2019 Book 103: CONFESSIONS OF AN INNOCENT MAN by David R. Dow

Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow
ISBN: 9781524743888 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781524743901 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781984841865 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07FLP58RD (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Dutton Books 
Publication Date: April 9, 2019


A thrillingly suspenseful debut novel, and a fierce howl of rage that questions the true meaning of justice.

Rafael Zhettah relishes the simplicity and freedom of his life. He is the owner and head chef of a promising Houston restaurant. A pilot with open access to the boundless Texas horizon. A bachelor, content with having few personal or material attachments that ground him. Then, lightning strikes. When he finds Tieresse—billionaire, philanthropist, sophisticate, bombshell—sitting at one of his tables, he also finds his soul mate and his life starts again. And just as fast, when she is brutally murdered in their home, when he is convicted of the crime, when he is sentenced to die, it is all ripped away. But for Rafael Zhettah, death row is not the end. It is only the beginning. Now, with his recaptured freedom, he will stop at nothing to deliver justice to those who stole everything from him.

This is a heart-stoppingly suspenseful, devastating, page-turning debut novel. A thriller with a relentless grip that wants you to read it in one sitting. David R. Dow has dedicated his life to the fight against capital punishment—to righting the horrific injustices of the death penalty regime in Texas. He delivers the perfect modern parable for exploring our complex, uneasy relationships with punishment and reparation in a terribly unjust world.





Rafael Zhettah was a successful restauranteur. He wasn’t a millionaire, but he was well-off financially speaking and his restaurant was booming. He was loved and respected by his staff. Although without any close family ties in the States, he wasn’t really wanting for anything or so he thought until Tieresse walks into his restaurant. Their relationship began with Tieresse complementing the food and progressed from there. In less than a year, 37-year-old Rafael was married to the 51-year-old billionaire socialite. Their marriage was unconventional by most standards, but they were definitely devoted to one another and head-over-heels in love. And then the unspeakable happens, Tieresse is murdered. Rafael has an alibi, but his unconventional marriage is misunderstood by most, and he is considered the prime suspect. Rafael is an innocent man and trusts the judicial system until he is found guilty of a crime that he did not commit. Adding insult to injury, he is given the death penalty. Rafael then spends over five years on death row then new evidence is uncovered that could potentially exonerate him. Surely, the Supreme Court of Texas will provide a stay of execution and allow the evidence to be tested? Thankfully, the federal courts did provide a last-minute stay of execution and Rafael is completely exonerated and released from prison. Rafael has lost the love of his life, his business, his good name, and over six years of his life. He doesn’t blame his lawyers or even the jurors from his original trial for his legal debacle. He’s incredibly grateful to his legal team for all of their hard work. He does, however, harbor growing animosity toward the two judges on the Texas Supreme Court that thwarted his legal team at every turn. Can he let go of this animosity and live his life in peace or is it time to teach these judges a lesson? How far is too far when exacting revenge? 

Confessions of an Innocent Man is the first fiction book written by David R. Dow and it packs quite a punch. The author provides an interesting glimpse into the troubled legal system where a suspect is often considered guilty with little presumption of innocence rather than innocent until proven guilty. This legal thriller shines a light on the miscarriages of justice that are often perpetrated against people of color within the judicial system. This book isn’t a diatribe against the legal system. It does highlight the faults within the system, but it also highlights the things that work. Confessions of an Innocent Man is more than a story about an innocent man being railroaded on a murder charge, it’s about unconventional relationships, vengeance, reparations, and more. Yes, there’s a lot going on in this story. The reader gets a fascinating glimpse into the life of people on death row, the legal system (at least the Texas legal system) from arrest through trial and after, the emotional toll of being on death row and how inmates there are treated, the struggle to adjust after exoneration and release, in addition to witnessing the growing relationship between Tieresse and Rafael, and more. This book deals with some difficult subjects: murder, death row, abuse of prisoners, etc., but it was a compelling read. I couldn’t put the book down until I got to the end and thoroughly enjoyed it even with the dark themes. If you enjoy reading realistic fiction or legal thrillers, then I urge you to get a copy of Confessions of an Innocent Man to read. This book is one of my #mustread recommendations for the year. I look forward to reading more fiction by Mr. Dow in the future.



Disclaimer:  I received a free digital copy of this book from the author/publisher via Edelweiss+ for review purposes. 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 422: THE PROPOSAL by Jasmine Guillory

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
ISBN: 9780399587689 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780399587696 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780525635406 (audiobook)
ASIN: B0782YRL2G (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 30, 2018 
Publisher: Berkley Books 


“There is so much to relate to and throughout the novel, there is a sharp feminist edge. Loved this one, and you will too.”–New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay

The author of The Wedding Date serves up a novel about what happens when a public proposal doesn’t turn into a happy ending, thanks to a woman who knows exactly how to make one on her own…

When someone asks you to spend your life with him, it shouldn’t come as a surprise–or happen in front of 45,000 people.

