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text 2018-01-17 16:59
Unique plot and characters
The Devil And The Muse (The Creatives Se... The Devil And The Muse (The Creatives Series Book 2) - Joshua Sindell,Mandy Jackson-Beverly

The Devil and the Muse by Mandy Jackson-Beverly is the second book in the Creatives Series. I did not read the first book in the series, while I would have liked to, I found it not necessary. The author did a good job of catching the reader up to date. It helped that a description of the characters was included in the very beginning of the book. I referred to it several times until I got caught up on the cast and their roles in the story.

 

The Allegiance is a group of individuals headed by immortals under the protection of the goddess The Lady and the Rose. Their purpose is to protect and nurture Creatives and other magical beings from those who would do them harm. Creatives are those individual that have a unique gift of being able to see events that lie hidden underneath a painting. In the past, Creatives have been hunted down and killed as witches. Now the Creatives are using their power to help a group of girls who have been kidnapped, raped, tortured and killed by the soldiers of an evil vampire named Kenan who is the devil incarnate. The Allegiance must work quickly if they are to save these young girls.

 

The book is the classic tale of good versus evil. Yet, the plot and characters are unique. I have read a lot of fantasy and paranormal books and cannot recall anything like it. The author gets lots of kudos for originality. The plot moves rapidly and the sittings change quickly form Washington D. C. to Italy and other places, and time periods, several times which will keep the reader on their toes. This is a book you can’t skim over or you will miss an important action sequence that is critical to the plot.

 

Overall, it a good story and will appeal to readers of paranormal, vampires and fantasy.  As I stated already, it is not necessary to read the first book in the series but I recommend you do. If I had read the first book, I suspect I would have gotten more from the story. Also, when I start a series in the middle and like it, I always find myself going back and reading the book(s) that I skipped over. Therefore, I am going to add book one to my TBR list and I hope you do too. It is worth a read.

 

I received a free copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

See mopre of my reviews on my blog at www.thespineview.com.

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review 2017-12-24 17:07
The Last Suppers
The Last Suppers - Mandy Mikulencak

By: Mandy Mikulencak

ISBN: 9781496710031

Publisher: Kensington

Publication Date: 12/26/2017 

Format: Hardcover 

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

Featured Friday Read

“A gorgeous novel that finds beauty in the most unlikely of places.” —Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author

 

A beautifully written story, both absorbing and haunting, Mandy Mikulencak delivers a breakout book, THE LAST SUPPERS —a heartbreaking tale of secrets, racism, inequality, the death penalty, and prisoner rights. 

A courageous young woman becomes obsessed with the preparation of the last meals for death row inmates, and a lover haunted by his related past. 

However, there is a mystery to be unraveled about her own father’s murder and secrets of the past. A strong need for justice. 

Part Southern, historical, mystery, and suspense. From the 1920s-1960s, a young woman Ginny works at the fictional Greenmount Penitentiary in Louisiana. Her father was a guard at the same prison years ago and murdered when she was six-years-old.

Ginny Polk currently resides with Roscoe (Warden Simms), who also works at the prison as a warden. He is old enough to be her father. 

Her father, Joe (a heavy drinker) and Roscoe were best friends for years. He promised her father he would take care of her and her mother, Miriam. Roscoe and Ginny keep their relationship a secret inside the prison. Warden and cook. 

Executions were hard on Ginny. The cruelty and darkness of the prison often overwhelmed her and gave her panic attacks and nightmares. Her mom, Miriam forced her to attend the execution of the man who murdered her dad, when she was only eight-years-old. 

His name was Silas Barnes. She recalled his wife and son. She also remembered the horrors of his claim of innocence until the very end. She is haunted by the family he left behind. She always suspected something was not right. 

Dot, an African woman, also works in the kitchen with Ginny. She is like a mother to her. (loved her). She has always been there for her to pick up the pieces. 

