An Illusion of Trust by Linda Cassidy Lewis
ISBN:  9780983336525 (paperback)
ASIN:  B00BXR01IA  (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Two-Four-Six Publishing
Publication date:  March 26, 2013

In this sequel to The Brevity of Roses, Renee Vaziri discovers that even when your dreams come true your nightmares remain.

When Renee Marshall locked the door on her dark past and married Jalal Vaziri, she hoped for a quiet life in a California coastal town. Now, with a sexy, adoring, wealthy husband, one beautiful child and another on the way, she dares to believe happily ever after could be her future. But doors don’t always stay locked. As the stress of living in Jalal’s high-society world increases, the traumas of Renee’s past begin to poison the present and threaten to destroy everything she treasures.

Is it her imagination or is Jalal keeping a secret that will end their marriage and rip her children from her life? And could it involve Diane, the woman who reminds Renee too much of Jalal’s beloved first wife?



October, 2008

When I woke this morning, I never expected to be sitting on a cemetery bench in Coelho, but here I am. A thirty-minute drive took me from the chilly fog of Bahia de Sueños to the warmth of the autumn sun in this impossibly blue sky and brought me to an iron-fenced section large enough for at least ten graves. It contains only one. What I discovered this morning rocks me again as I face that black granite stone.

Jalal doesn’t know I’m here. I had to stop at the office near the entrance to ask for the location of Meredith’s grave. As it turns out, this cemetery is smaller than I expected. If I’d driven around first, the starkness, the loneliness, of her marker would have caught my eye and though it sits back a dozen yards from the road, I wouldn’t have missed the name engraved along its top—VAZIRI. Six weeks ago, that became my last name too.

I’m the new wife to replace the dead wife. The young substituted for the old.

I know more about his first wife than Jalal realizes. During the four months since he finally accepted her death, he’s volunteered glimpses of her when speaking of his past, but rarely are those bits something I didn’t already know from secretly reading Meredith’s journal. One fear she mentioned several times led me here today.

A gust swirls past, whipping the branches of the elm behind the bench and showering me with amber leaves. I glance around, seeking assurance I’m alone. People do this all the time, come here to talk to the dead, right? I feel like I know Meredith from her writing. Somehow, I think she’s aware of me too.

I face the dark stone again and focus on Meredith’s engraved name. I’m trying to ignore Jalal’s name and birth date beside hers. Isn’t it totally stupid to feel jealous seeing their names linked like that? Of course he planned to be buried next to her someday. He loved her so deeply he couldn’t let go, even after she died. He loved her so much he couldn’t imagine ever marrying again. He just didn’t plan on me getting stranded in Bahia de Sueños and walking into his life—literally. But I did. And now I’m sitting here about to reveal a secret to his dead wife.

“Hello. I’m Renee, Jalal’s new wife.” I glance around again and for a moment, hide my face with my hands. I have to do this. I need to tell her. “I know you believed he should have a younger wife, and you’re probably disappointed that he married someone like me, but he seems happy. He’s doing better, at least. And I love him. I’m taking care of him, keeping constant vigil.”

I hope Meredith won’t take what I’m leading up to as a boast, but it’s not an apology, either. “Anyway, you wrote how much you wished this for Jalal, so I wanted to tell you that I’m giving it to him.” I sit up straighter and take a deep breath. The final words I came to say rush out on the exhale.

“Meredith, I’m pregnant.”

To read the next 34 pages, click here

About the author:

Linda Cassidy Lewis was born and raised in Indiana and now lives with her husband in the San Joaquin Valley of California where she writes versions of the stories she only held in her head during the years their four sons were growing up. The Brevity of Roses is her debut novel.

Connect with the author:     Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter

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Book Spotlight: THE HERO’S LOT

heros lot tour

The Hero’s Lot

Riveting Sequel from Christian Fantasy’s Most Talented New Voice.

When Sarin Valon, the corrupt secondus of the conclave, flees Erinon and the kingdom, Errol Stone believes his troubles have at last ended. But other forces bent on the destruction of the kingdom remain and conspire to accuse Errol and his friends of a conspiracy to usurp the throne.

In a bid to keep the three of them from the axe, Archbenefice Canon sends Martin and Luis to Errol’s home village, Callowford, to discover what makes him so important to the kingdom. But Errol is also accused of consorting with spirits. Convicted, his punishment is a journey to the enemy kingdom of Merakh, where he must find Sarin Valon, and kill him. To enforce their sentence, Errol is placed under a compulsion, and he is driven to accomplish his task or die resisting.

Hero’s Lot is the Sequel to A Cast of Stones

A Cast of Stones

An Epic Medieval Saga Fantasy Readers Will Love.

