30 November, 2012

#Spotlight :: Cera’s Place by Elizabeth McKenna

A story wrapped in love and justice

It was her saloon and her rules – until the day he walked through the swinging doors…
In 1869, San Francisco saloon owner Cera Cassidy offers redemption to any woman looking for honest work. At Cera's Place, men can get a decent hot meal with a whiskey, but if they want anything more, they have to take their desires elsewhere. One summer night, a distraught Chinese girl bursts through the swinging doors with a shocking tale of murder, kidnapping, and prostitution. Outraged, Cera vows to set things right. 
Jake Tanner, a scarred ex-soldier haunted by the horrors of the Civil War, is on a mission to fulfill a friend's dying wish. The trail has brought him to Cera's door. Captivated by her beauty, he wants to join her fight - but will she let him?
Elizabeth McKenna's debut novel is a fast-paced adventure filled with memorable characters that will leave you wanting more. Get lost in a time gone by and fall in love today!

An Excerpt

Across the room, Ginger gestured at Jake several times, while the saloon owner kept her eyes locked on him. Finally, shotgun in hand, Cera came out from behind the bar and approached his table. The room went quiet as everyone waited to see if there was going to be a brawl or an execution. 
“You need to leave—or else.” Facing him squarely, she threw the last word out as if it was her leather glove and the challenge to a duel.
Jake’s jaw clenched at her threatening tone. What in blazes did he do to deserve this? “Do you treat all of your customers this way or have I done something to offend you? I’m just looking for my friend’s daughter. I was told she worked here.” 
“She doesn’t.” 
Her green and gold eyes flashed fire the more she looked—no, glared—at him. Earlier, Jake thought she sparkled. Up close, though, he realized his mistake. It was more than that. She radiated. 
Cera laid the shotgun across one arm, letting it casually point in Jake’s general direction. “Are you not understanding my words, soldier? I told you to take a walk.”
Unwilling to leave until he knew where Daniel’s daughter had gone next, Jake decided to take a risk. “How about if we start over? Let’s sit down, I’ll buy you a drink, and you’ll listen to my story.”
“I own the place. I drink for free,” Cera replied, pointing out the obvious.
“Well, then, you can buy me a drink.” Before she could say no, he pushed her into Ginger’s chair and called the redhead over. 
“Miss Ginger, would you bring us two shots of whiskey, please?”  
Ginger glanced sideways at her boss. After a few moments of consideration, Cera lifted her hand slightly. With a bob of her head, Ginger went to fetch the drinks. Seeing that a gunfight was no longer imminent, the other patrons lost interest and the room’s noise level returned to its usual boisterous level. 
While they waited for Ginger’s return, Jake sized up the saloon owner. Besides the flaming auburn hair, Cera’s Irish heritage had given her porcelain-colored skin. A splash of freckles dotted her cheeks and nose, softening her sharp jaw. He couldn’t tell how full her lips were, as she kept them pressed into a hard line. Though the bodice of her dress was modestly cut compared to Ginger’s, the exposed flesh looked able to please any warm-blooded man. 
Cera thumped the butt of the shotgun against the floor. Startled, he raised his eyes to find the fire in hers had turned to ice. Jake quickly looked away, pretending to study the décor of the room.
Breaking the awkward silence, he motioned with his hand. “You seem to have a very successful business here.”
“We do all right,” Cera conceded in a clipped voice.
Picking up Ginger’s wine glass, he asked, “Do you sell much of this?”
“Not as much as whiskey and beer, of course, but it comes cheap so I don’t fret about it. My partner’s friend is trying to introduce sparkling wine to the region. We offered to help.” Perhaps realizing she was being friendly, she clamped her mouth shut and resumed glaring at him.
Unperturbed, Jake tried again. “I’m surprised by the sophistication of your place considering the neighborhood. It’s quite a dichotomy. ”
“Well, now, there’s some 50 cent words. Looks like the soldier has some education under his gun belt. You mean you’re wondering why I don’t sell whores, don’t you?”
Jake shrugged in response.
“I won’t make money off of someone else’s misery, and whoring is a miserable business. Now you’re wasting my time, Captain. What’s your story? I have a saloon to run and no time for lies.”
Jake shook his head. “What I told Big Red is the God’s honest truth. I’m looking for a girl named Sadie. Before her daddy died, he asked me to give her a locket. I’ve been trying to find her for several years now. I was told she worked here—or used to. If you can tell me where she was headed, I would be much obliged.”
Cera’s fingers wrapped and unwrapped around the shotgun’s barrel a few times. “Ginger said you have proof. Show me.” 
Jake pointed to his pocket and Cera nodded her consent. He carefully brought out a faded photograph and an oval-shaped, gold locket on a thin chain. As he passed the objects to her, their hands touched and his heart skipped a beat. Surprised at his body’s reaction, he thought back to the last time he had truly desired a woman. For the briefest moment, he allowed himself to see his late wife’s gentle smile before pushing away the melancholy memory. 
Motioning to the photograph, he explained, “That was our company. I’m in the top row, second from the left. Daniel—Sadie’s daddy—is in the bottom row, right in the middle. And that obviously is the locket I’m supposed to give her.”
Cera examined the photograph, her eyes flicking back and forth between it and Jake.
“Yes, it was taken before I got this.” Jake ran a finger down the side of his face. Cera’s cheeks flushed and he felt a twinge of remorse for embarrassing her. He had long ago accepted the unwanted souvenir from his war days, but he knew the sight of his scar upset some people.
Cera handed the photograph back to him but kept the locket in her hand. “And you’ve been looking for Sadie for years? Why would you do that? The man’s dead, right? He’s none the wiser.”
“Because I would know,” Jake replied a bit gruffer than he intended.
Cera let out a long breath. “Wait here.” 
When she stood up, Jake reached over and grabbed her wrist. “The locket stays with me.” 
Cera’s eyebrows rose at his demand. “You’re asking me to trust you. Now you have to trust me.”
As he debated inwardly, Ginger interrupted the stalemate. Clearing her throat, she put the shots of whiskey on the table. “Let go of her, Captain. You don’t want this trouble.”
Cera nodded in agreement. “If you are telling the truth, you have nothing to worry about.”
Frowning, Jake pulled his hand away. He hoped he wouldn’t regret the decision.

