Book Showcase: ALL QUIET ON THE MIDWESTERN PLAINS by Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

All Quiet On The Midwestern Plains: a Tale of Deception, Betrayal and Vindication by Dorothea Shefer-Vanson
ISBN: 9781723871801 (paperback)
ASIN: B07HJCXJRF (Kindle edition)
Release Date: September 19, 2018

It is 1985 and Israeli paleontologist is spending a year at a university in Nebraska. He encounters hostility from the head of the department and anti-Semitism in the local paper. Events seem to conspire to prevent him achieving his aim of attaining academic success, and his family is on the verge of breaking up, until he is finally able to unmask the plot to wreak havoc throughout America.

Purchase Links:  Amazon  |  Kindle 

Read an excerpt from All Quiet On The Midwestern Plains:

Wielding chisels and hammers, the two men busied themselves prising sections of rock away from the hillside till the sun was low on the horizon, by which time their hands were blistered and sore.

Avi carefully recorded the original position of each rock as he placed it in one of the sacks he had brought along for the purpose. They spoke little, each of them absorbed in the task at hand. After they had been working for some time Avi lit the camping gas ring he had brought along and brewed some coffee. They drank it slowly, savoring the warmth and the aroma.

“I’d like to get a few more specimens from up there,” Avi said, pointing to a higher part of the hillside. “Once I’ve done that I’ll be ready to head back into town.”

“That’s fine with me. I’ve got enough stuff here to give me years of analysis. Besides, I must confess, I don’t seem to have the stamina I once had for roughing it in the open and hacking away at rocks.”

Tom stopped working and watched anxiously as Avi balanced himself on the rocks in his efforts to prise part of the rock-face away. The effort involved in maintaining his balance while engaging in the strenuous yet delicate physical effort showed on Avi’s face. He improved his foot-hold and began to wield his tools, at first slowly, then, as his confidence increased, with growing rhythm and speed.

As Tom watched his friend he was reminded how much he enjoyed being out in the open, where the air was fresh and he could feel the earth beneath his feet, seeing everything from a different perspective. The elements seemed so docile, after the violent storm of the morning, making him think of Nancy, with her sudden violent mood-swings. One moment she would be as quiet and sweet as a dove, the next a screaming harridan. He often did not know why. Whether it was because of some imagined slight on his part or some error of omission or commission.

Avi strained to insert his chisel at an awkward angle into the rock face, lost his balance, and fell, not far but heavily. Without uttering a syllable he bumped down the jagged edges of protruding russet-colored rocks, landing close to where Tom was standing, helpless and unable to move. Suddenly Avi was lying motionless at his feet, his eyes closed, blood oozing from a gash in his forehead.

Tom’s heart began pounding at an alarming rate. He bent down and took Avi’s limp hand, trying to find his pulse. He wondered if he was badly wounded and whether he should try to staunch the blood, though he did not know what with. He did not know if any bones were broken, consoling himself with the fact that at least Avi was still breathing. After a moment he was relieved to find that his pulse was steady.

Avi groaned and opened his eyes. He put his hand to his forehead, then stared at the blood on his fingers.

“I fell, didn’t I?” he asked.

“You sure did.”

“Is it a deep cut?”

“Maybe. I can’t really tell,” Tom screwed his eyes up and peered at the wound.

“There’s a first-aid kit in the jeep,” Avi’s voice was weak. He sat up slowly, wincing in pain. The blood had drained from his face, so that his dark eyes stared out at Tom from sockets that seemed suddenly to have sunk deep into his skull.

“Don’t get up. Stay where you are. I’ll go and get the things.”

When Tom came back with the first-aid box, he found Avi sitting on a rock, dabbing his wound with a blood-stained tissue. His face was still pale, but he looked as if he was recovering from the initial shock.

“Here. Let me do it,” Avi said, and took the box from Tom. With deft fingers he cleaned his wound, dressed it, and wound a bandage around his own head. Tom nodded in admiration.

“I’ve seen medics treat battle wounds a few times. I reckon I know what to do,” Avi explained as he tightened the bandage and secured it with a safety-pin. “Sometimes we had to dress one another’s wounds ourselves when the medic wasn’t around. I could do with something to drink, though. My mouth feels very dry. I’m probably in shock. Is there any water left in the jeep?”

Once again Tom clambered down to where the vehicle was standing, and came back with their last container of water. He handed it to Avi, who gulped the tepid liquid down, then washed his face and hands, careful not to wet the bandage.

“I’m OK now,” his voice sounded stronger. “Luckily I don’t seem to have broken any bones. I really wish I could have got some rocks from up there, but I don’t want to take any more risks.”

“I could try,” Tom ventured.

“No, I wouldn’t dream of letting you. But thanks for offering. It’s funny, you know,” he added after a moment, “being here with you, like this, is a bit like being back in the military. I didn’t realize it till now, but I’m glad you’re here with me. I don’t know how I’d have managed without you. We make a good team. I’m sorry I spoiled things with this stupid fall.”

