Minding Spot

Minding Spot

Tess, Terrorists and the Tiara by Terry Baldwin

Posted: 07 Aug 2012 05:00 AM PDT

From Amazon - Tess has never been able to compete with her "perfect" older sister, but now she must—if she wants to inherit her grandmother's priceless tiara. The two girls have been invited to their grandparent's lake house for the summer to help take care of Grandma who's been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The sister who earns the most "helpful points" wins the former beauty queen's crown.

It's not easy for Tess, who seems to always get things wrong despite best intentions. But when a secretive family of Muslims moves in nearby and Grandma disappears, Tess learns a lesson about prejudice, fear, and the real value of doing good—a lesson that may be worth even more than the tiara.

What a fun young adult read! Tess and her sister spend the summer at Gradma's and whoever gets the most helpful points gets to keep Grandma's tiara she won back in the day.  Tess is full of energy and has a very active imagination.  She watches the neighbors and her imagination goes wild. 

Baldwin has created very likable characters, easily imagined and approachable.  The pages just flew by, entranced with the story with it's subtle messages,such as don't judge a book by it's cover.  If you're looking for a good, clean read for your middle grader, pick up Tess, Terrorists and the Tiara by Terry Baldwin.  A gem of a read!

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Author interview with Leanna Ellis: Plain Fear Series + Giveaway!

Posted: 06 Aug 2012 09:00 PM PDT

  1. Hi Leanna! Can you tell us a bit about yourself please?

    LE: Hi, Wendy! Thanks for having me here today! I'm a wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, etc…and writer. Most days I feel like a taxi driver as I drive my two children to and from their many activities. I love watching them grow and mature and become who they were intended to be. So I really enjoy going to all of their activities, watching rehearsals, practice, performances, and tournaments. It's easy for life to sweep over me, especially now that my 81 year old mother moved within 6 minutes. But my husband will tell you, I'm happiest when I'm in the middle of a writing project. I love books and have been writing for twenty years, which still boggles my mind because I keep thinking I'm only twenty-four. 

  1. Will you tell us about how the Plain Fear series came to be? What inspired you to pair Plain Life with Vampires?

    LE: Plain Fear: Forsaken (Book 1) actually began as a joke. I was at a book signing and another author and I made a joke about we should write an Amish/vampire story because those were the two genres that were selling so well. Well, it really was a joke. I didn't rush home and start writing the book. But I suppose some seed was planted in my warped little brain and took root. Soon a character was speaking to me about her story and wanting me to write it. I resisted. But there was a very intriguing element that I couldn't seem to ignore. After a few months, I wrote the prologue and first chapter on a whim. Then I set it aside because I was busy meeting other deadlines. Besides what was I to do with an Amish/vampire story? I mentioned it eventually to a couple of writer friends. They laughed but in a good way and encouraged me to write it. Well, I wasn't so sure although I was becoming obsessed with the story. But I also spent a lot of time in prayer over this book. More than a year passed, and I was at a writer's conference. An editor said the perfect submission would be…you guessed it! An Amish/vampire story. So I made an appointment to meet that editor and just talk about the idea. It almost felt like when an addict first admits she has a problem. "I'm a writer and I've written an Amish/vampire story." Well, she requested it. Uh-oh! I hadn't even mentioned the idea to my agent yet. So I ran into her in the hallway and told her. She laughed—in a delighted way because she loved the idea and she loves how my wacky brain works. So, when I got home, I sent my agent the first chapter to see if she liked it. She loved it. That was all in the fall of 2009. By 2010, I had a contract for Forsaken, and the first book in the series came out last year. 

But why Amish and vampire together? Besides the superficial reason I already gave, the two really work well together with my story. The image we have of the Amish is of a simple, innocent, wholesome way of life, which is a perfect environment to place a dark, frightening, evil entity. In fact, part of my inspiration for this story came from The Phantom of the Opera, and how innocent Christine is and how trusting of this voice she hears in her head—the angel of music. So an Amish heroinesheltered by the world we know, seemed perfect. Except the Amish world isn't always as sheltered as we think. Doors can be opened to evil forces. The Plain Fear series is good versus evil. So often we just think of evil as being dark and scary…well, it is that but it's also alluring and appealing and attractive. If you just saw the dark, ugly, scary side of evil, who would go there? Each of the main characters in Forsaken and now Forbidden have to make tough choices. 

  1. Do you have any writing rituals?

    LE: Rituals imply that they help make something easier. I'm not sure there is an easy way to write. If there is I haven't discovered it yet. For me, just finding time to write is often a struggle. So any ritual I have is packing a bag with books or research and a notebook and taking my laptop with me everywhere I go. Often I have to write in the car while I'm waiting to pick up one of my children or while sitting at a coffee shop in between activities.

