Book 78: HEART OF PALM Review

Heart of Palm by Laura Lee Smith
ISBN: 9780802121028 (hardback)
ISBN: 9780802193568 (ebook)
ASIN: B00B6U095E (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication date: April 2, 2013

Utina, Florida, is a small, down-at-heels southern town. Once enlivened by the trade in Palm Sunday palms and moonshine, Utina hasn’t seen economic growth in decades, and no family is more emblematic of the local reality than the Bravos. Deserted by the patriarch years ago, the Bravos are held together in equal measure by love, unspoken blame, and tenuously brokered truces.

The story opens on a sweltering July day, as Frank Bravo, dutiful middle son, is awakened by a distress call. Frank dreams of escaping to cool mountain rivers, but he’s only made it ten minutes from the family restaurant he manages every day and the decrepit, Spanish-moss-draped house he was raised in, and where his strong-willed mother and spitfire sister—both towering redheads, equally matched in stubbornness—are fighting another battle royale. Little do any of them know that Utina is about to meet the tide of development that has already engulfed the rest of Northeast Florida. When opportunity knocks, tempers ignite, secrets are unearthed, and each of the Bravos is forced to confront the tragedies of their shared past.

The Bravo family has a history of tragedy and heartache. The matriarch, Alma Bolton Bravo, was raised in a well-to-do family and never wanted for anything. Alma decided as a teenager that she wanted to be different, so she chose to marry a man that was as different from her family as she could find, Dean Bravo. The first tragedy in their lives occurred on their honeymoon, when Alma is in a boating accident that causes the amputation of her toes and splits her foot. Of course it doesn’t help that the cause of the accident was Dean’s refusal to have a third party as a spotter to go out with them so Alma could water-ski safely. Years pass, Alma and Dean have four children and are barely making ends meet and the second tragedy occurs with the death of their youngest child. As the years pass, it is evident that their eldest, Sofia has mental health issues (she was diagnosed as manic-depressive with OCD). Dean, a heavy drinker, winds up deserting the family shortly after the death of their youngest child. Alma makes do and eventually buys out her brother-in-law’s business, a local bar and grill. Carson Bravo, the eldest son, marries and moves away from home and starts his own business. Frank Bravo, the youngest son, still lives in Utina and runs the restaurant, a job he’s had since he was nineteen years old. Sofia lives at home with her mother and helps her brother out by cleaning the restaurant every morning. 

On the surface it appears that the Bravo family is just a family dealing with the usual family issues and dysfunctions, but the Bravos are dealing with more than tragedy, heartache and mental health issues. Frank is in love with his sister-in-law and wants to move away from Utina and live a quiet life. He knows this won’t happen as long as his mother and sister are around and need him. Carson has made a mess of both his marriage and his business and needs to find a quick fix for both before he winds up divorced, in prison or worse. Sofia struggles with her mental health issues, but she is surviving and has found love for the first time in her life at age forty-three. Alma, as the matriarch, worries about her children but knows that she can no longer control them. The family is offered the chance to make a large sum of money and leave Utina behind, something they think about or  say they want until the opportunity is presented to them. 

Ms. Smith has captured the essence of family in all its dysfunction in Heart of Palm. As I read, I was reminded of the line from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The Bravos are unhappy in their own special way. There aren’t any true bad guys in Heart of Palm, as each Bravo family member deals with their own secrets and guilt. Dean and Alma aren’t the best parents, but they did what they could for their family to the best of their abilities. Sofia, Carson and Frank aren’t loving siblings but they are there for one another when needed. Carson’s wife Elizabeth, and daughter Bell, add their own idiosyncrasies to the family. Sofia’s love interest, Biaggio, works with and for the Bravo family and he considers himself a family member even before he and Sofia decide to marry. Heart of Palm is filled with angst, drama, greed, guilt, pain, suffering, forgiveness, and love . . . all the things that make a family a family. If you’re looking for a well-written story about family and small-town living, then I strongly recommend Heart of Palm.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via 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.”

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Guest Post – Author Brad Cotton

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit from Brad Cotton, author of A Work in Progress. Without further ado, here’s Mr. Cotton answering some of frequently asked questions:

The questions I get asked most often:

When it comes to reading, writing, and publishing, I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I have about 3. However, I do get asked the following questions most often, so I thought I would take this opportunity to share my answers with you. Please take these responses with a grain shaker of salt.

Questions from readers:

How much of A Work in Progress is autobiographical?