“That’s OK,” Tom recognized that this was the highest compliment Avi could give. He felt that he really ought to reciprocate in some way, tell Avi he was glad they had made the trip together, but somehow the words just would not come. Instead, he busied himself with practicalities, fussing over his friend like a mother-hen. “Here. Take my arm. I don’t want you falling down any more rocks till we’re safe in the jeep. You gave me quite a shock just now.”

With unaccustomed docility, like a newly-tamed animal, Avi took Tom’s arm, and together they made their way slowly down the hill. When they reached the road, Avi made for the driver’s seat.

“Don’t make me laugh, Avi,” Tom said. “You’re in no fit state to drive. Besides, you’ve driven all the way so far. Now it’s my turn.”

Again without demurring, Avi went round to the passenger seat and let Tom take the wheel.

“It’s years since I’ve driven a vehicle with a manual gear,” Tom said. “I guess it’ll take me a while to get used to it. Still, I’ve got to do it. So here goes.”

He engaged the engine and started to drive, raising a cloud of dust.

He was not sorry to be leaving that spot, but glad he had not let Avi go on his own. Realizing that anything could have happened if he had, he imagined how proud of him Nancy would be and gave himself a metaphorical pat on the back.

“We’ll soon have you back in civilization,” he said to Avi, who winced each time the jeep jolted on the uneven road. “We’d better get you to a doctor as soon as possible.”

“I’m alright,” Avi protested. “I just want to get home.”

Home. The magic word that since time immemorial has given fighting men the strength to endure hardship. The word that has kept soldiers going through the most rigorous training, field exercises, battles, gun-fire and falling bombs.

Avi recalled how, though still a teenager when he was doing his compulsory military service, the thought of his mother’s worn face and comfortable form, had kept him going. He would envisage her busy in the kitchen, making the food he liked, or bringing him a cup of coffee and a slice of home-made cake when he came home on leave. He imagined himself sitting in the big armchair, his legs stretched out in front of him, his boots on the floor beside him, as he read the paper.

He shook his head despite the pain and reminded himself that home was no longer his mother. Home was Rachel and the twins, who were all doubtless just carrying on with life, unaware of what had happened to him. He wondered whether his wife would spare a moment to wonder where he was and what he was doing. He glanced at his watch and calculated that she was probably making lunch for the twins, tidying the kitchen, or enjoying one of the interminable television comedies

“There’s no chance of getting back to Seabrook tonight,” Tom said. “We’ll stop at the nearest gas station and ask where we can find a doctor. Chances are that there’ll be a motel where we can stay tonight. Then we’ll be able to leave tomorrow morning and get to Seabrook by noon.”

“Couldn’t we make it back to Seabrook tonight?” Avi’s voice was wistful.

“Not if I’m driving. And you’re certainly not going to. I’m not taking any more risks. Unlike you, I don’t like living dangerously.”

“Don’t lecture me, for heaven’s sake, Tom.”

“OK. Sorry. End of sermon,” Tom said.

“Besides,” Avi continued, “What’s the point of living if you don’t take a risk or two now and again? We’d all die of boredom.”

“That’s fine with me. I get enough excitement from working with Harold Anderss and watching the Huskers playing. What more can a man want?”

“Ah, yes, the football team. I’ve heard about them. The twins said something about the game the other day. I didn’t know that you were interested in that too.”

“Interested?” Tom exclaimed, negotiating a pile of small stones that the storm had deposited on the road. “I don’t think that ‘interested’ is the right word. Everyone in the state supports the Huskers. They’re a damn good team. One of the best in the country. If not the best. Everyone’s a fan. Some people are just enthusiastic supporters, while others are real fanatical supporters. But no-one’s indifferent. I’ll have to take you to a game some day.”

“I can’t wait.” Avi said, then winced and put his hand to his head as the jeep lurched over a pot-hole in the road.

The teenage attendant at the gas station chewed gum languidly as he filled their tank, all the while leaning against their mud-encrusted vehicle. He told them that they’d find a doctor and a motel in the nearby town of Spurling.

The light was beginning to fade as the two men checked into the motel on the outskirts of the town. The clerk at the desk looked at Avi’s bandaged head with some concern. The blood that had oozed out of the wound had dried into an ugly, rust-colored stain that resembled the map of some unknown country.

“That looks real bad,” he said. “How d’ya get that?”

“He fell. I’d really like to get him to a doctor,” Tom said. “Where can we find one?”

“Well now, let me see,” the clerk closed his eyes and sucked his teeth, evidently to aid concentration. “Doctor Thompson lives out over on the other side of town, and I think you’ll find he’s a real good doctor. There’s another one, Doctor Harris, who’s nearer but ain’t so well thought of. But he’s out of town right now anyway. He goes out of town a lot. Mostly on fishing trips. Though he does some hunting too sometimes. That’s why people prefer Dr. Thompson. Anyhow, you just take the main road through the town and you’ll find him right at the other end.”

Tom looked anxiously at Avi, who was standing next to him at the counter and beginning to sway. His face had now turned a delicate shade of gray, and the bloodstain on the bandage round his head was spreading gradually.

