2015 Book #274: WE NEVER ASKED FOR WINGS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

We Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
ISBN: 9780553392319 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780553392326 (ebook)
ASIN: B00R04IQFA (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 18, 2015 
Publisher: Ballantine Books

From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers comes her much-anticipated new novel about young love, hard choices, and hope against all odds.

For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.

Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family. 

Letty Espinosa is a single mother with two children and she’s never had the responsibility of raising her children, until now. Her parents have always been there and willing to pick up the slack while Letty worked to support the family, but her parents have returned to Mexico. We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh explores the relationship between Letty and her children as they discover how to become a family and Letty discovers what it means to be a mother.

Letty had her oldest child, fifteen-year-old Alex when she was a teenager. She thought she was in love but didn’t want to burden her boyfriend at the time, Wes, with the responsibility of being a parent. She knew that Wes was meant for more. Her daughter Luna is six-years-old and has always depended on her grandparents and her older brother Alex for guidance. Sadly, Letty doesn’t have the first clue about parenting as evidenced by the fact that she leaves her children at home without any money while she takes her mother to Mexico. Upon her return to the US, Letty realizes that she has to step up to the plate and become the responsible adult. No more alcoholic binges, no more late night parties, and no more working nights and sleeping the day away. She finds a job bartending at the airport during the day and is finally there for her children. She lies about her address to get her gifted son into an exclusive school. Life isn’t going great, but it is becoming more manageable until Alex discovers who his father is and his father confronts Letty about having a teenage son he never knew about. If having Wes back in the picture wasn’t enough to deal with, Letty is romantically attracted to a coworker and her son Alex is in a relationship that is getting too serious in Letty’s mind.

We Never Asked for Wings provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives and loves of the Espinosa family. We witness an inept mother striving to be and do better at parenting. We see the angst and drama of teens in love and making bad decisions. We watch as this family and their friends suffer the consequences of poor decision-making. But most important of all, we watch this mother and two children become a family. To say that Ms. Diffenbaugh has a way with words is a massive understatement. Her writing immerses the reader into the lives of these characters and it was hard, at least for me, not to rejoice with their small victories and suffer through their pains and disappointments. We Never Asked for Wings presents well-developed characters with realistic action and settings. If you’re looking for a story about love, life, and family, then look no more, We Never Asked for Wings is the book to read. I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed The Language of Flowers and I look forward to reading more from Ms. Diffenbaugh in the future.

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

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2015 Book #279: FLESH AND BLOOD by Patricia Cornwell

Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell
ISBN: 9780062325358 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062325365 (ebook)
ASIN: B00R04IQFA (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 30, 2015 
Publisher: William Morrow 

It’s Dr. Kay Scarpetta’s birthday and she’s about to head to Miami for a vacation with her FBI profiler husband Benton Wesley when she notices seven pennies on a wall behind their Cambridge house. Is this a kids’ game? If so, why are all of the coins dated 1981 and so shiny it’s as if they’re newly minted? Then her cellphone rings, and Detective Pete Marino tells her there’s been a homicide five minutes away. A high school music teacher has been shot with shocking precision as he unloaded groceries from his car. No one heard or saw a thing. It’s as if God did it.

In this 22nd Scarpetta novel, the master forensic sleuth finds herself in the middle of a nightmarish pursuit of a serial sniper who seems to leave no evidence except fragments of copper. The shots are so perfect, they cause instant death and seem impossible, and the death scenes aren’t crime scenes because the killer was never within hundreds of yards of the victims. The victims seem to have nothing in common, and there is no pattern that might indicate where the Copperhead will strike next. First New Jersey, then Massachusetts, and then into the murky depths off the coast of South Florida, where Scarpetta dives a shipwreck, looking for answers that only she can discover and analyze. There she must face an unthinkable truth that points in the direction of her techno genius niece, Lucy, Scarpetta’s own flesh and blood. 

Dr. Kay Scarpetta’s birthday was supposed to be a quiet day at home with her husband at their Cambridge, Massachusetts home, followed by a birthday trip to Florida. The quiet day becomes anything but quiet when Dr. Kay Scarpetta is called to a murder scene not far from her home in Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell.

The murder of a high school music teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts is quickly linked to several other murders in Massachusetts and New Jersey. With the help of her husband, Wesley Benton, an FBI intelligence analyst or profiler, her computer genius niece Lucy, and her friend and police detective Pete Marino, it is quickly determined that many of these deaths have ties to Dr. Scarpetta. If that’s not bad enough, it appears that someone is not only targeting people with ties to Dr. Scarpetta, but also trying to implicate her niece Lucy. Kay knows that her niece is volatile and moody, but she also knows that she isn’t responsible for these murders. Three murders using a high powered rifle and copper ammo; a poem sent on Mother’s Day from Copperhead; and, seven bright and shiny pennies dates 1981. What do these all have in common? Is it possible for Kay and her team to discover the mastermind behind these murders before someone else dies? Who knows all of the players so well that he can manipulate them from a distance?

