A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Thursday, February 17, 2022

A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker- Feature and Review


A Thousand Steps is a gripping thriller, an incisive coming-of-age story, and a vivid portrait of turbulent time and place by three-time Edgar Award winner and New York Times bestselling author T. Jefferson Parker.

Laguna Beach, California, 1968. The Age of Aquarius is in full swing. Timothy Leary is a rock star. LSD is God. Folks from all over are flocking to Laguna, seeking peace, love, and enlightenment.

Matt Antony is just trying get by.

Matt is sixteen, broke, and never sure where his next meal is coming from. Mom's a stoner, his deadbeat dad is a no-show, his brother's fighting in Nam . . . and his big sister Jazz has just gone missing. The cops figure she's just another runaway hippie chick, enjoying a summer of love, but Matt doesn't believe it. Not after another missing girl turns up dead on the beach.

All Matt really wants to do is get his driver's license and ask out the girl he's been crushing on since fourth grade, yet it's up to him to find his sister. But in a town where the cops don't trust the hippies and the hippies don't trust the cops, uncovering what's really happened to Jazz is going to force him to grow up fast.

If it's not already too late.



A Thousand StepsA Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Thousand Steps by T Jefferson Parker is a 2022 Forge Books publication.

Set in Laguna Beach during the late sixties, this novel follows a teenage Matt Antony as he searches for his older sister, Jasmine, aka, Jazz, who has suddenly vanished.

Matt has a lot on his plate- his brother is winding up his tour in Vietnam, hoping to make it home alive, and his mother is falling deeper and deeper into the drug scene, leaving Matt to fend for himself.

Fearing his sister has met the same fate as a popular girl whose body was recently found after having gone missing, Matt navigates the LSD fueled world of Timothy Leary, dubious law enforcement, and odd religious temples, searching for his sister, while going through the usual teenage angst of a guy his age.

When I added this book to my reading list, I thought it was strictly a mystery/thriller. A missing girl, the usual stuff for this trope, etc., but I got more than I bargained for with this one. This is just as much a coming-of-age story as it is a mystery/thriller.

Matt’s character pulls at the heartstrings, his desperation nearly palpable. His physical hunger is juxtaposed against his emotional starvation, but he really is one cool kid, as he is forced to progress from being na├»ve and somewhat innocent to becoming older and wiser than his years.

The mystery is mired in the strange cultural shifts of the late sixties, and the author did a terrific job of bringing the era to life- not the mythologized version- but the wild, gritty, underbelly of it.

Overall, this is a well-executed combination of both historical fiction and mystery, with a poignant coming-of-age element that stands out and sticks with you. The historical setting, the war, drugs and the cult-like groups will bring back memories for some. While it is a little before my time, I’m wondering if people still feel as nostalgic about that time now, especially when viewing it through Parker’s lens.



T. Jefferson Parker is the bestselling author of 23 crime novels, including Edgar Award-winners "Silent Joe" and "California Girl." Parker's next work is "Swift Vengeance," in which San Diego PI Roland Ford leads the FBI to a terrorist attack.

Parker was born in L.A. and grew up in Southern California. He studied English at UC Irvine and worked as a newspaper reporter for five years while writing his first book, "Laguna Heat" on evenings and weekends. HBO made "Laguna Heat" into one of its first original television movies in 1987.

Although the "T" is part of his legal name it does not stand for a name. It is a decorative initial put there by his parents, who once told him they thought T. Jefferson Parker would look good on the White House door.

Parker lives in north San Diego County, and enjoys fishing, hiking and just about anything outdoors.

Friday, January 7, 2022

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Bad Axe County by John Galligan- Feature and Review


Fifteen years ago, Heidi White’s parents were shot to death on their Bad Axe County farm. The police declared it a murder-suicide and closed the case. But that night, Heidi found the one clue she knew could lead to the truth—if only the investigators would listen.

Now Heidi White is Heidi Kick, wife of local baseball legend Harley Kick and mother of three small children. She’s also the interim sheriff in Bad Axe. Half the county wants Heidi elected but the other half will do anything to keep her out of law enforcement. And as a deadly ice storm makes it way to Bad Axe, tensions rise and long-buried secrets climb to the surface.

As freezing rain washes out roads and rivers flood their banks, Heidi finds herself on the trail of a missing teenaged girl. Clues lead her down twisted paths to backwoods stag parties, derelict dairy farms, and the local salvage yard—where the body of a different teenage girl has been carefully hidden for a decade.

