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Spotlight: Searching for Vivian by Babette Hughes

Searching for Vivian by Babette Hughes releases today, February 23, 2016. 

Ms. Hughes, winner of the Texas Association of Authors’ Historical Fiction Award 2011-2012, has set her newest piece during one of the most important time periods in United States history--the 60s.

Searching for Vivian Overview
In 1966, seventeen year old Vivian Russell disappeared like smoke. The seemingly senseless murder of her parents in their home in Cleveland, Ohio was as unexplainable as her vanishing act in its aftermath. Her younger sister, Emma-traumatized by the horrific event- grows into a capable and relentless investigator who decides to do whatever it takes to find her. Her search takes her through the turbulent sixties- Viet Nam, The Black Panthers, dead ends, and bank jobs. Along the way, she finds herself and, whether she is prepared for it or not, the truth.

About Babette Hughes
Born in Cleveland Ohio, Babette Hughes grew up in the time of Prohibition and bootleggers. Her father was one of the first bootleggers in the country, and was murdered by the Mafia in a turf war at the age of 29. Babette was just two at the time. Writing has allowed her to draw from her unusual life experiences to create her characters and tell their stories (and sometimes cautionary tales) in vivid detail. Now 93, she writes every day with fluidity and grace. “The truth is liberating, but sometimes elusive.” She explains. “I’m always looking for it and how to best write about it, and I probably always will.”
She is a contributing blogger for Huffington Post and a columnist for the Cleveland Press. 

Website: http://www.babettehughesbooks.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/babettehughes/?fref=ts
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Searching-Vivian-Babette-Hughes/dp/1939828562/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1455314375&sr=8-3&keywords=babette+hughes
HuffPost: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/babette-hughes/

Foodie Friday Feature: A Taste for Nightshade by Martine Bailey

Title: A Taste for Nightshade
Author: Martine Bailey
Publisher: Thomas Dunne/ St Martin's
Publication Date: January 12, 2016
ISBN: 9781250056924
Number of Pages: 453
How I Got It: from publicist
Format: hardcover
Publicist's Description:
Bailey tells an exquisite tale of suspense, cooking, and revenge set in early 19th century England seasoned with authentic recipes from the time period. This is the story of two women: a naïve upper-class woman and her cunning cook, who wants her mistress’s money, identity, and life. The story begins in Manchester in 1809. When budding young criminal Mary Jebb swindles Michael Croxton's brother with a blank pound note, he chases her into the night and sets in motion a train of sinister events. Condemned to seven years of transportation to Australia, Mary sends him a 'Penny Heart'-a token of her vow of revenge. Two years later, Michael marries naïve young Grace Moore. Although initially overjoyed at the union, Grace quickly realizes that her husband is more interested in her fortune than her company. Lonely and desperate for companionship, she turns to her new cook to help mend her ailing marriage. But Mary Jebb, shipwrecked, tortured, and recently hired, has different plans for the unsuspecting owners of Delafosse Hall.

My Review:
I knew this book would be a perfect selection for my Foodie Friday feature as soon as I read about it. 
While many of the recipes aren't ones you should be preparing (Poppy Drops,) it was interesting to hear about the different foods of the time period and the combinations of herbs used for cooking (and to bring about ailments, recoveries, and emotions.) I liked how the author pressed the boundaries of privilege and society with her two main female characters and of course the detailed accounts of all the food everyone was eating!

About the Author
MARTINE BAILEY is the author of An Appetite for Violets. As an amateur cook, she won the Merchant Gourmet Recipe Challenge and was a former UK Dessert Champion, cooking at Le Meurice in Paris. Her recipes have appeared in many publications including Good Housekeeping, Olive Magazine and Green and Black's Chocolate Recipes. Martine lives in Cheshire, England.

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Review: Dollar Signs by Manning Wolfe

Title: Dollar Signs
Author: Manning Wolfe
Publisher: Starpath Books, LLC
Publication Date: February 18, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-944225-00-1
Number of Pages: 307
How I Got It: from publicist
Format: Kindle

MERIT BRIDGES, an attorney and widowed mother in Austin, Texas, works hard, drinks too much wine, and sleeps with younger men. When Merit goes after a shady corporation threatening her client, she encounters hired gun Boots King. His charge is simple, “Stop her!” Merit and her team – including Betty, a mothering office manager with a bad-ass attitude – struggle to stay alive, while they navigate a labyrinth of legal issues, and prove once again that you don’t mess with a Texas lady lawyer.

