Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book Review - The Love Song of Jonny Valentine - Teddy Wayne

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine
Title: The Love Song of Jonny Valentine 

Author: Teddy Wayne 

Review: The modern appetite for news and information has gotten out of control.  Every bus crash, windstorm, and flu outbreak is available to us in an instant through the internet.  When everything becomes instant news, then the flow of information coming to us can never end.  The side effect of this is all aspects of someone’s life, no matter how remotely famous, becomes open to the public.  Discover three kidnapped women and the next day we all have access to your previous arrest records; and you were the hero in the story. 

Thus the nature of fame, at least fame in our modern interpretation of it, is slowly exposed in this insightful novel by Teddy Wayne.  Our hero, young Jonny Valentine got exposure through some cute Youtube videos that demonstrated his singing abilities.   Within a few short years he has become an entertainment package, going on tour and heading for Madison Square Garden. 

The reality of this book is it shows that for every story of fame there is a tremendous tale of cost right behind the scene.  Jonny ceases to be an 11 year old kid who can carry a tune, instead he is reduced to a brand.  A brand that can be manipulated and abused to give the world what it demands.  Need to grow him up, make him more sexual to his fan base who are also growing up.  Easy, set him up on a fake date with another prepackaged tween star who , bonus, is Hispanic (expand your demographic).  Yet when he actually tries to sex himself up with a fan, well that falls flat because reality is not a requirement for the young star. They have sacrificed the kid to create a polished product they can sell. 

And the real fault lies with us, the consumers.  We are so desperate for more and more news; more celebrity, more frivolous in our life that we pay people to make this product.  We buy the music, we read the magazines, and in the end we trample them underfoot when we have used them up.  It is no wonder so many of these child stars end up on the drug abuse trash heap later in life.  We have drained all the life out of them to vicariously enrich our simple lives; and then we enjoy kicking them down again when that becomes en vogue to make ourselves feel better. 

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine is a wonderful tale of modern celebrity and should serve as a warning to us all.  We do it to ourselves.  (Note this is a work of fiction but you will get a Justin Beibery vibe from the book). 

Publisher: Free Press 
ISBN: 978-1-4767-0585-9
Copyright: 2013 
Pages: 285
Quick Review: 4 stars out of 5 
Where I Obtained the Book: Sent to me by the publisher for review. 

Synopsis:   Megastar Jonny Valentine, eleven-year-old icon of bubblegum pop, knows that the fans don’t love him for who he is. The talented singer’s image, voice, and even hairdo have been relentlessly packaged—by his L.A. label and his hard-partying manager-mother, Jane—into bite-size pabulum. But within the marketing machine, somewhere, Jonny is still a vulnerable little boy, perplexed by his budding sexuality and his heartthrob status, dependent on Jane, and endlessly searching for his absent father in Internet fan sites, lonely emails, and the crowds of faceless fans.

Poignant, brilliant, and viciously funny, told through the eyes of one of the most unforgettable child narrators, this literary masterpiece explores with devastating insight and empathy the underbelly of success in 21st-century America. The Love Song of Jonny Valentine is a tour de force by a standout voice of his generation.

Author Biography: 
  Teddy Wayne is the author of the novels "The Love Song of Jonny Valentine" (Free Press, Feb. 2013) and "Kapitoil" (Harper Perennial) and is the recipient of a 2011 Whiting Writers' Award, an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, the 2011 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize runner-up, and a finalist for the 2011 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award finalist and the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. He is a graduate of Harvard and Washington University in St. Louis, where he taught fiction and creative nonfiction writing. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, McSweeney's, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. He lives in New York.

Other Reviews:

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review - The Typewriter Girl - Alison Atlee

The Typewriter Girl
Title: The Typewriter Girl 

Author: Alison Atlee 

Review: If you are willing to put logical flaws aside and just take this book at face value, as a story about a girl who meets a guy, then it is okay.  The writing stands up and the author is more than capable to put a plot together in a coherent manner.  So if you are willing to stay in the shallow end you will thoroughly enjoy The Type Writer girl. 

In Victorian England there were only so many jobs available to women, even the educated.  This was due to the general misogyny of the era and was prevalent just about everywhere.  So our heroine starts out as a maid for a well to do household, but soon runs into trouble by falling in love with the young master.  Of course this just won’t work and he stands aside as his family dispose of her.  So she moves on to another acceptable job for the mildly educated young woman (as in she can read and write) and becomes a typewriter girl.  In the days before printers and copiers all formal correspondence had to be typed.  So companies maintained large pools of women that would type up the letters all day. 

It is in these circumstances she first becomes involved in a sexual relationship with a man from her office.  It is this openness that attracts another less desirable gentleman, one who has power over her (what we would call sexual harassment in today’s times).  She rebuffs him severely because she has found yet another, better job outside the city.  She has a no nonsense attitude and the force of personality to stand up to the powers that be. 

Thus we find ourselves to the main part of the story.  Her power of conviction has landed her into a job normally reserved for men, which she is more than adept at; and her battling the misogynists who are trying to hold her down.  Through all this she finds a champion who stands by her and eventually leads to love and happiness.  Awwwww. 