When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn’t the hard part–they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans…

At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He’s even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik’s social media blows up–in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can’t be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes…



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Nikole “Nik” Paterson thought she was spending a casual date with her boyfriend, Fisher, and his friends on his birthday. Not a sports enthusiast, Nik wasn’t really into the game when all of sudden Fisher tells her to watch something and a proposal shows up on the Jumbotron and Fisher is on bended knee with an engagement ring. To say this was a huge surprise is a major understatement since neither of them had even mentioned being in love with one another. When Nik politely rejects his very-public proposal, Fisher storms off and Nik quickly becomes the object of a viral video and a woman scorned by sports enthusiasts worldwide. Her social media blows up with taunts and threats. Fisher sends her vicious and threatening text messages. The only way Nik was able to safely leave the stadium was to be rescued by Dr. Carlos Ibarra and his sister Angela, who were sitting behind Nik and Fisher and witnessed the entire fiasco. What made everything worse was the fact that Fisher had spelled Nikole’s name wrong on the Jumbotron, not that she was interested in marriage with him in the first place. A chance encounter at Dodger Stadium with Dr. Ibarra quickly becomes a flirtation, then a romantic friendship and before you know it, Nik is meeting his best friends and his family. Can she set aside the ingrained doubts of her self-worth from previous harmful relationships and open herself up to Carlos? Is this just a rebound relationship or something more? 

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory was another delightfully fun, sexy, smart, and fast-paced read. Once again, Ms. Guillory provides an interracial relationship story without race being the primary focus of the story (Nik is Black and Carlos is Latino). A major portion of this story is obviously the relationship between Nik and Carlos, but there’s also the years of self-doubt that Nik is dealing with due to destructive negative feedback from previous relationships. I enjoyed reading about Nik’s friends, Constance and Dana and hope that we’ll be reading their stories in the future (hint, hint). I also enjoyed revisiting Alexa and Drew from The Wedding Date. Carlos and Drew are good friends and Carlos will be the Best Man at Drew and Alexa’s wedding. There’s quite a bit going on in this story, but I found one of the most interesting themes to be the female characters dealing with the after-effects of emotionally abusive relationships, especially with regards to Nik and gym owner Natalie (read the book to learn more). Nik and her friends sign up for a self-defense class after the fallout from “the proposal” and it does quite a bit to restore Nik’s self-confidence. If you’re a romance fan and you’ve read The Wedding Date then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of The Proposalto read. Seriously, this was a great romance read. I’m lending my copy to my 84-y.o. mother to read. (She wondered why I was laughing and smiling so much while reading this book at her house the other day and after I described the book she said she had to read it. Of course, she has to return it to me after she’s finished so I can reread it in the future.) If, for some reason, you haven’t read The Wedding Date and you’re a romance reader, then run out and grab a copy along with a copy of The Proposal. If you’re not a romance reader and are looking for something different to read, then I encourage you to grab copies of The Wedding Date and The Proposal to read as well. You can thank me later. Happy Reading!


Disclaimer:  I received a free print review copy of this book from the publisher. 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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2016 Book 166: MONSTERS A LOVE STORY by Liz Kay

Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay
ISBN: 9781101982471 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781101982488 (ebook)
ASIN: B0177AGNZQ (Kindle version)
Publication Date: June 7, 2016 
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons


A cracklingly funny and poignant debut novel about the ways we love, even when we’re not at our best. Stacey Lane feels like a monster. Tommy DeMarco might be one.

Since her husband died eight months ago, Stacey’s been a certified mess—a poet who can’t write anymore, a good mother who feels like she’s failing her kids. She’s been trying to redefine herself, to find new boundaries.

Tommy has no respect for boundaries. A surprisingly well-read A-list Hollywood star, Tommy’s fallen in love with Stacey’s novel-in-verse, a feminist reimagining of Frankenstein, no less. His passion for the book, and eventually its author, will set their lives on a collision course. They’ll make a movie, make each other crazy, and make love—but only in secret. 

As Stacey travels between her humdrum life in the suburbs of Omaha and the glamorous but fleeting escape Tommy offers, what begins as a distracting affair starts to pick up weight. It’s a weight that unbalances Stacey’s already unsteady life, but offers new depth to Tommy’s. About desire, love, grief, parenthood, sexual politics, and gender, Monsters: A Love Story is a witty portrait of a relationship gone off the rails, and two people who are made for each other—even if they’re not so sure they see it that way.



Stacey Lane’s husband died unexpectedly and she and her kids are still grieving his death and trying to find their balance. Things are going reasonably well until she receives an email stating her book of poetry is being optioned for a film. Life as she knows it will never be the same in Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay.

