At Close Range

At Close Range
At Close Range by Laura Griffin

Dear Agony

Dear Agony
Dear Agony by Georgia Cates

Friday, January 20, 2017

At Close Range by Laura Griffin- Feature and Review


New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin “delivers the goods” (Publishers Weekly) again with the eleventh title in the gritty, heart-pounding Tracers series.

When a lakeside tryst ends in a double murder, police detective Daniele Harper arrives on the scene determined to get answers. Clues are everywhere, but nothing adds up. Dani turns to the Delphi Center crime lab for help, but soon regrets it when her secret attraction to their chief firearms examiner threatens to distract her from the most important case of her career.

As a ballistics expert and former Navy SEAL, Scott Black knows firearms, and he knows he can help Dani unravel her case. Scott has managed to hide his interest in his best friend’s younger sister for years, but when her investigation brings them together, the sparks between them quickly get out of control. Scott resolves to keep his hands off Dani and his eyes on the goal—identifying a killer. But when that killer zeroes in on Dani, all bets are off. There isn’t a line Scott won’t cross to convince Dani to trust him so that he can help her take down a ruthless murderer who has her in his sights.


Laney Knox blinked into the darkness and listened. Something... no.

She closed her eyes and slid deeper into the warm sheets, dismissing the sound. Probably her neighbor’s cat on the patio again.

Her eyes flew open. It wasn’t the sound but the light that had her attention now. Or lack of light. She gazed at the bedroom window, but didn’t see a band of white seeping through the gap between the shade and the wall.

She stared into the void, trying to shake off the grogginess. The outdoor lightbulb was new--her landlord had changed it yesterday. Had he botched the job? She should have done it herself, but her shoestring budget didn’t cover LED lights. It barely covered ramen noodles and Red Bull.

Laney looked around the pitch-black room. She wasn’t afraid of the dark, never had been. Roaches terrified her. And block parties. But darkness had always been no big deal.

Except this darkness was all wrong.

How many software developers does it take to change a lightbulb? None, it’s a hardware problem.

She strained her ears and listened for whatever sound had awakened her, but she heard nothing. She saw nothing. All her senses could discern was a slight chill against her skin and the lingering scent of the kung pao chicken she’d had for dinner. But something seemed off. As the seconds ticked by, a feeling of dread settled over her.


She bolted upright. The noise was soft but unmistakable. Someone was inside her house.

Her heart skittered. Her thoughts zinged in a thousand directions. She lived in an old bungalow, more dilapidated than charming, and her bedroom was at the back, a virtual dead end. She glanced at her windows. She’d reinforced the original latches with screw locks to deter burglars--which had seemed like a good idea at the time. But now she felt trapped. She reached over and groped around on the nightstand for her phone.


Crap crap crap. It was charging in the kitchen.

Her blood turned icy as stark reality sank in. She had no phone, no weapon, no exit route. And someone was inside.

Should she hide in the closet? Or try to slip past him somehow, maybe if he stepped into her room? It would never work, but—


A burst of panic made the decision for her and she was across the room in a flash. She scurried behind the door and flattened herself against the wall. Her breath came in shallow gasps. Her heart pounded wildly as she felt more than heard him creeping closer.

That’s what he was doing. Creeping. He was easing down the hallway with quiet, deliberate steps while she cowered behind the door, quivering and naked except for her oversized Florence and the Machine T-shirt. Sweat sprang up on the back of her neck and her chest tightened.

Who the hell was he? What did he want? She had no cash, no jewelry, just a few thousand dollars’ worth of hardware sitting on her desk. Maybe she could slip out while he stole it.

Yeah, right. Her ancient hatchback in the driveway was a neon sign announcing that whoever lived here was not only dead broke, but obviously home. This intruder was no burglar--he was here for her.

Laney’s pulse sprinted. Her hands formed useless little fists at her sides, and she was overwhelmed with the absurd notion that she should have followed through on that kickboxing class.

She forced a breath into her lungs and tried to think.

She had to think her way out of this because she was five-three, one-hundred-ten pounds, and weaponless. She didn’t stand much chance against even an average-size man and if he was armed, forget it.

