Stillwater Rising (Stillwater Bay #1) by Steena Holmes
ISBN: 9781477825150 (paperback)
ASIN: B00JEOZE2C (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 11, 2014
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

After losing her son in an elementary school shooting that devastates the tight-knit community of Stillwater Bay, Jennifer Crowne finds herself unable to settle back into her role of perfect stay-at-home mom and committee organizer. Meanwhile, her best friend, Mayor Charlotte Stone, struggles to keep the town together, and Charlotte’s husband, the school principal, may not be the hero everyone thinks him to be.

As they try to heal from this irrevocable trauma, Jenn and Charlotte find themselves at a crossroads within the town and within their friendship. For Jenn, broken and grieving, there is no going back, and she demands that the school be closed so that she can bury the past. Yet Charlotte is equally desperate to hold the town together, fighting the school closure and helping the shooter’s mother regain her place in the community. Jenn and Charlotte’s relationship is put to the ultimate test as each weighs her own interests against the bonds of their friendship.

It’s hard to imagine the heartbreak of a parent that has lost a child. What’s even more unimaginable is when that loss is at the hands of another child. We’ve all read headlines or listened to stories about the horror of school shootings. Even though we may empathize with the families, it is difficult to imagine the pain the families feel or how they can ever learn to live with their grief and heartbreak. Stillwater Rising is a story of one town’s struggle to survive in the face of such tragedy and loss.

Ms. Holmes has presented a story that not only shines a light on the tragedy of school shootings, but shows how the fictional small town of Stillwater Bay bands together to survive. At the heart of the story are three women: the mother of one of murdered children, Jennifer Crowne; the mayor of the town and wife to the school principal, Charlotte Stone; the mother of the murderer, Julia Berry. Jennifer is in deep mourning over the loss of her youngest child, Bobby. She used to be an active member of the community, but is struggling to survive each day without her son. Charlotte is trying to be there for her town, her friends, and her husband. She’s also struggling to provide some semblance of normality for the town by being strong. There are some that feel she doesn’t understand because she isn’t a parent and didn’t suffer a direct loss as a result of the tragedy. Julia Berry is another parent struggling with grief, but also with guilt. It is her son that perpetrated this atrocity and she feels that she must be responsible since she was his parent. In addition to her guilt and grief, she is also struggling with a serious health condition. As a direct result of her guilt, she has become a hermit and has confined herself to her home. All three of these women are dealing with their own sense of guilt over that fateful day. One feels the answer is to shutter the school, tear it down, and build a memorial to honor those lost. One feels that closing the school isn’t the answer as it will put the teachers and staff out of work and harm the economy of the town. The other is simply overwhelmed by her guilt and feels that she should run away from Stillwater Bay in order to allow the other grieving families peace and space. 

Stillwater Rising wasn’t an easy read but it was a touching story about recovering from an impossible loss. The characters were realistic and the action wholly plausible. I find it difficult to quantify Stillwater Rising in any specific genre other than contemporary fiction. This isn’t a lighthearted read, but it is a powerful story about hope and survival in the face of tragedy. I don’t know if this is the type of story for everyone, but it definitely left this reader with the sense that people can work together to overcome their worst nightmare. The healing may not take place in a few months, or even a few years, but with hope and respect for one another it is possible. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series, Stillwater Deep, as I want to watch this community continue to heal.

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

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Book Review: DANGEROUS DENIAL by Amy Ray

Dangerous Denial by Amy Ray
ISBN: 9781935460961 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781935460046 (ebook)
ASIN: B00JJDNZ60 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Barking Rain Press

Denying the past proves deadly for BK Hartshaw and Trevor Mayhew in this gripping noir novel where nothing is as it seems. BK is a rising star at a public relations firm, and tonight’s charity ball should be a high point in her career. But a closely guarded secret threatens to destroy her chance for happiness with the only man she’s ever loved… a man who is also hiding a deadly secret. Trevor has tried to put the past behind him, pretending it never happened. But the conniving father he’s been running from for years has finally found him-and is determined to settle the score once and for all. BK and Trevor’s deeply buried secrets are about to catch up with them-and everyone they know and love. Who will pay the ultimate price for their dangerous denials? 

