Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian
ISBN: 9780385534833 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780385534840 (ebook)
ASIN: B00HTMBEN4 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Doubleday

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is the story of Emily Shepard, a homeless girl living in an igloo made of garbage bags in Burlington. Nearly a year ago, a power plant in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont had a meltdown, and both of Emily’s parents were killed. Devastatingly, her father was in charge of the plant, and the meltdown may have been his fault—was he drunk when it happened? Thousands of people are forced to leave their homes in the Kingdom; rivers and forests are destroyed; and Emily feels certain that as the daughter of the most hated man in America, she is in danger. So instead of following the social workers and her classmates after the meltdown, Emily takes off on her own for Burlington, where she survives by stealing, sleeping on the floor of a drug dealer’s house, inventing a new identity for herself, and befriending a young homeless kid named Cameron. But Emily can’t outrun her past, can’t escape her grief, can’t hide forever-and so she comes up with the only plan that she can.

Emily Shepard didn’t have a perfect family life. Her parents drank too much, especially her father. They fought, usually about the drinking. But they provided Emily with everything a girl could ask for: a great education, travel, a wonderful home, and love (in between the drinking and fighting). All that changes when the nuclear power plant that her father is responsible for melts down and explodes. Suddenly her world is turned upside down and her parents are considered the biggest losers in the world. Is it any wonder that Emily decides to run to escape the chaos after this disaster?

What Emily doesn’t know at age sixteen is that you can’t run away from life. She quickly learns that her privileged life hasn’t really prepared her for a life on the streets. She also learns that when you’re down-and-out you’re willing to do almost anything in order to survive. Emily learns that prostitution at the local truck stop can provide her with quick cash. She learns to work the system in order to get a bath, where you can hangout during the day, which shops she can shoplift from and which ones she can’t. She makes up a life for herself and tries to drown her sorrows, fear and grief in drugs and self-mutilation. Over the course of nine months Emily learns how to survive on the streets and becomes a big sister/mother figure to another runaway, nine-year-old Cameron. Emily’s carefully constructed life quickly disintegrates when another tragedy strikes. Will she be able to survive this latest tragedy or will she completely self-destruct?

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is presented in the form of journal entries by Emily as she reflects on her life after the power plant accident. Emily hints at the notion that she may have a mental health issue and she learns to self-medicate with drugs while on the street. Her reflections on the power plant accident, her journey to Burlington, her struggles to remake herself, the prostitution, the self-abuse or cutting, the stealing, the drugs and the friends she makes and loses could make for a disheartening story. However Chris Bohjalian is a master at telling a story that truly plucks at your heartstrings and uplifts at the same time. Emily’s story could be the story of almost any teenager left without family or friends after a natural disaster, the only difference is her father is blamed for this disaster and it is by no means natural in origins. This wasn’t an easy read and it shouldn’t be given the themes that are discussed. Seriously, nuclear meltdown, radiation contamination, mass population exodus, teenage prostitution, teenage drug abuse, homelessness, and child and teen runaways aren’t exactly light topics. Nonetheless, Mr. Bohjalian has crafted a story that deals with these dark themes and still provides the reader with a sense of hope that things will work out in the end. This isn’t a story about good versus evil, but simply a story about self-awareness, self-acceptance, and survival. If you want to read a moving story that will make you think for hours, if not days or weeks, after reading it, then run out and buy a copy of Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands now. Trust me, this is a great read!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge
ISBN: 9781451684834 (hardback)
ISBN: 9781451684858 (ebook)
ASIN: B008J2AFVU (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: April 2, 2013

A bittersweet masterpiece filled with longing and hope, Jennie Shortridge’s emotional novel explores the raw, tender complexities of relationships and personal identity. Who is Lucie Walker? Even Lucie herself can’t answer that question after she comes to, confused and up to her knees in the chilly San Francisco Bay. Back home in Seattle, she adjusts to life with amnesia, growing unsettled by the clues she finds to the selfish, carefully guarded person she used to be. Will she ever fall in love with her handsome, kindhearted fiancé, Grady? Can he devote himself to the vulnerable, easygoing Lucie 2.0, who is so unlike her controlling former self? When Lucie learns that Grady has been hiding some very painful secrets that could change the course of their relationship, she musters the courage to search for the shocking, long-repressed childhood memories that will finally set her free.