The air moved. Laney’s throat went dry. She stayed perfectly still and felt a faint shifting of molecules on the other side of the door. Then a soft sound, barely a whisper, as the door drifted open.

She held her breath. Her heart hammered. Everything was black, but gradually there was a hole in the blackness--a tall, man-shaped hole--and she stood paralyzed with disbelief as the shape eased into her bedroom and crept toward her bed. She watched it, rooted in place, waiting... waiting... waiting.

She bolted.

Her feet slapped against the wood floor as she raced down the hallway. Air swooshed behind her. A scream tore from her throat, then became a shrill yelp as he grabbed her hair and slammed her against the wall.

A stunning blow knocked her to the floor. Stars burst behind her eyes as her cheek hit wood. She scrambled to her feet. She made a frantic dash and tripped over the coffee table, sending glasses and dishes flying as she crashed to her knees.

He flipped her onto her back and then he was on her, pinning her with his massive weight as something sharp cut into her shoulder blade.

She clawed at his face, his eyes. He wore a ski mask, and all she could see were three round holes and a sinister flash of teeth amid the blackness. She shrieked, but an elbow against her throat cut off all sound, all breath, as she fought and bucked beneath him.

He was strong, immovable. And terrifyingly calm as he pinned her arms one by one under his knees and reached for something in the pocket of his jacket. She expected a weapon--a knife or a gun--and she tried to heave him off. Panic seized her as his shadow shifted in the dimness. Above her frantic grunts she heard the tear of duct tape. And suddenly the idea of being silenced that way was more horrifying than even a blade.

With a fresh burst of adrenaline she wriggled her arm out from under his knee and flailed for any kind of weapon. She groped around the floor until her fingers closed around something smooth and slender—a pen, a chopstick, she didn’t know. She gripped it in her hand and jabbed at his face with all her might. He reared back with a howl.

Laney bucked hard and rolled out from under him as he clutched his face.

A scream erupted from deep inside her. She tripped to her feet and rocketed for the door.
This case was going to throw him. Reed Novak knew it the second he saw the volleyball court.

Taut net, sugary white sand. Beside the court was a swimming pool that sparkled like a sapphire under the blazing August sun.

“Hell, if I had a pool like that, I’d use it.”

Reed looked at his partner in the passenger seat. Jay Wallace had his window rolled down and his hefty arm resting on the door.

“Otherwise, what’s the point?”

Reed didn’t answer. The point was probably to slap a photo on a web site to justify the astronomical rent Bellaterra charged for one- and two-bedroom units five minutes from downtown.

Reed pulled in beside the white ME’s van and climbed out, glancing around. Even with a few emergency vehicles, the parking lot was quiet. Bellaterra’s young and athletically inclined tenants were either at jobs or classes, or maybe home with their parents for the summer, letting their luxury apartments sit empty.

Reed stood for a moment, getting a feel. Heat radiated up from the blacktop and the drone of cicadas drowned out the traffic noise on Lake Austin Boulevard. He glanced across the parking lot to the ground-floor unit where a female patrol officer stood guard.

“First responder, Lena Gutierrez.”  Reed said, looking at Jay. “You know her?”

“Think she’s new.”

They crossed the lot and exchanged introductions. Gutierrez looked nervous in her wilted uniform. Her gaze darted to the detective shield clipped to Reed’s belt.

“I secured the perimeter, sir.”

“Good. Tell us what you got.”

She cleared her throat. “Apartment’s rented to April Abrams, twenty-five. Didn’t show up for work today, didn’t answer her phone. One of her co-workers dropped by. The door was reportedly unlocked, so she went inside to check...”

Her voice trailed off as though they should fill in the blank.

Reed stepped around her and examined the door, which stood ajar. No visible scratches on the locking mechanism. No gouges on the doorframe.

Jay was already covering his black wingtips with paper booties. Reed did the same. Austin was casual, but they always wore business attire--suit pants and button-down shirts--because of days like today. Reed never wanted to do a death knock dressed like he was on his way to a keg party.