Stacey Lane’s life changed when her husband died. It changes again when she meets Hollywood superstar Tommy DeMarco. Tommy wants to adapt her novel-in-verse into a film. Stacey knows next to nothing about film adaptation, but she’s pulled into the process from the very beginning simply because Tommy is enthralled with her book and becomes enamored with her. Stacey begins to fly back-and-forth from Nebraska to California to work on the script, watch the filming, etc. She and Tommy begin to have a highly dysfunctional relationship that isn’t quite a romance, or at least it isn’t to Stacey. As a result of the film, Stacey’s book is in the spotlight and she’s invited to numerous book festivals. Between her travels to California and other places, her children begin to spend just as much time with her sister as they do at home. In an effort to bring more normalcy to her life, Stacey begins to date again and before she knows it she’s engaged to be married. Unfortunately, her children don’t really like her fiance, Tommy is furious about the engagement, and Stacey’s isn’t quite sure why.

Monsters: A Love Story is a fast and fun read about a dysfunctional romance at its best and worst. Stacey and Tommy come across as two intelligent people, but when it comes to their quasi-relationship they become ignorant of what the other wants or expects. They share late night phone calls, text one another constantly, and Stacey spends all of her time at Tommy’s house (and in Tommy’s bed) when she’s in California. It was interesting to watch their relationship evolve, as well as watch the perceived devolution of Stacey’s role as a mother and evolution of Tommy’s role as a father. Stacey and Tommy aren’t the perfect couple and they don’t come across as idealistic about romance. Tommy is jaded about romance and Stacey just comes across as somewhat clueless when it comes to Tommy. To say that Monsters: A Love Story isn’t the typical romance is a massive understatement, and that is part of its charm. Monsters: A Love Story is an entertaining story about two unlikely people falling in love in unusual circumstances and is, perhaps, the perfect choice for a lazy weekend.


Read an excerpt from Monsters: A Love Story here.

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 385: THE READERS OF BROKEN WHEEL RECOMMEND by Katarina Bivald

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
ISBN: 9781492623441 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781492623458 (ebook)
ASIN: B0108GOL9Q (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 19, 2016 
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory. All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love. 



Sara, a Swedish bookseller, has been pen pals with Amy, an American from Broken Wheel, Iowa for two years. Now that Sara is unemployed, she has decided to take a vacation to the US and accept the invitation to stay with Amy for a few months. Sara’s plans change when she arrives in Broken Wheel and finds out that Amy has died. Faced with a two-month vacation in Iowa and a non-refundable plane ticket, Sara decides to make the best of a bad situation and pays homage to her love of books and attempts to repay a town’s kindness in The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald.

Sara Lindqvist has never been a spontaneous person, but since becoming unemployed in Sweden, she decided to take her pen pal Amy up on her offer to stay with her in Broken Wheel, Iowa. Sara is looking forward to two months with her friend, spending time discussing books rather than writing about books, and reading. Her family doesn’t understand why she’s going to Iowa rather than New York or California and when they’re told that her friend has died their limited ability to understand Sara and her choices disappears completely. Sara is now in a foreign land without her friend Amy as a buffer, but she has come to know the residents of Broken Wheel through Amy’s letters. The only thing she can think of doing in order to repay the kindness of the town’s residents is to open a bookstore and share Amy’s books and Sara’s love of books and reading. Sara only has two months to make readers of the residents of Broken Wheel and her efforts are met with suspicion, laughter, and awe. Sara’s efforts quickly bring the town’s residents together and before you know it, the residents have fallen in love with Sara just as she has fallen in love with them. No one wants Sara to leave, but can a mutual love-fest built on books be enough to keep Sara in the US legally?

I enjoyed The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. (What’s not to love about a story dealing with books and reading?) Sara isn’t your typical heroine, as she is somewhat shy and reserved, except when it’s time to talk books. Sara and Amy had a special friendship built on their mutual love of books, and Sara is spreading the joy. This story is a romance (between Sara and the town’s residents as well as one particular resident…read the story to find out more) and is filled with humor and touches of sadness. The characters are wholly believable with their quirks and antics to help Sara out upon her arrival and then to keep Sara in the US. Yes, there’s a lot more going on in this story such as the survival of a small town despite all the economic hardships it faces, residents struggling with love lost and love found, and more. I found this to be a fast-paced read and one that I can heartily recommend to anyone that enjoys romance or simply reading about books and reading. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Bivald in the future. Make sure you put The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend on your TBR list, you won’t regret it.