Lucie Walker was a typical type A personality prior to her disappearance. She wore fashionable clothes, carried the most fashion-forward accessories, wore all the right makeup and micromanaged her life and business as a tech recruiter. She also tried to micromanage her fiancé and their upcoming wedding. Lucie has always found solace in her tightly managed life. This all changes when Lucie disappears without a trace from Seattle, Washington and is found days later in San Francisco, California. She has no memory of who she is, why she’s in California, or of her life in Seattle. Grady Goodall loves Lucie, the good and the bad. He’s an engineer with Boeing and the youngest of seven children. All his life has been spent not making waves, literally and figuratively speaking. Grady’s one joy has always been found in swimming. The act of swimming allows him the opportunity to cast off the woes and worries of his life. He’s not quite sure what to make of Lucie’s disappearance and he definitely doesn’t know how to handle her return as she’s no longer the Lucie he really knew and loved.

Love Water Memory is, in some aspects, a coming-of-age story for both Lucie and Grady. Grady must learn to deal with his past, namely the death of his father and subsequent abandonment issues, as well as general complacency and desire to avoid confrontation of any kind. Lucie can’t remember her past, not her immediate past or her childhood, so she’s constantly searching for clues into who she is and where she came from. All Grady can tell her is that her parents are deceased and she hasn’t had any contact with her sole surviving family member, an aunt. Neither Grady nor Lucie really like the answers they discover, but they realize they need to learn from the past so that they can move forward. I rather enjoyed reading about Grady and Lucie as they discovered who they really are and what they want, not just from each other but from themselves and life. Lucie’s search for clues to her past also helps to reunite her with the only family she still has, her aunt Helen Ten Hands. Ms. Shortridge does a wonderful job in describing Lucie’s dissociative fugue state and developing the back story to explain it all. I found Love Water Memory to be a wonderful contemporary fiction read with just the right amount of romance. If you’re looking for a great read, then look no further . . . add Love Water Memory to your Spring TBR pile.

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 78: HEART OF PALM Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book 74: ‘TIL DEATH Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book 73: LET THE DEAD SLEEP Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book 69: HEART LIKE MINE Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book 65: KEEP NO SECRETS Review

Keep No Secrets by Julie Compton
ISBN: 9780988793224 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780988793231 (ebook)
ASIN: B00BSGQ770 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Fresh Fork Publishing
Publication date: March 12, 2013

After the ultimate betrayal, which is more important: trust or forgiveness?

In KEEP NO SECRETS, the controversial follow-up to Compton’s debut legal thriller TELL NO LIES, a district attorney struggles to redeem himself after a one-night stand damaged his marriage and professional reputation.

After surviving the private and public fallout from a one-night stand four years before, St. Louis DA Jack Hilliard wants nothing more than to be trusted again by his wife, Claire, and to earn back the respect of the community he serves. Since the day Claire accepted him back into the family, he’s vowed to be true to these goals, and so far he’s succeeded.

But all of Jack’s efforts begin to crumble when the woman involved in his earlier downfall, Jenny Dodson, returns to town claiming threats on her life and asking for his help, and resurrecting for Jack long-buried emotions and questions of her guilt for the murder of a client. Just when he thinks the pressure can’t get any worse, his son’s girlfriend, Celeste, accuses him of sexual assault, and he suddenly finds himself on the wrong end of a criminal case, battling for his freedom.

Can Jack trust his freedom to the legal system on which he built his career? Or will the ghost of his one-night stand four years before come back to haunt him, causing him to be convicted on the mistakes of his past?

Jack and Claire Hilliard have spent the past four years of their lives portraying a couple rebuilding their marriage. Jack has presumed that his wife has forgiven him and is slowly regaining her trust in him, but that illusion is quickly shattered when he is accused of sexually molesting their son’s girlfriend, Celeste. It doesn’t help matters much that the woman he had an affair with four years earlier has returned to town. Their lives were placed in a media fish bowl four years earlier when he had to publicly admit to committing adultery and providing an alibi for a woman accused of murder. That event pales in comparison to what is happening now. Is it possible for their family to recover from this false accusation? Will Jack ever regain the trust of his wife or son in light of these allegations? 