He stepped into the cool foyer and let his eyes adjust. To his right was a living area. White sectional sofa, bleached wood coffee table, white shag rug over beige carpet. The pristine room was a contrast to the hallway, where yellow evidence markers littered the tile floor. A picture on the wall had been knocked askew and a pair of ME’s assistants bent over a body.

A bare foot jutted out from the huddle. Pale skin, red toenail polish.

Reed walked into the hall, sidestepping numbered pieces of plastic that flagged evidence he couldn’t see. A slender guy with premature gray hair glanced up. Reed knew the man, and his expression was even grimmer than usual.

April Abrams was young.

Reed knelt down for a closer look. She lay on her side, her head resting in a pool of coagulated blood. Long auburn hair partially obscured her face, and her arm was bent behind her at an impossible angle. A strip of silver duct tape covered her mouth.

“Jesus,” Jay muttered behind him.

Her bare legs scissored out to the side. A pink T-shirt was bunched up under her armpits, and Reed noted extensive scratches on both breasts.

“What do you have?” Reed asked.

“Twelve to eighteen hours, ballpark,” the ME’s assistant said. “The pathologist should be able to pin that down better.”

Reed studied at her face again. No visible abrasions. No ligature marks on her neck. The left side of her skull was smashed in, and her hair was matted with dried blood.

“Murder weapon?” Reed asked.

“Not that we’ve seen. You might ask the photog, though. She’s in the kitchen.”

Reed stood up, looking again at the tape covering April’s mouth. A lock of her hair was stuck under it, which for some reason pissed him off.

He moved into the kitchen and paused beside a sliding glass door that opened onto a fenced patio. Outside on the concrete sat a pair of plastic bowls, both empty.

“I haven’t seen a weapon,” the crime scene photographer said over her shoulder. “You’ll be the first to know.”

Reed glanced around her to see what had her attention. On the granite countertop was an ID badge attached to one of those plastic clips with a retractable cord. The badge showed April’s mug shot with her name and the words ChatWare Solutions printed below. April had light blue eyes, pale skin. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she smiled tentatively for the camera.

The photographer finished with the badge and shifted to get a shot of the door.

“Come across a phone?” Reed asked, looking around. No dirty dishes on the counters. Empty sink.

“Not so far.” She glanced up from her camera as Jay stepped into the kitchen and silently handed Reed a pair of latex gloves. “I haven’t done the bedroom yet, though, so don’t you guys move anything.”

Reed pulled on the gloves and opened the fridge. It took him a moment to identify the unfamiliar contents: spinach, beets, bean sprouts. Something green and frilly that might or might not be kale. The dietary train wreck continued in the pantry, where he found three boxes of Kashi, six bottles of vitamins, and a bag of flax seeds.

Opening the cabinet under the sink Reed found a bag of cat food and a plastic trash can. The can was empty, not even a plastic bag inside it despite the box of them right there in the cabinet. He’d check out Bellaterra’s Dumpsters. Reed opened several drawers and found the usual assortment of utensils.

“That’s an eight-hundred-dollar juicer.” Jay nodded at the silver appliance near the sink.

“That thing?”

“At least. Maybe a thousand. My sister got one last Christmas.”

Gutierrez was standing in the foyer now, watching them with interest.

“Did you come across a phone?” Reed asked her. “A purse? A wallet?”

“No on all three, sir. I did a full walk-through, didn’t see anything.”

Reed exchanged a look with Jay before moving back into the hallway. The ME’s people were now taping paper bags over the victim’s hands.

Reed stepped into the bedroom. A ceiling fan moved on low speed, stirring the air. The queen-size bed was heaped with plump white pillows like a fancy hotel. The pillows were piled to the side and the bedspread was thrown back, suggesting April had gone to bed and then gotten up.

Think she heard him?” Jay asked.


The bedside lamp was off, and the only light in the room came from sunlight streaming through vertical blinds. Reed ducked into the bathroom. Makeup was scattered across the counter. A gold watch with a diamond bezel sat beside the sink. Reed opened the medicine cabinet.

“Sleeping pills, nasal spray, laxatives, OxyContin,” he said.

