Monday, December 15, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

"It's Monday! What are you reading?" is a fun meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey. This is where we share the books we have read the last week and our reading plans for this week.

Books Reviewed

4-star Book Review here

A mystery set in wine country pitting financial exec Brynn Bancroft against a determined stalker, a troubled love interest, and career clashes. 

Brynn Bancroft learns that a former employee who beat her nearly to death has returned to stalk her and her friend, Jillian Hillcrest, also a former victim. Recently divorced, Brynn turns to a new love interest only to encounter additional unwelcome issues. Meanwhile, short-timer Brynn, who has resigned from her Silicon Valley company, becomes bored fulfilling her remaining responsibilities there. She begins to prefer supporting the launch of her ex-husband’s new hilltop winery while waiting to move to her next position. Between her stalker and her new love interest, Brynn faces a series of life-threatening events.

5-star Book Review here

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk through life in someone else's shoes?

Strong-willed tomboy Harley LeBeau puts you in the boots her mother gave her, as she takes you along her journey of escape from an abusive childhood and the desire to find herself as she comes of age. Made to feel a burden to her father simply by her gender, Harley is determined to prove her worth and independence, leaving the small town she grew up in and the one boy who gave her a soft place to fall, Jeremiah Johnson. Torn between saving herself and abandoning her mother and younger sister, Harley chooses her own life in hopes they will choose theirs, too.

A mature, candid read for everyone. A must for women. The Boots My Mother Gave Me explores the dynamics of abuse and dysfunction, the courage to overcome, the strength in sisterhood, and the ongoing conflict and unconditional love between mothers and daughters.

Climb into Charlene the Chevelle for a fast-paced story about a girl who is tough enough to survive and tender enough to learn to trust in love.

Currently Reading

“A weirdly wonderful short story collection exploring the Holocaust from diverse perspectives in literary styles ranging from gothic and romantic to phantasmagoric.”

I Truly Lament—Working Through the Holocaust is a varied collection of stories: inmates in death camps; survivors of these camps; disenchanted Golems complaining about their designated rounds; Holocaust deniers and their ravings; collectors of Hitler curiosa (only recently a few linens from Hitler’s bedroom suite went up for sale!); an imagined interview with Eva Braun during her last days in the Berlin bunker; a Nazi camp doctor subtly denying his complicity; and the love story of a Hungarian cantor, among others.

“When Christmas Comes Again” by Beth Wiseman

Katherine knows the first Christmas without Elias will be hard for her and the children. But when a mysterious Englischer appears with photographs of her late husband, Katherine  begins to wonder what other blessings Christmas could have in store. 

“Her Christmas Pen Pal” by Ruth Reid

Joy was expecting a wedding proposal from Henry; what she got instead was news of another woman. But when her heartfelt letter to a cousin ends up in the hands of a young cabinetmaker, an unexpected correspondence between two strangers gets interesting fast.

“A Gift for Anne Marie” by Kathleen Fuller

Anne Marie and Nathaniel have been best friends since they were kids. Now things are evolving . . . in ways everyone else predicted long ago. But when her mother suddenly decides to remarry in another state, Anne Marie’s new chapter with Nathaniel looks doomed to end before it begins. 

“The Christmas Aprons” by Tricia Goyer

Vanilla crumb pie has been Esther’s mem’s calling card for decades. But when Esther finally gets her hands on the secret recipe, she discovers that vanilla crumb pie is more than just dessert . . . it’s bachelor bait.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Book Spotlight with Excerpt: Starlet's Man by Carla J. Hanna

Starlet's Man 
by Carla J. Hanna

Series: The Starlet
Paperback: 266 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (May 5, 2014)
Amazon Paperback Link

Kindle Edition
File Size: 796 KB
Print Length: 267 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Kindle Link

About the book:

Lights, Cameras, and Lies. High school student athlete, Manny Biro, is caught between the boy he should be and the man he wants to become. 

Everyone around him accepts the Hollywood life. He doesn't. Manny wants no part of acting. On the surface, his childhood best friends seem to have it all: money, power, success. Between the lines, they are all confused. Alan is a messed up want-to-be director focused on pushing scenes to their sexy potential. Beth is an athlete driven to escape from a dark past. Janet is Manny's kid sister caught up in fashion and trends. And Marie is a lonely actress exhausted by the culture that makes everyone's favorite stories. 