I enjoyed Flesh and Blood, as I’ve enjoyed reading many of the books in the Scarpetta series. I found this to be a quick and engrossing read and probably would have finished the book in one sitting if it weren’t for a series of severe migraine headaches and a leaking hot water heater (probably the cause of the headaches). It was nice to reconnect with Kay, Benton, Lucy, and Marino and to see how they’ve matured and changed over the years. Kay no longer sees things as “black or white.” Benton is no longer avoiding conspicuous consumption due to his wealthy family background (a superficial change, but a change nonetheless). Lucy is in turmoil over a possible change in her relationship with her lover (read the book to find out what change). And Marino is back on a police force and just as volatile as he has been in the past. Most of the action in the story takes place over the course of a few days, and Ms. Cornwell packs a lot of action in that brief timeframe. There’s quite a bit of technical jargon that slowed me down (okay, my eyes glazed over but that could have been the migraine), but it didn’t interfere with my overall enjoyment with this book. Whether you’ve read any books in the Scarpetta series before or not, Flesh and Blood is an amazing suspense-thriller read. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series, Depraved Heart.

Read an excerpt: 

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Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss and a print copy from the publisher via Partners in Crime Tours. 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.”

Author Bio: 

Patricia CornwellPatricia Cornwell is recognized as one of the world’s top bestselling crime authors with novels translated into thirty-six languages in more than 120 countries. Her novels have won numerous prestigious awards including the Edgar, the Creasey, the Anthony, the Macavity, and the Prix du Roman d’Aventure. Beyond the Scarpetta series, she has written a definitive book about Jack the Ripper, a biography, and two more fiction series. Cornwell, a licensed helicopter pilot and scuba diver, actively researches the cutting-edge forensic technologies that inform her work. She was born in Miami, grew up in Montreat, North Carolina, and now lives and works in Boston.

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Book Blast: TROPICAL DEPRESSION by Jeff Lindsay

Tropical Depression

by Jeff Lindsay

August 25 Book Blast


coverNEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Jeff Lindsay mastered suspense with his wildly addictive DEXTER series. Before that, however, there was former cop and current burnout Billy Knight. When a hostage situation turns deadly, Billy loses everything—his wife, his daughter, and his career. Devastated, he heads to Key West to put down his gun and pick up a rod and reel as a fishing boat captain. But former co-worker Roscoe McAuley isn’t ready to let Billy rest.

When Roscoe tells Billy that someone murdered his son, Billy sends him away. When Roscoe himself turns up dead a few weeks later, however, Billy can’t keep from getting sucked back into Los Angeles, and the streets that took so much from him.

Billy’s investigations into the death of a former cop, and his son, will take him up to the highest echelons of the LAPD, finding corruption at every level. It puts him on a collision course with the law, with his past, with his former fellow officers, and with the dark aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement. Jeff Lindsay’s considerable storytelling gifts are on full display, drawing the reader in with a mesmerizing style and a case with more dangerous blind curves than Mulholland Drive.

Book Details:

Genre:  Thriller, Suspense, Police Procedural

Published by:   Diversion Books 

Publication Date:   August 25, 2015 (Re-Release)

Number of Pages:  256

ISBN:   2940151536677

Series: Billy Knight Thrillers, Book 1

Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads

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Read an excerpt:

Somebody once said Los Angeles isn’t really a city but a hundred suburbs looking for a city. Every suburb has a different flavor to it, and every Angeleno thinks he knows all about you when he knows which one you live in. But that’s mostly important because of the freeways.

Life in L.A. is centered on the freeway system. Which freeway you live nearest is crucial to your whole life. It determines where you can work, eat, shop, what dentist you go to, and who you can be seen with.

I needed a freeway that could take me between the two murder sites, get me downtown fast, or up to the Hollywood substation to see Ed Beasley.

I’d been thinking about the Hollywood Freeway. It went everywhere I needed to go, and it was centrally located, which meant it connected to a lot of other freeways. Besides, I knew a hotel just a block off the freeway that was cheap and within walking distance of the World News, where Roscoe had been cut down. I wanted to look at the spot where it happened. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t learn anything, but it was a starting place.

And sometimes just looking at the place where a murder happened can give you ideas about it; cops are probably a little more levelheaded than average, but most of them will agree there’s something around a murder scene that, if they weren’t cops, they would call vibes.

So Hollywood it was. I flagged down one of the vans that take you to the rental car offices.

By the time I got fitted out with a brand new matchbox—no, thank you, I did not want a special this-week-only deal on a Cadillac convertible; that’s right, cash, I didn’t like credit cards; no, thank you, I did not want an upgrade of any kind for only a few dollars more; no, thank you, I didn’t want the extra insurance—it was dark and I was tired. I drove north on the San Diego Freeway slowly, slowly enough to have at least one maniac per mile yell obscenities at me. Imagine the nerve of me, going only sixty in a fifty-five zone.