Reed examined the latch on the window above the toilet. Then he moved into the bedroom. Peering under the bed he found a pair of white sandals and a folded shopping bag. On the nightstand was a stack of magazines: Entertainment Weekly, People, Wired. He opened the nightstand drawer and stared down.


Jay glanced over. “Vibrator?”

“Chocolate.” Four bars of Godiva, seventy-two percent cocoa. One of the bars had the wrapper partially removed and a hunk bitten off.

Reed was more or less numb to going through people’s stuff, but the chocolate bar struck him as both sad and infinitely personal. He closed the drawer.

“We ID’d her vehicle,” Gutierrez said, stepping into the room, “case you guys want to have a look.”

Reed and Jay followed her back through the apartment, catching annoyed looks from the ME’s people as they squeezed past again.

“So, what’s our game plan?” Jay asked as they exited the home and stripped off their shoe covers.

Reed watched the gurney being rolled across the lot. Twenty minutes into the case, and already they needed a game plan. That was how it worked now, and Reed didn’t waste his energy cursing social media.

He thought of April’s mug shot. He thought of her anxious smile as she’d stood before the camera, probably her first day on the job. She’d probably been feeling a heady mix of hope and anticipation as she embarked on something new.

He pictured the slash of duct tape over her mouth now. It would stay there until she reached the autopsy table.


“No forced entry. No purse, no phone. But he left jewelry, pain meds, and a Bose stereo.”

Jay nodded because he knew what Reed was thinking. At this point, everything pointed to someone she knew.

Jay glanced across the lot. “Damn.”

Reed turned to see an SUV easing through the gate, tailgated by a white news van. Just in time for the money shot of the body coming out. In a matter of minutes the image would be ping-ponging between satellites.

Dirtbags,” Jay muttered.

Reed shook his head. “Right on time.”


At Close Range (Tracers, #11)At Close Range by Laura Griffin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At Close Range by Laura Griffin is a 2017 Pocket Books publication.

Oh, yeah! The Tracers, baby!!

While I have enjoyed all of the books in the series that I’ve read so far, this is one of the best of Griffin's recent releases.

Dani gets her shot at being the lead detective in a double homicide, and she is experiencing a case of the nerves. But, things get even stranger when her brother’s best friend, Scott, becomes the prime suspect.

Scott is a former SEAL is adjusting to civilian life and is fighting off a long time attraction to Dani, the sister of his best friend. But, when the ballistics expert is implicated in a double murder, he and Dani are thrown together in a high octane situation and the sparks between fly higher than ever before.

But, it soon becomes apparent that Dani is a target and Scott intends to do everything he can to clear his name and keep Dani safe.

Whew! Scott and Dani have a sizzling hot chemistry between them and I loved that they were friends for a long time before the relationship changed. The romance is super hot and Scott is an almost perfect alpha personality.

But, the murder investigation, which takes up the most real estate in the novel, and rightly so, is very, very interesting and the action is incredibly tense and suspenseful.

This book gets back to the sort of storyline that first attracted me to his series. Griffin rarely disappoints, but this time she’s taken things up a notch. If you enjoy this series, I think you’re going to love this new chapter. If you are new to the series, you shouldn’t have a problem reading this one as a stand alone. So, if you like action packed romantic suspense, I don’t think you could ask for more!!



New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Laura Griffin started her career in journalism before venturing into the world of writing romantic suspense. Her books have won numerous awards, including two RITA Awards (for Scorched and Whisper of Warning) and a Daphne du Maurier Award (Untraceable). Laura currently lives in Austin where she is working on her next book.

Dear Agony by Georgia Cates- Cover Reveal

Dear Agony,
You've been my shadow, following me through childhood—filling my days and nights with terror and uncertainty. You cleverly disguised yourself as some form of pain or suffering as I grew into a young woman. We were unwavering companions until I severed our ties.

