Book Showcase: THE WALK-IN CLOSET by Abdi Nazemian

The Walk-In Closet by Abdi Nazemian
ISBN: 9780615988689 (paperback)
ASIN: B00KHZ8CQ2 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Curtis Brown Digital

Kara Walker has never found much glamour in her own life, especially not when compared to the life of her best friend Bobby Ebadi. Bobby, along with his sophisticated parents Leila and Hossein, is everything Kara always wanted to be. The trio provides the perfect antidote to what Kara views as the more mundane problems of her girlfriends and her divorced parents. And so when the Ebadis assume that Kara is Bobby’s girlfriend, she willingly steps into the role. She enjoys the perks of life in this closet, not only Leila’s designer hand-me-downs and free rent, but also the excitement of living life as an Ebadi.

As Kara’s 30th birthday approaches, Leila and Hossein up the pressure. They are ready for Kara to assume the mantle of the next Mrs. Ebadi, and Bobby seems prepared to give them what they want: the illusion of a traditional home and grandchildren. How far will Kara be willing to go? And will she be willing to pull the Persian rug out from under them when she discovers that her own secret is just one of many lurking inside the Ebadi closet? 

Read an excerpt:


“I have the perfect shoes for you.” Leila said with a smile. “They are just a little tight on me, so they should fit you perfectly.” We were in her enormous walk-in closet, really more like a wing in the Ebadi house. It had once been an exercise room, but Leila got rid of the Solorflex and converted the gym into an immaculately organized, white-lacquered dressing room. The clothes were arranged by color. Sharp white suits on one end, slinky black dresses on the other, with yellow tanks, red skirts, and navy blazers between.

Leila popped open a white-lacquered panel, revealing rows and rows of shoes. Pumps. Stilettos. Boots. Hermès sneakers in every color. “You know you’re like a daughter to me,” she said. Music to my ears. Now, I loved my mother Harry. She had her endearing qualities, like the fact that she never cheated at online Scrabble, and that she made me matzo ball soup when I was sick even though we’re not Jewish. But who wouldn’t have traded in Harry for a mother who conducted spring cleaning by giving last season’s couture to you? I’m not sure Harry even knew what couture was. Born and bred in Thousand Oaks, Harry lived in a world (not coincidentally, the world in which I was raised) of strip malls and outlet stores.

“Has Babak played you the new Omara Portuondo CD?” Leila asked.

“I don’t think so,” I responded.

“It’s incredible, the music that comes out of Cuba. Repression always makes for such moving art.” Leila pondered her statement and then added, “Of course, when we were in Havana a few years ago, the people didn’t seem repressed at all. They actually appeared quite joyful. Ah, here they are.” Leila handed me a pair of Prada flats adorned with lavender gemstones. “Aren’t they pretty? Try them on.”

“Leila, I can’t.”

“Just one week until Nowruz,” she said. “You know it’s customary to conduct an extensive spring cleaning before the New Year and replenish the closet.”

“I just feel like you’re spoiling me.”

“What am I going to do? Give these clothes to somebody who will not appreciate them? Give me your foot,” she ordered. She was a difficult woman to disobey. I kicked off my ratty old Steve Maddens and lifted my right foot, worried that she would make note of my chipped pedicure. Gently, she slipped the right flat on my foot. It fit flawlessly. As stylish as a stiletto, as comfortable as a slipper.

“Who needs Prince Charming,” I joked, “when I have you?”

Never one to dwell on a sentimental moment, Leila immediately noticed an imperfection. “One of the amethysts fell off. I forgot.”

“I don’t care. They’re beautiful.”

“Here.” Leila dug through a drawer full of old buttons and thread until she pulled out an amethyst and placed it carefully into my hand. “Rosa Maria can re-attach it. She was a seamstress before she came to us. She’s very talented.”

“You’re too good to me.”

“Do you wear Chanel, or is it too old for you” she asked.

“I’m turning thirty in less than a month. I think I can rock the Chanel now.”

Leila flinched at my use of the word rock. To her, a rock was something you either kicked on the beach or put on your finger. She pulled a pink Chanel suit off the rack. Very Jackie O. “I never wear it anymore.”

“I can’t, Leila, you’ve given me enough.”

“Stop with the tarof,” she said.

Tarof was one of the untranslatable Farsi expressions I had picked up from the Ebadis and their friends. Basically: don’t bother arguing when offered something, just accept graciously.

“Well, okay then. No more tarof. I’ll take the whole closet.”

“That’s more like it, Kara djoon.” I love when she speaks that beautiful endearment after my name.

I slipped the suit on in front of her, and it fit perfectly. It did make me look older, but in a sophisticated way. I assessed my reflection. My blond hair had recently been layered and highlighted at Leila’s favorite salon. My skin was still glowing from the oxygen facial that Leila had treated me to the week before. And my body was looking firm from the Pilates session of Leila’s that I’d crashed. For a single woman on the precipice of earliest middle age, I was looking pretty good. Of course, I wasn’t single in Leila’s eyes. I was abruptly reminded of that when “Gimme More,” Britney’s latest hit, rang from the cell phone in my purse.

Leila looked inside and pulled it out. “It’s Babak,” she said as she handed me the phone. On its screen was a photo of Bobby, reclining on the blue Astroturf of the Standard Hotel, palm trees reflected in his Aviator shades, his wavy jet-black hair almost blue in the glare of the sun.

“Getting impatient?” I answered.

“What are you two doing up there? Bobby whispered urgently.

“Trying on clothes.”

“Well, hurry up. You know I can’t stand this much one-on-one time alone with my dad. He’s making me watch golf.”

“Where are you calling from?”

“The guest bathroom. Just hurry.” Bobby hung up.

“What does he vant?” Sometimes Leila slips and her Ws come out as Vs.