As the storm rages on, Heidi realizes that someone is planting clues for her to find, leading her to some unpleasant truths that point to the local baseball team and a legendary game her husband pitched years ago. With a murder to solve, a missing girl to save, and a monster to bring to justice, Heidi is on the cusp of shaking her community to its core—and finding out what really happened the night her parents died.



Bad Axe County: A NovelBad Axe County: A Novel by John Galligan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bad Axe County by John Galligan is a 2019 Atria Books publication.

A gritty, atmospheric crime story-

This is an ambitious mystery/ thriller which profiles the rural Wisconsin terrain as much as it does the characters, becoming an intricate part of the plot.

Heidi Kick was a small -town beauty queen when her life took a tragic turn. Her parents allegedly died as a result of a murder-suicide pact. Despite their financial downturn, which was believed to be the motive, Heidi never bought into that theory.

Now, after the local sheriff’s sudden demise, Heidi becomes interim sheriff. This doesn’t set well with the local good ole boys in the community at all. But Heidi is not totally without a support system, with one or two allies in the department helping her make logical decisions.

She does have to balance a marriage, and small children, along with her demanding, pressure -filled job. She’s holding her own, until an unexpected storm in the area triggers a series of events, revealing the dark, lurid underbelly of Bad Axe County.

Suddenly, the inexperienced, but determined sheriff is neck deep in corruption, human trafficking, sleazy private parties hosting underage girls, and a strange burglary. The deeper she scratches beneath the surface, troubling implications hit a little too close to home. Dark forces are working against Heidi, thwarting her at every turn. While working around the clock to locate a missing girl, Heidi fervently hopes to finally discover the truth about her parents.

I won’t lie- what initially caused me to give this book a closer look was the atmospheric cover art. The premise sounded intriguing enough, with the promise of a strong female lead, so I decided to take a chance on it.

However, I also must admit, in all honesty, the story wasn't quite what I was expecting. Although Heidi refuses to accept the official cause of death in her parent’s case, her obsession with uncovering the truth runs more in the background. More in the forefront, is Heidi’s ‘race against the clock’ mission to locate a missing girl without making any critical missteps.

The story starts off on an odd, unexpected note, emphasizing the character's quirks, as they pertain to the rural setting. The banter is light and good-natured, but the atmosphere suddenly shifts turning super dark, edgy, and suspenseful, with a no holds barred tendency towards violence. I immediately sensed it was time to fasten my seatbelt and hold on for dear life.

Unfortunately, there are several threads running at once, along with a large cast of characters, which, as I’ve stated countless times, rarely works out for me. Sure enough, I struggled to keep everything straight. I had to slow my reading down to a crawl and do a little re-reading on a few occasions, to be sure I was keeping everything and everyone straight. I can’t say I was a big fan of the execution, or the uneven flow, but at the end of the day, despite its messiness, all the threads eventually come together, and the book ends on a high note. So, as they say, a win is still a win, even if it’s an ugly one.

The conclusion is gratifying, especially since Heidi Kick lives to fight another day. I liked Heidi’s character, as well as her sidekick, Denise. Those two made a great team. I wouldn’t mind stopping by Bad Axe County again someday. I think this rural, deceptively bucolic area of Wisconsin still has many secrets, and the feisty Heidi Kick knows just how to unravel them.






John Galligan,in addition to being a novelist and teacher, John has worked as a newspaper journalist, feature-film screenwriter, house painter, au pair, ESL teacher, cab driver, and freezer boy in a salmon cannery. He currently teaches writing at Madison Area Technical College, where his experience is enriched by students from every corner of the local and world community.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin - Feature and Review


It's been a decade since Trumanell Branson disappeared, leaving only a bloody handprint behind. Her pretty face still hangs like a watchful queen on the posters on the walls of the town's Baptist church, the police station, and in the high school. They all promise the same thing: We will find you. Meanwhile, her brother, Wyatt, lives as a pariah in the desolation of the old family house, cleared of wrongdoing by the police but tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion and in a new documentary about the crime.

When Wyatt finds a lost girl dumped in a field of dandelions, making silent wishes, he believes she is a sign. The town's youngest cop, Odette Tucker, believes she is a catalyst that will ignite a seething town still waiting for its own missing girl to come home. But Odette can't look away. She shares a wound that won't close with the mute, one-eyed mystery girl. And she is haunted by her own history with the missing Tru.

