Book 228: FACEOFF Review


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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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



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Book Review: THE MEMORY CHILD by Steena Holmes




The Memory Child by Steena Holmes
ISBN:  9781477818428 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781477868423 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00FG6AF4Y (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: March 18, 2014


When Brian finds out that his wife, Diane, is pregnant, he is elated. He’s been patiently waiting for twelve years to become a father. But Diane has always been nervous about having children because of her family’s dark past. The timing of the pregnancy also isn’t ideal – Diane has just been promoted, and Brian is being called away to open a new London office for his company. 

Fast-forward one year: being a mother has brought Diane a sense of joy that she’d never imagined and she’s head over heels for her new baby, Grace. But things are far from perfect: Brian has still not returned from London, and Diane fears leaving the baby for even a moment. As unsettling changes in those around Diane began to emerge, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems. 

A woman’s dark past collides head-on with her mysterious present in this surreal and gripping family drama.


Brian and Diane seem to have the perfect relationship. They’ve been married for 12 years and both enjoy their chosen careers. Brian’s in a job that requires him to travel a minimum of 30 weeks each year. Diane is a workaholic in a career that she loves. Her hard work has definitely paid off because she’s just been named CEO of her company. Although Brian and Diane have discussed having a child, Diane is wary of pregnancy due to her mother’s history with postpartum psychoses. A pregnancy at this time in her life is the last thing she wants. Brian is ecstatic at the notion of becoming a father. Can this loving couple resolve their issues and make the transition from a loving couple to a loving family of three?

I found The Memory Child to be a fast-paced read. I kept turning the pages to find out how things end. The story is revealed in alternating versions as told by Diane and Brian. I had some difficulty at first resolving the two different Dianes portrayed in the story. The antepartum Diane is a headstrong (yet not stubborn), resolute and a hardworking career woman and loving wife. The postpartum Diane is emotionally fragile and seems to be overly afraid of everything. However, as I continued to read the two seemingly different Dianes gradually merged into one.

The Memory Child is not a happy story, but it did provide a fascinating glimpse into postpartum depression and the more severe postpartum psychosis. I really liked and came to admire the antepartum Diane and Brian, and empathized with their postpartum difficulties. I wasn’t overly thrilled with the nurse/nanny character Nina but came to like her by the end. The Memory Child has been described as a gripping family drama and it is exactly that. If you enjoy well-written, intense stories about survival mixed with family drama and romance (yes it is possible to have romance even after 12 years of marriage), then you’ll definitely want to add The Memory Child to your reading list. You may also want to keep a box of tissues handy.


Disclaimer: I received a print copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via SparkPoint Studio. 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.”



About the author:

Steena Holmes grew up in a small town in Canada and holds a bachelor’s degree in theology. She is the author of eleven novels and novellas, including Finding Emma, for which she was awarded a National Indie Excellence Book Award in 2012. She currently lives in Calgary with her husband and three daughters, and loves to wake up to the Rocky Mountains each morning.


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Book Showcase: THE TENTH CIRCLE by Jon Land





   

Synopsis:
1590: An entire colony of British settlers vanishes from their settlement on Roanoke Island, seemingly into thin air.

1872: The freighter Marie Celeste is found drifting at sea off Gibraltar, its entire crew and passengers gone missing without a trace.

But what if there’s a connection between two of the greatest historical mysteries ever? And what if the roots of that connection lie in a crazed plot to destroy the United States as we know it today?

Those are the questions confronting Blaine McCracken as he takes up the trail of small time preacher Jeremiah Rule whose hateful rhetoric has done big time damage by inflaming an entire people half a world away, resulting in a series of devastating terrorist attacks stateside. Rule, though, isn’t acting alone. A shadowy cabal is pulling his strings, unaware they are creating a monster soon to spin free of their control.

McCracken has just returned from pulling off the impossible in Iran, ridding the world of one terrible threat only to return home to face another. Isolated in a way he’s never been before and now hunted himself, he’ll have to rely on skills and allies both old and new to get to the heart of a plan aimed at unleashing no less than the Tenth Circle of Hell. This as he contends with a failed congressman intent on changing the country to fit his own vision and an Iranian assassin bent on revenge.

Blaine’s desperate path across country and continent takes him into the past where the answers he needs lie among the missing Roanoke colonists and the contents of the Marie Celeste’s cargo holds. Those secrets alone hold the means to stop the Tenth Circle from closing. And as the bodies tumble in his wake, as the clock ticks down to an unthinkable maelstrom, McCracken and Johnny Wareagle fight to save the United States from a war the country didn’t even know it was fighting, but might well lose.

Book Details:
Genre: Thriller
Published by: Open Road Integrated Media
Publication Date: December 24, 2013
Number of Pages: 420
ISBN: 978-1480414792
Purchase Links:    



Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

The Negev Desert, Israel; the present

“We have incoming, General!  Anti-missile batteries are responding!”

General Yitzak Berman focused his gaze on the desperate scenario unfolding in amazingly realistic animation on the huge screen before him. Eight missiles fired from Iran sped toward all major population centers of Israel in a perfect geometric pattern, about to give the nation’s Arrow anti-missile system its greatest test yet.  

“Sir,” reported the head of the analysts squeezed into the underground bunker from which Israel maintained command and control, “initial specs indicate the size, weight and sourcing of the missiles . . .”

“Proceed,” the general said when the analyst stopped to swallow hard.

“They’re nuclear, sir, in the fifty kiloton range.”

“Targets?”

Another young man picked up from there. “Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Mediterranean coast, the Sinai, our primary airfields . . .” He looked back toward Sherman. “And here, sir.”

“Anti-missile batteries are launching!” a new voice blared through the strangely dim lighting that seemed to flutter as the missiles drew closer.

And Sherman watched the animated simulation of dozens and dozens of Israeli Arrow rockets, along with larger American Patriots, shooting upward in line with the incoming missiles. Four hits were scored in the maelstrom of animated smoke bursts, more rockets launched to chase down the remaining four nukes that had survived the first salvo.

“We have two more confirmed downed!” yet another young voice rang out.

But the bunker fell silent as the sophisticated animation continued to follow two surviving Iranian missiles as they streaked toward Tel Aviv and Haifa.

“Schmai Israel, hallileh hoseh,” one of the young voices began, reciting the prayer softly as the missiles’ arc turned downward, on a direct course to their targets with nothing left to stop their flight.