The traffic was light. Pretty soon I made my turn east on the Santa Monica. I was getting used to being in L.A. again, getting back into the rhythm of the freeways. I felt a twinge of dread as I passed the exit for Sepulveda Boulevard, but I left it behind with the lights of Westwood.

The city always looks like quiet countryside from the Santa Monica Freeway. Once you are beyond Santa Monica and Westwood, you hit a stretch that is isolated from the areas it passes through. You could be driving through inner-city neighborhoods or country-club suburbs, but you’ll never know from the freeway.

That all changes as you approach downtown. Suddenly there is a skyline of tall buildings, and if you time it just right, there are two moons in the sky. The second one is only a round and brightly lit corporate logo on a skyscraper, but if it’s your first time through you can pass some anxious moments before you figure that out. After all, if any city in the world had two moons, wouldn’t it be L.A.?

And suddenly you are in one of the greatest driving nightmares of all recorded history. As you arc down a slow curve through the buildings and join the Harbor Freeway you are flung into the legendary Four-Level. The name is misleading, a slight understatement. It really seems like a lot more than four levels.

The closest thing to driving the Four-Level is flying a balloon through a vicious dogfight with the Red Baron’s Flying Circus. The bad guys—and they are all bad guys in the Four-Level—the bad guys come at you from all possible angles, always at speeds just slightly faster than the traffic is moving, and if you do not have every move planned out hours in advance you’ll be stuck in the wrong lane looking for a sign you’ve already missed and before you know it you will find yourself in Altadena, wondering what happened.

I got over into the right lane in plenty of time and made the swoop under several hundred tons of concrete overpass, and I was on the Hollywood Freeway. Traffic started to pick up after two or three exits, and in ten minutes I was coming off the Gower Street ramp and onto Franklin.

There’s a large hotel right there on Franklin at Gower. I’ve never figured out how they break even. They’re always at least two-thirds empty. They don’t even ask if you have a reservation. They are so stunned that you’ve found their hotel they are even polite for the first few days. There’s also a really lousy coffee shop right on the premises, which is convenient if you keep a cop’s schedule. I guessed I was probably going to do that this trip.

A young Chinese guy named Allan showed me up to my room. It was on the fifth floor and looked down into the city, onto Hollywood Boulevard just two blocks away. I left the curtain open. The room was a little bit bigger than a gas station rest room, but the decor wasn’t quite as nice.

It was way past my bedtime back home, but I couldn’t sleep. I left my bag untouched on top of the bed and went out.

The neighborhood at Franklin and Gower is schizophrenic. Two blocks up the hill, towards the famous Hollywood sign, the real estate gets pretty close to seven figures. Two blocks down the hill and it’s overpriced at three.

I walked straight down Gower, past a big brick church, and turned west. I waved hello to Manny, Moe, and Jack on the corner: it had been a while. There was still a crowd moving along the street. Most of them were dressed like they were auditioning for the role of something your mother warned you against.

Some people have this picture of Hollywood Boulevard. They think it’s glamorous. They think if they can just get off the pig farm and leave Iowa for the big city, all they have to do is get to Hollywood Boulevard and magic will happen. They’ll be discovered.

The funny thing is, they’re right. The guys that do the discovering are almost always waiting in the Greyhound station. If you’re young and alone, they’ll discover you. The magic they make happen might not be what you had in mind, but you won’t care about that for more than a week. After that you’ll be so eager to please you’ll gladly do things you’d never even had a name for until you got discovered. And a few years later when you die of disease or overdose or failure to please the magic-makers, your own mother won’t recognize you. And that’s the real magic of Hollywood. They take innocence and turn it into money and broken lives.

I stopped for a hot dog, hoping my sour mood would pass. It didn’t. I got mustard on my shirt. I watched a transvestite hooker working on a young Marine. The jarhead was drunk enough not to know better. He couldn’t believe his luck. I guess the hooker felt the same way.

The hot dog started to taste like old regrets. I threw the remaining half into the trash and walked the last two blocks to Cahuenga.

The World News is open twenty-four hours a day, and there’s always a handful of people browsing. In a town like this there’s a lot of people who can’t sleep. I don’t figure it’s their conscience bothering them.

I stood on the sidewalk in front of the place. There were racks of specialty magazines for people interested in unlikely things. There were several rows of out-of-town newspapers. Down at the far end of the newsstand was an alley. Maybe three steps this side of it there was a faint rusty brown stain spread across the sidewalk and over the curb into the gutter. I stepped over it and walked into the alley.

The alley was dark, but that was no surprise. The only surprise was that I started to feel the old cop adrenaline starting up again, just walking down a dark alley late at night. Suddenly I really wanted this guy. I wanted to find whoever had killed Roscoe and put him in a small cell with a couple of very friendly body-builders.

