Friday, September 25, 2009

Book Giveaway: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Thanks to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group, we have 5 copies of The Historian to give away! My review will follow shortly.

About the Book:

Breathtakingly suspenseful and beautifully written, The Historian is the story of a young woman plunged into a labyrinth where the secrets of her family's past connect to an inconceivable evil: the dark fifteenth-century reign of Vlad the Impaler and a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive through the ages. The search for the truth becomes an adventure of monumental proportions, taking us from monasteries and dusty libraries to the capitals of Eastern Europe - in a feat of storytelling so rich, so hypnotic, so exciting that it has enthralled readers around the world.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Kostova graduated from Yale and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for the Novel-in-Progress.

Reading Group Guide, courtesy of the publisher:

1. In the “Note to the Reader,” the narrator tells us, “There is a final resource to which I’ve resorted when necessary — the imagination.” How does she use this resource in telling her story? Is it a resource to which the other historians in the book resort as well?

2. The theme of mentors and disciples is an important one in The Historian. Who are the story’s mentors, and in what sense is each a mentor? Who are the book’s disciples?

3. Near the end of chapter 4, Rossi says, “Human history is full of evil deeds, and maybe we ought to think of them with tears, not fascination.” Does he follow his own advice? How does his attitude toward history evolve in the course of his own story?

4. In chapter 5, Paul’s friend Massimo asserts that in history there are no small questions. What does he mean by this and how does this idea inform the book? Do you agree with his statement?

5. Helen and Paul come from very different worlds, although they share a passion for history. How have their upbringings differed? What factors have shaped each of them?

6. Throughout the book, anyone who finds an antique book with a dragon in the middle is exposed to some kind of danger. What does this danger consist of? Is it an external power or do the characters bring it upon themselves?

7. Each of the characters is aware of some of the history being made in his or her own time. What are some of these real historical events, and why are they important to the story?

8. At the beginning of chapter 1, Paul’s daughter notes, “I had been raised in a world so sheltered that it makes my adult life in academia look positively adventurous.”How does she change as a person in the course of her quest?

9. Helen’s history is deeply intertwined with that of Dracula. In what ways are the two characters connected? Does she triumph over his legacy, or not?

10. In chapter 73, Dracula states his credo: “History has taught us that the nature of man is evil, sublimely so.” Do the characters and events of the novel prove or disprove this belief ?


To enter, share two sentences about a mentor who made a difference in your life.

Rules: Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address and answer, no entry. The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on October 31, 2009.

Thank you so much to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Book Giveaway: Connected by Nicholas Christakis MD, PhD and James H. Fowler, PhD

About the Book:
Your colleague's husband's sister can make you fat, even if you don't know her. A happy neighbor has more impact on your happiness than a happy spouse. These startling revelations of how much we truly influence one another are revealed in the studies of Drs. Christakis and Fowler, which have repeatedly made front-page news nationwide.

In Connected, the authors explain why emotions are contagious, how health behaviors spread, why the rich get richer, even how we find and choose our partners. Intriguing and entertaining, Connected overturns the notion of the individual and provides a revolutionary paradigm - that social networks influence our ideas, emotions, health, relationships, behavior, politics, and much much more. It will change the way that we think about all aspects of our lives.

Want to learn more? Visit the Connected website at


To enter, share why you'd like to win.

Rules: Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address and answer, no entry. The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on October 31, 2009.

Thank you so much to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

A Highlander's Temptation Blog Tour & Guest Post + giveaway

I'm excited to be part of A Highlander's Temptation Blog Tour! Let's welcome Sue-Ellen Welfonder to Starting Fresh. She's here to chat about A Tale of Two Books. Without further ado, Sue-Ellen Welfonder!


A Tale of Two Books by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

No, the blog title isn’t a typo. I really am here to talk about two books. And I’m so excited for the opportunity.

Sure, my publisher arranged this blog tour to promote my latest Scottish medieval romance, A Highlander’s Temptation (GCP, Oct. 2009) and I’ve really been enjoying the whirlwind. It’s fun to revisit a book I finished last year and once again spend time with characters I love.

So when I learned that Grand Central Publishing is offering a special $1.99 e-book edition of my first book, Devil In A Kilt to coincide with the release of A Highlander’s Temptation (GCP, Oct. 2009) I thought it would be fun to share a bit of back history about two of the most significant characters in both books.