Book Excerpt

Manny Biro flung his head backwards and exhaled loudly. He bit his lip and closed his eyes, stifling his desire to flee. He remained in position on the top step of the darkened stairwell. Construction paper and duct tape covered the light fixture above him while set lamps softened the shadows. Expensive film equipment encircled him in the narrow, cracked concrete space. Manny’s tight fists, knuckles white in contrast with his bronze skin, communicated his frustration with acting.

“Don’t pout, buddy!” Alan shouted at Manny from behind the camera. He wiggled out of his director’s chair and headed towards his actors, his scrawny body layered in a hip graphic tee and belted bling jeans that hung below the waistband of his plaid boxers. He repositioned his Lakers baseball cap while he patted Manny’s shoulder. “Just forget the lines. Say, ‘No’ instead.”

Manny shrugged off Alan’s hand.
Alan rolled his eyes as he returned to his chair, uttering
profanities as if he was giving a speech, finishing with, “If you can manage that!”
Beth, the tall, voluptuous girl on the step below Manny, giggled as she pulled at her barely-there mesh tee shirt. “You can’t really think I look sexy.” She leaned to one side to get Alan’s acknowledgment. “Seriously, Alan, how is anyone gonna have sympathy for a girl when she’s wearing this?”

“Just shut up and act!” Alan flipped her off. “Damn amateurs!”

Beth smirked. “He thinks he’s so mature because he cusses out orders that we all ignore.”

On the floor of the parking garage above them, it was a bright and warm Friday afternoon in December in Santa Monica, California. Students were on their way home anticipating the Santa Monica High School Vikings boys varsity basketball game that would take place against their rival Beverly Hills that night. At least fifteen other students were stuck on the basement level awaiting instructions from Alan, high school senior, director, and son of rich and powerful studio executive, Ira Goldberg, about what they should do next in his ambitious anti-bullying film.

Trying his hardest to ignore Beth’s curves and unfamiliar made-up face, Manny stared into her bored but gorgeous royal blue eyes. “I don’t want to grab your bum.”

Beth softly patted his cheek. “I hate acting, too. But we get some cash and help all these guys with their project.” The low cut tee flashed her cleavage. “Don’t worry about it.”

Manny sighed. “This crap isn’t worth the forty bucks.”

“Forty bucks? Per shoot?” Beth questioned. “I got twenty!” She repositioned the itchy blonde wig she wore over her short brown hair, reminding Manny that her sexiness was fake and temporary. He relaxed. She said, “Why aren’t we paid the same?”

“Negotiation, Beth; girls are paid less than guys.” Alan said as he adjusted a light. “Our project is in his little baby-boy’s hands and now you’re complaining?”

“My fee just went up. You pay me the same as Manny.” “Whatever. Just chill. Anything else, losers?”
Manny did not feel guilt. Only the students who worked on the film for their senior project worked for free. Besides, Alan put the project on a funding website and got a ton of contributors in exchange for some tee shirts and production note emails. The deal was that Alan would pay his reluctant actors for their work. He said, “You say you need me in this stupid film and then make me be a Latino rapist. It’s stereotypical bullshit, Alan.”

“Race has nothing to do with it. You’re the best built guy in school and every girl, somehow, thinks you’re hot.” Alan asked his student crew, “A show of hands: anyone see Manny as a person of color?”

The film crew members raised a hand or gave a nod, all accustomed to seeing people of color and knowing they are equals. Blessed with striking genes from his father, a former Latino boy- band heartthrob, and his Irish-American mom with perfect skin, Manny had an athlete’s body with a built-in tan. From his love for sports, he turned natural talent into sculpted, bronze 6’1” perfection at just seventeen years old.

Alan flipped them all off, again, for disagreeing with him.

The video playback assistant said, “Don’t be such an idiot, Alan, and let’s get to work. My grade is on the line, here, too. Stop pushing Manny or we might lose him.”

Alan slammed his body into his director’s chair and pouted. Students snickered.

For a high school senior, Manny was unique. Everyone liked him. He spoke English, Spanish and German fluently, which helped him connect with others because he understood that meanings get lost in translation. His good looks, wit, and disarming humility endeared him to people. He resisted temptations most of the time and always told the truth if asked. He was also a young man in a moral state of contradiction, a product of Hollywood culture—a potpourri of ethnicities and beliefs.