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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Book 391: DEADLY OBSESSION Review

Deadly Obsession (Brown and de Luca #4) by Maggie Shayne
ISBN: 9780778316800 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781460343333 (ebook)
ASIN: B00L0XO282 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 25, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA


A cold-blooded killer with a burning obsession… 

Rachel de Luca has a bad feeling about the new woman in Detective Mason Brown’s life, the nurse taking care of him after he’s injured in the line of duty. She’d like to think it’s just jealousy, but intuition tells her it’s something more, maybe something dangerous. 

Mason knows Rachel’s wary of commitment, and asking her to stay when he’s in this condition would be the worst thing for their relationship. Then they receive chilling news that drives everything else from their minds. 

Mason’s psychotic sister-in-law has escaped from custody, putting her sons — the nephews he’s raising — in the crosshairs. When his house is burned to the ground, he and Rachel are relieved that there are no bodies in the smoldering rubble, but now his nephews are missing and the clock is ticking. 

As Mason and Rachel try to find the boys, she senses a new and unexpected danger stalking them. Soon, everyone close to Mason is in deadly peril — Rachel more than anyone…



They’re back . . . Rachel de Luca and Mason Brown are back in the fourth book in the Brown and de Luca series by Maggie Shayne, Deadly Obsession. Rachel is preoccupied by Mason’s recent use of the “L-word” (love) but their relationship is steady and progressing. This book starts off with a bang . . . literally; a house explodes and erupts in fire. Fortunately Rachel and Mason have just finished a date and are on their way home when they spot the fire. Since Mason is one of the first on the scene, he enters the home to rescue two children. His rescue attempt is successful in more ways than one because he now has attracted the attention of a killer. Will he be able to survive this killer’s attempts to rid him of all of his loved ones, including Rachel? Better yet, will Rachel be able to survive?


Rachel is still quite mouthy, speaks first, thinks later in this book, but she quickly comes to realize that her life is nothing without Mason and the boys, Jeremy and Joshua. She takes charge of Mason’s nephews after he is hospitalized from the fire rescue, and learns that she no longer yearns for those quiet, peaceful evenings at home. She’s still adamant about not being psychic but rather having NFP (not-effing-psychic) abilities. These abilities will be put to great use in Deadly Obsession as she is realizing that something isn’t quite right with Mason’s nurse. She also realizes that she’s just a little bit jealous and wants to delve into the visiting nurse’s background. Unfortunately she’s talked out of it by her assistant Amy, whose new title is “She Whose Quitting Will Result in My Complete and Utter Annihilation.” While Rachel sulks about Mason not coming to stay at her house after his release from the hospital, Mason’s sister-in-law Marie has had a major meltdown at the psychiatric hospital. Marie knows that someone is out to get Mason and her sons but she can’t convince anyone because she’s psychotic. It probably doesn’t help that she refers to this person as a demon. Meanwhile Rachel is trying to write a new book, dealing with two young boys, falling in love, preoccupied and stressing about falling in love, stressing over her lover’s injuries, dealing with a psychotic in-law, planning a blowout graduation party, and now dealing with an obsessed want-to-be rival love interest. 

I found Deadly Obsession to be a fast-paced read. As with all of the books in this series, it was filled with tongue-in-cheek humor, romance, suspense, family drama, teen angst and drama, and one stylish blind bulldog. Rachel and Mason’s relationship is sweet, tender, and prickly. Neither wanted to fall in love and both are trying to figure out the best way of dealing with it. Mason’s nephews, Jeremy and Joshua, add a nice built-in family component to their relationship since Mason now has custody. Take two fiercely independent adults – one a police officer and the other a renowned motivational author, add in romance and suspense then watch the sparks fly. I enjoyed reading about the progression of their relationship. I also enjoyed reading about both Rachel and Mason coming to grips with the idea that they are in love. The suspense from a crazed and obsessed would-be love interest and a psychotic sister-in-law just added to the drama. Each book in this series reveals more about Mason and Rachel’s characters, to the point that they feel more like long-distance friends than characters in a book. Most of the characters that appeared in previous books reappear in Deadly Obsession, including Rachel’s sister, brother-in-law, twin nieces, as well as her perky, personal assistant Amy. Mason’s partner, Rosie, his mother Angela, his sister-in-law Marie, and nephews are also featured. The cast of characters is rounded out with the new bad guy, Gretchen, Rachel’s beloved bulldog Myrtle, and a new four-legged addition to the family, a bulldog pup – Hugo. The characters are wholly realistic and the situations, some more farfetched than others, seem just as realistic. Ms. Shayne adds more pieces to the puzzle of who are Rachel and Mason and where are they heading with each book. Deadly Obsession reveals just how much Mason and Rachel truly care about one another and solidifies them as a unit. If you enjoy light-hearted romantic suspense reads, then you’ll enjoy the Brown and de Luca series. If you haven’t read any of the books in the Brown and de Luca series, read them! Start at the beginning with Sleep with the Lights On, before moving on to Dream of Danger, Wake to Darkness, Innocent Prey, and finally Deadly Obsession. If you’ve read the previous books in this series then you’ll want to grab a copy of Deadly Obsession as soon as it comes out. This is one series you don’t want to miss out on (can you tell I like this series).



