Book Showcase: THE RIVER AT NIGHT by Erica Ferencik

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik 
ISBN: 9781501143199 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781501143212 (ebook)
ASIN: B01CO345G0 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press 

A high-stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller by a stunning new voice in fiction.

Winifred Allen needs a vacation.

Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.

What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare: A freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.

With intimately observed characters, visceral prose, and pacing as ruthless as the river itself, The River at Night is a dark exploration of creatures—both friend and foe—that you won’t soon forget.

Read an excerpt:


Early one morning in late March, Pia forced my hand.

A slapping spring wind ushered me through the heavy doors of the YMCA lobby as the minute hand of the yellowing 1950s-era clock over the check-in desk snapped to 7:09. Head down and on task to be in my preferred lane by precisely 7:15, I rushed along the glass corridor next to the pool. The chemical stink leaked from the ancient windows, as did the muffled shrieks of children and the lifeguard’s whistle. I felt cosseted by the shabby walls, by my self-righteous routine, by the fact that I’d ousted myself from my warm bed to face another tedious day head-on. Small victories.

I’d just squeezed myself into my old-lady swimsuit when the phone in my bag began to bleat. I dug it out. The screen pulsed with the image of Pia Zanderlee ski-racing down a double black diamond slope somewhere in Banff.

My choices? Answer it now or play phone tag for another week. Pia was that friend you love with a twinge of resentment. The sparkly one who never has time for you unless it’s on her schedule, but you like her too much to flush her down the friendship toilet.

“Wow, a phone call—from you!” I said as I mercilessly assessed my middle-aged pudge in the greasy mirror. “To what do I owe the honor?”

Of course I knew the reason. Five unanswered texts.

Pia laughed. “Hey, Win, listen. We need to make our reservations. Like, by tomorrow.”

I fished around in my swim bag for my goggles. “Yeah, I haven’t—”

“I get it. Nature’s not your thing, but you’re going to love it once you’re out there. Rachel and Sandra are chomping at the bit to go, but they have to make their travel plans. We all do.”

With a shudder, I recalled my frantic Google search the night before for Winnegosset River Rafting, Maine.

No results.

“Just wondering why this place doesn’t have some kind of website. I mean, is it legit?” I asked, my voice coming out all high and tinny. Already I was ashamed of my wussiness. “I’d hate to get all the way up there and find out this is some sort of shady operation—”

I could feel her roll her eyes. “Wini, just because some place or something or someone doesn’t have a website doesn’t mean they don’t exist.” She sounded windblown, breathless. I pictured her power walking through her Cambridge neighborhood, wrist weights flashing neon. “It’s a big old world out there. One of the reasons this place is so awesome is because no one knows about it yet, so it’s not booked solid before the snow’s even melted. That’s why there’s space for the weekend we all want, get it? This year, it’s the world’s best-kept secret—next year, forget it!”

“I don’t know, Pia . . .” I glanced at the time: 7:14.

She laughed, softening to me now. “Look, the guy who runs the white-water tours is a good friend of my dad—he’s my dad’s friend’s son, I mean, so it’s cool.”

“Can’t believe Rachel would want to—”

“Are you crazy? She’s dying to go. And Sandra? Please. She’d get on a plane right now if she could.”

With a wave of affection I pictured my last Skype with Sandra: kids running around screaming in the background, papers to correct stacked next to her. When I brought up the trip, she’d groaned, Hell, yes, I’m game for anything—just get me out of Dodge!

“Wini, listen up: Next year—I promise, we’ll go to a beach somewhere. Cancún, Key West, you choose. Do nothing and just bake.

“Look, Pia, I’m at the pool and I’m going to lose my lane—”

“Okay. Swim. Then call me.”

I tucked my flyaway dirty-blond bob—the compromise cut for all hopelessly shitty hair—under my bathing cap, then hustled my stuff into a locker and slammed it shut. Do nothing and just bake. Did she really think that was all I was interested in? Who was the one who rented the bike the last time we went to the Cape? Just me, as I recalled, while all of them sat around the rental pouring more and more tequila into the blender each day. And my God—we were all pushing forty—shouldn’t awesome and cool be in the rearview mirror by now?