So on the surface it is a pleasant enough love story of a young woman who was done wrong, but yet she manages to overcome and win at the end.  But I did find a few things that didn’t work for me.  It seems the author took umbrage with the crap treatment of women in the Victorian times and created a very modern kick butt heroine who could go back in time and set those a-holes straight.  Now while I agree that the prevailing attitudes of the time were despicable, this wasn’t a sci-fy time travel book, so as exciting it was to see this character right the wrongs, it was just not realistic; especially not time and again.  She might win a battle here and there, but she definitely would have lost the war.  I mean I get it, we all know women are intelligent, forceful, sexual beings in charge of their own destinies, but that would not have worked in the day.  That is what makes today better. 

Plus the above premise is gutted by the overall plot of the story.  True happiness for our heroine at the end of the day comes from the love of a man.  She overcomes when a man rescues her; from the train station, from her ex-lover, from the office in London, her current bosses, and so on.  And until she gets that ring, all she has accomplished is just not enough.  So we are getting two stories that do not agree; the modern woman setting the record straight, and the Victorian lady looking for a sense of self in a man.  A little too schizophrenic for me. 

At the end of the day if you do not think too much about the incongruencies in the plot, it is a pleasant story well told.  A good freshman effort. 

Publisher: Gallery Books 
ISBN: 978-1-4516-7325-8 
Copyright: 2013 
Pages: 367 
Quick Review: 3 stars out of 5 
Why I Read It: Enjoy a good English story. 
Where I Obtained the Book: Sent to me by the publisher for review. 

Synopsis: A passionate historical debut novel about a young woman in turn-of-the-century England who finds love and independence at a seashore resort.

In Victorian London, there’s only so far an unmarried woman can go, and Betsey Dobson has relied on her wits and cunning to take herself as far as she can—to a position as a typewriter girl. But still, Betsey yearns for something more…so when she’s offered a position as the excursions manager at a seaside resort, she knows this is her chance for security, for independence, for an identity forged by her own work and not a man’s opinion. Underqualified for the job and on the wrong side of the aristocratic resort owner, Betsey struggles to prove herself and looks to the one person who can support her new venture: Mr. Jones, the ambitious Welshman building the resort’s pleasure fair. As she and Mr. Jones grow ever closer, Betsey begins to dream that she might finally have found her place in the world—but when her past returns to haunt her, she must fight for what she’s worked so hard…or risk losing everything.

This eloquent debut novel displays firm propriety barely restraining seething passion—a sizzling combination reminiscent of Downton Abbey.
Alison Atlee
Author Biography: Alison Atlee spent her childhood re-enacting Little Women and trying to fashion 19th century wardrobes for her Barbie dolls. Happily, these activities turned out to be good preparation for writing historical novels. She now lives in Kentucky.

Other Reviews: 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Feature - Reality Boulevard - Melissa Jo Peltier


Reality Boulevard

New York Times bestseller Melissa Jo Peltier turns her attention to the brilliant, back-stabbing world of prime-time television in this wickedly funny new novel.

Peltier has worked in entertainment for more than 20 years, making the darkly funny Reality Boulevard a true insider’s view of Hollywood and some of America’s biggest shows.

In it, we see Oscar-winning producer Marty Maltzman and his staff out of a job – and out on the streets – when long-running docu-series Lights and Sirens is unexpectedly axed. But the Hollywood the team now faces is full of Kardashiansand Real Housewives, and they need to survive in a world where it’s very hard to tell what’s true and what isn’t – both on and off screen.

Oscar and Emmy winning documentarian and veteran reality producer (Big Brother, Rescue 911) Arnold Shapiro called the novel “the best satirical look behind the scenes of reality television ever written”, adding: “It contains more truth than you would believe.”

Todd Milliner, producer of Grimm and Hot in Cleveland, said: “During her 20-plus years in the business, Melissa Jo Peltier had a front-row seat, watching it all unfold. In this novel, she puts her dry wit and storytelling ability to good use, pulling back the curtain to reveal what really goes on.”


  • Once I started reading Reality Boulevard, I could not stop. It is that compelling, that entertaining, and that amazing and amusing — filled with unexpected plot twists and characters more colorful than the clearest rainbow. This is the best satirical look behind-the-scenes of “reality television” ever written. Despite being satiric fiction, it contains more truth than you would believe. You will forever watch your favorite reality shows with new “insider” knowledge and awareness.” - Arnold Shapiro: Academy Award & 16-time Emmy Award-winner / Producer of film, TV documentaries and reality series (Big BrotherRescue 911Scared Straight and more)
  • Melissa Jo Peltier has spent over 20 years in the trenches of documentary, non-fiction and reality TV and there’s practically nothing she hasn’t seen or done. She lived it so you can laugh about it in this novel.” - Sean Hayes: Actor/ Producer
  • Reality TV has cannibalized the airwaves, and during her 20 plus years in the business, Melissa Jo Peltier had a front row seat, watching it all unfold. In this novel, she puts her dry wit and storytelling ability to good use, pulling back the curtain to reveal what really goes on.” - Todd Milliner: Executive Producer, Grimm, Hot in Cleveland
  • “I’ve worked with Melissa for almost 20 years on many programs on several networks. She’s the real deal. As a network executive, I can safely say that Melissa knows the territory, and most important of all, has captivating insights that are worth sharing with a wide audience.” – Michael Cascio: SVP, National Geographic Channel (Formerly SVP A&E, Animal Planet)
  • Emmy award winner, New York Times bestselling author, and executive producer of the long-running phenomenon Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan, Melissa Jo Peltier started out in television at the tender age of 20 and has had an unprecedented insider’s view of reality TV’s strange evolution. If there’s anyone out there qualified to fictionalize what really goes on behind the scenes, it’s Melissa.” – Cori Wellins: Partner, William Morris Endeavor