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



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Book 340: DEAD SIMPLE Review

Dead Simple (Roy Grace #1) by Peter James
ISBN: 9781250063854 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781429958721 (ebook)
ASIN: B0042JSSSG (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Minotaur Books (St. Martin’s Press)


If there is one place Michael Harrison never expected to die, it’s in his own grave. 

When Michael Harrison’s four best friends leave him buried alive on the night of his bachelor party, it seems like the perfect payback for his own bachelor party pranks. But moments later the four are killed in a car crash, and suddenly their harmless joke is no laughing matter. With only three days to the wedding, Detective Superintendent Grace—a man haunted by the shadow of his own missing wife—is contacted by Michael’s beautiful, distraught fiancée, Ashley Harper. Grace discovers that the one man who ought to know Michael Harrison’s whereabouts is saying nothing. But then he has a lot to gain—more than anyone realizes. For one man’s disaster is another man’s fortune. Dead simple.



It’s Michael Harrison’s stag night. He and four of his friends are on a pub crawl. Although Michael has promised his fiancée not to get too drunk, he’s having a good time and feeling virtually no pain. The only thing missing is his best friend, Mark, but Mark was out of town on business and his plane back home to Brighton has been grounded by fog. Just when things are really starting to heat up, Michael’s friends take their revenge on him for all of his stag night pranks against him and put him in a coffin in a grave. Their intention is to make him sweat a little and come back in a few hours and dig him up. As they’re driving off they are in a horrible car accident. Three die on impact and the fourth has suffered severe injuries and is comatose. Enter Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. Grace has been asked by a friend and co-worker to help out on Michael’s disappearance. Can they find Michael before his upcoming nuptials or before he dies of lack of oxygen or worse?

Dead Simple is the first in the Roy Grace series by Peter James. Grace is not your average police officer. He is relatively young to be a detective superintendent and was on a fast track until a defense attorney mocks him for his belief in the paranormal, specifically the use of psychics on his cases. Grace is thirty-nine years old and has been grieving the disappearance of his wife Sandy for nine years. He refuses to have her legally declared dead because he still holds out hope that she’ll be found. Grace’s abilities as an outstanding police officer are admired by most and it is precisely due to this admiration that his friend and co-worker Glenn Branson that he is called in on Michael Harrison’s disappearance. Roy doesn’t quite believe Michael’s best-friend and best man Mark Warren when he says he had no idea what his friends were up to on that night, he had only planned a pub crawl. Although Michael’s fiancée Ashley appears to be distraught over his disappearance, there’s something about her manner that has Roy wondering about her as well.

Dead Simple is part thriller, part suspense, part police procedural, and a great read. Roy Grace is a quirky but likeable character and wholly believable as a police officer. His interaction with friends and coworkers adds to his likeability quotient and adds to the reader’s understanding of Grace the man and Grace the police officer. This seemingly simple case of a missing man becomes anything but simple as the story evolves. Just when you think you know who is doing what and why, Mr. James throws in a nice plot twist and you’re off in a completely new direction. There are bad guys and even worse guys in this story and they provide the perfect foil for Grace and his abilities. All of the action in the story takes place over a span of five days, a fast-paced, suspense-filled five days. Does Grace find the bad guy(s) in the end? Is Michael still alive? What was the motive behind Michael’s “abduction?” You know I’m not going to reveal those types of details; you have to read this delightfully twisted story for yourself to find out. One thing I can tell you is that I’ll be reading more of the Roy Grace series by Mr. James because I’m totally hooked.



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



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Book 335: A SUDDEN LIGHT Review

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein
ISBN: 9781439187036 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781439187050 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781442353244 (audiobook)
ASIN: B00IWTWTO6 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster



When a boy tries to save his parents’ marriage, he uncovers a legacy of family secrets in a coming-of-age ghost story by the author of the internationally bestselling phenomenon, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel—who is flickering in and out of dementia—to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development into “tract housing for millionaires,” divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.

But Trevor soon discovers there’s someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own. For while the land holds tremendous value, it is also burdened by the final wishes of the family patriarch, Elijah, who mandated it be allowed to return to untamed forestland as a penance for the millions of trees harvested over the decades by the Riddell Timber company. The ghost will not rest until Elijah’s wish is fulfilled, and Trevor’s willingness to face the past holds the key to his family’s future.

A Sudden Light is a rich, atmospheric work that is at once a multigenerational family saga, a historical novel, a ghost story, and the story of a contemporary family’s struggle to connect with each other. A tribute to the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, it reflects Garth Stein’s outsized capacity for empathy and keen understanding of human motivation, and his rare ability to see the unseen: the universal threads that connect us all.



