Roadside Assistance (Body Shop Bad Boys) -Marie Harte

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Foley Sanders always thought he would be content with his life full of cars and his family until an encounter with the statuesque redhead Cynthia Nichols. Now he can’t stop thinking about her and it doesn’t matter if she has sworn off men and refuses to give him a date.

Cynthia knows she has everything in her life – a well-planned business, her numerous investments. She doesn’t need a man to harp on her about her size. But the gentleman beneath the muscled tattooed mechanic is beginning to breach the walls she has erected.

There is only one word to describe this high octane book – hardcore. The plot line is obviously built around the romantic theme, but touching on issues like plus- sized women is something that brings a more humane and vulnerable element to the book. The moral implications of beauty beyond perfection are definitely something that I applaud very much.

The characters are definitely tall physically as well as by their personalities that has been conceptualised. They make a very easy bond with the readers as well as with the plot, which is another plus point in my eyes. The chemistry between the lead characters is outstanding and leaps through the pages and makes you involved enough to keep coming back for more.

The title and the cover image are quite simple and have much more in common with the characterization of Foley, than something more metaphorical. The smooth style of narration definitely helps in this book; there was not one moment where I felt that the story escaped my grasp.

Roadside Assistance is definitely one of those hot books that you do not want to leave behind.

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Make Wizardry Great Again – Rednal Sua

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“We gotta put up a a wall. A yuuge wall around the the whole resort so nobody can get in unless they’re loaded with money or guns. Only pure-blooded Americans. And pure-blooded Scottish. And half-German, half-Scottish.”

While visiting his golf courses in Scotland, Drum, a successful American businessman, believes that he and only he can free the world from the evil doings of the Magic Ministry.

This comes about after he finds another business opportunity—turning Hogwash Academy into a hotel and casino. Of course, he has to deal with  former student and wizard Henry Plotter and his friends Weed and Hermorrhoida. There’s also a lot of history in this battle, among them Henry’s and Drum’s fathers and hair.

A lot goes on in this wild and satirical look at this impulsive and narcissist American businessman. I’m not familiar with the Harry Potter series, but I still found this hilarious. In this “American presidential candidate meets a fantasy novel series”, you can take what you want from it. (BTW could there be more to the resignation of former British Prime Minister David Cameron? )

What I didn’t like was the abrupt ending. When I asked author Rednal Sua about it, he advised me that maybe it wasn’t a “true ending”; that there may be a sequel. I hope not, only because that would mean that the protagonist would still be relevant after the U. S. November election.

In that case, he will have access to the nuclear codes and the future of the real world will definitely be at risk.

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Outside the Lines (Forensic Handwriting Series) (Volume 6) – Sheila Lowe

(Reviewed by Cathy Carey)

Do you know that hand writing that is small linear with wide spaces between the words indicates someone who is more intellectually than emotionally oriented? A left slant like that of a slingshot drawn back as taut as it can be signifies one who tends to filter all their experiences through their intellect. That person feels uncomfortable expressing feelings and restrains them until the pent-up emotions build up to a point where they have to be released (like letting go of the sling). This is just one example of what our handwriting says about us and what I learned while reading this book.

Forensic handwriting expert Claudia Rose and her fiancé, detective Joel Jovanic are back again in another fast -paced murder mystery novel, Outside the Lines. I have eagerly awaited this sixth installment of this series and was not disappointed.

A housekeeper is killed after intercepting a bomb that was placed in her employer’s mailbox in Venice, California. Her employer is the chairman of the board of Agrichem, one of the world’s largest pesticides corporations.

Joel is called to the crime scene for the mailbox bombing and brings home some evidence for Claudia to examine.

Claudia decides to go to England to lecture and while there finds out more about this case that puts her at odds with her fiancé and the government agencies trying to solve this.

Author Sheila Lowe has a way of keeping you engaged as well as educating you about the process. Anyone who loves a good murder mystery and always has a curiosity to learn something new will enjoy all of her novels.

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Blood Betrayal (Deathless Night Series Book 4) – L.E. Wilson

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Vampire Christian Moore has always lived by his personal code of morals, until a curse finds him looking for solace, bed-hopping between countless women. On one such night, he finds himself helpless, kidnapped, caged and at the carnal mercy of a woman with eyes of midnight sky and hair resembling sunset. He craves her physically while his blood sighs for her. He can’t have her. But, he can’t not watch her.