I traded homelessness on the streets of New Orleans for a luxurious bed covered by the finest linens.
I traded dumpster diving for dinner in the finest restaurants.
I traded myself to a stranger—Bastien Pascal.
I have a good life within my platonic and mutually beneficial companionship with Bash.
He’s my friend. My mentor. My roommate.
Until everything changes.
I’m not supposed to get goosebumps when his hand brushes my skin.
I’m not supposed to be eager for his soothing touch following one of my nightmares.
I’m not supposed to think about what might happen if I reached out to him in the darkness.
Falling in love with him? Preposterous . . . unavoidable.
Agony, why are you back with a vengeance to rob me of this life I’ve come to love so dearly?
I’m finally happy. Don’t ruin this for me.
Always yours,

In this epic love story, Dear Agony forges a connection between an unlikely pair—a beautiful rose entwined in barbed wire and a shipwreck sinking into the darkest depths of the ocean. This agonizing romantic novel poses some gut-wrenching questions: What does a woman do when the man she loves is planning his own demise? And how far will she go to give him something to live for?

Bastien wasn’t lying. The man snores. Loudly.
I was awake for hours after he came to my bed. I had far too many thoughts whirling around in my head to doze off.
I’m proprietor of a sadness I hold so tightly, it’s penetrated my very being. It has wrapped itself around my heart in the form of barbed vines, warning people away. I’m buried chest deep in filth—the filth of my vile past. I’m the captain and my pain is forever my first mate.
I wake to find myself held by his strong arms. Encased in his comforting touch. Strangely, even though I’m clinging tightly to the arm wrapped around my waist, I feel . . . safe in the arms of a man. This man. It’s a first for me.
Bastien is still sleeping, his snoring proof he is unaware of our entanglement. I’m glad. I want to savor this close encounter for a while longer before I pull away.
I steal this moment like a thief, permitting myself to study his face and body without his knowledge.
His chest under my head is hard, as is his stomach beneath my hand. There’s sparse hair between his pec muscles but he has a small patch on his abdomen trailing down into the front of his pants.
I gently lift my head so I can see his face. Long, thick, dark lashes rest against his lower lids. Strong, square jawline—covered in dark whiskers, and a few sparse silver here and there, a little thicker this morning than last night. A tiny dimple in the center of his chin. Full, pink lips with a deep cupid’s bow. Straight nose, slightly asymmetrical to the right side of his face. Hmm I haven’t noticed that until now. I bet it’s been broken. Probably playing football.
Even in sleep, Bastien’s face doesn’t completely relax. His brow remains wrinkled, the shallow crowfeet around his eyes slightly crinkled.
Lines and all, he’s handsome. Extremely so.
And stirring.
I quickly pull away and roll onto my side, my back turned to him before he fully awakens. I don’t want that awkward moment of waking and coming to face to face, forced to discuss what led him to my bed last night.
Minutes later, there’s a brief dip in the mattress and then I hear the soft click of my bedroom door closing.
He’s gone without a word.
I roll to my back and run my hand along the spot where he was lying. Still warm. Scooting closer, I press my nose into his pillow. Mmm. Woodsy. Earthy spice. Masculine.
Savoring the warmth and smell that remains in my bed after Bastien’s departure is something I shouldn’t enjoy but I do. Very much.
Liking these things isn’t part of our agreement.
Bastien has clearly stated he doesn’t want a romantic relationship. In fact, he’s very much against it, especially with someone my age. And I refuse to ruin what we have. I like him. I think we can be very good friends.

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Georgia Cates resides in rural Mississippi with her wonderful husband, Jeff, and their two beautiful daughters. She spent fourteen years as a labor and delivery nurse before she decided to pursue her dream of becoming an author and hasn’t looked back yet.
When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing. When she’s being domestic, she’s listening to her music and visualizing scenes for her current work in progress. Every story coming from her always has a song to inspire it.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner- Feature and Review


A sweeping saga about four generations of a family who live and love on an enchanting Mediterranean island off the coast of Italy—combining the romance of Beautiful Ruins with the magical tapestry works of Isabel Allende.

Castellamare is an island far enough away from the mainland to be forgotten, but not far enough to escape from the world’s troubles. At the center of the island’s life is a café draped with bougainvillea called the House at the Edge of Night, where over generations the community gathers to gossip and talk. Amedeo Esposito, a foundling from Florence, finds his destiny on the island with his beautiful wife, Pina, whose fierce intelligence, grace, and unwavering love guide her every move. An indiscretion tests their marriage, and their children—three sons and an inquisitive daughter—grow up and struggle with both humanity’s cruelty and its capacity for love and mercy.