I get this one a lot, especially after someone reads the book. The answer is pretty much none of it. The book starts off with the main character recovering from certain personal traumas – one of them being getting dumped by his long-time girlfriend who then moves out of the country. That particular unfortunate event did happen to me. However everything that follows in the book is complete fiction. I never met or knew any of the characters, nor did anything in the book ever happen to me, or to anyone I know. I think we all learned our lesson from A Million Little Pieces

Why did you become a writer?

If you asked my beloved high school English teacher about me, she would no doubt tell you, “Never heard of him”. What this means is that, contrary to a popular response, I did not know early on that writing was what I wanted to do. If class attendance and grades were any indication, most would have predicted me not on a bookshelf, but more so on parole.

I won’t give you the old cliché that you don’t choose to be a writer, but that writing chooses you, because I would have to punch myself in the face. But I will say, it’s a cliché for a reason. I can’t paint, I can’t sing, but writing just comes naturally. I can’t help but do it. If you look at my bank statement, you’d know that I didn’t become a writer for the money. So it must be something else.

What would you be if you weren’t a writer?

A neurosurgeon or a grocery bagger. Maybe both.

How long did it take you to write A Work in Progress?

Believe it or not, people ask me this all the time. It took me 8-months-ish to finish the initial draft. I took a 2-month break in the middle and was holding down a full-time job at the time. I think people ask me this to gauge how long it would take them to write one of their own. For that, however, there is no benchmark. I know people who have written a full-length novel in two weeks. I know authors who have been working on the same book for 3 years. If you’re thinking about writing a book – just go and do it. And don’t ask any more questions about it until you’re done. Go and do it right now. There is no better time.

Will you come to my party?

Yes. Yes I will.

Questions from Writers:

Did you study writing in school?

That’s a tough one. The answer is no, and yes. While I didn’t major in English literature, or writing composition, or anything like that, I always read and studied with a discerning eye. The same goes for television shows I watched, movies I went to, lies I told, and so on. After a while, people with a certain disposition tend to pick up on what works, what doesn’t, what makes a compelling story, and what stalls one. Of course, everyone will have a differing opinion on these things, but there are some fast rules that tend to apply across the board. A great line of dialogue, a cool idea, a punchy sentence, etc., will be just that no matter where you come upon it. Authors are just people who instinctively take that stuff in, store it, and then choose to share with others how they see the world (or how they want to see the world) using what they’ve gathered. (It’s a very similar thing for stand-up comedians, I would imagine). It’s about perspective and insight and material, and I don’t think that can really be taught. Delivery, however, can be taught; though it’s something a writer can never finish practicing… unless you’re Hemingway. But I’m not Hemingway.

How did you get published?

I got published the old fashioned way. I finished my manuscript, then found a freelance editor and paid to have it edited myself. Once I had a polished piece, I began a querying campaign. Many, many rejections from publishers soon followed, as did self-pity, until one day a letter came in with a positive response. I am truly thankful for my publisher. Though I’m considering going indie with my next book.

What? Why are you considering going Indie?

I’m glad you asked. This answer to this could be a post all it’s own. I think to sum it up would be to do a disservice. For a thorough answer that would be close to my own, check out this post from Hugh Howey:

Do you have any other advice for aspiring writers?

Yes – there’s no such think as aspiring writers. If you write, you’re a writer. Just like if you run you’re a runner, and if you paint you’re a painter. Some make a living doing these things, but most do not.

Read On Writing by Stephen King. Let as many people read your writing as often as you can. Don’t expect to make money, but don’t ever stop chasing an audience. Help out other writers as much as possible, whenever possible. Be prepared to be your own best marketer/publicist/agent/advocate. Keep writing. Keep reading. 

Questions from my mother:

Did you visit your Grandmother?

I did. You left your scarf there.

General Questions:

What’s your favorite Book? Movie? Music?

The book that influenced me the most was Catcher in the Rye. If you’re familiar with all the conspiracy theories related to the title, fear not. I’m far too apathetic to attempt assassination of a President or a Beatle. It was simply the first book I was forced to read that actually resonated, and it piqued my interest in literature. Plus, there’s only two Beatles left… and they’ll get theirs soon enough.

