Book Showcase: PURIFIED by Elizabeth S Sullivan


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


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

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

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



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About the author:

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



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2015 Book 79: THE BLACK WIDOW Review

The Black Widow by Wendy Corsi Staub
ISBN: 9780062222435 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062222442 (ebook)
ASIN: B00FJ33276 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Harper


In a chilling new thriller from New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub, one woman looking for love online is entangled in a killer’s terrifying scheme . . .

In the moonlight, shovelfuls of earth fall on a wooden crate at the bottom of a deep pit. Soon the hole will be filled and covered over with leaves, erasing all trace of the victim below, waking to the horror of being buried alive . . .

Newly divorced Gaby Duran isn’t really expecting to find her soul mate on a dating site like InTune. She just needs a distraction from pining over her ex-husband, Ben, and the happy marriage they once had. And she’s wise enough to know that online, the truth doesn’t always match the profile. Almost everyone lies a little–or a lot.

But Gaby quickly discovers there is much more at stake than her lonely heart. Local singles are going missing after making online connections. And a predator is searching again for the perfect match. One who will fulfill every twisted desire . . . or die trying. 



Ben and Gaby Duran had a perfect marriage until the death of their child. Gaby was mired in depression, guilt, and anger and Ben wasn’t able to breakthrough and help Gaby with her grief. The marriage ended in divorce. Now Ben and Gaby both want to make a fresh start. Both have profiles on a local dating site, unfortunately one of these profiles catches the attention of a killer.

The Black Widow was a fast-paced and tension-filled suspense-thriller read. It took me awhile to get into the story simply because there are four stories going on and it was a little difficult for me to switch from a Gaby storyline to a Ben storyline then over to a police storyline and back to the killer’s storyline. Once I got all of the storylines straight in my head and understood the interrelationship among all stories the reading pace picked up and I simply had to know what happens next. What happens next is a lot! 

There’s the story of the police investigating missing Hispanic adult males: there’s Ben and Gaby reconnecting after being divorced and apart; there’s Ivy on the hunt for a missing co-worker; and, there’s the killer out to recreate her past. Okay, there’s a lot more going on (abduction, mental illness, arson, and murder), but if I tell you too much you won’t need to read the book, and if you enjoy reading suspense-thrillers then you’ll definitely want to read this book. I’ve read and enjoyed numerous books by Ms. Staub and The Black Widow was another enjoyable read. The characters were fully developed and wholly believable, and the action was plausible. Was there anything I didn’t like about this book or the story? Not really . . . okay, I read an advance reader digital copy of the book and it didn’t feature any breaks between the changes in character stories. That made it a little difficult for me to switch gears mentally and keep up with the story initially, however, that wasn’t enough to stop me from purchasing a copy of The Black Widow for my library. 


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



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Book 305: THE GIRL IN 6E Review

The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre
ISBN: 9780316404389 (hardcover) 
ISBN: 9780316404426 (ebook)
ASIN: B00HQ2N0M0 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Redhook/Orbit


I haven’t touched a human in three years. That seems like it would be a difficult task, but it’s not. Not anymore, thanks to the internet.

I am, quite possibly, the most popular recluse ever. Not many shut-ins have a 200-member fan club, a bank account in the seven-figure range, and hundreds of men lining up to pay for undivided attention.

They get satisfaction, I get a distraction. Their secret desires are nothing compared to why I hide… my lust for blood, my love of death.

Taking their money is easy. Keeping all these secrets… one is bound to escape.

What if you hid yourself away because all you could think of was killing? And what if one girl’s life depending on you venturing into society?

Enter a world of lies, thrills, fears, and all desires, in this original thriller from A. R. Torre.



Jessica Reilly is a popular young lady. She’s vivacious, outgoing, and openly erotic. The only problem is that Jessica Reilly doesn’t really exist. Jessica Reilly is the working name for Deanna Madden. Deanna uses the Jessica Reilly identity to work as an internet sex worker (and she makes darn good money at it too). No, she isn’t a prostitute, but she does perform sensual and sexual acts on demand on various cam websites. Jessica is a college student with an active social life, while Deanna lives the life of hermit, never going outside her apartment and having contact with the outside world via phone, internet, or through her apartment door. Is there anything that can compel Deanna to rejoin the outside world? Will the outside world be safe from her homicidal dreams and desires?