Latest reviews:
·         When I began reading the novel, I knew it would be good. After all, Melissa is the co-author of seven non-fiction books, five of which made the New York Times Bestseller list … Her characterizations and descriptions, in particular, are original and visceral, and the book is simply a fun and engaging read.”  Reel Life with Jane
·         a very funny and intriguing book ... It’ll make you think, it’ll make you laugh.” The Jordan Rich Show on WBZ / CBS Boston
·         Notable neighbor: Reality is Nyack author’s expertise … a satire that’s packed with unbelievable, behind-the-scenes industry informationLower Hudson Journal
·         Your body of work is so amazing … Let’s talk about this exciting new novel!” Celebrity blogger Clara 54
·          “There are so many truths in this fictional story that make it extremely powerful … Melissa is brutally honest here, and this is not so far from fictionThe Best People We Know Show

 Melissa Jo PeltierPeltier is a New Yorker these days, born a New Englander who made a 20-year detour through Hollywood after graduating Phi Beta Kappa and cum laude from Pomona College in Claremont, CA. Most recently, she is the author of the darkly comic Hollywood novel, "Reality Boulevard". She is also the co-author of six non-fiction works: "The Mommy Docs Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth"; plus five books with 'Dog Whisperer' Cesar Millan, all of which were New York Times Best Sellers.

A two-time Emmy Award-winning writer and producer, Ms. Peltier won her first Emmy for educational programming at the age of 23. Since then, she has accumulated over 50 national and international awards and accolades for her work as a producer, writer and editor of both documentary and dramatic television and film productions. Ms. Peltier is best known for her work as director and co-writer of the primetime documentary special, "Scared Silent: Exposing and Ending Child Abuse", hosted by Oprah Winfrey. This multi-network simulcast was hailed as television’s most watched documentary ever, and earned Ms. Peltier the coveted Humanitas Prize. Following closely on its heels was the Peabody Award-winning "Break the Silence: Kids Against Child Abuse", which Ms. Peltier also wrote and directed. In 1994, she was producer-director-writer of A&E’s four-hour special, "Titanic: Death of a Dream" and "Titanic: The Legend Lives On", then the highest-rated program ever aired on A&E, which won two Emmy Awards, including an award to Ms. Peltier for outstanding documentary writing. Three more Writer’s Guild of America nominations for documentary feature writing followed in subsequent year, as well as three primetime Emmy Nominations for Best Reality Show as an Executive Producer of National Geographic Channel’s "Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan". "Dog Whisperer" also won the People's Choice Award in 2010. Peltier is a co-founder, partner and executive producer at the Burbank-based production company MPH Entertainment, which has created over 350 hours of orginal documentary and reality television programming, dozens of which she produced, wrote or directed.

Peltier’s dramatic TV and feature credits include writing the Lifetime movie "Nightwaves" starring Sherilyn Fenn, and the story, "The Collector", for the hit CBS series, "Ghost Whisperer". With her MPH partners, she served as producer of the film "Men Seeking Women" (starring Will Farrell) and co-executive producer of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," one of the most popular and profitable indie films of all time. Most recently, she produced the multi-festival-winning indie feature, "White Irish Drinkers", for Ovington Avenue Productions, of which she is also a principal with her husband, film/TV writer/director John Gray. 

She is represented by Scott Miller at the Trident Media Group.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Review - Smart Mouth Waitress - Dalya Moon

Smart Mouth Waitress (Life in Saltwater City, #2)
Title:  Smart Mouth Waitress

Author:  Dalya Moon 

Review:  Cute, cute, cute! I truly enjoyed Smart Mouth Waitress. Dalya Moon has created a quirky, lovable, sassy lassie of a young woman (Perry) who is searching for her, well... womanhood, and goes about it in a way that keeps you smiling, page after page. This book is light and breezy, yet hints at some underlying thought-provoking ideas that are interesting to ponder and does so with an innocent honesty. As Perry struggles with her female identity and a yearns to be attractive and subsequently catch a huba-huba, it reminded me so much of my own days of high school/college. I didn't exactly have dreadlocks, as the protagonist has, but close enough for my liking and too far from the ubiquitous and highly desirable Dorothy Hamill do's that all my friends sported. It was interesting to me how Dalya Moon tackled the subject of female attractiveness and the idea that a woman is, indeed, treated differently depending on her looks. In one exchange which Perry has with a potential suitor, the young man responds to his idea of female attractiveness by stating that he likes women who are "authentic," which partially derails Perry and forces her to ponder what exactly that means, in very humorous terms, I might add. I also thoroughly enjoyed the supporting characters Dalya Moon created in Smart Mouth Waitress, the fun, lively and helpful gay housekeeper, the engineer father who would have rather been one of the gang than an authoritative figure, the goofy but cute-as-heck younger brother who insisted on calling his sister "Bro," the rock star mom who went AWOL to jump start her music career but was actually very loving and attentive when her feet were planted on her home turf, despite her ambition, the gay best friend who tested Perry's loyalty when she dumped Perry for a girlfriend. The Smart Mouth Waitress is filled with oodles of colorful characters, witty banter and morsels of food for thought. This book is a gem. 