Desperate to solve both cases, Odette fights to save the lost girl in the present and to dig up the shocking truth about a fateful night in the past--the night her friend disappeared, the night that inspired her to become a cop, the night that wrote them all a role in the town's dark, violent mythology.

In this twisty psychological thriller, Julia Heaberlin paints unforgettable portraits of a woman and a girl who redefine perceptions of physical beauty and strength.


We Are All the Same in the DarkWe Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We are all the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin is a 2021 Ballantine Books publication.

One fateful night, that would go down in infamy, Trumanell Branson and her father disappeared. Trumanell's brother, Wyatt, was found wandering around, out of his mind, and ended up institutionalized for years.

On that same night, Wyatt’s girlfriend, Odette, who also happened to be the police chief’s daughter, was in a horrendous car accident that resulted in a leg amputation.

Now Wyatt lives alone, talking to the ghost of Tumanell, and Odette has followed in her father’s footsteps.

When Wyatt finds a girl, with a missing eye, on the side of the road, who can’t or won’t speak, instead of calling the police, he assigns her the name ‘Angel’ and takes her home.

Eventually, Odette gets involved determined to help ‘Angel’, while she also works diligently to discover what really happened to Trumanell all those years ago.

While the town is convinced Wyatt is responsible, Odette isn’t convinced, but the truth may not set her free…

This is an extremely absorbing novel. It’s atmospheric, and very intense!

I added this book because I noticed some reviews mentioned it had a ‘Gothic’ feel to it. I’m a little wary of that sometimes, because what some people call ‘Gothic’ is a bit of a stretch, but yes, this book most definitely has that quality to it, and I loved it!!

I think the foreboding, the inability to trust anyone, and the way the author built the anticipation, is what kept me sitting on the edge of my seat.

But Hearberlin also put in a great deal of detail about living life as an amputee, and it’s obvious she did her homework, something I really appreciated.

Overall, this is my kind of Mystery/Suspense! I know it may have been a slow burn for some people, but it was the slow build that added all that delicious suspense and apprehension and the ‘Gothic feel’ everyone was gushing about. Sometimes good things come to those who wait…



Julia Heaberlin is the internationally bestselling writer of BLACK-EYED SUSANS and PAPER GHOSTS, a finalist for Best Hardcover Novel by the International Thriller Writers Awards. Her latest psychological thriller, WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK, has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which described her work as "exceptional." All of her books, including PLAYING DEAD and LIE STILL, are set in the moody, diverse landscape of Texas and together they have been published in more than twenty countries. Before writing novels, Heaberlin was an award-winning editor at newspapers that include the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Detroit News and The Dallas Morning News. BLACK-EYED SUSANS, a USA TODAY and a top-of-the-charts Times of London bestseller, has been optioned for television by Sony Pictures. Currently at work on her sixth thriller, Heaberlin lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. She is published by Penguin Random House and represented by Kimberly Witherspoon at Inkwell Management.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson- Feature and Review

In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry.

The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.

Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government's new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.



The Book Woman of Troublesome CreekThe Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson is a 2019 Sourcebooks Landmark publication.

In 1930s Kentucky, Cussy Mary, born with a genetic condition that gives her a blue tinged skin color, is very content with her job working for the Kentucky Pack Horse Library Service. She lives with her widowed father, a coal miner, who, after a series of disastrous attempts to settle Cussy into married life, he allows her to continue to do what she loves best, delivering books to the hill people of East Kentucky.

Unfortunately, Cussy’s blue skin has the pastor claiming ‘Bluets’ are demonic, and he plans to put an end to them.

A local doctor gives Cussy a chance to escape an inevitable bad ending with the pastor, if she will agree to medical testing to determine the reason for her unusual blue coloring.

Cussy’s journey is a difficult one, but she is a fighter, a survivor- and she resolved to help others worse off than herself, rather than give in or give up. Her life wasn’t a fairytale- she continues to face hardships and setbacks, but her spirit and resolve is unbreakable.

I loved this story. It is hard to read sometimes, but there is so much to learn from Cussy’s experiences and from her character.

The author did a fabulous job of placing the reader in the time and place of 1930s Appalachia.

The dialogue and vernacular are well-researched, and I learned all about the Kentucky Pack Horse Library Service- something I was not aware of, and about the genetics that caused Cussy’s blue hued skin- again something I was completely ignorant of.

While the conclusion is not necessarily all wrapped up in a nice neat little bow, it was enough for me. I have faith that Cussy and her little family will find their way and am looking forward to the continuance of this saga, soon.