Ryan Moss has been a troublesome teen since the age of fifteen and started hearing voices in her head. Fearing the worst, she resorts to the numbness of drugs. To be with him, she fears one thing most: her sanity. They both need to make a choice before ancient threats tear them apart.

The book was a fabulous gift for ARC. It is a captivating and engaging read which has an excellent plotline and strong characters. Being the fourth installment in the series, there is an obvious gap in the story; thankfully, none of them can be experienced while reading the book. I really wish I can get access to the rest of the series.

The characters have unique personalities, and their inbuilt chemistry definitely can be described at best as combustible. The best part about the book are the moral implications that have been touched upon such as the struggles of drug abuse. To maintain continuity, all the other characters have been briefly highlighted as part of the plotline. The cover image reflects the same passion that has been shared by the characters. I failed to see how the title is related to the plot description.

I loved this book, and I really would like to complete the whole series. I’m definitely recommending Blood Betrayal.

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The Wine and Chocolate Workout: Sip, Savor, and Strengthen for a Healthier Life – Greta Boris

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

“Did you know the average wine drinker, when compared with the rest of the population, has a smaller waistline, less belly fat, and lower body mass? Not only that, but they tend to be better educated, have a higher IQ, eat more fruits and vegetables, and exercise more.”

Well, I don’t know if that’s true, but I have possessed a strong interest in health and fitness for years and have suffered from a serious chocolate addiction for even longer. So of course when I saw the title The Wine and Chocolate Workout, I just had to read it.

So is this for real or is the title just a teaser? Well, I think it’s both and definitely worth the read.

Wine and chocolate represent “fun, joy and healthy indulgence.” in the author’s life. Also it’s the indulgence that most women would least likely give up. Author Greta Boris fanatically touts the benefits of drinking wine and eating small amounts of dark chocolate. Unfortunately I prefer milk chocolate to dark which would be considered a treat (A treat is from the banned ingredient list.)

So why then would I recommend this book? Boris shows us how to include these treats in our lives. She also provides some psychological tricks to help us eat healthy. What will change your weight and health? “moderation, meditation, and acceleration [energy]” We must also examine our attitudes about food.

There are great resources at the end of the book. You can even download the work pages from her website to record.

She believes in the concept of “training”. “Training means making small changes with consistency and allowing yourself to physically and mentally adapt before another change is introduced.” Furthermore, “Training will actually alter the physical makeup of your body, change your emotional state, and give you knowledge you can’t unlearn.”

This book will make a nice gift for someone who is trying to incorporate wine and chocolate into their diet or even  someone who is sick of constantly dieting . After all, The Wine and Chocolate Workout isn’t a diet; it is for life.

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Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in France – Craig Carlson

(Reviewed by J.D. Jung)

“I spoke of my favorite city and how beautiful it was…How all it needed was an American breakfast joint, and then it would be perfect!”

Former Hollywood screenwriter, Craig Carlson, wanted to live his dream and open up an American diner in Paris. He fell in love with the city when he studied in France in the mid-1980s. As his life progressed, this vision became clearer and clearer.

But how would he go about accomplishing this? He knew nothing about running a restaurant or any business for that matter. How would he find funding? Would there be a demand for a restaurant that gives free coffee refills? With all of the obstacles he ran into, most of us would have given up, or at least think that this was a bad omen. Of course there were issues that would arise that he had no idea of. How about the cultural differences? Who knew that French employment laws are a lot different than those in the United States? So would his restaurant “Breakfast In America” even succeed? (By the way, I won’t even talk about the possible copyright infringement with the song of the same title.)

Pancakes in America isn’t just about living one’s dream with all its ups and downs, or a story about French culture–which are enough in themselves–but also a story about self-discovery. Yes, Carlson does go into his research like driving along the legendary Hwy. 66, and coming up with his target audience and a solid business plan. Yes, we learn about the unscrupulous vendors and business partners along with those he could always count on. But since this is a memoir, we learn a lot about Craig, himself.

What makes this memoir stand out though, is that he structures the story in such a way that the reader can’t wait to find out what happens next. We learn about him, the man, in the same way that he does. So many memoirs are filled with boring events that make you yawn. Not this one; Carlson isn’t narcissistic at all. Each element he includes is crucial to the story. Right when I thought that it was over (boom!) more happens.

I have never given a memoir a five-bookmark rating before; Pancakes in America is the first. After all, there is so much to love about this book.

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Pale Highway – Nicholas Conley

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional

Gabriel Schist was the one who changed the face of medical history with his invention of the vaccine that cured AIDS. But now the same genius mind is languishing behind the walls of Bright New Day because of Alzheimer’s.