“You’d better get your friend over to the surgery real quick,” the clerk said. “He looks real bad to me.”

“Thanks, I will,” Tom said, taking Avi’s arm and steering him back to the jeep. Avi leaned on him for support, causing Tom to struggle with his considerable weight.

By the time Tom had located the surgery Avi could barely sit upright in his seat, so that Tom had to come round to the passenger seat and haul his friend’s half inert body out. The effort made his arms ache and left him breathing heavily.

The doctor took one look at the dusty, blood-stained pair on his doorstep and helped Tom bring Avi into his office. He lay Avi down on his examining couch and went over to the sink to wash his hands.

“How did it happen? Hunting? Climbing? he asked while he checked Avi’s pulse and eyes, then gently unwound the blood-soaked bandage.

“He fell down some rocks. We were out at Horseshoe Rock collecting specimens. We’re paleontologists from the university in Seabrook,” Tom said.

“A dangerous profession,” the doctor said.

Avi groaned gently, his eyes closed.

Tom watched, both fascinated and repelled. Once again the vulnerability of the human body was brought home to him. One minute Avi had seemed almost god-like, clambering over rocks like a mountain goat, and the next he was a frail bundle of blood, flesh, and potentially brittle bones.

“It’s a deep gash. He’s lost quite a lot of blood,” Doctor Thompson said, examining the wound. “He’ll have to have stitches. And he’ll need plenty of rest. He may even have concussion, though at least he doesn’t seem to have broken any bones. You’ll have to get him to hospital.”

“Can’t you stitch it, doctor?” Tom asked. “How far is it to the nearest hospital?”

“No. I can’t. The nearest hospital is in Seabrook, which is where you’re headed anyway, isn’t it?”

“I don’t want to go any farther tonight,” Tom said. “We’ve driven a long way today. And worked in the hot sun for hours. Got drenched in that rainstorm this morning, too. I’m tired. I need to rest. And my friend certainly can’t drive.”

“I don’t like it, but I suppose I could apply a temporary dressing. That should get him through the night. Do you have somewhere to stay?”

Tom nodded, and Doctor Thompson cleaned and dressed Avi’s wound. When he had finished, Avi opened his eyes, looked from the doctor to Tom, and gave a weak grin. The color was gradually returning to his face.

“Come back to me in the morning. And if there’s any change in his condition, call me in the night. Though of course I’d prefer it if you didn’t. The main thing is to keep him as still as possible. Here’s my card. That will be thirty-five dollars. I’ll give you a receipt so you can get a refund from your medical insurance.”

After Tom had paid the doctor Avi stood up unsteadily and mumbled some words of thanks. Once they were in the jeep he reached into his pocket, took out his wallet, and thrust thirty-five dollars into Tom’s hand.

“I can’t have you subsidizing my foolishness,” he said as Tom tried to push the notes away. “Anyhow, give me the receipt and I’ll get the refund.”

Tom relented, shivering in the chilly night air. The two men drove back to the motel, stopping only to get some pizza on the way.

Excerpt from All Quiet on the Midwestern Plains by Dorothea Shefer-Vanson. Copyright © Dorothea Shefer-Vanson 2018. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Meet the author

Born and brought up in post-war London, the daughter of refugees from Hitler’s Germany, Dorothea Shefer-Vanson now lives in Israel and has worked most of her life as a translator, editor, and writer. She has a B.A. from the London School of Economics and an M.A. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Now retired from translating, she devotes her time to writing and has published five novels to date. 

She writes a weekly blog containing reviews of books, concerts, and exhibitions, as well as traveling, general topics, politics and anything that interests her at the time.

She is married to an Israeli physicist, and together they have three children, eight grandchildren, and one grand-dog. She also enjoys painting in watercolors, and her pictures adorn the covers of her books. She is an avid fan of classical music, attends as many concerts as possible and every room in her house – including the smallest – has a radio tuned to the classical music program. She enjoys traveling and her books reflect her experience of living in England, Israel, France, and the USA.

Connect with the author via her website or blog, as well as Goodreads and Amazon

2019 Book 134: THE SECRETS WE BURY by Debra Webb

The Secrets We Bury (The Undertaker’s Daughter #1) by Debra Webb
ISBN: 9780778308300 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781488085796 (ebook)
ASIN: B07FD8WBP7 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: MIRA
Publication Date: April 30, 2019

Nothing stays buried forever…

Doctor Rowan Dupont knows death. She grew up surrounded by it in her family’s Victorian funeral home, and it’s haunted her since the day her twin sister drowned years ago. Between her mother’s subsequent suicide and the recent murder of her father, coming home to run the funeral home feels fitting—even if it leaves her vulnerable to an obsessive serial killer.

Rowan refuses to let fear keep her from honoring her family. But the more time she spends back in Winchester, Tennessee, the more she finds herself questioning what really happened that fateful summer. Had her sister’s death truly been an accident? And what pushed their mother to take her own life? The dark lake surrounding Rowan’s hometown holds as many secrets as the bodies that float in its chilling depths. But Rowan is running out of time if she’s going to uncover the truth before somebody sinks her for good.