Trevor Riddell is a typical fourteen-year-old boy until his parents file bankruptcy and decide on a trial separation. He is then uprooted from his East Coast life to his father’s ancestral home in Washington State. It is here that Trevor meets, for the first time, his grandfather and his aunt. He also discovers more about his father in one week than he has in the past fourteen years. Trevor’s summer at Riddell House is filled with four-generations of father-and-son angst and drama, as well as ghosts. Is it possible for this normal teenager to uncover the secrets in his family and unlock the past so everyone in his family can move on?

A Sudden Light is an amazing blend of one family’s history, self-discovery, historical drama, contemporary fiction, and the supernatural all rolled into one incredible story. Trevor doesn’t set out to uncover his family’s secrets when he arrives at Riddell House, but he quickly begins to realize that all is not what it seems. He hears music in the ballroom and witnesses an apparition dancing, supposedly his grandmother Isobel. He bonds with his grandfather Samuel and learns to deal with his dementia. He admires his Aunt Serena but also realizes that she isn’t the intelligent and beneficent person she appears to be. He also realizes that his father is a broken man, partially by his past at Riddell House and partially because of broken dreams. As Trevor explores Riddell House he learns about his great-great-grandfather Elijah, his gay great-uncle Ben (one of the other ghosts), his great-grandfather Abraham, his grandmother Isobel, his grandfather Samuel, and more. One of the enduring Riddell family legacies seems to be the dysfunctional relationship between father and son. It might seem unrealistic to think that a teenager could mend the broken ties within his family after generations of dysfunction, but that is exactly what Trevor attempts to do. 

I could go on and on about the Riddell family’s generational dysfunction, about the ghosts that seem to direct Trevor’s quest, about Serena and Jones (Trevor’s father) machinations to get their father to agree to sell the house and property to a real estate developer, or about Trevor’s growth as a person throughout the story. What I will say is that A Sudden Light is an engrossing read about one boy and his family, those living and those deceased. I enjoyed reading about the history of the Riddell family and Riddell House. I felt sympathy for Benjamin as he mourned the death of his lover and soul mate. I felt sympathy for his father Elijah as he mourned the death of Benjamin. I felt excitement tempered with anxiety as Trevor explored the house and interacted with the ghosts. I was angry with Trevor’s father Jones as he drowned his sorrows in alcohol while attempting to regain his lost youth. We won’t even discuss how I felt about Serena and her passive-aggressive manipulations (I didn’t like it). Be prepared because the ending is a bit of surprise (no I won’t tell you what happens, read the book!). If you like contemporary fiction, historical fiction, ghost stories, or family drama, then this is the book for you to read. If you haven’t guessed by now, I loved A Sudden Light and can recommend it to anyone that simply enjoys reading a well-crafted story. 


Listen to the author, Garth Stein, discuss A Sudden Light:


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 301: SUMMER OF THE DEAD Review

Summer of the Dead (Bell Elkins Series, Book 3) by Julia Keller
ISBN: 9781250044730 (hardcover)  
ISBN: 9781466843189 (ebook)
ASIN: B00IHCYWDY (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Minotaur Books


West Virginia prosecuting attorney Bell Elkins’s sister has been out of jail for three months, and in that time Bell has given her a place to stay, bought her everything she needed, even put up with her constant smoking habit. Still, tensions are high and it’s not quite the homecoming reunion Bell had envisioned. When Bell gets a call in the middle of the night to pick Shirley up from a bar fight, she’s livid. But on arriving at the bar, Shirley is the least of Bell’s problems: inside, a man has been killed.

Meanwhile, nineteen-year-old Lindy Odell’s father’s health is steadily declining, and her job at the gas station is boring at best, but Lindy’s been managing just fine, thank-you. Now, though, the recent rash of violent crimes in Acker’s Gap has Lindy worried, as someone seems to be paying her a little too much attention.

With Summer of the Dead, Pulitzer-prize winner Julia Keller returns to Acker’s Gap, West Virginia in a provocative exploration of a struggling mountain town and its hardscrabble inhabitants.


Its summer time in Ackers Gap, West Virginia and the heat is oppressive. If dealing with the summer heat wasn’t bad enough, Bell Elkins and the residents of Acker’s Gap, West Virginia are also dealing with the fear left behind from a senseless murder. It’s only been a few months since the return of Bell’s sister, Shirley, and the awful murder of a teenage girl, as well as the spree of murders by a terrorist seeking revenge against one of Bell’s friends only in town for a visit. Bell’s lover suffered severe injuries during an explosion in a local eatery and their relationship seems to have fizzled out. Bell’s daughter is due in for the summer and that is the only bright spot in her immediate future. Just when Bell thinks that things can’t get any worse she receives a phone call from another county sheriff’s office that her sister is at the scene of a bar brawl that turns into a murder scene. Then another murder victim is found in Acker’s Gap and Bell’s daughter opts not to return to Acker’s Gap for the summer but go to London, England for an internship. Could things get any worse?