“I don’t see why he can’t do without you and just watch golf for thirty minutes while we try on a few things. His father was never so possessive, thank goodness.” She ran her hands along one of the immaculate white-lacquered shelves. “When we built this house, it was the beginning of the eighties–Babak was five when we were renovating it, so it was 1982. I always knew I wanted a large closet, and I wanted the shelves to be white lacquer, because it allows the colors of the clothes to dominate the room. There was one day–it was when the house was still under construction–the closet was one of the first rooms to be almost done. Maybe that’s because I knew exactly what I wanted it to be. I sold the gym equipment that was in it and redesigned it immediately. So one day, we were walking the children in to choose their bedrooms, and Babak walked into this closet, and he shouted, ‘This is mine.'”

About the author:

Abdi Nazemian is the screenwriter of The Quiet, Celeste in the City, Beautiful Girls, and the short film Revolution, which he also directed. He is an alumnus of the Sundance Writer’s Lab, a mentor at the Outfest Screenwriter’s Lab, and has taught screenwriting at UCLA Extension. He lives in Los Angeles with his two children and his dog, Hedy Lamarr. The Walk-In Closet is his first novel. 

Connect with the author:

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Book 228: FACEOFF Review

FACEOFF edited by David Baldacci
ISBN: 9781476762067 (hardback)
ISBN: 9781476762081 (ebook)
ASIN: B00GEEB3WK  (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

For the first time ever the world’s greatest thriller characters meet head-to-head in 11 electrifying stories.

Where else will you be able to read about Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme meets John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport? Fans of Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone and James Rollins’ Gray Piece have waited for years to see those characters together. Then there’s Lee Child’s Jack Reacher meeting up with Joseph Finder’s Nick Heller in a bar in Boston. Steve Martini’s Paul Madriani becoming entangled with Linda Fairstein’s Alex Cooper. Plus, you can’t forget the ever-odd Aloysius Pendergast coming face to face with the scary world of R.L. Stine.

In an unprecedented collaboration, twenty-three of the world’s bestselling and critically acclaimed thriller writers have paired their series characters in an eleven-story anthology curated by the International Thriller Writers (ITW). Edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci, FACEOFF is a who’s who of not only the most beloved contemporary thriller writers, but also their iconic characters–putting them head-to-head with their most worthy opponents.

As worlds collide, the characters you think you know best are thrown into unpredictable situations and partnered with, pitted against, and in some cases, romantically entangled with, characters you’d never suspect–and some that you would. With introductions to the stories that describes the writers, their characters, and a bit about the story’s creation, FACEOFF is truly a treasure trove for thriller fans.

Rhymes with Prey is the short story that features Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs from Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series and Lucas Davenport from John Sandford’s Prey series. I’ve read all of the Lincoln Rhymes books in the past and am a huge fan, but this was the first time I’ve read anything by John Sandford. (Yes, his books are going on my TBR list!) As with the other stories in this anthology, this was a fast-paced and masterful story. Lucas Davenport has been asked to come to New York to assist his friend, NYPD officer Lily Rothenburg in an investigation of a series of murders. Lily fears that these drug-related murders of Latino women may be affiliated with one of the NYPD’s Narcotics squad. Since she isn’t quite sure who she can trust in-house, she has requested Lucas to assist. Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs have been dealing with the forensic evidence from these murders. This two-pronged approach to the investigation quickly reveals that there may be an artistic link to the murders, in addition to the possible police link. All four are pushed to race against the clock as political pressure is applied to the department to quickly solve the case. Can they bring in a suspect, the right suspect, and close the case before the investigation becomes a witch hunt?

Rhymes with Prey was, simply speaking, an amazing read. It was impossible to tell where one writer left off and the other began. The authors were able to provide just the right amount of background into each character to make them familiar to the reader. The action was nonstop and wholly believable. I actually read FACEOFF in one sitting even though I was fighting off a migraine episode. (Yes it is simply that good.)

I’m sure most of you have realized by now that I really enjoy reading mystery-suspense-thrillers. What you may now know is that I’m not really a big fan of short stories or anthologies. However, when you’re given the opportunity to read a collection of short stories featuring some of the best authors and characters in thrillerdom you obviously say “YES!” I just need to add that reading FACEOFF has changed my attitude toward short stories and anthologies for the good. The best thing is I now have a slew of new-to-me authors to begin reading and tons of books to add to my TBR list. If you are a fan of any of these thriller writers or just a fan of short story anthologies, then FACEOFF is a must read.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Media Muscle | BookTrib. 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 194: THE CUTTING Review

The Cutting by James Hayman
ISBN: 9780062362988 (ebook)
ASIN: B00J7Q623C  (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Witness Impulse

Someone is stealing the hearts of beautiful women…

Detective Mike McCabe moved from a top homicide job with the NYPD to Portland, Maine to leave his failed marriage and suspicions of wrongdoing behind, and to find a more peaceful life for himself and his 13 year old daughter. 

But the small New England city is not nearly as safe as he thought. 

On a warm September night, a missing high-school athlete is found dead in a scrap metal yard, her heart removed from her body with surgical precision. As outrage over the killing spreads, a young business woman disappears while out on a morning jog. 

McCabe is certain both crimes are the work of one man—a murderer skilled in cardiac surgery who is using his scalpel to target young women. With the clock ticking, McCabe and his partner Maggie Savage find themselves in a desperate race against time to find and rescue the missing woman before she becomes the next victim of the sadistic killer’s blade.

A missing person’s case is enough to put any community on edge. A missing person’s case that ends with the discovery of the mutilated body is unimaginable. Detective Mike McCabe has relocated from New York to Portland, Maine with the hopes that this smaller town will be the idyllic setting to raise his thirteen-year-old daughter Casey. McCabe and his daughter have settled into Portland quite nicely. McCabe has a love interest, enjoys his new job, and his daughter has gotten used to being without her mother. Unfortunately McCabe hopes for quiet town are dashed when the mutilated body of a missing high-school female is found. If that wasn’t bad enough, he and his partner Maggie Savage and literally racing against the clock to find another missing women before it’s too late. 

