Book 165: HOTWIRE Review

Bizarre murders, cattle mutilations, and government conspiracies and suspected coverups are at the forefront of Hotwire, the ninth title in the Maggie O’Dell series by Alex Kava. Maggie, an FBI agent, is still recuperating from her last assignment and has been sent to Colorado to lecture at a law enforcement seminar. She is “asked” to look into some cattle mutilations in Nebraska and the story takes off.

Maggie doesn’t just get to see some strange cattle mutilations, but soon spearheads an investigation into the possible electrocution deaths (or murders) and injuries of some teenagers in the Nebraska Sandhills. Both the cattle mutilations and the teens’ deaths were bloodless and have other similarities. While Maggie has her hands full with the investigation in Nebraska, her friends Dr. Benjamin Platt of USAMRID, Washington, D.C. Police Detective Julia Racine, and FBI Agent R.J. Tully are investigating what may be a terrorism case relating to food poisoning in the DC school system. 

Hotwire provides a lot of thrills and suspense but also asks some hard and socially pertinent questions, such as: Why is it the FDA can shut down a business due to tampering or contamination but the USDA can’t do the same under similar circumstances? It doesn’t appear that the food poisonings in DC have anything to do with cattle mutilations in Nebraska or do they? The action and investigations take plenty of twists and turns but kept my attention to the end. It was nice seeing a softer side to Julia Racine as well as seeing Dr. Platt in action once again. Regrettably Tully had only a guest appearance in this story. Hotwire features great characters, great action and a well-developed plot. There’s a lot going on in the story, but Ms. Kava neatly ties it together at the end for a great and quick read.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 164: THE UNDERTAKER Review

The Undertaker by William F. Brown has been classified as a “fast-paced thriller” and as a “cliffhanger.” Yes, these descriptions are accurate but they don’t paint the entire picture. The Undertaker is a cliffhanger and a fast-paced thriller that incorporates self-deprecating and irreverent humor for a laugh-out loud enjoyable read.

Peter Talbott was erroneously classified as dead a few years ago when his car was stolen and he was being “held” in a Mexican jail. At the time Pete was in mourning for his wife. After returning to the US and clearing up the error he loses his job. His brother-in-law Doug saves him by offering him a job in Massachusetts. Pete packs his bags, leaves California behind and drives to Massachusetts. His life is basically work and more work until the day he is handed an Ohio obituary notice that he has died once again, alongside his already deceased wife. Well Pete knows that it isn’t possible for his wife to have died recently in a car accident when she died three years earlier from cancer. He does what any self-respecting person does, he drives to Ohio and attends his own funeral. He also uncovers a mess, possibly a government covert ops mess and/or a mafia mess but a mess nonetheless. Pete’s quest for the truth leads to Chicago where he encounters Sandy Kasmarek, a photographer and kick-ass woman. Sandy and Pete quickly bond over car chases and flying bullets.

The Undertaker is a quick read that captures the attention from the very beginning. Pete and Sandy may be an odd couple but their quirkiness and humor in the face of danger are what made this such an enjoyable read for me. If you’re looking for a well-written, quick read that melds humor and thrills, then you need to add The Undertaker to your reading list.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 162: YOU’RE NEXT Review

Imagine being dropped off and abandoned at a playground as a four-year-old child. Now imagine that you spend the next fourteen years in the foster care system and the only “family” you now have is basically a juvenile delinquent. You don’t know why your parents disappeared or even what your last name was but you are determined to turn your life around. This is Michael Wingate’s life in You’re Next by Gregg Hurwitz. 

This psychological thriller builds layer upon layer of intrigue by providing glimpses into Michael’s past. But these glimpses only reveal the past after he was abandoned. Obviously abandonment leaves emotional and mental scars, and Michael has his fair share. As a result he is determined to never let down his daughter Katherine. Michael is now a successful contractor and is about to win an award for building green homes that aren’t completely green. When Michael is confronted by a stranger at the award’s party and basically threatened, he is first confused and then later angry. The anger builds when his daughter is threatened and his wife, Annabel, is seriously injured. What does all of this have to do with Michael? Could his unknown past be rearing its ugly head and intruding on his present? How much of a past could a four-year-old child have had? 