Dr. Rowan DuPont is a forensic psychiatrist. She was once well respected by law enforcement and thought her career was beneficial. After her father was murdered by her longtime mentor she is questioning all that she’s ever known. She leaves Nashville behind and returns to her hometown of Winchester, Tennesse and takes over the family mortuary business. Rowan’s life has been filled with heartbreak, beginning with the drowning death of her twin sister when she was twelve. This was followed only a few months later by her mother’s suicide. Rowan even attempted suicide a couple of times during her youth, but the only ones that know that secret are her father, her mentor and former psychiatrist, Dr. Julian Addington, and her childhood friend, Billy Brannigan, who’s now chief of police in Winchester. During one of Rowan’s waterfront walks near the place of her sister’s drowning, she discovers bones of a teenaged girl. The bones are eventually linked to a missing teenager from California, Dr. Julian Addington, and Rowan’s deceased twin sister Raven. Adding to the drama of Rowan’s return is her discovery that one of the bodies in the mortuary may not have died of a fall as initially expected. This sleepy small town is now dealing with murder after murder and all are linked to Dr. Julian Addington and his quest to torment Rowan. Can Rowan and Billy uncover all the secrets her family tried to keep hidden all those years ago before it’s too late?

The Secrets We Bury by Debra Webb is the first installment in the Undertaker’s Daughter series and it starts off with a bang, figuratively speaking. Rowan is dealing with the psychological torment of someone that knows all of her secrets and even worse, he knows many of the secrets kept by her parents that she was completely unaware of until now. Rowan feels as if she’s unraveling as she tries to figure out what happened in the past along with what’s currently happening. Yes, there’s a lot going on in this story and there’s no way I can tell you everything without massive spoilers. If you’re into suspense thrillers or psychological suspense reads, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of The Secrets We Bury. If you’ve read anything by Debra Webb in the past, then you’re familiar with her writings and you’ve probably already got this book on your TBR list and a copy on pre-order. If you haven’t read anything by this author in the past, then I suggest you grab a copy of The Secrets We Bury and then you can enjoy reading her backlist while you wait for the next installment in this series. I enjoyed The Secrets We Bury and can’t wait to read the next book to see what happens next with Rowan and Billy.

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

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The Secrets We Bury

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2019 Book 68: BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM by Peter Swanson

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson
ISBN: 9780062838155 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062838179 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062838186 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07BK1HP2L (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow 
Publication Date: March 5, 2019

Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door


From the hugely talented author of The Kind Worth Killing comes an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder. . .

Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape. . .

Henrietta “Hen” Mazur is an artist. She’s also bipolar and has a history of obsessions going back to college. In college, she just “knew” her dorm mate had attempted to kill her roommate by giving her the flu. She then “knew” the dorm mate was out to kill her simply because she knew the truth. That whole situation ended with Hen being hospitalized and diagnosed as bipolar, a restraining order being placed against her, her withdrawal from that college and transferring to a different college. After her marriage to Lloyd and whilst living in Cambridge, MA, Hen became obsessed with the death of an area resident. Now that they have moved to a suburb outside of Boston, Hen is convinced her next door neighbor is the murderer. She attempts to convince the Cambridge detectives of what she knows, but that doesn’t go very well. She then decides to keep an eye on her neighbor, witnesses him stalking then murdering a local man, and subsequently identifies her neighbor as the killer to the police. Hen is suspicious of Matthew, who in turn is suspicious of her suspicions. Will anyone ever take her reports seriously given her past behaviors or will her neighbor literally be able to get away with murder?

I’ve read several books by Peter Swanson in the past and found them all to be well-written, twisted, and filled with surprises throughout and Before She Knew Him is an excellent example of his work. There are a lot of nuances to this book including the fact that a person with a known mental health problem isn’t often taken seriously by law enforcement despite the fact that they may be able to provide crucial evidence. Hen’s situation is an excellent example of this predicament and seems to exemplify the old adage that just because a person is paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t someone after them. Hen knows what she knows and no one believes her or so she thinks initially. She quickly comes to realize that Matthew definitely knows what is going on and is willing to use her past against her. When Matthew and Mira get a restraining order against Hen, it seems as if the story might have nowhere to go but then several twists and surprises arise. No, I’m not going to reveal what they are…read the book! Mr. Swanson fills Before She Knew Him with psychological suspense and enough plot twists and turns to give the reader motion sickness (trust me, this is a good thing). It was impossible to determine what was going to happen next and I love that in a story. I empathized with Hen and even Mira and felt Matthew deserved whatever might happen to him. I wish I could say more about Lloyd, Hen’s husband, but let’s just say that even he isn’t as nice a guy as he initially appears. I’m wholeheartedly recommending Before She Knew Him to all of you lovers of the mystery-suspense genre as well as those of you looking for something a little different to read. Come on, read outside of your comfort zone this year by grabbing a copy of Before She Knew Him to read. You may be surprised by just how much you like it. 