The night air started to feel charged. It felt good to be doing cop work again, and that made me a little mad, but I nosed around for a minute anyway. I wasn’t expecting to find anything, and I didn’t. By getting down on one knee and squinting I did find the spot where the rusty stains started. There was a large splat, and then a trickle leading back out of the alley to the stain on the sidewalk.

I followed the trickle back to the big stain and stood over it, looking down.

Blood is hard to wash out. But sooner or later the rain, the sun, and the passing feet wear away the stains. This stain was just about all that was left of Roscoe McAuley and when it was gone there would be nothing left of him at all except a piece of rock with his name on it and a couple of loose memories. What he was, what he did, what he thought and cared about—that was already gone. All that was hosed away a lot easier than blood stains—a lot quicker, too.

“I’m sorry, Roscoe,” I said to the stain. It didn’t answer. I walked back up the hill and climbed into a bed that was too soft and smelled of mothballs and cigarettes.

Author Bio:

authorJeff Lindsay is the award-winning author of the seven New York Times bestselling Dexter novels upon which the international hit TV show Dexter is based. His books appear in more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies around the world. Jeff is a graduate of Middlebury College, Celebration Mime Clown School, and has a double MFA from Carnegie Mellon. Although a full-time writer now, he has worked as an actor, comic, director, MC, DJ, singer, songwriter, composer, musician, story analyst, script doctor, and screenwriter.


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2015 Book #269: THE SECRET SISTER by Brenda Novak

The Secret Sister (Fairham Island #1) by Brenda Novak
ISBN: 9780778317807 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781743691694 (ebook)
ASIN: B00S503T50 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 28, 2015 
Publisher: MIRA

Did she once have a sister? Has her mother lied all these years? Why? 

After a painful divorce, Maisey Lazarow returns to Fairham, the small island off the North Carolina coast where she grew up. She goes there to heal—and to help her brother, Keith, a deeply troubled man who’s asked her to come home. But she refuses to stay in the family house. The last person she wants to see is the wealthy, controlling mother she escaped years ago. 

Instead, she finds herself living next door to someone else she’d prefer to avoid—Rafe Romero, the wild, reckless boy to whom she lost her virginity at sixteen. He’s back on the island, and to her surprise, he’s raising a young daughter alone. Maisey’s still attracted to him, but her heart’s too broken to risk… 

Then something even more disturbing happens. She discovers a box of photographs that evoke distant memories of a little girl, a child Keith remembers, too. Maisey believes the girl must’ve been their sister, but their mother claims there was no sister. 

Maisey’s convinced that child existed. So where is she now?

Maisey Lazarow never imagined herself return to Fairham, but after the death of her infant daughter, her divorce after ten years of marriage, and her stalled writing career her options are limited. The only thing she’s looking forward to doing is being there for her older brother Keith. Maisey’s return opens up past hurts and then she uncovers a family secret in The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak.

Maisey knows that her family is no one’s definition of normal. Her mother can only be classified as cold. Her mother, Josephine Coldiron Lazarow, has been married multiple times and she feels as if she has the right to control her children’s lives even though they are both in the thirties. Maisey’s mother didn’t approve of her ex-husband and doesn’t approve of her current romantic interest, Rafe Romero. Now that Maisey is attracted to someone and trying to move on, her ex-husband decides to come back into her life and wants to start again. Maisey is also trying to uncover who the little girl is in pictures that have been hidden away for decades. The more she uncovers the more questions are raised. Does she have an older sister? What happened to her? Why won’t anyone discuss her? And the bigger question, is she in love with Rafe?

I found The Secret Sister to be a quick and enjoyable read. I enjoyed most of the characters, especially Maisey, Rafe, and Rafe’s daughter Laney. I enjoyed reading about Maisey’s quest to uncover the truth about her sister against impossible odds, including her mother’s decision to kick her out of a family-owned bungalow and firing her from a family-owned business (told you she was cold). Maisey’s brother Keith has mental health issues and is a drug-addict. Needless to say, his erratic behavior adds a lot to the turmoil and drama of the story. The Secret Sister offers romance, tons of family drama, intrigue due to a family secret, and a lot more. If you’ve enjoyed reading anything by Ms. Novak in the past, then you’ll want to read The Secret Sister. If you haven’t read anything by Ms. Novak, then The Secret Sister is a good place to start.

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

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2015 Book #268: FRICTION by Sandra Brown

Friction by Sandra Brown
ISBN: 9781455581160 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781455581177 (ebook)
ASIN: B00US1STWW (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 18, 2015 
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Crawford Hunt wants his daughter back. Following the death of his wife four years ago, Crawford, a Texas Ranger, fell into a downward spiral that left him relegated to desk work and with his five-year-old daughter Georgia in the custody of her grandparents. But Crawford has cleaned up his act, met all the court imposed requirements, and now the fate of his family lies with Judge Holly Spencer.