“Of course you look Latino, like Zayn from 1D in a Hemsworth body.” Beth whispered, exaggerating her Polish accent, “You should cover your yummy brown eyes in sunglasses so you don’t tempt me.”

Manny shook his head, dissing her flirtation. “I thought I looked like A-Rod, and isn’t Zayn half-Pakistani, not Latino?”

“A-Rod is off my list of hotties. He’s a cheater.”

“Actors could use steroids, too. They want to be competitive. Look at all the plastic surgery on girls; I’m sure guys do what they need to do.”

She slid her hand along his bicep and smiled. “Glad you’d never cheat.”

He removed her hand. They had dated their sophomore year and were now nothing more than friends. Until his recent breakup with Kate, they always hung out together in their clique. She teased him relentlessly in fun. Besides, she dated his friend, Mitch. He warned, “Don’t.”

She smiled. “What bugs me is that you think I’m hotter when I’m a blonde. Look at you squirm.”

Manny stared at her. “That’s so dumb.” He smiled. "But it's not really that. It's how you're packaged. You look like Alan's mom." Switching to German, the language they used together when they did not want to share their thoughts with others, Manny shared that Alan’s mom wore the same shirt when she propositioned him, “Sie trug, dass, wenn sie mir einen unsittlichen Antrag.”

Beth frowned and whispered, “So I look like a rich Hollywood sleaze. Wusste er, dass sie mit dir geflirtet?"

“He couldn’t have known. He wasn’t home,” Manny murmured.

Beth raised her voice, “Alan, did you get all these clothes from your mom?”

“Yeah. You’re wearing one of her wigs, too.”

“You made me look like her? Dude, you’ve got some serious baggage.”

Alan locked eyes with Manny and smirked. Then he cussed at the other cameraman and shouted idle orders.

In German, Beth told Manny that she broke up with Mitch again.

Manny shook his head, answering in English. “You’ve got to stop that. Someday he won’t come back.”

Alan asked, “You single, finally?”

“Not for a guy who used to call me fat every day,” Beth answered. “You’re far too shallow for me now that you think I’m hot. I’m the exact same person.”

“Looks are everything for girls,” Alan stated. “Girls are, like, ‘dork’ when they see me and then, ‘wait, he’s rich?’. Guys are ‘Boobs or not?’. Period.” He cussed needlessly again,
demonstrating his belief that every noun he uttered needed a profane adjective for emphasis. “It’s life, Beth. People always judge.”

Manny disagreed, “For the first second, people judge beauty. Then they judge intelligence and decide if you’re nice. The nice girl always looks pretty to me if she’s funny. Looks don’t matter for more than that first second.”

Alan shrugged. “No one cared about Beth until she slimmed down.”

“I did.” Manny grinned at Beth. “You’ve always been beautiful.”

Beth smiled. “We have an entire culture misguided on that first superficial impression. Women spend millions for it when all they need to do is tell a few good jokes to win Manny’s heart.”

Alan’s lighting guy finished and gave him the thumbs up. Alan looked through the frame and then belittled him, making everyone feel the verbal abuse seep inside.

Beth pursed her lips as she raised her eyebrows. She explained to Manny, “Mitch is actually an awesome boyfriend. I just got so pissed that he’s such a Republican.” Beth put her hands over her ears to shut out Alan. “Do the scene, and we’re done.”

The dark stairwell reeked from fast-food decay and urine, which coated the chipped paint on the empty basement floor. Manny did want to be done with shooting, get his mom something for her birthday from the mall just a few meters away, and get ready to play Samohi Viking ball. He was a guard—a good ball handler but not the best. He asked, “So I push her, she says her lines, I say, ‘No,’ and we cut?”

Alan spoke monotonously. “Yeah, but stay there so we can do the next scene.”
Manny focused on Beth. “You want to help me shop for my mom’s birthday present after?”
“Yeah. You’re so sweet to get your mom something.” Beth grinned. “Must be weird pretending to be a player when you’re the nicest guy around.”

Manny chuckled. “Next to your boyfriend.” He switched to Spanish for emphasis. “Claro.”
“Of course.” Beth wrapped her hand around the back of her neck moving the heavy waxy hair off her back. “What are you going to buy her?”