NYT and USA TODAY and L. A. TIMES bestselling author, Kim Michele Richardson resides in her home state of Kentucky. She is the author of the bestselling memoir The Unbreakable Child. Her novels include Liar’s Bench, GodPretty in the Tobacco Field. The Sisters of Glass Ferry and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. Kim Michele latest novel out May 3.2022 is The Book Woman's Daughter, both a standalone and sequel to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.

You can visit her websites and learn more at:


Friday, December 31, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth-Feature and Review

A gripping domestic page-turner full of shocking reveals, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty, Amanda Prowse and Kerry Fisher.
The small suburb of Pleasant Court lives up to its name. It's the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbours, and children play in the street.
Isabelle Heatherington doesn't fit into this picture of family paradise. Husbandless and childless, she soon catches the attention of three Pleasant Court mothers.
But Ange, Fran and Essie have their own secrets to hide. Like the reason behind Ange's compulsion to control every aspect of her life. Or why Fran won't let her sweet, gentle husband near her new baby. Or why, three years ago, Essie took her daughter to the park - and returned home without her.
As their obsession with their new neighbour grows, the secrets of these three women begin to spread - and they'll soon find out that when you look at something too closely, you see things you never wanted to see.


The Family Next DoorThe Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth is a 2018 St. Martin’s Press publication.

The secrets of suburbia are always deliciously scandalous…. And sometimes they are downright criminal.

The perfect neighborhood, perfectly manicured lawns, perfect families. It all looks so picturesque from the outside, but when new neighbor, Isabelle, moves into the neighborhood of Pleasant Court, cracks suddenly begin to appear in that perfect veneer.

Elle, Fran, and Ange, are very curious about Isabelle, wondering why an older, single woman has moved into their family- oriented neighborhood. But, the three ladies all have major issues, besides drawing out their new neighbor, that are commanding their time and attention, behind closed doors, where their seemingly perfect lives are, in fact, unraveling.

I have not read any of this author’s other books, but this one was advertised as ‘for fans of Liane Moriarty’. I’m not sure if this is SH's usual style of writing or not, but while the comparisons to other authors is a marketing ploy I despise, in this particular case, I can see some similarities, but this author takes that format and puts her own unique spin on it.

There is just something about taking a nosy peek into your neighbor’s private lives that is irresistible. Getting to be the proverbial ‘fly on the wall’, this novel allows us to vicariously live out our unrequited desire to get a glimpse into what our neighbors are really like, without being accused of spying on our nearby residents.

But, what makes this story really work is that each of the three featured women are coping with identifiable issues we are all sympathetic to. Postpartum depression, infidelity, money issues, and the everyday challenges of parenting are real problems many marriages face. But, while these subjects are highly dramatic and always engrossing material, the author manages to somehow take these common enough domestic issues and give them a more sinister tone. I was on pins and needles as the author unveils secrets and crimes at a tantalizing pace. I was furiously turning pages, completely lost in the lives of these seemingly ordinary suburbanites. There are a few shocking twists, but at the end of the day, there is also plenty of character growth. The characters made much needed progress, and adjusted bravely to a new normal, which set each character in an entirely different frame of mind than the one they were in, when we were first introduced.

I liked the strictly feminine viewpoint and the fluidity in which the author segues one POV into another, making it easy to keep up with all the characters and gain more insight into their personal feelings and struggles, in the process.

I truly enjoyed this novel! I am really looking forward to reading more books by Sally Hepworth!!





Sally Hepworth is the bestselling author of The Secrets of Midwives. The Secrets of Midwives has been labelled “enchanting” by The Herald Sun, “smart and engaging” by Publisher’s Weekly, and New York Times bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin have praised Sally’s debut novel as “women’s fiction at its finest” and “totally absorbing”. The Secrets of Midwives was also the highest selling debut Australian fiction of the year in 2015. 

Sally is also the author of The Things We Keep, published in January 2016. The Things We Keep was a Library Journal Pick in the U.S. for January 2016, and an Indie Next Pick in the U.S. for February 2016. NYT bestselling author of The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion praised The Things We Keep calling it ‘A compelling read that touches on important themes, not least the different forms that love may take.”

Both novels were published worldwide in English and have been translated into several languages.

Sally is currently working on her next novel, to be published in early 2017.

Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two children. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

TRUE CRIME THURSDAY-The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson- Feature and Review


 Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that 'The Devil in the White City' is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.

Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison.