I crossed the slimy tiles of the dressing room and pushed open the swinging doors to the pool. The air hit me, muggy and warm, dense with chlorine that barely masked an underwhiff of urine and sweat. Children laughed and punched at the blue water in the shallow end as I padded over to my favorite lane, which was . . .occupied.

It was 7:16 and frog man had beat me to it. Fuck.

For close to a year, this nonagenarian ear, nose, and throat doctor and I had been locked in a mostly silent daily battle over the best lane—far left-hand side, under the skylights—from 7:15 to 8:00 each weekday morning. Usually I was the victor, something about which I’d felt ridiculous glee. We’d only ever exchanged the briefest of greetings; both of us getting to the Y a notch earlier each day. I imagined we both craved this mindless exercise, thoughts freed by the calming boredom of swimming and near weightlessness.

But today I’d lost the battle. I plopped down on a hard plastic seat, pouting inside but feigning serenity as I watched him slap through his slow-motion crawl. He appeared to lose steam near the end of a lap, then climbed the ladder out of the pool as only a ninety-year-old can: with careful deliberation in every step. As I watched the water drip off his flat ass and down his pencil legs, I realized that he was making his way to me, or rather to a stack of towels next to me, and in a few seconds I’d pretty much have to talk to him. He uncorked his goggles with a soft sucking sound. I noticed his eyes seemed a bit wearier than usual, even for a man his age who had just worked his daily laps.

“How are you?” I shifted in my seat, conscious of my bathing cap squeezing my head and distorting my face as I stole the odd glance at the deliciously empty lane.

“I’m well, thank you. Though very sad today.”

I studied him more closely now, caught off guard by his intimate tone. “Why?”

Though his expression was grim, I wasn’t prepared for what he said.

“I just lost my daughter to cancer.”

“I’m sorry,” I choked out. I felt socked in the soft fleshy parts; smacked off the rails of my deeply grooved routine and whipped around to face something I didn’t want to see.

He took a towel and poked at his ears with it. A gold cross hung from a glimmering chain around his thin neck, the skin white and rubbery looking. “It was a long struggle. Part of me is glad it’s over.” He squinted at me as if seeing me for the first time. “She was about your age,” he added, turning to walk away before I could utter a word of comfort. I watched him travel in his flap step the length of the pool to the men’s lockers, his head held down so low I could barely see the top of it.

My hands trembled as I gripped the steel ladder and made my way down into the antiseptic blue. I pushed off. Eyes shut tight and heart pumping, I watched the words She was about your age hover in my brain until the letters dissolved into nothingness. The horror of his offhand observation numbed me as I turned and floated on my back, breathing heavily in the oppressive air. As I slogged joylessly through my laps, I thought of my own father rolling his eyes when I said I was afraid of sleepaway camp, of third grade, of walking on grass barefoot “because of worms.” As cold as he could be to my brother and me, not a thing on earth seemed to frighten him.

I had barely toweled myself off when my phone lit up with a text from Pia. A question mark, that was it. Followed by three more. Methodically I removed my work clothes from my locker, arranging them neatly on the bench behind me. I pulled off my bathing cap, sat down, and picked up the phone.

My thumbs hovered over the keys as I shivered in the over-heated locker room. I took a deep breath—shampoo, rubber, mold, a sting of disinfectant—and slowly let it out, a sharp pain lodging in my gut. I couldn’t tell which was worse, the fear of being left behind by my friends as they dashed away on some überbonding, unforgettable adventure, or the inevitable self-loathing if I stayed behind like some gutless wimp—safe, always safe—half-fucking-dead with safety. Why couldn’t I just say yes to a camping trip with three of my best friends? What was I so afraid of?

Pool water dripped from my hair, beading on the phone as I commanded myself to text something. Anything.

I watched my fingers as they typed, Okay, I’m in, and pressedsend.

Copyright © Erica Ferencik 2017. 
Excerpt printed with permission of the publisher.

Meet the author:

Photo by Kate Hannon

Erica Ferencik is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Boston University. Her work has appeared in Salon and The Boston Globe, as well as on National Public Radio. 

Find out more on her website and follow her on Twitter @EricaFerencik.

