A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Thursday, November 30, 2017

New People by Danzy Senna- Feature and Review


From the bestselling author of Caucasia, a subversive and engrossing novel of race, class and manners in contemporary America.

As the twentieth century draws to a close, Maria is at the start of a life she never thought possible. She and Khalil, her college sweetheart, are planning their wedding. They are the perfect couple, "King and Queen of the Racially Nebulous Prom." Their skin is the same shade of beige. They live together in a black bohemian enclave in Brooklyn, where Khalil is riding the wave of the first dot-com boom and Maria is plugging away at her dissertation, on the Jonestown massacre. They've even landed a starring role in a documentary about "new people" like them, who are blurring the old boundaries as a brave new era dawns. Everything Maria knows she should want lies before her--yet she can't stop daydreaming about another man, a poet she barely knows. As fantasy escalates to fixation, it dredges up secrets from the past and threatens to unravel not only Maria's perfect new life but her very persona.

Heartbreaking and darkly comic, New People is a bold and unfettered page-turner that challenges our every assumption about how we define one another, and ourselves.



New PeopleNew People by Danzy Senna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

New People by Senna Danzy is a 2017 Riverhead Books publication.

Unconventional, a little disturbing, but thought provoking and exceptionally written-

Despite its brevity, this book packs a potent punch, written in a quirky, offbeat prose, that captured my attention and forced me to stay focused.

The novel is, without a doubt, about race. ‘New People’ meaning ‘biracial'. However, there is more to the story than meets the eye.

Maria and her fiancĂ© Khalil are both biracial- Maria’s adoptive mother was black, but Maria is very fair skinned, as is Khalil, whose background is eclectic.

Maria is doing her dissertation on the ‘Jonestown Massacre’, while planning her wedding. But, her relationship with Khalil is tested when she develops a crush on a poet, who is not biracial. Suddenly, her stable life becomes very erratic as she searches for that elusive something that remains just out of reach.

The book is almost satirical at times, has a wry sense of humor, but is also very tense. Maria has a dark secret she’s kept from Khalil and she practically stalks her ‘crush’, as well as exhibiting a few other very odd behaviors that had me sitting on the edge of my seat.

Maria is the prominent character, the one whose narrative we follow as she sends herself down a path of self-discovery, a very risky journey that could upend her life as she knows it. She is a most unusual person, not necessarily a likeable young lady, or someone I felt I could bond with or feel empathy towards, but I found her choices almost hypnotic. At times I couldn’t bear to watch and at others I couldn’t bear to look away. I had to see what, if any, consequences or repercussions there would be for her actions.

The Jonestown topic runs in the background as it harkens back to the themes that brought the cult followers to such a point in their lives and is juxtaposed against the attitudes that came about in the nineties, especially in campus life. It’s an interesting force in Maria’s search for her own identity.

The ending is a bit abrupt. Khalil appears oblivious to Maria’s angst or past sins, so we are left to wonder if Maria’s thirst has been quenched or if her search will continue or evolve to include her fiancĂ©.

I found Maria to be one of the most interesting characters I’ve been introduced to recently and this book did make me stop and think about many of the topics addressed here, even days after finishing the novel.

I enjoyed the style of writing, and the refreshing change of pace this book provided. This is my first book by this author, but I will definitely keep an eye out for her work in the future.






Danzy Senna is an American novelist, born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts in 1970. Her parents, Carl Senna, an Afro-Mexican poet and author, and Fanny Howe, who is Irish-American writer, were also civil rights activists.

She attended Stanford University and received an MFA from the University of California at Irvine. There, she received several creative writing awards.

Her debut novel, Caucasia (later republished as From Caucasia With Love), was well received and won several awards including the Book-Of-The-Month Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction, and the Alex Award from the American Library Association.

Her second novel, Symptomatic, was also well received. Both books feature a biracial protagonist and offer a unique view on life from their perspective. 

Senna has also contributed to anthologies such as Gumbo.

In 2002, Senna received the Whiting Writers Award and in 2004 was named a Fellow for the New York Public Library's Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.

Danzy Senna is married to fellow writer Percival Everett and they have a son, Henry together. Their residences have included Los Angeles and New York City.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Maverick's Snowbound Christmas by Karen Rose Smith- Feature and Review

Ah, wintertime in Rust Creek Falls! It's the perfect time of year to snuggle up by the fireplace and indulge in some juicy gossip. Speaking of snuggling, did you hear that Eli Dalton and Hadley Strickland were forced to spend the night together in an abandoned barn during our recent snowstorm? 