On a side note: Love the show "Queen Sugar." If there is a movie based on this book, would love to see Dot played by Tina Lifford or one of the strong leading ladies. Ginny played by Jessica Elise De Gouw, and Roscoe by Christopher Meloni from "Underground." Love this show and hope it comes back for another season. 

No one can understand why Ginny is so concerned about the death row prisoners, and their last meal. Her madness started the day she was forced to witness the execution of her father’s killer. 

Ginny is now almost thirty years old. She is unsure she loves Roscoe, but she has feelings for him. She knew she did not want to raise children in this compound. 

Currently, Ginny is concerned about the next execution in less than a week. Samuel LeBoux. He will be her nineteenth execution she has witnessed. 

She wants to ensure he has his last meal. She would seek out the prisoner, the family, and try to determine their most memorable dish. Ginny would do her best to replicate it, even using her own money. 

Some thought a man only hours from dying would not be able to enjoy a meal. He has done horrible things. Does he deserve such a right?

Ginny feels differently. It was not the act of eating. It was something memorable the prisoner may have treasured from his past. 

Memory and loss, more than hunger and pleasure. She believed it was a sign of respect to offer them a last meal. A prisoner is a human no matter the crimes they have committed. Ginny wanted to do something special for them. 

She has fond memories of her dad enjoying a tasty dessert. Even after his death, she would learn how to make a new dessert each week. 

Haunted by the families who watched their loved ones die. Her grandmother always said a person’s soul drifted up from his body at the moment of death and some could see it. She still watches. 

“Their fear and anger usually surpassed that of the death row inmate’s emotions, and it was a horrible thing to witness.” 

The executions. The electric chairs. The families. "Ginny always wondered if taking one life for another— meant justice served?" 

She volunteered to witness every execution and take down the prisoners’ last words, although all she had to do was drop off a tray of food and leave. 

Ginny’s scrapbook of these men included the recipe of the dish he requested as his last supper and the words he uttered seconds before dying in the electric chair. 

From rape, murder, and robbery and unspeakable crimes. However, the men had a family. Wives, mothers, children, and friends. What torture did they undergo inside the prison walls?

Roscoe and Ginny’s relationship becomes strained since the board visited often and Roscoe was under a lot of pressure trying to protect inmates. 

Roscoe thought Ginny was trying to make up for something as if she believed the family of her dad’s murderer blamed her. 

He does not want her getting to close to this current execution. What is he hiding? Roscoe has his demons from the past. Those secrets he has been forced to keep quiet. 

Ginny still has nightmares about the family. The worst was the guilt of the family—Taking a father away from his son. She begged his forgiveness. 

Only once in all the years had anyone screamed out he was innocent. It was Silas, her dad’s murderer. He did not receive "the last supper. " This incident still haunts her. Why does she remember now? She feels their utter despair. 

 



Joe hadn’t died at the prison, but rather just outside of Baton Rouge. However, Miriam blamed the penitentiary. What was the real reason he died that night? 

The secrets of the past surface as Ginny becomes involved with Samuel’s last meal. The real truth about that night so long ago is slowly revealed and the events leading up to the murder. 

No matter how many suppers she cooked, she could never undo the pain his family endured. The devastating and lasting memory of Silas Barnes’ death. Was he innocent?

Ginny soon uncovers a shameful part of her daddy’s past. The ugly truths intertwined with Dot’s family history. From the Klan, rape, racial injustice, coverups, and murder. She must make the wrongs, rights. 

Filled with sympathy and compassion, as a reader your heart goes out to Ginny. Secrets, truth, lies, heartbreak, mercy, despair, hope and, redemption. 

She finds comfort in food. Food is an ongoing theme throughout the book, as well as the stories of different inmates and their requests for last meals. A sharing of cooking secrets with the writing of a cookbook. 

Mikulencak deftly unravels a compelling story of heartache, courage, mercy, and love. The author has put her heart into this novel and reflective throughout. Well-researched, an astounding job with the highly-charged subject material and character-development. Darkness and light. Even though historic, we are faced with similar destructive issues today, decades later. 

