Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dogs, Murder, and Private Investigation!!! Reviewing The Barking Detective Mysteries

The word of the day is Chihuahua!!! In case you don't live in El Paso, or just haven't heard, but we have a new Triple-A baseball team...and the team name is: El Paso Chihuahuas. So consider this my way of welcoming the Chihuahuas to the Sun City.

These three books (Dial C for Chihuahua, Chihuahua Confidential, and The Big Chihuahua) are all part of a series, known as Barking Dog Mysteries. I ended up with them by accident, but I'm very happy to say that all three were very enjoyable!! I really liked them and hope that lots of other people will read and enjoy them too. I had never heard of them before and to be completely honest, I've never been too into mysteries (aside from the occasional episode of Scooby-Doo...which also features a dog....maybe I just like mysteries when they include canine characters). These I like quite a bit.

Each of these books revolves around Geri Sullivan and her dog Pepe. Pepe is a chihuahua who speaks both English and Spanish. Geri first adopts him in the first book. Geri's life hasn't been too great lately, considering she was recently divorced and is trying to find a better job.

Dial C for Chihuahua
Author: Waverly Curtis
Genre: Mystery
Year of Publication: 2012

In this book, Geri becomes a Private Investigator and investigates a murder. She also meets Felix, a dog trainer. Geri and Pepe learn a lot about each other and have to adjust to each other's lifestyle needs. 

Chihuahua Confidential
Author: Waverly Curtis
Genre: Mystery
Year of Publication: 2013

Geri is still a private investigator with her partner Pepe. There is another murder that must be investigated and solved. This time we're heading off to Hollywood and there are lots more dogs!!! There is a surprise appearance by Pepe's previous owner and we find out just where Pepe's loyalties lie when all is said and done.

The Big Chihuahua
Author: Waverly Curtis
Genre: Mystery
Year of Publication: 2013

In this book, Geri and Pepe find themselves at the Dogawanda headquarters. Money is in question and just as Geri is onto a trail, someone has been murdered and its up to the great team of Sullivan & Sullivan to solve the case. A money grabbing scheme involving a sort of prophet, where dogs are the greatest living things that should be looked up to. There are ideas that dogs know best and people should aspire to be more like them in the way their lives are led. 


I would rather just review all three books at once. It seems much more effective in this case.

Throughout the books, we get to see a lot of Pepe and Geri. In each one its pretty easy to see how their bond increases from one adventure to the next. They are fantastic characters to read about! Pepe is really funny and incredibly charming. He often drips Spanish into his sentences at times, which is effective and entertaining to say the least.

Also, as each book progresses, we meet more and more characters, many of whom appear from book to book. Felix (Geri's love interest) is present in all three books and a client from Dial C for Chihuahua becomes a key character again in Chihuahua Confidential. Also, some loose plot lines from the very beginning come into play all throughout the series. Its very interesting and I'm hoping that there'll be another book published soon. I'm starting to miss Pepe a lot. I can't pick a favorite book, although I kind of liked books one and two better than three. Although The Big Chihuahua really gave Geri's boss Jimmy G some agency that was much needed. He also shined in Chihuahua Confidential a bit, but not as much as in The Big Chihuahua.  However, book three does put a bit more focus onto Geri's relationship with Felix, which is definitely intriguing to read about.

Furthermore, the covers. I have to say something here because, let's be honest, these covers are just so adorable. It would be a crime to not point out how cute Pepe is and how fun the books look! The bright colors are catching and each cover is a great reflection of what will be found within the pages. I give major props to the cover designer!

The characters are fun and well developed, the plots are thick and entertaining (they don't allow you to predict what's going to happen easily, but they definitely make the prospect of guessing fun), and the settings are pretty neat too. Overall, these books are good all around and I'm excited for more. I really hope there will be more because there just hasn't been enough for me to be satisfied as a reader just yet. There is plenty of drama, but not the kind that drives a person crazy. Another positive point is that each book can pretty much be on its own, even though they're obviously better read in sequence. There are events mentioned from in the past, but its nothing too distracting and all the gaps are filled in well. They'd be good individually but ultimately belong in a series and just go great together. I love the way each book plays off of the last.