While it may have been a horse in distress that brought the lovely veterinarian out to the Circle D, we're betting handsome, steady Eli will draw her back. We believe the rancher could melt fair Hadley's frozen heart—if she can find the courage to reveal her past. So hang the holly, dear readers, and remember that this is the season for miracles. Could a holiday proposal soon be in the works?



The Maverick's Snowbound Christmas (Montana Mavericks: The Great Family Roundup #5)The Maverick's Snowbound Christmas by Karen Rose Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Maverick’s Snowbound Christmas by Karen Rose Smith is a 2017 Harlequin Special Edition publication.

This is a charming holiday themed contemporary romance set in Rust Creek Falls, and centered around rancher, Eli Dalton and veterinarian, Hadley Strickland.

Hadley is home visiting her folks for the holiday, enduring the usual admonishments about how busy her life is and how she needs to start thinking of marriage and family.

When she gets a call asking her to help Eli Dalton deliver a foal, she jumps at the chance, even though horses are outside her area of expertise and a snowstorm is headed their direction.

However, once she arrives on the scene, she and Eli finds themselves snowbound together. An awkward situation soon leads to a tentative friendship while they both grapple with a growing attraction to one another.

However, the relationship seems doomed from the start, due to Hadley’s wall of defenses and Eli’s refusal to consider any other kind of life for himself, than living in Rust Creek Falls and running his ranch.

Is there a chance holiday magic could help them find a way to overcome their differences?

I enjoyed this short, fast paced holiday romance from author Karen Rose Smith. Bringing two people together with different outlooks on life, different goals, and each harboring pain or resentment due to the failure of previous relationships, is always a challenge. But, I really enjoy seeing a couple do the work, each making sacrifices or compromises in order make a relationship solidify and grow.

I personally enjoy reading about more ‘mature’ characters, with family playing a role in the story, and of course any story which features pets or animals is a plus, in my opinion. Therefore, this book was a nice fit for me.





Karen Rose Smith is writing mysteries as well as romances now! Her plots, whether in mystery or romance, are all about relationships.

She began writing in her early teens when she listened to music and created stories to accompany the songs. After expressing feelings in poetry, earning a degree in English and French, completing short stories that became too long to find a market, she turned to her fascination with relationships to writing romances and now mysteries. This award-winning best-selling author (USA Today List, Borders Bestseller List, Amazon Romance Bestseller lists, Barnes and Noble Bestseller list) will see her 97th novel released in 2017. She has published with Silhouette, Harlequin, Kensington and Meteor/Kismet. Her awards include two Golden Leaf awards in short contemporary romance, the Golden Quill in traditional romance, two cataromance.com's awards for Best Special Editions and Romance Review's Today's Best series romance award. Jane Bowers of Romance Reviews Today states: "Karen Rose Smith's storyworlds are complete and realistic and lovely places to visit and revisit. She excels at stories that feature couples brought together by infants and children, and she handles her plots and characters with sublime sensitivity."

Karen is well-known for writing emotion-packed novels. An only child, she spent a lot of time in her imagination and with books--Nancy Drew, Zane Gray, The Black Stallion and Anne of Green Gables. She dreamt of brothers and sisters and a big family like her mother and father came from--seven children in her mom's family and ten in her dad's. On weekends she was often surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins. This is the root of her plotlines that include small communities and family relationships as integral to everyday living. She believes universal emotions unite us all and that is the reason she employs them to propel her plots.

It is no secret that Karen married her college sweetheart and they have been married for 45 years. She believes in the power of commitment and the hope that goes along with the promise of everlasting love. Along with enjoying time with her husband, Karen enjoys cooking, watercolor painting, gardening, shopping, listening to music and keeping her four rescued cats company or vice versa.

She has been busy indie publishing her SEARCH FOR LOVE series. In addition, she is writing her Caprice De Luca mystery series as well as her Daisy's Tea Garden series for Kensington along with romances for Harlequin Special Edition. Readers can follow her on Facebook (Search--Karen Rose Smith) or on Twitter @karenrosesmith. Contact her through her website www.karenrosesmith.com or KarenRoseSmithMysteries.com if you'd like to belong to her street team or her readers group on Facebook. She welcomes interaction with her readers on Facebook and Twitter, and would love to chat about plotlines, titles, emotions, heroes, heroines, music, books, gardening, cooking, or anything else readers deem noteworthy!