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

Read a sample of Before She Knew Him here.

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Before She Knew Him: A Novel

Before She Knew Him: A Novel

Before She Knew Him

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Before She Knew Him

2019 Book 66: CEMETERY ROAD by Greg Iles

Cemetery Road by Greg Iles
ISBN: 9780062824615 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062824639 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062824646 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07B7L4QMF (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow 
Publication Date: March 5, 2019

Sometimes the price of justice is a good man’s soul.

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Natchez Burning trilogy returns with an electrifying tale of friendship, betrayal, and shattering secrets that threaten to destroy a small Mississippi town.

“[A] compulsively readable thriller… Iles once again delivers a sweeping tale of family dysfunction, sexually charged secrets, and the power of wealth, with an overlay of violence and Southern sensibility.”   — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

When Marshall McEwan left his Mississippi hometown at eighteen, he vowed never to return. The trauma that drove him away spurred him to become one of the most successful journalists in Washington, DC. But as the ascendancy of a chaotic administration lifts him from print fame to television stardom, Marshall discovers that his father is terminally ill, and he must return home to face the unfinished business of his past.

On arrival, he finds Bienville, Mississippi very much changed. His family’s 150-year-old newspaper is failing; and Jet Turner, the love of his youth, has married into the family of Max Matheson, one of a dozen powerful patriarchs who rule the town through the exclusive Bienville Poker Club. To Marshall’s surprise, the Poker Club has taken a town on the brink of extinction and offered it salvation, in the form of a billion-dollar Chinese paper mill. But on the verge of the deal being consummated, two murders rock Bienville to its core, threatening far more than the city’s economic future.

An experienced journalist, Marshall has seen firsthand how the corrosive power of money and politics can sabotage investigations. Joining forces with his former lover—who through her husband has access to the secrets of the Poker Club—Marshall begins digging for the truth behind those murders. But he and Jet soon discover that the soil of Mississippi is a minefield where explosive secrets can destroy far more than injustice. The South is a land where everyone hides truths: of blood and children, of love and shame, of hate and murder—of damnation and redemption. The Poker Club’s secret reaches all the way to Washington, D.C., and could shake the foundations of the U.S. Senate. But by the time Marshall grasps the long-buried truth about his own history, he would give almost anything not to have to face it.

Marshall McEwan doesn’t see himself as a liberal, moderate, or conservative. He’s a journalist and his job is to reveal the truth and tell the whole story. Or at least that’s what he thought before he won the Pulitzer and he realized that it’s possible to become a success by omitting part of the story, even if that omission was done to protect a friend that was protecting your own life. After living the life of a renowned journalist in Washington D.C., Marshall has to return to Mississippi because of his father’s failing health. It is Bienville, MS that Marshall’s life begins to unravel all while seeking out the truth surrounding his surrogate father’s death or rather murder. Bienville stands to rise from the ashes with the building of a new paper mill, highway, and other businesses. The people and the region will prosper for not one or two years but possibly decades because of this deal, but is the deal worth the life of one man? As Marshall delves into the circumstances surrounding his friend’s murder, his own secret social life is about to be revealed as he’s having an affair with his high school girlfriend, his married high school girlfriend. Adding insult to injury, she’s married to the man that saved his life when he was embedded with the military. Marshall’s father is dying and other than occasional visits, he doesn’t really talk to him because he feels that his father still blames him for this older brother’s tragic death over 30 years ago. For the first time in a long time, Marshall is forced to face his feelings and memories from his past. He’s also forced to confront his current actions and their consequences. Can he face the past and deal with the present without destroying any hopes for a joyous future? Can he uncover the truth about his friend’s murder without completely derailing the future of his town? Will the “powers-that-be” allow him to walk away from his search for the truth or will there be dire consequences to his attempts to reveal their secrets whilst keeping his own hidden?

If you’ve read any of my past blog reviews, you probably know that I adore Greg Iles and love reading his books. I was so excited when he revealed the news about Cemetery Road and doubly excited when I received my review copy to read (thank you again William Morrow Books). If it weren’t for migraine interference, I would have read Cemetery Road in one day. (Yes, it was just that engrossing.) Sadly, weather-induced migraine headaches forced me to slow down quite a bit and it took several days to complete this book. Now, I’m rather pleased that I was forced to slow my read and savor the multiple complex storylines, complicated relationships, and deeply flawed yet realistic characters. It was intriguing to read about a Southern town about to be reborn because of a new industry. I live in Appalachia and there are plenty of towns dying or dead due to loss of an industry that would similarly welcome a new business, no matter what. Although I could empathize with the needs of the town and region for new growth and industry, I could also empathize with Marshall’s need to uncover the truth about a murder and then do whatever he could to try to protect his family and friends. Cemetery Road isn’t just a story about a man returning home, or a quashed murder investigation, or an extramarital affair, or the “good ole boys” network at work in the deep South. Yes, the story contains all of those elements and much more. I’ve tried for the past few days to neatly summarize this story and all I’ve come up with is it’s a damned good read. So, if you enjoy reading Southern Fiction then grab a copy. If you enjoy reading thrillers, grab a copy. If you enjoy reading about complex relationships and returning home, grab a copy. If you enjoy reading about good trying to conquer evil (and there are plenty of shades of evil), grab a copy. If you’re just looking for a good read, grab a copy. Mr. Iles has this amazing ability to take what initially appears to be a simple tale and deftly weave a complex towering story that captures the reader’s attention and doesn’t let go. Just in case you couldn’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cemetery Road and highly recommend it. Now go and put this on your TBR list and get yourself a copy ASAP!

