Saturday, July 28, 2018

Chiseled: A Memoir of Identity, Duplicity, and Divine Wine by Danuta Pfeiffer

Chiseled: A Memoir of Identity, Duplicity, and Divine Wine by Danuta Pfeiffer. Narrated by Danuta Pfeiffer.
*Readers' Favorite International Gold Medal Winner; Eric Hoffer Finalist Award*

Publication Date: (Audio) May 22, 2018
Publisher: Audible Audio Book
Length: 13 hours 22 minutes

Publication Date: February 12, 2015
Publisher: Luminare Press
Pages: 426

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Chiseled: to cut, to pare, shape with a chisel, to cut close,to employ unfair practices to obtain an end, to cheat, to defraud, to trick
Through betrayals and loss and her search for redemption an idealistic journalist becomes the unlikely co-host to a television evangelist bent on becoming the president of the United States. When her past catches up to her, she is caught in the cross hairs of politics and religion.


HALL WAYS REVIEW:  Audio and Print Review. I read this book in print three years ago, and when the author contacted me and asked if I’d listen to the new audio book format, I jumped at the chance. Even three years later, I remembered well the details of the book. Danuta Pfeiffer's Chiseled: A Memoir of Identity, Duplicity, and Divine Wine is the amazing story of Danuta's life -- filled with deception, devastation, and determination -- that takes readers on her courageous journey.  Told in three parts, Danuta begins at her beginning, as a god-fearing child, living a spartan life, under a father she revered despite his abusive hands. Her father's stories of obstacles he'd overcome in the war, in the most brutal of circumstances, carried Danuta through her own travails time and again, even as her father continued to reject her.  

“Women were expected to be seen but not heard. To be instructed but not instruct. To praise the Lord and pass the potatoes
-- but not to preach.”

For readers who remember Danuta (then Soderman) and her mysterious departure from being the co-host of The 700 Club with Pat Robertson, details are revealed of not only her departure, but of how CBN and Robertson operated behind-the-scenes. This provides fascinating insight into the sometimes-sordid world of televangelism, and it ultimately leads to Danuta's "losing God" for some time.  As Danuta navigates her life - out of work, married to an addict, and questioning the very existence of God - she always draws strength from her father's challenges and perseveres.  When she finally allows friendships into her life and allows herself to focus on her own needs, she finds true love with a winemaker, Robin Pfeiffer. Robin takes Danuta to Poland, where Danuta connects with her father's family, and discovers the truth and lies of her father's past.

"Memory is wickedly elusive and necessarily subjective.
Ultimately, this is the memory of a lie."

Many of her sentences are stunning, and the imagery truly takes the story to another level. For example, in talking about her father's decline into depression, Danuta wrote, "His change took place the way a shoelace comes undone, gradually unravelling what was once secure."  Or, when she speaks of her time with The 700 Club, she summarizes it by saying, "I had become a spiritual drug dealer imbued with the halo of power and celebrity, associated with the brokers of money and politics." Her characterization is excellent so that readers not only witness actions but understand and feel Danuta's emotions towards the characters who have the most impact on her life.

Particularly powerful is the story of Danuta's mother, Patricia, who is truly the hero of Danuta's life. In Patricia's strength and commitment to her family, Danuta finds a role model in a time when women were restricted by societal limitations. Throughout Danuta's life, her faith and relationship with God go through many iterations, and it is interesting to see her thought process at all stages and what ultimately leads her back to a life of faith. Sprinkled throughout the text were photographs from various times in Danuta's life, which enriched the story even further.

ABOUT THE AUDIO BOOK: One word: OUTSTANDING. I loved this memoir when I read it, and I loved it when I read it with my ears and heard the author narrate her life for me.  It makes the already intimate feeling memoir feel even more intimate, more real (and more painful), and her triumphs more glorious. Pfeiffer’s training serves her well as her narration is perfectly paced and her voicing of various characters really enriches them. The voicing of her Polish relatives was particularly good. She nailed everything from the humor of her Uncle Frank to the awkwardness of his translating for others and the pain and confusion as Danuta tried to reconcile the father she thought she knew with the man his Polish family knew him to be.

Chiseled is a masterfully written story of a woman spending a lifetime searching to find peace, love, and acceptance within herself.  At times, readers will have to remind themselves that Chiseled is a memoir and not fiction. It is unbelievable that any one person endured all the heartache and challenges that Danuta faced, and even more amazing that she survived it and now lives a healthy, happy life.  I highly recommend Chiseled, as Danuta Pfeiffer eloquently shows that truth can be more dramatic and fascinating than fiction. Readers be prepared to be angry -- and possibly shed a few tears -- but in the end, feel inspired. 

