A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Second Chance of Cypress Lane by Reese Ryan- Feature and Review


In this heartwarming second-chance romance, a woman returns home and discovers that, when it comes to finding love, there's no place like home.

When a romance gone wrong lands reporter Dakota Jones in the pages of the tabloids, her rising star crashes and burns. Instead of getting the weekend anchor job she'd been promised, she's promptly shown the door. Which leaves her one option: return home to lick her wounds, eat lemon meringue pie, and plot her comeback while actively avoiding the man who once broke her heart.

Dexter Roberts made a huge mistake when he walked away from Dakota, and he's regretted it ever since. So when Dakota returns to Holly Grove Island to regroup and decide what's next, Dex can't pass up the opportunity to win back the love of his life. Now he just needs to convince Dakota to give him a second chance.



 Second Chance on Cypress Lane (Holly Grove Island, #1)Second Chance on Cypress Lane by Reese Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second Chance on Cypress Lane by Ryan Reese is a 2020 Forever publication.

Wonderful, light-hearted romance!

Dakota Jones returns home to Holly Grove Island after her big dreams of becoming a news anchor comes to an abrupt halt. With her reputation in tatters, Dakota is reluctant to expound on the reasons behind her sudden return.

Despite that, Dakota is happy to spend some time with her father, and to touch base with her best friend again. On the other hand, she's absolutely dreading the inevitable run in with Dexter, the man who once broke her heart, the man she’s never really gotten over. When the two finally do meet again, it is as Dakota feared- she's just as attracted to Dexter now as she was all those years ago...

With Dakota back in town, Dexter hopes he can convince her to at least forgive him for the way he ended things between them. It would be even better if he could convince her that he still loves her. Unfortunately, Dakota has made it clear she’s not interested in anything beyond friendship and that her stay on Holly Grove Island is only temporary.

Can Dexter change her mind?

To my knowledge, I have not read anything by Reese Ryan before now. Reading the first book in her new series, feels like a great place to start.

The author did a good job of setting the scene, balancing the introduction of the characters with the romance, and created some great chemistry between Dexter and Dakota. I loved the tension between these two, and of course, most people know I’m a sucker for second chance romances. There is a little angst, with some surprising developments and revelations, but nothing too emotionally taxing, which just happened to be what I was in the mood for.

Overall, this a is a wonderful, light and easy love story, and a solid start to a new series-perfect for the beach or poolside this summer!!



Reese Ryan writes sexy, deeply emotional romances with family drama, surprising secrets, and unexpected twists.

Past president of her local Romance Writers of America chapter and a panelist at the 2017 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Reese is an advocate for the romance genre and diversity in fiction.

Friday, May 28, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate- Feature and Review

                                                             ABOUT THE BOOK:

Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions—and compels her to take a journey through her family's long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.




Before We Were YoursBefore We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a 2017 Ballantine Books publication.

This is an amazing, heart wrenching story centered around the true events involving the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.

When Avery Stafford, the daughter of a prominent Senator stumbles upon the possibility her grandmother is harboring a dark family secret, she nearly becomes obsessed with her mission to uncover the truth.

The story flashes back to 1939, when Rill Foss and her siblings are snatched from their poor Mississippi Shanty boat, after their parents had to leave them behind in an emergency medical situation. They are taken to a children’s home, but before they were 'adopted' out, they endured cruel conditions and abuse.

The narrative switches back and forth between Rill and Avery, but I must confess my heart was with Rill from start to finish.

This novel pulls on the heartstrings, stirs outrage and horror, but at the end of the day the story was about familial bonds, and a spiritual connection that can not be broken, no matter what.

Wingate did a magnificent job of pulling the reader back in time, creating a realistic atmosphere, and building a fictional story around one of the most shocking black-market adoption operations in American history.

But, the real magic is creating characters we care for, cheer for, and want to champion. It may have taken a lifetime, but the truth has a way of freeing itself, exposing crimes and scandal, but it also brought out an incredible family saga that is both inspirational and heartwarming.

Avery is a central character, but she can’t compete with Rill, so the author wisely fattens up her part of the story with a little romance, which kept her character from simply becoming a means to an end. I did enjoy how the mystery unfolded, which made Avery into a bit of an amateur sleuth.

I loved the conclusion of the story, which was about a perfect as could be expected under the circumstances. It is all very bittersweet, with a lot of sadness, but there were blessed times, as well, and those are the reflections and moments that will stay with me.

There are some difficult passages in this novel, which you should be prepared for, but this is such a great story! Everyone kept telling me I needed to read this book and they were right- so I feel I should pass that advice on to you- Read this book!! You’ll be glad you did!

*For those who are unfamiliar with Georgia Tann, a Google search will give you a clear picture of her dirty deeds and how she was eventually exposed, although it was too little, too late. Shockingly, the children’s home was used by famous actresses Joan Crawford and June Allyson which is a little bit of trivia I was totally unaware of before reading the author’s notes.






Selected among BOOKLIST'S Top 10 for two years running, Lisa Wingate writes novels that Publisher's Weekly calls "Masterful" and ForeWord Magazine refers to as "Filled with lyrical prose, hope, and healing.” Lisa is a journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the author of a host of literary works. Her novels have garnered or been short-listed for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Utah Library Award, the LORIES Best Fiction Award, The Carol Award, the Christy Award, Family Fiction's Top 10, RT Booklover's Reviewer's Choice Award, and others. The group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with six others for the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who promote greater kindness and civility in American life. She’s been a writer since Mrs. Krackhardt’s first-grade class and still believes that stories have the power to change the world.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Atmospherians by Alex McElroy - Feature and Review


 A “dazzling” (Bryan Washington, author of Memorial and Lot ) and brilliantly satirical debut novel for fans of Women Talking and Red Clocks about two best friends—a disgraced influencer and a struggling actor—who form The Atmosphere, a cult designed to reform problematic men.