In the backwater village of Callowford, Errol Stone’s search for a drink is interrupted by a church messenger who arrives with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Desperate for coin, Errol volunteers to deliver them but soon finds himself hunted by deadly assassins. Forced to flee with the priest and a small band of travelers, Errol soon learns he’s joined a quest that could change the fate of his kingdom.
Protected for millennia by the heirs of the first king, the kingdom’s dynasty is near an end and a new king must be selected. As tension and danger mount, Errol must leave behind his drunkenness and grief, learn to fight, and come to know his God in order to survive a journey to discover his destiny.

Author Patrick W. Carr

Patrick Carr was born on an Air Force base in West Germany at the height of the cold war. He has been told this was not his fault. As an Air Force brat, he experienced a change in locale every three years until his father retired to Tennessee. Patrick saw more of the world on his own through a varied and somewhat eclectic education and work history. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1984 and has worked as a draftsman at a nuclear plant, did design work for the Air Force, worked for a printing company, and consulted as an engineer. Patrick’s day gig for the last five years has been teaching high school math in Nashville, TN. He currently makes his home in Nashville with his wonderfully patient wife, Mary, and four sons he thinks are amazing: Patrick, Connor, Daniel, and Ethan. Sometime in the future he would like to be a jazz pianist. Patrick thinks writing about himself in the third person is kind of weird.

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Book Spotlight: HILLARI’S HEAD by Tim Stutler

Hillari’s Head by Tim Stutler
ISBN:  9781626521544 (paperback)
ASIN:  B00E1Y1N9I (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 1, 2013 
Publisher: Mill City Press

Paralegal Kristina Orris has moved to San Diego seeking a new life – a normal life. She is burdened by the memory of Hillari, a sister with an oversized head and disfigured face. Home-schooled by a protective single father, Kristina herself had a vexing speech impediment and rarely left the house while growing up. But after her dad died, she knew she couldn’t stay. Kristina dreamed of being a lawyer. Pursuing such a goal might prove painful for any cloistered, mumbling orphan; but it would be impossible yoked to Hillari. At 18, Kristina abandoned her home, her past – and Hillari.

Now, eight years later, Kristina meets attorney Gideon “Duck” Ducker, “the single homeliest man she had ever laid eyes on.” But she instantly bonds with the warm, self-effacing lawyer. Kristina takes a paralegal job at Duck’s law firm, where the two are thrown into the most tumultuous and fascinating case of their lives. Everything is coming together nicely for Kristina. Only one thing prevents her from becoming the confident, fulfilled woman she longs to be: the swelling burden of guilt and shame over her past. But is it too late to redeem herself?

Alternately touching, humorous and heart wrenching, Hillari’s Head is about family, intimacy, resilience and, ultimately, acceptance. With its intriguing characters and elements of comedy and tragedy, Hillari’s Head will appeal to fans of Nora Ephron (Heartburn) and John Irving (A Prayer For Owen Meany).

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Hillari’s head was huge. I’m not talking Elephant-Man huge or anything like that. But it was unnaturally large—bigger than any other girl’s head I’ve ever seen. Bigger than most guys’, too. And it caused her lots of problems. She had to wear pullover blouses with big neck holes or shirts that buttoned, because her head stretched out everything else. And she always said those “one size fits all” hats were a cruel hoax. Hill did not like hats.

Kristina Orris cradled her chin in her hand and read what she had typed. She had never blogged before, and wanted to avoid the subjects that girls her age usually wrote about: careers, personal growth, fashion, and men. Kristina didn’t feel she knew enough about those topics to say anything insightful or even particularly interesting. But she knew Hillari, and wanted to get her story right.

She began tapping on the keyboard again. The strokes were slow, deliberate, as she sounded out each word. 

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a big head. It can actually be a good thing. How do you think Vanna White got her job turning over letters on Wheel of Fortune? It wasn’t because she had some special intimacy with the alphabet; though maybe she did, for all I know. No, some offstage employee would light up the right letters; so they could’ve hired anyone to flip them over. But the show’s producer, Merv Griffin, saw that Vanna had something special—an enormous cranium. Merv said all the biggest stars in Hollywood had huge heads, like Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe. And they were beautiful. Vanna, too. Big heads are photogenic.

Kristina had never actually seen Vanna White, or any other celebrity, in person. But Hillari had been around since she could first remember, and Kristina thought she was pretty enough—at least initially.

Hill had thick Indian-red hair, smooth skin, and naturally coral lips so vivid that she didn’t need lipstick. She was my sister, and I didn’t know her head was too big for years. She rarely dealt with anyone outside our family, so I didn’t see their reactions to her until I was maybe four or five.