Thank you to the author for reaching out to me and offering an audio download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Danuta Pfeiffer graduated from the University of Colorado with a B.A. in Communications and Journalism with a minor in Philosophy.  She is a community activist, the author of three books, a motivational speaker, and a long-distance bicycle rider. She married Robin Pfeiffer, an Oregon wine grape grower she met through her newspaper ad.  He proposed in 12 days and they have been making wine and love together for more than 20 years.

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90 minute documentary -- coming soon!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles ~ Blog Tour Audio Excerpt & Review!

Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles (BK 1)

By J.M. Sullivan

Publication Date: August 2018
Publisher: Bleeding Ink Publishing
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale Adaptations
Pages: 360


Ever since the outbreak of the Plague, life hasn’t been easy, and for seventeen-year-old Alice Carroll, it just got worse. Her sister, Dinah, has contracted the ‘un-deadly’ Momerath Virus and without a cure, will soon be worse than dead. She’ll be momerath.

Alice must leave the safety of the Sector and venture into Momerath Territory to find the antidote - if it exists. Chasing a rumor about a mysterious doctor with the cure, Alice falls down the rabbit hole into Wanderland, where ravenous momerath aren’t the only danger lurking.


HALL WAYS REVIEW: When I saw the fabulous cover of Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles, I was immediately drawn-in for the read. Finding out it was a reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (but with zombie-like creatures), the deal was sealed.  In this could-be-now world where a plague has horribly altered or wiped-out many humans, readers are in for a wild ride as main character Alice races the clock – and a white-haired doctor – as she navigates a ravaged Phoenix in search of an antidote. 

Author J.M. Sullivan does a great job describing both Alice’s feelings as well as the setting, both which put readers right into the midst of the scenes as they unfold. With the vivid and detailed descriptions, it is easy to feel immersed in this dangerous, desperate world and to feel Alice’s fierce determination to overcome adversity from both man, woman, and monerath.  I am proud of my active imagination and appreciate that Sullivan respects her readers and doesn’t get overly graphic with her descriptions of the battles or carnage.  It is sufficiently gross, but not over-the-top, and never sugar-coated. 

Another aspect I appreciate is that there isn’t any insta-love or love triangles or even much of a romance element. HOORAY! Alice is clearly interested and intrigued by two characters, as are they with her, but it's natural instead of rushed. If there's a sequel (and there should be since this one is called “Book One,”), I imagine readers will see these relationships continue to progress as they have so far -- where characters’ emotions evolve as they discover more about each other. Fingers crossed!  

I like the science behind the origins of the monerath virus and how people and corporations often get so blinded they forget about humanity and the bigger picture.  I could see how there could be a very interesting prequel or companion book, which would be a great way to fill in the significant plot holes and a way to explain some of the characters’ connections, gifts, and limitations.

Despite the book being categorized as a fairy tale retelling, I don't really see many parallels between Sullivan’s Wanderland Chronicles and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, and it's really not a re-imagining of that story. I enjoyed the references, quotations, and some of the clever names and personality traits that were inspired by Carroll’s AIW, though. Rather than a re-telling, readers familiar with Carroll’s AIW will smile and think of Sullivan’s Wanderland more in an "Oh, I see what you did there" kind of thing. It mostly works as a fun element though at times, it’s a little cheesy or cliché in an otherwise unique story. Happily, the book is very cleanly edited with just a few errors that caught my eye. This was almost as refreshing as the unique premise and plot.

“Returning library books might have been completely irrelevant,
but it gave her guilty conscience a reprieve.

Library Bonus Points Awarded for the main character’s bookish tendencies, use of the library, and a most excellent library scene. (Yeah, readers know it’s coming but it’s still pretty awesome.) I love that despite their being in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, and that the library hasn't been functional in ages, Alice not only keeps reading, but she still returns the books she "borrows." Thank you to Unbound Book Tours for providing me an eBook copy in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give. 

J.M. Sullivan is a science teacher by day and an author by night. Although known to dabble in adulting, J.M. is a big kid at heart who still believes in true love, magic, and most of all, the power of coffee.  If you would like to connect with her for a healthy dose of sparkle, positivity, and a touch of crazy, you can find her on online!