When I was younger my favorite movie was Braveheart, but… Gibson? Really? There’s a train wreck I can turn away from. These days I’m more into indie movies. They seem to have more integrity. I just watched The Words. I liked it a lot. If I had to pick a recent favorite: Barney’s Version

If you’re looking for good music, look deep. If you hear it on the radio you know it will be replaced very soon. Search out music like you search out books. Follow the path of what you like and find the ones buried. A few bands in my iPod today: Elbow, Cat Empire, Stars, and P.G. Wodehouse. That’s an audiobook. Wodehouse rocks.

When is your next book coming out?

Good question! My next book is called Boundless. It will be out later this year. It’s about two guys, an escape, a road trip, a pretty girl, a dead body, another pretty girl, and ultimately: what happens when two people venture out to discover who they really are.

Were can I buy your book?

How do I get to the highway from here?

Always head south and hope for the best.

About Brad Cotton:

Born and raised in Toronto, Brad has been writing professionally for over a decade. An average guitarist, a sub-par painter, and a horrible juggler of anything larger than a tangerine, he is currently married to a woman, but does not have a cat, a drum set or any children.

This blog is populated by writing tips and resources (gathered from online sources and originals), reviews of everything from movies, to music, TV, pop culture, and, of course, books, and anything else we deem suitable and/or absurd enough to be posted.

Connect to the author:

     Website     |     Facebook     |     GoodReads     |     Twitter

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Reeling from his wife’s unsolved murder, Malcolm Cutter is just going through the motions as a chauffeur and bodyguard for Hollywood’s rich and famous. Then a pair of Guatemalan tough guys offer him a job. It’s an open question whether they’re patriotic revolutionaries or vicious terrorists. Either way, Cutter doesn’t much care until he gets a bomb through his window, a gangland beating on the streets of L.A., and three bullets in the chest. Now there’s another murder on Cutter’s Mind. His own.


ONE OF THE STRANGEST THINGS ABOUT THE CITY was the sudden way it disappeared around the edges. One minute you were down on Sunset Boulevard surrounded by glass and concrete, and the next thing you knew you were up on Mulholland Drive, alone in the rough country. From a high window or a rooftop almost anywhere in Los Angeles you could see the mountains, and there was always something ravenous up there looking down. 

I was up among the hungry creatures, standing at the edge of a cliff, with Hollywood and Santa Monica far below me in the distance. One step forward and I would be in midair. I was looking down and wondering if Haley had considered how suddenly you could go from city to wilderness. Then I wondered if it was a distinction without a difference, if the city might be the wilderness and the wilderness the city, and maybe Los Angeles’s edges seemed to disappear so suddenly because there really was no separation between sidewalks and mountain paths, buildings and boulders. Up in the mountains or down in the city, either way the carnivores were in control.

I imagined Haley, out of her mind, running full speed off the cliff. I wondered what it had been like, that final second or two before she hit. Had she realized what was happening? Did she recognize the city lights below for what they were, or did she really think she was flying toward the stars? And did she think of me?

Stepping closer to the edge, I slid the toes of my shoes into the air. I looked down two hundred feet, toward the spot where she had broken on the rocks. I stood one inch from eternity and tried to imagine life without her. I could not summon up a single reason why I shouldn’t take that final step, except for one. I thought about the kind of animal who would drive someone to do what my wife had done. Predators like that were everywhere. I should know. I had trained for half my life to be one of them. I was hungry, looking down on the city. If I was going to live, the hunger would have to be enough, for now. But I would sink my teeth into him, sooner or later. I would do that for Haley, and for myself, and then maybe it would be my turn to see if I could fly.

I stepped back from the edge.

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Author Bio:

A master of profound suspense.

Athol Dickson’s mystery, suspense, and literary novels have won three Christy Awards and an Audie Award. Suspense fans who enjoyed Athol’s They Shall See God will love his latest novel, January Justice, the first installment in a new mystery series called The Malcolm Cutter Memoirs. The second and third novels in the series, Free Fall in February, and A March Murder, are coming in 2013.

Critics have favorably compared Athol’s work to such diverse authors as Octavia Butler (Publisher’s Weekly), Hermann Hesse (The New York Journal of Books) and Flannery O’Connor (The New York Times). Athol lives with his wife in southern California. Please visit his website at, and like his Facebook fan page.

Praise for Athol Dickson’s novels:

“Atmospheric, well-paced and powerfully imagined . . . a highly entertaining nail-biter.” (Publishers Weekly)

“. . . richly imagined . . . lyrically written . . . artfully constructed.” (Bookwire)

“. . . well-written . . . intelligent . . . suspenseful . . . engrossing.” (Library Journal)

“. . . elegant prose . . . very well written.” (The New York Review of Books )

Websites & Links:  

Don’t forget! We’ll be touring soon for more chances to win this amazing myestery!