Although the books stand alone, there’s a strong tie binding them. Arabella MacKenzie, heroine of A Highlander’s Temptation (GCP, Oct. 2009) is the eldest daughter of Duncan MacKenzie, hero of Devil In A Kilt. I’ll follow the ladies first rule and begin with Arabella.

I really love this heroine. She was born at Yuletide in the epilogue of my third book, Bride of the Beast, which told the tale of Sir Marmaduke, a secondary character from DEVIL IN A KILT. Arabella was named after her father’s late sister who’d been Sir Marmaduke’s first wife.

You can catch glimpses of Arabella in later books. She has especially strong roles in Bride For A Knight and Seducing A Scottish Bride.

So I’d been looking forward to writing her story for a long time.

And when she finally stepped onto the page, ready to be a heroine, we both embarked on quite an adventure.

Because Arabella is practical-minded, a good and obedient daughter, and also doesn’t believe (overly much) in magic, I knew I’d have to shake up her world to get her to step out of her comfort-zone and seize the passion she deserved.

Secretly, of course, she’s always yearned for that passion.

And as a sympathetic author-in-charge, I was very willing to help her along. I did, after all, chart an exciting journey through the Hebrides for her. And – don’t let her fool you - she went gladly, eagerly boarding the merchant cog that was to take her into her hero’s arms.

But a writer can never make things too easy.

So what I didn’t tell her was that the hero of A Highlander’s Temptation (GCP, Oct. 2009), Darroc MacConacher, lived for only one thing. He burned to wreak vengeance on the powerful MacKenzies who’d brought ruin to his clan. Chased from their lands, the MacConachaers now live on a remote Hebridean isle. It is here, in this windswept and lonely place, where Darroc plots the revenge he hopes will restore his family’s name and honor.

When a shipwreck lands Arabella in his arms, he can’t help but admire her strength and bravery. Much to his annoyance, he also finds himself attracted to her. But she’s the daughter of his greatest foe and, as such, the ideal means to bring down his enemies.

I, of course, knew that these two were the best-suited-for-each-other pair I could have thrown together. And I’m genuinely sorry for any distress I caused them in the months I needed to finish their book and send them off into their own happy ever after.

Now that the deadline is met and A Highlander’s Temptation (GCP, Oct. 2009) releasing, I like to think they’ve forgiven me.

I also hope Duncan MacKenzie, hero of Devil In A Kilt has come around. As you can imagine, he wasn’t very pleased when I chose Darroc as Arabella’s hero. Looking back, he also wasn’t happy when I decided Arabella’s mother, Linnet MacDonnell, should be his bride.

He stormed about and raged quite a bit. He’s good at that sort of thing, being quite the Alpha hero. Speaking of which, I did promise to tell you about him. So here you go….

It happened like this: Duncan came to me out of the Highland mist. I was walking around outside one of Scotland’s most romantic castles, Eilean Donan near Skye, when he just ‘appeared.’

It was a cold, gray day full of swirling, chill mist. The castle looked much as in this photo that I took on a November visit several years ago. Duncan was magnificent, every inch the wild Highland chieftain. Fierce and proud, he strode towards me, sword glinting at his side, and his dog, Mauger, at his heels.

The look on his face told me he meant business.

And he did.

He wasn’t happy with his life and he wanted me to fix it. He’d decided I could do so by writing his story. It didn’t seem to bother him that I was a very happy flight attendant at the time and had no aspirations to write books.

He wanted me and, obviously, he got his way.

As soon as I capitulated, he vanished into the mist. What remained was a desire to do what he wanted. Thank goodness, he left me with his life story. I knew it all, then and there. I knew his name was Duncan MacKenzie and that he was chief to his clan in the early 1300s. I also knew he was known as the Black Stag of Kintail.

He was a man much-loved by his friends and greatly feared by his enemies.

Everyone respected him.

And in Kintail, his word was law.

But he carried a terrible ache inside him. It was such a fierce sorrow that those who knew him well even suspected that his grief had caused his heart to freeze. Duncan knew better. He did have a heart. And he wanted me, as a writer, to help him get it back because everything he tried on his own only made things worse.

In Devil In A Kilt, Arabella’s mother, Linnet MacDonnell, is the one who finally turns Duncan’s life around. She makes him happy again and herself in the by-going. Like Arabella and Darroc, Duncan and Linnet were perfect for each other.