Trouble Under the Mistletoe by Rebecca Barrett- Feature and Review


Trouble, the Sherlock of black cat detective, finds himself in Turnout, MS on Christmas Eve. Teddy Adamson, that heart breaker, has just walked back into Billie Dean Bailey’s life. But more dire happenings are going on under the mistletoe. Who ends up dead and why? Was it the maraschino cherries in the Tizzington sisters’ fruit compote? Or was it something more sinister? Find out in this short story of Trouble’s latest escapade in the Familiar Legacy Mystery Series.



Trouble Under the Mistletoe: A Familiar Legacy Short MysteryTrouble Under the Mistletoe: A Familiar Legacy Short Mystery by Rebecca Barrett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Trouble Under the Mistletoe: A Familiar Legacy Short Story by Rebecca Barrett is a 2017 KaliOka Press publication.

Trouble and his renowned detecting skills help solve a holiday crime while in the care of Billie Dean Bailey of Turnout, MS.

Trouble sniffs out a hint of concern for Billie and her family whose car dealership is going through a rough patch.

While Billie Dean is concerned about her father and a recent new hire, she finds herself distracted by Teddy Adamson, who is back in town to visit his mother for the holidays.

But, when a murder takes place at the Bailey’s annual Christmas party, Teddy and Billie Dean, with Trouble’s assistance, will have to unravel a clever crime ring.

This is a super short cozy/romantic suspense story, which is a part of the ‘Familiar Legacy’ series. Once again, the vibrant southern locale creates a special holiday ambience and I especially enjoyed the second chance love story between Teddy and Billie Dean. As always, Trouble’s detecting skills are second to none and his inner monologue is priceless. I hope the humans make it to the Christmas pies before Trouble does!

Despite its brevity, this is a complete crime story with a dash of holiday romance and is purrfect for a lunch break escape.

Happy holidays!



FREE FOR A LIMITED TIME IN THE AMAZON KINDLE STORE! ( As always, prices are subject to change without notice. Check the price before purchasing)


Rebecca Barrett writes historical fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction (writing as Campbell O’Neal), children’s stories, and short stories of life in the South. An avid reader all her life and a product of “front porch” socializing, she became a story-teller at an early age.

Her current novel, Trouble in Dixie (available August 14, 2017), features that handsome, sleek, black cat detective, Trouble. This is a new series with multiple authors (The Cat Women Collective) who follow the antics of super-sleuth Trouble as he lands in first one crime scene then another. Of course, the humans help a little. These romantic mysteries are fun and light hearted and just perfect for a beach read or a rainy day.

Visit the author's website rebeccabarrett.com to enjoy some of her short stories.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land- Feature and Review


Good Me Bad Me is dark, compelling, voice-driven psychological suspense by debut author Ali Land.

How far does the apple really fall from the tree? 

Milly's mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school. 

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother's trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all. 

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother's daughter.



Good Me, Bad MeGood Me, Bad Me by Ali Land
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land is a 2017 Penguin Books publication.

Disturbing- Completely shocking!

It takes a lot to well and truly wreak havoc with my psyche, to really give me a case of the shivers, and leave me feeling unsettled.

This book took me down that path, and I won’t forget it anytime soon.

The story is told through the eyes of fifteen- year old Milly, who has just turned her own mother, a serial killer, over to the authorities.

Summarily, Milly is placed in foster care, in what appears to be an ideal household, with her foster father, Mike, doubling as her therapist.

Yet, the household is far from stable. Mike and his wife have a teenage daughter of their own, named Phoebe, who, unaware of Milly's past, is jealous of the time her father spends with Milly. Phoebe decides to punish Milly by making her already difficult life, absolutely miserable.

As Milly awaits her mother’s trial, where she is set to testify in person, despite her age, she sits through therapy sessions with Mike, befriends another girl, a fellow outcast named Morgan, and endured horrific bullying from Phoebe and her minions, all the while struggling with the side of her that favors her mother’s tendencies.

‘But the hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes.’
Carson McCullers (1917-1967)

The question then arises- Will good win the battle over Milly’s dark proclivities or will she eventually give herself over them?

Right way, I knew this journey was headed down a dark, twisted path. I read with increasing trepidation, as Milly’s harrowing story unfolds. Milly’s mother, a female serial killer, whose voice is always running in Milly’s mind, planting seeds of doubt, is absolutely chilling.

The secondary characters are well written, each contributing to Milly’s increasing anxiety, tempting her, misunderstanding her complexities and vastly underestimating the extent of her damaged character.