“Order our fighters holding at their failsafe positions to launch their attacks,” instructed Berman. “Destroy Iran.”

He’d barely finished when two flashes burst out from the animated screen, bright enough to force several squeezed into the bunker to shield their eyes. As those flashes faded amid the stunned silence and odor of stale perspiration hanging in the air, the bunker’s regular lighting snapped back on.

“This concludes the simulation,” a mechanical voice droned. “Repeat, this concludes the simulation.”

With that, a bevy of Israeli officials, both civilian and military, emerged from the rear-most corner of the bunker, all wearing dour expressions.

Israel’s female defense minister stepped forward ahead of the others. “Your point is made, General,” she said to Berman. “Not that we needed any further convincing.”

“I’m glad we all agree that the Iranian nuclear threat can no longer be tolerated,” Berman, the highest-ranking member of the Israeli military left alive who’d fought in the Six-Day War, told them. “We’ve been over all this before. The difference is we’re now certain our defenses cannot withstand an Iranian attack, leaving us with casualty estimates of up to a million dead and two million wounded, many of them gravely. Fifty simulations, all with results similar to the ones you have just witnessed.” He hesitated, eyes hardened through two generations of war boring into the defense minister’s. “I want your formal authorization.”

“For what?”

“To destroy the Iranian nuclear complex at Natanz.”

Israel’s defense minister started to smile, then simply shook her head. “We’ve been over this before, a hundred times. Our army can’t do it, our air force can’t do it, our commandos can’t do it, and the Americans are saying the very same thing from their end. You want my authorization to do the impossible? You’ve got it. Just don’t expect any backup, extraction, or political cover.”

Yitzak Berman returned his gaze to the wall-sized screen where animated versions of Tel Aviv and Haifa had turned dark. “The man I have in mind won’t need of any of that.”

“Did you say man?”


CHAPTER 2

Natanz, Iran

“We are descending through a million tons of solid rock,” the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Minister of Energy, Ali Akbar Hosseini, told the filmmaker squeezed in the elevator by both his equipment and the trio of Revolutionary Guardsmen. “A technological achievement in its own right. You understand the great task you’ve been entrusted to perform.”

“Just as you must understand I’m the best at my job, just like your scientists are at theirs,” said the bearded, award winning filmmaker Hosseini knew as Najjar. Najjar’s appearance was exactly as depicted in photographs, save for the scar through his left eyebrow the minister did not recall. He was dressed casually in dark cargo pants and long-sleeve cotton shirt rolled up at the sleeves, bulky clothing that hid what was clearly a V-shaped, well-muscled frame beneath. “I was told I’d be given total access to the facility.”

“And you will, at least those parts deemed appropriate by me.”

“That wasn’t part of the deal. It never is with my work.”

“This is a different kind of opportunity.”

The elevator started to slow.

“Then you should have gotten a filmmaker more adept at wedding videos,” Najjar snapped. “Perhaps we’ve both made a mistake.”

“You are about to see what few men ever have,” Hosseini continued, wearing a fashionable suit instead of a military uniform. “And it will be your blessed privilege to chronicle it for the world to see when the time is right. You call that a mistake?”

“You chose me because I’m the best. I ask only that you treat me that way.”

“I could have retained a simple videographer for this assignment,” Hosseini said, his shoulders stiffening. “I chose you because I wanted something that would stand the test of history. This will be my legacy, my contribution to our glorious Republic, and I want it to be celebrated, not just appreciated, a century from now. I want anyone who watches to see not just a place, but a point in history that changed the world forever. An awesome responsibility I’m entrusting you with.”

“I look forward to exceeding your expectations.”

Hosseini’s eyes fell on the bulky equipment lying at the filmmaker’s feet; a camera, portable lights, and a quartet of shoebox-sized rechargeable batteries to supply power. “Others I’ve worked with have turned to much smaller cameras for video, even ones that look like they only take pictures.”

“And how did their work turn out?” asked the filmmaker, his tone still biting.

“Acceptable, but not impressive. This assignment clearly required something more, a case I had to make to the Council’s finance board to justify your fee.”

“If you aren’t satisfied with what I produce for you, you owe nothing. I’ll return my fee to the Council personally.”

“Both of us know that will not be necessary. Both of us know you will produce something that will stand the test of time through the ages and serve both of us well,” Hosseini said to the man he’d personally selected for the job.  

“I value your regard and the confidence you have in me,” Najjar said more humbly in Farsi.

Then he slung the camera over his shoulder and scooped up the batteries and portable lights in his grasp, beckoning the minister to exit ahead of him.

“After you,” said Blaine McCracken.


CHAPTER 3

Washington, DC; two months earlier

“You’re kidding, right?” Blaine McCracken said after the Israeli he knew only as “David” finished.

“You come highly recommended, Mr. McCracken. Back home you’re considered a legend.”

“Another word for dinosaur.”

“But far from extinct. And my American friends tell me you’re the only one they believe can get this done.”

“Meaning I’d have to succeed where two governments have failed.”

David shrugged, the gesture further exaggerating the size of his neck that seemed a stubby extension of his shoulders and trapezious muscles. He wasn’t a tall man but unnaturally broad through the upper body. McCracken couldn’t make out his eyes well in the darkness, but imagined them to be furtive and noncommittal.

They’d met at the Observation Deck of the Washington Monument. Closed to the public for repairs indefinitely, but still accessible by workmen, though not at night, always McCracken’s favorite time to view Washington. He liked imagining what was going on in offices where lights still burned, plans were being hatched and fates determined. There was so much about the city he hated but plenty from which he couldn’t detach himself. In the vast majority of those offices, officials were trying to do good; at least, they believed they were.  

McCracken found himself wondering which of those offices David had come here from; it would be State or Defense in the old days, across the river in Langley just as often. These days it was Homeland Security, the catch-all and watch word that got people nodding in silence, Homeland’s offices spread out all over the city proper and thus responsible for an untold number of the lights that still burned.

A few work lamps provided the only illumination inside the gutted Observation Deck, riddled with a musty basement-like smell of old, stale concrete and wood rot mixed with fresh lumber and sawdust which covered the exposed floor like a floating rug. David had sneezed a few times upon first entering, passing it off as allergies.

“It’s not that we’ve failed,” David told him, “it’s that all the plans we’ve considered have been rejected out of hand. We’ve come to you for something non-traditional that no one expects.”