Thanks TH Waters for this review 

Quick Review:  4 out of 5 stars
Publisher:  April 24th 2012
Pages:  Kindle Edition
Where I got the book:  From a sale on Kindle

Synopsis:  Perry makes a strong first impression, from her white-girl dreadlocks to her uncensored opinions.

When she combs out her dreads on a whim, she catches the eye of a cute guy who’s a regular at The Whistle, the diner where she works as a waitress. He mistakes Perry for someone completely different: the girl of his dreams.

Perry tries to become that girl.

But it’s so hard to be normal.

And eyebrow piercings are so cute.


With her mother down in LA recording her comeback album, Perry’s in charge of the family household, and things are going to change. She starts with paint colors and moves on to doling out retributive punishments for her fifteen-year-old brother.

What Perry really wants, though, is her first boyfriend. She’s eighteen, and it’s about time!

Boyfriend candidates include: the cute but quiet restaurant regular, the all-too-willing coworker, or the outgoing artist who’s eager to whip off his clothes and model. One of these guys loves Perry exactly how she is, but how can she tell which one?

Author Bio:  Hello, and thanks for your interest!

For news, please see my web site at

Other Reviews:  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Feature -

PR by the Book 
Darryl Nyznyk, author of The Condor Song, was inspired to write the book by the 1960s and 70s Sierra Club battle with Walt Disney over a proposed ski resort in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, home to the endangered condor.

Drawing from his legal background as an attorney and love for the environment, Darryl has created a gripping thriller about conservation that appeals to suspense lovers and environmentalists alike.


About the story:

Lawyers, and killers, and endangered birds? Oh my. This unusual combination sets the stage for a riveting legal thriller by best-selling author and former attorney, Darryl Nyznyk.

Described as “The Verdict”, starring Paul Newman, meets John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief, The Condor Song follows Sean Donovan, a new partner in a major law firm who lost everything when he took a costly ethical stand. Wifeless, jobless, and betrayed by his closest friend, Sean spends 13 years trying to find his way back.

Barely eking out a living on small cases, Sean’s redemption comes with the death of renowned environmentalist, Buck Anderson. When the dead man’s niece requests Sean’s help in resolving Buck’s last case with the Sierra Club, Sean happily accepts, but learns too late the opposition is his former law firm and the partner who betrayed him. He may have just signed his own death warrant.

Is Atticus Golden, the Disney-like developer against whose project Buck was working, connected to the Mexican Mafia and groups that would go to any lengths to protect their investments? As Sean gathers evidence against “Uncle Atti,” all signs lead to Buck’s murder. A battle to save a precious environmental resource turns into a classic struggle of good versus evil where a national treasure - and a man’s soul – is at stake.

The Condor Song is a gripping thriller that appeals to suspense lovers and environmentalists alike.

DARRYL NYZNYK lives in Manhattan Beach, CA with his wife, Loretta. After practicing law for 20 years, Nyznyk became a full-time writer and teacher. He is also the author of the holiday novel, Mary’s Son; A Tale of Christmas. For more information, please visit


Friday, July 19, 2013

Book Feature - The Knightmare - Deborah Valentine

The Knightmare
Title: The Knightmare

Synopsis: France, 1209: A Knight Templar riding through an eerie forest is suddenly attacked by an assassin as a man and woman watch from a distant hillside. When his death seems certain, the woman takes up a sword...

Present, Formula 1 race, Magny Cours: Observed by the very same couple, Conor Westfield, a career-obsessed Scottish driver, is in a horrible racing accident. Miraculously, he survives what seemed to be certain death.

As he is recovering from his injuries Conor’s childhood nightmare recurs, a strange jumble of terrifying images that feel more like memories than dreams. Can it be mere coincidence that the very next morning he is informed a mysterious woman with whom he had very brief affair has died and left him as her heir? But this was no ordinary woman and no ordinary affair. Dogged by a niggling feeling of déjà vu, Conor travels to Amsterdam to identify the body. At her home he finds an illuminated book that transports him back in time, to a woman he left behind and a life lived in the shadow of a tragedy that cries out across 800 years for resolution.

Weaving history with the present, fact with fantasy, The Knightmare is a story of angels and alchemy, betrayal and sacrifice, and truly extraordinary love.

Q&A with Deborah Valentine

Can you tell us a little about The Knightmare?

My first series of books were crime fiction. The Knightmare marks a change of direction to stories with both a historical and supernatural twist. It’s about a F1 driver who remembers a past life as a Knight Templar. Sounds weird, but there’s logic to it. In both lives he’s the action arm of a corporate body: in medieval times, the Church; in the present, big business sport. In remembering his past life he finds the origins of the personal issues he has in the present.

And, of course, there’s dodgy racing accidents, sword fights, the occasional massacre, betrayal and sacrifice... and, perhaps needless to say, a woman at the heart of it all, Mercedes. She’s quite an extraordinary woman. A lot of history and magic are thrown in for good measure.

What made you change from writing crime fiction to supernatural stories?