Michael embarks on a hunt for the answers. The only person he knows he can depend on is his childhood best friend and surrogate brother, Shep. When pushed to the edge Michael pushes back and uncovers a history of dirty little secrets that are best kept uncovered. How far is Michael willing to go? Read the book, trust me on this one. If you don’t add any other book to your reading list, You’re Next is definitely one to read. Kat is a lovable and precocious child with a core of inner strength. Michael is a man that wants to do right at any cost but realizes that lifetime sometimes has to be lived in the murkier gray areas. Shep is, well words can’t describe Shep but he is the type of friend you want when backed into a corner and facing really bad guys. I enjoyed reading You’re Next so much that I’ve promptly added many other works by Mr. Hurwitz to my TBR list. I’ve found another favorite author!

Disclaimer: I received this book free from I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 157: INSIDE OUT Review

I recently saw an ad for a book on that piqued my interest and the result was the purchase of Inside Out by Grayson Cole. The theme of Inside Out seems to be an inside look at interracial dating in the South . . . not a lighthearted topic by any means. Biracialism, multiculturalism and interracial dating may seem to be in vogue but for people in the center there are often stigmas still attached. 

Tracey McAlpine is a graduate student in Alabama and a daughter of privilege. She is fortunate enough to be residing in her own home, inherited from a grandmother, and has a trust account. Tracey is also afraid to shake things up. She does what is expected and seeks to remain in the background. Garrett Atkins is the fair-haired boy (young man) in his family. He excelled at sports, is well liked and respected by his friends and peers, and is now in law school at the top of his class. Garrett is attracted to Tracey and their relationship takes off with an extremely rocky start. Garrett has his reasons for keeping his “friendship” with Tracey secret just as Tracey has her own. But when their relationship veers from “friendship” to “relationship,” Garrett is ready to bring it out into the open. Tracey is not. Garrett is ready to push when Tracey informs him that she’s pregnant. What follows is somewhat akin to a mini-Shakespearean drama. Garrett’s mother refuses to accept that she is going to have a biracial grandchild and ignores the situation, after having a meltdown. Tracey’s parents are also extremely concerned when they learn that the father is white. 

Garrett and Tracey may be living in the New South but there are still problems to be faced as a biracial couple. I found Inside Out to realistically portray the inner turmoil faced by Garrett and Tracey and their decisions. Neither are villains nor heroes in this saga, but they both bring drama and issues into their relationship that require work for a successful relationship to be had. The reality is that no relationship lives in a vacuum. Our families and friends impact our decisions. The realism of the situations and the depth of the characters made for a truly enjoyable and memorable read. I’m really glad that I noticed the ad for this book and even happier that I bought it.

Books 160 and 161 Reviewed

Inside is the first in the Bulletproof trilogy by Brenda Novak. Virgil Skinner has just spent fourteen years inside the prison system for a crime he didn’t commit. Virgil may not have committed the crime he was charged with, murder, but he hasn’t come out of the system an innocent man. Virgil joined a gang for protection while inside and cannot freely leave. Once you’re in a gang you’re in for life . . . or until death. It’s bad enough he has the gang issue hanging over his head, but while inside he protected himself from deadly violence with deadly violence. As a result of these actions he has been “asked” to assist the California Department of Corrections in deterring another gang in the worst prison in the state, Pelican Bay, for a chance at a truly clean slate.

Enter Peyton Adams, the Chief Deputy Warden at Pelican Bay. She is adamantly opposed to Virgil going undercover. She feels that it isn’t possible to protect him from possible gang-related violence and she doesn’t trust him. In a few short days Peyton learns that there is much more to Virgil than meets the eye and she begins to admire and respect him. Virgil only wants to protect his family, his sister and her kids, from possible gang retaliation and maybe get a fresh start in life.

