Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Trial On Mount Koya - Author Guest Post

 I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

Synopsis (from Amazon): Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Jesuit Father Mateo head up to Mount Koya, only to find themselves embroiled in yet another mystery, this time in a Shingon Buddhist temple atop one of Japan’s most sacred peaks.

November, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo travel to a Buddhist temple at the summit of Mount Koya, carrying a secret message for an Iga spy posing as a priest on the sacred mountain. When a snowstorm strikes the peak, a killer begins murdering the temple’s priests and posing them as Buddhist judges of the afterlife–the Kings of Hell. Hiro and Father Mateo must unravel the mystery before the remaining priests–including Father Mateo–become unwilling members of the killer’s grisly council of the dead.
Author Guest Post:   Solving The “Female Problem” On Koyasan

When I set out to write a mystery set on one of Japan’s most sacred peaks in 1565, I faced an unusual problem: how to incorporate female characters into a novel set in a place no woman was allowed to tread.

Like many of Japan’s most sacred mountains, Koyasan did not allow women onto the peak until relatively recently—specifically, at end of the 19thcentury. Before that, women could come to the edge of the koya—the summit valley from which the mountain takes its name—but could not actually enter the sacred precincts or the temples atop the mountain. Instead, women had to stay in one of the seven nyonindo, or women’s halls, that surrounded the peak.

As a writer, I want my novels to include as diverse a cast of characters as possible. As a writer of historical fiction, I also need to ensure my characters could have existed in 16thcentury Japan. (I do write fiction, but I’m committed to accuracy in the historical details.)

Which placed me squarely on the horns of a dilemma: how to get women into a novel, and a place, where women were taboo?

The outline for the novel included no female characters at all. Since women were not allowed on Koya’s summit, I didn’t plot them into the book. But then, about halfway through writing the first draft of the novel, I realized the story didn’t work without female characters. The book—like the world—required both men and women to balance properly.

I needed to get women into the story, and the temple. But how?

The answer—literally—struck like a bolt of lightning.

The Buddhist commitment to the sanctity of life would have prevented even ardent priests from refusing shelter to women who would otherwise perish in a storm. If something destroyed the nyonindo, in weather that made it impossible for the stranded women to leave the mountain, the priests at the closest temple mightagree to offer the women shelter until the storm subsided. The women would be cloistered, and kept away from the priests, of course, but they would still be on the temple grounds and accessible to my detectives (and my plot).

I rewrote the outline, and the book, with lightning striking the nyonindo and burning the women’s hall to the ground. The fugitive women fled to the nearest temple—where Hiro and Father Mateo persuade the priests to let the women stay. With a killer loose in the temple, it isn’t much safer than the blizzard raging across the mountaintop (in fact, for several unfortunate souls, it might have been better to risk the storm) but it did accomplish my central mission: finding a plausible, realistic way to include female characters at a time and place most women were not allowed.

As I expected, the plot and the novel as a whole were much better with both men and women represented—in art, as in life, more viewpoints always make a story stronger.

Check out the other reviews of Trial on Mount Koya on the TLC Book Tours

Susan Spann is the 2015 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year and the author of five previous novels in the Hiro Hattori / Shinobi Mystery series: Claws of the Cat, Blade of the Samurai, Flask of the Drunken Master, The Ninja’s Daughter, and Betrayal at Iga. She has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University and a lifelong love of Japanese history and culture. When not writing, she enjoys hiking, photography, and traveling in Japan.

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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Best Beach Ever

~ I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

Synopsis (from Amazon): Hoping for smooth sailing the ladies of Ten Beach Road confront choppy seas....

Forced to rent out or lose their beloved Bella Flora after the loss of their renovation-turned-reality-TV show Do Over, Maddie, Nikki, Avery, Kyra, and Bitsy move into cottages at the Sunshine Hotel and Beach Club believing the worst is over. Only to discover just how uncertain their futures really are. 
Maddie struggles with the challenges of dating a rock star whose career has come roaring back to life while Nikki faces the daunting realities of mothering twins at 47. Avery buries herself in a tiny home build in an attempt to dodge commitment issues, and Kyra battles to protect her son from the Hollywood world she once dreamed of joining. And Bitsy is about to find out whether the rewards of seeking revenge will outweigh the risks. 
Luckily, when the going gets tough, the ladies of Ten Beach Road know that their friendship - tried and tested - can chase away the darkest clouds and let the sun shine in.