Raves & Reviews 

 “Elizabeth McKenna’s writing immersed me deeper and deeper into the story and she delivers a beautiful, intriguing tale…I loved Jake and Cera’s emotional journey for justice and love, they touched my heart and I was rooting for them. Elizabeth McKenna delivered a powerful and captivating read with Cera’s Place. Supported by a striking and witty cast of characters Cera’s Place is entertaining, it is a thrilling read that kept me riveted to my chair from start till finish!” Marissa on Goodreads / Amazon / Marissa’s Book Lounge

 “An awesome debut! A love story that will carry you back to a very exciting time. It turned out to be really different from what I was expecting…All the characters were very well developed and believable. The story was paced well and descriptions sent vivid pictures to my mind. This story is a romance but it is wrapped in a very suspenseful mystery. There are a few steamy moments too. A perfect story for me. I was unable to put it down. For a debut novel it is definitely worth 5 stars! I am looking to reading more by this author.” Lori Caswell on Goodreads/Escape with Dollycas/Amazon

 “I loved this book, and I’m very glad I had the chance to read it. The author’s style of writing is really up my alley and I would read books by her again. The story was a good one and it was a compelling situation. I would recommend this book to everyone!” Natalie Kozaczka on Goodreads
 “This is very well written. It takes a little bit to get into it but once you are in you just can’t get out until the end. I love all of the characters in the book. Each and every one of them really make the book pop. You will enjoy this book if you choose to purchase it.” Renee on Amazon

 “This was an historical novel full of the suspense that is usually in a modern thriller/crime drama…From that point on I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to more stories from the talented Ms McKenna.” Mrs. Condit Read’s Books on Goodreads/Amazon

 “I highly enjoyed reading the adventure of Jake and Cera.” Katherine on Goodreads

 “Enjoyed very much! Great plot and a good read.” L. Kito on Amazon

 “By the end of the second chapter, my heart was in my throat, and I cared about these characters and what they were doing. The characters are interesting and believable, the storyline is good…The plot moved along mostly believably, and there was lots of action.” Rhonda on Amazon

 “This isn’t the typical historical romance I read, but it was definitely just as enjoyable! The reason this one was so different was because Cera, the main character, was the owner of a saloon and she was a hard-headed female instead of the normal damsel in distress girls that are normally in historical romances. It was also cool how this story took on a crime/mystery genre when Cera was trying to catch the bad guys in town who were selling Chinese girls…It was quick, but Cera’s Place still leaves you with a nice, romantic story you can’t help but get lost in.” Jessica on Goodreads

 “The plot is interesting, even gripping, with some of the action sequences keeping you on the edge. The characters are alive, authentic, having distinct personalities and talking like real people. The scenery is beautifully described…” Dascalu on Amazon

 “I expected this book to be full of steamy romance & captivating love scenes – I was not disappointed!” Kathleen on Amazon

 “Elizabeth has done a wonderful job writing this book…This is not just a simple love story, it has a soul.” Aditi on Amazon and Goodreads

 “I love historicals, and this definitely didn’t disappoint!…All in all, it was a great read with excellent characters!” Brea on Amazon and Goodreads

 “The characters were very believable and the story moved along at a nice pace…I enjoyed the story very much and I look forward to Ms. McKenna’s next story.” Bridget on Goodreads

About the Author

Elizabeth McKenna is a full-time technical writer/editor for a large software company. She never read romance novels until one Christmas when her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene).