Holly, ambitious and confident, temporarily occupies the bench of her recently deceased mentor. With an election upcoming, she must prove herself worthy of making her judgeship permanent. Every decision is high-stakes. Despite Crawford’s obvious love for his child and his commitment to being an ideal parent, Holly is wary of his checkered past. Her opinion of him is radically changed when a masked gunman barges into the courtroom during the custody hearing. Crawford reacts instinctually, saving Holly from a bullet. 

But his heroism soon takes on the taint of recklessness. The cloud over him grows even darker after he uncovers a horrifying truth about the courtroom gunman and realizes that the unknown person behind the shooting remains at large . . .and a threat. 

Catching the real culprit becomes a personal fight for Crawford. But pursuing the killer in his customary diehard fashion will jeopardize his chances of gaining custody of his daughter, and further compromise Judge Holly Spencer, who needs protection not only from an assassin, but from Crawford himself and the forbidden attraction between them. 

Friction will keep you on the edge of your seat with breathtaking plot twists and the unforgettable characters that make Sandra Brown one of the world’s best-loved authors. It is an extraordinary novel about the powerful ties that bind us to the ones we love and the secrets we keep to protect them.

Crawford Hunt enters the courthouse in Texas expecting to do nothing more than battle his in-laws for custody of his daughter. He winds up saving a judge’s life in the courtroom ambush and chasing down the suspect, but it leads to even more trouble in Friction by Sandra Brown. 

Crawford Hunt is a Texas Ranger that has pulled himself out of depression and the bottle and is now determined to regain custody of his daughter. He has relocated from Houston to his in-law’s hometown just to be closer to his daughter. Shortly after the shootout in the courthouse, he knows that the guy caught and killed wasn’t the shooter. If that’s not enough to deal with, his father-in-law is willing to do anything possible to ensure he doesn’t regain custody. Needless to say his attraction to Judge Holly Spencer needs to be put on the back burner, but the mutual attraction won’t allow him to take the necessary step back. Judge Holly Spencer was appointed to the bench and is currently campaigning to retain her position on the court. The last thing she wants or needs is a relationship . . . especially a relationship with someone that has appeared before her in court. While Crawford and Holly fight their attraction to one another (they lose), they must also contend with an investigation that seems more focused on them than the shooter and his motives. Will they be able to find the truth behind the courthouse shootout before more lives are sacrificed?

As most of you know, I enjoy reading mysteries, suspense, suspense thrillers, and romantic-suspense, needless to say, I was quite happy when I obtained a review copy of Ms. Brown’s latest romantic-suspense thriller Friction. Once I closeted my inner prude (Crawford and Holly have a brief sexual encounter shortly after the shooting), I was able to fully enjoy Friction. I found this to be a fast-paced and enjoyable read with realistic characters and plausible action. Crawford has to deal with a local police officer that suspects him of most of the criminal activity taking place and ignores all evidence to the contrary. His father-in-law is out for blood and willing to do whatever he can to ensure Crawford doesn’t regain custody of his daughter. Crawford has reconnected with his alcoholic father, a father that abandoned him after divorcing his mother. And then there’s the Judge. Holly Spencer wants to stay on the bench, but she isn’t willing to compromise one man’s career, namely Crawford’s, to do so. She must battle her campaign manager, the local police detective in charge of the case, and her attraction to a man that should be off limits. Friction is filled with plenty of suspense, family drama, and sexual tension. If you enjoy romantic suspense, then you’ll definitely want to add Friction to your TBR list.

Read an excerpt of Friction here.

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

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2015 Book #267: THE 3RD WOMAN by Jonathan Freedland

The 3rd Woman by Jonathan Freedland
ISBN: 9780062207555 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062207579 (ebook)
ASIN: B00FJ32ZWE (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 4, 2015 
Publisher: HarperCollins

The first two murders went unnoticed. The third will change everything. . . 


Journalist Madison Webb is obsessed with exposing lies and corruption. But she never thought she would be investigating her own sister’s murder.


Madison refuses to accept the official line that Abigail’s death was an isolated crime. She uncovers evidence that suggests that Abi was the third victim in a series of killings that’s been hushed up as part of a major conspiracy.


In a United States that has yielded to the People’s Republic of China, corruption is rife – the government dictates what the ‘truth’ is. With her life on the line, Madison must give up the story, or face the consequences…

Madison “Maddy” Webb is an investigative reporter. When Maddy is told her youngest sister is dead due to an overdose, she knows something is wrong. Maddy begins to do what she does best, investigate. She quickly learns that her sister’s death is actually a murder and that she was the third victim of a serial killer that may have ties to the People’s Republic of China. Take a series of murders, a gubernatorial election, possible police corruption, and an investigative reporter that won’t quit until answers are found and you have The 3rd Woman by Jonathan Freedland.