Jack Hilliard is the primary focus of Keep No Secrets. His life — personal and professional — is pulled in different directions as he tries to prove his innocence publicly and privately, regain the trust of his wife and son, and help his former lover (Jenny) without betraying his wife’s forgiveness. Jack is truly a victim. He is a victim of the allegations from his son’s girlfriend. He is a victim of his wife’s trust issues. He is a victim of his emotions as he strives to help his lover without betraying his wife’s trust. And he is a victim of his father-in-law’s machinations. Through it all Jack strives to take the high road, believing that the system will work and prove his innocence. He is diligent in his efforts not to betray Claire’s trust while he helps Jenny. 

I initially found Keep No Secrets to be a little slow, but it quickly picked up after only a few chapters. I found myself rooting for Jack and hoping things would work out in his favor. Even though I felt Claire was just as much a victim of circumstance as Jack, I didn’t like her much. I didn’t really like Jack’s ex-lover Jenny Dodson much either. I thought they were both manipulative. The action and storylines were a bit convoluted at times but it all made perfect sense in the end. The end is a bit of a surprise on a variety of levels (no I’m not going to reveal the ending . . . read it for yourself). Keep No Secrets is filled with teenage angst, family drama, legal drama, sexual molestation/abuse, and passion; not just passion between a man and a woman, but one man’s passion to do the right thing at all costs. If you enjoy legal thrillers with a hint of mystery and suspense then you definitely want to add Keep No Secrets to your to-be-read list. The only reason I put this book down and didn’t complete it in one sitting was due to a severe migraine. I enjoyed Keep No Secrets so much I’ve added Tell No Lies to my TBR list (something tells me I’ll read Tell No Lies and then re-read Keep No Secrets).

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 44: EDGE OF DAWN Review

Edge of Dawn by Lara Adrian
ISBN: 9780345532602 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780345532619 (ebook)
ASIN: B0092EE4YS (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date: February 26, 2013

Twenty years after the terror of First Dawn—when mankind learned that vampires lived secretly among them—the threat of violence reigns as the two species struggle to coexist. The only group preserving the fragile harmony is the Order, an elite cadre of Breed warriors dedicated to protecting humans and vampires alike. And in this precarious world of torn loyalties and shattered trust, Mira, a fiery squad captain, finds that every fight bears an intensely personal cost.

Raised among the Order, Mira has always believed in the warrior’s code of swift—and even lethal—justice. But the one thing she desires more than the Order’s hard-won acceptance is Kellan Archer, a sexy but troubled Breed fighter. In love with him since childhood, Mira once broke through his tough exterior during an unexpected night of rapture, but the next day he mysteriously disappeared, never to return.

Kellan didn’t think he would ever see Mira again—or have to confront the truth of why he left. After abandoning the Order years ago, he now leads a band of human rebels intent on carrying out their own vigilante rule of law. Yet a high-profile kidnapping assignment brings him face-to-face with the past he sought to avoid, and the striking woman he has tried desperately to forget. And as tensions mount and the risk of bloodshed grows, Kellan and Mira must take sides—between the competing missions that dominate their lives, and the electrifying passion that claims their hearts.

Edge of Dawn is the eleventh book in the Midnight Breed series by Ms. Adrian, and the action takes place twenty years after the last book in this series. All of these books are classified as paranormal/fantasy romance featuring descendants of an alien race that feed on human blood. These aliens are all male, adorned with skin glyphs (similar to tattoos but change color due to emotions) and have supernatural strength and speed. These Breed males can only mate with human females known as breedmates that are recognized by special birthmarks. Once a Breed and breedmate are together as a couple, the human female ceases to age and becomes the source of sustenance for her Breed husband as his blood sustains her prolonged life and agelessness. 