The Girl in 6E is a dark, somewhat erotic, psychological thriller. The author doesn’t shy away from describing, in very graphic details, the exploits of Deanna as an internet sex worker. It seems that the only way Deanna can continue with her voyeuristic sex job is by creating a persona that is the exact opposite of who she is as a person. Deanna might be considered troubled by some and tragic by others. Her mother slaughtered her father and twin brother and sisters before, presumably, committing suicide. Now Deanna dreams of murder and feels the only way she can protect the public-at-large from her homicidal ideations is to retreat from the world. Unfortunately, the UPS delivery man, Jeremy, is curious about her and wants to learn more. Deanna has virtual acquaintances that she relies upon such as her two psychologists – one deals with her concerns with her client base and the other with her homicidal desires, a client that has become her tech guru, another client that provides her with pills for her addicted neighbor, and Jeremy the UPS man. All of these acquaintances serve a purpose as long as they stay in the rigid guidelines Deanna has crafted for her world to continue. She even goes so far as having her neighbor lock her in each night so she won’t wander out and possibly attack and/or kill someone. It isn’t until one of her online clients begins to want a twisted role-play that Deanna begins to wonder if there’s more to him that meets the eye. When she learns her suspicions are valid, she has to decide if she can do anything to control the situation.

I’ve got to admit that my inner prude cringed a few times when I began to read The Girl in 6E. Even with my prudish responses, I simply couldn’t put this book down. I found The Girl in 6E to be a fast-paced read from beginning to end. It was fascinating to discover the behind-the-scenes world of the internet sex web-cam world. It was also interesting to learn more about the inner thoughts of the character Deanna/Jessica and read about her interactions (limited though they were) with others. The Girl in 6E deals with some hard and harsh topics, such as sexual fetishism, mental illness, homicide, pedophilia, and social isolation. I wouldn’t describe this as a light read but it was definitely one I’m glad I read. If you enjoy reading about the dark side of human nature or psychological thrillers, then you’ll definitely want to read The Girl in 6E


Read some excerpts here.

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



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Guest Post: K.P. Kollenborn – Author of HOW THE WATER FALLS



The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to be participating in the blog tour for How the Water Falls by author K.P. Kollenborn. Ms. Kollenborn stops by today and discusses her love of John Steinbeck and his influence on her writing, as well as her love of history (especially important given the themes in her latest book). 





Why I Love John Steinbeck
by K. P. Kollenborn

John Steinbeck wrote as part of his Nobel Peace Prize speech in 1962: “The writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man’s proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit—for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.” And within the same context, he also wrote, “I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” 

How can one not be in awe of his perception? As a writer, even in fiction, Steinbeck broke boundaries of how to reconcile what is humane. He mixed literary prose and realism with such grit and fortitude that I’m charmed by his depressing and enriching style. The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men are still inside my head, and in fact I have made soft suggestions to both books in my WWII novel, Eyes Behind Belligerence. I named two of my characters Tom and Rose, (although they are married and not brother and sister,) as a quiet dedication to The Grapes of Wrath; and even slid in Of Mice and Men as a favorite book of one of the protagonists in an effort to understand who has the right to take away someone’s life. It also plays into effect of bonding between two unlikely friends who only share the commonality of their environment.

I discovered Steinbeck in high school, as many secondary students have before me in English classes. I’m grateful he was included as part of the curriculum. Up to that point in my life I had not read that many “goddamns” and “bastards” in YA fiction. In fact, that was the first time I learned how to spell other swear words not often read in bathroom stalls that rhyme with Nantucket. And spelled correctly, I might add. I began counting how many times these “goddamned bastards” appeared in Of Mice and Men. And yet we weren’t allowed to say them in the classroom if we weren’t reading the texts out loud. The reason I bring this particular topic up is to explain how I began to comprehend a coarse, migrant lifestyle from people who came out of the Dust Bowl. The book opened up another world and I loved it. Not only did I want to be a part of that world by continuing to read John Steinbeck, but I wanted more. I too wanted to write about the depravity and faith mankind.