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

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Book Spotlight: SUGAR RUN by Mesha Maren

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren
ISBN: 9781616206215 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781616208882 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781684416417 (audiobook)
ASIN: B079VTHG8J (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: January 8, 2019

On the far side the view was nothing but ridgelines, the craggy silhouettes rising up against the night sky like the body of some dormant god. Jodi felt her breath go tight in her chest. This road went only one way, it seemed, in under the mountains until you were circled.

In 1989, Jodi McCarty is seventeen years old when she’s sentenced to life in prison for manslaughter. She’s released eighteen years later and finds herself at a Greyhound bus stop, reeling from the shock of unexpected freedom. Not yet able to return to her lost home in the Appalachian mountains, she goes searching for someone she left behind, but on the way, she meets and falls in love with Miranda, a troubled young mother. Together, they try to make a fresh start, but is that even possible in a town that refuses to change? 

Set within the charged insularity of rural West Virginia, Sugar Run is a searing and gritty debut about making a run for another life.

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Read an excerpt from Sugar Run here.

Praise for Sugar Run

“The literary lineages here are hard-boiled fiction and film noir, but on every page of her debut novel, Mesha Maren creates bold new takes on those venerable genres, a much-needed refresh of worn tropes and clichés. Maren is masterly at describing America’s modern wastelands, the blasted towns not yet and maybe never-to-be the beneficiaries of rehabilitation and reoccupation. You can almost see Maren—like Raymond Chandler—cutting each typed page into three strips and requiring each strip to contain something delightful (startling simile, clever dialogue, brilliant description) offered to the reader as a recompense for a world that presses up against you all raw and aggressive and dangerous. A language that fully owns its power to capture just that ‘heart-wild magic.’ ” —Charles Frazier, The New York Times Book Review

“A darkly steamy first novel . . . ravishingly rugged . . . a literary page-turner, hair-raising in both plot and prose. Maren writes with windswept grace and stark sensuality.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

Sugar Run is a shining debut, with a heady admixture of explosive plot and taut, burnished prose. This is a book that loves its wounded characters and troubled places, and in so deeply loving, it finds a terrible truth and beauty where other writers wouldn’t have found the courage to look. I’m glad to be among the first to sing the praise of this young writer when I say that Mesha Maren writes like a force of nature.” —Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies

“We love Mesha Maren’s Sugar Run, a gritty noir novel like you’ve never read before.” —Entertainment Weekly  Sugar Run throttles . . . The clip is fast and exciting.” —Wall Street Journal

“In Masha Maren’s impressive debut, Jodi McCarty is released from prison after an 18-year sentence and is determined not to repeat past mistakes. While wandering around the South, she meets a young woman named Miranda, who has just left an abusive relationship. Together, they go looking for someone from Jodi’s past and head to West Virginia—followed by the demons that haunt them both. This slow-burning novel asks if we can ever really escape the past and start over.” —

“The interlocked and heartbreaking stories of Jodi and Miranda and Lee and Paula and Paula’s simple, badly used brother unfold in language that is just plain grittily gorgeous. These are stories of violence and passion and squashed hope . . . and you will feel every word. A highly recommended debut.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“There’s an awful lot of talk about the underrepresentation of rural (or suburban, or urban) working-class life in the higher echelons of American literary culture. And while to some extent that might be true, the stories are there, as are the writers, we just need to pay attention. To wit, Mesha Maren’s debut novel, about a young woman’s return to rural West Virginia after 18 years in prison, deserves your attention.” —Lit Hub

“In Maren’s darkly engrossing debut novel, two women yearning for freedom fall in love, but the secrets of the past and betrayals in the present threaten to crush them. [She] skillfully handles a dual plot, alternating chapters set in the near-present and 20 years before. The novel’s noir tone and taut suspense are enriched by Maren’s often lovely prose, especially in descriptions of the natural world, and sharp observations . . . This impressive first novel combines beautifully crafted language and a steamy Southern noir plot to fine effect.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Dread and a lush natural world infuse Maren’s noir-tinged debut as she carefully relays soul-crushing realities and myths of poverty and privilege, luck and rehabilitation, and the human needs that can precede criminality through love-starved loner Jodi and her band of fellow hungry souls.”Booklist