“The sins of the parents are visited upon their children in this entertaining thriller. BK’s (short for Beatrice Karen) and Trevor’s lives collide when a charity ball erupts into violence. Tightly plotted suspenseful moments and a deftly-executed plot twist combine to keep readers holding onto this novel until the wee hours.” – Publisher’s Weekly 

BK Hartshaw and Shelby Fulton have been best friends since they were teenagers. Shelby was born into a wealthy and influential family. BK’s mother married into a wealth by snaring an entrepreneur. BK and Shelby met when BK moved into her stepfather’s house beside Shelby’s family. They were roommates at boarding school, in college, and again as young, urban professionals striving to make a name for themselves in their chosen professions. Shelby was there for BK when she was ostracized by her family for being fat and tries to be there for her while BK is dealing with anorexia. BK has been by Shelby’s side while she dealt with a psycho stalker and continued to be her support system years later. Shelby is in love with her former high school crush, a doctor, and BK is in love with one of her clients, a young entrepreneur – Max Emerson. Just when they both think that all is right in their worlds they receive the biggest surprises of all. On the night that should be a shining jewel of achievement in BK’s career in public relations, everything seems to spiral out of control and lives are at risk. People aren’t who they seem to be and secrets from the past may end with bloodshed. Will BK and Shelby be able to survive?

I began Dangerous Denial late yesterday evening and read it through until the last page in one sitting. Ms. Ray provides an interesting glimpse into the present with her prologue and then throws you back in time to 1977, 1985-86, 1996, and then back to the present – the early 2000s. At first I wasn’t quite sure how these three time periods would intersect, but trust me having the backstory to the major and minor characters is necessary for everything to make sense. Dangerous Denial provides the reader with a lot in one compact story: mystery, suspense, romance, murder, stalking, rape, eating disorders, child abuse, dysfunctional families, and more. Just when I thought I knew who everyone was and their role in the story, Ms. Ray threw in a nice twist. (No, I’m definitely not going to tell you what the twist is, you’ll have to read the story for yourself!) What I can tell you is that Ms. Ray has crafted an amazingly intricate story with vivid characters that kept this reader’s attention from beginning to end. I found Dangerous Denial to be a fast-paced read with convincing good and bad guys as well as realistic scenarios. If you’re looking for a great mystery-suspense-thriller with a bit of romance and a lot more, then you’ll want to add Dangerous Denial to your TBR list. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Ray in the future. 


Want to dine out and discuss some great books? Enter this giveaway for your chance to win a prize that includes a $25 GC to Applebees AND two ebook downloads from Ms. Ray’s publisher, Barking Rain Press.

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

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BEAM N READ Personal Reading Light Promo & Giveaway

Beam n Read


Beam N Read Hands Free Travel and Reading Light

New edition Beam n Read Hands-Free Light delivers a wide & bright light that lights up 2 book pages and doesn’t disturb others. It’s a true reading light that works with all printed books, Kindles and other eReaders (whether naked, skinned, or covered), PLUS newspapers, magazines, newsletters, loose documents, and other items that can’t support a clip-on light. Worn around the neck, there’s no need to shift it when reading paperbacks.

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In addition to reading, this 3 LED hands-free light is great for crafts, travel, and walking in dim or dark places such as an attic, basement, or around the house during a power outage. Use it for writing journals, working, camping, changing diapers at night, and a lot more.

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    Beam n Read (1)

    November 10th to December 10th

    $50 Blast Giveaway

    Enter to win an Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

    Ends 11/30/14

    Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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    Book 362: WEB OF BETRAYAL Review

    Web of Betrayal by Clare F. Price
    ISBN: 9780990372301 (paperback)
    ISBN: 9780990372318 (ebook)
    ASIN: B00LDZFRHC (Kindle edition)
    Publication date: June 28, 2014
    Publisher: CFP Media Group, LLC.

    There’s No Hiding in Cyberspace

    The year is 1994, the dawn of the Internet Age, when companies from Silicon Valley to London are fighting to claim the billions to be made on the new information highway. 

    Peter Ellis, an aggressive investigative reporter struggling to repair his damaged reputation after being framed for rigging a story, attends the Consumer Electronics Show and learns that a skilled programmer known for cracking secure computer code has mysteriously disappeared. 

    Peter’s quest to find the missing programmer unwittingly pits him against a brilliant hacker and deranged killer with an agenda of his own: taking revenge on the man who ruined his life—computer industry luminary David Lockwood—who is now poised to introduce a product that will change the Internet forever. 

    As Peter is drawn into the deadly game of betrayal and murder, he is faced with losing everything he holds dear: his career, his one true love, even his own life. Can he find the programmer’s encoded disk—which the holds the key to the killer’s identity—before his luck runs out?