My Review:
The description of Merit Bridges made me want to check this book out. I like a smart thriller, one that  makes me actually have to think, and Dollar Signs didn't disappoint. Merit defends the hard-working "little guy" against the corrupt "big business" trying to take his land and livelihood. "Fixer" Boots King is one of those slimy, "love to hate" characters and you just can't wait to see Merit take him down. I especially loved Merit's office manager, Betty, a great "mama bear" character that holds down the fort and has the perfect comeback for anything. Manning Wolfe has created a great set of characters and constructed a town that I'm ready to return to with the next books in this series. 
About the Author:

MANNING WOLFE an author and attorney residing in Austin, Texas, writes cinematic-style, smart, fast-paced thrillers with a salting of Texas bullshit. The first in her series, featuring Austin Lawyer Merit Bridges, is Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs Boots King. A graduate of Rice University and
the University of Texas School of Law, Manning’s experience has given her a voyeur’s peek into some shady characters’ lives and a front row seat to watch the good people who stand against them.

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

11 February Releases I Wish I Had Time to Read

Everyone's busy. I know. I wish I had more time to read but don't we all. Here are 11 titles releasing this month that I would like to check out if I had all the time in the world to read. Are any of these on your radar or in your TBR piles? 

Introducing Epigenetics : A Graphic Guide
André Gomes, Oliver Pugh
100 Million Years of Food : What Our Ancestors Ate and Why It Matters Today
Stephen Le
Maureen Sherry
Lit Up : One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-four Books That Can Change Lives.
David Denby
Sharon Guskin
Simonetta Greggio
Mo Daviau
Michelle Gable, Tanya Eby
Hair : A Human History
Kurt Stenn
Daniel Black
Trudy Nan Boyce

Review: Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon

Title: Flight of Dreams
Author: Ariel Lawhon
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: February 23, 2016
ISBN: 9780385540032
Number of Pages: 
How I Got It: from author 
Format: paperback ARC
Author's Description:
FLIGHT OF DREAMS is an utterly suspenseful, heart-wrenching novel that vividly brings the fateful voyage of the Hindenburg to life. On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world’s largest airship; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed.
FLIGHT OF DREAMS is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster. But for the moment they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them.
Brilliantly exploring one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century, FLIGHT OF DREAMS is that rare novel with spellbinding plotting that keeps you guessing till the last page and breathtaking emotional intensity that stays with you long after.

My Review:
In 2014 I reviewed The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress and was extremely impressed with Ariel Lawhon's storytelling skills. I anxiously anticipated her second release and crossed my fingers that it would be as good as her first. Boy, do I love it when I'm right! I was so tired of figuring every "mystery" out in all the recent thrillers I'd read. In Flight of Dreams, just like in TWTMTM, I had to work for my clues and I loved every minute of it. I was pleasantly stumped several times. Knowing the outcome of the Hindenburg's flight and Lawhon's use of a countdown to explosion to preface sections of the novel, a reader is frantically racing the clock. "One more chapter and I'll put this down" you say? Yeah, good luck with that. Told from alternating points of view, a reader sees these few days from the eyes of Emile the stewardess, Gertrud the journalist, Max the navigator, Werner the cabin boy, and "The American." Lawhon's attention to detail was fascinatingly exquisite. I never knew how much I wanted to know about what the guests had been served to eat on the Hindenburg, how they bathed, or that they smoked...SMOKED IN A GAS FILLED BALLOON!! Due to my extreme boredom in almost every history class I have ever taken, I didn't know the correlation between Hitler and the Hindenburg, nor had I thought about who exactly would have been allowed or chosen to participate in its flight. As in TWTMTM, Lawhon has once again given me an inside look at an historical event that wouldn't have stood out to me on first observance, but now, through her creative vision, has me looking for conspiracies around every corner. 

About the Author: Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads.org, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons. She is the author of THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS (2014) and HINDENBURG (2016) both published by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.


***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Review:: United Tastes of Texas: Authentic Recipes from All Corners of the Lone Star State

I was lucky enough to review this delicious book in the February edition of Lake Austin Lifestyle magazine. Check it out Here !!