When one of the residents comes down with the horrific virus, Gabriel realises he is the only one who can stop the impending epidemic, if only he can put a halt to the rate at which his brain is deteriorating. The cure is much needed, before his brain reaches the point of no return.

To say that the plot line was interesting would to make this whole book unassuming and I would be underestimating it. The plot line has been well crafted, poignant and thrilling and does an excellent job in capturing and maintaining attention. The case of a brilliant man suffering the curse of Alzheimer’s and struggling through it, has been beautifully captured. The tactic of contrasting his past and present has been well carried out without putting the integrity of the book at risk.

The scientific terminologies used might seem confusing but the simplistic way in which they have been explained shows the focus of the author, and for that alone he should be applauded. The characters are well matched with the plot, and introduction of secondary characters did give me this whole inception kind of moment, but they all played out beautifully.

I am happy with the use of the title but the cover image does create an impression of something more dramatic. I blame it on my habit of reading too much Robin Cook while growing up.

I loved the book and I am definitely recommending to readers of all genres.

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The Bible in Spain: Or, The journeys, adventures, and imprisonments of an Englishman, in an attempt to circulate the Scriptures in the peninsula. – George Henry Borrow

(Reviewed by Arwen1968)

Exceptional

In 1842, a nobody called George Borrow wrote a detailed, 550-pages-long account of his day job. Sounds boring? Well, it isn’t: Borrow’s day job was to sell bibles in war-torn, Catholic Spain.

Anybody familiar with Catholicism knows that even today Catholics are discouraged from reading the Bible – lest they should interpret it the ‘wrong’ way. According to Catholic doctrine the Bible is so difficult that common people need guidance to understand it; and who better to give that guidance than the Pope and the Church? And if this is the case today, you can readily imagine how Borrow’s evangelising efforts were viewed in Spain in the first half of the 19th century: the Englishman was, in fact, peddling a forbidden book in a country where the very name of Martin Luther was an anathema. A country, moreover, which was torn by a brutal civil war at the time.

The causes of the First Carlist War – Borrow travelled Spain with his bibles from 1835 to 1838 – are explained by Borrow himself very succinctly in a couple of paragraphs, halfway through the book: in 1830, Ferdinand VII set aside the Salic Law of Succession (excluding females from inheriting the throne), making his daughter Isabella his heir in place of his brother Charles. Charles rebelled, and in the following fifty years three Carlist wars devastated an already impoverished Spain. In addition to the issue of succession, the wars were further fuelled by the political issues of the time which pitted liberals against conservatives, Catalans and Basques against the central government, staunch Catholics against seculars… in short just about everybody against everybody else.

And into this war-torn country walked George Borrow, a lowly employee of the Bible Society of England, determined to publish and sell a Spanish language Bible to the masses.

Self-righteous, intelligent and determined, with a real talent for languages, Borrow was your classic missionary. His run-ins with Spanish bureaucracy and the justice system (if the word ‘justice’ can at all be applied!) leave you gasping with laughter at the absurdity of it all. With his load of bibles (frequently confiscated), Borrow takes you gallivanting all over 19th-century Spain, from Seville to Santander, from small Castilian hamlets to the streets of the capital. En route, he fell in with bandits, Gypsies and rogue soldiers; held conversations with book-sellers, Spanish Prime Ministers and British Ambassadors (not to mention the Swiss treasure-seeker of Santiago de Compostela). He was aided or hindered – according to inclination and interest – by inn-keepers, small-town mayors and aristocrats. He was imprisoned, offered marriage and nearly executed as a spy…

It’s not his style that captivates you; his prose in itself is quite unremarkable. Yet his book is hard to put down: he holds you with his sharp-eyed observations of the people around him, his descriptions of the landscape through which he travels and, most of all, with the story he has to tell.

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Super Nuke!: A Memoir About Life as a Nuclear Submariner and the Contributions of a “Super Nuke” – the USS RAY (SSN653) Toward Winning the Cold War – Charles Cranston Jett

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

We thought about the young men on that submarine, officers and enlisted men, who were fellow submariners like us. They were doing their job for their own country and were using the same sort of training and skills that we were using. We had great respect for them; we weren’t “enemies”– we never fired a shot at one another — but we were adversaries of sorts. Each of us was tasked to do a mission whose objectives were similar, but focused on the specific interests of our own countries.”

