicken-fried steak, but is truly alive and cheating on her with her best friend. She is a real riot!

I look forward to reading the two additional books in this series. Great book!


DIVORCING DWAYNE VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on December 1 and end on December 23. You can visit J.L.'s blog stops at in December to find out more about her latest book!As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner(s) will be announced on December 23rd!
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Flirting with Forty by Jane Porter

About the book:

He got the second home and the Porsche. She got the kids and a broken heart. Now Jackie, post-divorce and heading toward the big four-oh, is on vacation in sunny Hawaii and staring down her upcoming birthday-alone. But not for long. She's soon falling for Kai, her gorgeous, much younger surf instructor, and the wild passionate fling they have becomes the biggest surprise of Jackie's life.

Back home in Seattle, Jackie has to struggle with single parenthood...and memories of Kai. He hasn't forgotten her. Yet thousands of miles of ocean-not to mention an age difference that feels even wider-separate them. And, of course, her friends disapprove. When a choice must be made, can she, will she risk everything for her chance at happiness?

Interested in the reading guide? You can find it here.

Let me start out by saying that once again I owe a big thank you to Miriam Parker of The Hatchette Book Group for sending me this book (along with two others by Ms. Porter). Thanks really isn't enough - you're an angel!

This book was one of the best books I have read in the last year! Books like this used to sit on my shelf waiting to be read - I used to limit myself to mostly suspense and horror books and would try and fit in a book of this kind every once in awhile to prove that I wasn't a book snob.

The blogging community has truly been an eye opener and I am truly blessed to have found fantastic people like Miriam who are willing to let me review books of all kinds. This book revolves around the life of Jackie Lauren. She has had an extremely trying year and is struggling to overcome the emotional scars that are left by her divorce and coping with being a single parent. As her fortieth birthday nears, she sees constant reminders about the difference between being a single parent and married families. She isn't sure how she is going to make it through.

She decides to accept the invitation of a friend to a go all out to celebrate turning the big 4-0. Her friend backs out at the last minute, but Jackie decides to go anyway, and try to bring some sunshine into her dreary days, and if any place can do that it would have to be Hawaii.

And boy does the sun shine when Jackie meets Kai, a gorgeous surfing instructor. Sure, he's ten years younger, but he makes her feel the way every woman wants and brings back some of the spark and sass that had been missing for so long. The affair is short, but her feelings for Kai follow her home and she is forced to decide whether she is reading more into them, or if this is a relationship worth pursuing, and if she can do this without the approval of her family and friends.

I really enjoyed this book! Although I haven't reached this age my relationship with my husband was questioned due to the age difference between us. Thankfully my family and friends accepted it, but it did take awhile. I love Jane's writing style and will be sure to read her other books. I really recommend this book and think it is an easy read with some depth and situations that most women can relate to.

About the author:

A UCLA grad with an MA in Writing, I am one of those original book geeks, the girl with the coke bottle glasses that sat with a novel next to the classroom door rather than play during recess. I wrote my first story in first grade, my first picture book in second grade and my first novel in 4th, and I've just continued to write from there—bad poetry, passionate essays, romance rich novels and poignant, bittersweet contemporary fiction.

But writing doesn't always come easy to me. I have to work at it. To go below the surface and find the real story in each story, the heart of the novel, the one the reader will hopefully remember long after the story is through. Writing makes me a bit mad which is why I work very hard to have good hair.

When not writing, what do I do for fun? Travel. I don’t know if it's from growing up in a small Central California town, or living abroad with my family when I was 13, but I crave change, travel, adventure. Put me in a car, a ship, a plane and send me off. I subscribe to countless travel magazines, have a library of travel books, and am always interested in where people have been.

Then of course, there are my kids. Being the mom of two boys I watch a lot of sports, and do goofy boy things with them like create slug habitats and nurture baby geckos. It's not the life I expected—I was such a Barbie doll girl—but its full of Tom Sawyer moments that surprise, delight and absolutely exasperate me but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The boys and I live in Bellevue, Washington, six miles from downtown Seattle, and with the plethora of pro sport teams, rugged mountains, coffee houses and bookstores, it's the perfect place for a writer to call home.

You can find out more by visiting her website at

Here's a little info about the origin of the book:

Yes, I'm dating a surfer, and yes, I got the idea for Flirting with Forty while staying at the luxurious Halekulani Hotel on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, but two years ago when I had my brainstorm--and tracked down the sexy surfer for an interview--I never imagined we'd have one date, much less still be dating two years later. The fact that we're still seeing each other leads people to believe that Flirting with Forty is about me, us, but I sold the story to 5 Spot before there was an “us”.

I sold the story to 5 Spot when it was just a premise, a huge what if that teased me with lives unlived and paths untaken. The character Jackie is not me, but there is me in Jackie, just as there are memories and conversations that have become embedded, imprinted that demand in their own way to be shared. Spoken.

So which comes first? The writer or the story? The writer, yes, but the writer is made up of a lifetime of stories and everything that goes onto the page starts with an event, a word, a lost opportunity. Stories--books--are shaped by dreams, broken hearts, curiosity, wishes, accidental meetings. I went to Hawaii to finish a book for another publisher and left with a new novel idea. And even with the book finished, the idea lives on.

What if we could reinvent ourselves?

What if we changed our direction mid-stream?

What if wanted more than we had?

And thus (my) books are born.

I live and I write. I write and I live. And as I've tried to explain to my children and non-writer friends, I could not do one without the other. The two are so intertwined that I have been transformed by the writing. I am changed, just as my characters are changed. I write a new heroine now, one that asks questions and isn’t satisfied with a half portion of anything. Rather my heroines today demand happiness. They deserve fulfillment, satisfaction. And in the end, my readers are empowered, too, as the writer, the reader, and the character share one goal—to live more richly, to live with more love.

Copyright © 2006

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is it just me or is everything shit? by Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur

Reviewed by Tim Gleichner

About the book:

An encyclopedic attack on modern culture so hilariously bitter that it actually becomes uplifting. Based on two runaway UK bestsellers, this new American edition has been ingeniously adapted and features exclusive new material for US audiences by Brendan Hay, a former Daily Show headline producer and contributing writer to America: The Book.

If you hate chick lit, Che Guevara merchandise, pop Kabbalah, cosmetic-surgery-gone-wrong-as-tv-programming, DVDs with ads you can't skip, or any of a few hundred other insanely annoying modern things, then this book will finally lend creedence to your frustrations.

Say NO to the awful ideas, terrible people, useless products, and infuriating doublespeak that increasingly dominates our lives. Never before has there been a book so completely full of shit.

Clearly, it isn't just you...

Inside the book jacket this book is referred to as "the standard reference for everyone who believes that everything is shit". It also stated that "never before has a book been so entirely full of shit." I couldn't agree more. I think I understand what the authors were going for. Quick 4-5 paragraph bits of commentary on a wide range of common topics or themes that most everyone can relate to. Sort of Seinfeld, only with a lot more attitude.

The problem for me was I wasn't seeing enough humor. Instead, I saw more long winded rants that were less funny, more whiney, and punctuated throughout by quite a big of vulgar language. Profanity, when used properly and in context, can be quite funny. I didn't find that to be the case in this instance.

I believe the authors would have been better served to narrow down the list of topics, keep them current, and focus on shorter, sharper, commentary. This was just not my type of book in it's present form.

Thanks to Anna Balasi, and the wonderful people at The Hatchette Book Group for providing me with this book to review -you guys rock!
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