“You’ve got a lot of faith in me.”

“If anyone can do it, it’s you. Otherwise, we will have no choice but to try something that is doomed to fail and perhaps even make things worse. But our hands are tied. With Iran so close to getting their bomb, the choice is gone.”

“Your name’s not really David, is it?” McCracken asked the Israeli.

“Why would you think that?”

“Because the last few times I’ve worked with your country, my contacts were named David too. A reference to David and Goliath maybe?”

A flicker of a smile crossed the Israeli’s lips. “I’m told you had a plan.”

“No, what I’ve got is an idea. It’s risky, dangerous, and I haven’t even broached it to the powers at be here.”

“Because you don’t think they’d be interested?”

“Because they haven’t asked.” McCracken looked out through the window at the twinkling office lights again, already fewer of them than just a few minutes before, imagining the kind of things being discussed after office hours had concluded. “The only time my phone rings these days is when the SEALS or Delta have already passed on the mission, with good reason this time.”

“We’re asking,” said David. “You, not them. And we’ll provide you with the right resources, any resources you require.”

McCracken gave David a longer look, the younger man’s thick nest of curly hair making him seem vulnerable and innocent at the same time when neither was true. “Tell me you’re ready to fight fire with fire. Tell me that’s what you meant about making the right resources available.”

David seemed to grasp his meaning immediately. “And if we are?”

Blaine smiled.


CHAPTER 4

Natanz, Iran; the present

McCracken lugged the equipment from the elevator, careful to show strain and exertion on his features to avoid raising any suspicions in Hosseini. The hall before them was brightly lit, as clean and sterile as a hospital’s. The air smelled of nothing; not antiseptic, not solvent, not fresh tile. Nothing. The lighting looked unbalanced, harsh in some places and dull in others.

The new Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s successor, had made no secret of his desire to chronicle Iran’s greatest technological achievement ever. When the time was right, he wanted the world to see the true scope of his country’s accomplishment, so long hidden behind innuendo and subterfuge. Like the mullahs themselves, he was at heart a braggart obsessed with cementing his own legacy in a way history could not deny.

Najjar, the award winning Iranian filmmaker chosen for that task, was virtually the same height and weight as McCracken and the two men bore more than a passing resemblance to each other right up to the scruffiness of their tightly trimmed beards. Of course, the plan was not without its flaws. Most notably, McCracken had no idea when Najjar would be summoned to capture the Natanz facility in all its glory. Based on the current timetable for the Iranians’ ability to generate enough fissionable material from the refuse of their vast centrifuges, though, he guessed no more than six months.

It turned out to be only two.

The filmmaker Najjar was already under twenty-four-hour surveillance by Israeli Mossad agents long entrenched within Iranian society. Barely an hour after the filmmaker was contacted by Minister Hosseini’s office on extremely short notice, McCracken boarded a private jet with a make-up specialist on board to finish the job of matching his appearance as closely as possible to Najjar’s. The result, after a laborious process that took much of the flight, exceeded even his expectations. The lone oversight had been not to disguise the scar through McCracken’s left eyebrow from a wayward bullet decades before.  Although Minister Hosseini had clearly noticed it, he seemed unbothered by its presence. 

While Najjar waited in his apartment for his government car to arrive, a fresh Mossad team just in country entered his apartment by using a key fit to the specifications of his lock based on the serial number. The filmmaker, who was still packing, was unconscious in seconds with McCracken ready in his stead, equipment in hand, as soon as the car arrived for the first leg of his journey.  

Once out of the elevator, he knew he was about to encounter plenty not mentioned in David’s reports on the structure and its schematics. Israel’s intelligence on the Natanz facility was an amalgamation of satellite reconnaissance, prisoner and defector interrogations, and four separate brilliantly crafted infiltrations. Each of these had revealed the particulars of at least a section of the facility, but even taken in sum they didn’t offer a thorough rendering of all of it.

The assembled intelligence did reveal a sprawling single-level underground facility. The original plans had called for multiple levels but this had proven too onerous from both a construction and security standpoint. Natanz had been chosen for the site of the plant specifically because of the heavy layers of limestone and shale beneath which it would be contained, along with an under layer of nearly impenetrable volcanic rock formed in prehistoric times. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the nuclear generating plant that sat at ground level was not positioned directly over the underground facility at all; rather, it served as effective camouflage for the vast tunneling efforts that had forged Natanz from the side instead of from above. The facility was laid out roughly in a square, the size of six football fields laid next to each other, and featured the sophisticated technology required to enrich uranium along with the centrifuges responsible for generating it, a process that undoubtedly included the massive pumps and water systems required for cooling.

But the very features that made Natanz impenetrable to an attack from above made it vulnerable to what McCracken was planning from within.

David versus Goliath indeed.

“One more thing before we get started,” Hosseini said, opening a door McCracken hadn’t noticed before. “If you’d join me inside here. . .”

* * *

It was a locker room, more or less, each open cubicle featuring an orange radiation suit and wrist monitor hanging from a hook inside.

“Standard procedure,” the minister explained. “The lightest weight suit manufactured anywhere. You slip it on right over your clothes,” he continued, starting to do just that himself.

McCracken followed in step. Modern, sophisticated nuclear plants like this were hardly prone to leaks, so the donning of such protective material could only mean Hosseini meant what he said about assembling a complete picture of one of the world’s most secret facilities. And something else was obvious as well: That after hearing and seeing so much, there was no way McCracken was getting out of here alive.




Author Bio: 

Jon Land is the award-winning, critically acclaimed author of 36 books, including the bestselling Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger series that includes Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance and, most recently, Strong Rain Falling. The Tenth Circle marks the second return engagement of his longtime series hero Blaine McCracken on the heels of last year’s Pandora’s Temple which was nominated for a Thriller Award and received the 2013 International Book Award for Best Adventure Thriller. Jon’s first nonfiction book, Betrayal, meanwhile, was named Best True Crime Book of 2012 by Suspense Magazine and won a 2012 International Book Award for Best True Crime Book. He is currently working on Strong Darkness, the next entry in the Caitlin Strong to be published in September of 2014. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude from Brown University, where he continues to maintain a strong volunteer presence, in 1979 and can be found on the Web at www.jonlandbooks.com.