“She wants Marie’s mom’s perfume that just came out for Christmas. I’m sure I can get it from Marie, but I’ve got this forty bucks and Marie isn’t due back for another week.”
Alan interrupted, “Beth, didn’t your mom have a perfume line in Europe?”

Beth ignored him. Her mom was a TV actress on a network show. When they lived in Poland, she was the equivalent of Marie’s mom, an A-list Hollywood veteran actress. Now that her mom was stuck in the States in a network contract, the family was practically broke.
“Okay. Let’s just do this.” Alan positioned himself behind the main camera and pointed to the guy holding the shoulder camera. The boy holding the microphone flexed. “And ACTION!”

Hot Girl shrinks away from Player, clutching her cheek. “Leave me alone!”

“No.” Player expands his broad chest and stretches out his arms, taking hold of each railing to prevent Hot Girl from passing. “Oh, king of the stairwell?” Hot Girl sneers while keeping her face and eyes exactly on mark, looking at the tape on the wall close to the camera and not at Player. “You’re invading my personal space.”

Player grasps her arm farthest away from the camera.
“Let me go!” She struggles.
Player grabs Hot Girl’s bum with the hand closest to the camera and effortlessly lifts her. His back and arms flex as he brings her chest into his and tightens his hold around her.

Manny blushed. His body warmed. He quickly stepped on the landing as if Beth weighed nothing.

Player says, “No.”

“Cut. Stay.” Alan waved to his production assistant.

Manny gulped as he gently released Beth. He glanced at her chest while breathing consciously. His cheeks and neck flushed again. “I don’t like this.” He stepped away from Beth. “It’s humiliating.”

“Just be a dude! Every guy but you would love the opportunity to grab Beth’s ass.” Alan viewed the playback on both cameras. “Awesome! Really great work guys.” He smiled. “Less is so more. Okay, new set up! This is where Player rips Hot Girl’s tee shirt. Let’s get to it people!”

The crew scrambled to place the camera and adjust lights, while Manny and Beth stepped out of the way, to where several cast chairs were placed, grabbing two bottles of water on the way.

“It’s normal to feel awkward, Manny. You okay?” Beth switched again to German to ask him if he still had feelings for her. "Sie haben immer noch Gefühle für mich?"

Manny exhaled. He raised his eyebrows and nodded. “Don’t you? Isn’t that why you constantly flirt?” He switched the subject, “Can’t this film be all anti-bullying without showing the Player be such a jerk?”

Beth gulped. She stared at him for a moment waiting for him to tell her that he still loved her. His lips tightened. She shifted from side to side and stared at her mark on the wall. Avoiding the truth, she said, “Of course the film can imply abuse. Alan just doesn’t want to. He wants the sex factor.”

Amazon Buy Links

 Paperback / Kindle 

About the author:

Carla Hanna lived in Santa Monica, CA where her children played with the children of celebrities. She mingled with plenty of nannies and a few good celebrity moms. She is the author of Starlet’s Man (Sept. 2014) and the Starlet Series. For more information please visit:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thursday Trailer: The Cause by Roderick Vincent

The Cause
by Roderick Vincent

Paperback: 330 pages

Publisher: Roundfire Books (November 28, 2014)
Amazon Paperback Link

Kindle Edition

File Size: 1179 KB
Print Length: 331 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1782797637
Publisher: Roundfire Books (November 28, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Kindle Link

About the book:

The Second American Revolution will be a fire lit from an internal spark. 

Set in 2022, The Cause is a dystopian thriller that paints a very real future in which a revolution could be––or perhaps, must be, born. America is on the verge of economic and social collapse. The government has made individual freedom its enemy. Hacker Isse Corvus enters a black-ops training camp. He discovers the leaders are revolutionaries seeking to return the U.S. back to its Constitutional roots. Soon the camp fractures. Who is traitor? Who is patriot? And at what point can justice only be paid for in blood?

About the author:

Roderick Vincent is the author of the upcoming Minutemen series about a dystopian America. Recently released, the first novel in the series, titled The Cause, is an Amazon Bestseller and published by Roundfire Books. Roderick has lived in the United States, England, Switzerland, and the Marshall Islands. His reviews and short stories have been published in Ploughshares blog, Straylight (University of Wisconsin, Parkside) and Offshoots (a Geneva publication). For more information, visit:

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