Title: United Tastes of Texas: Authentic Recipes from All Corners of the Lone Star State
Author: Jessica Dupuy
Publisher: Oxmoor House
Publication Date: February 9, 2016
ISBN: 9780848745806
Number of Pages: 272
How I Got It: from the publisher
Format: Hardback

Review: No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn (*** ATTENTION: SPOILERS AHEAD***)

Title: No Ordinary Life
Author: Suzanne Redfearn
Publisher: Grand Central
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
ISBN: 9781455533909
Number of Pages: 387
How I Got It: from publicist
Format: paperback

Suzanne Redfearn delivers another gripping page-turner in her latest novel, a story about a young mother's fight to protect her children from the dangerous world of Hollywood.
Faye Martin never expected her husband to abandon her and her three children . . . or that she'd have to struggle every day to make ends meet. So when her four-year-old daughter is discovered through a YouTube video and offered a starring role on a television series, it seems like her prayers have been answered. But when the reality of their new life settles in, Faye realizes that fame and fortune don't come without a price. And in a world where everyone is an actor and every move is scrutinized by millions, it's impossible to know whom to trust, and Faye finds herself utterly alone in her struggle to save her family. Emotionally riveting and insightful, No Ordinary Life is an unforgettable novel about the preciousness of childhood and the difficult choices a mother needs to make in order to protect this fragile time in her children's lives.

My Review: (SPOILERS AHEAD): Suzanne Redfearn's debut novel, Hush Little Baby, was my favorite book of 2013 and I was anxiously awaiting her next work, but I was skeptical. Hush Little Baby was going to be pretty hard to follow up. I had read it in a day and my blood pressure was through the roof the entire time (only when reading books is that probably a good thing.) Well just like Hush Little Baby, I could not put down No Ordinary Life. My book light was shining way past my bedtime. The short chapters made it so easy to say "just one more" plus every chapter ended in a way that you HAD to know what happened next. Before I was able to start reading, my book BFF Tamara told me she hated the mom character, Faye. I wasn't going to let that sway my opinions and thought I would not go into the novel with that notion. As I began reading I was excited to argue that Faye was doing the best she could. But as I read further, I wanted to throttle her! Redfearn doesn't shy away from writing unlikeable characters. Gordon was one sick SOB in Hush Little Baby, and Faye's husband, Sean, is a total slime ball. But I was wondering....am I supposed to be hating Faye this much? Like whhhhhhyyyy didn't she get a divorce and claim abandonment? She says because it costs money? I bet her mom would have helped her out and there are agencies to assist her if she didn't want to ask her mom. I guess because I've dealt with shit like this that I have no patience for women who let men walk all over them, or worse abandon their children. I told Tamara "I swear to god if she lets her husband back in her life I'm going to scream." Then about 10 pages later, I screamed. I had predicted that he was back because he knew about the money, and I was right. I thought Redfearn did a great job combining pop culture favorites and behind the scenes gossip from multiple television shows to create The Foster Band. I felt like it was a bit Full House (the Olson twins and Jody Sweetin's drug use) meets Seventh Heaven (Stephen Collins sexual abuse scandal) with singing. It was interesting to consider all the moving parts and time requirements/limitations involved in shooting a show with minors. 

Now let's talk about Emily: I couldn't believe that Faye let Emily miss those soccer games. Isn't there some sort of carpool? Then to smack her when she is clearly crying out for attention? And then to not care that she really smacked her but is upset when it is implied that she smacked Molly? I could go on and on about all the things Faye did that I thought were wrong but Emily's rape was the last straw. Do kids sneak out and do things they shouldn't? Yes. Are the parents to blame? Usually not. Can something tragic happen during these times? Sometimes. I don't blame Faye for Emily's rape but her response was absolutely atrocious. I can't believe she didn't take her directly to the police station and that she let her shower. Like they are just going to sweep it all under the rug. I also felt like the rape was thrown in at the last minute and the ending was rushed. I think this book would be enjoyed by readers who like unlikeable characters. The world of child acting is full of tragedy and manipulation. Redfearn did a wonderful job of giving readers a peak at that world and the pros and cons of families living that life.

About the Author 

Suzanne Redfearn is the author of Hush Little Baby, which was chosen as a Target Recommends selection and Target’s Emerging Authors program. She graduated summa cum laude from California Polytechnic University and, prior to becoming an author, was an architect. She is an avid surfer, golfer, skier, and Angels fan. She lives with her husband and children in Southern California. No Ordinary Life is her second novel.

Website: suzanneredfearn.com
Facebook: facebook.com/SuzanneRedFearnAuthor/
Twitter: @SuzanneRedfearn
Goodreads: goodreads.com/author/show/6922565.Suzanne_Redfearn

Barnes & Noble:

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***