    It’s 1994 and the race is on to build a set-top box that will stream digital cable, multimedia, and the internet. Two companies are on the brink of delivering the information highway to the masses, but only one will be the first and reap the rewards. Enter Peter Ellis, an investigative journalist focusing on business and technology. Peter hopes that his stories on this quest to be first will help solidify his career in journalism. Little does Peter know that his investigation into these two companies will put his life at risk. The high-stakes world of technology and corporate sabotage are the background for Web of Betrayal by Claire F. Price.

    Web of Betrayal is a tech-thriller that is truly a blast from the past. It doesn’t seem real to read about a world without high speed internet, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, or Amazon. But 1994 is a world with brick-style cell phones, limited online bulletin board systems, and little interest in email for mainstream America. Peter Ellis, an intrepid young journalist, is onto a story that starts out with competing rival tech businesses striving to be first to produce a set-top digital converter box, and quickly becomes a tale of disappearances, murders, corporate sabotage, drug cartels, money laundering, and more. 

    I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Web of Betrayal and initially felt that this wasn’t going to be a book I’d like. The first few chapters were a little slow and I wasn’t quite sure where the story was going. However, the pace of the story picked up quite a bit when it began to focus more on Peter Ellis and his investigations than on Toby Eastman, the antagonist in the story. Peter is young, hardworking,  and from a wealthy and privileged background. However, he was also neglected by his parents, abused by his older sister, and cutoff from the family when he went into journalism rather than becoming a lawyer. When we meet Peter, he is still smarting from an article that was rushed to publication with flawed research. The story is retracted and his reputation is in ruins, and his relationship with his girlfriend quickly follows. His search for the truth behind the digital set-top box is his ticket to salvation. Web of Betrayal has a lot of action: corporate sabotage, family betrayal, murder, mayhem, and even rape (male-on-male rape, something that is still not openly discussed). Most of the action in the story takes place over the first few months of 1994, but there are flashbacks to events in preceding years. Once the story pace picked up I was pulled in and couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next. I found the characters to be realistic and the action to be quite plausible. Web of Betrayal may not be a fast-paced, action-packed thriller, but it is a well-written, intellectually stimulating thriller that combines technology, intrigue, and even a bit of romance. If you like reading thrillers, then you may want to put Web of Betrayal on your TBR list. I found it to be a perfect read for a lazy fall afternoon and evening. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Price in the future.

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

    Enter for a signed copy of Web of Betrayal and a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Giveaway ends November 23, 2014. Winners will be chosen by Partners In Crime Tours.

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    Book 352: FAIL by Rick Skwiot Review and Giveaway

    Fail by Rick Skwiot
    ISBN: 9780985808686 (paperback)
    Publication date: October 27, 2014
    Publisher: Blank Slate Press

    Disgraced African American St. Louis Police Lieutenant Carlo Gabriel wants fiercely to return to the headquarters hierarchy from which he has been exiled to the city’s tough North Side. All he needs do is track down the missing husband of the mayor’s vivacious press secretary. Instead he unwittingly and unwillingly unearths a morass of corruption, educational malpractice and greed that consigns thousands of at-risk youths to the mean streets of America’s erstwhile murder capital. Worse, it’s the kind of information that could get a cop killed.

    Fighting for life and his honor, Gabriel makes chilling discoveries that ultimately lead to a life-threatening and life-changing decision-a choice that could affect not only his own future but also that of the city and its top leaders.

    Carlo Gabriel doesn’t dress like anyone’s idea of a typical detective. He wears Italian leather shoes (Ferragamo), a cashmere overcoat, and has a silk scarf thrown around his coat lapels. However, looks can be deceiving because Lieutenant Carlo Gabriel is all cop, albeit one in disgrace. Gabriel hopes that a case with ties to the mayor will be his ticket back to the inside and the upwardly mobile track within the police department. This seems like a simple case of a missing husband, but the more Gabriel digs the more he realizes this case is anything but simple. Fail by Rick Skwiot is a story that could be ripped from current headlines as Gabriel discovers a mess that adversely impacts the lives and welfare of large numbers of at-risk youth in the toughest and poorest sections of town. 