As promised, this is a very controversial novel, one that really set my teeth on edge, and made my stomach churn with apprehension, really making me squirm.

As a debut novelist, the author went with ‘write what you know’ as she is a mental health professional, herself. Her expertise was put to good use, and was without a doubt a monumental advantage in portraying the psychology behind Milly’s unbearable angst.

Overall, I think this novel is one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve read this year. It might not be for everyone, but upon much reflection, I think the story is more troubling that it appears on the surface, which is weighty enough, but it also opens up a plethora of questions and endless ‘what if’ scenarios, that kept my brain buzzing deep into the night.

Allegory and symbolisms abound with frequent, sly, and carefully orchestrated references to ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘Peter Pan’, which I will leave for you to draw your own conclusions.

This is an outstanding debut novel. I highly recommend it to fans of psychological thrillers, especially. This one will mess with your mind and conscience, all at once, and I promise, despite all the comparisons to the ‘girl’ books, this one is unlike anything you’ve encountered, blowing all the coattail riders in this category right out of the water.

The only thing left to say is – Read this book!





After graduating from university with a degree in Mental Health, Ali spent a decade working as a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Nurse in both hospitals and schools in the UK and Australia. Though a voracious reader from a young age and a keen observer of the world, it took Ali over thirty years to put pen to paper but she sure is glad she did! Ali's debut novel Good Me Bad Me is an international bestseller and will be translated into twenty-three languages. It was short-listed for The Most Unreliable Narrator at the Dead Good Reader Awards, short-listed by the Crime Writers Association for the John Creasey New Blood Dagger and won Book Of The Year at Heat magazine Unmissables Awards. It's also a New York Times Editors choice and a Richard and Judy book club pick. Ali is now a full-time writer and lives in London and is currently working on her second novel.

Follow Ali on Twitter and Instagram @byAliLand

Monday, November 27, 2017

Sweet Tea & Sympathy by Molly Harper- Feature and Review


Beloved author Molly Harper launches a brand-new contemporary romance series, Southern Eclectic, with this story of a big-city party planner who finds true love in a small Georgia town.

Nestled on the shore of Lake Sackett, Georgia is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. (What, you have a problem with one-stop shopping?) Two McCready brothers started two separate businesses in the same building back in 1928, and now it’s become one big family affair. And true to form in small Southern towns, family business becomes everybody’s business.

Margot Cary has spent her life immersed in everything Lake Sackett is not. As an elite event planner, Margot’s rubbed elbows with the cream of Chicago society, and made elegance and glamour her business. She’s riding high until one event goes tragically, spectacularly wrong. Now she’s blackballed by the gala set and in dire need of a fresh start—and apparently the McCreadys are in need of an event planner with a tarnished reputation.

As Margot finds her footing in a town where everybody knows not only your name, but what you had for dinner last Saturday night and what you’ll wear to church on Sunday morning, she grudgingly has to admit that there are some things Lake Sackett does better than Chicago—including the dating prospects. Elementary school principal Kyle Archer is a fellow fish-out-of-water who volunteers to show Margot the picture-postcard side of Southern living. The two of them hit it off, but not everybody is happy to see an outsider snapping up one of the town's most eligible gentleman. Will Margot reel in her handsome fish, or will she have to release her latest catch?



Sweet Tea and Sympathy (Southern Eclectic, #1)Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet Tea & Sympathy by Molly Harper is a 2017 Gallery Books publication.

Cute and funny contemporary romance-

For the most part, Molly Harper, is known for her offbeat and delightful paranormal romance novels.

While this new series is vastly different in terms of genre and settings- the cute, sweet and quirky elements you know, and love, are still prominently featured.

When event planner, Margot Cary's career takes an overnight downturn, she finds herself out of work and nearly homeless. When she is contacted, out of the clear blue sky, by her great-aunt on the McCready side of her family, who offers her a job in Lake Sackett, Georgia at the family funeral home/bait shop, Margot feels she has no other option but to accept.

Once she arrives in Georgia and begins to meet her estranged father’s family, the culture shock is spectacular.

Not only that, she knows that sooner or later she will have to stand face to face with her father, Stan, a man she hasn’t seen or heard from since she was a small child.

But, it really is only temporary. She’s sending out her resume at every available opportunity. So, as soon as she gets a new job, she’ll be right back in the city where she belongs… right?

The big city girl adapting to small town life might be a familiar fable, but it never seems to grow tiresome.