  2. What books are you currently reading?

    LE:  Usually I have several books going at the same time. My children and I have been listening to The Hunger Games series in the car. I've been reading a non-fiction book called Hit Lit and also rereading Gone With the Wind and The Shining. How's that for an eclectic bunch?

  3. Are you working on another novel? Can you tell us anything about it? 

LE:  I am finishing up the third book in the Plain Fear series. This book is about the third Fisher brother, and I'm really enjoying it as he has a few choices to make on which direction his life is going to take. I would give you an official blurb but it would reveal something about book #2 Forbidden, and since its just releasing I better not. ;) 

Thanks so much for having me here, Wendy! It's always nice to be around folks who love books. Happy reading all! 


How Long Must We Pay for the Sins of Our Past? 

She blames herself for her husband's death. But for Rachel Schmidt Nussbaum, redemption may only lie in the ultimate sacrifice.  

When a stranger arrives claiming only she can save him, Rachel's impulsive instincts lead her on a perilous journey, one that leads her to a battle that will decide both the fate of her soul and the life of her unborn child. 

A far–from–ordinary story of love and desperation, sin and sacrifice, Amish faith and vampire lore, Plain Fear: Forbidden is an imaginative thrill ride that's like nothing you've ever read before. 

Leanna Ellis is the winner of the National Readers' Choice Award and Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart Award. She has written numerous books for Harlequin/Silhouette and has published four books with B&H Publishing. With her husband, two children, and wide assortment of pets, she lives in Texas. For more information, please visit www.leannaellis.com, follow her on Twitter, @LeannaEllis, and "like" her on Facebook.

One lucky reader will win their own copy of Plain Fear: Forbidden by Leanna Ellis!

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12.21 by Dustin Thomason

Posted: 06 Aug 2012 07:30 PM PDT

For decades, December 21, 2012, has been a touchstone for doomsayers worldwide. It is the date, they claim, when the ancient Maya calendar predicts the world will end.

In Los Angeles, two weeks before, all is calm. Dr. Gabriel Stanton takes his usual morning bike ride, drops off the dog with his ex-wife, and heads to the lab where he studies incurable prion diseases for the CDC. His first phone call is from a hospital resident who has an urgent case she thinks he needs to see. Meanwhile, Chel Manu, a young Guatemalan American researcher at the Getty Museum, is interrupted by a desperate, unwelcome visitor from the black market antiquities trade who thrusts a black duffel bag into her hands. By the end of the day, Stanton, the foremost expert on some of the rarest infections in the world, is grappling with a patient whose every sympton confounds and terrifies him. And Chel, the brightest young star in the field of Maya studies, has possession of an illegal artificact that has miraculously survived the centuries intact; a priceless codex from a lost city of her ancestors.

This extraordinary record, written in secret by a royal scribe, seems to hold the answer to her life's work and to one of history's great riddles; why the Maya kingdoms vanished seemingly overnight. Suddenly it seems that our own civilization might suffer this same fate. And only days remain until 12.21.

I picked this book up with great anticipation. Seriously, just reading the description is enough to make you want to pick this up. I was immediately drawn in from the very beginning and unable to put this thrilling book down. For those 2012'ers out there, this is definitely a must read.

The characters are absolutely captivating and haunting. Each has so much of a personal reality that it really adds to the necessary components to make this one of the most fascinating reads of the year. Going back and forth between the ancient Maya and our current situation creates two different worlds that are equally frightening and realistic. Though I expected to have some issues going back and forth, it was set up so that while you're in one world, you're not sitting there wondering about the other. At the point that you switch, you don't feel as if you've been pulled from one place to the other, but rather happily excited to continue the next.

Actually, I personally found this book to be pure genius. We have a surprise strain of what is basically mad cow disease and they have no clue where it came from or how to stop it. In the past, we have an unheard of codex that is explaining the critical steps to the fall of the ancient Mayans. People are dieing left and right in both places and we have no hope in sight for fixing any of it.

The best part for me was that this could actually be a reality. The way which the story, both past and present, is presented to us leads us to believe that this could very well be what's to come in our near future. There are some pretty gorey scenes, but they added to the story instead of just being gratuitous. The faint of heart may want to skip a few chapters here and there, but the rest of you will gobble it up hungrily.

For anyone who loves a good scare, this is definitely the book to pick up between now and December. I'm not saying don't read it next year if you don't get around to it this year, but given the release date of the book and the time we currently live in, it just seriously adds so much more to the drama.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Shawn