The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.



The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed AmericaThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson is a 2003 publication.


To be clear, this is a true crime book about H. H. Holmes, but it's much more that- it's also about a time, a place, a huge event in history, and those who brought it all together. It's a horrifying story, but also a fascinating one.

Larson is quite something, isn’t he? The research is, of course, phenomenal, but it’s the way he makes history come to life that kept me turning those pages.

The book reads like a novel, which, as we know, is an approach many True Crime authors have mastered, but is a bit harder to pull off when writing about history. Anyone who feels history or nonfiction is too dry should give this book a try!

Larson had me in the palm of his hand and despite my penchant for True Crime, it was the planning and execution of the magnificent World Fair that takes center stage. The architecture, all the vivid details, the people behind the scenes, and the influx of people into the city was just incredible.

But evil was lurking in the background and the fair turned out to be the perfect environment for a serial killer- H. H. Holmes- to be exact.

Holmes was most assuredly the stuff nightmares are made of!! He got away with so much, for such a long time, it was hard to take it all in!! Times were so different back then too- which made it easier for Holmes to con a more trusting public.

Overall, Larson has a unique approach, and a well organized presentation, bringing together two seemingly different subjects, and linking them together in such a way that one can hardly tear themselves away from the pages.

That’s a rare talent for historical writing. I highly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys true crime and history, of course, but even if you usually prefer fiction, you’ll probably still find this book of great interest!!



Erik Larson is the author of five national bestsellers: Dead Wake, In the Garden of Beasts, Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac’s Storm, which have collectively sold more than nine million copies. His books have been published in nearly twenty countries.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

To Sir, With Love by Lauren Layne- Feature and Review


Romantic comedy following two thirty-somethings who meet on a blind dating app—only to realize that their online chemistry is nothing compared to their offline rivalry.

Perpetually cheerful and eager to please, Gracie Cooper strives to make the best out of every situation. So when her father dies just five months after a lung cancer diagnosis, she sets aside her dreams of pursuing her passion for art to take over his Midtown Manhattan champagne shop. She soon finds out that the store’s profit margins are being squeezed perilously tight, and complicating matters further, a giant corporation headed by the impossibly handsome, but irritatingly arrogant Sebastian Andrews is proposing a buyout to turn the store into a parking garage. But Gracie can’t bear the thought of throwing away her father’s dream like she did her own.

Overwhelmed and not wanting to admit to her friends or family that she’s having second thoughts about the shop, Gracie seeks advice and solace from someone she’s never met—the faceless “Sir”, with whom she connected on a blind dating app where matches get to know each other through messages and common interests before exchanging real names or photos.

But although Gracie finds herself slowly falling for Sir online, she has no idea she’s already met him in real life…and they can’t stand each other.



To Sir, with LoveTo Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To Sir, With Love by Lauren Layne is a 2021 Gallery Books publication.

Gracie Cooper gave up her dream of being a professional artist to run the family owned champagne shop, per her father’s wishes. Gracie’s siblings have left her holding the bag, so Gracie is determined to make the best of the situation by adopting a ‘Pollyanna’ approach, working hard to convince herself she is happy. Sadly, though, the champagne shop is going through a rough patch.

Enter Sebastian Andrews…

Sebastian wants to by the champagne shop and is pressuring Gracie non-stop, merely because he needs the space the shop in sitting on. His approach could use some work, as he is oh so arrogant. Gracie is determined to fight for her store, despite her doubts and the odds against her.

The one bright spot in all this an accidental messaging relationship Gracie has developed with ‘Sir’ via a ‘faceless’ dating app. She’s loving the light and easy banter she has stuck up with ‘Sir’, and soon finds he is an excellent confidant, and despite her protest, she might be falling in love with him…

What a cute, sweet story with a nice updated – ‘enemies-lovers’ vibes, Ala “You’ve Got Mail”. The dialogue is snappy, flirty and fun, with just the right amount of tension and emotion, to compliment the plot and the characters.

Layne has become a ‘go-to’ author for me when I want a light contemporary or romantic comedy. Her stories are light, but have depth and feeling, and always, always leave a big smile on my face!


Featured in Oprah Magazine and PopSugar, Lauren Layne books have sold millions of copies worldwide. Snappy banter, sexual tension, and a fairy-tale happy ending are a hallmark of the Lauren Layne brand. Library Journal has described Lauren's work as "exceptional," and the books have been described by USA TODAY as "romantic comedy at its finest."