In this case, hilarity is mingled with family drama, cute dogs and kids and sweet romance, peppered with just the right amount of spice, to give the story plenty of originality.

In one or two places I guffawed out loud, and once I had to put the book down because I couldn’t stop laughing. Suffice it to say, the McCready family is a real hoot.

Of course, there are some tender moments, too, especially between Margot and her father, who is trying unsuccessfully to build a relationship. The romance between Margot and Kyle, the widowed school principal, is very sweet and touching, as well.

The characters develop nicely, and of course, Margot will discover that small town life has its advantages.

Overall, this is a very light and fun southern style contemporary romance that will definitely brighten your day and lighten your mood!!

4 stars

* I received a complimentary copy of this book as a member of Simon & Schuster's XOXO After Dark official street team.





Molly Harper worked for six years as a reporter and humor columnist for The Paducah Sun. Her reporting duties included covering courts, school board meetings, quilt shows, and once, the arrest of a Florida man who faked his suicide by shark attack and spent the next few months tossing pies at a local pizzeria. Molly lives in western Kentucky with her family.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Flashback Friday - A Garden of Earthly Delights by Joyce Carol Oates- Feature and Review


Joyce Carol Oates’s Wonderland Quartet comprises four remarkable novels that explore social class in America and the inner lives of young Americans. In A Garden of Earthly Delights, Oates presents one of her most memorable heroines, Clara Walpole, the beautiful daughter of Kentucky-born migrant farmworkers. Desperate to rise above her haphazard existence of violence and poverty, determined not to repeat her mother’s life, Clara struggles for independence by way of her relationships with four very different men: her father, a family man turned itinerant laborer, smoldering with resentment; the mysterious Lowry, who rescues Clara as a teenager and offers her the possibility of love; Revere, a wealthy landowner who provides Clara with stability; and Swan, Clara’s son, who bears the psychological and spiritual burden of his mother’s ambition.

A masterly work from a writer with “the uncanny ability to give us a cinemascopic vision of her America” (National Review), A Garden of Earthly Delights is the opening stanza in what would become one of the most powerful and engrossing story arcs in literature.

A Garden of Earthly Delights is the first novel in the Wonderland Quartet. The books that complete this acclaimed series, Expensive People, them, and Wonderland, are also available from the Modern Library.



A Garden of Earthly Delights (Wonderland Quartet, #1)A Garden of Earthly Delights by Joyce Carol Oates
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Garden of Earthly Delights by Joyce Carol Oates is a 2009 Random House publication.

At some point in time, I acquired a paperback copy of ‘Expensive People’ the second book in the ‘Wonderland Quartet’. It has been sitting on my shelves for several years, but recently I have been craving something different, so I took this book down, planning to read it immediately, only to discover it was part of a quartet of books, and although no one has said it was absolutely necessary to read the books in order, to be on the safe side, I went in search of ‘A Garden of Earthly Delights’, and was relieved to discover my library had a copy.

For those unfamiliar with this critically acclaimed novel, it was originally published in 1966/67, and the author was only in her mid-twenties, at that time! Joyce Carol Oates, is a prolific writer, but her novels can take a little getting used to. Over time, I have come to enjoy her novels more than when I was younger, since I'm not a huge fan of heavy literature. But, JCO has some books that have a Gothic tones to them, which is what drew me to her work in the first place, but this author is also known to have a wicked sense of humor, too.

This book, however, may not be for everyone, and the younger audiences may find the characters and their backgrounds too harsh and may have a hard time relating, or coping with the author’s prose.

But, for me, I have found this author’s style of writing to be incredibly absorbing, if not shocking on occasion. The era of time and the situations described here are probably more accurate than people wish to think, or believe, especially in a time when people prefer a total rewrite of history, avoiding anything difficult, offensive, or distasteful.

The work camps during the depression were beyond harsh, the work hard, with families living in incomprehensible conditions. From such an environment, Clara was born and raised. Her father was a rough,drinking man, but he always showed Clara a certain favoritism. However, he turns on her one fateful day and hits her, causing her to run away.

It’s during this second and third part of the book that the characterizations really took shape and the story took hold of me. I can’t say I loved how it all ended up, and it is my understanding this book has undergone a major rewrite, so I can only give you my opinion of the updated version.