Initially I wanted to be an artist- mainly focusing on drawing and painting, and I do have a graphics art degree in addition to a history degree. Because I’m dyslexic, reading and writing came to me slowly as a child, and I somehow compensated by memorizing the structure of words. Up until I was a teenager, I didn’t believe I had any other talent. It has taken me some time to find courage to peruse a writer’s career. I have a highly creative brain that engages in any creative outlet possible- including writing, which later has dominated my desire to be creative both visually, (describing scenes like describing paintings,) and intellectually. And as a teenager, while investigating American history, I came across the Japanese-American internment camps. When I learned more about the camps I felt compelled to then write about these camps. Why? I don’t have any Japanese ancestry in my family tree. I live in the Midwest and grew-up in a medium size town where cultural diversity is a bit underdeveloped. My reason is simple: I don’t want to continue to live in a conical world. Consciousness does not develop and mature by existing in a frozen pond. I wanted to write about issues of camp life that has never been written about before in fiction. Much like what Steinbeck did when writing about migrant workers during his time.

I like to believe that after decades worth of introspection we have learned more wisely than something that happened yesterday. And that’s why I love history: To learn. To question. To redeem our humanity. My philosophy is this: “Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even, over our society’s past. Although writing can educate as well as entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings, photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.” I think John would agree on some transcending level. 


Resources:
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/john_steinbeck.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Steinbeck


Meet the author:

Even though I am from Kansas, I enjoy venturing into other worlds from around the globe which is why my writing focuses on diversity. With fluid accessibility to modern media and traveling opportunities, my Midwestern world can expand and explore beyond my own backyard. In addition to studying cultures, I take pleasure in studying history. Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even, over our society’s past. Although writing can educate as well as entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings, photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.


Connect with the author: 

Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads 






How the Water Falls by K.P. Kollenborn
ISBN: 9781500289201 (paperback – CreateSpace)
ISBN: 9781310512131 (ebook – Smashwords)
ASIN: B00L8F1UZA (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 22, 2014

On the fringes of a civil war arise a kaleidoscope of stories of abuse, power, betrayal, sex, love, and absolution, all united by the failings of a dying government. Set in the backdrop during the last years of South Africa’s apartheid, How the Water Falls is a psychological thriller that unfolds the truth and deception of the system’s victims, perpetrators, and unlikely heroes. 

The two main characters, one white, Joanne– a reporter, the other black, Lena– a banned activist, have their lives continuously overlap through the people they know during a thirteen-year period and eventually become friends as a result of their interviews together. Joanne personifies the need to question and investigate apartheid’s corruption from a white person’s perspective. Although her intentions begin with idealism, no matter how naïve, as the years pass while the system is failing, she crosses the threshold of what it means to be caught up inside the belly of the beast, especially after crossing paths with the Borghost brothers. Lena, who is inspired by her predecessors, such as Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela, is among the minority of black women to peacefully battle for equality, even if her struggle is indicative of sacrificing her health and safety. Hans Borghost is Johannesburg’s commissioner of police who, like all those before, had a military background before pursuing a law enforcement career. Violent, manipulative, and controlling, he incarnates the image of South Africa’s perpetrators. Jared Borghost is the younger brother of Hans and, like his brother, has a military background, but unlike Hans, he internally combats between his sense of duty and morality. His inconsistency indicates a conscience that leaves one to ponder whether Jared is either a perpetrator, victim, or both. As his surname suggests, Bor-GHOST represents the “ghosts” that haunt the family’s past. Many other characters play the roles of spies, freedom fighters, lovers, adversaries, and supporters. 

This novel is as complex as apartheid was itself, unlacing fabrics of each character’s life to merge into a catalyst downfall. The question of who will survive this downfall will suffice in the courts of truth and reconciliation and whether love is strong enough to preserve peace.


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Book Showcase: WILD WITHIN by Melissa Hart



Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family by Melissa Hart
ISBN: 9780762796809 (hardcover)  
Publication date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Lyons Press


Melissa Hart, a desperately lonely young divorcée and L.A. transplant, finds herself stranded in rainy Eugene, Oregon, working from home in the company of her two cats and two large mutts. At the local dog park, she meets a fellow dog owner named Jonathan: a tall, handsome man with a unibrow and hawk-like nose. When he invites her to accompany him on a drive to Portland to retrieve six hundred pounds of frozen rats and a fledgling barred owl, sparks fly!

Their courtship blossoms in a raptor rehabilitation center where wounded owls, eagles, falcons, and other iconic birds of prey take refuge and become ambassadors for their species. Initially, Melissa volunteers here in order to “sink her talons” into her new love interest, but soon she falls hopelessly in love with her fine feathered charges: Archimedes, a gorgeous snowy owl; Lorax, a fractious great horned owl; and Bodhi, a baby barred with a permanently injured wing. As “human imprints,” these birds see themselves and people as the same species yet retain a wildness that hoodwinks even the most experienced handlers. Overcoming her fears, Melissa bravely suffers some puncture wounds to get closer to these magnificent creatures.