The Cutting is the first book in the McCabe and Savage series. I’ve read and previously reviewed Mr. Hayman’s novel Darkness First, also a McCabe and Savage novel, so I was delighted at the opportunity to read the first in this series. I found The Cutting to be a fast-paced read and enjoyed learning more about McCabe and Savage. Mr. Hayman did a remarkable job portraying the horror and terror that grips a city when there’s the possibility of a serial killer on the loose. The Cutting provides just the right amount of mystery and suspense, along with the introduction of the personal drama in McCabe’s life. McCabe is in a serious relationship with a local artist – Kyra Erikson, has had sole custody of his teenage daughter for more than three years, and now his ex-wife has decided she wants to become reacquainted with their daughter. It is precisely this combination of drama, mystery, and suspense that makes The Cutting such a wonderful book. The characters are all realistically flawed and the action is quite believable. If you’ve read Darkness First and haven’t read The Cutting you’ll definitely want to read it. If you haven’t read either book and enjoy great mystery-suspense-thrillers then add both books to your TBR list. I’m eagerly looking forward to reading more McCabe and Savage stories in the future.

Read the first chapter of The Cutting here

Disclaimer: I received a 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 192: THE MURDER FARM Review

THE MURDER FARM by Andrea Maria Schenkel
ISBN: 9781623651671 (hardback)
ISBN: 9781623651688 (ebook)
ASIN: B00H6J6IK4  (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Quercus

The Times Literary Supplement said of The Murder Farm, “With only a limited number of ways in which violent death can be investigated, crime writers have to use considerable ingenuity to bring anything fresh to the genre. Andrea Maria Schenkel has done it in her first novel.”


The first author to achieve a consecutive win of the German Crime Prize, Schenkel has won first place for both The Murder Farm and Ice Cold.


The Murder Farm begins with a shock: a whole family has been murdered with a pickaxe. They were old Danner the farmer, an overbearing patriarch; his put-upon devoutly religious wife; and their daughter Barbara Spangler, whose husband Vincenz left her after fathering her daughter little Marianne. She also had a son, two-year-old Josef, the result of her affair with local farmer Georg Hauer after his wife’s death from cancer. Hauer himself claimed paternity. Also murdered was the Danners’ maidservant, Marie. 


An unconventional detective story, The Murder Farm is an exciting blend of eyewitness account, third-person narrative, pious diatribes, and incomplete case file that will keep readers guessing. When we leave the narrator, not even he knows the truth, and only the reader is able to reach the shattering conclusion.

In post-war Germany, a small rural village has made a horrific discovery. A local family has been viciously murdered on their family farm. When The Murder Farm begins that is all the reader knows, that an entire family has been murdered. Obviously the question on everyone’s mind is who did it? But as the story develops it soon becomes clear that it is easily understandable that someone might want to kill Mr. Danner, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason to kill the wife, daughter, grandchildren, and servant.

The Murder Farm is the first book I’ve read by Ms. Schenkel and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The title pretty much tells the story, or so I thought. The “truth” is revealed in a very unusual manner through eyewitness narrative, villager interviews, as well as police case files. Just when you think you know where the story is going, Ms. Schenkel provides a nice twist just to keep you guessing. I found The Murder Farm to be a very fast and enjoyable read simply because I was pulled into the drama and couldn’t wait to find out who did it and why. I especially enjoyed reading villagers interviews. The villagers provided insight into the character and inner-dynamics of the Danner family. The Murder Farm could have been a dry police procedural with the introduction of the case files, interviews, and narrative, but Ms. Schenkel has created a story of murder that literally comes alive and kept this reader’s attention from beginning to end. If you enjoy a good murder mystery/detective story then you’ll definitely want to add The Murder Farm to your reading list.

Disclaimer: I received a 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 REVEALED by Jessica Hickam

The Revealed by Jessica Hickam
ISBN:  9781940716008 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781940716015 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00L1P1RZ0 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: SparkPress
Publication date: June 15, 2014

Lily Atwood lives in what used to be Washington, D.C. Her father is one of the most powerful men in the world, having been a vital part of rebuilding and reuniting humanity after the war that killed over five billion people. Now he’s running to be one of its leaders.

But in the rediscovered peace in this new world, a force has risen. They call themselves The Revealed — an underground rebel organization that has been kidnapping 18-year-olds across the globe without explanation. No one knows why The Revealed is taking these teens, but it’s clear something is different about these people. They can set fires with a snap of their fingers and create wind strong enough to throw over a tree with a flick of their wrist. They are unstoppable, and they have targeted 18-year-old Lily as their next victim.

Lily is too close to breaking free from her father’s shadow to let The Revealed ruin things, especially her developing relationship with the mysterious Kai Westerfield — the sun of her father’s rival. Lily isn’t about to lose her future just when it’s starting to look promising. Not without a fight.

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

If I’m going to be taken, I plan on having at least a little fun first.

Sleek and silver with the latest technology, including dent-resistant metal, my father’s Aston Martin is made to drive. The doors recognize DNA and I’m half him, so it’s easy to break inside. I just press my hand against the door. The car needs a moment to analyze, then lifts the door, allowing me to slide into the driver’s seat. I toss the still-sealed letter onto the passenger seat.

There’s no need to open it. I know what it is.

The car’s ignition can either be started with fingerprint recognition or overridden by the key. I took the keys from the shelf by the front door while my mother wasn’t home earlier this morning.

I shift gears and press my ballet flats on the gas, not wasting any time.

The odometer climbs higher as the car smoothly accelerates.

The sensor in the car’s front mirror triggers our gate, and it opens just in time for me to speed through. Let security try to track me down now.

Pulling out onto the main road, I press my foot to the floor, going well over the speed limit.

I glance in my rearview mirror.

Security doesn’t stand a chance!

My eyes return to the road.

Strategically placed, black SUVs block my path to the freeway. My lungs constrict, forcing the air from my chest. Somehow they’re already one step ahead of me.

I grip the wheel.

I’m driving too fast.

My foot hits the brake.

Tires sear the road.

Adrenaline spins through me as I brace the wheel, keeping the car straight.

My knuckles tighten. I feel the road beneath my slipping under my feet.