For fans of Diane Chamberlain, Heather Gudenkauf, Karen White, Vanessa Lafaye, Mary Marcus, Amy Conner, and Kim Richardson. THE LAST SUPPERS is an ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions. (guide included as well as featured recipes). 

Thought-provoking fiction that exposes the dark side of our racial past and present and our ongoing corruption within our distressing prison and justice system, yet today. 

Highly recommend! 

A special thank you to Kensington/John Scognamiglio Imprint for an advanced reading copy. It was a pleasure meeting this talented author. Look forward to more.

JDCMustReadBooks

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/11/07/The-Last-Suppers
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review 2017-12-15 01:41
Christmas With the Billionaire Rancher
Christmas With the Billionaire Rancher - Mandy Baxter

Nate's father was a rich, nasty bastard. He treated Nate horribly. Nate ended up enlisting in the military to get away from him. This story opens up at Nate's father memorial service. It turns out each of the Bastard's 4 sons inherits his money. Nate's decided he doesn't want it and plans to give it away.
Chloe founded a charity that supports at-risk youth. She is in need of funds to keep the doors open. She crashes the memorial service in hopes of getting at least some of that money Nate is so eager to give away. 
Even though Christmas is mentioned in the title, the holiday doesn't factor into the story in any way. Nate and Chloe fall hard into love lust. What follows has a beginning, middle, and an end. I enjoyed this one!

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review 2017-11-06 20:49
Filled with Cliches, but hey, it was a quick guilty pleasure read!
Dangerous Boy - Mandy Hubbard

I would call this a guilty pleasure book. Why? Because it’s not the most greatest read out there but you read it anyway because something about it just draws you to continue reading. Whether it be characters, or the cheesy plot albeit ridiculous as it may be.

 

This is supposed to be a modern day retelling of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I see some similarities although the way it’s explained (the soul thing) is a bit of a stretch. At least with Jekyll/Hyde he had something concrete and explanatory (eg; the serum that gets him to change personalities).

 

The book itself is filled with oodles of cliches so it’s not for everyone. It may induce eye rolls and may have some readers frustrated and quit reading altogether. Why did I keep reading? It’s a very simple plot and there’s not much when it comes to twists and turns, there’s a bit of a creepy and chilly factor which was actually pretty well done and I stuck with it. Despite the plot being as it is, the writing was pretty good and I enjoyed it.

 

A couple of things however. I’m not sure what Madison really had to do with the story. She’s just your average mean girl but doesn’t really add to the plot (except for being a previous romance. Woopie) so to me, this was just unnecessary filler moments in the novel.

 

Harper isn’t really that likable and there were moments where she goes off the deep end into the realm of stupidity. I do admit though, she’s got good chemistry with Logan and the writing that conveys their feelings towards each other is well done. Logan seems to be a great boyfriend if it wasn’t for that fatal flaw. Harper does tend to have some annoying qualities to herself - being a forgiving doormat for one, and lacking common sense in particular stages of the story (seriously? You’re going to break into a house and you say: “hello?” can we say first one to die in a horror movie here?)

 

Although this book has quite a few flaws, I couldn’t help but enjoy reading it. It’s a very quick read and it’s like you’re watching a B movie but you enjoyed it despite the many cliches and things you normally wouldn’t watch. There’s just something about it that makes you want to continue reading it. I’m not going to recommend this one, but if you’re up for a quick read to get back into the reading groove, why not?

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review 2017-10-31 21:06
How to Fall in Love With Anyone by Mandy Len Catron
How to Fall in Love with Anyone: A Memoir in Essays - Mandy Len Catron

This is an enjoyable and thoughtful book: part memoir, part essay collection. The author reflects on love through the lens of her own experiences and those of her parents and grandparents, but also discusses the subject more broadly, referencing scientific research and analyzing books, movies, and fairy tales. She writes well and candidly, digging into the complexities of relationships rather than trying to prescribe one-size-fits-all advice or hand out easy answers. It is in some ways a very personal book, particularly as the author discusses the end of her 10-year relationship, but she keeps it classy. In discussing her relationships, she writes about how she felt and behaved, rather than dishing on her exes.