I’ve read, and generally enjoyed, all of the books in this series. However, Edge of Dawn just failed to pull me in. I rather enjoyed seeing the new generation of breed offspring from previous couples introduced in past books as adults as well as the grown-up Mira. The enjoyment ended with the postwar Breed-Human peace initiatives and the Global Nations Council or GNC (similar to the UN but with broader powers). Past books have dealt with rogue Breed males and the one surviving ancient being used to bring about a series of first generation Breed males. (Ancients had unsurpassed strength and speed; their offspring or first gen Breed males had slightly lesser strength and speed with decreases in strength and speed with each successive generation of Breed males.) Mira and Kellan’s story had just enough twists to make it interesting, but I think there was just a bit too much going on in Edge of Dawn. The story fast forwarded too many years since the last book not to mention the many twists and conspiracies presented for it to be interesting for me. If you enjoy paranormal/fantasy romance with a vampire twist, then the Midnight Breed series and Edge of Dawn may be perfect for you. 

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

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Book 43: GARDEN OF STONES Review

Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield
ISBN: 9780778313526 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781460300305 (ebook)
ASIN: B009NEISWG (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Publication date: February 28, 2013

In the dark days of war, a mother makes the ultimate sacrifice Lucy Takeda is just fourteen years old, living in Los Angeles, when the bombs rain down on Pearl Harbor. Within weeks, she and her mother, Miyako, are ripped from their home, rounded up-along with thousands of other innocent Japanese-Americans-and taken to the Manzanar prison camp. 

Buffeted by blistering heat and choking dust, Lucy and Miyako must endure the harsh living conditions of the camp. Corruption and abuse creep into every corner of Manzanar, eventually ensnaring beautiful, vulnerable Miyako. Ruined and unwilling to surrender her daughter to the same fate, Miyako soon breaks. Her final act of desperation will stay with Lucy forever…and spur her to sins of her own. 

Bestselling author Sophie Littlefield weaves a powerful tale of stolen innocence and survival that echoes through generations, reverberating between mothers and daughters. It is a moving chronicle of injustice, triumph and the unspeakable acts we commit in the name of love. 

Lucy Takeda has had an unusual life (major understatement). An only child, she was adored by her father and the spitting image of her mother. Although Lucy grew up with a mother suffering with manic depression, she has led a very sheltered and privileged life. All of that changes with the death of her father, followed by the loss of her family home and relocation to an internment camp. It is here at Manzanar that Lucy witnesses great brutality and prejudice. She bears witness to the rape and continued sexual abuse of her mother, not to mention the sexual abuse of her only friend, sixteen year-old Jessie, at the hands of the men in charge at the camp. She also slowly watches her mother fall into deep depression that results in a horrible accident that will scar Lucy for life, a murder, and then her mother’s suicide. With the help of a nun, Lucy is eventually able to leave Manzanar before the war ends. She is given a job as a maid at a small hotel, where she eventually befriends the cook and her family, as well as the owner of the hotel, an injured war veteran, Garvey. 

Fast forward to 1978 and Lucy’s daughter, Patty, is preparing to get married. Days before the wedding is to occur, Lucy is being questioned and investigated as the prime suspect in a murder case. The murder victim just so happens to be one of the men that had been charged with overseeing Manzanar. Patty Takeda is already on edge about the wedding and she knows that her mother is keeping secrets. Will she be able to uncover those secrets in time to save her mother or will those secrets destroy what little peace of mind Lucy has obtained since 1944?

Ms. Littlefield has done a remarkable job in creating characters and a story that engaged me from the very beginning. Lucy’s story is told in flashback style, alternating between 1943/1944 and 1978. Lucy Takeda is a victim of circumstance, but she overcomes her adversity to make a life for herself and her child. Her physical scars seem to be a manifestation of not only an accident but also the emotional scars she has suffered during her lifetime. Patty Takeda is just as tenacious as her mother as she delves into the history of her mother and grandmother while at Manzanar. Ms. Littlefield presents an emotionally-charged drama with Garden of Stones. There are a few twists at the end that were completely unexpected and only added to my reading pleasure with this story. If you enjoy historical dramas with a bit of suspense and hint of romance, then I recommend you add Garden of Stones to your reading list.

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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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