Melissa and Jonathan start out convinced they don’t want children, but caring for birds who have fallen from their nests triggers a deep longing in Melissa to mother an orphaned child. Thus they embark on a heart-wrenching journey to adoption. Every page sparkles with vivid imagery and wit in this beautifully written memoir of parallel pursuits. Wildness Within is, above all, about the power of love—romantic, animal, and parental—to save lives and fulfill dreams.



Excerpt:

Prologue

“Clip Me”

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

The urologist with the slicked-back hair and tawny soul patch regarded me perched on a stool beside my husband in his chilly white office. The man’s latex-sheathed fingers held the stainless steel scalpel with practiced ease, the way Jonathan wielded a syringe before tube-feeding electrolytes to an emaciated hawk. The doctor was maybe in his early forties, healthy and cheerful like usbut sober in the face of our request.

“You’ve got to assume you won’t be able to conceive a child after your vasectomy.” His eyes sought Jonathan’s, and then mine: “You need to treat this surgery as irreversible.”

He emphasized the last word; it hung in the disinfected air a moment before dissipating. Jonathan and I traded raised brows. The doctor’s gaze dropped discreetly to the floor, then lifted slightly to focus on the great horned owl tattooed on my ankle, just visible beneath the rolled-up cuff of my Levi’s.

Irreversible. I remembered how the artist’s needle had punched permanent black-and-brown feathers into my skin, the stinging exhilaration of each jab to commemorate my transition from Los Angeles urbanite to Oregon nature girl. No going back.

Perfect.

My husband lay down on the exam table, sheet pulled to his waist. He reached for my hand, and his T-shirt sleeve stretched up to reveal the outspread wings of a hawk inked on one bicep. He entwined his fingers in mine and grinned so that I could see his crooked right incisor, subtle but sharp as the tomial tooth a falcon uses to sever the vertebrae of its prey.

“Now I know how the raptors feel when we’re about to do a procedure,” he told me.

For years Jonathan had suffered from epididymitisinfections that rendered him mute with fever and achingly swollen testicles. We celebrated our third date in the ER, my hand gripping his as a nurse ran the ultrasound wand over his groin. A vasectomy would remove the path which the infection traveled.

An easy outpatient surgery, the doctor informed us. “I do several a day.” His scalpel glowed under fluorescent light.

I pondered the gravity of the moment, but only just. Never to be pregnant, never to give birth, never to see the curious amalgamation of his-nose-my-eyes-his-chin-my-mouthall of this felt irrelevant as long as I could spare Jonathan further physical pain.

I squeezed his hand. He looked up at the urologist with that deferential gratitude he’d reserved for all medical professionals since breaking his back in a car accident fourteen years before. Then he issued his humble mandate to the doctor.

“Clip me.”



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Meet the author:

Melissa Hart lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband (photographer Jonathan B. Smith) and their daughter. 

Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Orion, High Country News, The Advocate, Adbusters, Hemispheres, Horizon Air Magazine, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer.

She teaches Feature Writing courses at the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon, and speaks frequently for writing-related organizations and conferences in the Pacific Northwest.

In her free time, Melissa likes to hike and run half-marathons, kayak and camp and cook and travel to quirky places.


Connect with the author:

Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads 



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Book Spotlight: MEAN STREAK by Sandra Brown



Mean Streak by Sandra Brown
ISBN: 9781455581122 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781455581139 (ebook)
ASIN: B00HQ2N52K (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 19, 2014
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing


Dr. Emory Charbonneau, a pediatrician and marathon runner, disappears on a mountain road in North Carolina. By the time her husband Jeff, miffed over a recent argument, reports her missing, the trail has grown cold. Literally. Fog and ice encapsulate the mountainous wilderness and paralyze the search for her.

While police suspect Jeff of “instant divorce,” Emory, suffering from an unexplained head injury, regains consciousness and finds herself the captive of a man whose violent past is so dark that he won’t even tell her his name. She’s determined to escape him, and willing to take any risks necessary to survive. 

Unexpectedly, however, the two have a dangerous encounter with people who adhere to a code of justice all their own. At the center of the dispute is a desperate young woman whom Emory can’t turn her back on, even if it means breaking the law.