The Aston slams to a stop, throwing me up against the wheel. THe first SUV is only inches in front of me. Relief fills me but is quickly erased by mounting frustration.

I rip off my seatbelt, stomping out of the car.

Jeremy, head of my father’s security, stands at the front of the line. There are half a dozen other members of security lounging against the cars as they wait for me to arrive. They straighten to a standing position once I storm toward Jeremy.

Jeremy’s lips are carved into a thin line. He looks like he’s expecting me to barrel into him and continue running down the road. “Did that scare you enough to get these insane ideas out of your system?”

“You could have made me crash?” I advance on him.

“Good thing you were paying attention then,” Jeremy says, opening the backdoor of the SUV. I had over the Aston’s keys and slump inside. The smell of the black leather reminds me of past trips to speeches and conventions. My father used to let me pick the music on the touch screen positioned in the side-door panel, anything I wanted, while my mother would chastise me for turning it up too loud. But my father would just laugh and tell her to let me be a kid. I feel like a kid now more than ever, and it’s a hard reminder that I don’t get to make significant decisions. Especially when it comes to my life. It has already been laid out for me.

Jeremy tosses the Aston’s keys to one of the security guards standing behind him. He’ll drive it back into the garage. “You’re gonna get yourself killed if you keep pulling these stunts,” he continues his lecture.

“Either I do it or The Revealed does,” I say as he slams the door trapping me securely in the back.

Two hundred fifty-two days until I’m nineteen. If I make until then.

About the author:

After graduating from Arizona State University in 2011, Jessica relocated to Los Angeles where she now works in the film industry. From acting to assisting on the Paramount feature Star Trek: Into Darkness, her experiences have only reinforced her love for living in other worlds – whether they be from her own imagination or someone else’s. The Revealed is her first novel.

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Guest Author Post: John Nardizzi, author of TELEGRAPH HILL

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit from John Nardizzi, author of Telegraph Hill. Mr. Nardizzi discusses being a private investigator in the hometown for many fictional and real private investigators.

Life of PI 

San Francisco is one of the capital cities of crime fiction–from Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, to Bill Pronzini’s Nameless Detective, and many others. What is less well known is how fact and fictional detectives run parallel lives in this city: San Francisco was also home to one of the fathers of the modern private investigator, Hal Lipset of Lipset Service.

Lipset commanded a Criminal Investigation Division in World War II. After he left the army, he settled in San Francisco and opened his own detective agency with his wife, Lynn. Lipset developed an interest in new technologies used in eavesdropping devices. Most famously, he demonstrated a bugged martini glass at a Senate subcommittee in 1968 (the olive was a microphone, and the toothpick an antenna). He worked on cases for The Black Panthers and the San Quention 6. His career was full of contradictions: along with notable defense work, Lipset was criticized for working on behalf of cult leaders in San Francisco, such as Jim Jones of the People’s Temple. His former employees later branched off to form world-renowned detective agencies, small boutique firms that continue to operate to this day. In another crossover between fact and fiction, some of his detectives conducted research on the life of Hammett.  Lipset held no illusions about the vagaries of being a PI: “In the detective business, you’re either a hero or a bum.”

I was lucky to spend several years working as a PI in San Francisco at one of the firms in the Lipset detective tree. I often walked through the wealthy neighborhoods in the hills near downtown.  Standing on Nob Hill, you can look down Jones Street to a different section called the Tenderloin–one of greatest mixes of wealth and poverty in the U.S., separated by just a few blocks. The Tenderloin took its name from a section of old New York City. In the late 19th century, a New York cop was promoted to midtown, where gambling and prostitution were rampant.  He told a reporter that he had been “eating rump steak down in the Fourth precinct, but now I have a chance to eat some of the tenderloin.” People took this as a reference to taking bribes to look the other way, and the name came to be used as a pejorative for the city’s red light district.  

Just as in Lipset’s era, the Tenderloin district remains a hard, often desperate place. But there was a certain poetry bubbling up from the San Francisco streets. My real PI life intersected in strange ways with my writing. In the process of interviewing witnesses around the country, a tremendous amount of writing flowed out of me. Often, people offered information that was irrelevant to the case, but was tremendous grist for a book—an odd quote, a story, a memorable gesture. So for me, San Francisco is the ultimate sleuth city, having started me on a professional path as a writer and investigator. Readers, do you have a place that has inspired you?

About the author:

John Nardizzi is an investigator, lawyer, and writer. His writings have appeared in numerous professional and literary journals, including San Diego Writers Monthly, Oxygen, Liberty Hill Poetry Review, Lawyers Weekly USA, and PI Magazine. His fictional detective, Ray Infantino, first appeared in print in the spring 2007 edition of Austin Layman’s Crimestalker Casebook. Telegraph Hill is the first crime novel featuring Infantino.

In May 2003, John founded Nardizzi & Associates, Inc., an investigations firm that has garnered a national reputation for excellence in investigating business fraud and trial work. His investigations on behalf of people wrongfully convicted of crimes led to several million dollar settlements for clients like Dennis Maher, Scott Hornoff and Kenneth Waters, whose story was featured in the 2010 film Conviction.

Connect with the author:  Website      |     Twitter 

About the book:

Telegraph Hill by John Nardizzi
ISBN:  9781939166111 (paperback)
ASIN:  B009F3M9LQ (Kindle)
Publication Date:  April 26, 2013
Publisher:  Libboo and Merrimack Media

In the tradition of classic PI tales from Robert B. Parker and Dennis Lehane, John Nardizzi’s Telegraph Hill introduces private detective Ray Infantino searching for a missing girl named Tania. The case takes him to San Francisco, the city he abandoned years ago after his fiance was murdered. Thrust into his old city haunts, Ray finds that Tania may not be lost at all. Tania saw a murder; and a criminal gang, the Black Fist Triad, wants to make sure she never sees anything again. 

Ray enlists help from an old flame, Dominique, but now he has three women on his mind. Meeting with various witnesses-ex-cops, prostitutes, skinheads-he relentlessly tracks the evidence. But the hunt for Tania fires his obsession with avenging the murder of his fiance. 