Oddly, it seemed a natural progression. At the heart of all stories is some kind of betrayal, whether technically criminal or not. Life itself is a rather fantastical adventure and the longer you live, the more fantastical it seems. It seemed more fun to take it that step further. As one of the characters in The Knightmare remarks: “Please note the word is ‘super’ natural, nature taken that step or so further than generally accepted natural events. Not ‘un’ natural”. I believe in exaggerration of a fact, you can illustrate a truth in a more impactful way. Perhaps, going back to the point I made earlier, it’s fun. Also, I love medieval history so that was another natural progression.

Who or what inspired the character of Conor?

I had a friend once who wanted to be a Formula 1 driver. I had always thought of him as a ‘hooray Henry’; good-looking and witty, but... a light-weight. Then I went to watch him race – I went camping with him in the snow (it still gives me shivers) – and was I surprised! In an instant, he changed to a man with total focus, genuine discipline, a real tactician. Out of that, grew the character of Conor.

Another big influence is the medieval true story of Abelard and Heloise. I read their collected letters as a teenager and what a story! The love between two famous scholars that ended in horrific tragedy, yet with a bittersweet epilogue. I was greatly influenced by her letters in particular – her attitude to love and marriage. A truly modern woman! It stuck with me.

So when I created the character of Conor, I also based him on what I imagined would be the psychology of their son. What would it do to a lad to know his father had been castrated as retribution for loving his mother? What would his attitude to love be? What choices would he make? And, more universally, how many children are embarrassed by their parents and absolutely determined not to make their mistakes. Of course, in reaction you can make some pretty spectacular disasters of your own...

At the heart of this adventure story is how your past impacts your attitudes as an adult and how a bit of hindsight and life experience can help show you how to take responsibility and come to terms with it.

About the author: Deborah Valentine is a British author, editor and screenwriter who once lived in California but far preferred the British weather and fled to London, where she has resided for many years. She is the author of three books published by Victor Gollancz Ltd in the UK, and Bantam and Avon in the US. Unorthodox Methods was the first in the series, followed by A Collector of Photographs and the Ireland-based Fine Distinctions. A Collector of Photographs was short-listed for an Edgar Allan Poe, a Shamus, a Macavity and an Anthony Boucher award. Fine Distinctions was also short-listed for an Edgar. They featured the characters of former California sheriff Kevin Bryce and artist Katharine Craig, charting their turbulent relationship amid murder and mayhem. They will soon be available as eBooks through Orion. With the publication of The Knightmare she has embarked on a new series of books with a supernatural edge.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Review - Book Tour - The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmine - Shohreh Aghdashloo

The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines
Title: The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines 

Author: Shohreh Aghdashloo 

Review: If you are like me you will see this book is a memoir of an actress, arguably the most famous Iranian actress of all time; but the name did not ring any bells.  So like me you will hit Google image search  and when Shohreh’s picture pops up you will immediately say “Oh Her” because she is that one actress that you have seen in just about everything but you just didn't know her name.  Well now you do.  If you needed a gorgeous actress to play any Persian/Arabic part in a movie or show, Shohreh is the go to person (i.e. she has played a lot of Doctors).  As for me I recognized her mostly from her fantastic work on 24 season 4. 

We start off with her childhood in Iran, where she was raised in an educated family with high expectations.  Unfortunately for her those expectations did not include a career on the stage, as it was deemed beneath her family.  But she loved the stage and her family loved her and she found her way with a young acting collective.  What breaks my heart with every memoir of Iran that I read (and this makes 4 of them now) is how wonderful and cosmopolitan Iran seemed.  It was a country on the path to become the jewel of the region; the center of culture of Persian thought, science, and the arts.  And just before it took those last steps the Muslim revolution destroyed all chances of it happening.  Free thinkers were exiled if they were lucky, but most likely they were imprisoned and tortured, or at times they were executed.   

The book details how happy and promising Shohreh’s life in Iran had been, only to have it turned upside down by the revolution.  After much deliberation she recounts her hasty departure from Iran, as she got into her car and drove all the way to England.  She tells how she counter intuitively hid her valuables in the glove box of her car when crossing the Iranian border.  Most everyone else tried to hide them on their person, or in more devious locations in their vehicles.  But as the troops scoured everywhere and caught the would-be smugglers, they paid no attention to the obvious place she hid hers.  Why would anyone try to sneak out jewels in the glove box – it would be the first place they searched? 

Once out on her own in England is where the story takes an interesting turn. I think most of us would assume an actress would turn to more shallow pursuits if dislocated from their careers, but not Shohreh.  She got a job at a high-end boutique (At 60 she is stunning, one can only imaging what a 20 something Shohreh looked like) and then pursued a college degree in International Relations.  She sold her car and her jewels to pay her way through school, but at the end of the day she emerged with degree in hand.  It is an amazing story of not obsessing of all that you have lost, but taking what you have and just getting on with her life; very inspirational. 

Eventually she worked her way to Los Angeles, started her own business and began again as an actress. Along the way she utilized her college degree and hosted a talk radio program on Iranian politics and culture.  Her acting skills then landed her an Oscar nomination for the House of Sand and Fog, bringing the best of Iranian acting to the world stage.  Unlike a lot of acting memoirs she is not afraid to name names and discuss some of the challenges she has faced in Hollywood, whether that be her fellow actors or the business as a whole.  I guess receiving death threats as a radio host toughens you up a bit more than your average celebrity. 