I was happy to bring them together.

And I owe them so much because when Duncan appeared to me that day at Eilean Donan, he didn’t just persuade me to write a story. Because of him, I started down an entirely different career path.

Writing can be a roller-coaster sort of career and I do miss flying. Sometimes. But the good in this business far outweighs the bad and I feel very blessed to be doing something I love so much.

For the curious, what happened that long-ago day at Eilean Donan was the birth of a gift book. The rare and precious stories that just pop into a writer’s mind, out of nowhere. Such stories are always fully fleshed out and so real that, as happened to me, you almost see the hero or heroine right there before you.

I called Duncan’s story Enchanted because that’s how I’d felt that day at Eilean Donan. The book sold, obviously, and with its catchy new title, Devil In A Kilt, even went on to win RT’s Best First Historical Romance Award. It’s been years, but the book remains a favorite with many of my readers.

So I’m super excited that Grand Central Publishing is making it possible for readers to get an e-edition of DEVIL IN A KILT at the great price of $1.99. I also know that Duncan is pleased, too. After all, having his e-book release with Arabellas A Highlander’s Temptation (GCP, Oct. 2009) is a fine way for him to keep an eye on his girl.

Though when all is said and done, I know he’ll approve of Darroc and even (if grudgingly) make peace with the MacConachers.

If anyone is wondering, I still see Duncan at Eilean Donan. I visit the castle whenever I’m in Scotland and always make a late night walk around the grounds. When I do, I can almost see Duncan and his good friend, Sir Marmaduke, up on the battlements, looking down at me.

They smile, nod, and vanish.

I like that.

Question: Have you ever been somewhere special and met a ‘Duncan’ of your own?

Learn more about Devil In A Kilt, A Highlander’s Temptation (GCP, Oct. 2009), and all the books between at my website:



Arabella MacKenzie, the eldest daughter of Duncan MacKenzie a.k.a. The Black Stag of Kintail, yearns for an adventure of her own. Her younger sisters are wed to loving and wealthy warriors, but she seems destined to remain at home. Her father scares off most of her suitors and has increased her dowry expecting that the prospect of greater wealth will bring out more suitable men. With the help of her mother and her uncle Sir Marmaduke, Arabella is allowed a trip to the Seal Isles. Arabella's secret plan is to visit a hermit's shrine that is reputed to help women fall in love, bear children and find happiness. The ship is attacked and Arabella is washed ashore on MacConacher's Isle. But the MacConachers are blood enemies of the wealthy MacKenzies. Their laird Darroc MacConacher has plotted revenge against his enemies for years but he can't bear to be cruel to Arabella. Otherworldly spirits intervene to help Darroc and Arabella move beyond the past.


A Highlander's Temptation combines paranormal intrigue in a story of highlander love. A likable heroine, Arabella MacKenzie blossoms outside of her father's watchful gaze. Her reaction to learning the MacConacher's side of the feud is one of the highlights of the book. I tend to enjoy these highlander novels where the lovers have to overcome the prejudice of a longtime and bloody feud. If you're looking for a fun, highlander romance, I recommend A Highlander's Temptation.

Publisher: Forever (September 29, 2009), 400 pages.
Courtesy of the publisher.


To enter, please tell answer Sue-Ellen's question above.

Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address and answer, no entry. The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on October 31, 2009.

Thanks so much to Sue-Ellen, Anna and Hatchette Book Group for this opportunity!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Review of Simon's Cat by Simon Tofield

Fans of Simon Tofield's videos of Simon's Cat will love this book that comes out on September 24, 2009. The book, Simon's Cat, captures the lightheartedness and humor of the escapades of the video shorts. The graphics are simple but enchanting.

A sure hit with cat lovers, even those of us without pets are sure to enjoy the playful stories and naughty tricks that Simon plays on the family dog, neighborhood birds, and his "master." I particularly like the frame with the cat and the frozen birdbath - silly but hilarious!

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (September 24, 2009), 240 pages.
Courtesy of Hatchette Book Group.

If you'd like a copy, sign up for my contest!

Thanks so much, Anna and Hatchette Book Group for this opportunity!