It’s an honor to read a firsthand account from an esteemed Naval Officer, and for that fact itself I would like to extend my gratitude to the author and the publishers to allow me a glimpse of this book. It’s this personal journey that the readers can take and enjoy.

This memoir covers an important time period of history depicting the unclassified story of the journey taken up by an exceptional group of men who worked tirelessly to build the first operational “Super Nuke”. It includes its legacy that helped in building the entire U. S. nuclear submarine force.

Super Nuke is a smart and factual account of one of the largest military forces of the present world. The scenario might or might not be currently different, but the presence itself holds its grain of truth. The book talks about the life that is shared by naval officers on board, months away from their families without any source of information or communication. I am pretty sure it’s not just the navy but the other military branches that go through the same mixed emotions of patriotism and hardships. However, since the book is a documentation of the naval life it is easier to focus on that. Being an officer himself, the author was beautifully able to bring out the same feeling in the few lines that are often quoted as the Law of the Navy:

When a ship that is tired returneth –
With signs of the sea showing plain,
Men put her in dock for a season.
And her speed she reneweth again.

So shall ye if per chance ye grow weary,
In the uttermost part of the sea,
Pray for leave for the good of the service.
As much and as oft as it need be!

Since a nuclear submarine  is tasked to carry out tactical and logistical analysis, one would expected the book to have language and terminologies that are military and tough to understand. Being an ex-Naval Officer and a tactical trainer, the author has brilliantly explained the world of submarines in the simplest way which a layman (especially someone who is far removed from the military world) can understand. For this reason alone, I would recommend this book. The entertainment and information factors are completely gold.

From the writing style, it is clearly evident that Mr. Jett is not a professional writer. Some people might find it distracting, but I found it more personal, thereby living up to its genre.
Definitely recommending it loud and clear!! No other words required.

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Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh, and L.A. – Eve Babitz (Author), Matthew Specktor (Introduction)

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“Los Angeles isn’t a city. It’s a gigantic, sprawling, ongoing studio. Everything is off the record. People don’t have time to apologize for its not being a city when their civilized friends suspect them of losing track of the point…Work and love—the two best things—flourish in studios. It’s when you have to go outside and define everything that they often disappear.”

I personally lived in Hollywood and later on the West side just a few years after Eve Babitz published her 1974 account of life in her twenties in Los Angeles in Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh, and L.A. It has just been re-released by NYRB Classics.

Babitz , a writer who also designed album covers for famous rock icons in the late 1960’s wasn’t famous but “got near enough to smell the stench of success”. She loved the city but at the same time provided us with a cautionary tale. It seemed to figuratively take her hostage and she couldn’t nor wanted to escape.

Even the weather, specifically,  the Santa Ana winds and  sporadic rain gave her realizations about herself personally as well as  life in general.

She, as all of us, was caught up with L. A.‘s obsessiveness with perfection. She considered herself overweight, though I don’t know if she really was. She noted that this perfection even spread to music which tried to be “raunchy and soulful” but didn’t succeed. “Linda Ronstadt and The Eagles and Jackson Browne can’t scare anyone.”

Of course, there’s a lot about the drug culture, specially Quaaludes and heroin. “…smoking, although glamorous, has never been as glamorous as heroin—and dying from cigarettes just doesn’t have the tragic sunset quality that O.D.ing lends to death. Heroin is the celebrated romantic excess of our time. ”  She goes on, “Having something that both kills pain and is illegal is too tempting when you’ve suddenly got everything but the prince…”

Yes, there’s a lot about looking for the prince, settling with gay men and friends in general. This gives the story depth in a somewhat superficial setting.

She also took us to cities all too familiar to Angelenos: Bakersfield (where we drive through on road trips to get anywhere– San Francisco, specifically); San Francisco, where she felt claustrophobic; Palm Springs, the desert city were we escape to for the weekends; and Laguna Beach, an elite artist community, south in Orange County that at the time always tried to be something it wasn’t.

Though I disagree with her assessment of San Francisco (I never found it “claustrophobic”), I must remember that this was before the stifling traffic in Los Angeles which inhibits its citizens from venturing out of their own communities.

So would this appeal to readers unfamiliar with Los Angeles or those not from the baby-boomer generation? Though Slow Days, Fast Company brought back many reflective and even haunting moments for me, many of Babitz’s situations will have universal appeal. Another allure is her very personal writing style and understated, deadpan wit.

So in answer to that question, I would say “yes”, but would love to hear your opinions.

 

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