This is a fantastic story that highlights the demise of a wonderful culture on the brink of greatness, the power of fundamentalism to destroy culture, a young woman displaced and her ability to overcome tremendous odds, and it also delivers on a juicy inside story of Hollywood.  You never realized how much substance are behind some people’s stories, and this book is a wonderful read that will educate and inspire you.  You cannot ask for much more from a memoir. 

Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-0-06-200980-7
Copyright: 2013 
Pages: 288
Quick Review: 5 stars out of 5 
Why I read the book: Enjoy books from other cultures.
Where I Obtained the Book: Sent to me by the publisher for review. 

Synopsis: Oscar nominee and Emmy Award–winning actress Shohreh Aghdashloo shares her remarkable personal journey—from a childhood in the Shah's Iran to the red carpets of Hollywood—in this dazzling memoir of family, faith, revolution, and hope.

Enchanted by the movies she watched while growing up in affluent Tehran in the 1950s and '60s, Shohreh Aghdashloo dreamed of becoming an actress despite her parents' more practical plans. When she fell in love and married her husband, Aydin, a painter twelve years her senior, she made him promise he'd allow her to follow her passion.

The first years of her marriage were magical. As Shohreh began to build a promising career, Aydin worked at the royal offices as an art director while exhibiting his paintings in Tehran. But in 1979 revolution swept Iran, toppling the Shah and installing an Islamic republic under the Ayatollah Khomeini. Alarmed by the stifling new restrictions on women and art, Shohreh made the bold and dangerous decision to escape the new regime and her home country. Leaving her family and the man she loved behind, she fled in a covert journey to Europe and eventually to Los Angeles.

In this moving, deeply personal memoir, Shohreh shares her story: it is a tale of privilege and affluence, pain and prejudice, tenacity and success. She writes poignantly about her struggles as an outsider in a foreign culture—as a woman, a Muslim, and an Iranian—adapting to a new land and a new language. She shares behind-the-scenes stories about what it's really like to be a Hollywood actress—including being snubbed by two of Tinseltown's biggest names on Oscar night.

Lyrical and atmospheric, The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines is a powerful story of ambition, art, politics, terror, and courage—of an extraordinary woman determined to live her dreams.

Author Quote: 
“What I had learned from our encounter was invaluable. Never try to look like your character, leave some room for the director's imagination. Turn yourself into a blank canvas ready to be painted on. Give him the pleasure of discovering you rather than finding you.” 
Shohreh Aghdashloo, The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines

Other Reviews: 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Feature - Assassin - Christopher Robbins

ASSASSIN by Christopher Robbins

Assassin: a terrifying true story

We took some prisoners and tied them up on the airstrip and left them out in the sun to die. Then we tied some up, put them in a DC3 and pushed them out of the door.

This is the terrifying true story of international assassin Carlos Evertsz as he ricocheted between the high life in London, Madrid and the island paradise of the Dominican Republic – and some of the world’s most horrific jails.

It is the complete dossier of an agent licensed to kill and who doesn’t hesitate to unflinchingly state his own record of shocking atrocities. Written by the journalist who knew him best – even ending up on the assassin’s hit list a few times himself – the story is as gripping as it is unbelievable.

Also part of Evertsz’s weird world is Dr Manuel Sosa, a demonic intelligence chief with a taste
for orgies, torture, blackmail, voodoo and murder. It’s a scene you will find stranger than fiction – but remember as you read, it is all true.

·         Get your copy here:
·         Find Assassin on Goodreads:

“I don’t think my life has been so extraordinary. It’s just been my life, it’s been routine to me. I’ve never had any other kind of life. I just think that I’ve been well trained to do what I had to do. I’m an operator, a liquidator just doing his job. To me, it’s just a way of making a living. Some people learn a trade, well this is my trade.

 Christopher RobbinsChristopher Robbins began his career in journalism at the age of sixteen when he started writing jazz criticism for the Daily Telegraph. Since then he has written for numerous newspapers and magazines in Britain, Europe and the USA.

The Empress of Ireland won the Saga Award for wit, along with exceptional critical acclaim. In Search of Kazakhstan was short-listed for the Authors’ Club Best Travel Book Award 2008 in the UK and (under the title Apples Are From Kazakhstan) for the Best Travel Books of 2008 in the US. Air America, a worldwide bestseller when it was originally published, was made into a film starring Mel Gibson.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pump up your Book Tour - Snow Day - Dan Maurer

SnowDay_Maurer_BookCover_Small_LowRez_287x459_Color_FinalABOUT SNOW DAY: A NOVELLA
It happens each winter, and has for over 35 years. Every time the snow starts to fall late in the evening before a school day, the dreams begin again for Billy Stone. They are always the same – there’s a dark tunnel, and there’s blood, lots of blood, and someone is screaming. In this chilling childhood tale, Billy, recounts the events of one unforgettable day in 1975. On that day, he and his friends played carefree in the snow, until an adventure gone awry left him far from home, staring death in the face, and running from a killer bent on keeping a horrible secret. Set in a time before Amber Alerts, when horror stories were told around camp fires instead of on the nightly news, Snow Day is a blend of nostalgia and nightmare that makes us question if the good old days were really as good as we remember. From a new voice in dark fiction comes a thriller about an idyllic childhood turned horrifying; a cautionary tale about how losing sight of the difference between feeling safe and being safe can lead to deadly consequences. Free Audiobook Sample — Snow Day: Prologue Buy Snow Day at Amazon Buy Snow Day at Amazon Buy Snow Day at Audible Buy Snow Day at iTunes