Rather than writing a traditional review, I’m going to list some of the ideas in the book that interested me:

- This book began with a Modern Love article, about a relationship that started with the author and an acquaintance asking each other a series of questions that made a couple fall in love in a lab experiment. But the title is misleading: the questions may not have been designed to create romance (they’ve apparently been used in decidedly non-romantic contexts, like increasing trust between police and communities). And the author and her boyfriend didn’t immediately start dating after that night. Instead the questions allowed them to get to know and trust each other quickly, setting the stage for a relationship if they wanted to pursue it, which they ultimately did.

- Some passages from the book suggest that Catron’s ultimate conclusion is that people ought to learn to love well rather than obsessing over finding the right person. But it isn’t so simple. She writes about a friend who, on the advice of a recently-married friend of his who champions choosing to commit for commitment’s sake, casts aside doubts about his relationship and proposes. But he backs out before the wedding, and the friend who gave the advice gets divorced a couple years later. The book never argues that if you just choose any decent person and treat each other well, the result will be lifelong marriage. It doesn’t give prescriptions about the ideal relationship, but rather things the author has observed along the way.

- There’s a word for the assumption that the true goal of all relationships is lifelong marriage: amatonormativity. Looking this up online led me to an interesting article from someone for whom romance isn’t a goal at all; Catron is more traditional, but she was able to enjoy romantic encounters more when she valued them for their own sake, rather than considering everything that didn’t end in marriage a failure.

- Historically speaking, our expectations for marriage have ascended Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. At one time marriage was mostly about economic stability, while we now expect our relationships to meet our needs for self-esteem and personal fulfillment. No wonder we struggle to find “the right person” while our ancestors managed to stay with the first person they were attracted to or the person their family chose.

- There’s a lot in the book about love stories, and how they affect real relationships. Storytelling is humanity’s way of organizing information and making sense of interactions with others; we need to see patterns to recognize what’s going on. Many people acknowledge the more obvious discrepancies between love stories and the real world, like the idea that once the two of you decide to get together, everything else is “happily ever after” rather than requiring effort.

- But some of the subtler refrains in love stories go unnoticed. For instance, the idea that love is a moral reward given to the most “deserving” people. For women, this often means being passive and “good,” i.e., pleasing those in authority, and not pursuing love directly. The idea that love will come on its own as a reward for quiet virtue led the author to quietly play the chameleon for years as a teenager rather than pursue what she wanted.

- All this makes me wonder about the current crop of love stories for teens, which often portray abusive or controlling relationships as romantic. Perhaps we can neutralize the messages of these stories by talking about the issue, so kids don’t use assume that’s the way love works. But no matter how much we talk about it, some readers are sure to miss the conversation and drink in those assumptions. This isn’t addressed in the book – fortunately for her, the author doesn’t seem to have had any truly awful relationships.

- People are very invested in their own love stories. A good “how we met” story can build social support for a relationship, which is healthy. But a meet-cute doesn’t predict the quality of the relationship, and some people get into bad relationships because their beginnings make great stories.

- Relationship advice is often geared to justifying the advisor’s decisions. Listening to a lot of advice can be destabilizing, if it suggests all sorts of deficiencies in you or your relationships (who cares if your significant other doesn’t bring you flowers, if this isn’t important to you). Advice is also usually geared toward keeping people together – see amatonormativity above – and at avoiding ambiguity; if a seemingly great relationship breaks down, we want an explanation as to why. But in reality, falling out of love may be as mysterious as falling in love.

In the end, though she’s in a happy relationship, it doesn’t seem like the author has it all figured out (probably nobody does), so this is definitely a personal reflection rather than an advice book. It didn’t knock my socks off, and the last chapter seemed off-base and elegiac despite containing nothing that needed an elegy. But it was enjoyable and interesting, smart and well-written. It’ll make you think a bit and won’t make you feel hopeless or inadequate, which seems like a good measure for a book about love. 

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