July 23rd
Hall Ways Blog | Review w/ Audio Excerpt 1
A New Look On Books | Guest Post 1

July 24th
Just Books | Audio Excerpt 2
The Page Unbound | Comparison Review
Ishiee's Book Blog | Author Interview

July 25th
Books and Ravens | Guest Post 2
Everywhere and Nowhere | Author Interview 2
Rebecca R. Cahill | Audio Excerpt 3

July 26th
A Million And One Magazine | Author Interview 3

July 27th
Turn The Page | Review

Book Tour Organized By

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Edge of Over There ~ ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Review, Book Trailer, & Giveaway!

The Day the Angels Fell, Book 2

  Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: July 3, 2018
Number of Pages: 384

Scroll down for Giveaway!

The captivating sequel to the award-winning The Day the Angels Fell

Abra Miller carries a secret and a responsibility she never expected. 

Before the Tree of Life, everything in Abra Miller’s life had been predictable. Safe. Normal. But after the Tree, everything has felt fragile . . . like holding a soap bubble in the palm of her hand. After years of fruitless searching for the next Tree, she begins to wonder if it was nothing more than a vivid dream.

Now sixteen, Abra finds a clue to the whereabouts of the next Tree of Life when an ominous woman—who looks exactly like a ghost from her past—compels her to travel to New Orleans where she’ll find one of seven gateways between this world and Over There. But she’s not the only one interested in finding the gateway. There’s also a young man searching for his father and sister, who escaped through it years before. As Abra enters the Edge of Over There and begins her pursuit of the Tree once more, she doesn’t know whom to fear or whom to trust.

She’s also starting to think that some doorways should never be opened.


Praise for The Edge of Over There:
“Blending Biblical elements and urban myths, Smucker creates an enthralling story of supernatural battles between the forces of good and evil.” -- Publishers Weekly

“The Edge of Over There is a mesmerizing, menacing fantasy. Shawn Smucker fuses New Orleans lore, Christian themes, and dystopian landscapes in a thorough exploration of love and its unintended results.” -- Foreword Reviews (Starred Review) 

HALL WAYS REVIEW. Audio & Print Review. I’m doing things a little out of order because I am writing the review for The Edge of Over There, the second book of the series, before I write the one for The Day the Angels Fell, the first.  That’s because I read (both in print and with my ears) both books, back-to-back, in two and a half days. I’m so geeked-up about it that I’m starting at the end.

THE END?! Please, Shawn Smucker, say it isn’t so. As I drew nearer to the close of The Edge of Over There, I switched from listening to the audio book (which I already had increased to 1.25x speed) to picking-up my beautiful print copy so I could gobble up the words more quickly and find out what would happen – I could not have imagined it! That end twist surely guarantees there is more of this series to come.  There simply must be. 

“The house was like a kind, old man: a little crazy, a little angry, but mostly quiet and reflective. And waiting. Always waiting.”

As with The Day the Angels Fell, the descriptions and figurative language will blow-away the readers. There is a beautiful flow to Smucker’s writing; it’s lyrical and lulls you into the story. Then the imagery sticks to you, immerses you, and holds you tightly within the story.  And the characters! Not one is unimportant, and their personalities evoke all kinds of emotions from the reader, including fear and dread that come from a surprisingly tiny package. Upon finishing the stories, I feel exhausted…and invigorated!

Exactly what kind of book is The Edge of Over There? Young adult? Adult? Biblical? Fantasy? Magical Realism? Myth? Yes. Yes, to it all. It’s best not to try wrangling this book into any one box because it’s most certainly not going to stay there. I noted at least a dozen quotes for later consideration because this book will make you think and wonder and dream (nightmare?) a little, too. And if Smucker’s words aren’t enough, every part (there are seven plus an epilogue) begins with a quote to fuel your mind. These quotes come from a wide variety of sources from traditional church hymns and C.S. Lewis to Madeleine L’Engle and Kate DiCamillo. Bonus food for thought.

ABOUT THE AUDIO BOOK.   Listening to narrator Adam Verner further draws and keeps you within the story. I listened at 1.25x, mostly because I am impatient, but I can envision someone who wants to savor the story longer (who is not so impatient), who wants to absolutely wallow in the deliciousness of his reading of the book. It’s like the best read aloud story time EVER. But not for the little ones; The Edge of Over There explores some dark places of human nature and evil itself.  

I heard of the two books in this series by way of their two Lone Star Book Blog Tours. The reviews are so glowing that I had to get my own copies to find out what all the buzz is about. Money well spent on both print and audio -- I intend to revisit them all.
Shawn Smucker is the author of The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There. He lives with his wife and six children in the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. You can find him on his website, where you can also sign up for his newsletter in order to find out when and where the Tree of Life will turn up next.