Author Q&A:

1) What intrigued you about writing about female friendship?

Everything intrigues me about female friendship. Its very intensity can turn things inside out very quickly.

I especially love stories of female friendship gone wrong, such as in the 1992 film, Single White Female.

The stakes in female friendship are just as high or higher than in romantic ones. We trust our women friends with so much intimate knowledge – why is that?

Our hairdressers know for sure…isn’t that the truth. Why do I still share things with my women friends that I don’t with my husband of twenty-two years? (Sorry, honey ☺)

The stakes are even higher for long term friendships. It’s such a delicate balance to keep these relationships alive, as well as intensely difficult to determine when or whether it may be time to end them, or to come to grips with the fact that – since everything changes – these cherished friendships must change as well.

2) The ending of this book leaves readers feeling unsettled. How did you come up with the ending? Did it change as you went through the writing process?

I’m glad to hear it makes readers feel unsettled!

I had maybe three different endings over time. I didn’t want to sew it up too neatly, but there had to be some ominous things lurking, as well as some light at the end of the tunnel. Even though it’s a pretty wild tale, it’s plausible as well, which is one reason I think it’s so scary.

In terms of how I came up with the ending – without giving it away – I wanted to play with aspects of bringing the “wild” world back into so-called civilization.

One hard part about writing novels – and there are lots of hard parts! – is knowing when you are done. Where does a story really end? Why there and not someplace else? What is enough for the reader, leaving them satisfied but perhaps wondering a bit, keeping them in the spell of your story – but not in a frustrating way – and what is just too much sewing up or sweeping up for them? It can be a fine line, a really delicate balance.

3) What part was the most fun for you to write?

Let me say it this way: writing is like childbirth: in the end, you fall so in love with your baby you forget all the pain that came before…

But honestly, I had a blast with the whole thing, from first word to last.

I especially loved writing about white water rafting. For me, it’s this combination of exhilarating and terrifying, like a roller coaster only worse because it’s nature, and (most of us) know better than to mess with that. For me, the moment-to-moment experience of white water rafting can tip from ecstatic joy to oh-my-God I’m going to die.

I loved doing the research, both online and especially in person, interviewing rafting guides and all the off-the-gridders I was fortunate enough to interview.

4) Do you have a favorite character or one that you identify with the most?

There is the old (writing) saw that every character we create comes from some aspect of ourselves, and I think there’s a lot to that.

I think I am one-part Pia – because I’m quite physical and love adventure and used to be very idealistic and clueless like her – now I’m just clueless – and one part Wini, because I’m full of terror and shame. But then I like to think I have a tough Rachel side as well as a sweet Sandra side. Basically, I’m nuts.

Enter to win one print copy of The River at Night by Erica Ferencik courtesy of Wunderkind-PR. This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM ET on 1/18/2017. The winner will be announced on 1/19/2017. This giveaway is limited to residents of the United States (sorry). Any entrant not a resident of the US will be disqualified and a new winner chosen at random. The book will be sent to the winner via Wunderkind-PR. Enter using the form below.

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The River at Night

 The River at Night




Book Spotlight and Giveaway: THE TUMBLING TURNER SISTERS by Juliette Fay

The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay
ISBN: 9781501134470 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781501134487 (ebook)
ASIN: B0176M1B2A (Kindle version)
Publication Date: June 14, 2016 
Publisher: Gallery Books

In 1919, the Turner sisters and their parents are barely scraping by. Their father is a low-paid boot-stitcher in Johnson City, New York, and the family is always one paycheck away from eviction. When their father’s hand is crushed and he can no longer work, their irrepressible mother decides that the vaudeville stage is their best—and only—chance for survival.

Traveling by train from town to town, teenagers Gert, Winnie, and Kit, and recent widow Nell soon find a new kind of freedom in the company of performers who are as diverse as their acts. There is a seamier side to the business, however, and the young women face dangers and turns of fate they never could have anticipated. Heartwarming and surprising, The Tumbling Turner Sisters is a story of awakening—to unexpected possibilities, to love and heartbreak, and to the dawn of a new American era.

Read the first chapter here.