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Book Showcase: DEAD END by Leigh Russell

on Tour Jan 27 – Feb 28, 2014




  

Book Details:
Genre:  Mystery & Detective; Women Sleuths
Published by:  Witness Impulse
Publication Date:  1/28/2014
Number of Pages:  384
ISBN:  9780062325631
Series: DI Geraldine Steel #3, Stand Alone
Purchase Links:    


Synopsis:

When headmistress Abigail Kirby’s corpse is discovered in the woods, police are shocked to learn that her tongue was cut out while she lay dying. Then, shortly after a witness comes forward, he is blinded and murdered. With mangled dead bodies appearing at an alarmingly increasing rate, Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel is in a race against time to find the killer before he claims his next victim…




Read an excerpt:


Abigail Kirby lay on the table like a waxwork model, her face cleaned-up to reveal her square chin. Geraldine approached and forced herself to look at the victim’s open mouth: between even teeth the stump of her tongue looked surprisingly neat. Abigail Kirby stared back as though in silent protest at this scrutiny. 

The pathologist looked up and Geraldine recognized the tall dark-haired medical examiner who had examined the body in the wood. ‘Hello again Inspector. You’ll forgive me if I don’t shake hands.’

Geraldine glanced down at his bloody gloves.




Author Bio:

Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent, gaining a Masters degree in English. For many years a secondary school English teacher, she is a creative writing tutor for adults. She is married, has two daughters, and lives in North West London. Her first novel, Cut Short, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award in 2010. This was followed by Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead, and Fatal Act in the Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel series. Cold Sacrifice is the first title in a spin off series featuring Geraldine Steel’s sergeant, Ian Peterson.


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on Tour Jan 27 – Feb 28, 2014

Guest Post: Vincent Zandri, author of THE SHROUD KEY



The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to participate in another Partners In Crime blog tour and host a visit by Vincent Zandri, author of The Shroud Key. Mr. Zandri will be discussing his muse: Florence, Italy.



Synopsis:

Chase Baker is not only a true Renaissance Man, he’s a man who knows how to find trouble. A part-time resident of Florence, Italy, his resume reads like a modern day Da Vinci or Casanova. Writer, private investigator, tour guide, historian, treasure hunter, adventurer, and even archaeological sandhog, Chase is also a prolific lover. Unfortunately for him, his dangerous liaisons all too often make him the target of a jealous husband. Now, at the direct request of the Florence police, he finds himself on the trail of an archaeologist by the name of Dr. Andre Manion who’s gone missing from his teaching post at the American University. But having worked for the archaeologist several years ago as a sandhog on a secret but failed dig just outside the Great Pyramids in the Giza Plateau, Chase smells a renewed opportunity to uncover what just might be the most prized archaeological treasure in the world: The mortal remains of Jesus. But how will Chase Baker go about finding both the archaeologist and the Jesus Remains? With the help of Manion’s beautiful ex-wife, Chase will manage to secure an up-close and personal examination of the Shroud of Turin, not only to view the famous image of the crucified Christ, but to unlock the relic’s greatest secret which is none other than a map, or a key, detailing the precise location of Jesus’s body. Fans of Dan Brown, Clive Cussler and JR Rain will find The Shroud Key an irresistible adventure. 



My Muse Florence

The first time I came to Florence it was for love. At least, being in love was the plan since I was on my honeymoon with my first wife. This is back in the late 1980s when I harbored the insane idea that getting married right out of college would be the fun thing to do. Barely in our twenties (I couldn’t even grow a beard yet), we returned Stateside from the honeymoon to no money, mounting bills, and misery. I was a young writer looking for his start which no one would give me, or so it seemed at the time, and it didn’t take too long for my wife and I to realize our major mistake. She went her way and I packed up my bags, went straight on to writing school. 

The second time I came to Florence with a woman I “loved” was in the late 1990s. It was a crazy time for me then since I was trying to find out how many different ways I could piss away a $250K advance from Delacorte Press for the publication of my first big book, The Innocent (formerly titled, As Catch Can). Despite my partying like a rock star (and even playing drums in my editor’s band, Straw Dogs), the book would go on to sell a ton of copies over three editions. But the marriage, alas, would not fare so well. As much as I loved my second wife, she could not compete with the love I had for words and the nomadic writing life. We split up, but I never stopped loving her. 

The third time “love” brought me to Florence was in the late 2010s. This time the love interest was an artist and art professor from New York. It was her first time in the Renaissance city and I recall leading her by the hand down the narrow Via Faenza all the way to where the Via Zannetti ends at the Via De’ Cerretani and the Piazza Del Duomo. I asked her to close her eyes while we inched our way out into the piazza. When I told her to open them, the first thing she saw was the marvelous white and green marble of the massive cathedral. I thought she would pass out from shock. In any case, she cried real tears over the experience. I must admit, I too became choked up at her come-to-Jesus reaction. Three months later she broke off the relationship without warning. 

So when it comes to Florence and love, I guess you could say I’m three and out. Or, in the words of my publicist, I’ve come to expect the unexpected. 

I haven’t always come here for love however. I’ve been coming to Florence for a number of years now to work. Initially, it seemed like a good place to base myself back when I was writing for RT, and some other global news and trade outlets. I might travel on assignment to West Africa or Moscow, and then instead of heading back to the States and locking myself in my one bedroom apartment, I found it much nicer to work out of romantic Florence. Unlike my love life, Florence always seemed to work like a lucky charm for me when it came to my writing. 

I recall just three years ago, I was here working on some stories for RT when I got word that the then Governor of New York declared that the Empire State was going to go bankrupt in just two week’s time. It was late in the day and I’d already started on a cold beer when I quickly pitched the story to my editor out in Gorky Park. She approved it, giving me just a couple hours to research and write it. Somehow I managed to deliver the piece in just under an hour and half. That night it was the lead story in Eastern Europe. Dumb luck? Or did Florence have something to do with it?

After that experience as a freelance journalist, I kept coming back to Florence for longer and longer stays. This time as a novelist. Since 2008 I’ve managed to write at least three novels here. These include my two “Florence” thrillers, Blue Moonlight (Yes, there’s a rooftop chase scene atop the Duomo) and The Shroud Key (The main character is a writer/adventurer who lives in New York and Florence and who’s always in trouble with the ladies. . .Go figure!). Presently I’m here completing the first drafts of two new novels: Moonlight Weeps and a new stand-alone, The Breakup. I’ve been here only a week, but thus far, I’m ahead of schedule. 