Thank you to Athol Dickson and Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for generously offering this book to me for review. 

If you’d like to join in on an upcoming tour just stop by their sites and sign up today!

Book 74: ‘TIL DEATH Review

‘Til Death (Rebel Ridge #3) by Sharon Sala
ISBN: 9780778314271 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781460309704 (ebook)
ASIN: B00ALTVIJW (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Mira
Publication date: March 26, 2013

He left in handcuffs. Now it’s time to set himself free. Nearly twenty years after he was wrongly convicted of setting the fire that killed his father, Lincoln Fox returns to Rebel Ridge, Kentucky. There, deep in the Appalachians, the truth of that terrible night lies buried-and he’s sworn to uncover it. 

His plans take an unexpected turn when, in the midst of a blizzard, he rescues Meg Walker from her wrecked car. Suddenly Linc discovers another reason to clear his name. Meg, his high school sweetheart, had always believed in his innocence, and if he wants a future with her, he has to show the world proof that she was right. 

As the community chooses sides, those who once let a teenage boy take the fall for their crime are forced to raise the stakes. They kidnap Meg, leaving her to the mercy of the mountain. And a second rescue may be more than even Linc can manage…

Meg Walker Lewis is a strong and independent woman. The love of her life was torn away from her at the age of seventeen when he was falsely accused, wrongfully convicted and sent away to prison. Later her husband was rightfully convicted of murder; she quickly divorced him. Meg has spent the better part of the past decade building a life. She lives on her family’s farm with a few chickens and a milk cow and earns a living by quilting. All of Meg’s family lives close by: brothers, sisters-in-law, mother, stepfather, and stepbrothers. Meg wishes for more from her life but is content with what she has for the moment. Things quickly change when she realizes someone has broken into her house while she was asleep! Things go downhill from there because her stalker isn’t willing to leave her alone, even when his identity is revealed.

Lincoln Fox’s life was turned upside down when he was a teenager. His father was beaten to death, the family house burned to the ground, and Lincoln was wrongfully convicted of the crime and served four years in prison. He thought he’d never return to Kentucky after he left and he’s made a nice life as a contractor in Texas. After a work-related accident, Lincoln has a dream about his father and returns to Kentucky to clear his name. Upon his arrival in Kentucky, Lincoln quickly becomes involved in local happenings that involve his former love, Meg Walker Lewis. Lincoln is able to identify the stalker and then saves Meg after a car crash. The two quickly find that there’s still a spark between them and decide to see where it takes them. 

‘Til Death is the third book in the Rebel Ridge series featuring the Walker family by Ms. Sala. Meg is an accomplished woman and although she feels her life is missing something (or someone), she’s more than willing to maintain the status quo. Lincoln Fox is an accomplished man and only wants to clear his name and find his father’s murderer. He doesn’t even realize his life is missing something until it states him in the face. The romance between Meg and Lincoln seems to take up where it left off. Their lives quickly become intertwined as they search for new information to clear Lincoln’s name and protect Meg from her stalker. I found ‘Til Death to be a fast romantic mystery-suspense read that featured some twisted bad guys. I know when I start reading a book written by Ms. Sala that the bad guys will get their comeuppance and that good will prevail (a typical HEA [happy ever after]), but I never know how it will be achieved and the journey taken is never disappointing. For those of you that love romantic mystery-suspense and HEAs, you’ll want to read ‘Til Death.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via 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.”

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Blogiversary Final Giveaway – 2013

2nd Blogiversary Celebration Final Giveaway

I’ve had a difficult time deciding what to giveaway for the third and fourth weeks of my blogiversary celebration. I wanted to giveaway something memorable to me, useful to you and book related. I could have chosen another gift card giveaway or a set of books, but I eventually decided to giveaway one of my ereaders. So, to celebrate the end of my second year blogging about books and the start of my third, I’ve decided to give away my Nook Color. 

This device has been lovingly used and pampered for the past two years and comes with a purple skin (covers the front and back and is removable), a screen cover (also removable), a purple SPECK case (see picture below of Nook Color in the case), a USB cord, and AC charger (110 voltage). The Nook Color has a slot for a SD card and can be quickly upgraded to an Android Tablet using a Nook2Android SD card (more information available here). 