As her husband’s deception is revealed, and the FBI closes in on her captor, Emory begins to wonder if the man with no name is, in fact, her rescuer.


Read an excerpt here.


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Meet the author:

Sandra Brown is the author of more than sixty New York Times bestsellers, including Deadline (2013), Low Pressure (2012), Lethal (2011), Tough Customer (2010), Smash Cut (2009), Smoke Screen (2008), Play Dirty (2007), Ricochet (2006), and Chill Factor, all of which have jumped onto the Times bestseller list in the number one to five spot.

Brown began her writing career in 1981 and since then has published over seventy novels, bringing the number of copies of her books in print worldwide to upwards of eighty million. Her work has been translated into thirty-four languages.

Brown holds an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Texas Christian University. She served as the president of the Mystery Writers of American in 2012 and was named ITW’s Thriller Master for 2008, the top award given by the International Thriller Writer’s Association. Other awards and commendations include the 2007 Texas Medal of Arts Award for Literature and the Romance Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.


Connect with the author:

Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads      |     Pinterest 



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Book 240: CLOSE YOUR EYES, HOLD HANDS Review

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

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


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

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

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



Watch the book trailer:




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



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Book 230: DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS Review


Don’t Talk to Strangers by Amanda Kyle Williams
ISBN: 9780553808094 (hardback)
ISBN: 9780345539649 (ebook)
ASIN: B00EMX9QM4  (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Bantam/Random House


He likes them smart.

In the woods of Whisper, Georgia, two bodies are found: one recently dead, the other decayed from a decade of exposure to the elements. The sheriff is going to need help to track down an experienced predator—one who abducts girls and holds them for months before ending their lives. Enter ex–FBI profiler and private investigator Keye Street.

He lives for the struggle.

After a few weeks, Keye is finally used to sharing her downtown Atlanta loft with her boyfriend, A.P.D. Lieutenant Aaron Rauser. Along with their pets (his dog, her cat) they seem almost like a family. But when Rauser plunks a few ice cubes in a tumbler and pours a whiskey, Keye tenses. Her addiction recovery is tenuous at best.

And loves the fear.

Though reluctant to head out into the country, Keye agrees to assist Sheriff Ken Meltzer. Once in Whisper, where the locals have no love for outsiders, Keye starts to piece together a psychological profile: The killer is someone who stalks and plans and waits. But why does the sociopath hold the victims for so long, and what horrible things must they endure? When a third girl goes missing, Keye races against time to connect the scant bits of evidence. All the while, she cannot shake the chilling feeling: Something dark and disturbing lives in these woods—and it is watching her every move.


Don’t Talk to Strangers is the third book in the Keye Street series by Amanda Kyle Williams. Keye is a deeply flawed woman. A recovering alcoholic that was fired by the FBI, she now spends her time as private investigator, bond recovery agent, and consultant. Keye is Chinese-American, adopted by a white Southern family, and has a black, gay adopted brother. (I know, it sounds like the beginnings of a reality television program.) This book begins with Keye dealing with the temporary sharing of her loft with her lover/significant other, Aaron Rauser. She is also dealing with the co-mingling of their pets, her cat and his dog. Her cat, White Trash, is systematically terrorizing Rauser’s dog Hank (Keye takes a perverse pleasure in seeing this happen over and over again even though she feels badly for Hank and soothes his ego after the attacks). Keye is also training a new employee at her detective agency – Corporate Intelligence & Investigations. Latisha Eckhart is the daughter of the owner of one of Keye’s primary bonding agencies, Tyrone Eckhart of Quikbail. To add to Keye’s overall angst, she must also contend with her moody, pot-smoking, computer hacking partner, Neil Donovan. (On second thought reality television couldn’t do Keye and her people justice.) Just when Keye feels as if she’s in over her head with the training and relationship issues, she receives a call from a small-town sheriff’s department asking her to consult on a child abduction/murder case. Of course she says yes and travels to Whisper, Georgia to provide a profile on a killer. Just as Keye is introduced to the sheriff and the dump site of the murdered girls another abduction takes place. Can Keye help to nab a killer before another girl is tortured and killed?