Spanning nearly a century, through secrets and mysteries, trials and sacrifice, this beautiful and haunting novel follows the lives of the Esposito family and the other islanders who live and love on Castellamare: a cruel count and his bewitching wife, a priest who loves scandal, a prisoner of war turned poet, an outcast girl who becomes a pillar of strength, a wounded English soldier who emerges from the sea. The people of Castellamare are transformed by two world wars and a great recession, by the threat of fascism and their deep bonds of passion and friendship, and by bitter rivalries and the power of forgiveness, in this richly written and powerful novel.

Catherine Banner has written an enthralling, character-rich novel, epic in scope but intimate in feeling. At times, the island itself seems alive, a mythical place where the earth heaves with stories—and this magical novel takes you there.

Advance praise for The House at the Edge of Night
 “My admiration for The House at the Edge of Night is boundless. Catherine Banner’s writing is preternaturally mature, distinct, clear, and strikingly beautiful. As I read on, I felt the resonance of classic legend and myth, the stuff of Homer, building around this world that is timeless, yet utterly its own. A gorgeous, deeply moving novel of life across a sweep of time and generations.”—Peter Nichols, author of The Rocks

“To the long, eclectic tradition of the island novel, Catherine Banner has made a sparkling addition. She has created a vast world unto itself of the fictional island of Castellamare, intricately compressed and marvelously textured. Her storytelling evokes the rural tales of the great Sicilian author Giovanni Verga, the Abruzzian Ignazio Silone, and the multifarious Italian Folktales compiled by Italo Calvino. But this is very much a modern story by a young Englishwoman, beautifully written, spanning over a century, framing and interweaving the fates of countless characters while conjuring a fictional chronicle that merges with, and enhances, history as we know it—a feat reserved for the most ingenious and intuitive of writers. That this is Catherine Banner’s first adult novel makes it all the more remarkable.”—Nicholas Christopher



The House at the Edge of NightThe House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner is a 2016 Random House publication.

This book came highly recommended by several of my Goodreads friends who described the book as a family saga, so I knew I had to check it out.

This story is centered around the Esposito family living on the island of Castellamare in Italy. The island is remote, but has its own fiefdoms, power struggles, and is fraught with personal family dramas and scandals.

Beginning with Amedeo Esposito, who arrives on the island as the first doctor the island ever welcomed, but eventually opens ‘The House at the Edge of Night’, a bar/café which becomes a center point of the island where the residents gather for fellowship, communication and of course gossip.

The story follows Amedeo, his wife, Pina, and their children as they go through wars, conflicts, financial fallouts, and personal issues within marriages and families, which entails sibling rivalry, jealousy, love won and lost, and found again.

I absolutely love, love, love, family sagas! Sadly, sweeping sagas are far and few between these days, but perhaps wonderful stories, like this one will inspire more interest it them.

This is a beautiful story, rich in details with incredibly well drawn characters which makes it so easy to become immersed in the story and to care for the Esposito family. I found myself completely wound up in their dramas, the amazingly beautiful setting, the culture, and the realistic portrayal of human beings with all their foibles and strengths.

This is a powerful and lush story filled with charm and enhanced with folk tales and tradition. I never wanted the story to end, but was so happy with the family’s perseverance in the face of adversity, the way they came together and remained committed despite the challenges they faced.

I was impressed with the storytelling here and believe this is a story anyone can enjoy. I wish there were many more novels like this one!!



Catherine Banner was born in Cambridge, UK, in 1989 and began writing at the age of fourteen. She studied English at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, before moving to County Durham where she worked as a secondary school teacher. She has published a trilogy of young adult novels, The Last Descendants.

Her debut adult novel, The House at the Edge of Night, tells the story of the 2008 financial crisis and 95 years of European history through one family and their bar on a tiny Mediterranean island.