Sugar Run, the strong and insightful first novel from Mesha Maren, puts stories to lives that are ordinarily overlooked, exploring damaged souls and damaged land, the need for that redemptive sense of connection to places and people. Maren writes prose that moves us ever deeper into her world without strain, but with sureness and vivid details. Drugs and flaring tempers, old wounds, and people who feel without hope but still dream of hope.” —Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone

“With Sugar Run, Mesha Maren announces herself as a wholly original voice in contemporary fiction. Full of diamond-sharp sentences and perfect pacing, the novel runs wild like a mountain flash flood. In Jodi and Miranda and Paula, Maren gives us something we’ve needed for a long time now. Something new.” —Scott McClanahan, author of Crapalachia

“A heady admixture of explosive plot and taut, burnished prose . . . Mesha Maren writes like a force of nature.” —Lauren Groff, author of Florida

Meet the author

Mesha Maren’s short stories and essays have appeared in Tin House, the Oxford American, Southern Culture, Hobart, Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2015 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, a 2014 Elizabeth George Foundation grant, an Appalachian Writing Fellowship from Lincoln Memorial University, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation. She is the 2018-2019 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and also serves as a National Endowment of the Arts Writing Fellow at the Beckley Federal Correctional Institution.

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Book 422: THE PROPOSAL by Jasmine Guillory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book Blitz: IN THE LINE OF DUTY by Carolyn Arnold



He devoted his life to seeking justice. But would she get any for him?

It was an ordinary day for police officer Barry Weir. It was the end of shift, he was tired, and he just wanted to get home to his wife and kids. But someone had other plans for him, shooting him down and forcing him to make the ultimate sacrifice.

When news of Weir’s murder reaches the department, it leaves Detective Madison Knight and every cop in the Stiles PD itching for revenge. It cuts Madison’s boyfriend, colleague, and Weir’s childhood friend, Troy Matthews, deepest of all, driving him away from everyone he loves just when they need one another the most.

With evidence pointing to a gang-related drive-by, Madison and her team investigate the town’s seedy underbelly in search of justice for their fallen brother. But the deeper they dig, the more convoluted the case becomes. Now they need to figure out if this was a random shooting as part of a gang initiation, a straight-up hate crime, or a targeted kill. But with members of the Stiles PD under attack, they have to do it fast…before more officers pay with their lives.




Murder. Investigation. The pursuit of justice. Do you love trying to figure out whodunit? How about investigating alongside police detectives from the crime scene to the forensics lab and everywhere in between? Do you love a strong female lead? Then I invite you to meet Detective Madison Knight as she solves murders with her male partner, utilizing good old-fashioned investigative work aided by modern technology.

This is the perfect book series for fans of Law & Order, CSI, Blue Bloods, Rizzoli & Isles, Women’s Murder Club, and Hawaii Five-O.

Read in any order or follow the series from the beginning: Ties That Bind, Justified, Sacrifice, Found Innocent, Just Cause, Deadly Impulse, In the Line of Duty, Life Sentence (Bonus Prequel).

Author Biocarolyn

CAROLYN ARNOLD is an international best-selling and award-winning author, as well as a speaker, teacher, and inspirational mentor. She has four continuing fiction series—Detective Madison Knight, Brandon Fisher FBI, McKinley Mysteries, and Matthew Connor Adventures—and has written nearly thirty books. Her genre diversity offers her readers everything from cozy to hard-boiled mysteries, and thrillers to action adventures.

Both her female detective and FBI profiler series have been praised by those in law enforcement as being accurate and entertaining, leading her to adopt the trademark: POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™.

Carolyn was born in a small town and enjoys spending time outdoors, but she also loves the lights of a big city. Grounded by her roots and lifted by her dreams, her overactive imagination insists that she tell her stories. Her intention is to touch the hearts of millions with her books, to entertain, inspire, and empower.

She currently lives just west of Toronto with her husband and beagle and is a member of Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime.

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Book 28: KODACHROME Review

Kodachrome by Jason Jahns
ISBN: 978-0984749102
Publisher: North Star Books

What Do You See?

Kodachrome is a novel about a global revolution that cuts across cultural, economic, and geographic divides; a conflict between the forces of rampant greed and demands for fairness and dignity.
The two main characters are extraordinary yet solitary – reluctant warriors who never meet. Miranda Carter is a cloistered graduate student dispatched to meet her estranged Mormon grandmother and examine a bizarre medical prognosis. Zhuli Cai is an unassuming young Chinese army officer willing to give everything to save the members of his unit. He holds a heavy secret.
Miranda and Zhuli are thrown headlong into technological and supernatural intrigue and deceit. They reckon with true impossibilities and face their own worst fears in a world of double-crosses, prophets, spies, presidential candidates, and Chinese revolutionaries.
On its way to a truly surprise ending, Kodachrome will beguile you with thriller-like tempo, the foresight of science fiction, deep social truths normally found only in historical novels, and a plot that you have never seen before – anywhere.

Miranda thought that she was without any family, alone in the world, until she is informed that her maternal grandmother is alive. Unfortunately there are ulterior motives as her superiors want to send her to Utah to not only meet her grandmother but have her examine her, ostensibly for medical research purposes. 