She had always wanted to write fiction, so when a psychic told her she would write a book, Elizabeth felt obligated to give it a try. She combined her love of history, romance and a happy ending to write her debut novel, Cera's Place. She has also written a short story titled, The Gypsy Casts a Spell, which was published in the February 2012 issue of eFiction Magazine. You can read the short story on her author website 

Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and sassy Labrador. When she isn't writing, working, or being a mom, she's sleeping.

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29 November, 2012

#Spotlight on “Michal’s Window” by Rachelle Ayala: Michal’s Love for David: Obsessive or Hopeful?

Now Presenting:
*** SPECIAL FEATURE - November'12 ***
"RIVETING... a heartwrenching romance deftly evoking challenges between the sexes in Bible times."
- Terry Long, Author of The Notorious Proposal

It's not easy being a woman, least of all princess of Israel. Married as a prize, abandoned as a wife, Michal fights to claim her rightful spot next to King David, the man she loves with all her heart.

Separated by war, concubines, and kingdom politics, Michal embarks on a journey of adventure and heartache where she is befriended by a goddess-worshipping priestess and tempted by a Philistine prince.

From reading scrolls high atop the palace walls to seduction with a henna-painted body, Michal is not your ordinary Bible heroine. Join her in Michal's Window and let her delight you with her courage, devotion, and outrageous passion in her relentless drive to win back her husband.

Michal’s Love: Obsessive or Hopeful?

Obsessive Love Disorder is characterized by instantaneous and overwhelming attraction, extreme attachment and insatiable desire for the object of affection. If rejected by the target, a person with Obsessive Love Disorder becomes fixated in an all consuming compulsion to win back the target’s affection.

There is no question Michal loves David, the man who would supplant her father as King of Israel. The Bible mentions her love for David twice. At first, her father was pleased because he could use her as a snare to trap David. After Michal marries David, her father began to fear her love for his enemy. He tries to have David killed, but Michal protects David and allows him to escape from her window.

Michal is left behind and forced to marry another man. But she cannot forget David. Unable to abide patiently in Israel and await David’s return, Michal sets off for the land of Philistia to search for David. When she finds him with two wives, she tries to persuade him to leave them and let her stay. She is forced to go back to Israel, but refuses to give up on David. During her exile, she even writes to David’s second wife with the hope David would send for her.

Her goal to be the only woman in David’s life in a time of polygamy may seem rational to modern women today. But in her day, a woman was not supposed to show emotion or preferences. In fact, the Bible never mentions any other woman besides Michal who loved a man. Instead, men are said to love women, such as Jacob loved Rachel.

So why did Michal keep trying to win David back? Was she obsessed or hopeful? The answer lies in whether David loved her or not. If his only reason for marrying her was because she was the daughter of a king, then her one-sided love was indeed obsessive. The premise for Michal’s Window lies in the fact that David did love Michal. How could he not? She was the beautiful princess. She loved him unreservedly and she proved her loyalty to him against her own father.

In Proverbs 5:18, David writes to his son, Solomon, “Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.” He admonishes his son to stay away from the strange woman, and to always be satisfied with the wife of his youth. In 2nd Samuel 3:5, he names a woman, Eglah, with the title “David’s wife.” This title is not used by any other woman except for Michal. The infamous Bathsheba is always referred to as the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Eglah is Michal’s nickname, meaning little heifer, a term of endearment. And finally, David, a man after God’s heart would agree with Malachi 2:15, an admonishment not to deal treacherously with the wife of his youth, the covenant wife.

Therefore Michal’s devotion had a basis in a healthy love relationship. The fact that she was separated by war, concubines, and political situations did not dampen her love. She held onto her hope that she and David would be reunited in a true loving relationship. And despite doubt, guilt, and mistakes on both of their part, she believed that true love would prevail.

Michal’s Window is an epic story of the ultimate triumph of love.

As a shepherd to as a king – David is well known worldwide as part of religion and as a part of history. King Saul’s daughter Michal was David’s first wife. However, Michal helped David to escape her father’s wrath through her window. After years of separation and yearning they are reunited. But Michal now had to compete with David’s other wives for his time and affection. It is safe to say that as a significant figure in both History and Religion, David’s life is well known – as is David & Michal’s story. So, I will not spend much time in telling you the storyline.