This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada only (sorry to all of my international follows). This giveaway will run from 12:01 AM ET on 03/26/2013 through 11:59 PM ET on 04/08/2013. The winner will be chosen and posted on 04/09/2013. All entries must use the Rafflecopter form below. Comments are appreciated but are not considered an official entry. 

Book 73: LET THE DEAD SLEEP Review

Let The Dead Sleep by Heather Graham
ISBN: 9780778315056 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781460309728 (ebook)
ASIN: B00ALTVI6K (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Mira
Publication date: March 26, 2013

It was stolen from a New Orleans grave – the centuries-old bust of an evil man, a demonic man. It’s an object desired by collectors – and by those with wickedness in their hearts.

One day, its current owner shows up at Danni Cafferty’s antiques shop on Royal Street, the shop she inherited from her father. But before Danni can buy the statue, it disappears, the owner is found dead…and Danni discovers that she’s inherited much more than she realized. In the store is a book filled with secret writing: instructions for defeating evil entities. She’d dismissed it as a curiosity…until the arrival of this statue, with its long history of evil and even longer trail of death.

Michael Quinn, former cop and now private investigator, is a man with an unusual past. He believes that doing the right thing isn’t a job – it’s a way of life. And the right thing to do is find and destroy this object weighted with malevolent powers. He and Danni are drawn together in their search for the missing statue, following it through sultry New Orleans nights to hidden places in the French Quarter and secret ceremonies on abandoned plantations.

Cafferty and Quinn already know that trust in others can be misplaced, that love can be temporary. And yet their connection is primal. Mesmerizing. They also know that their story won’t end when this case is closed and the dead rest in peace once again.

Danielle “Danni” Cafferty leads a very “normal” life as an artist in New Orleans. She’s still grieving the death of her father, Angus Cafferty, and is focused on running the family business, an antique and curio shop. Her life is forever changed when Mrs. Gladys Simon enters her shop and wants to give her an antique marble bust. Mrs. Simon states that the bust is evil, responsible for her husband’s suicide and she wants it removed from her home. If that wasn’t strange enough, Danni must contend with the appearance of Michael Quinn, a private investigator, who informs her that he used to work with her father and he’s willing to help her get the bust as it is imbued with evil. Sadly, when Danni and Quinn arrive at Mrs. Simon’s home she is found dead of an apparent suicide and the bust is missing. Danni begins to feel as if she’s walked into an episode of the Twilight Zone as things go from strange to downright bizarre in their search to find the mysterious bust before more evil is released and more people die.

Let the Dead Sleep is the first in a new series by Ms. Graham. This is a paranormal-mystery-suspense-romance that is shades of the Twilight Zone meets the SyFy channel’s Warehouse 13. Danni has inherited more than just her father’s store, she has also inherited his sometime partner, Michael Quinn and a mysterious family heirloom called The Book of Truth. Although Danni has some difficulty believing in the so-called “evil” nature of an inanimate object, she quickly becomes a believer after discussions with some of her father’s friends. Let the Dead Sleep introduces some interesting characters as Danni and Quinn’s support system, such as Father John Ryan, Natasha (a local Voodoo priestess and business owner), Billie McDougall – longtime business associate and friend of Angus Cafferty, Detective Larue of the New Orleans Police Department, and Wolfe – a retired canine police officer. Ms. Graham has crafted another great read with Let the Dead Sleep. The characters are strange, quirky and yet wholly believable. I found Let the Dead Sleep to be a rather fast read and even though I had pretty much guessed the accomplices to the bad guy (no I will not reveal that information, read it for yourself), I still enjoyed this story. If you enjoy mystery-suspense with hints of romance and loads of the paranormal, then you’ll definitely want to add Let the Dead Sleep to your reading list.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via 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.”

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Book 70: I’LL TAKE WHAT SHE HAS Review

I’ll Take What She Has by Samantha Wilde
ISBN: 9780385342674 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780345535764 (ebook)
ASIN: B008WOUMV8 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Bantam
Publication date: February 26, 2013

Nora and Annie have been best friends since kindergarten. Nora, a shy English teacher at a quaint New England boarding school, longs to have a baby. Annie, an outspoken stay-at-home mother of two, longs for one day of peace and quiet (not to mention more money and some free time). Despite their very different lives, nothing can come between them—until Cynthia Cypress arrives on campus.