If I had to put my finger on it, I really couldn’t tell you why Florence works for me as a writer. My life here isn’t all that much different from my life back in New York. I get up, make the coffee, sit down at the computer and, in the words of Papa Hemingway, “bite on the nail.” Towards noon I’ll get in a run and/or a visit to the gym. Then I’ll write until maybe five o’clock at which time I’ll head to a favorite local watering hole for a beer or two. My adopted local tavern in Florence is the Fiddler’s Elbow in the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. Like they do when I walk into my favorite bar in New York, the barflies will welcome me with a “Hey Vin!” On occasion someone will ask me if I won the war of words today. I’ll usually respond with, “I’ve won the battle, but never the war.”

So then, why do I keep coming here, year after year? Is it the coffee, the food, the wine, the way the rain-soaked stones in Piazza Della Repubblica glisten from the bright lights that shine down on them from the revolving carousel? Maybe it’s never being sick of walking past the Florence Cathedral and seeing the larger than life stone chiseled faces of Cambio and Brunelleschi, the former looking dejected in his failure to engineer a proper dome for the structure, the latter looking upwards at his crowning achievement. Perhaps it’s the way the mighty Arno makes you feel when you walk along its banks, the heavy brown-silted water making its way towards Pisa and eventually, the sea. Or maybe it’s simply the art. For Florence is a living museum. It’s all about the art. 

Sure, Florence isn’t without its faults. It’s full of mosquitoes and drunks who walk the streets in the middle of the night wailing indiscernible words to no one in particular. There are hordes of tourists especially in the summer and early fall months. It’s certainly not the cheapest place in Italy. All I know is that every time I come here, I can depend upon something good happening to my career. Two years ago I spent the much of the summer here with my son, Harrison, who is now also a writer. During our stay I got a call from my agent. He’d landed me a seven book deal with Thomas & Mercer along with a very nice advance. And just a day after I landed here last week, he sent me an email telling me he’s working on a possible movie deal for my standalone literary thriller, The Remains

So the luck continues, but not the love. Or perhaps I’m wrong about that.

You might recall the second wife I mentioned just a few paragraphs ago. The one I left but whom I still loved? She’s coming to see me for the holidays. Turns out, we’re giving our love another try. Or, in the context of this thread, we’re rewriting our story together. A small part of that story will once again take place in Florence. It’s true that this ancient city of art and inspiration will always be my writing muse. The one place I can count on for providing me with strings of sentences, paragraphs, and polished pages. But it will never take the place of finding true love. True love is where the heart is. It knows no bounds, no limits, no geography. It certainly can’t be pointed to on a map or discovered in a travel magazine. 

This time, I’m not letting go. But then, you never know. This is Florence after all.



About the author:

Vincent Zandri is the No. 1 International Bestselling Amazon author of The Innocent, Godchild, The Remains, Moonlight Falls, The Concrete Pearl, Moonlight Rises, Scream Catcher, Blue Moonlight, Murder by Moonlight, The Guilty, Moonlight Sonata, Moonlight Weeps, Full Moonlight, The Shroud Key, and more. He is also the author of the Amazon bestselling digital shorts: Pathological, True Stories, and Moonlight Mafia.

Harlan Coben has described The Innocent (formerly As Catch Can) as “. . .gritty, fast-paced, lyrical and haunting,” while the New York Post called it “Sensational. . .Masterful. . .Brilliant!” 

Zandri’s list of publishers include Delacorte, Dell, StoneHouse Ink, StoneGate Ink, and Thomas & Mercer. An MFA in Writing graduate of Vermont College, Zandri’s work is translated, or soon to be translated, into many languages including the Dutch, Russian, French, Italian, and Japanese. An adventurer, foreign correspondent, and freelance photo-journalist for Living Ready, RT, Globalspec, as well as several other global news agencies and publications, Zandri lives in New York and Florence, Italy. For more go to WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM


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Book Excerpt: HEMPHILL TOWERS by Leona Pence



Hemphill Tower by Leona Pence
ISBN:  9781771274395 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00G5U6T6I (Kindle edition)
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Publication date: October 23, 2013

Riley Saunders has her dream job. As an art director at a leading advertising agency, she works every day with her two best friends, Stella and Birdie. All three have been assigned to ensure that the Grand Opening of the Peterson Art Museum is nothing short of a success.

When a girl’s night out at a hot new Italian restaurant ends with a spilled bottle of wine, it sets in motion a series of events that leaves Stella and Birdie caught up in whirlwind romances, and Riley fearing for her life at the hands of a deranged stalker. But, when the handsome museum curator, Trent Peterson, learns of her situation, he vows to keep her safe.

In a quick-paced tale of fine art, wine forgery, and the Russian Mafia, Riley and her friends soon discover their pursuit of love will require them to expose a crime, thwart a murder, and trust the one thing that has never failed them…their friendship.



Read an Excerpt:

Trent, having just come from a dinner meeting, looked as if he’d stepped off the pages of a men’s fashion magazine. She invited him inside to show him her meager collection of art that she’d acquired over the past ten years. He looked closely at the paintings and grinned when he saw the one painted by his mother.

“You have one of my mother’s very first original paintings. I’m not sure if you realize how much this has appreciated in value.” His hand swept over the painting. “The museum would pay you to allow us to use this at our opening. We’ve devoted one room to display her artwork. Most of her early paintings were sold at a modest price.” He shrugged. “We haven’t had much luck locating them.”

“I’d be happy to lend it to you without payment.”

“Thank you, but I want you to think of this as a business arrangement. I’d rather pay you than a lot of other people I deal with, and remember, an amount is budgeted for this by the museum trustees.”

She pursed her lips thoughtfully. “I’m proud of it. It will be nice to see my small contribution hanging in your museum.”

“Your other paintings are good too.” He walked over to examine one hanging above her couch. “Your choices say a lot about you.” He smiled down at her.

“Such as?” A quizzical grin played around her mouth.

“Well for one, you chose vibrant colors, which suggests a zest for life. You chose pictures that did not give away everything at first glance, suggesting an in depth character with an inquisitive mind. Lastly, this rug and couch pillow suggests you love the color red.” He laughed at her expression.

“You must be psychic.” She smacked his arm. “Can we take this painting along tonight so I can see where it will hang?”