I would definitely recommend these books to fans of mystery and especially to dog lovers!!! Wouldn't you just love to know what dogs are thinking or saying sometimes??

Dial C for Chihuahua                                                   4/5
Chihuahua Confidential                                                4/5
The Big Chihuahua                                                      4/5

The Barking Detective Mystery Series gets a 4 out of 5.

Thanks for reading my review!!! Please come back again for the next review.

Also, best of luck to the El Paso Chihuahuas in their inaugural year!!!!!!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mind Games Virtual Book Tour: Special Interview!!!

Hello! Welcome back to The Real World According To Sam. For those who came by on Wednesday, you know that I have a special treat for you today! For those who didn't, thanks for joining us, here is the link to Wednesday's review so you can see what you missed:

Cassie Scot #3: Mind Games Review

This is another post, celebrating the upcoming release of Christine Amsden's book Mind Games, which is the third book in a series featuring Cassie Scot. Instead of a review....I am pleased to welcome Evan Blackwood! Evan Blackwood is the male lead in the Cassie Scot series and Cassie's love interest. He happens to be my personal favorite character and he has been kind enough to join us today! He agreed that I could interview him. I am so excited to share this experience with you, so let's get started.

Hello Evan. Welcome to The Real World According To Sam. The last we heard of you, you had broken up with Cassie and had left town. Were you planning on leaving for good this time? 

No, Eagle Rock is my home and always will be, but I needed time to get away and think. I learned something unthinkable recently. It had me reeling. I didn't want to believe it at first, but when I confronted my dad about it … well, honestly, I'm surprised the entire town didn't hear the argument. I haven't spoken to him since then. 

You've appeared to have a thing for Cassie for a rather long time now, having proposed  and all. When did you decide you wanted to spend the rest of your life with her?

I knew it the very first day I met her – the first day of first grade. I was a bit awkward. Well, I'd never been to school before. Never spent much time around other kids. I said something that had everyone laughing at me and she stood up for me. I decided then and there that I'd grow up and marry her and I never changed my mind. All right, all right! No, I didn't entirely understand the concept at the time, but the desire never went away. It didn't hurt that Cassie grew up to be a beautiful woman. 

I think a lot of us readers really enjoy the romantic tension that exists between you and Cassie. I've been dying to know: how much do you love Cassie?

I'm no poet to count the ways. But I think, even if I can never have her for myself, that I will always protect her. How much is that? Maybe not enough. I never thought love would be this hard. 

Her rejection of your proposal must have hurt deeply, but do you think you'll ever give up and leave her alone? She has asked for that several times and you seem to be incredibly stubborn, doing the exact opposite. 

I really think I've lost her now. Nothing's gone the way I meant it to, not since the day I saved her life. I thought it would be so convenient that she owed me her life, but it ended up making things harder! And when she said no … well, I thought it had just been bad timing at first. Her parents had just betrayed her. She was upset. But now I've learned something terrible, something that will make her hate me when she finds out. Of course, she hates me now because I left without telling her. I've really messed up. 

Given what you found out about how you came to possess so much power, do you ever plan to tell Cassie yourself?

Yes. I'm going to tell her. I swear I am. Just as soon as I get back into town. 

If you were given the means and the opportunity, would you return what was taken or undo what happened to Cassie? 

If you found out you had someone else's intelligence, or artistic ability, or beauty, or whatever's important to you, would you give it up? I wouldn't even know who I was without it. 

Evan, you've finished your apprenticeship and gone off on your own. What are your current plans? Plans for the future?

I'm probably going to join Alexander DuPris's effort to unify the country's magic users. There are too many unchecked sorcerers preying on the weak and helpless; blood mages, slave traders, and drug dealers, just to name a few. I think I can help. I've always seen myself as a superhero without the silly cape. Truth. Justice. The American way! 

I wanted to get married and have children, too. I'm trying not to dwell too much on that part of the plan at the moment, since it doesn't look likely to happen. 

Throughout your latest escapades, you've been surrounded by people that seem to constantly be using you or lying. Has this affected you in anyway? 