Gangs, prisons and undercover work apparently don’t mix, at least not in a small town. It isn’t possible to keep a secret, especially in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. What ensues is a rush to beat the clock and get the information that CDC wants while protecting Virgil and ensuring he gets what he wants. Throw in some not-so-honest correctional officials, a gang on the hunt for retaliation against Virgil, a family on the run and the suspense gets knocked up a few notches. Inside starts this series off with a bang and makes for a great weekend read.

In Seconds by Brenda Novak continues with the ongoing saga of Virgil Skinner and his family. The action takes place four years later and Virgil is now married to Peyton. The feared gang retaliation and threats continue and as a result Virgil, Peyton and Virgil’s sister Laurel, have been forced to move several times. Virgil and Peyton are now residing in upstate New York. Laurel has relocated to Montana with her two children. She is now known as Vivian and trying to rebuild her life. 

Although neither Virgil nor Laurel is a part of the Witness Protection (or WitSec) program, they both knew that you don’t maintain contact with family members. Laurel resides in an area without cell phone coverage and she hasn’t been able to sever ties with her mother. As in Inside, the good (and possibly) bad thing about living in a small town is that everyone knows everyone. Laurel, a.k.a. Vivian, fears that her identity has been blown when a local real estate agent is murdered for no reason. It turns out her fears are not baseless. 

Laurel knows that there isn’t much her brother can do, especially since Peyton is in the last trimester of a difficult pregnancy and they have a toddler at home. She also isn’t willing to trust her neighbor, Sheriff Myles King to protect her and her children. Just when she thinks that things can’t get any worse she finds out that her mom has been murdered by the gang and they definitely know where she is living. What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse, not only for Laurel and Myles but also for Virgil and the new leader of the gang. Will they be able to protect their families in time? In Seconds provides plenty of suspense and some light romance and makes for a quick but satisfying read. Look for In Seconds to be released this August.

Disclaimer: I received IN SECONDS free for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 159: SACRED EVIL Review

The Krewe of Hunters is at it again in Sacred Evil by Heather Graham. This time the Krewe is in New York working with the NYC Police Department on a series of Ripperesque style murders. The question arises is this work of a homicidal, possibly crazy, Jack the Ripper fan or are there supernatural elements at work? Whitney Tremont, one of the Krewe, is working beside Jude Crosby to make this determination. Whitney, as a Krewe member, has some paranormal abilities but will this help her in this particular investigation? Jude Crosby is a talented investigator but he is stumped by these murders because of the lack of evidence. The only thing on their side is that the police department has initiated a task force and given Jude carte blanche and the assistance of the FBI team, referred to as the Krewe of Hunters, to help solve these crimes. 

Ms. Graham has provided a great backdrop with New York City. The murky history of the city at the end of the 1800s adds to the overall mystique. The story is aided with theories that Jack the Ripper migrated to the US as Jonathan “Jack” Black at the turn of the century. This migration is the reason why the murders ended in London, but appeared to begin in New York. All of the present day murders are exact copies of each of the Ripper’s murders. Everyone becomes a suspect: a movie director, an actor, another detective, the medical examiner and even Jude’s father. 

While I enjoyed reading Sacred Evil, it seemed almost formulaic at times. The romance was expected and the mystery and suspense just weren’t as mysterious or suspenseful as other books by this author. There were some surprises with the plot and this, ultimately, saved the overall reading experience. If you’re looking for a quick romantic suspense read with some dark, paranormal elements, then add Sacred Evil to your summer reading list.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Guest Post: Author Amy Lichtenhan

Thank you to The Book Diva’s Reads for having me on today! 

Since I’ve just starting working on the outline for my third release, I thought it would be fun to talk a little bit about the first steps of my writing process.