Not that strangers ever noticed her massive head, anyway. It wasn’t her defining feature—at least not to the outside world. Hill had oligodontia. That meant she didn’t have any permanent teeth except a couple deformed nubs in the front and the first molar on each side (at the back of her mouth). She was a normal girl in most other respects—except for her oversized head, of course.

Kristina stopped typing and listened. Stepping to the back of her ground-floor condominium, she peeked out. A heavy fog enveloped the grounds around the complex. She couldn’t see anything. Kristina checked the lock, and then walked back to the kitchen for one of the scones she bought earlier that week. She stood behind her chair and bit into the hard biscuit. Crumbs and bits of dry blueberries cascaded onto her bleach-spotted sweatshirt. She brushed them into a napkin and sipped her coffee. It was cold. Setting the cup on a chipped saucer, Kristina gazed at the screen.

She was the only one left who knew about Hillari. Kristina had decided that she should write about her while she was able; she had plenty of time now. Kristina had finished paralegal school three weeks earlier and was looking for a position with a local firm. That took up maybe an hour a day. The school’s web site promised a “robust and fast-expanding” job market for its graduates. Neither term described Kristina’s bank account. But the prospect of intrusive, probing job interviews was so daunting that she had applied with only a few firms. She’d managed to get in the door at one, a small estate-planning practice that seemed like a nice, low-key environment for a paralegal, heavy on document reviews, drafting and filing.

What a disaster that interview was. She knew all the right answers, but they’d come out so tense and terse that anything other than a rejection would have shocked her. Picking up her cell phone, Kristina replayed the message from the school’s career counselor.

“Hi, it’s Rosalyn. I called Dunphy and Moore after we spoke. They sent me the résumé you gave them. It wasn’t the one we worked on together, Kristina. I see you deleted your LSAT score. Kristina, I told you it doesn’t matter that you didn’t go to law school; just finishing in the ninety-first percentile on the admission test will tell a firm that you can do the work. If you won’t talk about yourself in the interview, your résumé has to speak for you. Well, at least it was a good learning experience. Call me, girl.”

Kristina erased the message. Good learning experience? She didn’t know how many more such learning experiences she could survive. But she knew she was too embarrassed to tell real lawyers about her taking the Law School Admission Test—when Kristina knew damned well that she’d never follow through on actually becoming a lawyer. Taking a written test was one thing, but speaking in public . . . No thanks.

She focused again on the computer screen. The blog was Rosalyn’s idea; she’d told Kristina that posting about herself might help her open up. Kristina had agreed to try, but found she just couldn’t expose herself like that—even to faceless strangers she’d never meet. Besides, Hill would be more interesting to them. She moved her fingers back to the keyboard. Kristina thought she was a good writer and a decent typist. Maybe she could try being a legal secretary, or a regular secretary. She sighed. She’d still need to interview.

This blog is about my sister Hill. Maybe nobody else will find her interesting, or even read this. But if you do, and you like it, please post a comment letting me know. If not, just keep your opinions to yourself. Kidding ;}

To read more click here

About the author:

Tim Stutler is a California writer, bicyclist, humor blogger, and lawyer. He is currently in the process of publishing his second novel, Hillari’s Head (release date: August 1st). Tim’s first novel, Dead Hand Control, was published in paperback and dust jacket form in 2003 and as an e-book in 2011. He has contributed to many professional and scholarly publications as a writer and editor. Tim studied at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall, Harvard Law School, and California State University, Fullerton. He is presently an Assistant United States Attorney, and has served as an administrative law judge, municipal court judge pro tempore, law firm partner, Army Judge Advocate, and fleet sailor. An Ohio native, Tim now lives in San Diego County with his wife and family.

Connect with the author: Website     |     Blog     |     Facebook     |     Twitter 

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Book 186: EMMA’S SECRET Review

Emma’s Secret by Steena Holmes
ISBN:  9781477800669 (paperback)
ASIN:  B00BAZ4YBK (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 25, 2013 
Publisher: Amazon Publishing

For two years, Megan, Peter, and their two older daughters, Alexis and Hannah, dream of nothing but being reunited with the family’s youngest child, Emma, who was kidnapped just before her third birthday. When Emma is miraculously found living with an elderly couple just miles from the family’s home, they are hopeful that her return will heal the wounds her disappearance created.

But Emma is vastly different from the sunny toddler they remember. She barely remembers her parents or her older sisters. She is quiet and withdrawn, and, worst of all, longs for the very people who kidnapped her.