Cynthia has it all: brains, beauty, impeccable style, and a gorgeous husband (who happens to be Nora’s ex). When Cynthia eagerly befriends Nora, Annie’s oldest friendship is tested. Now, each woman must wrestle the green-eyed demon of envy and, in the process, confront imperfect, mixed-up family histories they don’t want to repeat. Amid the hilarious and harried straits of friendship, marriage, and parenthood, the women may discover that the greenest grass is right beneath their feet.

I’ll Take What She Has offers a fun, and often irreverent tongue-in-cheek look at friendship between women and women’s issues. Nora is an accomplished teacher but she often finds herself lacking, especially when it comes to having a child. Her biological clock isn’t ticking it’s resounding like the bass-line in a heavy metal song. Annie is a devoted mother and loves her partner, but often looks at other women without children and feels she’s being left behind. Both Nora and Annie find it difficult to not be jealous of Cynthia, a new teacher on the school’s campus. Cynthia has traveled the world, appears to have a sixth-sense about what is and isn’t fashionable, has a beautiful singing voice, grows her own herbs to make her own teas, and has managed to marry the most eligible man on campus. If that wasn’t bad enough Cynthia has also managed to commandeer the apartment that was promised to Annie and talk her husband into having a child (which is heartbreaking to Nora because when she was dating him he said he didn’t want children . . . ever, thus the reason for their breakup).

I found I’ll Take What She Has to be a relatively fast-paced read and I rather enjoyed the humorous dialogue and situations. However, there was just something about this story that didn’t connect with me and I can’t really say what it was. Ms. Wilde has provided characters that are well developed and likeable (even the dreaded Cynthia). The action and back-story are well presented and believable. Yet even with all of this by the time I was halfway through the story I simply lost interest and had to force myself to read to the end. My lack of interest could have been due to external factors or presumably a reader’s slump, but I found it quite easy to get involved with other books immediately after reading this one so I can’t say for sure. Although I didn’t connect with I’ll Take What She Has, if you enjoy light-hearted, humorous contemporary fiction, then this may be just the story for you.  

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via 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.”

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Book 69: HEART LIKE MINE Review

Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany
ISBN: 9781451640564 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781451640571 (ebook)
ASIN: B008J4E29O (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication date: March 19, 2013

When a young mother dies under mysterious circumstances, those she leaves behind begin looking for answers in the past—and find a long-buried secret they could have never imagined.

Thirty-six-year-old Grace McAllister never longed for children. But when she meets Victor Hansen, a handsome, charismatic divorced restaurateur who is father to Max and Ava, Grace decides that, for the right man, she could learn to be an excellent part-time stepmom. After all, the kids live with their mother, Kelli. How hard could it be?

At thirteen, Ava Hansen is mature beyond her years. Since her parents’ divorce, she has been the one taking care of her emotionally unstable mother and her little brother—she pays the bills, does the laundry, and never complains because she loves her mama more than anyone. And while her father’s new girlfriend is nice enough, Ava still holds out hope that her parents will get back together and that they’ll be a family again.

But only days after Victor and Grace get engaged, Kelli dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances—and soon, Grace and Ava discover there was much more to Kelli’s life than either ever knew.

Narrated by Grace and Ava in the present with flashbacks into Kelli’s troubled past, Heart Like Mine is a poignant and hopeful portrait about womanhood, love, and the challenges of family life.

Grace McAllister is an accomplished woman. She worked in human resources and volunteered for charitable groups before becoming the director of a charitable agency that provides shelter, clothing, and training for victims of domestic violence. She has never had any desire to have children or be a mother and despairs that she’ll ever find a man that understands her desire to remain childless. Fortunately she meets Victor Hansen. Victor is a divorced restaurateur with two children from his marriage. He’s quite happy allowing his ex-wife to be the primary custodial parent and doesn’t really have any desire to have more children. Kelli Hansen is Victor’s ex-wife and is needy, dependent upon others for support and emotionally fragile. Ava Hansen is only thirteen years old but she’s been forced to grow up quite fast and take over many of the household management responsibilities after her father left. She tries to support her mother as best as she can by helping around the house, watching her younger brother Max and even paying the bills. The lives of these three women intersect because of their relationships with Victor Hansen, but none of them know how the repercussions of one death will affect the survivors.