Based in the backdrop of a time when women were treated as property, this is a love story like no other. Michal, a strong woman, who loves, lives and takes risks for her beloved and David, a brave man who turns his own fate to become a king. This is the story of Michal’s life - the moment she falls for David, when she helps him escape, the days & nights she spent waiting for him, her reunion and her disappointment – the author has described everything very vividly. When together – there was a distance between them, a distance driven in by David when he took one wife after the other. She had known and loved King David from the time when he was a mere shepherd. She had seen how time and power had changed him and he knew that she understood him better than anyone else.

This is an amazing story of love, yearning and jealousy. Michal is such a strong character – a perfect protagonist in my mind. In those times, it wasn’t easy for Michal to do the things or make the decisions that she did for King David. As for King David, I have to say that he was a typical man – not just a man of those times but simply a man. Even these days we get to see people like him all the time – with the mentality that since they were born ‘men’ they can get away with anything and double standards are absolutely normal as long as they suit them.

The author has done an amazing job with this one. Her description of situations is quite vivid which helped me as a reader to follow the storyline in the right time frame. Plus her character development is simply AWESOME. From Michal to David to Saul – she has developed her characters really well.

I am in no way an expert on history or religion, but after reading this book I have researched it extensively on the internet. I have read articles, discussions and numerous debates on both David and Michal. Hence, I would like to mention this that no reader should pick this book up with conservative mindset or preconceived notions. This is – end of the day a work of fiction that tells the story from Michal’s – a woman’s point of view. Also a note of warning  – the book has sexual content and some violence.

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Your Daily Bible Verse: AmazonCreatespaceBarnes & NobleKoboSmashwordsApple Itunes
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Now for the Giveaway... There's going to be 3 winners this month. Yeah you heard me right - 3!! 

First Winner: Will get the Complete eBook Collection... Yes all 12 of them!
Second Winner:  Will get to choose any 6 eBooks out of the 12 listed 
Third Winner: Will get to choose any 3 eBooks out of the 12 listed 

Check out what's up for grabs:
Always & Forever
Only In Her Dreams
Twenty Weeks
Falling For Sarah
Deep As Bone
Kat Fight
At Road's End
Secrets From The Dust
My Emily
The Notorious Proposal
Scent of Triumph: A Novel

The Winners have been selected and contacted. They are:

28 November, 2012

#BookReview :: The Girl in the Wall by Daphne Benedis-Grab

Ariel's birthday weekend looks to be the event of the season, with a private concert by rock star Hudson Winters on the grounds of her family's east coast estate, and all of Ariel's elite prep school friends in attendance. The only person who's dreading the party is Sera, Ariel's former best friend, whose father is forcing her to go. Sera has been the school pariah since she betrayed Ariel, and she now avoids Ariel and their former friends. Thrown together, Ariel and Sera can agree on one thing: this could be one very long night.

They have no idea just how right they are.

Only moments after the concert begins and the lights go down, thugs open fire on parents and schoolmates alike, in a plot against Ariel's father that quickly spins out of control. As the entire party is taken hostage, the girls are forced apart. Ariel escapes into the hidden tunnels in the family mansion, where she and Sera played as children. Only Sera, who forges an unlikely alliance with Hudson Winters, knows where her friend could be. As the industrial terrorist plot unravels and the death toll climbs, Ariel and Sera must recall the sisterhood that once sustained them as they try to save themselves and each other on the longest night of their lives.

Sera and Ariel were once best friends till Ariel betrayed Sera and turned the whole school against her. Sera’s father however treats this as a ‘small tiff between friends’ and forces her to go to Ariel’s birthday bash – ‘the’ party in town. With Hudson Winters band performing and whole school invited, Sera has something to look forward to and something to dread about. But as she has absolutely no say in it, she arrives at the party hoping to just get it over with. Soon things spin out of control unexpectedly and they find themselves in hostage situation. Will the two girls hold on to their grudges or call on the friendship that they had shared earlier?

Let me get the not so ‘good’ things out of the way first. I got this ARC through Netgalley and my version of it has lots of mistakes in it. Hopefully the book will be going through another round at the editors table before its release in mid-december. The other thing that I didn’t enjoy as much is the way the teenagers get out of the hostage situation. Without giving out any spoilers, let’s just say Macaulay Culkin had far better tricks up his sleeve in Home Alone 1 to deal with the thieves. And, that’s about it!

The plot isn’t something out of this world, but I did enjoy it. The start was a bit slow but it soon picked up its pace and during the last few chapters, they were literally turning itself! Written from the point of view of both Ariel & Sera, the book gives us complete knowledge of what’s exactly going on. The characters were interesting and developed throughout the story. Especially, Ariel and Sera. They start off as this rich, spoilt hot-headed girl and the sensitive and shy girl. But by the end, they were so much more. Author’s writing style is simple, making it easier to get into the story. She has given just enough description about the surroundings for the reader to picturise the different situations.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read that kept me interested throughout.