Book Review of Dutch by Teri Woods

Dutch: The First of a Trilogy
Dutch by Teri Woods

Bernard James, Jr., a.k.a. Dutch, grew to become the most dangerous criminal in New Jersey. Street smart and ruthless, Dutch was gifted at reading people. With careful positioning and luck, Dutch was able to win the attention and respect of Italian mobsters. Planning, luck, and guts help Dutch move up from teenage carjacker to drug lord. With the help of criminal bosses and Dutch's past associates, District Attorney Anthony Jacobs is intent on taking Dutch down. As the action unfolds and blood flows, how will it end?

Dutch is a fast-paced and carefully crafted thriller. Each of the main characters are well fleshed out. Unwilling to accept traditional rules and authority figures, Dutch and his friends develop their own code of honor. Despite his ruthless and criminal acts, I found it easy to understand and sympathize with Dutch's choices. Overall, Dutch was a fast and engrossing read. I'd highly recommend it to persons who enjoy action and mafia-type novels.

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Collectors edition (September 23, 2009), 256 pages.
Courtesy of Hatchette Book Group.

After enjoying the book, I did a quick search on the author, Teri Woods. I don't usually devote this much space to the "About the Author" section, but I was impressed by Teri's business acumen and dedication to get her stories told and books to the market. Here's Teri Wood's bio, courtesy of the Teri Woods website:

Teri Woods is a native of Philadelphia. She has worked as a legal secretary/paralegal for eight years in a Philadelphia Center City law firm practicing in defense litigation for a national insurance company. She began writing True to the Game in 1993. She copyrighted her work in 1994 and began to submit her work to publishers. After being turned down, the book sat dormant in a closet for two years. By 1997, she was determined to do something for herself. In 1998, she began selling hand made books on the street and out the trunk of her car. Moving thousands of books primarily from the trunk of her car she was determined to have her story read. Her grassroots tactic paid off; Teri Woods became a self-made millionaire in just three years selling her novel, True to the Game. She landed a major motion picture deal for the book as well. With the release of True to the Game, Teri Woods has reinvigorated the urban fiction market and created a growing trend in publishing.

Noted as the female successor to street-life authors Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim, Teri Woods is an enthusiastic, sharp woman whose ambition has allowed for success in the face of adversity. The characters and events that she writes about are written with realism and compassion allowing readers to experience the true essence of urban realities. Teri Woods’ passion for urban realities caught the attention of Karen Thomas, editor at Warner Books, who facilitated a multi-million dollar book deal and signed Woods to Hatchette Book Group, a division of Warner Books. Warner Books will re-release the blockbuster, True To The Game in spring 2007 and the sequel, True To The Game II, in the fall of 2007.

As the owner of Teri Woods Publishing, Teri Woods has published 12 novels: True to the Game, DUTCH I, DUTCH II, Deadly Reigns I, Deadly Reigns II, Angel, B-More Careful, The Adventures of Ghetto Sam, Triangle of Sins, Rectangle of Sins, Tell Me Your Name and Double Dose. True to the Game, B-More Careful, DUTCH, Triangle of Sins, Rectangle of Sins, Deadly Reigns I, Deadly Reigns II, and Angel have been featured on the Essence Bestseller list numerous times collectively. True To the Game and B-More Careful have sold over 500,000 copies independently. DUTCH I, DUTCH II, Deadly Reigns I and Deadly Reigns II all sold over 100,000 copies in its first 90 days of release. All together Teri Woods Publishing has sold over 1 million copies independently and generated over 15 million dollars in gross revenue. Not to mention, jump started the entire urban-book marketplace. Woods can be proud that fans both young and old are reading her books, passing them to friends, and dubbing them ‘literary classics’.

Thanks so much to Miriam and Hatchette Book Group for this opportunity!

Blog Tour of Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am excited to be part of the Blog Tour for Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran here today. Just a quick and heartfelt thank you to Tracee and Pump Up Your Blog Tour for this opportunity! I've always been fascinated by the stories of Ancient Rome, Cleopatra, Marc Anthony, Julius Caesar, Octavian and Livia from when I would read Asterix and Obelix cartoons. Do you remember those? Then my mother got me into the Masterpiece Classics production of Robert Graves's I, Claudius. From the series, I read the novel and was completely hooked! But enough a - here's Michelle Moran with a few words about her new novel, Cleopatra's Daughter.