Clara’s character grows in leaps and bounds, takes on many different forms and it was utterly fascinating to watch the transformation, although she still remained an enigma. Oates gives up a bird’s eye view of life, its hardships, triumphs, and tragedies. We see Clara develop from childhood, to young adult, to parenthood, to a woman totally exhausted by life. But, I did feel that she paved a way for herself, she made a life that was better than her stark beginnings could have predicted, became a strong woman, despite errors in judgment and the uncontrollable events life throws in her path.

This book is surely considered a literary classic, and although, it’s not exactly an uplifting, feel good story, and really is pretty heavy reading, I am glad I took the time to read it.





Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Lauren Kelly.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Christmas in Kilts by Bronwen Evans, Lecia Cornwall and Others- Feature and Review


Tis the season to fall in love! These five bestselling authors bring you great tiding of highlanders and romances this holiday season!

A HIGHLANDER'S HOPE by Terri Brisbin
A village harlot who would never dream she could have a different life meets a Highlander visitor for the holidays who brings with him an offer and hope!

What happens when a highlander finds himself stranded, maybe kidnapped, with an English lady around Christmas... maybe the mistletoe will help answer that question.

She's ready to embrace her life and future as a spinster, he's trying to have one last hurrah before he gives into his family's wishes and proposes marriage to his neighbor, but fate has other ideas when the lady and the Scot meet at a holiday house party in the wilds of Scotland.

A chance encounter between a ship's captain and a desperate aunt trying to keep custody of her young niece leads to a little magic during the holidays.

When a snowstorm forces a charming lass hiding a broken heart to take shelter in a castle with three fine Highland lairds just days before Christmas, there’s a game afoot—who will be the first to win a kiss and maybe her heart.


Christmas in KiltsChristmas in Kilts by Bronwen Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Christmas in Kilts is a 2017 Swerve publication.

Every holiday season, I sample at least one Christmas anthology. This one caught my eye, but as I was looking at the terrific authors featured, it occurred to me that it has been a very long time since I’ve read a Scottish/Highlander historical romance, and suddenly I felt a need to remedy that.

As usual, I choose one, maybe two, favorites in an anthology to feature in my review. But, to be clear, every book in the collection is very good, these were just the ones I enjoyed the most and wanted to spotlight.

A Highland Christmas Wager by Lecia Cornwall-

I loved this karma driven story featuring Meggie who, along with her grandmother, is forced to seek shelter from a snowstorm at Gleanngalla Castle, the last place on earth she wants to be.

However, with three Highlanders underfoot, things get a little prickly, when they agree to make a wager that could change the future for the two young ladies on the premises.

Despite Magnus MacVane’s confidence, things don’t exactly go as planned, when Charlie McKay and Hugh MacAulay put a wrinkle in his plans.

I really enjoyed the way this story turned out, and enjoyed seeing Meggie and Catriona get their much deserved HEA!

A Scot for Christmas by Bronwen Evans

Emma has loved Dougray since she was in her teens, but he married Francesca, who died tragically six years ago.

Dougray is still in love with Francesca, but realizes his duty to provide heirs. Therefore, he is beginning to think of remarriage and even has a prospect in mind. But, when Emma arrives with her brother, Dougray is stunned by her beauty and finds himself quite taken with her. But, when she approaches him with a scandalous proposition, his heart will face the ultimate test of courage.

This story pulls on the heartstrings, but has a wonderfully romantic and heartwarming ending. I was especially fond of Dougray- the brooding, tortured type I’m always a sucker for.

The remaining stories rounding out this star -studded anthology include:

The Highlander’s Hope by Teri Brisbin

Leftover Mistletoe by Lavinia Kent

Sweet Home Highland Christmas by May McGoldrick

Each novella is holiday themed and features super sexy Scottish Highlanders that will quicken your pulse and melt your heart!





Lecia Cornwall lives and writes in Calgary, Canada in the beautiful foothills of the Canadian Rockies, with five cats, two teenagers, a crazy chocolate lab, and one very patient husband. She's hard at work on her next book. Come visit Lecia at www.leciacornwall.com, or drop her a line at leciacornwall@shaw.ca.

Waving from Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. 

USA Today bestselling author, Bronwen Evans grew up loving books. She writes both historical and contemporary sexy romances for the modern woman who likes intelligent, spirited heroines, and compassionate alpha heroes. Evans is a three-time winner of the RomCon Readers’ Crown and has been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. She lives in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand with her dogs Brandy and Duke.