Be careful what questions you ask, because yes things can always get worse. After the second murder, Bell begins to wonder what an elderly retired coal miner – the first murder victim, a man that takes care of his dying mother – the second murder victim, a young lady that works at a local gas station/convenience store, and a former West Virginia governor have in common. On the surface it doesn’t appear to be much other than the fact that they are all residents of Raythune County (or at least a former resident with respect to the governor). The more Bell tries to make sense of what’s going on, the more confused and angry she becomes. The one thing Bell doesn’t do is back down from a challenge and she’s determined to find the answers behind these murders, hopefully before another murder occurs.

Summer of the Dead is the third book in the Bell Elkins series by Julia Keller. As with the previous books in this series, Ms. Keller doesn’t shy away from touchy subjects such as people getting rich or richer on the backs of the poor, politicians selling out the state to the highest bidders, environmental rape and plunder to the detriment of the everyday working man or woman, and the ever-present problems of meth/prescription drug addiction and abuse in rural areas in the state. The character Bell Elkins doesn’t whitewash her disgust at these practices and is adamant in her desire to rid at least her part of West Virginia from as many of these problems as possible. (If you haven’t read A Killing in the Hills, the first book in this series, please do so as it deals with the prescription drug abuse problem and drug trade in West Virginia in a realistic manner.)  Yes, there is widespread poverty in West Virginia. Yes there are rural areas in the state where the unemployment level is two or three times the national average. Yes, there are families that never seem to escape the hardscrabble life of their fathers and grandfathers. But there are also people like Bell Elkins that get an education and either stay or come back to make a difference. Summer of the Dead is an amazing mystery that pulled me back into Bell Elkins world. I read this book in one afternoon and only put it down to make another cup of tea or three. Ms. Keller has the ability to spin a tale that is so believable it borders on nonfiction. If you’ve read A Killing in the Hills and Bitter River you have to grab Summer of the Dead to read more about Bell Elkins and Ackers Gap. If you haven’t read the previous books in this series all I can say is, “what are you waiting for?”                                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                
Click here to hear Ms. Keller discuss the Bell Elkins mystery series on NPR.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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Book 278: HER LAST WHISPER Review

Her Last Whisper by Karen Robards
ISBN: 9780804178266 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780804178280 (ebook)
ASIN: B00IHMF9I6 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Ballantine Books


Dr. Charlotte Stone returns in Karen Robards’s sizzling new thriller!

The last time criminal psychology expert Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Stone helped capture a serial killer, it was nearly the last thing she ever did. Now she’s determined to stick to research—and leave risk-taking to the law. But when dangerous duty calls, she can’t refuse. And there’s no greater danger than the Cinderella Killer, a charming predator who lures beautiful, single women to their deaths. FBI agent Lena Kaminsky fears her missing sister has fallen prey to the seductive psychopath, and desperately needs Charlie’s unique skills before it’s too late. Joined by Special Agents Tony Bartoli, Buzz Crane—and her ghostly bad-boy lover, Michael Garland—Charlie heads to Vegas to track down Lena’s sister before the Cinderella Killer seals her fate. But it’s Charlie who ends up gambling with her life, when the lethal Lothario decides she’s just his type.



Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Stone is back with her friendly, romantic ghost, Michael Garland. This time around Dr. Stone goes all out in order to track down FBI agent Lena Kaminsky’s sister before she becomes the victim of the Cinderella Killer in Las Vegas. If chasing after a serial killer isn’t bad enough, she must also do what she can to try and protect Michael from the otherworldly realm. Can Dr. Stone track down the killer in this realm while protecting Michael from another without losing her mind?

Her Last Whisper is the third book in the Charlotte Stone series by Ms. Robards and each book takes a step deeper into the paranormal as Charlie learns to handle her ghostly love interest, Michael Garland. I’ve got to say that I initially questioned the sanity of a psychologist that was willing to fall head-over-heels in love with not only a ghost, but a ghost that was convicted murdered. Although Michael is no angel, he isn’t quite the bad guy that he was made out to be. Each book in this series reveals slightly more of Michael’s backstory, and this book was no different. Charlie learns that Michael was not only in the military, but in an elite military group. Yes Michael has killed, but his killings were dictated by the military and can’t be equated to willful murder. Initially Charlie wanted nothing more than for Michael to disappear, but now she’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep him around.