Cleopatra's Daughter opens in Alexandra, the capital of Egypt, just as Octavian and the Roman army conquer Egypt. With their parents defeated and dead, nine-year-old Selene, her twin Alexander and their younger brother Ptolemy are suddenly under the protection of their enemy Octavian. Selene and Alexander are brought to the home of Octavia, sister to Octavian and former wife to Marc Anthony. While Selene faces the cruelty of Octavian's wife Livia, she and Alexander are surprised by kindness and friendship offered by Octavia, her son Marcellus and Octavian's daughter Julia. Through Octavia's guidance and her own talent, Selene learns to navigate Rome's political depths. Making herself useful to Octavian while careful not offend Livia, uses the next years well. The true challenge comes when Selene and Alexander are old enough to marry and to wield power.


I found Cleopatra's Daughter thoroughly enjoyable. Michelle Moran makes Ancient Rome, and its famous inhabitants come alive. Familiar characters are depicted with the personalities and traits that they have become known for - Octavian, his daughter Julia, his second wife Livia, her son Tiberius - which makes the book even more enjoyable.

For readers who are unfamiliar with to Ancient Rome, the book is fascinating and fun on its own. In a life full of intrigue, action, and danger, Selene is sympathetic, strong, and honorable. I highly recommend Cleopatra's Daughter to those who are fascinated by Ancient Rome and those looking for well written, humorous and action-packed historical fiction.
Publisher: Crown (September 15, 2009), 448 pages.
Courtesy of the author and Pump Up Your Book Promotion Tours About the Author, courtesy of her website: Michelle Moran was born in the San Fernando Valley, CA. She took an interest in writing from an early age, purchasing Writer's Market and submitting her stories and novellas to publishers from the time she was twelve. When she was accepted into Pomona College she took as many classes as possible in British Literature, particularly Milton, Chaucer, and the Bard. Not surprisingly, she majored in English while she was there. Following a summer in Israel where she worked as a volunteer archaeologist, she earned an MA from the Claremont Graduate University. Michelle has traveled around the world, from Zimbabwe to India, and her experiences at archaeological sites were what inspired her to write historical fiction. A public high school teacher for six years, Michelle Moran is currently a full-time writer living in California with her husband. She is the author of the bestselling historical fiction Nefertiti and its standalone sequel, The Heretic Queen. Her third novel, Cleopatra's Daughter, was released on September 15, 2009. Michelle Moran has organized a treasure hunt to celebrate the release of Cleopatra's Daughter. All over the U.S., select bookstores contain clues and prizes of books and jewelry - you can learn more on Michelle Moran's website at

Thanks so much, Michelle, Tracee and Pump Up Your Book Promotion for this opportunity!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blog Tour of F.W. vom Scheidt's Coming For Money & Guest Post

I'd like to welcome F.W. vom Scheidt, author of the financial thriller Coming For Money. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us about how you'd come to write your first book. Without further ado, let's all welcome F.W. vom Scheidt to Starting Fresh!
Why was I drawn to write a book? By F.W. vom Scheidt

I have always been drawn to writing because I have always been drawn to a search for some understanding of this human life.

At my last count, there are not many literary writers originating from the financial world. I wanted to write from personal experience. I wanted to write from what I know best.
In this novel I’ve written as truthfully as possible about the world of international finance – not with the over-dramatization so common in film and television, but with an intimate telling through a first-person narrative of what it can be like to labour in the world of money spinning...of how the money’s immense leverage for triumph or disaster doesn’t so much corrupt people as corrupt the way they treat each other...of how the relentless demands of the money so often deprive a person of sufficient time and energy to live through the events of their emotional and interior life.

Moreover, because our societies equate financial success with a successful life, we are often blind to the inner stories of countless people in all endeavors who, in their desperate search for inner happiness, endlessly repeat a formula for financial success even while remaining deeply unhappy due to unresolved emotional and psychological issues at their core. I wanted to bring one of these inner stories to life.
The great fallacy of the financial industry is that its workings are accomplished with money. They are not. They are accomplished with people – people who need to be understood and valued, people with whom you must communicate. And this communication is often extremely complex because you have to focus on future results that have not yet occurred, or you must focus on derivative results that are produced by other events … and, invariably, you must align divergent agendas.

Investment decisions must be accomplished with brutal honesty; because, with money, you are either making informed decisions, or you are investing out of greed or fear. There are no other possibilities. But putting investment decisions into action requires people. Maintaining sensitivity to people in an insensitive environment helps bring them to a common focus: on value, on integrity, and on success.