Praise for the book:

“This novel of love, dreams, and the everlasting strength of family in the face of adversity  is set during the height of Vaudeville, and features the amazing Tumbling Turner Sisters, an act created out of desperation by four sisters determined to save their family from financial ruin. Told from the point of view of Gert and Winnie, the novel perfectly encapsulates the social mores and pressures of the early twentieth century—the Turner sisters dare to dream big, and big things come at a big cost. Don’t miss this page turner!”—Sara Gruen, bestselling author of Water for Elephants

“Filled with energetic prose and colorful characters—you won’t soon forget the Turner girls!”
—Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train

The Tumbling Turner Sisters come tumbling out of this terrific story, full of life, passion and trouble. Forced into a life in vaudeville, the four young girls and their mother push the boundaries of propriety to achieve their dreams in a world that doesn’t often allow women to have dreams. Gert and Winnie shine as each, in her own way, fights for her right to be who she is. A great piece of historical fiction that rings true one hundred years later.”—B.A. Shapiro, New York Times bestselling author of The Muralist and The Art Forger

“Evoking the entrepreneurial, madcap era of vaudeville, Juliette Fay immerses us in the trials, joys, and dangers of three young women, whose bid for success is as uproarious and heartbreaking as the time in which they lived.” —C.W. Gortner, bestselling author of Mademoiselle Chanel 

“Packed with lively characters and charming detail, Juliette Fay’s thoughtful prose sheds light on an almost forgotten part of entertainment history.” —Allie Larkin, bestselling author of Stay and Why I Can’t Be You 

“Lovable, memorable characters propel this heartwarming story about the American vaudeville circuit. The Tumbling Turner Sisters makes you laugh while it makes you think, then sticks with you long after the last vibrant page is savored.”—Lynn Cullen, bestselling author of Twain’s End and Mrs. Poe

“Book clubs are sure to fall for The Tumbling Turner Sisters. Through this band of charming young women—and their stage mother, of course—Juliette Fay delivers the history, mystery, and prejudice of vaudeville in a story that is ultimately about the possibility of practice making something perfect (or perfect enough, anyway), the benefits of humor and ambition, and the redemptive power of love.” —Meg Waite Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Race for Paris

The Tumbling Turner Sisters explores vaudeville with stunning humanity and sharp humor. Juliette Fay’s novel of sisters forced by their ultimate stage mother into this show business world of fanciful façade hiding cut-throat innards reveals America—from Jim Crow law to skirting prohibition. Like Little Women, these four sisters, facing loss and poverty, reveal a family with an unbreakable core of fortitude and love.”—Randy Susan Meyers, bestselling author of Accidents of Marriage

“Like vaudeville itself, The Tumbling Turner Sisters will delight, amaze, and surprise you. With a captivating cast of characters, Juliette Fay brings vaudeville, its players and theaters, customs and trickery to raucous life. You will smell the greasepaint, hear the music, and feel the cold, all while cheering for The Tumbling Turner Sisters to survive and thrive.”—Laura Harrington, bestselling author of Alice Bliss

“An absorbing and heartfelt tale of four sisters in desperate contortions to keep their family aloft. I loved this slice of theatrical history, and Fay’s meticulous research brings to life the vivid playhouses and costumed performers — ingenues and divas, swindlers and sots. I stayed awake far too late wondering whether the girls would come in for a safe landing.”—Nichole Bernier, author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

“As colorful as its vaudeville setting, The Tumbling Turner Sisters made me laugh, cry, and clap my hands with delight as I cheered on these four lovable and spunky sisters. A big-hearted tale of adventure.”—Ann Mah, author of Mastering the Art of French Eating

“Tinged with searing insight and often hilarious wry humor.”The Boston Globe, Shelter Me

“Fay is one of the best authors of women’s fiction, and her novels are not to be missed.”Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW, The Shortest Way Home “A beautifully written novel infused with Fay’s generous spirit.”Booklist, The Shortest Way Home

Meet the author:

Juliette Fay is the award-winning author of three previous novels: The Shortest Way Home, Deep Down True, and Shelter Me. She received a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and a master’s degree from Harvard University. Juliette lives in Massachusetts with her husband and four children. The Tumbling Turner Sisters (Gallery Books/S&S) is her fourth novel.