Megan is consumed with bitterness, while Peter works later and later nights in the company of his gorgeous business partner. And in the middle of everything, Megan’s best friend has become suddenly distant and secretive.

Then a chance encounter in town leads to a secret that changes everything again for Emma. And Peter must decide between the happiness of his youngest daughter and the trust of his family.

In the first book in this series, Finding Emma, three-year-old Emma was abducted from her neighborhood, if not front yard, two years ago. During her absence, her family literally went through hell. Emma’s oldest sister Hannah felt guilty since she was supposed to have locked the front door. Her other sister, Alexis, has felt lost and forgotten as the proverbial middle child. Emma’s mother had made it her mission in life to search for Emma and bring her safely back home. Emma’s father Peter felt as if his family was slowly disintegrating as they struggled to become a smaller family unit. Fortunately for them all, Emma was found and returned. Now it is time for the family to come back together and try to heal the wounds from the past two years. Is it really possible to move on and completely ignore the past?

I actually enjoyed reading both Finding Emma and Emma’s Secret. There aren’t any true bad guys in this story. The abductor was an older woman with Alzheimer’s disease, Dottie, who mistakenly thought she had found her granddaughter wandering the streets. Dottie’s husband, Jack’s only crime was in loving a child he thought was his grandchild. Now that child has been torn from another loving home, with her much loved Papa, and returned to her mother, father and sisters. Needless to say there are a lot of adjustments that must be made, for everyone. Emma’s mother – Megan, assumes that she can obliterate the past two years from her memory and rejoice in having her youngest daughter home. Unfortunately she also presumes that Emma will be able to erase those two years as well. She doesn’t recognize, or perhaps simply isn’t able to accept and recognize, that her daughter truly loved her surrogate grandparents. This becomes a major bone of contention between Megan and Peter and causes undue hardship for Emma and her reconciliation with her birth family.

I thought both stories were quite realistic, but I’ve got to say that I didn’t particularly care for Megan. In both stories she was more concerned with her feelings and her wants than she was about her husband or children’s feelings, wants or needs. I felt that she was in dire need of help. Regrettably she only goes to therapy a few times and it seems only to complain and receive praise for her feelings and actions. It is because of Megan’s behavior that Peter felt it necessary to go behind her back to ensure Emma’s happiness even if it meant making Megan unhappy. Emma’s Secret is filled with a lot of drama, secrets revealed, and soul-searching. I absolutely adored the children and even felt for Jack and Dottie (Dottie’s story is revealed through journal entries). If you enjoy family-centric stories, then I suggest you grab a copy of both Finding Emma and Emma’s Secret. These are both fast-paced reads and will provide for some wholesome reading pleasure.

Disclaimer: I received a print copy of this book free for review purposes via BookSparks PR. 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 Showcase – DIRTY WATER by Richard Hacker

Dirty Water by Richard Hacker
ISBN: 9781927454459 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00D4UIRY8 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Champagne Books 
Release date: May 28, 2013

An open and shut case of vandalism leaves more questions than answers for PI Nick Sibelius, as he untangles a knot of egomania, desire and greed. When entrepreneur Dan Hoyt makes a deal with virtual gaming icon, Izzy Zydeco, to partner in a desalination project Hoyt begins to count his money. Unknown to Hoyt, his partner has bigger and more insidious plans, which involves betraying a major drug cartel and, in a twisted business strategy to build a customer base for desalinated water, contaminating the Austin water supply for the next century. Working with a covert Homeland Security agent and past love, MaryLou and his new partner, Theresa, Nick must thwart Izzy and ultimately choose between justice and saving Theresa’s life. Water is up for grabs in Texas and Nick discovers that H2O is a dirty business.

About the author:

Richard Hacker’s novel, TOXIC RELATIONSHIP, released August, 2012 by Champagne Books was a 2011 Writer’s League of Texas (WLT) finalist, where in addition, SHAPER EMERGENCE won best novel in the Science Fiction category. He is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. 

After living many years in Austin, Texas where he worked as a leadership coach, public speaker and management trainer, he moved with his high school sweetheart to Seattle. While he misses the big skies of Texas, Richard has grown fond of the Pacific Northwest. His writing partner, a springer spaniel named Jazz, helps with proofreading and ball fetching. 

DIRTY WATER, the next novel in the Nick Sibelius series after TOXIC RELATIONSHIP, will be released June, 2013. He is currently working on the third book in the series, CHAIN REACTION, as well as a young adult fantasy entitled INKER WARS: THE FIVE PENS OF JOHANN.