Everyone lies and everyone tries to use one another. The only one with the power to hurt me was my father, when I found out how he used me against his arch-nemesis, Edward Scot. He ruined my life. 

What is your opinion of Cassie's new squeeze, Matthew Blair?

What?!?!? There's no way. I thought she'd patched things up with her family and they would never let that low-life mind mage get near their daughter. I didn't think his family had enough power to befuddle her whole family, but it's the only possible explanation. Or a debt. I have to go NOW. 

All right then Evan. Thanks for stopping by!!!

That was the EXCLUSIVE interview with Evan Blackwood, one of the many sorcerers residing in Eagle Rock. I'm so glad he had the time to stop by and spend some time with all of us here. I really hope you enjoyed this interview! Let me know down in the comments, as well as any suggestions you may have for future posts. Just below will be links to purchase the latest book in the Cassie Scot series for anyone interested. Also listed will be my reviews for the previous books if you haven't yet checked those out. Thanks for coming! Another post will be going up next Wednesday, as I'm going to try and remain on a posting schedule from here on out as much as possible. You can expect a lot more to start coming your way!

Cassie Scot #2: Secrets and Lies Review 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fire, Secrets, and Witch Hunts: REVIEWING Cassie Scot #3: Mind Games

Welcome to The Real World According Sam!! Today I've got a special treat for you dear reader. This is a review.....but it is also part of a book tour! I'm doing my first ever book tour for the lovely Mrs. Christine Amsden. If you've been keeping up, you'll have noticed my reviews for the first two books in the Cassie Scot series. This will be for book 3, coming out this June!  Included in this review will be the links for purchase as well as a giveaway!!! That's right, there's even a giveaway for you. So this is not only the first book tour that has made a stop here, but also my first giveaway and I'm so delighted to have you here to participate in all the festivities. So, let's go on and get started!!!!!  

If you have not yet read the books, read with caution as there might be some minor spoilers. If you haven't yet read my reviews for the previous two books in the series, here are the links for them:

Review: Cassie Scot Paranormal Detective #1
Review: Cassie Scot #2: Secrets and Lies

I was given an Advanced Reader Copy of this book in order to participate in this book tour, in exchange for an HONEST review. I was not paid to write a positive review or any of the like. As always, my blog is always about complete honesty when it comes to books and movies.

Cassie Scot #3: Mind Games
Author: Christine Amsden 
Year of Publication: 2014
Release Date: June 15
Genre: Paranormal Mystery  

     Mind Games is the third book in the book series that follows Cassie Scot, a young woman from a magic family who possesses no magic abilities herself, and the problems she finds herself having to face. In this book it includes her broken heart, disjoints within the magical community, issues with friends and family, and some enhanced animosity from a church ready to engage in a witch hunt. This is all piled up on top of a murder that has taken place and needless to say, Cassie has her hands full.

     After being able to read the first two books, I've become pretty hooked on the characters and the settings. At this point, I've reached the stage of reading where I already have a clear idea of what I would really like to happen in terms of certain things and I will feel frustration when these things don't line up. Yes, I've fallen into that trap, like so many before me. I greatly enjoyed this book. The characters are just as intriguing and the plots are put together exceptionally well. There are a lot of things that have been filled in over the course of the 3 books and once they're all together, everything makes a lot of sense. I'm really fond of how the author has achieved this and hasn't had any inconsistencies in the plot or characters. I would think that it could be very easy for something to slip through the cracks with books like these, but everything has lined up incredibly well and I think Mrs. Amsden definitely needs props for that achievement.

    Really quickly though, let's talk about this cover. I love book covers!!! I don't tend to judge book covers too harshly before reading, but once I've read it I do like seeing how the cover compares to what is inside and if any of the content is well communicated through the cover. That being said, I really like the cover for this book because it does exactly what I think book covers should do.  The colors are warm and slightly mystifying (thanks to the purple hue). There is a building on fire, indicating some action going on. The full moon is also kind of reminiscent of paranormal aspects, with a focus also on night, potentially indicating dark times and Cassie is directly top and center, showing her as the main focus of the entire thing. So far, this cover is my favorite because it captures everything that's important about the book once you read it. It's beautiful, eye catching and entirely fitting. Major props to the artist or designer who did this one. I give two thumbs up and the Sam Stamp of Approval.

     By this point, if you read my other two reviews, you'll know that I love the characters and why I do. I don't feel a complete need to explain that again. This book in particular had a really great plot. I was so intrigued as the story progressed and only got more engrossed as I read on. The stakes are really heating up and things are getting way more serious the longer we experience Cassie's life with her. In this book, she has a lot of tough decisions to make and she's finding out that she isn't as simple a person as she first believed herself to be. There is a lot of necessity for Cassie to start finding out who she is and what she needs. By the end of the book, I think she has a better handle on this thought process than she had at the beginning of the series.

     One of the greatest things about this book in terms of the others is the character development. This is not in terms of how a character is written or anything technical like that, but that the characters are undergoing REAL changes as they go through these experiences in the books. They are experiencing, feeling, understanding and learning from what they do. I love this aspect especially. Cassie is not the same girl as she was when the series started. Not by a long shot!!! At the same time, she has not once been out of character. I think that this is a hard thing for writers when it comes to book series. You have characters that people grow to love, but they need to undergo change as stories progress and even more so in a series because its several events happening. If a writer goes too far with a change, the reader can easily lose connection with the characters. If the change isn't that big at all and its very minor or barely noticeable, the character becomes flat and even lifeless sometimes. Neither of these is the case here. Cassie is a massively dynamic character and she still finds ways to frustrate me. These frustrations aren't by any means negative!! To me, they are a sign that I'm highly engaged and that I care. Getting me to engage and respond is the best thing a book can do and every book in this series does that.

     There is no end to the action. Something new is always being uncovered. There are new leads and clues and problems constantly being brought up. This is another thing I really like. There isn't ever a really dull moment because something is always needing fixing. Even the things that aren't yet tied up by the ending are gripping enough to make me want the next book. I like when there's something more to look forward to.

     Another thing going on in this book, is some romance. Cassie is in a new relationship, still trying to heal from the previous one. The good thing I find about this aspect, is that it isn't the central focus. Mind Games is not a romantic paranormal mystery. It isn't a romance. Its a paranormal mystery with romantic elements included within it. The relationship is not the main focus, its an additional plot point. It doesn't detract from the main story, it adds to it. That's how I like my romance to be. I'm not going to lie...I'm not a huge fan of Cassie's new boyfriend. He's nice and all, but in the end I still prefer Evan. Quite frankly, I want Cassie and Evan together in the end. That's where I'm at. I'm waiting for that to happen. There is so much tension between the two, but here it isn't romantic electric tension. There have been a lot of secrets that have come up and things just keep interfering with the two of them being together but........I still want that to happen. Matthew Blair is not my pick for Cassie. He's not a bad guy, but in the grand scheme of things, the match just isn't right to me. I also don't know what Cassie is playing at sometimes. At first she wants nothing to do with magic at all, not even in a relationship. She thinks of this and refuses Evan majorly hardcore because of it.....and then ends up dating a mind mage? This is another point in the book that involves some plot stuff, so I won't go into it. I'm just saying that I was a little suspicious about this little factor and Cassie needs to figure out what it is she wants. Her journey to finding out is what makes her so likable as a character though. She isn't perfect and she doesn't know everything about herself, what she needs, what she wants, and how to get it. She doesn't. And to me, that's perfectly ok. That's not to say it isn't kind of frustrating though.

     Overall, Mind Games is an exceptional book with a lot going for it. It is one of the strongest books in the series so far and it addresses many of the conflicts that have come up in the past books. The characters are well done, the plot is wonderfully intriguing, and the delivery is awesome. Not to mention that awesome cover. I give this book a 5. I really can't wait for the next book in the series. I highly recommend all three and I hope you all pick it up and try it...maybe even love it as much as I do. I would say it's definitely worth having on your shelf. I plan to read it a couple more times when I can catch a break to do so.


Thank you for reading this review! I'd like to include a thanks to all my readers who keep coming back for more and to Mrs. Amsden for the opportunity to read these books as well as the chance to have the book tour stop here at my blog. Just after this paragraph I will include links for purchase, as well as what others have said about the book, and the blurb. but first........I promised you all a giveaway!! I have never done a rafflecopter giveaway before so I don't really know how to use it just yet. I am including the link for the giveaway here and hopefully it works so you can enter it as a reward for sticking around this long. Come back on Friday for another special surprise!! The blog tour has not finished visiting The Real World According To Sam and I'm happy to say that my favorite character from the book will be stopping by for an interview!! Make sure you don't miss it, it's going to be a lot of fun.

Click here to go directly to the giveaway (prize is a $100 Amazon Gift Card): Giveaway

Mind Games (Cassie Scot Book 3)

Beware your heart and soul…

Evan broke Cassie’s heart two months ago, and she still doesn’t know why. She throws herself into family, friends and her new job at the sheriff’s department, but nothing helps. The only thing that finally allows her heal and move on is the love of a new man, mind mage Matthew Blair. Cassie finds him…irresistible.

Matthew may also be the only one who can help keep the non-magical residents of Eagle Rock from going crazy over the murder of a beloved pastor’s wife. It looks like a sorcerer is to blame, but while Cassie tries to figure out who, others take matters into their own hands. With tensions running so hot, a single spark might set Eagle Rock ablaze.

To Purchase the book:
                             Mind Games on Amazon
                             Mind Games at Barnes and Noble

About the Author: 

Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.

In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.

Author's Website
Author's Blog
Like her on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter

Praise for the Cassie Scot Series

From Publisher’s Weekly:

“Amsden continues the story of the only mundane member of a supernaturally-gifted family in this middling sequel to Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. Cassie, stubborn and proud, is bravely trying to live on her own after her family disowns her. Struggling to make ends meet, she accepts a case involving a pair of magical girls who disappeared from summer camp. With the aid of the handsome Evan Blackwood, to whom Cassie is attracted despite her family’s disapproval and her own better judgment, she follows the trail of the missing girls. What she finds is a dark side of the magical world, and the hidden depths of her family’s past force her to reconsider long-held assumptions. The growing complexity of Cassie’s world makes this an entertaining installment, focusing as much on the will-they, won’t-they romantic chemistry between Cassie and Evan as on the primary mystery. An inconclusive ending is clearly intended to feed into the next volume.”

Kim Falconer, bestselling author of The Spell of Rosette, Quantum Enchantment Series, had this to say:

When sorcerers call the shots, what’s a girl without powers to do? Get ready for a ripper of a murder mystery full of romance and intrigue, where magic potions bubble, passions spark and vampires are definitely not your friend. Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective grabs you by the heart and won’t let go until the very last page. Well written, immersive and unputdownable. This is urban fantasy at its best. More please!”

This concludes another post here at The Real World According To Sam, thanks for stopping by!! Come back on Friday!!!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Critter Critique: The Lost Whale: The True Story of an Orca Named Luna

Welcome to The Real World According To Sam!
I'm Sam and you've entered my world.

Today, I have another book about animals for you! This one is really neat, because it's a true story about a special orca.

The Lost Whale: The True Story of an Orca Named Luna
Author: Michael Parfit & Suzanne Chisholm
Genre: Animal/ Non-Fiction
Year of Publication: 2013

This was a really good book. I had been on one of my family's routine trips to one of the many libraries around El Paso. I had just finished all the library books I checked out before and was very excited that I could finally start on reading my own books....which is an amount that keeps increasing because I keep picking up more. However, I should've known that it wasn't meant to be. I wandered over to the new books shelf where the library puts the books it just bought (whether they're new publication wise or not). I saw the title and was curious. Then I saw the cover and just...couldn't resist. It came home with me. How could anyone resist Luna?

The Lost Whale: The True Story of an Orca Named Luna

What is The Lost Whale About?
The Lost Whale is about an orca named Luna who lived in Nootka Sound. This book retells the story of his life and the way he impacted the life's of people in that area and beyond.