You can keep up with Bronwen’s news by visiting her website 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Beautiful Maids all in Row by Jennifer Harlow- Feature and Review


Dr. Iris Ballard’s glory days are behind her, so when Luke Hudson, her former FBI partner and onetime lover, asks for help constructing a psychological profile of an elusive serial killer who murders single mothers and dumps their bodies in the woods, Iris turns him away. She just wants to be left alone with her infomercials, her German Shepherd, and her vodka. That is, until she gets a peek at the case files.

The media has dubbed him “the Woodsman.” But after Iris learns the sickening details held back from the press, and as she sets foot onto the scene of his latest crime, she assembles a portrait of a more complicated, enigmatic, meticulous man. Control is his motivation. He thrives on it. Soon he even tries to manipulate the investigation by contacting Iris, hoping to rattle the woman he considers an intellectual equal.

The game is on. Iris thinks she has a read on her target, enough to push his buttons, to make him lose control. But when the Woodsman gains the upper hand, Iris faces the most painful reckoning of all—with her own violent past.



Beautiful Maids All in a Row (Iris Ballard, #1)Beautiful Maids All in a Row by Jennifer Harlow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautiful Maids All in a Row by Jennifer Harlow is a 2016 Alibi publication.

Gritty and Intense-

Iris Ballard is a shell of the woman she once was. She’s left the FBI after watching her husband get murdered right in front of her and after sustaining serious injuries of her own.

Yet, when a string of murders indicates a new serial killer, already being dubbed ‘The Woodsman’ is on the loose, Iris’s old partner and best friend, Luke, tries to lure her out of her alcoholic haze to help catch the killer. This is an opportunity for Iris to finally get back to work and perhaps saving someone’s life by catching this monster, will soothe some of her guilt.

But, it's not easy climbing back into the saddle. Iris suffers from severe panic attacks and debilitating nightmares. However, she manages to rise to the occasion, hoping to prevent more deaths, but also hoping for a little redemption.

Although she must face and fight off her personal demons, her profiling skills aren't rusty in the least.

Regardless, when she is certain she’s found the right guy, she has a hard time selling everyone else on the idea. In the meantime, more lives could be lost, maybe even Iris’s.

This is my kind of thriller! Dark, atmospheric, with well drawn characters, and high octane suspense. I read this book in one sitting, it was that riveting. I really liked Iris and Luke and think they make a very good team, both professionally and personally. I hope they will return for more action, in the near future.

This series is off to a fantastic start! I can’t wait to read the next installment!





Jennifer Harlow spent her restless childhood fighting with her three brothers and scaring the heck out of herself with horror movies and books. She grew up to earn a degree at the University of Virginia which she put to use as a radio DJ, crisis hotline volunteer, bookseller, lab assistant, wedding coordinator, and government investigator. Currently she calls Atlanta home but that restless itch is ever present. In her free time she continues to scare the beejepers out of herself watching scary movies and opening her credit card bills.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Man From the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery- by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James- Feature and Review


Using unprecedented, dramatically compelling sleuthing techniques, legendary statistician and baseball writer Bill James applies his analytical acumen to crack an unsolved century-old mystery surrounding one of the deadliest serial killers in American history.

Between 1898 and 1912, families across the country were bludgeoned in their sleep with the blunt side of an axe. Jewelry and valuables were left in plain sight, bodies were piled together, faces covered with cloth. Some of these cases, like the infamous Villasca, Iowa, murders, received national attention. But few people believed the crimes were related. And fewer still would realize that all of these families lived within walking distance to a train station.

When celebrated baseball statistician and true crime expert Bill James first learned about these horrors, he began to investigate others that might fit the same pattern. Applying the same know-how he brings to his legendary baseball analysis, he empirically determined which crimes were committed by the same person. Then after sifting through thousands of local newspapers, court transcripts, and public records, he and his daughter Rachel made an astonishing discovery: they learned the true identity of this monstrous criminal. In turn, they uncovered one of the deadliest serial killers in America.

Riveting and immersive, with writing as sharp as the cold side of an axeThe Man from the Train paints a vivid, psychologically perceptive portrait of America at the dawn of the twentieth century, when crime was regarded as a local problem, and opportunistic private detectives exploited a dysfunctional judicial system. James shows how these cultural factors enabled such an unspeakable series of crimes to occur, and his groundbreaking approach to true crime will convince skeptics, amaze aficionados, and change the way we view criminal history.



The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer MysteryThe Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James is a 2017 Scribner publication.

A most unorthodox approach to True Crime, but interesting and fascinating.