Connect with the author: 

Facebook     |     Twitter     |     Website     |     Goodreads

Buy the Book


Book 168: STRANDED Review

Stranded (Maggie O’Dell #11) by Alex Kava
ISBN:  9780385535540 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9780385535557 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00B3GMI2I (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 16, 2013 
Publisher: Doubleday

Tired travelers and weary truckers have stopped at rest areas on the nation’s highways for decades to refuel, grab a bite, and maybe get some shut-eye, but one man’s rest stop is another’s hunting ground. For decades the defenseless, the weary, and the stranded have disappeared along the highways and byways, vanishing without a trace, but these seemingly unconnected incidents are no coincidence, and a madman stalks the freeways.

When FBI special agent Maggie O’Dell and her partner, Tully, discover the remains of a young woman in a highway ditch, the one clue left behind is a map that will send Maggie and Tully on a frantic hunt crisscrossing the country to stop a madman before he kills again.

As the body count rises and Maggie races against the clock to unmask the monster who’s terrorizing the nation’s highways, she turns to a former foe for help since he seems to know just what the killer’s next move will be. As she gets closer to finding the killer, it becomes eerily clear that Maggie is the ultimate target.

Every now and again as a reader I’m fortunate enough to come across a series by an author that just seems to get better with each book. The Maggie O’Dell series by Alex Kava is, for me, one of these series. In Stranded the FBI and local law enforcement agencies are dealing with a series of murders that don’t seem to have any connection until it is realized that all of the people were taken from rest stops. When O’Dell and her partner, RJ Tully, come across a body in the DC/Virginia area, a map is found that quickly sends them across the country in search of clues. These clues lead to more bodies and even more questions. Is it possible that this is the work of one person? How is it possible for the killer to have gone for so long without being caught?

Just when it seems like Maggie and Tully are getting close to answers, an even bigger problem arises that requires the assistance of Maggie’s close friend and Tully’s significant other, Dr. Gwen Patterson, is brought into the investigation to talk with a prisoner that might have information. Although information is revealed, it is revealed piecemeal and seems to be just enough to lead Tully and Maggie into a trap.

Stranded provides for a lot of drama and suspense. When it seems like the investigation is going to provide some answers, another clue is revealed that takes the investigation down a new avenue. I rather enjoyed seeing Maggie, Tully, Dr. Gwen Patterson, work together to solve this crime. Detective Racine, from previous stories, made a cameo appearance and participated in the multi-agency investigation. New faces included an FBI agent and computer whiz, Alonzo, as well as Creed and his search and rescue dogs. The action was all too plausible and was scary enough to make me think twice about stopping at a rest area any time soon. This was another story that gripped me from the first page to the very last. If you enjoy suspense thrillers then you’ll definitely want to add Stranded to your reading list (you may want to wait and read after that road trip).

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss/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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The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian
ISBN:  9780385534819 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9780385534826 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00B3GMIBY (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 9, 2013 
Publisher: Doubleday

1943: Tucked away in the idyllic hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate’s gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis’ bucolic tranquility is shattered. A young German lieutenant begins to court Cristina, the Nazis descend upon the estate demanding hospitality, and what was once their sanctuary becomes their prison.

1955: Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons. A beautiful woman, Serafina carefully hides her scars along with her haunting memories of the war. But when she is assigned to a gruesome new case—a serial killer targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood—Serafina finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic history.

Set against an exquisitely rendered Italian countryside, The Light in the Ruins unveils a breathtaking story of moral paradox, human frailty, and the mysterious ways of the heart.

Cristina Rosati is an eighteen-year-old young woman in 1943. She’s lived a rather sheltered life on her family’s estate in Italy. Both of her older brothers have been enlisted to fight against the Allied forces. Regrettably neither brother has any training in military arts; one, Marco, is an engineer working in Sicily to fortify the coast, the other, Vittore, is an archeologist and is working to preserve as many artifacts as possible from bomb attacks and the Nazis. The only other Rosatis at the family villa are Cristina’s parents, her sister-in-law Francesca (Marco’s wife), and her seven-year-old nephew and five-year-old niece. Just when it looks like the Rosatis may be able to endure the war relatively unscathed, the Nazis come calling. First, the visits are to inspect the Etruscan tombs on their property. Then the visits are for entertainment and finally occupation. With very few able-bodied Italian men available, Cristina becomes enamored with a young German officer, Friedrich Strekker. Even though Italy supports the Nazis, their love affair is considered taboo. As the Allied forces begin their campaign into Italy, the Nazis are forced to retreat and the fighting becomes chaotic with the Allied forces on one side, the resistance movement, or partisans, on the other and the Nazis and the Rosatis caught in the middle. Italy was liberated from the Nazi occupation but at great cost to the Rosatis, Marco and both of his young children perished in the fighting.