Dan Maurer is an independent author, publisher, theater producer, director, and digital marketer. He is also a proud member of International Thriller Writers, Inc. and the Horror Writers Association. Throughout his career in publishing and marketing, he has been involved in the publication of bestselling titles such as John Grisham’s The Firm, Richard Price’s Clockers, and Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger’s Lost Moon, which became the film Apollo 13. As a digital marker, he has supported popular publishing brands including Curious George, Peterson Field Guides, and The Polar Express. He has also developed marketing strategies for many corporations, including Citizen, Dun & Bradstreet, RCN and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Dan is a member of an acclaimed New Jersey-based theater company and has won awards for his producing, directing and sound design. He lives with his wife and their daughter in Robbinsville, New Jersey.
An Excerpt from Snow Day: a Novella by Dan Maurer
Copyright © 2013 by Dan Maurer. All rights reserved.
Prologue January, 1975
Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… ”Hello?” My voice was cautious as I called into the darkness. It wasn’t my house and I had no business being down in that cellar. By the look of the boards on the windows upstairs, and the weeds that strangled the front yard, it hadn’t been anyone’s house for a long time. But still, even at ten, I knew in my bones that I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. One of the windows was busted at the corner, and the cold wind whipped and whistled at the breach. Outside, a loose metal trash can rolled and rattled and knocked about with each new gust. It made a soft, distant sound. Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… The only light was an old Coleman lantern that I found there. It lay at my feet, the mantle fading and sputtering. Beyond the meager glow that lit no more than my boot-tops, it gave me the terrifying certainty that someone was here, or close by, and would soon — Was that a sound? I held my breath and listened carefully, trying hard to dismiss the pounding pulse that thrummed in my ears. Was that a shuffling sound, maybe feet moving and scraping across loose dirt? “Hello…? Anyone here…?” I squinted hard but it was useless. The darkness was unyielding and oddly thick with the smell of freshly turned earth. Someone had been digging down here. Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… Running into the house to hide from the police was my only option. The place should have been empty, long abandoned. But it wasn’t, and I knew now that I had to get out. I turned to leave, to run; and then I heard it, a word from the darkness. It was whispered and pitiful and — it was my name. Someone in the darkness called my name. ”B-Billy?” ”Who’s there?” I called out. ”I…I…didn’t d-do nothing wr-wrong, Billy.” Both the voice and its stutter were familiar. Just hearing it made my guts twist. Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… I snatched up the lantern at my feet, recalled my scout training, and worked the pump to pressurize the kerosene. The lantern’s mantle hissed a bit, burned a little brighter, and pushed back the darkness. ”Holy shit…” The light washed over a young boy. Like me, he was just ten, and I knew his name. ”…Tommy?” It came out like a question, but it wasn’t. Tommy Schneider lived next door to me and was part of our snowball fight just a few hours before. When the light touched him, Tommy flinched and turned his shoulder, as if anticipating a blow. He shivered and folded his arms across his chest, hands tucked in his armpits. He paced and shuffled his feet in a small circle, as if his bladder was painfully full, and he whined and muttered; half to himself, half to me. “It w-wasn’t m-my fault, Billy. I…I just w-wanted to play.” His eyes were swollen and red, and the tears ran streaks through the dirt on his freckled face. Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… “Tommy, what the hell are you doing down here?” ”I..I…I’m sorry, b-but I d-didn’t do nothing wrong, Billy. I’m s-sorry.” He kept his hands tucked under his armpits, but motioned with his chin. And that’s when I saw it, just a few feet from where I stood. Naked and half buried in a pile of loose earth lay the dead body of a boy that appeared to be our own age. ”Jesus Christ…what the hell, Tommy.” ”No….” His whining grew and fresh tears were coming. ”What the hell did you do?” ”Nooo…” he whined more and covered his ears. “I didn’t do nothing wrong.” Frantic now, I held out the fading lantern, quickly looking around. We were still alone. The scene before me was unfathomable. In the half-shadows of the cellar where the lantern struggled to reach, there was a pile of fresh, moist earth and broken shards of concrete. I saw some tools – a sledgehammer and a shovel, and I think a pickax, too. A few brown sacks of cement mix were piled against the wall. And there was a large hole; a gaping wound in the cellar floor that reached beneath the foundation of the house, a hole that led down into a place where the lantern’s light could not touch. Nearby, a stray boot lay in the dirt, just beyond it a gym sock, and another lay close by my feet. A faded, wadded up pair of jeans was perched at the edge of the hole. Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… I shivered, despite my layers of clothing and new winter coat. Tommy was freezing. He wore only jeans and a t-shirt pulled over a long-sleeved sweatshirt. His breath, like mine, fogged in the January air, and his jaw waggled helplessly from his shivering. “Who’s that?” I asked, pointing to the body. At first, Tommy’s eyes followed my finger, but then he just moaned and cried some more, and turned away. I couldn’t tell if the boy on the ground was from our immediate neighborhood, or my school, or Boy Scout troop, or baseball team. It was difficult to discern much about him at all. He lay on his belly in a pile of dirt, and the loose earth covering his face and parts of his torso were, it seemed, tossed on him carelessly by whoever dug the hole. The backs of his pale white thighs glowed in the lantern’s light. The only stitch of clothing left on him was a pair of white Fruit of the Loom jockeys tangled around one ankle. I picked up one of the gym socks from the ground, pinched it into a ball and held it with the tips of my fingers. Kneeling beside the dead boy’s head, I held the lantern close with one hand and used the sock to brush the dirt from his face with the other. Like a fossil being unearthed by an archeologist, the truth came slowly. As the seconds passed, the light and each stroke of my hand brought broken, bloodied and indecipherable features into sharp focus. But the crushed and jellied eyeball put me over the edge. I jerked back from the body. ”Oh, God! Tommy, what — “ My stomach lurched. I dropped the lantern and fell backward onto the ground. Turning and scrambling away on hands and knees, I found a corner and began to wretch. My back arched and my body convulsed uncontrollably. It was the Coney Island Cyclone all over again, but this time nothing came up, only thin strands of bile dripped from my mouth and down my lips. In time, the convulsions faded. I finally rolled over and just sat there, looking at Tommy, wiping the spittle from my lips with the back of a shaky hand. My head throbbed and my mind was fuzzy. No words would come. The wind howled through the broken cellar window again. Outside, the passing cars made a distant shushing sound as they crept along Woodlawn Avenue, tires rolling through the snow and slush. My heaving, stinking breath clouded in the cold air, and Tommy just cried. Clang, clang… Clang, clang… I was ten years old and had just seen my very first real dead body – still and soulless, and battered beyond recognition – lying on the floor of a cold, dark cellar of an abandoned house. What the hell did I get myself into? Clang, clang… Clang, clang… Staggering to my feet, I picked up the lantern and held it out. ”Tommy… who did this?” My throat was dry and pained. Just as the words passed my lips, something in my mind and in my ears opened up – popped open, really, like in the cabin of an airliner during descent. That sound. Clang, clang… Clang, clang… It was different. It was continuous. It wasn’t the rattling trash can anymore. The sound came from a distance but it was there, and it was distinctive. I knew exactly who was standing impatiently, hip cocked and jaw set, banging on the lip of a dinner bell with her soup ladle. Clang, clang… Clang, clang… Tommy looked at me. He heard it too and knew what it meant. ”Your Ma’s calling, Billy.” ”Who, Tommy?” ”I…I…didn’t d-do nothing wr-wrong, Billy,” Tommy whined. “I just w-wanted to play.” ”Tommy…” ”It was ol’ George,” he finally said. “He did it. Stay away from ol’ George.” And then he started to cry again, whimpering. “I just wanted to play,” he mumbled through the tears. ‘ …just wanted to play…” Clang, clang… Clang, clang…Clang, clang