One (or more) Sentence Summary: Best Beach Ever is the 6th book in the Ten Beach Road Series.  I love how the story for each person, Maddie, Nikki, Kyra, Avery and Bitsy, continue on.  However, you don't have to have read the others in the series to have an understanding of the book.  

Some of my favorite parts: Bitsy gets her revenge and closure.  While she isn't my favorite character, I am so happy with her happy ending.  Kyra finally standing up to Daniel.  I have been wishing for her to become strong and stand up for herself! Thank goodness, because I just wanted to shake some sense into her!  Nikki is struggling to be a "good mother to her twins and a good wife," while feeling like something is missing from her life.  I know several people (including myself) that can related to Nikki.  In the end, she figures it all out with the help of her friends and husband.  Avery was pushing Chase away, and that too is finally resolved.  Maddie was struggling to fit with her rocker's world and she too manages to work through it by finally being honest with Will.

I think Best Beach Ever, wrapped up everyones story....but maybe there will be a 7th book.  Best Beach Ever was another great read by Wendy Wax and perfect for summer.

Would I Read Other Books by the Author:  Yes.  I need to go back to the beginning and read the first three books in the series, since I started with Book 4, Sunshine Beach and read One Good Thing last summer.

Wendy Wax, a former broadcaster, is the author of numerous novels, including Sunshine BeachA Week at the LakeWhile We Were Watching Downton AbbeyThe House on Mermaid PointOcean Beach, and Ten Beach Road. The mother of two grown sons, she lives in the Atlanta suburbs with her husband and is doing her best to adjust to the quiet of her recently emptied nest.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

You Lucky Dog

~ I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

Synopsis (from Amazon): What do you do when you’re attending your own funeral but can’t tell the love of your life that you’re there, perfectly alive? Your wife doesn’t recognize you because you look slightly different. Well, more than slightly. You’re now a dog.  You Lucky Dog is the unlikely love story of Jake and Emma, a young couple thrown into a very unusual situation.

Jake and Emma appear to have everything going for them. A young married couple, they live with their dog in the leafy suburbs of Los Angeles. But after a horrible accident changes the course of their lives forever, Jake finds himself alive but living outside his body, and in the body of his dog.
What follows is a hilarious and heartwarming tale of misplaced identity. You Lucky Dogexplores the mysteries of life and death, and the enduring power of love, in a heartwarming story for animal lovers and all lovers.

One (or more) Sentence Summary: You don't have to be a dog lover to enjoy You Lucky Dog.  What a refreshing story with an unusual take on a husband's death!  You Lucky Dog was a very easy, quick and loaded with lots of laughs kind of read.  

Right from the beginning I was drawn in to the story.  I really liked the scenes where Emma and Jake would eat or she was on a date.  Perfect book to read any time of the year!

Would I Read Other Books by the Author:  I would read other book by Debra.  It was an easy and good read!

Debra Finerman is an American writer living part-time in Paris. The author of two published historical novels set in France, her latest book You Lucky Dog is a humorous contemporary romance. Shadow War, her second book, is a WWII novel inspired by plaques seen on walls throughout Paris dedicated to the brave Resistance Fighters shot by Nazi patrols. Her first novel, Mademoiselle Victorine, published by Random House Three Rivers Press, has been translated into six languages worldwide. Debra is a former journalist for Capital Style, The Hollywood Reporter monthly magazine, Beverly Hills Today and Beverly Hills Magazine.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018


~ I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

Book Details:

Book Title: ICE by Lauren Carr
Genre: Mystery, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Cozy
Publisher: Acorn Book Services
Release date: April 25, 2018
Narrated by: Mike Alger, Unabridged
Length: 9 hrs and 54 mins
Content Rating: PG (It's a murder mystery and there is mild violence. Very mild swearing no F-bombs. No on-stage sex scenes.)

Book Description:

The clues for a close-to-the-heart missing person’s case heat up when Chris Matheson starts chipping away at the ice on the cold case.

When Sandy Lipton and her unborn child disappear, the court of public opinion finds young Chris Matheson guilty. Decades later, the retired FBI agent returns home to discover that the cloud of suspicion cast over him and his family has never lifted. With the help of a team of fellow retired law enforcement officers, each a specialist in their own field of investigation, Chris Matheson starts chipping away at the ice on this cold case to uncover what had happened to Sandy and her baby and the clues are getting hot!