The reader finds the Rosati family being stalked and murdered in 1955. One of the investigators on the case is the only female police investigator in Florence at that time, Serafina Bettini. Serafina tries to uncover motives for the murder of Francesca Rosati and what is revealed and is a slow decline from grace as a result of Francesca’s husband and children’s deaths in the war. Just when it seems there may be no clear motive  another Rosati is murdered, the matriarch and Marchesa, Beatrice. Although no clear motive is evident at first, the police decide to place the family under protective surveillance. The investigation in 1955 reveals a lot of what happened in 1943 and 1944 during the war. Is it possible the war is the common factor? If so, what could the Rosatis have possibly done to warrant this type of hatred and vengeance?

The Light in the Ruins reveals the story of Cristina, the Rosati family, and Serafina Bettini. The story is told in three voices, the voice of a young Cristina in 1943/1944, the voice of Serafina in 1955, and the voice of the murderer. As the story is slowly revealed, I became invested in the life and love of Cristina as well as that of Serafina. Both of these women are remarkably strong and independent women, although first appearances may be deceiving. Cristina and Serafina have endured unimaginable horrors as a result of the war, and those horrors continue into their present. There are obvious good guys and bad guys in this story, but many of the characters are people that have been pulled into the war in support of their country but not necessarily the politics of their leaders. It was close to impossible to see Friedrich Strekker as a bad guy even though he was a Nazi. The Light in the Ruins provides star-crossed lovers with a taboo love affair, a heinous set of murders, and a war-ravaged country filled with people just trying to survive. I found The Light in the Ruins to be a fast-paced read and one that I simply could not put down. If you enjoy historical fiction or just a well-written story, then this is one book you need to put on your list.

Read an excerpt here

Watch the book trailer:

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. 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 Showcase: THE DEVIL’S NECKTIE by John Lansing

The Devil’s Necktie

by John Lansing

on Tour June 1st – July 31st 2013

Book Details

Genre: Crime/ThrillerPublished by: Simon&Schuster
Publication Date: 12/31/12
Number of Pages: 295
ISBN: 1451698348
Note: Excessive strong language, Graphic violence, Explicit sexual scenes
Purchase Links: 

Retired Inspector Jack Bertolino had strict rules when dealing with confidential informants. But Mia had the kind of beauty that could make a grown man contemplate leaving his wife, his job, and his kids. After a passionate night together, Mia is found murdered, and Jack is the lead suspect. Facing threats from the LAPD, the 18th Street Angels, and a Columbian drug cartel, Jack delves deeper into the seedy world of drug dealers and Murderers. Jack is torn between fearing for his life and seeking revenge for his slain lover… either way the body count will rise.


Read an excerpt:


Jack Bertolino stood on the balcony of his loft in Marina del Rey, tending a dry-aged New York steak on his prized possession, a top-of-the-line Weber gas grill. He didn’t miss winter, not one little bit. Here he was manning the barbecue in his new uniform, a black T-shirt and jeans, while his cousins were chasing heart attacks shoveling snow off their Staten Island driveways. That image never ceased to put a smile on his face. That and the salty ocean breeze that floated in over the marina.

Jack nursed a glass of cabernet and watched the long line of bright white FedEx trucks return home from their final deliveries and park in neat rows in the lot next to his building. It sure beat the sight of patrol cars jammed onto the sidewalk in front of a precinct house.

Early evening was Jack’s favorite time of day. The sun was just starting to paint the clouds a muted orange. From his fourth-floor vantage point, Jack could see a string of jumbo jets in the distance, silently making their final approach to LAX. Stacked eight planes deep, their slim silver bodies glinted in the setting sun. For the first time in Jack Bertolino’s life, he felt at ease. 

His cell phone chirped, snapping him out of his reverie. He tossed some Japanese eggplant onto the grill, closed the lid, and checked his cell phone screen for the name of the caller.


“How’s my Italian stallion?”

“Mia . . . ,” he said instantly, his tone neutral, giving away nothing.

“All the planets are aligned, Jack. It’s time for you to man up and make an honest woman out of me.”

Jack couldn’t help but smile. Mia’s throaty voice and light Colombian accent had the power to make a grown man weep. More important, it could make a bad man give up his secrets. He hadn’t really been surprised when he received her text. He knew it was only a matter of time. Payback’s a bitch.

“What can I do for you, Mia?”

“It’s what I can do for you, papi. My lips . . . they’re still magic.”

“I love it when you talk dirty.”

“Only for love or money.”

Although Jack was enjoying the back and forth, he was no longer in the business. “Why are you calling, Mia?”