Pump Up Your Book and Dan Maurer are teaming up to give you a chance to win a new Kindle Fire HD!

Here's how it works:

Each person will enter this giveaway by liking, following, subscribing and tweeting about this giveaway through the Rafflecopter form placed on blogs throughout the tour. If your blog isn't set up to accept the form, we offer another way for you to participate by having people comment on your blog then directing them to where they can fill out the form to gain more entries. This promotion will run from July 1 - September 27. The winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter, contacted by email and announced on September 28, 2013. Each blogger who participates in the Snow Day virtual book tour is eligible to enter and win. Visit each blog stop below to gain more entries as the Rafflecopter widget will be placed on each blog for the duration of the tour. If you would like to participate, email Tracee at tgleichner(at) What a great way to not only win this fabulous prize, but to gain followers and comments too! Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway ------------------------------------------------------------ ADD COUNTDOWN WIDGET!

Snow Day Virtual Book Publicity Tour Schedule

Monday, July 3 - Book reviewed at Midnight Thrillers
Monday, July 3 - Book featured at Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews
Monday July 3 - 1st chapter reveal at Rainy Day Reviews
Tuesday, July 4 - Book reviewed at Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Tuesday, July 4 - Guest blogging at Midnight Thrillers
Wednesday, July 5 - Book featured at Mom with a Kindle
Thursday, July 6 - Guest blogging at Rainy Day Reviews
Thursday, July 6 - 1st chapter reveal at Parenting 2.0
Friday, July 7 - 1st chapter reveal at Inside BJ's Head
Friday, July 7 - Book featured at Moonlight, Lace, and Mayhem
Friday, July 7 - Guest blogging at Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Monday, July 10 - 1st chapter reveal at Read 2 Review
Wednesday, July 12 - 1st chapter reveal at Book Him Danno
Friday, July 14 - Interviewed at Review From Here
Tuesday, July 18 - Guest blogging at The Story Behind the Book
Wednesday, July 19 - Book reviewed at Sarah's Organized Chaos
Monday, July 24 - Book featured at Parenting 2.o
Monday, July 24 - Book featured at Books R Us
Tuesday, July 25 - Book featured at My Cozie Corner
Thursday, July 27 - Interviewed at Broowaha
Pump Up Your Book

Disclaimer for all reviews sent by the publisher, publicist or author for review.