27 November, 2012

#BookReview :: The Shadow Throne by Aroon Raman

India faces nuclear armageddon.

A mysterious murder at the Qutub Minar triggers a call to ace journalist Chandrasekhar from his cop acquaintance, Inspector Syed Ali Hassan. The victim is unlike anyone Chandra has ever seen: a white Caucasian male who has all the looks of a throwback to Greek antiquity. Soon after, Hassan calls in to report the case has been taken away from him – in all likelihood by RAW – the Research & Analysis Wing, the uber-agency of Indian intelligence.

What began as a murder enquiry soon morphs into a deadly game of hide-and-seek within the shadowy world of Pakistan’s ISI and India’s RAW; and Chandra, his friend history professor Meenakshi Pirzada and Hassan find themselves in a race against time to avert a sub-continental nuclear holocaust. 

As the action moves to its hair-raising climax among the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan, Chandra must face up to the fact that Inspector Hassan is not all that he seems …

Inspector Hassan is called to a crime scene at the very famous Qutub Minar. He calls in his journalist friend Chandra and they are soon joined by Meenakshi, a history professor. The murder victim seems to be a Caucasian white male – only his appearance is like that of an ancient Greek! Soon it becomes apparent that this is not just a murder case. There is something else going on at a much larger scale and not everything or everyone maybe what they seem to be. The trio has to work against quite a few odds to solve this international conspiracy that spans across the borders.

Okay, so it is no big secret that unless it is Amitava Ghosh or Anita Desai, I am not a big fan of IWE. With the bookstores overflowing with titles from youngsters that make me cringe to actual cheesy contents of the books to the overdose of IIM/IIT campus stories, I have been turned off from this genre for quite some time. But then recently, thanks to friendly recommendations and review copies, I have actually experienced some very good writing. From Memoirs to thrillers to short stories, it seems that a new generation on authors are finally emerging who are moving away from stereotype characters using ‘not-so-cool lingo’.

The Shadow Throne by Aroon Raman is one such novel. No it is not a Dan Brown Clone or wanna-be James Patterson. Aroon Raman has instead created his own cliché that has its readers’ attention right from the word go. The complex plot line and the vast area covered by the author keeps us involved throughout. There’s nuclear weapon and then there’s some political drama – both attention grabbers, right? I found the portrayal of both ISI and RAW very interesting. And well, anybody in the Asian subcontinent, or rather everybody in this world knows about the sometimes on – sometimes off friendship and rivalry between India and Pakistan. This novel actually cashes in on it but from a rather different point of view – what if a third party planned to destroy both India and Pakistan? Will the two countries be able to forget the grudges of the last few decades and work together?

The narration of the storyline and the description of the surroundings that the author provides are simply beautiful. The character development is perfect – not too much or too little but just the exact amount of information is provided for us to feel as if we ‘know’ them. The smooth flow of the story and the climax build up are two other things that I really liked – though after the build-up, the climax fell a teensy bit short in my opinion.

Overall, a nicely paced enjoyable thriller that I would recommend to thriller enthusiasts.

26 November, 2012

#BookReview :: Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison

The Transformation: Beth has always been "The Beast",that's what everyone at school calls her because of her awkward height, facial scars, and thick glasses. Beth's only friend is geeky, golden-haired Scott. That is, until she's selected to be her choir's soprano soloist, and receives the makeover that will change her life forever.
The Love Affair: When Beth's choir travels to Switzerland, she meets Derek: pale, brooding, totally dreamy. Derek's untethered passion,for music, and for Beth, leaves her breathless. Because in Derek's eyes? She's not The Beast, she's The Beauty.
The Impossible Choice: When Beth comes home, Scott, her best friend in the world, makes a confession that leaves her completely torn. Should she stand by sweet, steady Scott or follow the dangerous, intense new feelings she has for Derek?
The Heartbreak: The closer Beth gets to Derek, the further away he seems. Then Beth discovers that Derek's been hiding a dark secret from her that could shatter everything.

Beth has always been known as “The Beast” in her school because of her appearance. Tall, pimply with glasses, her only and best friend Scott is the only person who knows her for who she really is. With feelings developing for Scott slowly, a very confused Beth gets a complete makeover when she is selected as her choir's soprano soloist. And then she is off to Switzerland for the competition, where amidst the beautiful backdrop, awesome cheese and great music, Beth is swept off her feet by handsome, broody and extremely talented Derek. When she returns, Scoot bares his soul to her but Beth feels that Derek is the right choice for her. But there’s secret that Derek is keeping and that is driving them apart than the physical distance between them.