Mia dropped her act as well. “We need to talk.”

“It’s not a good time,” Jack said as he opened the lid of the grill and pressed his fork against the steak, checking for doneness.

“Face-to-face, Jack.”

“I’m not in New York.”

“That’s why I’m in Los Angeles.”

Jack didn’t reply right away. He did a quick analysis of how Mia could know he was living in L.A., what kind of trouble she might be in, what kind of blowback he was going to suffer just from having this conversation. He came to the instantaneous conclusion that however this new wrinkle in his life played out, it would definitely have an impact on his newly found state of bliss.

Mia answered some of his unspoken questions. “I’m still connected, Jack, and you’re still on the radar screen. There are certain people—who will remain nameless, because I’m not on your payroll anymore—who are not convinced you’re out of the game.”

“I’m happily retired,” Jack fired back, wondering if his response sounded forced, wondering why he cared.

“And happily divorced?”

Jack didn’t respond. His private life was none of Mia’s business. He had strict rules when dealing with confidential informants, a line in the sand he never crossed. But Mia had the kind of beauty that could make a man contemplate leaving his wife, his job, and his kids. Jack had never taken the bait, but had to admit he’d been tempted.

Mia was one of the best CIs in the business, and she and Jack had done groundbreaking work together. 

With the help of Mia and DEA agent Kenny Ortega, Jack and the team of NYPD narco-rangers he headed up had put away a heavy hitter in the cocaine trade. Manuel Alvarez was the head of a Colombian drug cell that had been importing a thousand keys of coke into Florida on a weekly basis, and the poison was dripping into New York City. Jack and his group had put away a major cartel scumbag, and Mia had gotten rich. The feds had a financial equation in place when dealing with CIs. The greater the quantity of drugs an informant was responsible for delivering, the more money it was worth to the United States government. They were happy to give to get. Mia did very well for herself at great personal risk. Informants had a short shelf life. Once a major domo got busted, the cartels worked very hard to discover where the “sickness” had come from. If your name ended up on the short list, you turned up dead. 

Jack had made a promise to Mia that if things ever got too hot to handle, he would do whatever he could to help her out of the jam.

Mia was turning in her chit. “Meet with me in an hour, after I get settled in.”

“I’m about to have dinner, Mia.”

“Vista Haven Road, 3468. You owe me, Jack.”

“It was a two-way street,” he reminded her.

“And I don’t want it turning into a dead end.”

Jack was about to protest, but she clicked off. He turned back to his grill, but now he was unsettled. Mia had always been a cool customer, but there was an edge of panic in her voice. Jack let out an irritated groan. He shut off the grill with a hard snap. He wouldn’t be able to eat anyway until he found out what the hell was wrong.


Author Bio: 

John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre playing the lead in the Broadway production of “Grease.” He then landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest starred on numerous television shows. During his fifteen year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and he also co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.” John’s first book was “Good Cop Bad Money,” a true crime tome with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano. “The Devil’s Necktie” is his first novel..

Catch Up With John:

Tour Participants
Don’t forget – We’re hosting giveaways at each stop of this tour. Mr. Lansing is giving away copies of his book and a kindle!

Book 160: THE FIREBIRD Review

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
ISBN:  9781402276637 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781451673845 (ebook)
ASIN:  B009RXJONA (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 4, 2013 
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes glimpses those who have owned it before. When a woman arrives with a small wooden carving at the gallery Nicola works at, she can see the object’s history and knows that it was named after the Firebird—the mythical creature from an old Russian fable.

Compelled to know more, Nicola follows a young girl named Anna into the past who leads her on a quest through the glittering backdrops of the Jacobites and Russian courts, unearthing a tale of love, courage, and redemption.

Nicola Marter doesn’t consider her talent at psychometry a gift. This is partially due to her grandfather’s constant warnings about revealing her gift to others. However, as a student, she did make an attempt to learn more about controlling her talent before giving up. When an older woman arrives at the gallery where Nicola works, she tells the story of a small wooden carving, a family heirloom, reportedly given to an ancestor by Tsarina Catherine of Russia. Regrettably she doesn’t have documentation to support the family legend. After handling the object Nicola is assured of the woman’s story but isn’t sure how the gallery can help without proper paper documentation. This woman, her story and the information Nicola learns from touching the object peaks Nicola’s interest in learning more and wanting to help. Is it possible she can found some documentation to support the woman’s claim?