Early on the morning after Maddy Webb has published an expose on local sweatshops, she receives a visit from a police officer and friend telling her that her youngest sister has died of an apparent self-inflicted overdose. Over the course of the next few days, Maddy uncovers two other “deaths” under similar circumstances and all three women are blonde and pale. The more Maddy investigates the more she learns that these murders are being covered up by the police and that there may be ties to the Chinese government. If dealing with a murdered sister isn’t enough, Maddy suffers from chronic insomnia, and must deal with the side effects of lack of sleep, as well as the political fallout of her investigation into her sister’s murder.

The 3rd Woman is a fast-paced read with a lot of action. The story takes place in a USA that’s not too hard to imagine. The US has defaulted on its loans and China is the major lender. In an effort to recoup some of the monies owed, the Chinese government has installed “bases” at port cities along the Western coast of the US. The US is now a country that uses Weibo instead of Twitter and where Chinese-manufactured vehicles are just as prevalent as Japanese, European and American-made vehicles. I found the characters and the action to be highly plausible and realistic. Mr. Freedland does provide a couple of twists and turns in the story just to keep things slightly off and the reader unsure of where the story will end (no, I won’t tell you how it ends). Yes, there’s a lot going on in this story: political campaigns, possible police department corruption and cover-up, a grassroots protest to ensure justice prevails, family and friends mourning deceased loved ones, and more. If you enjoy reading suspense thrillers, then you’ll want to add The 3rd Woman to your TBR list.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book 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: PURIFIED by Elizabeth S Sullivan

Purified by Elizabeth S. Sullivan
ISBN: 9781503351028 (Paperback)
ASIN: B00Q0IAIZI (Kindle edition)
Publisher: CreateSpace (pbk)/Short On Time (digital)
Publication date: November 21, 2014

When a mutilated body of an African American girl is found in a park sandbox, the media shows no interest. Instead, their attention is riveted on the disappearance of Olivia Safra, a college student and only child of the powerful and dangerous Richard Safra. Suspended ADA, Beck Oldman, demoted to a rookie PI is assigned her first cases to find a missing teenager and Olivia Safra. 

Leads connect the murders to the Safra case. The investigation into her client’s private life reveals a dark side in the relationship between a father and daughter and exacts his wrath against Beck. More girls are found murdered, putting Beck in a race to stop a serial killer and stop her own client from destroying her. 

Purified is a thrilling story that explores many dark subjects, including what it does to those who have to live in the world of killers in order to stop them. 

Watch the book trailer:

About the author:

Elizabeth S. Sullivan was born in Chicago and grew up in the LA area. Impassioned by social justice issues, inspired by her parents, she pursued teaching and earned a law degree. She has written five screenplays, one short. Her screenplays have placed or won such as: Nicholl, Austin, Page, and American Zoetrope. These recognitions garnered her a manager, Alexia Melocchi, Little Studio Films. Her first novel, Purified, portrays a strong female protagonist in the genre of a noir thriller.  Sullivan explores issues of race, gender, privacy in the cyber age. She has written several blogs on of women in fiction featured on Venture Galleries.  She is busy working on the sequel to Purified and a new screenplay.

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2015 Book #262: PRETTY BABY by Mary Kubica

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
ISBN: 9780778317708 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781460382288 (ebook)
ASIN: B00S4ZH70Y (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 28, 2015 
Publisher: MIRA

A chance encounter sparks an unrelenting web of lies in this stunning new psychological thriller from national bestselling author Mary Kubica

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head…

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

What do you do when you see an obviously homeless teenage mother out in harsh weather? If you’re most people, you ignore the mother and the crying infant. If you’re socially conscious and a charitable soul like Heidi Wood, you talk to the girl and offer help by bringing the girl back to your home. 

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica is a fast-paced psychological thriller told in alternating voices of Heidi Wood, her husband Chris, and the teenage mother Willow. The reader gradually learns that Willow has suffered tragedy after tragedy. Her parents die in a car accident when she is eight years old. Her two-year-old sister is adopted and taken out of state. She is initially in a foster home before being sent to live with distant relatives in an ultraconservative and abusive household. Chris is obviously concerned when his wife brings home another “stray,” and his primary concern is for the well-being of his family, especially his twelve-year-old daughter Zoe. Chris is quite sure that Willow is lying about her name and wonders what else she is lying about. Heidi simply wants to help in the only way she knows how and that means bringing Willow home with her after learning she refuses to go to a shelter. She’s concerned about Willow’s welfare, as well as that of Willow’s baby and takes everything she learns from Willow at face value. We also learn that Heidi wanted to have a large family, but a cancer diagnosis forces her to terminate her second pregnancy and suffer through a hysterectomy.