That’s about it – the summary covers the plot pretty well and if you have read enough Young Adult Novels, then you’ll be able to guess Derek’s secret pretty easily. Beth is a character I didn’t like much. She clearly had feelings for her short-geeky friend Scott. But after the make over when Derek focused his attention on her – she melt! I mean come on, choosing a guy you know for a couple of days and who hasn’t seen the real you over your best friend who has stood by you during your ‘beastly days’ and had taken the pain to actually know you is pretty shallow. Of all the people, I would have expected better from someone who had been in Beth’s shoes. Derek on the other hand is another person who I do not like so much. I mean I may understand his motivations for not telling his secret to Beth, but I do not condone it. He was simply selfish in leading on Beth to what was surely a road to heartbreak.

Meadow and Scott are the saving grace of the story. Though at the beginning Meadow is portrayed as a rich spoilt brat, she completely stunned me. She is a fun, friendly, understanding and actually an honest girl, who totally saves the day for Beth. Later on I thought that the initial impression of her may have been like that since the author portrayed her through Beth’s eyes. Scott on the other hand was such a sweet girl. He was the first person to look at Beth beyond her not so pleasing outward appearance and he truly loved Beth. He never gave up on her.

My only knowledge of choir is what I have seen on TV. They all do look good, but I wonder in reality if appearance is such a big issue that a person like Beth had to go over a complete makeover. I for one don’t care what a singer or a music director looks like. It’s the music that touches us and not their faces. I mean look at Susan Boyle – people judged her by her appearance at the auditions but when she started to sing – I didn’t stop to wonder about her appearance second time.

Author’s style of writing is pretty simple and she managed to touch my heart with the not so happy scenes even though I was pretty pissed with both the protagonists. I found the book a bit slow though.

23 November, 2012

#BookReview :: Amanda's Story by Brian O'Grady

In his national bestseller HYBRID, Brian O'Grady created a bracing and vividly realized tale of a virus gone out of control. At the center of that story was Amanda Flynn, a woman not killed by the EDH1 virus, but changed in frightening ways. HYBRID only hinted at the story of Amanda's work in Honduras that led to her exposure and the ramifications when the American government sought to contain the damage. Now, that story can be told.

AMANDA'S STORY is the heart-stopping tale of a woman caught up in a storm she wanted no part of, and what happens when she refuses to be collateral damage. It is the story that readers of HYBRID have been waiting for and that new readers will find impossible to put down.

This is a prequel to O’Grady’s bestselling debut novel - Hybrid. As the name suggests, this book tell us the story of Amanda and how she came to become the person that she is in Hybrid.

The novel starts off with Amanda just losing her husband and two year old son to an accident. As she tries to start fresh she gets an opportunity to go to Honduras as a part of Red Cross’s cyclone rescue team. Once there, the team comes to realize that not all is as it seems. The town is almost deserted and those who survived and remained there, seemed to be affected by some sort of virus. Their own camp is infected and within a few weeks the team of over thirty people perished because of the virus, only Amanda survives. When a rescue team arrives and safely pulls her out of the situation, one would think that she was finally safe. But no, she is put into isolation and for months numerous tests are done on her. She had survived a deadly virus, but can she survive and emerge from the clutches of a few mere humans? 

Well, I am not about to tell you the whole story. You’ll have to read the story to find out what happens then.

There are quite a few wonderful characters that I just loved in this book starting with Amanda’s in-laws - Greg & Lisa. They are the most delightful as a couple, as parents and as people. Then there are people like Bernice, Bennet and Lister are difficult to find these days. And what can I say about Amanda. Her character has many shades and we see different sides of her as she grows throughout the book. At times I felt really bad for her and at times I felt scared of her. The author has simply created a brilliant character through her who is both good and bad. You will cheer for her, feel her sadness and feel the darkness in you too.

The plot felt a little too simple at the beginning. But things got interesting once Amanda was released to her family from her isolation. Watching her trying to discover and understand the person she had become, trying to settle back into some form of life and trying to stay in control was really an experience. The pace of the story is just right – not too slow nor is it fast. At times it may seem to be dragging, but the information provided during that period is actually important and I realized it even while I was reading it. 

Frankly speaking, under normal circumstances I wouldn’t really have picked this book up. It has a very plain cover with not so intriguing title. Plus I could hardly find a proper summary for it. But I have toured with PICT quite a few times and each time I have rated those books as 5Stars. So I knew that this book had to have some quality and picked it up. I am glad that I did. This was a refreshing change for me. I enjoyed both the drama part of it and the scientific part of it.

 Read an Excerpt: 

“Does it make any of you angry that a little less than a year has gone by and very few Americans remember what happened?" Mindy McCoy, super-model turned talk show host asked the four women that surrounded her. She shifted her long legs and casually inclined toward the pale, blonde woman to her left, just as the voice in her ear had instructed.