When the triad retaliates, and blood begins to flow, Ray must walk the knife edge between revenge and redemption on the streets of San Francisco.

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The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla
ISBN: 9780544146242 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780544133488 (ebook)
ASIN: B00E78IB0C (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Mariner (Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt)

Born in Sweetwater, West Virginia, with a mop of flaming red hair and a map of the world rendered in port-wine stains on every surface of her body, Garnet Ferrari is used to being an outcast. With her sharp tongue, she has always known how to defend herself against bullies and aggressors, but she finds she is less adept at fending off the pilgrims who have set up a veritable tent city outside her hilltop home, convinced that she is Saint Garnet, healer of skin ailments and maker of miracles.

Her grandmother, the indelible Nonna Diamante, believes that Garnet’s mystical gift can be traced back to the family’s origins in the Nebrodi Mountains of Sicily, and now the Vatican has sent an emissary to Sweetwater to investigate. Garnet, wanting nothing more than to debunk this “gift” and send these desperate souls packing, reaches back into her family’s tangled past and unspools for the Church a tale of love triangles on the shores of the Messina Strait; a sad, beautiful maiden’s gilded-cage childhood in blueblood Virginia; and the angelic, doomed boy Garnet could not protect.

Saint or not, Garnet learns that the line between reality and myth is always blurred, and that the aspects of ourselves we are most ashamed of can prove to be the source of our greatest strength, and even our salvation.

Garnet Ferrari is the object of either extreme prejudice or adoration in her hometown of Sweetwater, West Virginia. To most of the children in town and some of the parents, she is feared and hated because she is different. To the nonnas (Italian grandmothers) and a few others, she is adored for her mystical healing powers. Although Garnet’s childhood isn’t ideal it is filled with family and love, but all of that quickly changes with one traumatic incident quickly followed by a horrific accident that devastates the entire Ferrari family.

The Patron Saint of Ugly is a fast-paced read about love, survival, and hope. All Garnet, indeed any of the women married into the Ferrari family, want is to be loved. Garnet spends the beginning of her childhood being tortured by the ugly taunts of others. She spends her adolescence and early adulthood striving to be overlooked. It isn’t until she returns to Sweetwater as an adult that she seems to overcome the struggle of being perceived as “normal.” 

The Patron Saint of Ugly evoked a lot of responses from me while I was reading: sadness, empathy, sympathy, and laughter. Garnet’s nonna was the source of much of that laughter with her machinations during Garnet’s childhood and adulthood. Much of the story takes place in either Italy in the early 1920s, West Virginia in the 1950s, early 1960s, and mid 1970s. Ms. Manilla’s characters are either extremely lovable or despised. I don’t think any reader will like Garnet’s grandfather, maternal grandmother, or La Strega (no, I’m not going to tell you who La Strega is . . . read the book). Garnet’s story is gradually revealed in a series of taped reminiscences for the Vatican, as she attempts to debunk her so-called healing gifts. It is in these narrations that we learn the back-stories for her nonna and mother, as well as learning about Garnet’s inner longings and desires. If you enjoy reading well-crafted fiction that combines humor, a quest for survival, a longing for normality, mythic origins, and a touch of magic, then The Patron Saint of Ugly is one story you have to read.

Disclaimer: I received copies of this book free for review purposes from the author and 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 Showcase Post: HIDE AND SEEK by Amy Shojai

Hide and Seek

by Amy Shojai

on Tour June 1 – July 31, 2014


Book Details:

Genre: Suspense/Thriller

Published by: Cool Gus Publishing  

Publication Date: January 2014 

Number of Pages: 254 

ISBN: 978-1621251477 

Purchase Links:    


A mysterious contagion will shatter countless lives unless a service dog and his trainer find a missing cat . . . in 24 hours.

A STALKER hides in plain sight.

A VICTIM faces her worst fear.

AND A DOG seeks the missing—and finds hope.

Eight years ago, animal behaviorist September Day escaped a sadistic captor who left her ashamed, terrified, and struggling with PTSD. She trusts no one—except her cat Macy and service dog Shadow.

Shadow also struggles with trust. A German Shepherd autism service dog who rescued his child partner only to lose his-boy forever, Shadow’s crippling fear of abandonment shakes his faith in humans.

They are each others’ only chance to survive the stalker’s vicious payback, but have only 24 hours to uncover the truth about Macy’s mysterious illness or pay the deadly consequences. When September learns to trust again, and a good-dog takes a chance on love, together they find hope in the midst of despair–and discover what family really means.

“Recommended for anyone who likes a ‘bite-your-nails, hold-your-breath’ kind of thriller.” — Dr. Lorie Huston, Cat Writers Association President

Read an excerpt:


Tommy Dietz grabbed the car door handle with one bloody fist, and braced his other hand against the roof, worried the carcasses in the back would buck out of the truck’s bed. Despite the precaution, his head thumped the muddy window. He glared at the driver who drove the truck like he rode a bronco, but BeeBo Benson’s full moon face sported the same toothless grin he’d worn for the past two weeks. Even BeeBo’s double chins smiled, including the rolls at the nape of his freckled neck.

The ferret thin guy in the middle snarled each time his Katy Railroad belt buckle chinked against the stick shift he straddled. Gray hair straggled from under his hat and brushed his shoulders. He had to slouch or he risked punching his head through the rust-eaten roof. Randy Felch’s snaky eyes gave Dietz the shivers even more than the freezing temperatures spitting through windows that refused to seal.

Three across the cramped seat would be a lark for high school buddies out on the town, but the men were decades beyond graduation. Dietz was in charge so Felch could either ride the hump or share the open truck bed with two carcasses, and the new Production Assistant.

Dietz stifled a laugh. Not so high-and-mighty now, was he? The man must really want the job. Vince Grady had turned green when he was told to climb into the back of the truck. Just wait till he got a load of the dump. Dietz remembered his first visit three years ago when he’d been out scouting locations. He wondered how the spit-and-polish Grady would react.