“If you wish. Do you have a soft blanket to wrap it in?”

“Yes, just a moment.”

Riley brought a velour blanket from her closet. Trent wrapped the painting carefully and carried it to his car, a luxurious black Jaguar. He opened the passenger door for her before carefully stowing the painting.

The museum was not far. Within minutes, he drove into an underground garage to a parking spot reserved specifically for his private entrance. He unlocked the door, retrieved the painting from the car and followed Riley inside. The door opened into a dimly lit foyer. She noted a few offices off to one side. A curved hallway on the other side led into the main part of the museum.

A security guard shined a flashlight beam on them before acknowledging Trent.

“Good evening, Mr. Peterson, I knew you were coming in tonight, but I had to check anyway.” He lowered the flashlight.

“As I would have expected you to. You’re doing a good job, Kenny. Thank you. We’ll be in several of the rooms tonight. Ms. Saunders is going to look around while I do some work in the Victorian Room.”

“Okay, Mr. Peterson, I’ll bring up the lights for you.” Kenny nodded as he walked away.

Riley could not contain her excitement. She loved the smells associated with museums. This one, being new, emitted all sorts of aromas, oil paint, wall paint, varnish, wood. That she could enjoy the artwork without moving through crowds of people made it even more special.

“Come along, I’ll show you my mother’s display room.” Trent juggled the picture under his arm and took her hand just as the lights came on.

They followed the wide hallway until it curved leading into a three-sided open room. It had been designed for easy viewing. Trent removed the cover from her painting and hung it with care on a wall that had been allotted for his mother’s earlier paintings. Riley looked around in fascination.

Trent smiled at the rapt expression on her face. “I’m going to leave you for a short time while I work. If you need me, just call my cell. The other guard knows we’re here also. Don’t hesitate to ask them for help or directions to specific rooms.”

“Okay, Trent, I’m ready to explore. If you can’t find me when you’re finished, just call my cell.” She laughed.

“I shouldn’t be more than an hour.” He started back in the direction from which they’d come.

To Riley, the hour passed in a blink. She was so engrossed at what was spread out before her eyes, she wasn’t even aware that Trent stood beside her until his fingers brushed hers. Then, she became very aware of him. With his arm touching hers and the scent of his cologne, he radiated an aura of masculinity that engulfed her.

“What do think of our museum,” he asked softly.

“It’s magnificent, Trent. I’ve just gotten a good start. Have you really been gone an hour?”

“Actually, I’ve been gone an hour and a half. I guess you didn’t miss me at all.” He feigned indignation. “Let’s walk through the rooms so you can get a quick look. I know you’re a working girl. I don’t want to keep you out too late, and as you saw, time can get away from you.”

He took her hand and they spent the next two hours moving quickly through galleries and different exhibitions. She got an idea of where she would like to spend more time when she returned for another visit.

It was midnight when he pulled up in front of her apartment. He walked with her, and waited while she unlocked the door. She turned to say goodnight, but her words stuck in her throat as she looked at him. She knew he was going to kiss her; she knew she wanted him to. She lifted her face and his lips found hers. The Earth spun faster and faster until her whole body felt weak. She pulled her lips away and clung to him until her knees held her again. They both stood silently for a moment, lost in the wonder of what had just transpired. Finally, he said very softly. “Goodnight, Riley, I’ll call you tomorrow.”


Meet the author:

Leona Pence started reading romance novels as a teen. She graduated from Nancy Drew stories to Harlequin Romance, and then to her favorite author, Barbara Cartland and her vast Regency romance collection. Happy endings were a must.

Leona began writing late in life after the death of her husband of forty-four years. They married on her 19th birthday after a three month courtship – and yes – love at first sight really did happen.

She enjoys reading, writing, online pool, and especially being a Mentor in F2K, a free online writing course.



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Guest Post – Cami Checketts, author of THE COLONY



The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to participate in this blog tour organized by Kathy at I Am A Reader and host a visit by Cami Checketts, author of The Colony. Ms. Checketts will be talking about an all-too important topic, “Helping Children Love to Read.” 



Helping Children Love to Read


My oldest son is addicted to reading. I started reading to him in the womb and he’s never stopped. I used to start a book with him and then he’d just take off. My second son – different story, until he was ten I read every book (except for his homework) aloud to him, but then something sparked and he is now an avid reader. My third son – struggles. I know it’ll click soon, but right now he’s in special programs at school and at the bottom of the curve. My fourth son loves listening to stories, but would rather play the iPad if given the choice.

We all know how important reading is, but how can we force (I mean encourage) our children to see the value. As those of you who have more than one child know, what worked with one will completely flop with another, so I try a lot of different techniques and sometimes one of them is effective. 


  • Read Aloud – Start reading aloud when they’re infants and don’t quit, unless they’re running away from you with fingers in their ears screaming, stop the madness. When they’re teenagers and no longer want you reading to them, maybe you could read the same novels and discuss them. 
  • Make the library and bookstore special treats. My younger boys love to ride our bikes to the library, the older boys prefer choosing an ebook to download to their iPod. They all know every holiday they’ll receive a book as a present.
  • Have books everywhere. The only room in our house that isn’t loaded with books is the kitchen and that’s only because we try not to ruin our books and because we need to actually talk to our oldest once in a while without his eyes glued to a book.
  • Be a good example. My husband isn’t a reader, but I remind him often to have the boys see him reading the newspaper or his scriptures or pretending to read one of my books (the romance is a bit hard on the tough guy). If your children see you finding joy from reading, they will usually want to explore that themselves.
  • Read age-appropriate books. I think this is one of the mistakes I made with my second son. My oldest and I were having so much fun with chapter books that I would read my second son’s books quickly and then settle down to read for hours with my oldest. My second guy would usually stay with us during story time, but I’m not sure he got much out of it. If you can, try to set aside a time to read to each child on their level. It’s also okay to read a bit above their level, but plan on explaining words or situations they don’t understand. When we read The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas it took us months, but my son still enjoyed it. We also enjoy reading below their level sometimes. Every one of my boys still laughs at Junie B. Jones, even if they won’t admit it.
  • Read what they want (most of the time) – I try to let my boys pick out their own books, but I also pick out one I want to read to them. They have to give my book forty pages. If they hate it, we quit. And sometimes I have to grit my teeth through their books (have you read Captain Underpants?), but that’s part of being a mom.
  • Keep it fun – I always ask the librarian or bookstore employee for humorous kids’ books. We also come back to some of our favorite funny series over and over again. The Fudge Series by Judy Blume and Chickens in the Headlights by Matthew Buckley make us laugh no matter how many times we read them. I would love to hear about your favorite children’s series, funny or not.


I am definitely not an expert on this subject, but with four boys I keep trying different things. Reading is such an essential part of development and success in school and beyond, I hope each of us can find the best way to instill a love of reading in each of our children. Please share what works for you and your family.


About the author:

Cami Checketts is married and the proud mother of four future WWF champions. Sometimes between being a human horse, cleaning up magic potions, and reading Berenstain Bears, she gets the chance to write fiction.

Cami graduated from Utah State University with a degree in Exercise Science. Cami teaches strength training classes at her local rec and shares healthy living tips on her fitness blog

Cami and her family live in the beautiful Cache Valley of Northern Utah. During the two months of the year it isn’t snowing, she enjoys swimming, biking, running, and water-skiing.


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Guest Author Post : Frances Fyfield – BLOOD FROM STONE Tour

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to participate in this Partners In Crime blog tour and host a visit from Frances Fyfield, author of Blood From Stone. Ms. Fyfield will be discussing what differentiates collectors and thieves (an idea that is central to her must-read book).



Marianne Shearer is at the height of her career, a dauntingly successful barrister, respected by her peers and revered by her clients. So why has she killed herself? Her latest case had again resulted in an acquittal, although the outcome was principally due to the death of the prime witness after Marianne’s forceful cross-examination. Had this wholly professional and unemotional lawyer been struck by guilt or uncertainty, or is there some secret to be discovered in her blandly comfortable private life? Her tenacious colleague Peter Friel is determined to find out of that last trial held the reason for her taking her own life. The transcript holds intriguing clues, but it is another witness at the trial who holds the key to the truth.




Collectors and Thieves

“She walked into the exhibition. There, on the far wall, was that glorious little painting she had always wanted. Without thinking, she took it off the wall, put it under her coat and walked back into the street.”


The world divides in many ways. Those who have children those who don’t, those with one kind of aspiration, those without any, those who are honest, those who aren’t, those who prefer argument to debate and those who would just as soon knock you over the head. There are those for whom ill-gotten gains are infinitely preferable to the fruits of hard earned labour. Those to whom debt is anathema and those who could not live without it. And then, the first and last of the great dividing lines, there are those who Collect and those who Don’t. It roughly corresponds to those en route to heaven and those who might risk going to hell. 

The boundary between Collectors and non Collectors is pretty thin. It can mark the difference between someone in the throes of developing criminal tendencies and the Innocent, who never will. Being a true Collector is a bit like a being a gambler with a set of dice always in sight. The minimalist versus the acquisitive would be one way of putting it, though it’s more complicated than that. I’m talking about the Collector as the one who has the bug for amassing things of a certain type and who will do anything, or almost anything, to get another object of desire to add to the pile. Someone who dreams of it.

Book collectors are a benign case in point (though not always so benign). We all know people who have books as the foundations of their houses, books creating walls and tables and bringing down the attics. Not too many of these Collectors turn into Thieves, I hope. Maybe you’re one of the other collecting kind, who favours furniture, motor cars, stuffed animals, ceramics, fabrics, photographs, cigarette cards, concert programmes, glass, works of Art. Believe me, if you collect pressed Autumn leaves from 1936, or bus tickets from 1954, I’m on your side. You are one of Mine. Collecting keeps us Collectors sane. We might otherwise go round hitting people. 

My version of this condition is collecting paintings, which is why I’m currently writing about characters infected with this form of the disorder. Paintings and the collection thereof, have driven people mad. History is full of nutcases who’ve gone mental in pursuit of works of Art. Why do they do it? Why is it that collecting paintings, or other stuff, can turn a person into a criminal?

It’s Love of a kind, of course, and Love makes criminals of us all.

Because I’m a Collector, I think I have a better understanding of thieves. Collecting Art is as mysterious as Art itself. As soon as humankind learned to draw and paint, they collected, even when starving. As soon as man was stirred by curious things that illuminated his world, he wanted to own them, be they gemstones or drawings in caves. The Romans were collectors of Greek antiquities; the British were collectors of European Art since ever they crossed the Channel. Half our famous institutions, the British Museum, included, are based on the work of ambitious collectors who brought work home, while the great American Collectors can be said to have rescued the Impressionists. Fascinating though they are, it isn’t the major Collectors who interest me as much as the small- fry individuals with passions equally obsessive. Like me, and possibly you. Why do it?

One academic, studying the phenomenon of Collecting in the 1950s, had no hesitation in calling it a Disease, defining certain strands in the psyche of the Collector. First, the possessive instinct, the desire for the hunt, the need for spontaneous activity and risk in an otherwise passive or isolated life. The desire to break boundaries, to go out gambling and also, a pathological desire for social standing. Others studying the collecting phenomenon, say that the Collector wants to conquer the object he desires to own, his appetite made sharper by adversity and rivalry. The Collector may have little self- confidence in anything other than this strange way of mastering his own inferiority. He/ she will go to any length to acquire and add to the collection. (NB: an awful lot of these characteristics are found in high class Thieves.)

The Collector in pursuit of social standing and self-worth in a Society that might ignore him, may be the most dangerous of all. If his Collecting does not impress, fails to gain him veneration and respect, he becomes bitter and twisted and hides it away, himself also, to let his house collapse in upon itself. He may be the one who stabs the canvas and buries his treasures. There are of course, other Collectors who collect out of sheer love of the thing and a desire to rescue beauty, to look after it for as long as it takes, be it a book or a sketch. These are peaceful people, rescuers, preservers, sharers, but woe betide anyone who tries to steal from THEM. Stealing from honourable collectors makes Them, in turn, dangerous and volatile enemies. Steal from an honest Collector at your peril. You may turn a kind person into a savage, armed with weapons. Never, ever, try to steal someone else’s children if you value your life. 

Suitable themes for Crime novels? Oh yes. 

I have never yet stolen a painting, although the desire to put something under my winter coat and walk away with it is not unfamiliar. Especially if the painting looks small, cold, and neglected. 

My characters, my thieves, might not share my inhibitions.