To learn more, visit
Like Juliette on Facebook:
Follow Juliette on Twitter: @juliettefay

Enter to win a print copy of The Tumbling Turner Sisters (open to US residents only). This giveaway is sponsored by Wunderkind-PR. This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM ET on Monday, June 20th. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, June 21st by 10:00 AM ET.

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The Tumbling Turner Sisters: A Novel
The Tumbling Turner Sisters: A Novel


Guest Post: John Lansing, author of DEAD IS DEAD

I’m always pleased and honored when authors take time out of their busy schedules to stop by The Book Diva’s Reads. Today, I’m pleased to host a visit by the author of the soon to be published Dead is Dead and a host of other fine books, John Lansing. Mr. Lansing will be discussing his top ten list of authors he reads in the crime/thriller genre. You’ll probably be adding a few of these to your TBR list.

One of the most important things someone who wants to write a Crime/Thriller can do for themselves is to read work by the best authors in the genre. And if what you’re shooting for is to write a series, it’s a great help to read the first book the author penned, to see how he or she introduced their protagonist.

I always follow up by reading the next few books in the series to see how the author summarizes the first book. It’s a delicate balance. There has to be enough information so that each title can operate as a stand-alone, but still give the reader an understanding of the franchise. But, too much becomes repetitive and can bog down the new narrative line. 
There’s nothing more exciting to me than finding a new author that peaks my interest. Speaks to my crime/thriller voracious appetite, and keeps me glued to the page. Then I know I can happily look forward to reading their entire library. 

This is my top ten list. Writers that I revisit time and time again. Let me know if they work for you.

1. Raymond Chandler. He’s a grand master and reads like a comfortable, old, black and white movie. Start with The Big Sleep and you’re off and running.

2. Dashiell Hammett. Another major blast from the past. The Maltese Falcon is a perfect starting point.

3. Michael Connelly. Started out as a court reporter and became one of the best crime writers in the business. The Black Echo was his first. And it helps to read him in order. You get more depth out of Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch, his detective. I’m rereading The Black Echo as we speak.

4. James Lee Burke. I’ll use the word brilliant. Very intense, but always worth the read. The Neon Rain is the first of his famous Dave Robicheaux Novels.

5. Dennis Lehane. A Drink Before the War was his first. This writer can do no wrong.

6. John Sandford. Lighter fare, but totally addictive and well constructed. His first novel was Rules of Prey. I just reread the book last week, and it keeps me going back for more.

7. Ian Rankin. A Scottish Author that makes Edinburgh his stomping grounds. The first in his Inspector Rebus Series is Knots & Crosses. Fine crime fiction.

8. Walter Mosley. Blond Faith is the first of his Easy Rawlins Mysteries. Tons of fun. And a history of LA from a black perspective. He’s a terrific writer.

9. Robert Crais and his Elvis Cole/Joe pike novels. The Monkeys’ Raincoat is his first. His protagonist Elvis Cole is a glib detective who’s easy to spend time with.

10. Jo Nesbo. I just finished his entire Detective Harry Hole Series. Start with The Bat, and you’ll be downloading his books and losing sleep in the process.

Okay, there are more on my list, but I think these will keep you busy for a while. I hope you enjoy.


Dead is Dead by John Lansing 
ISBN: 9781501147562 (paperback) 
ISBN: 9781501143564 (ebook)
ASIN: B0191YI6GA (Kindle edition)
Publisher: May 30, 2016
Publication date:  Gallery Books/Karen Hunter Publishing

From the “pulse pounding” (Kirkus Reviews) writer of TV hit Walker, Texas Ranger comes a riveting Hollywood thriller that will keep you captivated until the shocking conclusion.

Retired Inspector Jack Bertolino gets his first taste of the erratic nature of Hollywood when A-list producer, George Litton, options one of Jack’s recent cases for a film.

Jack is engaged as the film’s technical advisor, which stars It Girl Susan Blake. But more importantly, he’s on hand to keep a protective eye on Susan, who’s being harassed by a disturbing cyber-stalker.