For a moment Amanda met the gaze of her host, but became distracted by the movement of the cameras that prowled the perimeter of the group just beyond the glare of the stage lights. She had said very little during the fifteen minute interview and it was becoming uncomfortably obvious. Heather Waylens shifted her legs as well, just not as casually as Mindy, and the older woman's stony glare communicated one message to Amanda: do your part. A weak, joyless smile crossed Amanda's face as she stared into the cameras; she took a long breath as the panel, the audience, and the TV world waited. 

“At this point in my life it takes almost everything I have to get out of bed in the morning. I simply don't have the luxury of being mad at anyone."

Mindy McCoy and the rest of the world waited for more, but Amanda's gaze had returned to the floor. The moment began to stretch and, just as everyone began to shift rather uncomfortably, Heather and one of the other panelists jumped into the void. At first, their comments stepped over the others, but it was Heather’s voice that prevailed. “The American mindset is always looking forward. It is a requisite for progress and one of the reasons that America leads the world in so many ways. Of course, the cost of that is a short memory; we have to guard against the mistakes of the past being forgotten so that we as a people can incorporate those lessons as we work to fulfill our great destiny..." Heather continued for a full two minutes before yielding the floor back to their host who immediately took them to a commercial break.

The stage quickly filled with show personnel. Despite the attention of her make-up artist, Mindy whispered to Amanda, "Honey, we need a bit more from you." Her careful and practiced elocution had been replaced by a more natural drawl.

"Hold still or you won't be beautiful," the make-up artist scolded Mindy with a lilt.

"Amanda," Heather called from across the stage, but the frenetic activity gave Amanda a convenient excuse to ignore her summons. "You need to tell your story, for everyone's sake," she pleaded with a tone that was much too close to a demand.

"Especially yours," Amanda whispered to herself. Everyone was trying to turn her grief to their advantage, particularly Congresswoman Heather Waylens. Her husband, the previous Representative of Kansas' third district, had died along with 202 others, including Amanda's husband and their two-year-old son, when Delta flight 894 crashed into an Iowa cornfield. The governor of Kansas appointed Heather to serve out her late husband's term, but she had every intention of holding onto that seat well beyond the remaining sixteen months, and perhaps other seats as well. She used her loss and the pain of others to further her ambition, and right now Amanda hated her. She had never hated anything or anyone in her entire 24 years, but she was certain that at this instant she hated the Congresswoman from Kansas. It was a good hate, a righteous hate that for a moment burned brightly in the confines of her hollow soul, and then, just as quickly as it had flared, it began to fade, depriving Amanda of its heat and energy, leaving her drained from the emotional effort. 

A figure suddenly blocked the bright lights and Amanda found a young, slight man scanning her face. "Just checking for shiny spots," he said while leaning in close and inspecting her forehead. "Sweetheart, you were made for TV," he sang while straightening, and playfully patted her nose with his powder-puff.

"Coming out in thirty seconds,“ a voice screamed, and the flurry of activity that surrounded the group spun even faster. Something touched Amanda's hand and she turned to find Mindy's face inches from hers.

“I know that this makes you uncomfortable, and it's more than a little intimidating, but try and forget all this," her arm swept across the stage. "Ignore the lights, the cameras, even the Congresswoman, and just talk to me as if we were in your kitchen. Lust us two girls, no one else." Mindy's eyes sparkled, her smile was natural and infectious, and Amanda realized that Mindy had more going for her than just a singular beauty, a perfect figure, millions of dollars, her own TV show, and uncounted adoring fans.

“I’ll try," Amanda answered.

"People what to hear what you have to say; they should hear it, and between you and me, I would prefer that it come from you rather than a politician." Her head gave a quick jerk toward Heather.

"It's difficult for me to care about what other people need." Amanda paused as the stage lights came up. "That didn't come out right." She smiled. "I probably should be angry; maybe at the mechanic who didn't fix the door correctly or Delta Airlines for not insuring that he was properly trained, or, as Heather would like people to believe, the Transportation Board and the government for allowing Delta to perform their own inspections. Maybe I should take it all the way up to God, who gave me something wonderful and then snatched it back. But what does it matter? In the end they're still gone, and their absence is all I can feel."

"You're trapped," Mindy said.

"I'm stuck; that's what everyone tells me. It's why I'm here; to get 'unstuck.'" Amanda briefly smiled but then her head sagged as she began to examine a spot on the stage a few feet in front of her shoes.

"But you don't want to get unstuck, because as long as you still feel their absence in some way they're still with you," Mindy said softly with a tone that revealed more than understanding. "Getting unstuck means taking a step away from their memory and is an acknowledgement that they are never coming back; that things will never be as they were.”

Amanda looked up from the studio floor and found Mindy's eyes glistening with unshed tears.