    When we first meet Lieutenant Carlo Gabriel, he is waiting to meet the mayor’s press secretary. Ms. Cantrell needs to report her missing husband but wants the matter dealt with in a quiet manner. Gabriel is a little suspicious that this woman’s husband has been missing for three days, but he’s tired of being in disgrace with the powers-that-be; if this case is what it takes to get back in, he’s more than willing to handle it as discretely as requested. Gabriel quickly learns the Ms. Cantrell’s husband was a doctoral student, an adjunct professor, and that he was fired. As Gabriel continues his investigation, he unearths information that will disturb the powers-that-be. This information could end not only his career but his life.

    I found Fail to be a quick and enjoyable read. There were times the story seemed to drag a bit, but this never adversely impacted on the likeability of the story. Mr. Skwiot has captured the political side of being a police officer. He also provides a fascinating glimpse into the poorer and neglected sides of a great city. Although Gabriel is being “punished” due to charges of excessive force, he also knows that he is lucky to still be on the force. He might not like being on the North Side of town, since it means he is no longer in the thick of things at police headquarters, but he isn’t willing to do shoddy work to please or appease anyone (even his erstwhile friend, the mayor). Fail is much more than a story about the haves and the have-nots; it is a story about good triumphing over evil, greed, and corruption. Gabriel may not appear heroic, but he definitely performs heroic feats to ensure truth and justice prevail. If you enjoy reading suspense thrillers then you’ll definitely want to add Fail to your TBR list.

    Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter the giveaway for one print copy of Fail by Rick Skwiot. Winner will be chosen at the conclusion of this tour.

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

    Tour courtesy of Partners In Crime Tours  

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    Book Showcase & Giveaway: BLOND CARGO by John Lansing

    Blond Cargo
    by John Lansing

    Book Blast on October 7th

    on Tour at October 8 – November 30, 2014

    Blond Cargo by John Lansing | Coming Soon  

    Book Details:

    Genre: Mystery/Thriller

    Series: Jack Bertolino, 2nd

    * Blond Cargo does include some graphic violence.

    Published by: Karen Hunter

    Publication Date:  10/20/2014

    Number of Pages:  320

    ISBN: 9781476795515 

    Purchase Links:    


    “A pulse-pounding thriller with a charming protagonist” (Kirkus Reviews), this gripping ebook continues the story that began in The Devil’s Necktie.

    Jack Bertolino’s son, Chris, was the victim of a brutal murder attempt and Vincent Cardona, a mafia boss, provided information that helped Jack take down the perpetrator of the crime. Jack accepted the favor knowing there’d be blowback. In Blond Cargo the mobster’s daughter has gone missing and Cardona turned in his chit. Jack discovers that the young, blond, mafia princess has been kidnapped and imprisoned while rich, politically connected men negotiate her value as a sex slave.

    A sizzling whodunit for fans of James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell, Blond Cargo taps into the real-life crime world to deliver a thrilling, action-packed story that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the explosive, unprecedented finale.

    Read an excerpt: (NOTE: Excerpt contains some profane language)


    Jack carried a Subway turkey sandwich, a tall unsweetened iced coffee, a bottle of water, and a smile as he keyed the security gate that led to the dock in Marina del Rey where his boat was moored. The marina was always quiet during the week. Just the way he liked it.

    He stopped to admire his twenty-eight feet of heaven before stepping onto his boat’s transom and then. . .

    “Yo, Mr. B.”

    Jack never forgot a voice, which explained his reluctance to turn around.
    “Yo, yo, Mr. B.”

    Miserably persistent, Jack thought. He turned to face Peter Maniacci, who was dressed head-to-toe in black. With his outstretched arms draped over the chain-link fence, Peter looked like an Italian scarecrow. The black circles under his eyes belied his youth. The sharp points of his sideburns, his boots, and the .38 hanging lazily from a shoulder holster added menace to his goofy grin.

    So close, Jack thought. His only worry that day had been whether to eat his sandwich dockside or out on the Pacific with a view of the Santa Monica Pier.

    “How you doing, Peter?”

    “How you doin’?”

    Jack let out a labored sigh. “We could do this all day. What’s up?”

    “That’s funny, Mr. B. How’s the boy? How’s his pitching arm?”

    Jack’s face tightened. He wasn’t happy that Peter knew any of his son’s particulars. When he didn’t answer, Peter continued.

    “Hey, nice boat. I used to fish for fluke off the north shore. Long Island. I think I must be in the wrong business.”

    “Count on it,” Jack said. “What can I do for you?”

    “My boss was wondering if you could spare a few minutes of your time.”