The Firebird is a fascinating blend of contemporary and historical fiction with paranormal elements. Once Nicola decides to try and help the gallery’s potential client, she realizes she needs help and seeks the assistance of Rob McMorran, an outstanding psychic she knew from her college days. With Rob’s assistance, Nicola is able to trace the history of the original recipient of the Firebird, Anna. Nicola and Rob are able to track Anna from Scotland to Belgium and finally to Russia. Anna was born into the Moray family, but due to her family’s Jacobite leanings, she is trusted to friends of the family to raise as a foster daughter. She lives in Scotland for almost seven years before she is forced to flee to a convent in Ypres, Belgium in the company of Colonel Graeme and Captain Jamieson. She resides in the convent for one year before being forced to flee once again and this time winds up in Russia as Anna Jamieson, the ward of Admiral Thomas Gordon. Ms. Kearsley provides the reader with details of the Jacobite cause and its supporters in Scotland, as well as expatriates in Belgium and Russia. Anna’s life is revealed in vignettes as Rob and Nicola search for places she lived and visited. Anna’s life is one filled with love and courage but no true family.  As Nicola and Rob work to piece together the puzzle of Anna’s life, Nicola realizes that she actually has more control over her talents than she initially thought. The Firebird is a well-crafted story that incorporates tales of love, courage, and self-confidence in both Nicola and Anna’s lives. If you’re looking for something a little different to read, then you may want to add The Firebird to your reading list.

Read an excerpt here

I read The Firebird as the July selection for the She Reads online book club. For more information on She Reads, please visit: The book was from my personal digital book collection.
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Book 151: UNSEEN Review

Unseen by Karin Slaughter
ISBN:  9780345539472 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9780345539489 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00AXIZ3HE (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 2, 2013 
Publisher: Delacorte Press

Karin Slaughter’s New York Times bestselling novels are utterly riveting and masterfully drawn. Her latest thriller, Unseen, pits detectives, lovers, and enemies against one another in an unforgettable standoff between righteous courage and deepest evil.

Bill Black is a scary guy: a tall ex-con who rides to work on a Harley and trails an air of violence wherever he goes. In Macon, Georgia, Bill has caught the eye of a wiry little drug dealer and his cunning girlfriend. They think Bill might be a useful ally. They don’t know that Bill is actually a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent named Will Trent. Or that he is fighting his own demons, undercover and cut off from the support of Sara Linton—the woman he loves, who cannot be told of the risk Will is taking.

Sara herself has come to Macon because of a cop shooting: Her stepson, Jared, has been gunned down in his own home. Sara holds Lena, Jared’s wife, responsible: Lena, a detective, has been a magnet for trouble all her life, and Jared’s attack is not the first time someone Sara loved got caught in the crossfire. Furious, Sara finds herself involved in the same case that Will is working without even knowing it, and soon danger is swirling around both of them.

In a novel of fierce intensity, shifting allegiances, and shocking twists, two investigations collide with a conspiracy straddling both sides of the law. Karin Slaughter’s latest is both an electrifying thriller and a piercing study of human nature: what happens when good people face the unseen evils in their lives.

Unseen provides a fascinating glimpse of the interaction between characters from both the Will Trent and the Grant County series by Ms. Slaughter. Sara Linton is still in a romantic relationship with Will Trent and living in Atlanta. Lena Adams is now a detective in Macon and has married Sara’s stepson, Jared Long. After a home invasion and attempts on both Lena and Jared’s lives, Jared is critically injured and in the ICU at Macon General Hospital. Both Darnell, Jared’s mother, and Sara presume Lena must be to blame. Darnell is relying on Sara for emotional support during this trying time, and Sara is wishing she can rely on Will but he’s on an undercover assignment and unavailable. Sara’s past, present and possible future collide as Jared recuperates, Lena suffers in silence, and Will attempts to uncover a growing menace from a new drug dealer, Big Whitey.

Ms. Slaughter incorporates major and menacing drug dealers, child abduction/prostitution/pornography, corrupt police officers, and much more in a taut story that pulled me in from the first page to the very last. Unseen provides bad guys that are willing to kill anyone, including police officers, to send a message of fear and intimidation. Lena suffers silently presuming her investigation and recent drug bust may have resulted in a retaliatory strike against her and her husband. She’s also depressed and somewhat guilty that her recent miscarriage may have been punishment for her past. Will is tormented over the idea that he can’t be readily available to support Sara in this crisis situation but he’s a little closer to the situation than anyone can know as he plays a corrupt ex-con trying to catch the bad guys. Unseen reveals that life isn’t black and white and the law isn’t static, sometimes both stray into the gray areas in order for true justice to be done and for the innocents to be protected and the corrupt to be punished. If you enjoy thrillers, then you’ll definitely want to read Unseen.

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Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss and 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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