This was my first Lauren Carr book and it won't be my last.  I really enjoyed it!  Ice is the first in a new series, Cold Case Files.  I can't wait for the next one!

The very beginning of the story had me hooked right away.  I tried the entire time to solve the cold case myself and didn't come close.  Ice kept me on my toes and just when I thought I had it solved, it turned or twisted and left me wanting more.

Chris Matheson left town after school and ended up in with the FBI. After the death of his wife, he and his 3 daughters move back home to his mother's house.  Upon arriving at home, everyone starts talking about the past and Chris' involvement with his past girlfriend and her baby disappearance.

Chris' mother, Doris, urges him to join a book club of retired enforcement/judges/lawyers type called the Geezer Squad.  He finds out all to quickly that reading books has nothing to do with this club.  Doris urges him to adopt a police dog, Sterling.  I absolutely loved Doris and Sterling.

His ex-boss at the FBI is on bed rest and asks him to help with a case she is working too.  With the Geezer Squad's help, his mother's help, his ex-boss and Sterling, he is able to solve both cases.

The characters in Ice are so realistic, they seem to jump off the pages.  I truly enjoyed Lauren Carr's firsts book in the Cold Case Files series, Ice.

To read more audiobook reviews, please visit Lauren Carr's page on iRead Book Tours.

Buy the Audiobook:
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About the Author:

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

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Saturday, June 2, 2018

Izzy As Is

~ I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

Synopsis: The party is over for bikini model Izzy Alvarez. For six years she’s made a good living by flaunting her God-given assets on runways and in front of cameras, but now as she approaches the big 3-0, the bodacious Latina is shocked to learn she’s aged out of the profession that’s kept her in mojitos, mani/pedis, and designer thongs. What’s a girl with a taste for the finer things in life and no marketable skills to do?

Getting a regular job is too boring to even consider, so Izzy decides to follow in the footsteps of her newly-engaged frenemy and become a trophy wife. Although she’s desperate and too broke to get a chipped nail fixed, Izzy still has standards for her future husband, which means no uggos, no vertically-challenged guys, and no geezers who need to pop a blue pill to perform in the bedroom. Enlisting the aid of her computer whiz nephew and her closest pals, Izzy goes on the prowl for a rich, marriage-minded man, encountering likely candidates in a lot of unlikely places.

The high life she’s dreamed of may be within reach when Izzy meets a charming, successful man who’s not only hotter than a steamy summer night in Miami, but ready to settle down. Now all Izzy has to do is make sure her loud, crazy Cuban family doesn’t scare off el hombre perfectooh, yeah, and squelch those pesky, romantic feelings she keeps having for the sweet, cash-strapped guy she's known forever.

Will Izzy’s hunger for money win out, or will her fiery heart demand to be heard?

One (or more) Sentence Summary: Izzy As Is was described to me as sassy, fun, romantic and a little bit spicy like a jalapeƱo. That sums it up!  I didn't care for Izzy at first. I thought she was too showy, only cared for herself, expected everyone to always fix her problems (money problems).  About a third of the way into the story, my opinion of Izzy changed.  She cared deeply about others (maybe not her older sister!) and really surprised me when she fixed her problem on her own.  She could have taken the easy way out but her heart won out.  Izzy As Is was a easy and fast paced read.  Given it is takes place in Miami, I thought it was a great read to kick off the summer!

Would I Read Other Books by the Author: I would like to read Mixing It Up, In Need of Therapy and Blame It on the Fame.  I have read and reviewed Twin Piques.

An avid reader and writer, Tracie Banister has been scribbling stories since she was a child, most of them featuring feisty heroines with complicated love lives like her favorite fictional protagonist Scarlett O'Hara. Her work was first seen on the stage of her elementary school, where her 4th grade class performed an original holiday play she penned. (Like all good divas-in-the-making, she also starred in and tried to direct the production.)

Tracie's dreams of authorial success were put on the backburner when she reached adulthood and discovered that she needed a "real" job in order to pay her bills. Her career as personal assistant to a local entrepreneur lasted for12 years. When it ended, she decided to follow her bliss and dedicate herself to writing full-time. She is the proud winner of the 2017 Independent Press Award (Romantic Comedy) and a Bronze Medal in the 2017 Readers' Favorite Awards(Chick Lit).
Although Tracie swore she'd never write a sequel to any of her books, the character of Izzy Alvarez, who first appeared in In Need of Therapy,would not be denied. Izzy As Is is Tracie's fifth novel, and she hopes readers enjoy this return trip to Miami.