    As if on cue, a black Town Car materialized behind Peter and came to a smooth, silent stop. The car rose visibly when Peter’s boss, a thick, broad-shouldered man, stepped out of the rear seat.

    Vincent Cardona. Expensive suit, the body of a defensive linebacker—fleshy but muscled. Dark, penetrating eyes. Cardona looked in both directions before leveling his feral gaze on Jack. An attempt at a smile fell short of the mark. A thick manila envelope was tucked under one beefy arm.

    Jack had been aware there would be some form of payback due for information Cardona had provided on Arturo Delgado, the man responsible for the attempted murder of his son. He just didn’t think it would come due this quickly. He opened the locked gate and let the big man follow him down the dock toward his used Cutwater cabin cruiser.

    As Peter stood sentry in front of the Lincoln Town Car, Jack allowed the devil entry to his little piece of paradise.

    “How’s your boy? How’s the pitching arm?” Vincent asked bluntly. Just a reminder of why he was there.

    “On the mend.” Jack gestured to one of two canvas deck chairs in the open cockpit of the boat. Both men sat in silence as Jack waited for Cardona to explain the reason for his visit.

    Jack wasn’t comfortable with Cardona’s talking about Chris, but the big man had taken it upon himself to station Peter outside Saint John’s Health Center while his son was drifting between life and death. Cardona’s enforcer had scared off Delgado, and that might have saved his son’s life. The unsolicited good deed was greatly appreciated by Jack. The debt weighed heavily.

    “It rips your heart out when your children have problems and you can’t do nothing to help,” Cardona said with the raspy wheeze of a man who had abused cigars, drugs, booze, and fatty sausage for most of his life.

    “What can I do for you?” Jack asked, not wanting to prolong the impromptu meeting.

    Cardona, unfazed by Jack’s brusqueness, answered by pulling out a picture and handing it to Jack.

    “Angelica Marie Cardona. She’s my girl. My only. My angel. Her mother died giving birth. I didn’t have the heart to re-up. I raised her by myself.”

    Mobster with a heart of gold. Right, Jack thought. But Cardona’s wife must have been a stunner because Angelica, blond, early twenties, with flawless skin and gray-green eyes, didn’t get her good looks from her father. Cardona’s gift was her self-assured attitude, which all but leaped off the photograph.


    Jack Bertolino, master of the understatement, he thought.

    “And doesn’t she know it. Too much so for her own good. You make mistakes, my line of business. Whatever.”

    “What can I do for you, Vincent?” Jack said, dialing back the attitude.

    Cardona tracked a seagull soaring overhead with his heavy-lidded eyes and rubbed the stubble on his jaw.

    Jack would have paid good money to change places with the gull.

    “I shoulda never moved out here. L.A. I’m a black-socks- on-the-beach kinda guy. East Coast all the way. Never fit in. But I’m a good earner and the powers that be decided they were happy with the arrangement. Everyone was happy except Angelica and me.”

    “She turned thirteen, didn’t wanna have nothing to do with her old man. Turned iceberg cold. I tried everything— private schools, horses, ballet, therapy, live-in help; nothin’ worked. She closed up tighter than a drum. I finally threatened to send her to the nuns.”

    “How did that work out?”

    “I’m fuckin’ sitting here, aren’t I? On this fuckin’ dinghy . . . no offense meant,” he said, trying to cover, but the flash of anger told the real story. “I hear you’re an independent contractor now.”

    It was Tommy Aronsohn, his old friend and ex–district attorney, who had set him up with his PI’s license and first client, Lawrence Weller and NCI Corp. But Jack Bertolino and Associates, Private Investigation, still didn’t come trippingly off his tongue.

    And thinking of the disaster up north, he said, “We’ll see how that goes.”

    “This is the point. I haven’t seen my daughter in close to a month. Haven’t heard word one since around the time your son was laid up in Saint John’s,” he said. Reminder number two. “It’s killing me,” he continued. “I’m getting a fuckin’ ulcer. Then this.”

    Cardona pulled out the L.A. Times with the front-page spread reporting on the woman who had died when her boat crashed on the rocks at Paradise Cove. As it turned out, a second woman down in Orange County had washed up on the beach a few weeks earlier at the Terranea resort, scaring the joy out of newlyweds taking photos at sunset. Talk about twisted memories, Jack thought. As if marriage wasn’t tough enough. He’d already read both articles with his morning coffee and hadn’t bought into the pattern the reporter inferred.

    “And the connection?”