He’d hired locals for the rest of the crew. They needed the work, and didn’t blink at the SAG ultra-low pay scale, the shitty weather, or the stink. In this business, you took anything available when pickings were slim. Then the show got picked up and union fees grabbed him by the short hairs. Amateur talent screwing around and missing call times cost even more money, so he needed a Production Assistant—PA in the lingo—with more polish and bigger balls to keep the wheels greased. A go-to guy able to think on his feet, get the job done. No matter what.

If Grady wanted the PA job, he’d have to be willing to get his hands dirty, and stand up to BeeBo and his ilk. Riding in the open truck bed was illegal as hell, though here in North Texas even the cops turned a blind eye unless it was kids. This was an audition, and Grady knew it.

He had to give Grady props—he’d not blinked, but clenched his jaw and climbed right in when they collected him at his hotel. He’d been less enthusiastic after following the hunters most of the morning, tramping to hell and gone through rough country until his eyes threatened to freeze shut. Something drove the man, something more than a PA credit for piss-poor pay and worse conditions. Hell, something drove them all to work in this unforgiving business. Dietz didn’t care about anyone else’s demons as long as they let him feed his own.

Dietz craned to peer out the back to be sure the man hadn’t been tossed out the tailgate. Grady gave Dietz a thumbs-up. Probably wants to point a different finger, Dietz thought.

Grady wore the official Hog Hell blue work gloves and ski mask—dark blue background and DayGlo red star on the face—or he’d be picking his frostbit nose off the floor.

Prime time in the back woods. Dietz’s quick smile faded. Nothing about this trip was prime, not even the butchered Bambi in the back. Deer season ran November through early January, and it was always open season on hogs, so they were legal for any follow up film footage. The two deer hadn’t looked good even before BeeBo dropped them, but that’s what viewers wanted. Crocodile wrestlers, duck dynasties, and gold rush grabbers with crusty appeal and redder necks.

Nobody wanted actors anymore. Casting directors looked for “real people.” So he’d caught a clue, jumped off the thespian hamster wheel, moved to New York and reinvented himself as Tommy Dietz, Producer. He’d found his calling with a development company relatively quickly.

A movie star face didn’t hurt. Everyone these days had a little nip-and-tuck; it was part of the biz. He’d been selling his version of reality for years anyway, and always came out on top. He hit it out of the park on his third project. Hog Hell kicked off the next step with a Texas-size leap. He’d show them all, those who’d laughed at his dreams, calling him a loser. And he’d make them sorry.

The shabby pickup lurched down and back up again, and its engine growled and complained. Dietz was surprised the seat hadn’t fallen through the floor. The overgrown road the hunters called a pig path consisted of frozen ruts formed from previous tire treads. They damn well better not get stuck out here.

“Don’t worry, she’ll make it.” BeeBo talked around the stub of his unlit cigar. “This ol’ warhorse made the trip so often, she could drive herself. Ain’t that right, Felch?” BeeBo reached to downshift and Felch winced as the other man’s ham-size fist grabbed and jerked the stick between his knees.

Dietz sighed. Out the window, skeletal trees clawed the pregnant sky. Weird flocks of blackbirds moved in undulating clouds, exploding from one naked tree after another to clothe the next with feathered leaves. Spooky.

Thank God the icy weather stayed dry. Heartland, Texas had dug out of a record-breaking snowfall, and the locals hadn’t quite recovered. It put a kink in Hog Hell filming and they’d barely met the deadlines. Delay turned his balance book bloody with red ink.

Back home in Chicago they’d been hit with the same blizzard and so had NYC. But big cities knew how to manage winter weather. Apparently North Texas rolled up the sidewalks with even the hint of flurries. He wondered if BeeBo and Felch knew what to do in the snow, and didn’t want to find out. The thought of hunkering down overnight in the truck with these men turned his stomach.

Dietz adjusted his own ski mask. He’d folded it up off his face so the blue cap hugged his head while the red star painted a bull’s-eye on his forehead. He wore the official coat, too; dark blue and a bright hunter-safe star on the front and back, with the Hog Hell logo. The Gore-Tex fabric crackled with newness, and his blistered feet whimpered inside wet, dirt-caked boots. No way would he wear his new $300 Cabela’s, purchased for photo ops at the upcoming watch party. He had a gun, too. In Texas nobody cared if you carried. They expected it.

BeeBo’s preferred weapon, an ancient short barreled shotgun loaded with deer slugs, contrasted sharply with Felch’s double gun he’d had custom made last season. Felch shot 44 Magnums, and the cut down double barrel rifle boasted enough firepower to take out an elephant, or a charging feral boar hog.

They sleeved the guns in canvas cases stowed in the back of the truck, but the hunters cared far less about their own attire.

BeeBo and Felch would wear official Hog Hell gear at the watch party in five weeks, but not before. Dietz didn’t want them stinking up the outfits. Today they wore wash-faded coveralls, heavy work coats, earflap hats, clunky boots with thorn-tangled laces, and frayed gloves with fingertips cut out. A bit of peeling DayGlo tape formed an “X” on the back and front of each coat after Dietz insisted on the nod to safety, even though he knew the two hunters paid little mind to official start and end dates during hunting season.

That was the point of the original reality program Cutting Corners that focused on people forced to skirt the rules to make ends meet. The unlikely stars of a single episode, though, turned Felch and BeeBo into overnight sensations and birthed the new show after Cutting Corners tanked. The two hunters were experts at skirting rules. Dietz was no slouch, either.

In the truck bed, Grady swayed back and forth. He’d pushed up the ski mask enough to expose his mouth. White breath puffed out in a jerky tempo, and Dietz wondered if the man would pass out. If Grady took a header off the truck bed, the liability would kill the show. “Find a spot to stop, BeeBo. I think our new team member has had enough.”

Felch grunted. “No place to stop till we get there. Unless you want us to get stuck.” He grinned, but the expression never reached his eyes. “You don’t want us lugging that shit back to your hotel. The stink ain’t something you want close by.”