Her work is translated into 22 languages. She lives in Turin, Italy, with her husband.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Good as Gone by Amy Gentry - Feature and Review


Thirteen-year-old Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night, witnessed only by her younger sister. Her family was shattered, but managed to stick together, hoping against hope that Julie is still alive. And then one night: the doorbell rings. A young woman who appears to be Julie is finally, miraculously, home safe. The family is ecstatic—but Anna, Julie’s mother, has whispers of doubts.  She hates to face them. She cannot avoid them. When she is contacted by a former detective turned private eye, she begins a torturous search for the truth about the woman she desperately hopes is her daughter.

Propulsive and suspenseful, Good as Gone will appeal to fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, and keep readers guessing until the final pages.


Good as GoneGood as Gone by Amy Gentry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good as Gone by Amy Gentry is a 2016 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publication.

This novel is deeply consuming and thought provoking.

At the age of thirteen, Julie is kidnapped, while her sister, Jane watches from her hiding place. Her parents, Tom and Anna, struggle for years, caught in the limbo between hope and the reality of Julie’s probable death, which Jane pulls out of the stops just trying to live up to her sister’s mythological perfect, just trying to be noticed.

But, when Julie suddenly reappears, the apparent victim of sexual abuse a trafficking, the family is once more thrown into an unusual tailspin as hope once more contrast with disturbing information about Julie’s sudden return and the truth of how and why she was kidnapped.

For Anna, the only way to reestablish a relationship with Julie and hopefully heal the rift with Jane someday, will be to uncover the grim truth, not matter what that might be.

Once again, we have the ‘Gone Girl/Girl on a Train’ comparison from the publisher, and once again, I’m going to tell you to blow that off.

This is a solid and compelling psychological thriller, very moody and atmospheric, and emotional. I was impressed by some of the unique tactics the author used to weave the complex tale of Julie’s past together, but the switches in time and directions occasionally jarred. I also guessed some of the plot twists before they were revealed, but could not have worked out all the details and so it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book.

This is an effective and compelling read, and is a notable debut. I will definitely read more books by this author.




Amy Gentry is the author of the debut thriller Good as Gone, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2016. She frequently contributes book reviews to the Chicago Tribune, and her freelance writing has appeared in Salon, Fusion, The Rumpus, LA Review of Books, Austin Chronicle, Gastronomica, The Best Food Writing of 2014, and many more. Amy holds a doctorate in English from the University of Chicago and lives in Austin, Texas.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Killing Game by J.S. Carol- Feature and Review


Publicist JJ Johnson is having lunch when a masked, armed gunman walks in and takes everyone hostage – including Hollywood’s hottest stars. JJ can make any problem disappear and turn ordinary people into global superstars. But this is one situation way out of her control.

As word spreads of the siege, the hostage victims are bargaining for their lives against a twisted individual who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

With the bomb designed to detonate if the gunman’s heart rate changes, killing him is not an option. But with only four hours to stop him, JJ will have to think fast to stop a terrifying nightmare becoming reality.



The Killing GameThe Killing Game by J.S. Carol
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Killing Game by J.S. Carol is a 2016 Bookouture publication.

The book cover says it all: “A tense, gripping thriller you DON’T want to miss”

Alfie’s is an upscale restaurant in Los Angles catering to movie stars, agents and producers. But, when the clientele are taken hostage by masked gunman wearing explosives that will detonate if his heart rate gets too low, the media descend, determined to cash in on the situation.

JJ, a publicist, was at the restaurant to keep an eye on her client, but soon finds herself fighting for the lives of the hostages as she attempts to figure out what the gunman’s motives are and how to get them out in one piece.

Wow! Anytime a story is centered around a hostage situation, it’s always tense and suspenseful. What does the gunman want, who will make it out alive, and what will be the aftermath? It’s a formula that never fails to grab my attention.

However, when you add in the celebrity element, when the hostages are famous people, it makes the story even more interesting.

The thriller aspects of the book are top notch, with the gunman seemingly having way too much fun with the situation, proving himself to be one of the most ruthless bad guys I’ve read about in a long time.

But, what stood out for me was the scathing portrait of the media who covered the situation in typical fashion. Talking heads, experts, and misinformation from start to finish!!

The author was spot on with this wickedly dark parody of twenty -hour news stations, and how the media works. This is subject, of course, is a timely one as the media has come under a great deal of scrutiny and criticism as of late.