GRAND PRIZE: Both Books in the The Day the Angels Fell series + Color Changing Tree Mug + $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card
2ND PRIZE: Both Books + Tree of Life Journal
3RD PRIZE: Both Books + $10 Starbucks Gift Card
  July 17-27, 2018

Author Interview
Book Trailer
Top 10 List
Notable Quotable
Author Interview
Spotlight Promo
Guest Post
BONUS Review

BONUS Review

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Boy on the Beach ~ ~ Blog Tour, Review, and Giveaway!

by R.D. Maddux

Category: Adult Fiction; 304 pages
Sub-genres: Mystery / Thriller
Publisher: Ezekiel 12 Publications
Release date: March 11, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 + M 
(There are implied, but not graphic, sex scenes and some violence.)

Book Description: Andrew Foster, a real estate developer in San Diego, is a man suddenly haunted by his past. Memories, like specters from his former life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll have come crashing into his current world of business in this sunny coastal city. The ominous, repeated appearance of a black SUV at the beach where he meets his sister each week has triggered fears that it’s payback time for a bad choice he made years ago.

To add to his frustrations, his hopes of a big breakthrough in the San Diego real estate market haven’t come to pass. He’s starting to wonder if his visions of success will ever come true when an investor offers to finance his dream project. Soon things start to fall into place for Andrew in business, life, and even love. He starts dating the beautiful and business-savvy Nicole, but even with her at his side he can’t seem to shake the ghosts of his past. As the relationship with Nicole deepens, Andrew opens up to her about the many loves and adventures that have taken him from the crazy days of living in Big Sur and Joshua Tree to business success in San Diego. Her wise insights help him face the character flaws that have caused him to fail in his past relationships.

Rounding out his social life is his once-a-week task of assisting his sister with her nanny job watching a young boy named Chandler. They build sand castles on the beach and enjoy the beauty of nature together. But the now ominous weekly appearance of a strange car at the beach has awakened Andrew’s fears. Is the boy in danger? Or worse, has an enemy from Andrew’s past come seeking revenge and now Chandler’s caught in the middle?

A strange twist of events threatens to destroy Andrew’s dreams, but as he searches for answers, a sudden revelation offers hope of a future he never imagined.

To follow the tour and read reviews, please visit R.D. Maddux's page on iRead Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

Watch the Book Trailer:

HALL WAYS REVIEW: 3.5 Stars. I was drawn to the cover of this book and then the cover blurb enticed me even further. Neither really represents the crux of the story told in Boy on the Beach, but it’s time well-spent between the book’s covers nonetheless.

The first chapter of the book is action-packed, heart racing, and quickly hooks the reader into the world of Andrew Foster.  After that, there is less heart racing and more heart wrenching. For the majority of Boy on the Beach, readers are sitting on the shoulder of main character Andrew. At times, it feels like we’re reading his journaling where he summarizes events and his feelings about them. Other times, we’re right there with him thirty-seven years ago or in current times as his life unfolds. Author R.D. Maddux uses the flashbacks and summarizing to move the story forward and selectively fills-in holes without bogging down the plot. Readers have an advantage over Andrew due to the sprinkling of chapters told from a different character’s viewpoint. These chapters take much of the mystery out of the story, and at times feel awkward, but they allow the dread to build for the train wreck that readers see coming but which Andrew only feels is coming. Further adding to the interest is that Andrew thinks he deserves what is coming, in whatever way it manifests itself.

“One word that shouldn’t be part of a life graced with wealth, a beautiful spouse, gorgeous children, and an amazing career. One word: Revenge.”

Boy on the Beach is a study in human nature and illustrates some of the best but more of the worst mankind has to offer – and most importantly, the consequences of those unsavory characteristics. For me, young Andrew is not a likable character. He is immature and horribly selfish and justifies his actions because he feels entitled to have what’s not his and to live the life he wants, regardless of the fallout. Though fifty-seven-year-old Andrew has matured and evolved in some ways, I still didn’t find him overly likable; however, I could see that he may have been getting there with the help of his sister, young Chandler, and his love interest, Nicole.  Sadly, none of those characters or relationships have a big enough role in the story. Their parts are minor in the story even though it’s clear they are major contributors to Andrew’s growth. The result is that readers don’t experience much of these relationships, but they see the potential positive impacts of them being an influence on Andrew and his attitudes and thinking, and that does help.