    “I got a bad feeling is all. She’s never disappeared like this before—not for this long anyway,” he said, amending his statement. “And then. . .” Cardona said, waving the newspaper like it was on fire. “It says here they were both blonds. Both about Angelica’s age. They could be fuckin’ cousins. Could be nothing.”

    “Did you file a missing-persons report?”

    Cardona gave him a hard side eye. “Jack, don’t fuck with me. We take care of our own.”

    Jack thought before he spoke. “I’m not one of yours.”


    “What about your crew?”

    Cardona flopped open his meaty hands. “I get angina, I don’t call my cousin Frankie, who has a certain skill set but stinks when it comes to open-heart surgery. Look, I get it. You were on the other team. But this is straight-up business. One man to another. One father to another. I need you to find my girl. You got my number. Use it, Jack. Money’s no object. Find my baby.”

    Strike three.

    Jack didn’t answer. He stared out at the navy-blue water of the marina, past row upon row of beautiful yachts, symbols of dreams fulfilled, and knew they were empty notions compared to family.

    Cardona hadn’t actually spoken the words you owe me, but they filled the subtext of everything he’d said. He was not subtle. The big man had reached out when Jack was in need, and Jack had accepted the offer. Now Vincent Cardona wanted his pound of flesh.

    “This is everything I know. Last address, phone numbers, phone bills, e-mail accounts, bank, credit cards, friends and whatnot. The whole shot,” Cardona said, holding the manila envelope out in Jack’s direction.

    “I have other commitments,” Jack stated.

    “You look real fuckin’ busy, Jack, if you don’t mind my sayin’.” His eyes crinkled into a sarcastic grin. Vincent Cardona does charm.

    Jack accepted the overstuffed envelope with a sigh.

     “If she don’t want to come back, fine. No funny business, no strong-arm bullshit from my end. You got my word. I just need to know that my blood is alive. I’m fuckin’ worried and I don’t do worry too good. Sleep on it, Jack. But do the right thing.”

    Cardona’s eyes locked on to Jack’s. Jack remained silent. He’d take a look. No promises, not yet.

    Vincent’s knees cracked and the canvas chair squeaked like it was in pain as he stood up. He covered a belch behind his fist and rubbed his gut as he moved stiffly past Jack. The boat rocked when Cardona stepped off and walked heavily away, his Italian leather shoes echoing on the wooden dock.

    The weight of the world. Jack could relate.

    Peter Maniacci opened the gate for his boss and then the door to the Lincoln Town Car, which plunged to curb level as the big man slid in. Peter ran around to the other side of the car and tossed Jack a wave like the queen mum. He jumped into the Lincoln, which lurched forward before Peter could slam the door shut.

    Jack walked into the boat’s deckhouse, grabbed a bottle of water, and downed two more Excedrin. He stretched his back, which was going into a spasm from yesterday’s violence, and chased the pills with a Vicodin to stay one step ahead of the pain that he knew was headed his way.

    Jack had already decided to take the case.

    Author Bio:

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

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    Book Showcase: GHOSTING by Edith Pattou

    Ghosting by Edith Pattou
    ISBN: 9781477847749 (hardcover)
    ISBN: 9781477847893 (paperback)
    ASIN: B00ICWYTPA (Kindle edition) 
    Publication date: August 19, 2014
    Publisher: Skyscape

    On a hot summer night in a Midwestern town, a high school teenage prank goes horrifically awry. Alcohol, guns, and a dare. Within minutes, as events collide, innocents becomes victims—with tragic outcomes altering lives forever, a grisly and unfortunate scenario all too familiar from current real-life headlines. But victims can also become survivors, and as we come to know each character through his/her own distinctive voice and their interactions with one another, we see how, despite pain and guilt, they can reach out to one another, find a new equilibrium, and survive.

    Told through multiple points of view in naturalistic free verse and stream of consciousness, this is an unforgettable, haunting tale.



    When I was a little girl

    ghosting was

    a sheet of paper and

    a drawing in

    black ink.

    A crudely sketched ghost,

    with a Tootsie Roll

    taped on.

    Not scary.

    A fun Halloween prank.

    You slipped it under a neighbor’s door,

    ran away,


    “You’ve been ghosted!”



    But now

    ghosting is:

    this can’t be happening,

    screams like knives in your ears,

    pooling glistening blood.


    And death, bellowing

    hot and loud




    Meet the author:

    Edith Pattou has found acclaim as a writer in middle-grade fantasy with such award-winning books as East, which received starred reviews in Booklist and School Library Journal; was selected as a Top Ten Book for YA, an American Library Association Notable Book, a School Library Journal Top Ten YA Book, one of the 100 Best of the Best YA Books for the 21st Century by the Young Adult Library Services Association; and was nominated for numerous state awards. It’s a nominee for NPR’s all-time Best YA Novels list. 

    Connect with the author:

    Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads

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    Available at:          BookDepository     |     Alibris

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    Book 256: SERENADE Review

    Serenade by Emily Kiebel
    ISBN: 9781940716046 (paperback)
    ISBN: 9781940716053 (ebook)
    ASIN: B00LU7JS00 (Kindle edition)
    Publication date: July 15, 2014
    Publisher: SparkPress

    Suddenly the voice she prized is now dangerously seductive…

    Lorelei Clark’s only concern was her future as a classically trained soprano, that is, until the day her father was tragically killed. Shattered by his death, she hesitantly accepts an invitation from a mysterious aunt to visit her lavish oceanside home in Cape Cod. She quickly discovers that her aunt and the two women who live with her are harboring a frightening secret they are sirens, terrifying mythical creatures responsible for singing doomed sailors to their deaths. Even more astounding, Lorelei is one of them. In this new world where water comes alive at her touch and an ancient power pulses beneath the tide, the most important rule Lorelei must learn is that a siren never interferes with fate. When she breaks this rule by rescuing a handsome sailor who should have died at sea, the sirens vow she must finish the job or face grave consequences. Finding herself inexplicably attracted to him, she must fight to keep him safe from the others, even if it means risking her own life, and her heart, in the process.

    Lorelei Clark is interested in becoming the best classically trained soprano she can become. She spent much of her childhood devoted to singing and becoming a better artist. When she was offered the opportunity to study at a small but prestigious conservatory in Maine she was ecstatic. Her mother was anything but happy and refused to even talk to Lorelei before and after she left for college. Lorelei’s father had always been her most devoted supporter, and when he dies in a freak accident in her arms she is devastated. After her father’s funeral she returns to school but her mind simply isn’t on her studies. When she receives a letter from a maternal aunt, inviting her to come to Cape Cod, Lorelei thinks this may be the answer to her prayers. Within a few scant months, Lorelei had started college, suffered the traumatic death of her father, reconciled with her mother only to separate from her once again over a difference of opinion on Lorelei’s future. Perhaps this visit to long-lost relatives to the Cape will provide just the distraction Lorelei needs and allow her to focus on her future.

    Little does Lorelei know that her entire life will change after she arrives at her aunt’s home in Cape Cod. First Lorelei is introduced to an aunt and cousins she never knew she had. Second she is told that her family lineage includes sirens. Her love of singing and water are part of her siren nature. To say that this is a little hard to swallow is putting it lightly. Adding insult to injury, Lorelei is told that she has to go on a mission to assist in the transition from life to death for a group of merchant marines on a cargo ship. This may be the biggest trial that Lorelei faces in life…or is it?

    Serenade is not just a coming of age story, but a story of family, heritage and the idea of free will. Ms. Kiebel has deftly incorporated the mythic sirens into a story that also includes messengers, banshees, an Idis, the Elysienne, and even Valkyries. I found Serenade to be a rather fast-paced read. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I first read the blurb and saw that the story included the rather fantastical element of sirens. Serenade is part coming-of-age, part fantasy, part heroic quest, and part self-realization/awareness with a touch of romance thrown into the mix. If you’re looking for something a little different and enjoy reading YA or NA books, then you’ll definitely want to add Serenade to your TBR list. (Trust me, you don’t have to be a young/new adult in order to appreciate this story.) I can only hope that there will be more Lorelei stories coming in the future. 

    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 236: THE INSANITY PLEA Review

    The Insanity Plea by Larry D. Thompson
    ISBN: 9780989715478 (paperback)
    ASIN: B00K60LZE4 (Kindle edition)
    Publication date: May 4, 2014
    Publisher: The Story Merchant

    A young nurse is savagely killed during a pre-dawn run on Galveston’s seawall. The murderer slices her running shorts from her body as his trophy and tosses the body over the wall to the rocks below. As dawn breaks, a bedraggled street person, wearing four layers of old, tattered clothes, emerges from the end of the jetty, waving his arms and talking to people only he hears. He trips over the body, checks for a pulse and, instead, finds a diamond bracelet which he puts in his pocket. He hurries across the street, heading for breakfast at the Salvation Army two blocks away, leaving his footprints in blood as he goes. 