I thought the idea of putting spoiled celebrities who think they can talk or buy their way of anything, mixed with the soulless unconscionable media, facing down a terrorist attack was pure genius.

The feverish pacing, the moral dilemmas, the psychological mind games and the personal demons that surface made this a riveting and fast paced, white knuckle thrill ride.

A tense, gripping thriller, you DON’T want to miss? Correct! If you like thrillers and top notch suspense, this book is for you!



James Carol was born in Scotland in 1969, where he spent his early years. He moved to England in the eighties and has lived there ever since. At various times he has worked as a guitarist, sound engineer, guitar tutor, journalist, and a horse riding instructor.

When he’s not writing, James spends his time training horses and riders. An accomplished guitarist, he relaxes by writing and recording music. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two children.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Anatomy of a Song by Marc Myers- Feature and Review


Every great song has a fascinating backstory. In Anatomy of a Song, based on the ongoing Wall Street Journal column, writer and music historian Marc Myers brings to life five decades of music through oral histories of forty-five transformative songs woven from interviews with the artists who created them.

Bringing readers inside the making of a hit, Anatomy of a Song includes the Isley Brothers' memorable song "Shout," Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz," and R.E.M's "Losing My Religion." After receiving his discharge from the army in 1968, John Fogerty does a handstand and reworks Beethoven's Fifth Symphony to come up with "Proud Mary." Joni Mitchell remembers living in a cave on Crete with the "mean old daddy" who inspired her 1971 hit "Carey." Elvis Costello talks about writing "(The Angels Wanna War My) Red Shoes" in ten minutes on the train to Liverpool. And Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart, the Clash, Jimmy Cliff, Roger Waters, Stevie Wonder, Keith Richards, Cyndi Lauper, and many other leading artists reveal the emotions, inspirations, and techniques behind their influential works. Anatomy of a Song is a love letter to the songs that have defined generations of listeners.



Anatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and PopAnatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop by Marc Myers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anatomy of a Song by Marc Myers is a 2016 Grove Press publication.

I love books about music and pop culture and so I was convinced this book would be up my alley.

Sure enough, I thoroughly enjoyed this look back at some of the most iconic songs that made up the pop music landscape from the fifties all the up to the early nineties.

I didn’t know every one of these songs, but I did know most of them. Many of them I had completely forgotten about over the years. But, what really sets this book apart from others with similar formats is the backstory of each song.

The forty-five songs that are listed tell a fascinating story about how the song was written, or the way it was produced, or how it almost didn’t get recorded and what impact it had on the music scene, who influenced the writer of the song, along with personal interviews and recollections.

There are classic R&B songs, pure pop songs, plenty of Motown, songs that changed the landscape of music, especially in the sixties, soul music, country music, anthems, folk music, soundtrack hits, dance tunes, new wave, punk, classic rock, MTV icons, and everything in between.

This is a delightful piece of nostalgia and pop culture, with carefully chosen songs, all them representing various trends and the climate of the era in which they were first recorded and became hits.

Be aware that Myers’ doesn’t always pick the most popular song by a band or performer. Instead, he goes for the most iconic or personal songs, the ones with longevity, and the ones with the best stories attached to them. I few times I scratched my head at his selections, but by and large his choices were very thoughtful, which kept the format from becoming stale.

The book is chock full of enthralling facts and stories and fun tidbits of trivia, but the interviews were my favorite part of each song featured. Some of the interviews were funny, but a few were poignant as well, revealing personal loss and various struggles along the way.

 I told Alexa to play these songs for me and enjoyed listening with a new perspective, now that I know more about them.

The author did a great job of organizing the material, sticking to a chronological timeline, and there are pictures which helps puts names with faces if you are not familiar with the song or the performer.

I had a hard time hunting down a copy of this book, but thankfully found it on Hoopla. It was definitely worth the wait.

I found this book to be both an informative and entertaining list book, which can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone.



Marc Myers is a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal, where he writes about rock, soul, and jazz, as well as the arts. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book Why Jazz Happened, and posts daily at, the two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association’s Blog of the Year award. He can be reached at