Friday, May 11, 2018

One Pedal at a Time - Guest Author

~ I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

Synopsis (from Amazon): Watching her husband, Joe, regress from crossing the country on a bike to cheering him on as he navigated his wheelchair around the kitchen, CJ Golden had much to learn about caregiving. And she did - through her characteristic determination, quest for knowledge, boundless love and relentless optimism. 

Within these pages the reader finds a balanced mix of somber reflections and light moments that highlight a very real passage in the lives of a husband and wife who love each other unequivocally. Golden shares the lessons she learned, the emotional and physical strain upon her heavily burdened shoulders, and the realization that, through it all, their connection and love have grown stronger. 

Joe’s motto for getting through life’s most trying times has always been, “one pedal at a time” - referring to his days traversing the country, for months at a time, on the two wheels of his road bike. Thus, the title of this book and, hopefully, a philosophy that will help carry others through their own caregiving struggles.

One Pedal at a Time speaks to caregivers who need a place to turn to for information, inspiration and hope. And who enjoy a good love story.

Guest Post by CJ Golden:  Boopah Had A Stroke, You Know

Their first ever hospital visit and the two little boys, ages five and eight, were ushered into Boopah’s room to view him lying in bed: barely able to walk or speak after suffering a series of strokes.

As I studied their faces, trying to discern just what might be going on in their heads, my mind went to bleak places.  Surely they could not apprehend this was the same grandfather who had recently crossed the country on his bicycle.  Most definitely this would be a giant turning point in their relationship with Boopah. “Now,” they must be thinking, “A disabled old man has replaced my Boopah.  And, “It is scary to see him like this.”

This was much like my own paranoia when the three older grandchildren had come to be with me two years earlier, after back surgery rendered me unable to move my left foot. I was thus required to sport a bulky brace around that leg and had to use a walker in order to ambulate.

Before they arrived, I’d made sure my makeup was on, my hair coiffed perfectly with a multi-colored ribbon hanging from the top to show them my body had changed, but my outrageous sense of humor was still strongly intact.  

I don’t know if it was the ribbon, or the fact that the inner me had not been altered by the physical alteration but I was, indeed, still Grams and was accepted as such.

And now my concern went to my husband, Joe, and his future relationship with the kids.  

What is it about me that stubbornly holds on to unnecessary angst?  Why could I not have retained the lesson I learned when I had been laid up? The kids knew who I was.  They didn’t flinch.  Of course, they cared and hoped I’d heal, but as far as they were concerned, I had not changed.  Grams was, well, Grams.

So, too, was Joe going to remain Boopah, for, while his body was temporarily out of service, his quick mind, easy laugh and abundant love for his family would never change.

Once home, we had installed a system of ramps which allowed Joe’s wheelchair to be navigated from level to level.  But before he was able to sit in that wheelchair, he’d needed a giant forklift-type of equipment to move him from his bed to the wheelchair.  And the help of two able-bodied adults.  
The kids loved to help lift Boopah from his bed and place him in the chair.  And they most certainly got a great kick out of having themselves moved by that lift into chair when it was unoccupied.  Once in the wheelchair, they equated the adventure to something akin to a Disney ride.  

For his part, Joe enjoyed having the kids push him around the house and participate in his physical improvement.   There were times, however, the house appeared to be too quiet to have the kids visiting.  Where was the tumult that was part of enjoying grandchildren?  

That’s when we knew to listen for suppressed giggles and find them hiding under the ramps.

Fast-forward a year and Boopah is now fully back; having regained his physical abilities.  The forklift is no longer needed, nor the wheelchair or the ramps.  There is, however, a large inflated cushion on his seat at the kitchen table.  And, of course, the kids get a great kick out of sitting upon it.

Recently Joe was in the kitchen while I was complaining about having to take out the garbage and recycling because he was not doing his part of the chores.  His immediate response was, “I had a stroke, you know” followed by a huge, knowing smile.  And then he grabbed the garbage bag from me and hauled it out into the garage.

The thing is, instead of having worried about the children not accepting Grams or Boopah after our illnesses, I should have been thinking about all the ways in which they could participate in our recoveries.

Last week I came to fully understand that relationships as strong as a grandparent and grandchild do not change merely because one of us is stricken with an illness.  We were on vacation together, Joe had taken his afternoon nap the day before, went to bed early that same evening and now, the next morning was still not up to join us for breakfast.  One of the boys remarked that he sleeps a lot.  Before I could respond and explain his need for much rest, the other grandson stated, with a knowing grin, “Well, Boopah’s had a stroke, you know.”