I’m sure many of you are writers or perhaps you have wanted to pen your own novel, but just haven’t known exactly how to get started. 

Many times, the idea is the easy part.  For me, it’s usually out of the blue when the images of new characters and a vague sense of their circumstances pop in my head.  I spend quite a bit of time thinking about and developing the characters and their stories in my mind.

But how to get it on paper? 

Once I have a mental grasp on my story line, an outline becomes essential.  I have a thick, spiral notebook for each book (and of course a pencil – we can’t be afraid to erase and revise).

First of all, I start with my characters and their traits: What do they look like?  What are their mannerisms, attributes, temperaments? Why are the characters important to each other?  Now is also the time to think about the setting and how it affects my characters.

Next, I work on the outline. I know there are successful writers out there who work completely without an outline and allow their characters to take them where they want to go, but for most of us, we need direction.  It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but a basic guide for where we want our story to go. 

Start simple.

Think about your introduction, rising action, climax, and resolution.  Jot a few sentences down about each.  What happens during each of them? 

Then take those and expand. Here you can begin to break your story up into chapters.  If your plot is time specific, be sure to also write a time-line so the passage of time over your chapters is clear to your reader. If you want to get really detailed, you can write a mini-outline for each chapter.  Personally, I write just a few paragraphs to outline each chapter:  What happens in the chapter (beginning, middle, and end), what do my characters feel, and what needs to be said?  I also leave space to go back and jot things down later on as thoughts, ideas, and dialogue come to me.

With a plot and characters in place, I now have somewhere to start.  

My outlines aren’t perfect and changes are always made, but they are essential to keeping me organized and on track.

Thanks again to Vivian for having me on The Book Diva’s Reads today! It’s been an honor. Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win an eBook copy of Pulled

Amy Lichtenhan is the debut author of Pulled, a contemporary romance released by TWCS Publishing House on February 24, 2011. 

Melanie Winters and Daniel Montgomery shared a love most only dream of; a love they believed bonded them together for life.  When their world is shattered by the tragic loss of their daughter, overwhelming grief and misguided guilt distorts the truth, and their relationship ends in uncertainty and unanswered questions. 

For nine years, they drift through life, each unable to forget the one who holds the strings to their heart.  In an attempt to escape the pain of her past, Melanie finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage, while Daniel loses himself in a career that means nothing without Melanie by his side.  

Now, when their lives again intersect, neither can deny the connection they felt so long ago.  

But will the power that drew them together be enough to heal the wounds from their past, and will they have the courage to overcome the insecurities and fears that threaten to keep them apart? 

Pulled is a story of attraction and separation, of destiny and duty, of a love so strong it refuses to give up even when all others have. 

Since she was a girl, Amy Lichtenhan found the reasons people are drawn together fascinating, and she utilizes her own experiences and observations to explore fate, destiny, and serendipity in her debut novel, Pulled.  

Amy’s second book, Take This Regret, is set for release July 28, 2011 

There are some mistakes we make that we will regret for the rest of our lives.  For Christian, it was the day he betrayed Elizabeth. 

Christian Davison has a plan for his life.  He is determined to become an attorney and to one day take his place as partner in his father’s law firm.  Nothing will stand in his way, not even Elizabeth Ayers and their unborn child.

After Christian cuts her from his life, Elizabeth spends the next five years struggling to provide for her daughter and willing to sacrifice anything to give her child a safe, comfortable life.  

For five years, Christian has regretted the day he walked away from his family and will do anything to win them back just as Elizabeth will do anything to protect her daughter from the certain heartache she believes Christian will bring upon them.

When Christian wrestles his way into their lives, Elizabeth is faced with asking herself if it is possible to forgive someone when they’ve committed the unforgiveable and if it is possible to find a love after it has been buried in years of hate.  Or are there some wounds that go so deep they can never heal?

They say everyone deserves a second chance.