But that’s not all that starts to turn Jack’s world upside-down. When a five-year-old girl is shot dead in her family’s living room, just blocks from where the movie is being filmed, Jack realizes there are threads connecting the movie, the murder, a brutal gang of brothers, and a terrifying body count.

Will Jack be able to find justice for the young girl and keep Susan safe? Or will this be his last and fatal trip to Hollywood?

Author Bio:

John Lansing, started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre performing the lead in the Broadway production of “Grease,” before putting together a rock ‘n’ roll band and playing the iconic club CBGB.

John closed up his Tribeca loft and headed for the West coast where he landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest-starred on numerous television shows.

During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.”

John’s first book was Good Cop Bad Money, a true crime tome he co-wrote with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano.

The Devil’s Necktie, his first Jack Bertolino novel, became a bestseller on Barnes & Noble and hit #1 in Amazon’s Kindle store in the Crime Fiction genre. Jack Bertolino returns in John’s latest novel, Dead Is Dead, the third book in his detective series.

A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.

Catch Up with John:

author's website author's twitter author's facebook

Tour Participants:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for John Lansing. The giveaway begins on May 15th and runs through June 30th, 2016.

There will be TWO (2) winners for this tour. One winner will receive one $15 gift card from (US Only) the other winner will receive a copy of Dead is Dead by John Lansing – US Residents may choose either an eBook copy or a Physical version however Winners outside the US will only be eligible for an eBook version.

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Dead Is Dead
Dead Is Dead


2016 Book 11: ANGELS BURNING by Tawni O’Dell

Angels Burning by Tawni O’Dell 
ISBN: 9781476755953 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781501132544 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781476755977 (ebook)
ASIN: B00UDCNJLC (Kindle version)
Publication Date: January 5, 2015
Publisher: Gallery Books

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Oprah Book Club pick Back Roads comes this fast-paced literary thriller about a small town police chief who’s forced to dig into her own shadowy past as she investigates the murder of a teenage girl.

On the surface, Chief Dove Carnahan is a true trailblazer who would do anything to protect the rural Pennsylvanian countryside where she has lived all fifty of her years. Traditional and proud of her blue-collar sensibilities, Dove is loved by her community. But beneath her badge lies a dark and self-destructive streak, fed by a secret she has kept since she was sixteen.

When a girl is beaten to death, her body tossed down a fiery sinkhole in an abandoned coal town, Dove is faced with solving the worst crime of her law enforcement career. She identifies the girl as a daughter of the Truly family, a notoriously irascible dynasty of rednecks and petty criminals.

During her investigation, the man convicted of killing Dove’s mother years earlier is released from prison. Still proclaiming his innocence, he approaches Dove with a startling accusation and a chilling threat that forces her to face the parallels between her own family’s trauma and that of the Trulys.

With countless accolades to her credit, author Tawni O’Dell writes with the “fearless insights” (The New York Times Book Review) she brought to the page in Back Roads and One of Us. In this new, masterfully told psychological thriller, the past and present collide to reveal the extent some will go to escape their fate, and in turn, the crimes committed to push them back to where they began.


Living in rural community can be a blessing and a curse due to long community memories. Dove Carnahan grew up in Buchanan, Pennsylvania as the eldest of three illegitimate children. Her illegitimacy was overlooked, if not “forgiven,” when her mother was murdered. Now Dove is working as the sheriff in her hometown and must deal with another murder that has the town buzzing in Angels Burning by Tawni O’Dell.

It’s usually hard to keep secrets in a small community, but the Truly family has more than their fair share of secrets. Sheriff Dove Carnahan is forced to try to delve into these secrets while she investigates the brutal murder of 17-year-old Camio Truly. Dove is not a novice law enforcement officer, but she’s only been involved in three murder investigations over a 25-year span. She has no choice but to accept the assistance of the regional state police investigator, Nolan Greeley, who just happens to be her married occasional lover. If dealing with a secretive and insular family like the Trulys wasn’t bad enough, Dove also has to contend with the release of the man found guilty of her mother’s murder and he’s accusing Dove and her sister Neely of lying about his guilt. Just when she thinks it can’t get any worse, her estranged brother Champ returns after a 27-year absence with his nine-year-old son in tow. Dove has no choice but to deal with her past, her family’s past, as well as the Truly’s family past. What is the truth behind her mother’s murder? Why did her brother stay away and incommunicado for so many years? Can Dove solve the murder of Camio Truly without destroying the Truly family?