"My parents when I was thirteen." Mindy said, answering Amanda's look. “The details aren't important. What is important is that I know what it means to be stuck. I know what it's like to have others tell you that you need to do this or that, feel this way for this amount of time, and then move on to this next stage. But they really don't understand what being stuck means. In some ways, it's an acknowledgement of the people that we've lost, how their passing has torn out a large part of you, and that "moving on" means filling that void with something other than them. In some ways it's a violation of their memory."

Amanda stared into Mindy's flawless face and realized that someone else in the world understood; that she really wasn't alone. Since the accident, she had met with more than a dozen other "survivors" of Flight 894, and each of them had managed to either move past their grief or controlled it well enough to put on a brave face, which only increased Amanda's isolation. 

"But you survived," Amanda managed to say with only a slight waver.

"For a long time, that's all I could manage." Mindy's perpetual smile had a painful edge as her hand slipped into Amanda's and they shared a private moment on national television. "My director is having a fit upstairs because we are so far off topic and I'm starting to sound more like Dr. Phil than an empty-headed talk show host. I think he's afraid that if I show more than one-dimension I'll demand more money." The studio audience erupted in a mixture of laughter and applause. "Well, I think we are right on topic." Mindy let go of Amanda's hand and half-rose from her seat. She faced the camera and had to shout over the audience who began to cheer. "A year ago two hundred and two people died in what some say was a plane crash that should never have happened, but the human toll was far greater than that, and these four ladies, along with hundreds of others, will have to deal with their loss every day for the rest of their lives. My next two guests will hopefully try and explain why. Coming up after this short video salute to the victims of flight 894 is Kevin Tilits of the National Transportation Authority, and Dennis Hastings, President of Delta Airlines." The audience cheered louder and the stage lights dimmed.

A stagehand appeared at Amanda's side and began to unclip the microphone attached to the collar of her blouse. "Please follow me," he told Amanda rather curtly the moment she was free.

"Can you give me just a moment?" She asked the young man. "Thanks, Mindy," she said reaching for her host's arm.

"Can you stay until I'm done here?" she asked Amanda, who nodded. "Good. Will you please escort Mrs. Flynn to my dressing room?" She ordered the stagehand as much as asked him, and then returned to the argument she was having with her director.

Amanda followed the irritated and hurried man offstage; apparently Mindy's dismissive attitude toward the crew was not entirely unusual and Amanda felt obliged to apologize for his help.

"Don't worry about it; she always gets this way when the boss man is riding her."

"I think she's in trouble because of me," Amanda said as they navigated through a maze of cables, wires, and video equipment.

"Are you kidding me? That was great TV. It'll be all over the entertainment channels in an hour, and tomorrow our share will be up by at least ten points. If she keeps this up she won't have to ask for more money; they'll be throwing it at her.” He opened a door for Amanda, and as she walked through, she felt his eyes follow her into the room. “Do you have anyone here with you/ I could bring them up while you wait."

"That would be nice, but I don't want to impose."

"You're not imposing, it's my job."

"My mother-in-law, Lisa Flynn, is in the yellow room. She's about five-five, short brown hair..."

"It's OK; I think I can find her. I'll be back in a moment." He closed the door and the latch closed with a muted click.

Mindy's dressing room was in a word sparse. She had a table covered with a variety of cosmetics. Above it was the obligatory mirror rimmed with bright lights, and aside from a small sofa and a recliner, the only other thing in Mindy's room was a television, which was tuned to her show. Amanda quickly turned the TV off as the video showing the remains of Flight 894 focused on an undamaged teddy bear lying on its side. Behind it was a shattered airplane seat. This particular frame had become the symbol of the tragedy and it pierced Amanda to the core. It was the main reason that she had been invited here. The bear's name was Fred T. Bear, and Amanda had bought it for her son's second birthday, a month before he died. She had no idea whether the seat behind Fred belonged to her son, her husband, or someone else. It didn't really matter; they were gone. Only Fred had survived, and he was safely wrapped in plastic somewhere in her in-laws's home.

About the Author
Dr. Brian O’Grady’s second novel Amanda's Story was released in November, 2012 after his best-selling debut with Hybrid.
Dr. O’Grady, a neurosurgeon, explores the untapped abilities that lie within the human brain with his series, starting with Hybrid. The key in Dr. O’Grady’s debut novel is a virus, which unleashes a chain of events in the same spine-tingling spirit of suspense as The Andromeda Strain and the X-Files.
O’Grady follows in the tradition of Michael Crichton as a physician who brings his in-depth medical knowledge to his craft. A practicing neurosurgeon, O’Grady is a graduate of the University of New Mexico who completed his residency in neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic. His deep insight into the mysterious workings of the human brain brings HYBRID and Amanda's Story realistically to life.
When he is not writing or performing brain surgery, he struggles with Ironman triath- lons. He lives with his wife in Washington state.

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