I sat down at the keyboard. Although I have always been a literary writer, I had no idea how I would capture my experiences in international finance in literary fiction. Without thinking, the first sentence came to me. I typed it. Then I looked at that sentence for a long time.

Instinct told me that the sentence had risen from something that was deeply absorbing me, and that it was something I had to tell. I knew I had to find some way to tell it truthfully. From that point, I knew there was no way out . . . except to construct the novel.

While Coming For Money is a story that advances from chapter to chapter along the corporate intrigue that beats at its heart, and continually mirrors the financial headlines of our daily newspapers, it is much more. It is an illustration of what happens to us as human beings when we lose emotional connectiveness, when we lose emotional logic.

And this was how Paris Smith came to me - because he is tragically, if admirably, flawed. He is not flawed in the classic Shakespearean sense of a noble man who is brought to ruin by his won avarice or rage. His weakness is not that he lusts after wealth or power or flesh. Rather, and far more important for us in these times, he is flawed in that he never learned the great lesson of his generation: don't become emotionally involved. Paris Smith's weakness is that he needs, and has always needed, emotional involvement in order to sustain his life. It is for him - as, ultimately, it is for us all - as necessary as breathing.

As Paris Smith refuses to relinquish his search for emotional connectiveness, he becomes a character we learn to appreciate and admire. In the sometimes stubborn, sometimes creative, battles he wages against other men in his corporation who are pitted against him, Paris Smith becomes ever more conscious of how he could stem his personal pain and loneliness by simply retreating emotionally and victimizing those around him. Or he might learn anew how to offer up his own emotional involvement. I'll leave it for readers to see how this plays out in the end, and decide what they may want to take away from his quest for human meaning in our contemporary world. But I hope readers will appreciate Paris Smith as much as I do.


About the Book, courtesy of the Author:

How much money is too much? And how fast is too fast in life? Investment star Paris Smith steps onto the top rungs of the corporate ladder, only to discover he is caught between his need for fulfilment and his need for understanding, between his drive for power and his inability to cope with his growing emptiness where there was once love. When his wife disappears from the core of his life, Smith s loneliness and sense of disconnection threaten to overwhelm him. When he tries to compensate by losing himself in his work, he stumbles off the treadmill of his own success, and is entangled in the web of a fraudulent bond deal that threatens to derail his career and his life. Forced to put his personal life on hold while he travels non-stop between Toronto, Singapore, and Bangkok to salvage his career, the embattled financier is deprived of the time and space he needs to mourn the absence of his wife and to objectively assess his future options. In the heat, turmoil and fast money of Southeast Asia half a world from home and half a life from his last remembered smile Paris Smith finds duplicity, comradeship, and power. He also finds a special woman who might heal his heart.

About the Author, courtesy of Amazon:

F.W. vom Scheidt's education, experience and career have embraced the author's broad spectrum of interests, from film and philosophy to mathematics and economics. Before entering the investment industry, he held university and corporate appointments in marketing and finance, always with a core focus on fostering creativity and entrepreneurship. For more than a decade, vom Scheidt has been a director of an international investment firm. The author works and travels in the world's capital markets, but makes his home in Toronto, Canada. Learn more about F.W. vom Scheidt and Coming For Money on his marketing page at

Thanks so much, F.W. vom Scheidt for sharing the origins of Coming For Money with us all. The novel sounds so intriguing! I am so looking forward to reading Coming For Money! Please check back for my review which will follow shortly. Thank you Dorothy and Pump Up Your Virtual Blog Tours for this opportunity!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Book Review: My Grammar and I...Or Should That Be Me? How to Speak and Write It Right by Caroline Taggart & J. A. Wines

My Grammar and I or Should It Be Me?: Old School Ways to Improve Your English
"And not in me: I am myself alone." - Shakespeare, Henry VI
(as quoted in My Grammar and I...Or Should That Be Me?)

If you are interested in brushing up on your writing and grammar skills, I recommend My Grammar and I...Or Should That Be Me? How to Speak and Write It Right by Caroline Taggart and J.A. Wines.

The book is divided into five chapters: Spelling and Confusables, Parts of Speech, Sentence Structure, Punctuation, and Odds and Ends (Or, Elements of Style). Each chapter lays out the basic rules and examples in a systematic fashion, then quickly lists the most common mistakes.