While Miranda goes off to Utah to discover her Mormon roots and meet her grandmother, there are strange happenings going on in China. Initially we are lead to believe that Zhuli is in the Chinese army as he works hard to protect his unit and provide a better environment for all. It isn’t until the reader is part of the way into the story that you realize that Zhuli is playing a computer simulation game. 

It is hard to imagine that a computer simulation game and an elderly Mormon woman in Utah have much in common. It is even harder to imagine that Zhuli, Miranda and her grandmother may hold the keys to a new world order. To say that there are twists in this story is a massive understatement. I initially had a very difficult time reading Kodachrome as it wasn’t clear how a Chinese gamer, an American researcher and Mormon history could have anything in common. The author does a credible job on combining the various plots and subplots into one cohesive story and just when you think you understand what’s going on there’s another twist. Kodachrome, for me, was part thriller and part fantasy. Both Zhuli and Miranda’s adventures could be classified as thriller but Miranda’s storyline was the more appealing of the two for me. Zhuli’s story was a little more fantastical and seemed to provide most of the plot twists. Even with all of the plot twists and more fantastical elements Kodachrome works and was an enjoyable read. I was a little disappointed with the ending and sincerely hope that there’s more for these characters in the future.

To read more about Kodachrome please visit:

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


Jane Austen and her books have been the inspiration for a wide variety of books over the years as sequels, adaptations or inspired stories. All have kept Miss Austen and her characters alive in a myriad of forms. Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart edited by Laurel Nattress is new to the Austen inspired works and is an anthology of twenty short stories.

It is rather difficult choosing favorites from these original stories, but some did stand out more than others.  “Jane Austen’s Nightmare” by Syrie James features Jane Austen being confronted by her characters during a walk around Bath. Some characters are pleased with their attributes and others find fault with Miss Austen’s characterization. “A Night at Northanger” by Lauren Willig is a modern day ghost hunter tale set at Northanger Abbey. “The Ghostwriter” by Elizabeth Aston features a frustrated writer who encounters the ghost of Jane Austen.”What Would Austen Do?” by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway is a tale about a modern teenage boy. He is forced to participate in summer activities at the local library/community center, takes a dance class, and winds up reading Jane Austen which changes his dress, manners and life.

Ms. Nattress has provided an Austen-inspired fiesta with Jane Austen Made Me Do It. As with most of the Austen inspired works, there are some that use Austen characters and others that prominently feature Miss Austen as the focal point. Rather than read one story after another, I read one story at a time with breaks spanning a few hours. I found that this allowed me time to enjoy each story before reading the next. If you love Jane Austen then it will not matter if you read this in one setting or take a few days, you will find enjoyment. Some of these stories may be more pleasing than others but I find this to be true about Miss Austen’s original works as well. 

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from 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.”

Book 143: SILVER GIRL Review

It’s difficult to imagine that anyone in the US hasn’t heard of Bernie Madoff or his Ponzi scheme that bilked thousands of people out of billions of dollars. For some people it is still difficult to presume that his wife, Ruth Madoff knew nothing about his business dealings. Ms. Elin Hilderbrand has tackled this very touchy subject in the saga of Meredith and Fred Delinn in Silver Girl

Meredith is a society wife and mother that lived a glamorous life style with multiple homes, cars, etc. Even she is shocked to find out that her husband of nearly 30 years has built his investment firm on false pretenses. Meredith is left with nothing but a few articles of jewelry received from her family, a few personal items (pictures and a record album) and some clothes. She is considered a suspect in her husband’s scheme simply because he asked her to move some funds days prior to his arrest. Meredith is truly lost in New York City, no money, no friends and she can’t even have contact with her children because they are suspects as well. After Fred’s arrest, when she thinks she’s at her lowest, Meredith calls upon her childhood best friend for a rescue, Connie Flute.

Connie is there for Meredith but they have issues to deal with from their past. One of the biggest is that Meredith wasn’t there for Connie when her husband was dying and she never even came to the funeral. But even with that Connie knows that Meredith wouldn’t have called if she didn’t need her, and she takes her to Nantucket to get away from it all. If only life were that easy, there are simply too many people on Nantucket that Meredith’s husband cheated and her refuge becomes anything but when Connie’s house is vandalized and she is confronted by a former “friend” in a local hair salon. Dealing with her husband’s business fraud is one thing, but then it comes out that he was having an affair for over six years with their interior decorator. 

Silver Girl seems to be a story not only about resilience and surviving but about friendship and family. Connie learns that she has problems to confront and she has to move on with her life. She learns to do this with the help of Meredith. Meredith learns that she is more than Mrs. Delinn and she works hard at assisting the investigation into the recovery of funds. Both Connie and Meredith get thrown curves but together they deal and move on. I think that Connie and Meredith’s relationship epitomizes true friendship, a willingness to be there for one another no matter what. This is not a light-hearted read but it was one that I enjoyed even with all of the drama.

Disclaimer: I received copy of this book free for review purposes from the publishers through 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.”