To read more about Amy Lichtenhan visit:

Book 158: PULLED Review

Are you into contemporary romance? Do you like reading HEA books? If so, then Pulled by Amy Lichtenhan is just the book for you. True love supposedly doesn’t run a smooth course, and neither does the action in Pulled.

Melanie Winters and Daniel Montgomery met when they were teenagers and it was love at first sight. Melanie became a much-loved member of the Montgomery family. She considered Julia and Patrick Montgomery surrogate parents and Erin Montgomery was more than her best friend, she was a sister of the heart. Melanie and Daniel knew that their love would last a lifetime. They were much more than in love.  They were soul mates. Their relationship undergoes a trial when Melanie becomes pregnant during her senior year of high school. But their unborn child is an unexpected gift and they make plans to marry and raise their child together. Unfortunately tragedy strikes when a drunk driver hits their car. Melanie is severely injured and their child is born too early. Melanie’s parents aren’t as forbearing as Daniel’s and Melanie is whisked away to recuperate and no contact with Daniel is allowed. What follows are a series of events that result in years of unhappiness for them both.

Fast forward nine years and Melanie is married to an overbearing, pompous and abusive man. Daniel has made it through medical school and is in practice with his father but knows that there is something missing in his life. On one fateful evening Daniel and Melanie are reunited at a business dinner meeting between Daniel, Nicholas and Shane (Nick’s business partner). Regrettably Daniel is there with a friend (and I use the term “friend” loosely), who just happens to be pregnant with his child. It’s obvious there’s still a spark between the two. How can they move forward with Melanie being married and Daniel expecting a child from another woman? Is their love doomed to failure once again? Well, I could tell you but you really should read the book. Ms. Lichtenhan has created a modern romance with fairy tale undertones. Pulled definitely isn’t all goodness and light and there are dark forces and dark personalities at work, but if you enjoy romance then this may be just the book for you.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

OUTLANDER 20th Anniversary

If you haven’t read any of the Outlander series from Diana Gabaldon, then now is the time to start. This summer marks the 20th Anniversary of the release of Outlander, the first in this historical/romance series. 

I was introduced to the Outlander series last summer as part of the Kanawha County Public Library’s summer reading program. I only had to read one book, which I did, but I was hooked. I went on to read almost all of the books in this series between August and October. I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Gabaldon at the WV Book Festival in October of 2010 during an author meet-and-greet and hear her speak about her books and works-in-progress. (If you ever get the opportunity to hear Ms. Gabaldon then run and grab a seat because her books are phenomenal and she is a captivating and highly entertaining speaker!).

You can order the 20th anniversary book directly from the publisher, Random House by clicking here OR from a variety of other online sellers including Barnes & Noble and

Publisher’s notes on this edition:

Twenty years ago, Diana Gabaldon swept readers into her mesmerizing world brimming with history, romance, and adventure. In celebration of the series that has captured the heart of millions, here is a special 20th anniversary edition of the novel that started it all—including a new essay, a new map, a CD with Outlander the musical, and more.


The year is 1945. Claire Randall is traveling with her husband when she touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is hurled back in time to a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord 1743. Catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, she soon realizes that an alliance with James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, might be the only way to survive. Thus begins a work of unrivaled storytelling that has become a modern classic.

Coming This Week…

Coming up tomorrow is a review of Pulled by Amy Lichtenhan. And Wednesday, July 13th will feature a guest post by author Amy Lichtenhan. 

Don’t forget you still have until 12:00 AM ET on 07/13/2011 to enter for your chance to win an ebook copy of Pulled by Ms. Lichtenhan. Don’t have an ereader? Don’t worry…you can read the ebook on your computer. The winner of the ebook giveaway will be posted on 07/14/2011.

Additional reviews coming up this week will be for Sacred Evil by Heather Graham, The Undertaker by William Brown, and In Seconds by Brenda Novak.