To say that I enjoy reading the Keye Street series is a major understatement. Every time a new book in the series comes out I take the opportunity to reread the previous books before reading the latest addition. Yes Keye is deeply flawed, but then who isn’t? Yes she finds herself in some strange situations, but that’s just one of the reasons why I like her so much. Don’t Talk to Strangers spotlights Keye’s tendencies to sabotage things that are going well in her life, and it was fascinating to read about her attraction to Sheriff Meltzer and her struggle to remain true to Rauser. What was even more fascinating were the glimpses Keye provided into the psyches of pedophiles and killers. I thought that all of the characters in Don’t Talk to Strangers were very realistic and it was very easy to dislike the temperamental deputies that felt threatened by Keye, as well as really bad guys – the convicted pedophiles. I found Don’t Talk to Strangers to be a fast-paced and gripping read that I finished in one sitting (and yes I stayed up late to finish reading it). The story has just enough twists and turns to keep the reader interested from beginning to end. And the end is completely unexpected (trust me on this one and read it for yourself). If you enjoy great writing, wonderful characters, realistic action, and mystery-suspense-thrillers, then you’ll definitely want to add Don’t Talk to Strangers to your TBR list. 

If you haven’t read the previous books in this series, then you’ll want to read them as well: The Stranger You Seek and The Stranger in the Room.

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



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Book 182: Review of NATCHEZ BURNING


Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
ISBN: 9780062311078 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062311108 (ebook)
ASIN: B00FJ3AC10 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 29, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow

An American writer at the height of his creative powers, #1 New York Times bestselling novelist Greg Iles returns with his most eagerly anticipated book yet, and his first in five years—Natchez Burning, the first installment in an epic trilogy that weaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present into a mesmerizing thriller featuring southern mayor and former prosecutor Penn Cage.

Raised in the historic southern splendor of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned all he knows of honor and duty from his father, Dr. Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor and pillar of the community has been accused of murdering Viola Turner, the African-American nurse with whom he worked in the dark days of the 1960s. Once a crusading prosecutor, Penn is determined to save his father, but Tom, stubbornly invoking doctor-patient privilege, refuses to even speak in his own defense.

Penn’s quest for the truth sends him deep into his father’s past, where a sexually charged secret lies waiting to tear their family apart. More chilling, this long-buried sin is only a single thread in a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the vicious Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK controlled by some of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the state. Aided by a dedicated reporter privy to Natchez’s oldest secrets and by his fiancée, Caitlin Masters, Penn uncovers a trail of corruption and brutality that places his family squarely in the Double Eagles’ crosshairs. With every step costing blood and faith, Penn is forced to confront the most wrenching dilemma of his life: Does a man of honor choose his father or the truth?

Drenched in southern atmosphere, Natchez Burning marks the brilliant return of a genuine American master of suspense. Tense, disturbing, and filled with electrifying plot twists, this novel commences the most explosive and ambitious story Greg Iles has ever written.

Natchez Burning presents a variety of societal issues without any sugarcoating, such as rampant racism, racially motivated torture and killings, rape, intimidation, adultery, illegal drugs, family, injustice, and, the worst thing of all, secrets. How far do you go to protect your past? How far do you go to protect the past of others? How far are you willing to go to protect a way of life?

I’ve enjoyed reading all of the previous novels by Greg Iles that included the character Penn Cage, and Natchez Burning is definitely included in that list. However, Natchez Burning is now my favorite Greg Iles novel and the reasons why are multitudinous. Penn Cage is a flawed yet honorable man. This book presents Penn with the worst possible dilemma, supporting the truth or his family. Natchez Burning presents a painful part of American history that is not too distant and not easily addressed, if at all, by government officials or even appeased by the truth. Racism is still a part of American culture regardless as what some in the media may say. Natchez Burning points a bright spotlight on this ongoing issue and the past behaviors of a small group of racists that killed ruthlessly with impunity. 

I found Natchez Burning to be a difficult read simply because it spotlights hate crimes and the perpetrators in such a realistic manner. Reading about torture, killings, and rape, even if fictionalized, had me putting aside the book for a few hours before resuming. Natchez Burning portrays the South in a dark, gritty and realistic way that surpasses what has been revealed in other books dealing with racism and injustice. Yet even with the dark and heart-wrenching themes, Mr. Iles provides the reader with a sense of hope that justice will prevail and “truth will out.”