Frances Fyfield


About the author:

“I grew up in rural Derbyshire, but my adult life has been spent mostly in London, with long intervals in Norfolk and Deal, all inspiring places. I was educated mostly in convent schools; then studied English and went on to qualify as a solicitor, working for what is now the Crown Prosecution Service, thus learning a bit about murder at second hand. Years later, writing became the real vocation, although the law and its ramifications still haunt me and inform many of my novels. 

I’m a novelist, short story writer for magazines and radio, sometime Radio 4 contributor, (Front Row, Quote Unquote, Night Waves) and presenter of Tales from the Stave. When I’m not working (which is as often as possible), I can be found in the nearest junk/charity shop or auction, looking for the kind of paintings which enhance my life. Otherwise, with a bit of luck, I’m relaxing by the sea with a bottle of wine and a friend or two.” Frances Fyfield


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Book 339: BROKEN Review, Author Q&A and more

Broken by C. J. Lyons
ISBN:  9781402285455 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9781402285462 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00ENQEMJW (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 5, 2013 
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire


For Scarlet Killian, every day is a game of Russian roulette – she has a 1 in 5 chance of dying… 

The only thing fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has ever wanted is a chance at a normal life. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, she has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye. So when her parents offer her three days to prove she can survive high school, Scarlet knows her time is now…or never. Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with every slammed locker and every sideways glance in the hallway. But this high school is far from normal. And finding out the truth might just kill Scarlet before her heart does.



Scarlet Killian has spent most of her life in the hospital. She only attended elementary school for a few years before she was taken out and home-schooled. Scarlet has several “near misses” where she’s been on death’s door only to be revived to survive another day. Now that she’s fifteen, she’s asked her parents if she can attend school. She knows that it will be difficult simply because her heart could give out on her at any time, but she wants this chance to be “normal.” Her parents agree to allow her a one-week trial and then they will reassess the situation. Scarlet feels as if she’s won the lottery, one whole week to experience being a teenager outside of her home or the hospital. Scarlet doesn’t know what she’s in for . . . 

Scarlet’s first day at school begins with problems. She immediately makes an enemy of a member of the football team, so (of course) his teammates and others go out of their way to treat her like a freak. If that wasn’t bad enough her mother (actually her stepmother), the school nurse, intrudes on Scarlet’s lunch on the first day and attempts to take her vitals in the cafeteria in front of other students. The horror! The only plus to the first day is that Scarlet has made some new friends; namely her peer mentor support group consisting of Celina, Nessa and Jordan. She is also befriended by a student, Tony, in one of her classes after she is set on fire by her lab partner (the aforementioned football player), and she throws up on Tony after he tries to help her out. What a first day and talk about first impressions.

All of the action in Broken takes place over the span of five days. It is filled with the normal teenage angst and drama, but it is also filled with friendship, budding romance, and a heart-stopping mystery (pun intended). It seems like the more Scarlet looks into her past medical history the more questions she finds that require answers. Ms. Lyons has incorporated quite a bit of mystery, suspense and thrills into her first foray as a YA author. Of course I haven’t been a “Young Adult” for quite a number of years, but I enjoyed reading Broken as much as I’ve enjoyed her other contemporary suspense thrillers. The action gradually builds, as did my tension while reading, and most of the suspense and thrills take place in the last 20-25% of the book. Broken is a well-crafted mystery-suspense-thriller that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, so don’t be off-put by the YA classification. Read it and you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.


To read a few of the first chapters of Broken, click here: http://cjlyons.net/wp-content/uploads/Broken_excerpt.pdf

Disclaimer: I received a digital 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.”



About the author:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart. 

Winner of the International Thriller Writers’ coveted Thriller Award, CJ has been called a “master within the genre” (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as “breathtakingly fast-paced” and “riveting” (Publishers Weekly) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (Newsday).


Learn more about CJ’s Thrillers with Heart at www.CJLyons.net

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The character of Scarlet and the story Broken was inspired by Ms. Lyon’s niece Abby, a teen with Long QT syndrome.


How is Abby coping with Long QT?

CJ: Abby’s great, thanks for asking! She’s totally opposite of Scarlet, fiercely independent and refuses to let her heart condition hold her back from anything she wants. She rides horses, raises Rottweilers, is a straight A student, and a budding fashionista.

You can see for yourself in this video my publisher produced:


Abby has never allowed her heart condition to define her life. I think a large part of the credit for that goes to her parents—they were always open and upfront with Abby about her Long QT. By the age of three she could explain what Long QT was (including a short summary of the genetics!) to anyone who asked about her MedAlert bracelet.

Since then, she’s grown into a smart, independent young woman who is the first to jump in to defend a friend (or tell them they’re making a mistake), confront a bully, or lead a cause she’s passionate about.

If I sound like a proud aunt, it’s because I am!



Psst…pre-order the ebook before November 5th and you’ll qualify for special ebook pricing at only $4.99!


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THE LINE BETWEEN HERE AND GONE Excerpt

The Line Between Here and Gone by Andrea Kane
ISBN:  9780778313373
Publication Date: July 1, 2012
Publisher: MIRA


Excerpt 1:

“Tears welled up in Amanda’s eyes, slid down her cheeks beneath the mas. Between the pain, the worry and the hormones, she cried at the drop of a hat. She’d even wept in front of Marc Devereaux, although he’d seemed to understand. He’d taken her case. He’d been confident. He’d reassured her. And she believed in him.

But would they find Paul? Was Paul alive to be found? Or was that just wishful thinking on her part?

She’d mourned him for so long. More so after she found out she was carrying his baby. They’d never talked about having children, nor about settling down together. It was too soon. They’d only been together for five months. But they were five intense months, filled with a love and a passion Amanda had never before experienced. Justin was the culmination of that. And Paul would never be able to share in the miracle that was his son.

Finding out that Paul might truly be alive had been a devastating blow to her gut. Disbelief, hope, confusion, betrayal, and most of all, anger had rushed through her, one sharp emotion at a time. But, with Justin’s diagnosis, all that emotion channeled into desperation to find Paul. The fact that he might have been lying to her since day one and that he’d done a dump-and-run was insignificant. All that mattered was Justin. She had to save her baby. Even if it meant pleading at the feet of a man who’d made a fool of her.”

Excerpt 2:

“But I swear it was Paul. Take a look. I know the baby’s due this month, but thought you’d want to see this.Amanda read the words, and, for an instant, she froze.”

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