Lesson learned.

CJ Golden is a writer and motivational speaker from Newtown, Connecticut. Through her first two books, "Tao of the Defiant Woman" and "Tao-Girls Rule!", she has been able to indulge in her passion for helping people, sharing her wisdom with women and girls.

Golden’s latest writing remains focused on her new life as caregiver to her husband, Joe. Paramount are the lessons she has learned, the emotional and physical strain upon her heavily-burdened shoulders, and the realization that, while their roles as husband and wife have been altered, their connection and love have grown stronger.
She has been fortunate to have to reached thousands of followers while blogging about her experiences as Joe’s caregiver. When numerous readers requested Golden turn her writings into a book. Those blogs gave birth to One Pedal at a Time: A Novice Caregiver and Her Cyclist Husband Face Their New Normal With Courage, Tenacity and Abundant Love.

Visit CJ Golden online at, or contact her directly at


Monday, April 30, 2018

Notes From a Public Typewriter

~ I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

Synopsis (from Amazon):  A collection of confessional, hilarious, heartbreaking notes written anonymously on a public typewriter for fans of PostSecret and Other People's Love Letters.When Michael Gustafson and his wife Hilary opened Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, they put out a typewriter for anyone to use. They had no idea what to expect. Would people ask metaphysical questions? Write mean things? Pour their souls onto the page? Yes, no, and did they ever.

Every day, people of all ages sit down at the public typewriter. Children perch atop grandparents' knees, both sets of hands hovering above the metal keys: I LOVE YOU.Others walk in alone on Friday nights and confess their hopes: I will find someone someday. And some leave funny asides for the next person who sits down: I dislike people, misanthropes, irony, and ellipses ... and lists too. 

In NOTES FROM A PUBLIC TYPEWRITER Michael and designer Oliver Uberti have combined their favorite notes with essays and photos to create an ode to community and the written word that will surprise, delight, and inspire.

One (or more) Sentence Summary: This is the coolest book.  The owners of an awesome bookstore, Literati Bookstore (in Ann Arbor) published Notes From a Public Typewriter.  I go to Michigan often since I am from there, my family all still lives there.  I also go up a lot for hockey and once I learned about the bookstore, it was a must stop during the next hockey trip.  I fell in love with it and even sat down at the typewrite and typed!  The main floor even has a table - labeled Jill's table (I felt right at home). The second floor has a coffee shop and children's books. The basement houses more books and "the typewriter."  The owner talks about the bookstore's ghost and I think it lives in the basement.  There was a just a feeling! Maybe it is the lighting?

Notes From a Public Typewriter has different chapters that take us on a journey. We get to experience the meaning of the typewriter, seasons, new love, self discovery, new friends, advice, poems, jokes and sad events.  Each chapter starts out with stories about the bookstore, customers, and the typewriter.  There are some really neat photos in throughout the book too; the street corner, the violin monster, the typewriter, customers, the street from 1955 and much more.  

I have read Notes From a Public Typewriter twice, flipped through it many, many times and have shared some of the typewritten quotes.  I love this book and I hope there are more to follow as people continue to type.

If you are in or near Ann Arbor (Go Big Blue), add Literati Bookstore to your places to stop.  You will not be disappointed and I am sure you will fall in love with it just like did.  In the meantime, grab the book, Notes From a Public Typewriter to see what you are missing.  My family is going up to Michigan in three weeks and I can't wait to stop by this gem of a bookstore.  My son was with me on my first trip and I can't wait to take my twins there too.  

I would love share my "types" from the book, but I would have to include everything!  So I will just select a few:

Funny:  Where is the power button?
Advice: Be kind to everyone ...for we're all walking around with unknown issues.
From an OSU fan: Go Bucks 
From a Literati Bookstore fan!: This is my favorite corner in Ann Arbor.

Michael Gustafson is the co-owner of Literati Bookstore, an independent bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He lives in Ann Arbor with his wife and Literati Bookstore co-owner, Hilary.

Oliver Uberti is an award-winning graphic designer and was Senior Design Editor at National Geographic before turning to books. He is the co-author and designer of two books published by Penguin in the UK, London: The Information Capital (2014) and Where the Animals Go (2016). He lives in Los Angeles.