I could go on and on about the different characters, those I liked and those I despised. I could go on and on about the tragedies that are revealed, many in the past and some contemporary. I could rave about the amazing writing of Mr. Iles or the fact that this book is just as much literary masterpiece as it is mystery-suspense masterpiece. However the only thing I really need to tell you is to read this book! If you never take any other bookish recommendation from me, take this one — go out and buy a copy of Natchez Burning and read this book! For myself, I’ll be re-reading Natchez Burning as I anxiously await the next book in this trilogy, The Bone Tree.



Just so you don’t think I’m the only one raving about this book, here’s what others are saying about Natchez Burning:

Kirkus Reviews (starred review): “A searing tale of racial hatreds and redemption in the modern South, courtesy of Southern storyteller extraordinaire Iles. . . . A memorable, harrowing tale.”

Library Journal (starred review): “An absorbing and electrifying tale that thriller fans will be sure to devour.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review): “Much more than a thriller, Iles’s deftly plotted fourth Penn Cage novel doesn’t flag for a moment . . . This superlative novel’s main strength comes from the lead’s struggle to balance family and honor.”

Scott Turow: “Natchez Burning is just flat-out terrific . . . its themes about race, violence, tradition, and the eternal smoldering anger of the South [bring] to mind Thomas Wolfe and William Faulkner . . . Greg Iles is back and truly better than ever.”

Stephen King: “Natchez Burning is extraordinarily entertaining and fiendishly suspenseful. I defy you to start it and find a way to put it down . . . This is an amazing work of popular fiction.”

Jodi Picoult: “I don’t know how Iles did it, but every single page of Natchez Burning is a cliffhanger that will keep you devouring just one more chapter before you put it down . . . this ambitious, unique novel is the perfect marriage of a history lesson and a thriller.”

Booklist (starred review): “It’s been half a decade since Iles’ last Penn Cage novel, but, oh boy, was it worth the wait! . . . This beautifully written novel represents some of the author’s finest work, with sharper characterizations and a story of especially deep emotional resonance, and we eagerly await volume two.”


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



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Book 340: DEAR MR. KNIGHTLEY Review

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
ISBN:  9781401689681 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781401689698 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00C5QA78M (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 5, 2013 
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers


Dear Mr. Knightley is a contemporary epistolary novel with a delightful dash of Jane Austen.

Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.

After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.

As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters.



Samantha Moore is a young twenty-something female whose life has been turned upside down. She grew up in foster care and spent most of her life immersed in books, so much that she uses literary quotes to relate to people. Unfortunately this has a tendency to push people away rather than pull them closer. She’s recently lost her job and subsequently her apartment. Forced to return to the only home she’s known, she heads back to Grace House. However, her stay doesn’t come without strings. She’ll only be allowed to stay there if she pursues an additional degree. The priest at Grace House, Father John, persuades Samantha to apply to both the Medill School of Journalism and for a grant from the Dover Foundation. After her acceptance to Medill, she is awarded a grant that covers all of her graduate school expenses but she is required to send letters to the head of the foundation providing updates on her progress. 

These letters began with rather benign updates but eventually begin to reveal who Samantha is at heart through her interactions with her friends, peers, professors, and acquaintances. These letters also reveal many of the struggles Samantha must endure in her quest to finish her graduate degree. These struggles include a holiday bout with a ruptured appendix, being mugged, and her mental struggle with her degree choice. Fortunately these struggles result in Samantha finding housing closer to the school and negate her having to travel great distances late at night, she also befriends the author Alex Powell and his friends, the Muirs. 

Dear Mr. Knightley was actually the first epistolary novel I’ve read. I thought it would be off-putting reading a novel in letter format, but all of the action and dialogue between the characters are revealed in these letters so at times it didn’t even feel like I was reading in a different format. Samantha is a difficult character to understand as she’s somewhat prickly at first and doesn’t really know who she is since she’s spent so much time trying to channel her favorite characters and use literature to try and connect with people. It isn’t until she befriends a fellow orphan at Grace House, Kyle, and later Alex that she begins to grow and learn to love and trust. In many ways Dear Mr. Knightley is a coming-of-age story with a twist. I felt all of the characters were well-developed and realistic. It was heartening to watch Samantha grow and learn from her mistakes, although at times others had to point these mistakes out to her. I found Dear Mr. Knightley to be an engaging and fast read that was filled with self-discovery, romance, and drama. If you enjoy reading uplifting or inspirational fiction, then you’ll definitely want to add Dear Mr. Knightley to your reading list. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Reay in the future.

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Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via BookSneeze. 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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