Readers who remember the free-love and drug haze aspect of the sixties/seventies will certainly enjoy Andrew’s flashbacks to that era and lifestyle. Maddux’s attention to details really paints a picture of everything from jam sessions to psychedelic tripping after eating peyote buttons. While I couldn’t relate to that aspect (but found it fascinating), from a personal standpoint, I do relate to and enjoy the California setting. I’m familiar with these exact towns and places north of San Diego, so I can easily visualize the nooks and crannies of Swami’s beach, the June gloom, and the promise held in those beautiful sunsets. Maddux writes some fabulous sentences and has some rich descriptions that show he not only has a real love for his setting, but he also is a talented writer. Unfortunately, that talent is overshadowed by the need for some additional editing (unnatural dialogue, telling not showing, holes) and a lack of proofreading of the text. There are numerous SPAG errors, some formatting glitches, and no page numbers, all of which, for me, were distracting and detracted from the quality of the book.

Overall, there is a fascinating story told in Boy on the Beach, and there are even a few surprises that show-up that make for a satisfying ending. Readers are left with an impression that many people’s lives are about to get better, and that hopeful vibe was just the right way to end the book.

Thank you to iRead Book Tours and the author for sharing a print copy of this book with me in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give. 

Meet the Author: R.D. Maddux has story telling in his blood. Since he was young he’s always loved a good tale. He’s been writing seriously since he was in high school and college. His novels range from Mystery and Intrigue to Sci-fi/fantasy. With Boy On The Beach he’s set the story in modern America, to be exact, on the West Coast of California. He’s a native of the golden state and has been a resident of San Diego since 1987. Before that he grew up in northern California and lived in the Sacramento Valley and Bay Area with sojourns in some of the beautiful parts of our state.

Living in California for over 60 years he couldn't help but watch the way things have changed in our culture and the impact this coast makes on the rest of America and the world. So even though Boy On The Beach is fiction, like most serious novels, it is not without a context and comment on issues we all face in our changing world. It takes place in real locations that are very familiar to him and its characters, which are fictional, no doubt have their counterparts in the real world. Boy On The Beach is a story of intrigue, suspense, revenge, love and redemption with flashbacks to the era when sex, drugs and rock and roll set our culture on it's inevitable journey to our present day. This idea has been rattling around in his heart and mind for a decade and it's finally coming to the page.
Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

FIVE WINNERS! Copy of the Book & Amazon Gift Card!
TWO WINNERS! Copy of the Book
(US Winners: Print Copies; International Winners: eBook Copies) 
Ends Aug 25, 2018

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July 9   - Working Mommy Journal - review / giveaway
July 9   - Writers N Authors - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
July 10 - The World As I See It - review / giveaway
July 11 - Library of Clean Reads - review / giveaway
July 12 - A Mama's Corner of the World - review / giveaway
July 13 - Hall Ways Blog - review / giveaway
July 16 - Bound 4 Escape - review / giveaway
July 17 - Olio By Marilyn - review / author interview / giveaway
July 18 - The Autistic Gamer - book spotlight / giveaway
July 19 - Two Points of Interest - review
July 20 - Books for Books - review
July 23 - Rocksprings Crafts - review / author interview / giveaway
July 24 - Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
July 25 - Life as Leels - review
July 26 - A Page Before Bedtime - review / giveaway
July 27 - Readers Muse - review / guest post
July 30 - Literary Flits - book spotlight / giveaway
July 31 - Bri's Book Nook - review / author interview / giveaway
July 31 - 411 on Books, Authors, and Publishing News - bk spotlight / guest post / gw
Aug 1   - Life at 17 - review
Aug 2   - Maiden of the Pages - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Aug 3   - Rockin' Book Reviews - review / guest post / giveaway
Aug 6   - StoreyBook Reviews - review / giveaway
Aug 7   - Bookworm for Kids - review / giveaway
Aug 8   - Sefina Hawke's Books - review 
Aug 9   - Svetlana's Reads and Views - review
Aug 10 - FLY HIGH! - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Aug 13 - Rainy Day Reviews - review / guest post / giveaway
Aug 13 - Celticlady's Reviews - book spotlight / giveaway
Aug 14 - Locks, Hooks and Books - review / giveaway
Aug 15 - Mystery Suspense Reviews - review / guest post
Aug 16 - Writers and Authors - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Aug 16 - 
fundinmental - review / giveaway
Aug 17 - One Frugal Girl - review / giveaway
Aug 17 - The Book Girl - review / author interview / giveaway
Aug 17 - Jessica Cassidy - review / giveaway
Aug 17 - TFaulc Book Reviews - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway