Cat Ellington’s review of Secrets of the A-List (Episode 1 of 12)

Secrets of the A-List (Episode 1 of 12) (A Secrets of the A-List Title)Secrets of the A-List (Episode 1 of 12) by Joss Wood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

César Ritz, slide aside. Conrad Hilton, pay homage. John Drake, take heed and recognize. Isadore Sharp and Murray Koffler, study and learn. Potter Palmer, bow down. And John Jacob Astor, take many seats.

The Patriarch.

For never has the world-class hospitality industry known a groundbreaking baron quite like the one named Harrison Marshall of Marshall International, a billionaire hotelier, chef, restauranteur, winemaker, and gourmet foods manufacturer—not to mention television network head, nightclub owner, cocktail bar owner and consumer of souls.

Head of the almighty and all-powerful Marshall clan, the shamelessly rich and wealthy Harrison has been hospitalized in critical condition following a near fatal accident on California’s Pacific Coast Highway. Not wearing a seat belt, the influential entrepreneur was thrown from his exclusive Bugatti after the lavish speedster hit a guard rail while traveling at a significantly lofty momentum. And as a result of the collision, Harrison Marshall sustained extensive injuries to his opulent person, including major head trauma, broken bones, a broken leg, and hand damage among a number of other minor disfigurements.

The prognosis is grave, and the celebrated Harrison Marshall’s chances of survival are slim to none. So, with such being the misfortunate circumstance, there is only one thing left for the good-looking and prosperous proprietor to do: fall head-over-heels into the unconscious embrace of a coma.

I Will Now Interlude.

On the sheets of this minted serial drama, Joss Wood works up a wet sweat channeling the preeminent Jackie Collins in the vein of the rich, the famous, the surgically beautified, and the scandalously vile who scheme, cheat, lie, and copulate their way onto the most debaucherous and sumptuously displayed playgrounds of California’s ultra elite.

In Joss Wood’s literature, however, the excessively abundant among those of the “Jackie like” is the internationally feared and way too revered Santiago-Marshall clan, a centuries-old lineage of king makers and king breakers who share a keen interest in maintaining the worldly status quo.

I Will Now Resume.

The Matriarch.

Mariella Santiago-Marshall, this transient tale’s Leona Helmsley—blended with just a touch of old era Bianca Jagger—is a proud heiress of the Don Juan Santiago dynasty of California. A control freak of epic proportions, and a hater of independent people who have no need of her, Harrison Marshall’s wife of over thirty years is the CEO of MSM Event Planning, the catering division of her husband’s hospitality empire. Mariella, enviable beyond compare (in the opinion of those who envy her), sits as queen on the throne of a two-clan ancestry—one by blood, and the other by marriage.

The undisputed empress of the sprawling Casa de Catalina, otherwise known as “Casa Cat,” Mariella’s God is her combined bloodline and money. And it is in the names of Santiago and Marshall that she puts her unwavering trust.

The Firstborn Child.

Dr. Luc Marshall is a Mercedes-AMG-driving plastic surgeon (specialized in breast and buttock enhancement), and the arrogant eldest child of Harrison and Mariella. The significant other of one Rachel Franklin—the nipped, tucked, unloved and needy daughter of California Congressman Nicholas Franklin—Dr. Luc is the spit of his luxe environment, and an idolator of his Earthly father.

The Secondborn Child.

Rafe Marshall is the incredibly intelligent, albeit less ambitious and homosexual, middle child of Harrison and Mariella. Rebuked by his father but fervently cherished by his mother, the wayward Rafe serves as a figurehead consultant on renovations and designs for the Marshall International hotels and restaurant chains.

The Lastborn Child.

Elana Marshall is the coitus-starved youngest child of Harrison and Mariella. Getting by on her looks, her renowned name, and her witty charm, the pitifully unmotivated Elana serves as a figurehead party planner for MSM Event Planning, an important position that requires a tremendous level of talent and responsibility—both of which Her Highness lacks. Good God, dahhhling, what would she do without Gabe?

The Cousin.

Gabriel “Gabe” Santiago is Mariella’s beloved nephew and loyal first cousin to Luc, Rafe, and Elana. But despite having two—count ’em, two—degrees in business, even still, the smart and hardworking Gabe Santiago is reduced to both doubling as Elana’s babysitter in MSM’s Event Planning division and basking, humiliatingly, in the more exalted shadows of his three extended family members, spoiled as the trio of heathen are.

The Ship’s Anchor.

Joe Reynolds is Harrison Marshall’s Aston Martin-driving confidant, business partner, and oldest, dearest friend. Considered by Mariella to be the ‘rock and strong rope that connects her and Harrison to the ground,’ the impious Joe Reynolds also wears—in addition to his George Hamilton tan—the coddling hat of Marshall family advisor.

The Fixer.

Whomever this mystery man may be, his well-paying job is to make sure that every disgusting opprobrium the unforthcoming Harrison Marshall evacuates from his outrageously privileged entrails gets flushed immediately.

In this, episode 1 of Secrets of the A-List, Joss Wood cooly introduces her silk-stocking cast in a punch ’em-stomp ’em-bang ’em flair that is certain to remind readers of the timeless storylines glamorously scribed by the one and only Queen of the Hollywood Bonkbuster herself, the late, great Jackie Collins.

Joined by an equally haughty bundle of supporting players, including Jerrod Jones, the Hollywood director upon whose mind-blowing erotica Elana finds herself dependent; Finola Jones, Jerrod’s gorgeous, tremendously talented, and Oscar-winning wife; Thom, Elana’s sexy, rich, and cocoa-skinned fiancé; and Nora, a wealthy mystery woman living in Paris with questionable ties to the mighty Harrison Marshall, the top-billed troupe puts forth every given effort to shine in their debut performances. And for the most part, they don’t disappoint.

Indeed, the orgasmic fluid seeping out from the loins of this scurrilous and nauseating 62-page quickie emits a musky potpourri of deception, pride, ego, arrogance, false idolatry, lust, vindictiveness, and avariciousness. I genuinely enjoyed the time I spent cuddled up with this cavorted plot. And if you fancy a ritzy mystery thriller jet set with the filthy rich who double dare comeuppance to interfere with their pompous paths in life, then you most certainly will also.

Five Champagne-wishing and Black Beluga caviar-dreaming stars.

• It is my kindly pleasure to thank Harlequin Special Releases, as well as NetGalley, for the advanced review copy (ARC) of Secrets of the A-List (episode 1 of 12) in exchange for my honest review.

Analysis of Secrets of the A-List (episode 1 of 12) is courtesy of Reviews by Cat Ellington:

Date of Review: Tuesday, February 13, 2018

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Cat Ellington’s review of Watch Me

Watch MeWatch Me by Jody Gehrman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“When loneliness claims to be my fate
And random thoughts my heart starts to contemplate
I start thinking and remain in that state
As long as I am always thinking about Kate.”
— Love for Kate, a poem by Crossyde Gimp of Jos, Nigeria
Source: Hello Poetry (HePo)
Published: June 2014

• Po·et·ry

Deeply penetrating words that move gently—and sometimes harshly—in and out, in and out;
Like soft, sweet kisses along the nape of a dewy and hungrily awaiting neck;
The sultry massage of artsy fingertips gliding, delicately pressing along the contours of a spine, rounding the smooth curves of the rib cage;
Piercing, passionate eyes that stab like fiery knife points through the molecules of one’s genetic, brazenly violating and tearing away at their very core.

Oh, how the lust of man is in itself a menacing beast that cannot be tamed.
— Cat Ellington

• Ob·ses·sion

My every thought rotates around your reality. I eat, breathe, and sleep you; you are my sustenance, my daily multivitamin. You are the reason that I am able to face each day. I am enticed to hate you but I need to focus on you. I hate myself more because of you. You are like a brightly lit galaxy in my inky black and dastardly universe. Your happiness taunts my misery. Your achievements insult my failures. I need to blame you for everything that I lack in my own life. You are my sole absorption, my ultimate preoccupation. I wish to be you because I absolutely loathe being me. Your happiness only intensifies my sadness. Your vivacious confidence arrogantly thumbs its nose at my contemptible low self-esteem. I believe you to be my better, but I will never give you your deserved props. I will never give you the satisfaction of knowing that you are indeed greater than I. You—and only you—have the alpha power to command my every other thought. I cannot subsist without thoughts of you. I regard your every move, and about you, I am inclined to know every detail. Everything you have I want. Everything you are I wish to be. Your very existence only reminds me that I am nothing.

Spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare does not suffer the faint-hearted lightly. For once it takes possession of a human mind, it will by no means release its hold on the host until there not remain of him or her one scintilla of logical sanity.
— Cat Ellington

The Novel Assessment.

On the psychomatic pages of Jody Gehrman’s twisted thriller, Watch Me, we’re invited to witness a fierce and vicious battle unfolding in the depths of one man’s insane mind.

Sam Grist, this narrative’s deeply disturbed antagonist, is a significantly handsome twenty-two-year-old undergrad student at Blackwood College, located in a small, ficticious community town somewhere in Ohio. An inspiring writer, Sam studies literature under the tutelage of the semi-famous professor Kate Youngblood, our thirty-eight-year-old protagonist and a bestselling novelist who still stands alone as the overwhelming desire of young Sam’s heart.

The aberrant script, narrated in the dual viewpoints of both Sam and Kate, exposes the true nature of obsession and the fear from which it stems. Interlacing through the effort’s darkly poetic plot, Sam devises his plan to nab Kate, sixteen years his senior, and whisk her off to New York where they both shall live happily ever after; two brilliant and famous authors taking the Big Apple and all of its world-renowned publishing houses by storm.

For five long years, even from since the time that he first read Kate’s top bestseller, and beheld her bewitching image on the novel’s dust jacket, has the dark-haired and blue-eyed Sam so yearned to claim the older Kate as his own. His fiery passion for her cannot be quenched. And in a desperate venture to escape his unremarkable past, the striking and gifted writer who is Sam is intentionally come to Ohio to enroll as an English major at Blackwood College, where he will take to his daily routine of stalking, and eventually wooing, the woman of his most intensely erotic dreams, she being the ever elegantly dressed Kate Youngblood. For his beautiful Kate must know how much he loves and worships her.

Emotionally perturbed in her own right, Kate Youngblood is a warrior of words, a formerly celebrated author, an English professor, a divorcée, and a woman anxious to be noticed, held, appreciated, loved. Plagued with regret, Kate is forced to watch as her once boisterous best friend, Zoe Tait, is stolen away from her by marriage and a newborn baby boy, leaving Kate to tread the choppy waters of life all alone. The written word, once free-flowing, now avoids Kate without explanation; she’s having the most difficult time completing her sophomore effort. And feeling “invisible,” the hapless novelist dreads that her age—only thirty-eight—is mainly to blame.

To the neurotic Kate, her age may represent the ultimate “man repellent,” but in reality, her classic grace has captured the observant, navy blue gaze of a young, literary genius named Sam Grist. Sam is not repelled by Kate’s and his sixteen-year age difference in the least. In fact, the tall, chiseled and smitten Sam would mow down one hundred age-appropriate fangirls just to get to her. And that is an honor even the self-deprecating Kate herself can by no means contradict. Developing a supposedly professional interest in her new student, Kate especially loves Sam’s writing—so much so that she even refers him to her renowned agent, the great Maxine Katz.

Yes, he’s much younger, but he’s beautiful . . . and he’s sweet . . . and he’s attentive . . . and he’s smart . . . and his writing is brilliant; he’s the ‘malformed love child of Harper Lee and Hunter S. Thompson,’ according to Kate. He says all the right things, making Kate feel so wanted . . . so needed . . . so desired . . . and so desirable. He sees her; she’s not invisible to him. The two are building a bond of communication atop a solid foundation of trust. And soon, Kate begins to feel the head rush, the powerful attraction. She really likes Sam; the very titillating reaction of her womanhood tells her so. And she cannot stop thinking about him, nor can he about her. It seems so right. They go on . . . flirting . . . wanting . . . needing . . . But what Kate doesn’t perceive is that beneath Sam’s sculpted torso and his luscious Jason-Shane Scott likeness, a serpentine monstrosity lays coiled—just waiting to be awakened. Pulled over murderous flesh flowing with gelid blood, its scales are constructed of hatred, resentment and rage; and its fangs are hypodermic needles dripping with venomous spleen and scorn—just waiting for the right moment to strike its prey.

This is the hidden evil that makes itself at home within its misguided host, Sam Grist—a young man who shelters many a chilling secret. And Jody Gehrman brings the true nature of the spirit to life—nearly flawlessly—on the leisurely pages of this erotically gripping and eerily mesmerizing psychological thriller.

Although the gorgeously poetic narrative is ninety-five percent devoted to its two top-billed stars, Kate and Sam, the script also features sufficient performances from a very small supporting company of players who were expertly cast as follows:

• Vivienne — Sam’s human toilet of a drug-addicted and alcoholic mother, a purebred Cherokee, and a licentious vagabond

• Zoe Tait — thirty-six-year-old wife and expectant mother, children’s book illustrator, and Kate’s endearing best friend

• Pablo Morrera — Kate’s ex-husband who left her for a woman half Kate’s age and never looked back

• Maxine Katz — Kate’s cold, cutty, unsympathetic, and man-desperate New York agent

• Raul Torres — wealthy, high-end restauranteur and Kate’s new love interest

• Jess “Cleveage” Newfield — spoiled rotten rich girl, talentless, wannabe novelist, Kate’s envious workshop student, and needy coveter of Sam

• Frances Larkin — award-winning poet, Chair of the English Department at Blackwood College, and Kate’s unattractive and jealous-hearted boss

Strongly steeped in an herbal tea of poetry and brewed in a dark, bitter coffee of obsession, the caffeinated dialogue—finely presented by Gehrman’s creative cast—gradually builds itself up over three stages, from a slow trickle to a moderate drizzle to a high-speed gush, consistently undulating the reader’s emotions before finally bringing the curtain down on a palpitation-inducing and gut-wrenching conclusion.

It was with great contrition that I parted ways with this psychological composition, as I genuinely believe it to be a standout representative and superbly researched interpretation of its respective and unconditionally beloved genre—not to mention one meritable of my unwaning endorsement.

Five mental phenomena stars.

• It is my kindly pleasure to thank St. Martin’s Griffin, as well as NetGalley, for the advanced review copy (ARC) of Watch Me in exchange for my honest review.

Analysis of Watch Me by Jody Gehrman is courtesy of Reviews by Cat Ellington:

Date of Review: Sunday, February 11, 2018

Reviews by Cat Ellington would also like to thank Crossyde Gimp at Crossyde Gimp Poetry for providing the production extract of “Love for Kate” to assist in the construction of this analysis.
© 2018 Crossyde Gimp Poetry. All rights reserved.

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Cat Ellington’s review of Beauty Tips: 55 Tips on Natural Skin Care, Attractiveness, Makeup, and Looking Younger for Women

Beauty Tips: 55 Tips on Natural Skin Care, Attractiveness, Makeup, and Looking Younger for WomenBeauty Tips: 55 Tips on Natural Skin Care, Attractiveness, Makeup, and Looking Younger for Women by Angell Kisses

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whether you’re a seasoned health and beauty connoisseur (like yours truly), or a neophyte to the dual topic (welcome to the club!), Beauty Tips: 55 Tips on Natural Skin Care, Attractiveness, Makeup, and Looking Younger for Women is yet another must-have self-help reference collection for you.

Because no singular woman can ever own too many self-help beauty guides, or have too much knowledge about the art thereof, Angell Kisses, author of the very stunning compilation momentarily under review, shares with those of our beauty-buff kind 55 tips (hence the subtitle) detailing the what-to-dos and the what-not-to-dos in order to obtain—and maintain—perfect skin, strong, healthy nails, lustrous hair, and overall good health.

This one-hour, thirty-minute long read—well-searched as it is—provides the reader with a very interesting set of health and beauty gratuities that cover everything from the foods and drinks that do wonders for your complexion, hair, and nails to those vittles and beverages that wreak havoc on the same. And many of them may even surprise you.

Have you ever wondered what the most complimentary fragrance might be for your body’s very own unique chromosome? You can find your answer in this fun-filled Kindle Edition. As many of us already know, (fragrance) notes that wear well on one woman may not be suitable for another woman. For example, while Chloé (another of my all-time favorite fragrances) may scent beautifully on me, it’s sweet honeysuckle notes might reek very unpleasantly from the arterial pulsations of the next woman. And where patchouli may wear quite well on the next woman, patchouli scents awfully on me—at least as a top note. Strange as it may seem, the oil of patchouli only does my chemistry justice when formulated as a bottom note. This is the very exciting complexity of fragrance. And here, on the pages of Angell’s admirably composed reference, the reader can learn the technique of fragrance pairing along with a host of other highly enjoyable beauty lessons, including the secret to longer eyelashes, breast enhancement tricks, foot care tips, ingrown hair treatments, pimple prevention, facial exercises, shampoo recipes, tooth whitening tips, nail color tips, weight loss tips, and so much more.

If you absolutely love to possess a multitude of health and beauty knowledge then Beauty Tips: 55 Tips on Natural Skin Care, Attractiveness, Makeup, and Looking Younger for Women comes loftily recommended. For the collection is not bound to disappoint—no, not even the veteran or the novice.

Five radiantly beautiful stars.

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Cat Ellington’s review of Rum, Cigars, and Corpses (Roger and Suzanne mysteries, #13)

Rum, Cigars, and Corpses (Roger and Suzanne mysteries, #13)Rum, Cigars, and Corpses by Jerold Last

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In all of my years as a reader of fictional novels, I’ve come to know and love an ample number of fictional characters who, even after a generous passing of time, sustained themselves in my fondest memories, and became legends in my most treasured literary directories. These are the same about whom I still speak and make references now and again, whether in conversations with publishers and authors, or to certain individuals in the general public, specifically those who have their lot in the literary community.

Such characters of fiction are so impressively individualized that they take on an almost real life exterior, making a reader feel as though they have a close bond of acquaintanceship with the created personality, and can just pick up a phone and call him or her for the occasion of a late-night tête-à-tête. In other words, these types of dramatis personae enable their readers to embrace them more so in terms of relatability.

Regrettably, the same cannot be said about the awful, talentless, boring, uninteresting, and unmemorable cast of Jerold Last’s Rum, Cigars, and Corpses. Last intended well in the structuring of his literary script, which by the way, does have its fleeting moments of intrigue (for me, it had been the author’s jaw-dropping knowledge of South America and its native tongues, peoples, and art culture), but the writer simply didn’t do his “novelplay” justice during the casting process. In my sincerest estimation, this ill-fitting ensemble dilapidated what could have otherwise been a reasonably (I said reasonably) acceptable storyline. Try as they might, this troupe just could not keep my interest enticed, even though they were given 175 pages to do so.

After the initial introductions to the lead, supporting lead, and bit players, including Roger Bowman, our leading man, L.A. based attorney, and private detective; his wife Suzanne, a Professor of Biochemistry at UCLA; Christine Suzuki, an international tour director who hires Roger Bowman to investigate what she suspects was murder in Havana; Captain Martin Gonzalez, stationed with the Montevideo, Uruguay police force in Havana and a close friend of Roger’s; Vincent Romero, former CIA agent and Roger’s partner in the field of private investigation; Eduardo Gomez, Roger’s good friend and go-between in Cuba; Marco Quarles, interim Ambassador to Cuba; Frank Lomax, assistant to Quarles and commercial attaché in diplomatic service in charge of imports and exports between Cuba and the U.S.; Rosa, Marco Quarles’ art passionate of a secretary and Frank Lomax’s growing love interest; Connie Sherman; stunning widow of Dr. Delbert Sherman; and Jaime Rodriguez, Chief Technical Officer of Productos Farmacéuticos Santiago, the ball begins to roll . . . at an extremely slow and monotonous pace.

Dr. Delbert Sherman, a former oncologist and faculty member of the Medical School at UC Irvine and researcher of possible cures for cancers of the liver and pancreas, has been killed in an alleged hit and run accident while touring with his wife in Cuba. Foul play has been ruled out by the Cuban government, as it has determined that the tragic death of the American doctor was nothing more than an accident. But there is one who is not so sure that the vehicular mowing down of Dr. Delbert Sherman was only a in-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time accident. In fact, she suspects that his untimely death was that of something more sinister. And for this reason, Christine Suzuki is come to the greater Los Angeles area seeking to acquire the investigative services of the famed Roger Bowman.

Blaming her for the “senseless” death of the tourister who had been Dr. Delbert Sherman, the mysterious Christine Suzuki’s employer has fired her from her adored position as an international tour director in Cuba. And in a desperate venture to reclaim her job position—by proving that Dr. Sherman was, in fact, intentionally murdered and not accidentally killed as the result of her negligence—Suzuki hires Bowman, who must travel to Cuba to embark on an exploration. But due to travel sanctions imposed on American visitors by Cuba’s dictatorial governing bodies, Roger Bowman requires the backing of his loving wife, Suzanne (who will obviously join him on his scrutinizing mission) to secure the apposite visas. And because Suzanne is a greatly respected academic, she proves to be a vital asset in obtaining said endorsements from the U.S. government to journey to Cuba—under the perception, of course, that she has been invited by fellow academics stationed in the Castro-ruled nation to speak at a conference. A few e-mail deliveries later and presto! It’s just that easy for Roger and Suzanne Bowman to secure their authorized permissions.
. . .Sadly, though, affixing to the leading man and his leading lady was not so easy, as the plot soon floated adrift.

At the outset, Rum, Cigars, and Corpses attempted to make sense, but confusion warred against it and prevailed. Despite the tale’s determination to lay a solid foundation upon which an interesting work could be enjoyed, the plot became addled about its own identity and proceeded to venture off course. Way too preoccupied with educational details regarding a particular nation, coupled with dragged out, ho-hum biographies about each one of its character’s lives, the storyline—while inching along at a snail’s pace—detatched from its roots and lost its way, forgetting the most important issue that brought it about in the first place.

Aside from the two so-called adventurous main characters in Roger and Suzanne Bowman (who barely registered themselves), not one supporting cast member was memorable here. Each one demanded attention while performing his and her respective scenes, sure, but were quickly forgotten at the beginning of each new chapter. Ardently, I willed the stars of Rum, Cigars, and Corpses to amp up their shallow, unaccented performances, even with everything that I have. But they failed miserably. Reading along, I consistently forced myself to give the stars of this treatment the benefit of the doubt, hoping beyond hope that they would eventually sync together and turn themselves around in a more suitable rhythm. But they never did. Instead, this inaptitude cast continued to waltz offbeat, shamefully misrepresenting the spy thriller subgenre, trifling, negligently, with its distinctive DNA of mystery and espionage.

If truth be told, following the two left feet of this ensemble’s lead, even over a span of 175 pages, had been one of the most confusing, frustrating, and irritating reading experiences that I have ever had to undergo.

In order to produce a meritable work of creative art—specifically in music, motion pictures, and novels of fiction—one must first devise a high caliber blueprint of the written word, be it in the form of song lyrics (set to music), screenplays, or literary constitutions. Next, the same must provide for the written work with only the finest of performer, be he, she, or they a vocalist/vocalists, an actor, an actress, or a make believe ensemble. Recruiting only the most proficient of talent provides assurance that the written work will be brought to life on a superlative level of pristine exceptionality. It is of the utmost importance for such top-end mergers to properly coincide, lest an inferior performer ruin a better than average framework.

Jerold Last—author of Rum, Cigars, and Corpses—was indeed creating his own blueprint while in the process of composing this singular work of fiction, but he obviously became disoriented in his representation, as his configuration is laden with confusion and indolence. Although smart as a whip and well traveled (I will forever respect and admire his comprehension of art and world affairs), Last lost sight of his vision here. His script was all over the place, constantly trying to explain itself, taking too long to reach its point. And that tediousness invoked within me a tremendous degree of frustration.

For many spy thriller fans, the exotic, international setting of Rum, Cigars, and Corpses may be just what the doctor ordered to pass a chilly winter’s weekend with either a glass of wine or a large, cozy mug of something warm. For me, on the other hand, the narrative (save its colorful and detailed descriptions of public art, namely murals and sculptures) lacked the appropriate skills to stimulate my arousal.

• It is my kindly pleasure to thank Amazon publishing, as well as Jerold Last himself, for the author-issued copy of Rum, Cigars, and Corpses in exchange for my honest review.

Analysis of Rum, Cigars, and Corpses by Jerold Last is courtesy of Reviews by Cat Ellington:

Date of Review: Friday, February 02, 2018

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Cat Ellington’s review of The World’s Best Kept Beauty Secrets

The World's Best Kept Beauty SecretsThe World’s Best Kept Beauty Secrets by Diane Irons

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Diane Irons’ The World’s Best Kept Beauty Secrets, an astounding health, beauty, and styling reference guide first published in 1997, is a precise must-read for the beauty passionate in every woman.

It had been in the summer of 1997, two weeks after its release, to be exact, that I checked this exceptionally inspirational and exceedingly knowledgeable self-help guide out of a Chicago Public Library in order to obtain a feel for its contents. And soon after returning it (a few days later), I had decided that the large paperback deserved a place among my reference guides, and visited a Borders bookstore to procure my very own personal copy.

The beauty-based guide had been one of my most fun purchases at the time. And after completing the edition, I advanced to compose a special review in honor of its awesome proficiency and admiring detail. However, despite my high and low search efforts, I unfortunately cannot locate said analysis today. My conjecture? I perhaps stored the review away with a small batch of others in my secondary city, and neglected to bring them back with me to my primary city.

So, for the sake of recognizing this joyful and seriously amazing health and beauty reference, I will say that, to this day, the work is still highly entertaining, educational, and recommended. And it is not a publication that any true beauty buff should deprive herself of.

Five freely shared stars.

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Cat Ellington’s review of Killer Choice

Killer ChoiceKiller Choice by Tom Hunt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Choice Theory.

In the Adrian Lyne-directed 1993 film Indecent Proposal starring Robert Redford, (the gorgeous) Demi Moore, and Woody Harrelson, the tender meat of the juicy plot revolves around a financially strapped couple—David and Diana Murphy, portrayed by Harrelson and Moore, respectively—who journey to Las Vegas on a huge gamble hoping to turn their meager savings into a windfall of pecuniary abundance (for the sake of financing David’s dream real estate enterprise) at one of Sin City’s many roulette tables. But unfortunately for them, they bet and lose . . . everything. Their savings have grown wings and quickly flown away from the couple’s joint grasp. And this, of course, leaves the high school sweethearts devastated. Just like that, the money is gone. And the couple—so madly in love—have nothing left to do but ponder. What are they going to do now that they’re flat broke? What will become of them now? How are they going to survive with no money?

Enter Redford’s billionaire “John Gage” who is sent—like a puff of smoke—out of nowhere into the couple’s personal space to make them one simple offer that both David and Diana will find it difficult to refuse. Lustfully attracted to the pretty brunette Diana (and knowing that the Murphy’s are now penniless), John Gage extends the following proposal to Diana: ‘I would pay one million dollars to have sex with you.’ And to David, the debonair billionaire would ask the question, ‘Excuse me. Would you mind lending me your wife?’

Already at the brink of desperation, David and Diana begin to strongly mull over Gage’s tempting proffer. Tempting because one million dollars is an awful lot of money and exactly what the pair need to solution their currency woes.

But do they accept the proposal? Does David Murphy allow the stranger—Gage—a one-night stand with the beautiful love of his life for a mere one million dollars?

If you’ve seen the movie then you know the answer.

Hard decisions are called just that because they don’t present themselves as being easy to make. Whereas the hard decision that had to be made by David Murphy in the classic film, what selling his wife to a complete stranger in exchange for a ridiculously large sum of cash to fend off financial ruin, the hard decision facing Gary Foster, star of the gritty crime and suspense thriller Killer Choice, is two hundred thousand times worse . . . because this hard decision involves not leasing the intimate parts of his wife, Beth, to a complete stranger for money, but rather, committing cold-blooded murder on behalf of a complete stranger for money in order to salvage Beth’s life.

In the fictive and economically-TKO’d River Falls, Michigan (a stone’s throw from Detroit), the temperature—atomospherically- and spiritually-speaking—has dipped to a teeth chattering cold. And it is in the heart of this fiction’s make-believe setting that we come to meet a small company of players around each of whom this thoroughly emotional and morally debased narrative orbits.

The Day Old Scratch Arrived.

Gary Foster is the co-owner of Ascension Outerwear, a local retailer specialized in clothing and gear for the outdoor sportsman. And all is pretty much satisfactory in Gary Foster’s working class life until he receives a call at the store informing him that his eight-months-pregnant wife, Beth, collapsed at the town mall and was taken to the hospital for observation. After a few tests, it is soon revealed that Beth has been stricken with a brain tumor, particularly a malignant growth of tissue classified as an inoperable glabistoma. Evidently traumatized by this prognosis, Gary and Beth are forced to realize their new reality—one that browbeats the coosome twosome down into a spiral of perplexity and discouragement. And since nearly everyone in their hometown has fallen on financial hard times, donations to the Foster’s new Go Fund Me page barely nudge the site’s thermometer stick. This is not good news for Gary and Beth, as the arrogance of time is now starting to jeer at the despair of their circumstances.

Hope for Beth’s survival is dependent upon a special method of cancer treatment at a German-based company called GOSKA, but the combined cost of travel, lodging, and treatment could set Gary and Beth back $200,000.00 that the two don’t have and couldn’t possibly raise—not even if they sold everything they own which is little or next to nothing.

Time is running out for the madly in love, albeit desolate couple. And no one—outside of themselves, Rod (Gary’s younger brother), and Rod’s yoga instructor wife, Sarah—is more aware of this fact than an evildoing drug dealer and pawn shop owner named Otto Brennan, a complete stranger to the Foster family. Otto just so happens to have $200,000.00 in cash laying around. And after seeing the Go Fund Me page for Beth on the Internet, accompanied by a short press article detailing her heartbreaking dilemma, the lamentable Otto—himself being incessantly pursued by the Angel of Death—brainstorms an idea. He contacts Gary Foster and makes the despondent husband an offer he is almost certain Gary will find quite arduous to refuse, and the two outsiders schedule a secluded meeting.

Strangers on a Park Bench.

On the day of the meeting, the hardcore and homicidal Otto—using the alias, “Shamrock”—offers to give Gary Foster $200,000.00 in cash—the entire amount needed for the treatment (and possible cure) of Beth’s glabistoma. But the off-guard proposal sounds too virtuous to be realistic, inducing Gary to ask a series of questions. And Otto, smelling the damp funk of a prospective sucker emitting from the pulse points of the fraught Gary Foster, wastes no time fanning out his term conditions. Showing his probable mark the photocopied driver’s license of a mysterious man named Devon Peterson, Otto mouths a loaded spiel to Gary about the same. In brief, Devon Peterson is a corrupt police officer issued out from the irritable bowels of Detroit to shakedown and bust the testicles of scum subjects like Otto in River Falls. Devon Peterson, according to Otto’s witness, is as unprincipled as they come, and the world would definitely be a much better place minus him. Otto wants Devon Peterson dead, period. And if Gary Foster wants to earn a quick $200,000.00 to aid in saving his law-abiding—not to mention pregnant—wife’s promising life, then all he would have to do is kill Devon Peterson. Gary Foster is given three days to decide.

It’s murder-for-hire, simple as that. But no way is good old Gary Foster a murderer. Gary loves his high school sweetheart who is his expectant wife, Beth, but murder? He wants to save his best friend of a wife alive, but murder? He couldn’t imagine life without his one and only Beth, but murder? He could never, ever make it without Beth, but murder? Maybe it’s true what the guy “Shamrock” said, right? Maybe this Devon Peterson guy is a ruthless dirt bag polluting the Earth, right? But he’s a cop, and you can’t kill a cop, right? Two-hundred thousand dollars! It’s all the money you need! Right? Whose life is more valuable anyway? Huh? Certainly Beth’s . . . and not some abusive, filthy cop’s! Right?

Here is what happens when a simple man lacks faith. The powerful winds of temptation will surely come along to beat upon his house . . . and beat upon his house . . . until his entire being is laid waste.

A Soul for Sale.

Fearing that he and Beth will never raise the monies needed for her treatment abroad, Gary Foster does the unthinkable. He agrees to murder the racist, unethical, and disgustingly corrupt Devon Peterson. And once that laborious choice is made and carried out, Gary Foster will by no means be able to turn back from it. Gary Foster will by no means be able to shake off the repulsive terrors that soon ease themselves up right alongside of him, persuading him to stoop down to a level he would never have presumed feasible. Once an easy-going and quiet fella, his novice horror is now underway, unbeknownst to those of his loved ones. And trying to outrun a growing set of cruel and bloodthirsty malefactors will be the least of Gary Foster’s problems. As it turns out, that tumor on Beth’s brain is growing . . . at a velocity more expeditious than the apprehension of this hard-bitten work’s pulse-pounding storyline.

The Top-Billed Personae.

Soaking together in a literary marinade of human blood, human skin tissue, distress, drug infestation, newfound destitution, calamity, hopelessness, self-abhorrence and criminality, the dialogue’s sensational ensemble—admirably cast by Mr. Tom Hunt, their Liertary award-worthy creator—are credited in succession:

• Gary Foster, our thirty-nine-year-old leading man and co-owner of Ascension Outerwear

• Rod Foster, Gary’s thirty-four-year-old beloved brother, best friend, and co-owner of Ascension Outerwear

• Beth Foster, a substitute teacher and Gary’s pregnant wife who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer

• Sarah Foster, a yoga studio owner, Rod’s new wife of six months, and Beth’s best friend

• Robert “Champ” Smith, a retired heavyweight boxer and nefarious, bone-breaking associate of Otto Brennan

• Carlos, twenty-something drug runner in the trade of “Mexican Mud,” Otto Brennan’s go-between, and patriotic member of the ruthless Señor De LaFuente’s chainsaw murdering El Este cartel

• Scotty, drug dealer, tattoo shop owner, contemptible liar, and underhanded snitch

• Detective Whitley, relentless veteran homicide detective investigating the cold-blooded murder of the notorious Devon Peterson

With silky sheer skill, this talented troupe interact through the enthralling plot of yet another hard-to-put-down magnum opus in the immutable Thriller genre, not missing even one iota of a beat throughout its course.

Heaping Praise.

Killer Choice is an intense, emotional, and altogether suspenseful tale about how just one ill-advised resolution could destroy a person’s life, even for a perpetuity. And I could not imagine any reader of this icy plot not being prompted to repeatedly say, ‘Oh, my God,’ ‘Oh, my God,’ as they quickly flip through adroitly written pages that easily provoke an on-the-edge-of-your-seat consternation reminiscent of that in Grisham’s masterwork, The Firm. For indeed, Killer Choice is a harrowing crime thriller that introduces the reader to a compact, however memorable selection of players who will not only command your interest, but also brazenly emboss your subconscious, leaving a troubling imprint that will continue to linger long after the final page bids adieu.

Perfectly titled, Killer Choice is in unison a challenge to read and even more of one to part ways with. As a crime and suspense thriller enthusiast, I wholly enjoyed this fictional creation, and would very well recommend it to those readers cut from the same interest cloth.

My Closing Statement.

Much like the motion picture to which it has been compared, Killer Choice is an enticing novel about rash decisions that people are sometimes forced to make in their lives. And more often than not, such decisions—which are never wisely advised, mind you—tend to lead those persons into various entrapments from which they can locate no means of escape because of the crippling bondages of fear and faithlessness. Fear and faithlessness are the two sinister culprits that casually steer men straight into the barbarous arms of self-destruction, which endeavor to squeeze the lives out of many because of their unbelief.

Choice. It is the thing that every human being alive has been given, liberally, due to free will. The choices we make undoubtedly affect our lives, whether negatively or positively. And ill-made choices tend to beget grave repercussions. So, under such circumstances, it would be well for one to contemplate and select carefully, as the autonomy of free will is based in one ancient option: Good or evil?
. . .There is no in-between.

In the splendid work of fiction presently under critique, Tom Hunt, its awe-inspiring author, refers to said quandary in such intricately carved detail, that the reader will feel as though he or she has been planted right there in the otherworldly setting of Gary Foster’s menacing and diabolcal nightmare. And that, my fellow members of the literary community, accounts for superior storytelling.

Five . . . mare’s nest stars.

• It is my kindly pleasure to thank Berkley Books, as well as NetGalley, for the advanced review copy (ARC) of Killer Choice in exchange for my honest review.

Analysis of Killer Choice by Tom Hunt is courtesy of Reviews by Cat Ellington:

Date of Review: Sunday, January 28, 2018

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Cat Ellington’s review of Skin care: body scrubs. Homemade organic scrub recipes: Health & Beauty

Skin care: body scrubs. Homemade organic scrub recipes.: Health & Beauty.Skin care: body scrubs. Homemade organic scrub recipes.: Health & Beauty. by Nora Robson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The following analysis was inspired by a true story.

Once upon a time, many, many years ago—thirty-five, to be exact—there was a twelve-year-old girl who fell in love with the art of beauty (and natural skincare) after shedding 90 lbs of excess and unwanted fat from her young bodily frame. After a few years of sharing her childhood with all of that extra weight and some seriously bad skin in the form of acne—no thanks to a terrible diet of fatty, fried foods, soda pop, and plenty of junk food—that twelve-year-old girl (now newly thin) was ready to start her young life entirely anew. And that had meant that she would finally say goodbye to her old skin-ruining eating habits and all of the sugary soda pops that she’d so carelessly consumed for the majority of her early life. She would once and for all do away with the high-calorie carbonated beverages, too much candy, too many greasy potato chips, and any other unhealthy “snacks” that served to wreak havoc on her complexion and body mass.

From that time on, the twelve-year-old girl’s best food & drink chums became still water (lots of it), fruit juices, and sparkling mineral water. For her, granola bars had replaced candy bars, freshly popped popcorn replaced the salty, greasy potato chips, and honey grahams replaced cookies.

That young twelve-year-old soon became the ultimate beauty junkie. And on her behalf, her mother purchased a subscription to the highly regarded magazine publication, Essence, in order for the little lady to absorb everything that her young spongy mind could about health, beauty, and skincare.

The twelve-year-old soon started homemaking her own natural facial masques and exfoliators using a variety of ingredients right from her family’s refrigerator and pantry. And a few of these au naturel recipes contained mouthwatering ingredients like plain yogurt, buttermilk, honey, egg yolks (introduced by her godmother), oatmeal, bananas (to aid during the hot summer months when her skin produced excessive oils), fresh orange juice (a natural astringent), kiwi fruit, mangoes, papaya, strawberries, coffee grounds, light brown sugar, white pure cane sugar, and yellow corn meal. Only all-natural components sufficed for the twelve-year-old “chemist” who would make many a mess and many a mistake as she went along with her experiments. But as the years passed, she grew up and turned pro. Yes, she became an expert at the art of natural beauty. For she had once been an obese girl with bad skin, but now, she only wanted to look and be her very best. And natural skincare was her go-to repertoire.

That twelve-year-old girl—way back in the summer of 1983—had been me. And I felt that sharing a small part of my own life history with regard to the making of natural skincare “formulations” was appropriate given the subject matter of the self-help reference guide currently under review.

Not since 1997 when I had the pleasure of reading Diane Irons’ nonpareil The World’s Best Kept Beauty Secrets has a reference book catering to the skin we’re in brought me to such a level of excitement. For it had been within the self-help guide scribed by Irons that I learned a few additional beauty secrets: liquid fabric softener can double as a hair conditioner; pepto-bismol not only coats, soothes, and relieves an upset digestive system, but also tightens open pores when used as a facial masque; unscented natural clay kitty litter makes an outstanding mud pack… And a multitude of others. Voila!

Despite my decades of knowledge in the art of natural beauty, Ms. Nora Robson’s must-read health and beauty reference, Skin care: body scrubs. Homemade organic scrub recipes: Health & Beauty, casually expanded my mental encyclopedia with only that much more education in this area of expertise. I loved, loved, loved this self-improvement exemplar! And if you, dear reader, harbor an interest in natural beauty, so will you.

In this specific volume (fleeting as it may be at 47 pages), Robson—with a strong focus on natural oils, herbs, sugars and salt—generously shares a respectable number of her own delicious homemade skin-beautifying recipes, including the Vanilla Sugar Scrub, the Sugar Cookie Lip Scrub, the Sweet Orange Face Scrub, and many more.

In point of fact, no beauty obsessive should be without this warm and unique natural skincare guide in their reference books collection. It is well written, beautifully illustrated, and inordinately recommended.

Five cruelty-free stars.

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