Ms. O’Dell has packed quite a lot of action and chills in Angels Burning. Some of the topics include pedophilia, rape, incest, and murder. The characters in this story include good people, not-so-good people, and very bad people, as well as people that are a mixture of good, not-so-good, and bad. Dysfunctional families are the more the norm than not, and the Carnahan family is just as dysfunctional as the Trulys, yet both seem to think that although they have issues it’s not as bad as the other family. It might be easy to think that Angels Burning is a dark story, but it isn’t. Ms. O’Dell has provided realistic characters in a realistic environment dealing with all-too-realistic scenarios, and yes, some of these scenarios are dark. The characters are all flawed and they all seem to know it, but most are striving to make the best of their bad situations. Did I enjoy reading Angels Burning? Yes! I found Angels Burning to be an engrossing read that captured my attention from the first page to the very last. If you enjoy reading realistic psychological thrillers, then you’ll definitely want to read Angels Burning. If you’ve never read a psychological thriller, then put Angels Burning on your to-be-read list, it will not disappoint.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book 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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Angels Burning

2016 Book 2: WHAT WAS MINE by Helen Klein Ross

What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross 
ISBN: 9781476732350 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781476732367 (ebook)
ASIN: B00UDCNMZ0 (Kindle version)
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Gallery Books

Simply told but deeply affecting, in the bestselling tradition of Alice McDermott and Tom Perrotta, this urgent novel unravels the heartrending yet unsentimental tale of a woman who kidnaps a baby in a superstore—and gets away with it for twenty-one years.

Lucy Wakefield is a seemingly ordinary woman who does something extraordinary in a desperate moment: she takes a baby girl from a shopping cart and raises her as her own. It’s a secret she manages to keep for over two decades—from her daughter, the babysitter who helped raise her, family, coworkers, and friends.

When Lucy’s now-grown daughter Mia discovers the devastating truth of her origins, she is overwhelmed by confusion and anger and determines not to speak again to the mother who raised her. She reaches out to her birth mother for a tearful reunion, and Lucy is forced to flee to China to avoid prosecution. What follows is a ripple effect that alters the lives of many and challenges our understanding of the very meaning of motherhood.

Author Helen Klein Ross, whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, weaves a powerful story of upheaval and resilience told from the alternating perspectives of Lucy, Mia, Mia’s birth mother, and others intimately involved in the kidnapping. What Was Mine is a compelling tale of motherhood and loss, of grief and hope, and the life-shattering effects of a single, irrevocable moment.


Lucy Wakefield had it all at one point: the perfect marriage, a great job, and a beautiful home in the suburbs. The one thing she didn’t have was a child. After several years of trying it became obvious that she simply wasn’t going to be able to have a child. After her divorce, Lucy realized that it was going to be close to impossible for her to adopt as a single mother. In a moment of sheer desperation, Lucy does something that will have repercussions for not only herself but many others in What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross.

Lucy Wakefield walks into a busy big box store one day and finds an infant all alone in a shopping cart, no parent or caregiver in sight. After years of trying to have a child and then to adopt a child, Lucy does the unthinkable, she takes the child. She then creates an elaborate backstory to cover her crime. She provides a loving and caring home for the infant she renames Mia, sending her to the best schools, providing a nanny, and much more. It isn’t until Lucy begins to work as a coauthor and goes on a book tour that her carefully crafted life of lies begins to unravel. And it all starts with a simple cell phone call that features a picture of her “adopted” daughter Mia. One minute of neglect resulted in years of anguish for Marilyn. Not only did she lose her child, but for a time, she lost her mind to grief, and then she loses her marriage. It wasn’t until she decided to leave the East Coast for California that her life began a new path. She remarries and has three beautiful children, never for one moment forgetting her firstborn. Mia’s birth mother, Marilyn, was pulled to the fictional story Baby Drive, as it is about an infant kidnapped from a store and raised by his kidnappers. When she attends the author signing and sees Mia’s picture on the coauthor’s cell phone, she contacts the authorities and requests a DNA test. The test results confirm Marilyn’s suspicions; Mia is her long lost daughter. In another act of desperation, Lucy leaves for a trip to China, unwittingly fleeing to a country without extradition agreements with the US. Can Mia and Marilyn connect as mother and daughter after all these years? Will Mia be able to forge a connection with her mother’s new family? What, if anything, will happen to Lucy as a result of her actions all those years ago?