BeeBo guffawed. “Got that right. With all the hunters unloading, it’s what y’all might call a ‘renewable resource.'” He twisted the wheel and the truck bucked, jittering the decades old pine-shaped deodorizer suspended from the rear view mirror. “The critters take care of the stink pretty quick, though.” His hairless wide-eyed face was a ringer for the Gerber baby. “It’s around that next bend. You might even catch a whiff of Jiff by now.”

Dietz wrinkled his nose. The pungent aroma wasn’t assuaged by the air freshener that had probably come with the vehicle. He shielded his head from another thump, and squinted ahead through the crusty windshield. Wiper blades had torn loose on the passenger’s side and smeared the detritus rather than clearing the view. It didn’t bother BeeBo.

The trio remained silent during the final bump-and-grind through the trees. They pulled halfway into the clearing, and Dietz waited impatiently until BeeBo cranked the steering wheel, turned, and backed beneath a massive tree with pendulous clusters decorating the branches. Grady ducked, or he would have been scraped off by low limbs.

Several similar trees bordered the clearing, and another smaller truck squatted at the far end of the area. An elderly man stood in the truck bed and flailed tree branches with a long pole, while the woman dodged and weaved beneath to gather the resulting shower in a bucket.

“What’s that?” Grady wasted no time jumping off the truck bed. He gagged when the wind shifted.

“Nuts.” Felch unfolded himself from the cramped middle seat. “Pecan trees. They’re gleaning the nuts.”

Dietz’s stomach clenched. He pulled the ski mask over his lips and breathed through his mouth, imagining he could taste the odor that closed his throat. Neither Felch nor BeeBo seemed to notice the stench.

Grady wiped his watery eyes. The breeze paused and he gulped a less contaminated breath. “Pecans? To eat?”

The truck squeaked, rocked and grew two inches when BeeBo stepped out. “Back in town they’ll pay $8 to $10 per pound, once shelled. I got my daddy’s old commercial sheller—held together with baling twine and spit, but works okay. I only charge fifty-cents a pound to shell.” He shrugged. “Every little bit helps. It’s too early for most of the big-name commercial farms, but for the gleaners, if ya wait too long the squirrels get ’em off the trees, or the pigs root ’em off the ground. Pigs eat lots of the same stuff the deer and turkeys eat, acorns and suchlike. But they get ground-nesting bird eggs, too. Pigs’ll root up and eat damn near anything.” He jerked his chins at Felch. “Gimme a hand.” He lumbered toward the back of the truck and waited by the taillights.

Felch vaulted in the bed of the vehicle, and adjusted his gloves. He pointed. “Smorgasbord, y’all. Hey Slick, you might want to get video of this. Bet your big-city cronies never seen the like.” His yellow teeth gleamed. He bent low, and grunted as he pushed and tugged the black plastic bag to the tailgate, hopped down and joined BeeBo. Together they slung the truck’s cargo into the pit.

Yipping and growls erupted from below. Dietz stayed back, he’d seen it before. This stuff he wouldn’t put on the air. This’d be too much even for the hardcore viewers without the added value of aroma.

Grady covered his mouth and nose in the crook of his elbow. He edged closer to the deep trough, a natural ditch-like runoff that sat dry three-quarters of the year. Piles of gnawed and scattered bones mixed with carcasses in various stages of decomposition. A family of coyotes tried to claim BeeBo’s tossed deer remains, but was bluffed away by a feral boar.

Grady ripped off his ski mask, puked, wiped his mouth, and grabbed his camera with a shaking hand. He spit on the frozen ground and jutted his chin at Dietz. “So?”

Dietz smiled. “You got the gig.”


The damn ski mask dragged against his hair so much, the normally clear adhesive had turned chalky. Victor had removed the wig after dissolving the glue with a citrus-scented spray, a much more pleasant olfactory experience than the afternoon’s visit to the dump. A shower rinsed away any lingering miasma, but he gladly put up with the stink, the rednecks, and the sneers. The payoff would be worth it.

Until then, he couldn’t afford for anyone in Heartland to recognize him. His tool kit of fake teeth, makeup and assorted hairpieces kept him under the radar. For the price, nearly fifty bucks for a four-ounce bottle of adhesive, it damn well better hold the new wig in place for the promised six weeks. He rubbed his hands over his pale, bald head and grinned. Even without the wig, she’d be hard pressed to recognize him.

Muscles had replaced the beer gut, Lasik surgery fixed his eyes, a chin implant and caps brightened his smile. He’d done it all, one step at a time, over the eight years it took to track her down. He’d even changed his name and transformed himself into a man she couldn’t refuse.

He’d done it for her. Everything for her.

He dialed his phone. “I want to order flowers. Forget-Me-Nots, in a white box with a yellow ribbon. Got that? And deliver them December eighteenth. It’s our anniversary.” He listened. “Use red ink. The message is ‘payback.’ Got that? No signature, she’ll know it’s me.” He picked up a news clipping that listed the address, and admired the picture. She was lovely as ever. “Two-oh-five Rabbit Run Road, Heartland, Texas. Deliver to September Day. The name is just like the month.” He chuckled softly. “Yes, it will be a lovely holiday surprise.” He could hardly wait.

Author Bio:

Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, and the award winning author of 26 bestselling pet books that cover furry babies to old fogies, first aid to natural healing, and behavior/training to Chicken Soupicity. She is the Puppies Expert at, the cat behavior expert at, and has been featured as an expert in hundreds of print venues including The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, and Family Circle, as well as national radio and television networks such as CNN, Animal Planet’s DOGS 101 and CATS 101. Amy brings her unique pet-centric viewpoint to public appearances. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed dog viewpoint thriller LOST AND FOUND.  