    Wayne Little, former Galveston prosecutor and now Houston trial lawyer, learns that his older brother has been charged with capital murder for the killing. At first he refuses to be dragged back into his brother’s life. Once a brilliant lawyer, Dan’s paranoid schizophrenia had captured his mind, estranging everyone including Wayne. Finally giving in to pleas from his mother, Wayne enlists the help of his best friend, Duke Romack, former NBA star turned criminal lawyer. When Wayne and Duke review the evidence, they conclude that Dan’s chances are slim. They either find the killer or win a plea of insanity since the prosecution’s case is air tight. The former may be a mission impossible since the killer is the most brilliant, devious and cruel fictional murderer since Hannibal Lecter. The chances of winning an insanity plea are equally grim. 

    It will take the combined skills of the two lawyers along with those of Duke’s girlfriend, Claudia, a brilliant appellate lawyer, and Rita Contreras, Wayne’s next door neighbor and computer hacker extraordinaire, to attempt to unravel the mystery of the serial killer before the clock clicks down to a guilty verdict for Dan. 

    The Insanity Plea is a spell-binding tale of four amateur sleuths who must find, track and trap a serial killer as they prepare for and defend Wayne brother who is trapped in a mind like that of John Nash, Russell Crowe’s character in A Beautiful Mind

    Combining legal thriller with tracking a serial killer, Thompson once again takes the reader on a helluva ride, right up to the last page and sentence. 

    Dan Little is a paranoid schizophrenic living on the streets. He used to have a wonderful career as a lawyer, had a loving wife, and a supportive family. He’s now divorced, homeless, self-medicates with alcohol, constantly hears voices, and no longer has any contact with his mother or brother. When Dan stumbles across a body on the seawall in Galveston and steals a bracelet from the body, he is arrested for the murder. His younger brother Wayne Little, an up-and-coming attorney in Houston hears the news he vows to remain dissociated with his brother until he discusses the issue with his friends, Duke, Claudia, and Rita. Once Wayne begins to look into the case, he realizes that his brother, if guilty, should not be held accountable due to his mental illness. With the help of Duke and Claudia, fellow attorneys, and computer investigator Rita, Wayne quickly comes to realize that the only hope for his brother is a plea of not guilty by reason of mental defect or the infamous insanity plea. What Wayne quickly finds out is the insanity plea in the state of Texas may not be a valid defense even with years of documentation proving mental illness. Will Wayne and his friends be able to research the senseless killing in Galveston and link it to other killings around the United States and Mexico before it’s too late?

    I found The Insanity Plea to be a quick and enjoyable read. Part legal thriller and part psychological thriller, this story spotlights the problem with the mental health system in our country as well as the lack of uniformity in the use of the insanity plea. Dan’s mental illness is shown without any apologies. It shows how disturbing and destructive some mental illnesses can be on the friends and family as well as the individual. This isn’t a mystery because you know who the murderer is throughout the book, but reading about the murders and the rationale for them by the murderer was just as interesting as reading about Dan’s struggles with his disease. There are good guys and bad guys in this story (read the book to find out who the bad guy is . . . he wears the perfect disguise). All of the characters and scenarios I found to be wholly realistic. Mr. Thompson has crafted a story that kept me turning the page simply to find out what happens next (I love that in a thriller). Although there are obvious shades of grey in the legal system, The Insanity Plea, does an admirable job in showing that some of these gradations are insensible. If you enjoy reading legal thrillers, psychological thrillers, or just plan thrillers, you’ll definitely want to add The Insanity Plea to your TBR list. The Insanity Plea is the latest thriller by Mr. Thompson; I look forward to reading his previous books and hope to see more from him in the future.

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

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    Book Showcase: THE WALK-IN CLOSET by Abdi Nazemian

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

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

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

    Read an excerpt:


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

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

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

    “I don’t think so,” I responded.

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

    “Leila, I can’t.”

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

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

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

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

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

    “I don’t care. They’re beautiful.”

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

    “You’re too good to me.”

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

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

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

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

    “Stop with the tarof,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

    “Getting impatient?” I answered.

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

    “Trying on clothes.”

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

    “Where are you calling from?”

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

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


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

    About the author:

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

    Connect with the author:

    Website      |     Facebook      |     Goodreads      |     Twitter  

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    Available at:     BookDepository     |     Alibris

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