Ms. Kubica is quite adept at creating a story that twists and turns and leaves the reader wondering where the story will end. We know very early in the book that there is an obvious tragic conclusion to Heidi’s action of bringing Willow home, but only learn bit by bit what tragedy has occurred (no, I won’t tell you what happens, you need to read the book). Pretty Baby is filled with drama and tension on plenty of levels: Heidi’s relationship with Chris, Heidi’s relationship with her daughter Zoe, Chris’s reaction to Willow and Ruby (Willow’s baby), Zoe’s reaction to her mom bringing Willow and Ruby into their home, Heidi has baby envy and it becomes quite evident with her behavior toward Ruby, and more. I enjoyed reading Pretty Baby as much as I enjoyed reading The Good Girl. For those of you that enjoy reading thrillers with a surprise ending or are looking for something a little different to read, grab yourself a copy of Pretty Baby.

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

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2015 Book #256: IN THE LANGUAGE OF MIRACLES by Rajia Hassib

In The Language of Miracles by Rajia Hassib
ISBN: 9780525428138 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780698184343 (ebook)
ASIN: B00OZ0TLQA (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 11, 2015 
Publisher: Viking Books

A mesmerizing debut novel of an Egyptian American family and the wrenching tragedy that tears their lives apart
Samir and Nagla Al-Menshawy appear to have attained the American dream. After immigrating to the United States from Egypt, Samir successfully works his way through a residency and launches his own medical practice as Nagla tends to their firstborn, Hosaam, in the cramped quarters of a small apartment. Soon the growing family moves into a big house in the manicured New Jersey suburb of Summerset, where their three children eventually attend school with Natalie Bradstreet, the daughter of their neighbors and best friends. More than a decade later, the family’s seemingly stable life is suddenly upended when a devastating turn of events leaves Hosaam and Natalie dead and turns the Al-Menshawys into outcasts in their own town.

Narrated a year after Hosaam and Natalie’s deaths, Rajia Hassib’s heartfelt novel follows the Al-Menshawys during the five days leading up to the memorial service that the Bradstreets have organized to mark the one-year anniversary of their daughter’s death. While Nagla strives to understand her role in the tragedy and Samir desperately seeks reconciliation with the community, Khaled, their surviving son, finds himself living in the shadow of his troubled brother. Struggling under the guilt and pressure of being the good son, Khaled turns to the city in hopes of finding happiness away from the painful memories home conjures. Yet he is repeatedly pulled back home to his grandmother, Ehsan, who arrives from Egypt armed with incense, prayers, and an unyielding determination to stop the unraveling of her daughter’s family. In Ehsan, Khaled finds either a true hope of salvation or the embodiment of everything he must flee if he is ever to find himself.

Writing with unflinchingly honest prose, Rajia Hassib tells the story of one family pushed to the brink by tragedy and mental illness, trying to salvage the life they worked so hard to achieve. The graceful, elegiac voice of In the Language of Miracles paints tender portraits of a family’s struggle to move on in the wake of heartbreak, to stay true to its traditions, and above all else, to find acceptance and reconciliation.

Imagine a family grieving the loss of one of their children. Imagine two families grieving such a loss. Imagine these families are next-door neighbors and very friendly. Imagine that one family’s child is the cause of the other’s death. Now imagine that the family is Egyptian and Muslim in a post 9/11 world and you have the basis for In The Language of Miracles by Rajia Hassib.

Hosaam Al-Menshawwy has committed an unthinkable act. He has murdered his neighbor’s daughter, his former best friend, his former girlfriend and he has committed suicide. Hosaam’s family is left trying to pick up the pieces of their suburban American life, grieving not only the loss of their son but their neighbor’s daughter while feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt. Najla, Hosaam’s mother, feels as if she should have known what her son was thinking and been able to stop him. Khaled, Hosaam’s younger brother, feels an overpowering sense of responsibility to be the “good” son, as well as feeling blamed for and overshadowed by his brother’s actions. Fatima, Hosaam’s younger sister, wants to get away from the guilt and shame her family must bear and move to another town. Ehsan, Hosaam’s devout maternal grandmother, is simply trying to keep her daughter’s family together and make some sense of the insensible. Samir, Hosaam’s father, feels guilt and shame because of his son’s actions but naively believes that he can make amends to his neighbors and community. He also feels that his family shouldn’t run away from this shame and that eventually things will get better.

In The Language of Miracles is a poignant tale of one family’s search for common ground. How is a family expected to cope with this type of tragedy when neither their cultural/religious traditions nor their current societal traditions can make sense of their son’s actions? The Al-Menshawwy family is a Muslim family residing in the West and for some in their community that is the sole reason for their son’s actions. The action within the story takes place over the course of one week leading up to a community memorial service for the neighbor’s daughter. The reader bears witness to this family’s turmoil. It’s been a year since the tragedy happened and this family will forever bear a public shame, as it appears many in the community are willing to blame the entire family for the action of one person, one seemingly disturbed person. It is easy to imagine this scenario in the wake of recent tragedies in Aurora CO and Newtown CT. I found In The Language of Miracles to be a fascinating glimpse into the juxtaposition of Middle-Eastern/Muslim culture compared to Western/American culture. I found this to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. How engrossing was this story? I put water in my electric teakettle, turned it on, and never got up to make a cup of tea. I didn’t respond to text messages, email notifications or even answer the phone while I was reading this book. (Yes, it is that good!) If you enjoy reading about diverse cultures, want to find out how this family copes, or simply want a good book to read, then run out and grab a copy of In The Language of Miracles. (Yes, I know I suggest you read many of the books I’ve reviewed [I get to read a lot of good books], but I’m putting this book in the absolutely, positively must-read category!) I look forward to reading more from Ms. Hassib in the future.