While Charlie ponders her willingness to hang onto Michael for as long as possible, she works with her FBI friends to track down a serial killer. To say there’s no love lost between Charlie and Lena Kaminsky is putting it lightly, but Charlie bears no ill will toward Lena and is ready to do what she can to find the killer before Lena’s sister is next victim. There are a lot of high emotions running throughout Her Last Whisper. Lena is worried about her sister and doesn’t want the investigation halted even for sleep. Lena’s love interest, another FBI agent – Buzz Crane, also happens to be her sister’s ex. Then there’s Toni Bartoli, the lead FBI agent that has a thing for Charlie while Charlie pines for a dead man. Three FBI agents, one criminal psychologist, and one ghost combine their efforts to find a mad man before it’s too late. Her Last Whisper has a lot of suspense, an ongoing sense of mystery (especially related to Michael and his backstory), and a whole lot of sexual tension (between Charlie and Michael, Michael and Charlie, and Toni and Charlie). If you’ve read any of the previous books in the Charlotte Stone series: The Last Victim and The Last Kiss Goodbye, then you’ll definitely want to read Her Last Whisper. If you haven’t read any of the books in this series but you enjoy romantic suspense thrillers, then you’ll want to add all of these books to your TBR list.


Read an excerpt 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 151: SPUN Review


SPUN by Catherine McKenzie
ISBN: 9780692025161 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781443436472 (ebook)
ASIN: B00I7WV51Q (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 29, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada


In this funny and touching novella, bestselling author Catherine McKenzie returns to the story of Amber Sheppard, It Girl and celebrity train wreck from McKenzie’s reader-favorite novel, Spin.

Life has been rough for starlet Amber since leaving rehab. She’s been two years sober, but no one seems to believe her — not the gossip media, not casting agents, and most certainly not her spotlight-loving parents. With her friendships ruined by betrayal and her career at a standstill, Amber’s just trying to get her life back on track. It doesn’t help that her former love, movie star Connor Parks, keeps trying to draw Amber back in, not just to their relationship but to his hard-partying ways. One fateful night, Amber breaks down and agrees to join him on board his private jet as it readies for take-off — a decision that will change her life forever and expose her to a whole new level of scrutiny and heartbreak.


Amber Sheppard has lived her life in the public eye since she became the “It Girl” following her smash television show The Girl Next Door when she was only fifteen years old. She became emancipated at age sixteen and involved with her co-star, Connor Parks. It didn’t help that Conner was eight years older than Amber or that they had a toxic and enabling relationship. They were in love. For a while Amber was able to move on after her television show and made several movies. She was even nominated for an Academy Award…but all that is in past, along with Connor. And to think it only took three tries at sobriety and rehab before she realized her life was quickly circling the drain. Unfortunately no one in the business is willing to give Amber another try and it seems like every stumble she makes is blamed on drugs or alcohol. Just when Amber doesn’t think she can survive another blow, she is dealt the hardest blow of all. Is it possible to move forward when the media and even your parents don’t believe in you or your sobriety? This is something Amber will have to discover an answer for in Catherine McKenzie’s follow-up to SPIN, the novella SPUN.

First, if you haven’t read SPIN grab a copy today. Although reading it isn’t necessary to enjoy SPUN, it does help to provide some background on Amber and her relationship with the media, friends, and family. Second, I found SPUN to be a very fast-paced and touching read. Ms. McKenzie does an excellent job of portraying the difficulties of remaining sober, as well as the attempt to rebuild broken relationships. In this day and age when it seems like we’re hearing about some celebrity mishap and rehab failure every day, the character of Amber Sheppard was all too realistic. It was easy to empathize with Amber although it was apparent that her pre-sobriety behavior was beyond outrageous. I even cheered her on as she continued to fight for her continued sobriety and to earn back the respect of friends, family, and peers. Although SPUN is a quick read, it isn’t a lighthearted story as it deals with the struggles of sobriety, addiction, and even grief in a realistic yet respectable manner. I’ve read most of Ms. McKenzie’s writings and enjoyed them all. If you’re looking for a quick read with a little bit of grit and realism, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of SPUN to read.





Catherine McKenzie has generously offered to give away one digital copy of SPIN to a lucky The Book Diva’s Reads follower. To enter please use the Rafflecopter form below.


Katie Sandford has just gotten an interview at her favourite music magazine, The Line. It’s the chance of a lifetime. So what does she do? Goes out to celebrate – and shows up still drunk at the interview. No surprise, she doesn’t get the job, but the folks at The Line think she might be perfect for another assignment for their sister gossip rag. All Katie has to do is follow It Girl Amber Sheppard into rehab. If she can get the inside scoop (and complete the 30-day program without getting kicked out), they’ll reconsider her for the job at The Line.

Katie takes the job. But things get complicated when real friendships develop, a cute celebrity handler named Henry gets involved, and Katie begins to realize she may be in rehab for a reason. Katie has to make a decision — is publishing the article worth everything she has to lose?



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

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