I was eager to review My Grammar and I...Or Should That Be Me? because of those occasional moments when I'd pause and have to think about the rules for certain things. My spelling skills aren't the strongest and I benefit from having a dictionary on hand. The commonly misspelled words section and the "What Do You Call a Group of?" were interesting.

Just for fun, take this quick quiz of What Do You Call a Group of?
  1. Apes
  2. Bears
  3. Caterpillars
  4. Clams
  5. Crocodiles
  6. Eagles
  7. Grasshoppers
  8. Jellyfish
  9. Owls
  10. Ravens
  11. Sharks
  12. Tigers

I appreciate the book most for the errors that it's helped me correct. Here are a few of the things that the book helped clarify:
  • Not to capitalize the names of seasons: to write autumn instead of Autumn
  • To write "Happy Birthday, Jim and Bea" instead of "Happy birthday, Jim and Bea"
  • The plural of talisman is not talismen but talismans
  • That the plural of dwarf is dwarfs, but I still think that dwarves is acceptable
  • That the singular of graffiti is graffitto and papparazzi is papparazzo, though I'll likely just revise whatever I'm writing to keep using the plural. Graffito sounds strange to me!
  • That you're never bored of - instead you're bored by or bored with

Here's a quote that the book uses to demonstrate the proper use of commas, taken from Dick King-Smith's novel Poppet: "He asked beetles and grubs and worms and caterpillars and little lizards and small frogs, and some replied jokily and some replied angrily and some didn't answer." Can you think of ads or signs that have incorrect punctuation?

My Grammar and I...Or Should That Be Me? How To Speak and Write It Right is published by Reader's Digest. It's part of a series that includes i before e (except after c): old school ways to remember stuff by Judy Parkinson and I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School by Caroline Taggart.

Thanks so much to Julie and FSB Associates for this opportunity!

Answers to the quiz above:
  1. Apes -A shrewdness
  2. Bears - A sloth, sleuth
  3. Caterpillars - An army
  4. Clams - A bed (R & I thought it was a cockle)
  5. Crocodiles - An intrusion
  6. Eagles - A convocation (What about a flock? Or is that seagulls? LOL!)
  7. Grasshoppers - A cloud
  8. Jellyfish - A smack (so appropriate!)
  9. Owls - A parliment
  10. Ravens - An unkindness
  11. Sharks - A shiver
  12. Tigers - A streak

Winners of The Way Home by George Pelecanos

Winners of The Way Home by George Pelecanos

chris m.

Congratulations! I've notified the winners and they have until 6 pm on Wednesday to send me their mailing addresses. Thanks so much to Miriam and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Book Blog Tour of J.R. Hauptman's The Target: Love, Death and Airline Deregulation

I'm excited to participate in the Blog Tour of The Target: Love, Death and Airline Deregulation by J.R. Hauptman. Thank you so much to the author, Dorothy and Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Blog Tour!



Set in the airline deregulation period of the 1980s, The Target captures the tumultuous first years of airline deregulation and the effects this had on the industry and people who worked in it.

Corporate raider and union buster Carlo Clemenza is generally recognized as the most hated man in the airline business. Working with Wall Street, Clemenza uses junk bonds to finance acquisitions that are made profitable through a winnowing of the ranks, union busting, and large scale budget cuts that increasingly reduce safety measures. Clemenza's methods and unpopularity have resulted in death threats and several attempts on his life.

Arguably, as a class it is the pilots that have been most affected by Clemenza's various takeovers. With the abrogation of union contracts, many pilots chose to strike - and subsequently faced unemployment. Those that returned to Clemenza's Centennial Airlines did so at large reductions in pay and benefits. Those that sought work at other airlines ended up scrounging for work outside the majors and with regional players, air freight, jet charters or similarly less prestigious and lower paying jobs.

A pilot at Centennial Airlines at the time of Clemenza's takeover, Captain Ivan Jasaonovich had followed the union's stance at great cost to himself. After lost half of his retirement in a failed travel agency and unemployed, Ivan had plenty of time to consider Clemenza's role in the continuing decline of the airline industry. Believing that removing Clemenza would halt the airline takeovers and slow down the mismanagement of airlines, Ivan is willing to take down "the Target". Ivan's military training and industry contacts give him an edge not available to many others. The Target follows Ivan as he plans, stalks, and confronts Carlo Clemenza.