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

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Guest Post: Kim Devereux, author of REMBRANDT’S MIRROR

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit by Kim Devereux, author of Rembrandt’s Mirror. Ms. Devereux will be discussing her transition from filmmaker to writer.

From Film-maker to Writer

I think some writers are born holding a pen! I certainly wasn’t one of them. I did not craft my first short story at the age of five nor did I spend my teenage years writing witty diaries. I spent many years working in film and television.

Here I am directing an interview with German war veteran Franz Gockel who was serving as a gunner at Omaha Beach on D-Day (2004)

It was only two years ago that I embarked on an MA in creative Writing at Bath Spa University. However, I did not rate my chances as a writer. For starters, English was not my mother tongue and the last time I’d written narrative prose was in secondary school in Germany crafting multi-clause sentences as long as my arm.

Even as I started writing my novel I continued to hanker after film-making as a medium. I considered film-making to be a superior art form because it combined many media; visuals, music and sound. I also missed the collaborative element. Here I was – just me and the written word.

This is me (in red) posing for an arty shot with the crew during the making of my first short film, 10 Bulls.

Also, it has to be said, my mind loves complexity or perhaps I should say ‘complication’. And when I made my first short film 10 Bulls (see trailer on: https://vimeo.com/90628442), I was drawn to special effects, like a magpie to lametta. It incorporated CGI and much of it was done by leading post-production facilities Glassworks and the Framestore.


A still from the film incorporating an encounter with a fiery creature inside a cooling tower.

10 Bulls incorporated an underwater sequence.

10 Bulls went on to win awards, but it took seven years to make. Special effects on a small budget mean you’d better come equipped with supernatural powers of persuasion and time to wait for all those favours. 

I also drew inspiration from finding unusual locations, such as this disused cooling tower for example. 

We filmed in the space where the water used to be circulated for cooling.

I later used the same approach in writing, thinking about setting scenes in interesting surroundings. I drew inspiration from the Rembrandt house in Amsterdam, feeling the atmosphere, studying the layout and musing over what it would have meant for servants to be able to see into Rembrandt’s bedroom and entrance hall through windows from the stairwell.

I closed my eyes and let the characters loose in my mind, in whatever setting or situation I cared to imagine. It finally dawned on me, the opposite of what I had believed was true. The absence of visuals and sound and various media was not a hindrance but a virtue. A novel is like a recipe for the reader’s imagination. And readers can imagine anything in an instant. Without the need for a large crew or a big budget, the creative possibilities of the written word are endless. 

But there is one thing that both art forms and perhaps all art forms have in common. A work of art is co-created in the act of looking at it. Think of the Mona Lisa’s smile. What is left in shadow is filled in by the imagination of the onlooker. And this is as it should be, for in the end the function of a work of art is to act as a mirror to those who are engaging with it. When we look at one of Rembrandt’s masterpieces we see something of ourselves in it. And this is why I’ve called the novel Rembrandt’s Mirror.

About the author:

Kim Devereux is the author of Rembrandt’s Mirror, a debut novel about the turbulent world of the master painter Rembrandt and the three women who shaped his life, seen through the eyes of his last great love and muse – Hendrickje Stoffels his housemaid.
Kim is also an award-winning short-film director and producer of documentaries. She holds an MA in History of Art and English Literature from the University of Edinburgh and an MA from Bath Spa in Creative Writing.

Connect with the author:          Website      |     Facebook 

Rembrandt’s Mirror by Kim Devereux
ISBN: 9781782396741 (hardcover)
ASIN: B00YLQU0BI (Kindle edition)
Publisher:  Atlantic Books
Publication date: August 6, 2015

Hendrickje, a girl from a strict Calvinist family leaves her provincial home to find work as a housemaid. She enters Rembrandt’s flourishing workshop five years after the death of the great artist’s wife, an event that continues to haunt him. It is a house full of secrets and desires, and Hendrickje soon witnesses a sexual encounter between Rembrandt and Geertje, his implacable housekeeper. She is shocked to the core by their intense carnality and yet, slowly, she is drawn to Rembrandt by the freshness with which he perceives the world and the special freedom he seems to possess. Rembrandt is a man of dark corners, strange passions and a ruthlessness born from his need to put his art first. An involvement with him could be her ruin or her liberty. Rembrandt’s Mirror explores the three women of Rembrandt’s life, and the towering passions of the artist, seen through the eyes of his last, great love, Hendrickje.

Read an excerpt from Rembrandt’s Mirror here.

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