Heart Like Mine is a contemporary fiction read that addresses some major issues: what is family, teenage angst over boys, teenage pregnancy, emotional instability, survivor’s guilt, guilt over not wanting to experience motherhood, and more. Ms. Hatvany has taken a number of complex issues and carefully woven them into a story that has drama without being overly dramatic or trite. This story is told in three voices, those of the three primary female characters: Grace, Ava and Kelli. All three stories gradually reveal a tragic past that is adversely impacting the present. The reader is provided glimpses of Kelli’s life that hint at depression as well as the idea that her death may have been a suicide. It was heartbreaking to read Ava’s story and see her guilt at not being strong enough to see her mother’s need for assistance. In many respects Ava had to grow up at age 10 and assume a lot of the responsibilities that her father had before her parents’ divorce. Although Ava is angry at her mother leaving her by dying, she never expresses any anger about having had to be the caregiver rather than the child. Grace is able to understand just what Ava is going through to some extent as she had the responsibility of raising her younger brother while her mother worked and her father was just absent. All three ladies are looking for love and acceptance. Unfortunately Kelli was simply unable to provide the acceptance and validation she required. Heart Like Mine isn’t a light read since it does deal with some heavy issues but it was a fast read. If you enjoy contemporary fiction and strong female characters, then you’ll definitely want to add Heart Like Mine to your reading list.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via 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.”

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Book 64: NOW YOU SEE ME Review

Now You See Me (Lacey Flint #1) by S.J. Bolton
ISBN: 9780593064139 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780552159814 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781429969840 (ebook)
ASIN: B004SHF18M (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication date: January 1, 2011

One night after interviewing a reluctant witness at a London apartment complex, Lacey Flint, a young detective constable, stumbles onto a woman brutally stabbed just moments before in the building’s darkened parking lot. Within twenty-four hours a reporter receives an anonymous letter that points out alarming similarities between the murder and Jack the Ripper’s first murder—a letter that calls out Lacey by name. If it’s real, and they have a killer bent on re-creating London’s bloody past, history shows they have just five days until the next attempt.

No one believes the connections are anything more than a sadistic killer’s game, not even Lacey, whom the killer seems to be taunting specifically. However, as they investigate the details of the case start reminding her more and more of a part of her past she’d rather keep hidden. And the only way to do that is to catch the killer herself.

DC Lacey Flint just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and is now the center of an investigation into Jack the Ripper style murders. Initially Lacey isn’t allowed to help with the investigation as she is only considered a witness. However, after the second murder and the apparent similarities to Ripper cases, she is brought into the investigation because of her knowledge of Jack the Ripper. Lacey’s status as a witness-turned-expert is quickly called into question when she is brought into the murders through letters and evidence linking her to the case. It doesn’t help that she is attracted to one of the senior investigators, DI Mark Joesbury, or that Joesbury is beginning to believe she might actually be the killer. Lacey knows that the only way to prove she isn’t “involved” is to catch and stop the killer herself. As more murders occur, Lacey quickly realizes she may have a link to the murderer. Will Lacey’s past catch up to her present end her career or her life?

Now You See Me is a mystery-suspense-thriller that captured my attention from the first page to the last. I had some difficulty understanding some of the British slang at first but the context allowed me to guess at the meanings. Lacey is young, inexperienced, reserved, and has just enough flaws to make her all-too-human and very likeable. Mark Joesbury is quiet, intense, and experienced. The attraction between the Lacey and Joesbury provides softness and humor to the story. I found parts of the story relating to the murders a bit gruesome but it wasn’t overly gory. Now You See Me is an intense read as it includes kidnappings  murder, mutilations, drug abuse, prostitution, homelessness, and gang rapes. Ms. Bolton kept me on edge with the twists and turns, as well as ups and downs within the story. The ending was quite a shocker and one I didn’t see coming but thoroughly enjoyed. This was the first book I’ve read by Ms. Bolton, but I very much doubt if it will be my last. If you enjoy well-crafted mystery-suspense-thrillers then you definitely want to add Now You See Me to your reading list. Set aside a weekend, then sit back and savor this book . . . you won’t be disappointed.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via 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.”

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Blogiversary Giveaway #2

My blogiversary celebration continues. This week I’m offering the winner a choice of a $20 digital gift card to either or Barnes & Noble. Giveaway #2 will run from 12:01 AM ET on March 19, 2013 through 11:59 PM ET on March 25, 2013. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, March 26th along with the third and final blogiversary giveaway.

To enter Blogiversary Giveaway #2, please use the official Rafflecopter form below. Comments are accepted but will not be considered an entry.

Thank you for stopping by and entering this giveaway. Happy Reading!