Full of twists and turns, The Target is a detailed and well constructed thriller that gives the reader a fuller understanding of the changes brought by the deregulation of the airline industry in the 1980s. I couldn't help but sympathize with Ivan and his colleagues - I hadn't understood the full impact of airline deregulation. This was a great way to gain insight into that period while enjoying a fast paced thriller. I found The Target a fun and fascinating read.

Publisher: Xlibris Corporation (January 8, 2009), 320 pages.
Courtesy of the author and Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Blog Tours.

About the Author from the book:

J.R. Hauptman has been a professional pilot for nearly half a century. Barely twenty years old, he began as a military pilot and for almost two years, he flew combat support missions in the Vietnam War. Upon Leaving military service, he was hired by a major airline and was initially based in the West Coast. His flying career was interrupted by the turmoil that racked the airline industry during the early days of deregulation. In the interim, he worked as a travel agent, as a stock broker and even trained dogs and horses. In the late 1980s, he returned to aviation, flying jet charters and air freight. He concluded his career flying corporate jets and now lives in Florida. He is completing his second work, a non-fictional social commentary and surfs every day, waves or not. His marketing website is

Thank you so much to the author, Dorothy and Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Blog Tour for this opportunity!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera opens on September 21

Tosca opens at the Metropolitan Opera this September 21. I was lucky enough to watch the free dress rehearsal last Thursday morning. R & I had orchestra seats and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. This relatively new tradition of opening dress rehearsals to the public is part of the Met's commitment to bring "opera to the people" and was underwritten by Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman.

These cultural institutions, such as the Metropolitan Opera, the MOMA, the Metropolitan Museum, the Guggenheim, created largely through private donations are another amazing aspect of New York.

Each detail of the Met seems well thought out and carefully executed, from the art and architectural details to each seat's screen with subtitles (even the foot pedals to flush the toilets). The Met reflects what excellent taste and money can create. I am grateful for the Open House that make this New York experience available to everyone.

The production itself was amazing. I'd posted a summary of Tosca earlier this week, but here's a quick recap:

Rome, 1800. Painter Mario Cavaradossi is working on a portrait of Mary Magdelene who has a close likeness of Marchessa Attavanti, a blonde woman who he has never met. Cesare Angelotti, an escaped political prisoner, who has hidden in the chapel makes himself known to his friend Cavaradossi. Cavaradossi offers to help Angelotti escape. Tosca, the painter's girl friend interrupts them. As the prisoner hides, Tosca jealously confronts the painter, accusing him of hiding a lover and seeing the painting wonders if he is in love with Marchessa Attaventi. They all depart, but agree to meet at the chapel after Tosca's performance that evening. The head of the secret police, Baron Scarpa, reaches the chapel after Angelotti and Cavaradossi have left. Scarpa suspects that the painter has helped the political prisoner, Scarpa comes up with a plan. Feeding Tosca's jealousy by claiming to have found the Marchessa Attavanti's fan among the painter's things, Scarpa then has his men follow Tosca to the painter's hideaway....

I'm not familiar with Puccini and opera music, but I found the show beautiful. The way that the music revealed the personalities and state of mind of each of the characters as they appeared, the characters first appeared had me grinning in my seat. It began with the fear and desperation that Angelotti felt as he ran to the chapel and hid, then shifted to show the priest's cheerfulness as he got the chapel ready for the day. And it just kept getting better and better.

Director - Luc Bondy
Conductor - James Levine

Angelotti - David Pittsinger
Cavaradossi - Marcelo Alvarez
Tosca - Karita Mattila
Scarpia - George Gagnidze

The show itself is roughly 3 hours and 3 minutes, but there were intermissions of 40 minutes and 30 minutes. The time went by so quickly. During tense and critical moments of the story, I kept expecting that Cavaradossi and Tosca to get caught - as would happen in a novel, movie or play. But since opera is altogether different, the characters had the chance to express their thoughts and feelings to the audience. The talent and performance was amazing. A friend who watched the dress rehearsal decided that she wanted to watch more opera. I feel much the same way and am thankful for these Open Houses.

Tosca was the first of three Open Houses, but the final dress rehearsals for Les Contes d'Hoffmann and Armida will be open as well. The Met website will post the details. Once I find out about the next dress rehearsals, I'll post about them as well. If you're interested in watching the dress rehearsals but not able to line up for tickets, the dress rehearsals are also shown on huge screens in Times Square and the Lincoln Center Plaza.