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The Witch of Belladonna Bay by Suzanne Palmieri
ISBN: 9781250015532 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781250015525 (ebook)
ASIN: B00GEU760C (Kindle edition)
Publication date: May 13, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

It’s the trouble you aren’t expecting that gets you. And it’s all around you, Bronwyn, it’s all around you like the air…

Bronwyn “BitsyWyn” Whalen hasn’t set eyes on the red dirt of Magnolia Creek, Alabama, for fourteen years—not since her mama died. But with her brother, Patrick, imprisoned for the murder of her childhood best friend, and her eccentric father, Jackson, at his wits’ end while her eleven-year-old niece, Byrd, runs wild, Bronwyn finds herself once again surrounded by ancient magnolia trees and the troubled family she left behind. She becomes immersed in a whirlwind of mystery and magic as she tries to figure out what really happened that fateful night her friend died. And as her bond with Byrd deepens, Bronwyn must face the demons of her past in order to unravel her family’s uncertain future. In Suzanne Palmieri’s thrilling new novel, The Witch of Belladonna Bay, readers will learn if love and magic are enough to bring a broken family back together.

Bronwyn Whalen has, what she feels is, the perfect life. She has a successful career in photography and a man that she loves. What she doesn’t have is a relationship with her family. All of that is about to change with one simple phone call. It’s been fourteen years since Bronwyn left Magnolia Creek, Alabama vowing never to return. She left behind her father, her brother, her great-aunt, and her best friends. One simple phone call shatters her life. Her childhood best friend has been murdered, her brother has been arrested for the murder, and her brother’s daughter is left to fend for herself. The only thing Bronwyn can do is face the past and return to Alabama to sort out the truth.

The Witch of Belladonna Bay is a modern gothic novel with a Southern twist. Ms. Palmieri deftly blends murder, mayhem, mystery, magic, mysticism, and ghosts into a captivating tale of family and loss. Bronwyn feels that her mother neglected her and her brother by using drugs to the point of addiction. Bronwyn, in turn, neglects her family for years as she struggles to find herself. Byrd, Bronwyn’s niece, is precocious, lovable, and wild. Byrd attends school when she wants, takes baths when she feels like it, and is loved and feared by almost everyone in town. It doesn’t help that Bronwyn’s mother, Naomi, and her entire family are descendants of witches from New England, or that Bronwyn and Byrd are recipients of that magic. Add in a family curse and legends into the mix and you wind up with a story that didn’t let me go until the final page.

One of the things that kept my attention from beginning to end was the alternating perspectives of Bronwyn, Byrd, and the ghostly Naomi. Ms. Palmieri has crafted believable characters even when dealing with somewhat unbelievable circumstances. The Witch of Belladonna Bay is all about what a person is willing to do to protect their loved ones. Byrd does what she can in order to protect her father, aunt, and grandfather even if it means turning her back on the greatest love of her life. Bronwyn is forced to act to protect her loved ones even if it means losing the one person she has turned to for love and support over the past seven years of her life. I found The Witch of Belladonna Bay to be a fast-paced read and one that I completed in one sitting over the course of one evening. If you enjoy contemporary gothic fiction or are just interested in reading something a little different, then I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of The Witch of Belladonna Bay to read. You’ll probably want to set aside a few hours so you can read it cover to cover, perhaps while enjoying the sun at the beach or poolside.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from BookSparks as part of the Summer Reading Challenge. 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: Judi Culbertson, author of A PHOTOGRAPHIC DEATH

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit by Judi Culbertson, author of the Delhi Laine novels, including the latest release, A Photographic Death. Ms. Culbertson discusses being successful at writing.

On Being Precocious (Not)

There’s always a lot of media attention when someone in their early twenties lands a book contract for, say, $500,000 for a first novel. Extensive publicity is planned along with the promise that it is “soon to be a major motion picture.” 

I too had hopes that fate would pick me out of the line-up the same way.

My first writing success came when I was in sixth grade and we were assigned to write a story celebrating Easter. Mine involved a boy named Tony who lived in a garbage can and was rescued Easter morning by the ASPCA. The class voted for their favorites and it came down to my story and one written by a girl named Stella.

Mrs. Callaghan, our teacher, was alarmed. “But Stella’s story is so sweet,” she protested when she saw where the election was heading. “All about bunnies gamboling in the woods hiding Easter eggs!”

It was no use. The class wanted mine.

I’d like to say that I went on wowing my audience. But by high school my stories were worse than smirking rabbits in the forest. Cardboard characters, silly plots, descriptions loaded with cliches. I read the stories in Seventeen religiously, but something crucial did not rub off.

In college I majored in Creative Writing and wrote silly college-level stories instead. For a while I joined a poetry group. Of the eight of us, Wes Craven, the future creator of Nightmare on Elm Street, wrote dark, vividly crafted poems. Carolyn read aloud stark and beautiful laments for a boyfriend who had been killed. The poem of mine that I remember best began, “It is raining on the ruins of Pompeii.” It ended with an allusion to “The rains that soak the ruins of my heart.”

Poetry was not my forte.

I passed the age when I could be considered precocious without stunning the world. Ironically my first book, published in my mid-twenties, was not fiction at all, but a satire meant to be funny, Games Christians Play. It did well, with an advance sale of over 50,000 copies and stayed in print for ten years.

That should have told me something, but it didn’t. I kept trying to write fiction. Like a possum spying dinner on the other side of the road and setting out to reach it, I painstakingly crawled toward what I had always wanted. By the time I published my first novel in 1996, I had already had authored a handful of non-fiction books and had had a career in social work. 

It wasn’t until I published my first mystery in the Delhi Laine series, A Novel Death, in 2011 that I finally got it right. Since then I’ve written two more novels in the Secondhand Prose series and am at work on the next. Along the way, I discovered something important:

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or 50 or even 70 when you publish your first novel. Once it’s out there and has found people who love it, nobody cares how old you are.

About the author:

Judi Culbertson draws on her experience as a used-and-rare book dealer, social worker, and world traveler to create her bibliophile mysteries. She has co-authored five illustrated guides with her husband, Tom Randall, of such cities as Paris, London, and New York. She is also the author of the acclaimed nonfiction titles Scaling Down and The Clutter Cure. She lives in Port Jefferson, New York, with her family.

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