About the Authors
Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm are both involved in film and writing. They write articles for different publications and have won awards for the films they've produced and directed (which includes a couple about Luna). Michael Parfit has written for National Geographic. They experienced a lot of the happenings in the book first hand and have film documentation. They interacted with a lot of the people involved with this particular incident which makes it all the more interesting and very personal.

Thoughts on the Book
I really enjoyed this book. I love animals and have had a fascination with Orcas and other marine mammals since my first trip to SeaWorld many years ago. I have never been to the northwestern coast, but I'd really like to at some point in my life and maybe even go whale watching. This was a great introduction to the landscape and the culture. Luna the orca was a kind of loner for much of his life. When he was young he was separated from his pod and lived most of his life in and around Mooyah Bay. He went by many names (Luna, L-98, Bruno, Tsux'iit) and affected many people. Because he didn't have the company of other orcas, Luna often sought out the company and attention of humans. He would go up to boats and interact with the people, letting them touch him, rub him and even massage his tongue. It wasn't exactly looked upon as good though and many people got involved and relationships among different groups got heated. The Canadian government (Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans) was involved, Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations of Nootka Sound, Act Now for Ocean Natives (ANON) and residents of Gold River. Luna was getting to be a problem and everyone thought something else was best for him. No one really wanted to send him to an aquarium even though it was an option. Mostly, funds were donated and many people aimed to get Luna reunited with his pod or another similar pod. The entire book goes through the months and years of Luna connecting with people and everyone trying to decide what to do.

I loved this book a lot because it isn't just told as a series of events that occurred. It's not just facts. There are a lot of emotions and lessons that people (including the authors) learned and experienced when being around Luna and getting involved. There are so many moments of frustration and longing, happiness and deep connections. No one realized how much effect this one orca could have on so many people. Luna accompanied workers in boats and despite everyone's attempts to separate him from humans and keep interaction to a minimum, Luna would cross the boundaries and disregard them. I loved that about Luna. While you're not supposed to associate human characteristics to animals, Luna just seems persistent, as if he's really trying to achieve a connection and communicate something with the people closest to him. This book is such a great journey to take. It makes you think about how the little things in life that we tend to overlook, because we're so busy with everything else, are some of the most important things to happen. I wish I could've seen Luna and gotten to know him as all these other people did. They are truly blessed to have been a part of this orca's life and lessons. I can only hope to achieve a relationship of that caliber with someone or something. Its a truly incredible, beautiful thing. This book is full of Luna's antics, which include completely drowning a defenseless camera.

I would probably read this book again because I feel like I learned a lot from it, not just about orcas, but about life and living. I feel like I learned more about myself as a person and I hope that other readers can enjoy a similar experience. The Lost Whale really makes you want to just go out into nature and forget everything else for a little bit. Just go into a national park and smell the scents of nature and hear the sounds...just enjoy those little things that we take for granted in the hustle and bustle of the modern era. I had never heard about Luna before this book, even though his story took place only a few years ago, in the early 2000s.

I greatly enjoyed this book and I might buy it. Its pretty good, and there's a chance I would read it again to feel the magic within its pages. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves animals! To learn more about Luna's story there are the two movies about him, which I have not been able to watch unfortunately but for sure will someday in the future. There's lots more to learn about Luna if you search. Luna is an incredible orca and everyone in the book is definitely worth reading about. Its a touching, heartfelt book full of real challenges and dilemmas that people have faced. Even when things are impossible, that doesn't mean you should give up. Friendship goes beyond reason and logic and I'll be sad if I ever let a good friendship pass me by. Luna teaches people to care, to connect, to not just let things pass you by and to take chances.  The Lost Whale: The True Story of an Orca Named Luna scores 4 out of 5.
Thanks for reading this review!!! Join us again later for even more!

This is the trailer for the movie based on the same orca from this book. It is a great companion to the book that I absolutely loved. I highly recommend this film. It is one of the best movies I've seen with great shots and video of Luna. (It's on Netflix if you have it and are interested!!!) I really want to eventually buy a copy of it, because it was so enjoyable. I'm not ashamed to say that I cried.