Right from the start, the author explains he mainly writes books about baseball. I know nothing about the sport or the statistics that Bill James writes about. But, whatever it is he writes about the sport, it obviously requires the ability to analyze, theorize, and puzzle out various probable outcomes. For some his name is very recognizable, but this is my introduction to his writing.

When Bill stumbled across ‘the first crime’, his natural instincts prompted him to scratch beneath the surface and do a little digging. Before long he had found several other similar crimes, and so he commissioned his daughter, Rachel, to help him with the research.

This book is the result of what looks like a great deal of painstaking and time consuming exploration. The sheer volume of crimes is shocking. We are talking about WHOLE FAMILIES that were slaughtered!! But, uncovering similar crimes was only the beginning.

The authors attempt to connect the dots and find commonalities between these ghastly killings hoping to find a pattern that would link the crimes, which would hopefully lead to pinpointing whom ‘the man from the train’ might be.

True Crime enthusiast might be taken aback by the writing style or approach the author chose to employ. He speaks to the reader as though is expects them to be highly skeptical, imploring them to just hear him out, to try out his theory, to look at what facts are available, to take into consideration the approach to crime solving nearly a century ago, to see if maybe he might be on to something after all.

Sometimes, it felt as though he were speaking to me directly, which was effective in that I found myself paying rapt attention to his narrative, almost as though I were a student and he a professor. I think I absorbed more details that way, but I also felt like he was trying too hard sometimes, or trying to sell me snake oil on a few occasions. But, I enjoyed the challenge and the opportunity to exercise my critical thinking skills.

However, there were times he mentioned a random event or crime, then told me he had no intention of delving into that situation, or he would get back to it later, or that it had nothing to do with these crimes, which was very distracting, and I wondered why he even brought it up in the first place.

But, I did find myself caught up in his enthusiasm, and was determined to keep an open mind. It is obvious that besides the research, that much thought went into how these crimes were connected- or not- in some cases. He explains why those arrested or suspected were probably innocent, and proceeds to lay out a case for the defense or prosecution, as the case may be.

As the title of the book suggests, Bill believes the killer traveled by train, chose victims close to a train depot, perhaps to put distance between himself and his crimes once they had been committed.

Law enforcement typically looked inward at those living nearby, or connected to the community in some way, and often pinned the crimes on the uneducated, the poor, or minorities. Some suspects were convicted without due process and some were released due to lack of evidence.

The murders do have a few striking similarities- an ax was always the murder weapon, no valuables were stolen, and the victims lived close to a railway track or depot, just to name a few.

The author laid out each instance of mass murder, the towns in which they lived, the suspects, and if they believed the murders were linked or not. It is an amazing and surreal connection of dots, but sadly, there is not on shred of actual concrete proof, forensics, witnesses, etc. If this case were indeed brought into a court of law and presented before a jury, it would all be circumstantial conjecture.

The authors do eventually present their prime suspect, then proceeded to apply a unique mathematical percentage method to measure the probability their guy could have committed each individual set of murders, how he may have selected each family, how he escaped, and how he remained at large, and if or why he may have stopped killing.

The one downside, is that the title is just a bit misleading, since it is really up to you, the reader, to decide to convict based on the information presented. You may or may not believe the case is solved.

Overall, this was a very fascinating read, with a fresh approach and presentation. It is nearly impossible to know for certain if they have guessed the real identity of the ‘man on the train’, or if these mostly forgotten crimes are indeed the work of one killer, but I think the authors did an amazing job of collecting evidence and researching police procedures of the era in question.

I’m on the fence about how much stock I put into the some of the author’s theories , but overall, I believe they make a compelling case.





George William “Bill” James (born October 5, 1949, in Holton, Kansas) is a baseball writer, historian, and statistician whose work has been widely influential. Since 1977, James has written more than two dozen books devoted to baseball history and statistics. His approach, which he termed sabermetrics in reference to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), scientifically analyzes and studies baseball, often through the use of statistical data, in an attempt to determine why teams win and lose. His Baseball Abstract books in the 1980s are the modern predecessor to websites using sabermetrics such as Baseball Prospectus and Baseball Primer (now Baseball Think Factory).

In 2006, Time named him in the Time 100 as one of the most influential people in the world. He is currently a Senior Advisor on Baseball Operations for the Boston Red Sox. In 2010, Bill James was inducted into the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame.

Rachel McCarthy James lives in Lawrence, KS with her husband Jason. She studied creative writing at Hollins University, and her work has previously been featured in publications including BitchBroadly, and The New InquiryThe Man from the Train is her first book.