I found What Was Mine to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. Ms. Ross tells the story from various perspectives, Lucy, Mia, Marilyn, Wendy (Mia’s Chinese nanny), and others. I found the story to be quite interesting because it seems to ask the question, what makes one a mother? Mia spends a lot of time with her nanny as a young girl and even speaks a bit of Chinese and has an appreciation for authentic Chinese food as a result. Wendy, the nanny, was definitely more of a mother-figure when Mia was a child. The reader is given just enough of Lucy’s backstory to feel a bit of empathy of her pain at being unable to have a child (this empathy doesn’t excuse Lucy’s criminal action). Wendy has traveled from China to the US in order to help make a better life for her family, regrettably this means she had to leave her husband and child behind. Eventually, she returns to China and her family, but she is torn by the idea that she raised another person’s child while leaving hers behind. One of the things I enjoyed the most about this story was that as a reader I was allowed the opportunity to get to know each of the main characters and see things from their perspectives. I can recommend What Was Mine to anyone that enjoys reading a story filled with love, loss, family drama, forgiveness, and more. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Ross in the future.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book 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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What Was Mine: A Novel

2015 Book 107: INSIDE THE O’BRIENS Review

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova
ISBN: 9781476717777 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781476717838 (ebook)
ASIN: B00LQMDZPI (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Gallery Books

From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes a powerful new novel that does for Huntington’s Disease what her debut Still Alice did for Alzheimer’s.

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

The O’Briens are a typical family facing an atypical problem, Huntington’s Disease. For most of patriarch Joe O’Brien’s life, it was assumed that his mother was an alcoholic. Now that Joe has received a diagnosis of Huntington’s Disease, he realizes that his mother died of this disease and she was not an alcoholic. Joe, his wife Rosie, and their four adult children must deal with the death sentence that is Huntington’s Disease in Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova.

Joe O’Brien is a proud man, proud to be a police officer, proud to be a husband to his wife Rosie, and proud to be a father to his four children. His pride is kicked in the teeth when he receives the diagnosis of Huntington’s Disease. Over the period of one year Joe has been forced to resign from the Boston Police Department, had his driver’s license revoked, and been advised to legally divorce his wife in order to safeguard his pension and home. All of that might be tolerable, but it is the fact that he has passed this genetic time bomb onto his children that hurts the most.

The reader gets to spend a little more than a year with the O’Brien family. We bear witness to Joe’s decline with chorea, slurred speech, gait and balance issues, and more. We also get to see the adverse impact on Joe’s wife and children, especially when his eldest son is diagnosed with Huntington’s disease while awaiting the birth of his first child. We witness the avoidance of Joe’s youngest son Patrick, the somewhat laissez-faire attitude of his eldest daughter Meghan after her diagnosis, and the “do I – don’t I” quandary of Joe’s youngest daughter Katie. We see Meghan soar as a ballet dancer with the Boston Ballet, we see Rosie’s crisis of faith, and we watch Katie waiver on finding out if she has the disease and if she should move cross-country with her boyfriend and the love of her life. More important that all of this is that we bear witness to the incredible impact Huntington’s Disease has on a family. Inside the O’Briens isn’t a happy story, but it a realistic story that deals with a disease without a cure and a hope for a better future with this disease. Yes, there are a few heart-wrenching moments in this story, but there are also moments of love and joy. I’m not sure I would have picked up Inside the O’Briens for any reason other than Ms. Genova has a way with words and paints a realistic and science-based picture of disease/illness and the impact of disease/illness on families. Don’t let the disease aspect of this storyline scare you, Inside the O’Briens is an inspiring read and one I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Read an excerpt from Inside the O’Briens here.

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.”

Buy the Book

Available at:                    BookDepository     |     Alibris

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