Sasha Marcus was once the epitome of contemporary success: an internet sensation, social media darling, and a creator of a high profile wellness brand for women. But a confrontation with an abusive troll has taken a horrifying turn, and now she’s at rock bottom: canceled and doxxed online, fired from her waitress job and fortressed in her apartment while men’s rights protestors rage outside. All that once glittered now condemns.

Sasha confides in her oldest childhood friend, Dyson—a failed actor with a history of body issues—who hatches a plan for Sasha to restore her reputation by becoming the face of his new business venture, The Atmosphere: a rehabilitation community for men. Based in an abandoned summer camp and billed as a workshop for job training, it is actually a rigorous program designed to rid men of their toxic masculinity and heal them physically, emotionally, and socially. Sasha has little choice but to accept. But what horrors await her as the resident female leader of a crew of washed up, desperate men? And what exactly does Dyson want?

Explosive and wickedly funny, this “Fight Club for the millennial generation” (Mat Johnson, author of Pym) peers straight into the dark heart of wellness and woke-ness, self-mythology and self-awareness, by asking what happens when we become addicted to the performance of ourselves.



The AtmospheriansThe Atmospherians by Alex McElroy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Atmospherians by Alex McElroy is a 2021 Atria Books publication.

Okay- well, that was different- in a good way!

Satire is hard to balance, but if it is done right, I love it! This book hits an uncomfortable mark as it examines influencers, toxic masculinity, and body image, and perhaps the role we play in it.

Sasha is a successful influencer, until an unforeseen tragedy sends her popularity plummeting, turning her into a pariah in an instant. At the height of her anxiety, her old friend, Dyson, approaches her with a opportunity. He wants Sasha to be the face of his planned cult, which will be disguised as a workshop for men hoping to cure themselves of their toxic masculinity. They will name the cult ‘The Atmosphere’ and the members will be called ‘The Atmopsherians. ‘

Desperate to escape the frightening reality of her life, Sasha agrees to join Dyson at an abandoned summer camp where they will invite a specific number of men, from a curated list of candidates, to join them. Upon arrival, these men will dedicate their lives to cleansing themselves of their ingrained traits of toxic masculinity.

As the cult grows more bizarre, as the only woman at the camp, Sasha walks a fine line, especially since she only agreed to this madness out of pure desperation.

Sometimes a point is best made through satire. Preparing oneself for anything satirical, means accepting that you are being made fun of, in a sarcastic, occasionally caustic manner. This novel is a parody, with laugh out loud funny moments, but the truth is, it wouldn’t be funny, if there wasn’t some truth in it.

Satire can also be rather dark, and this novel has some gruesome moments- so be warned. Mostly, though, the book definitely hits on the pulse, and components of our current culture and society, and does so with searing and occasional graphic stabs at some very serious topics.

One must look at the whole picture, to understand what’s being said here. It’s not just a localized bashing, it’s open season on all of society.

Typically, the word ‘cult’ in a book synopsis will draw me in like a moth to a flame. But, in this situation, the cult, an ingenious move on the author’s part, is one of the most screwball cults ever, making the setup seem more like a means to an end- but it’s the perfect environment to examine all the issues at play and a perfect opportunity to ponder the ways in which we might contribute to them.

For me, though, I thought the most important theme was how our society is addicted to self- performance, always ‘on’ … being followed, observed, and recorded, by an enormous audience on social media platforms and YouTube, with people overrating their own importance, while overlooking troublesome issues, such as the impact or consequences of their ‘influence’- and to what end?

This is a strange little book, I must say, but I got a kick out it, dark though it was at times. It was hilarious, clever, and serious, very well- written, and smart. You may recognize yourself in this book, but, even if you are like me, and don’t follow all that wellness and influencing stuff, you’ll recognize the characters for who and what they represent. The message is there for you to decipher, either on the surface or on a deeper level.

Maybe someday, we’ll all get lucky, and someone will intentionally topple the whole house cards, even if it is only to escape their own self- made trap. Maybe then, people will awaken, as if from a long sleep, and return to building real relationships again- one's based on morals, merit and principle, instead of popularity, influence, or performance.

Overall, I liked this book- it’s funny, sure- but remember- satire often exposes the underbelly in such a way to avoid strident offense. One has to be able to read between the lines of the exaggerated scenarios to see the way it exposes some unflattering, but important insights and promotes independent thought.



Alex McElroy is a nonbinary writer based in Brooklyn. Their first novel, The Atmospherians, will be published by Atria in 2021. Other writing appears in Vice, The Atlantic, Tin House, TriQuarterly, New England Review, and their first book, Daddy Issues, was published in 2017.

Alex has received fellowships from The Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, The Tin House Summer Workshop, The Sewanee Writers Conference, The Inprint Foundation, The Elizabeth George Foundation, and The National Parks Service.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan- Feature and Review



When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she's shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can't resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly's research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah's society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving.



Surviving SavannahSurviving Savannah by Patti Callahan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan is a 2021 Berkley publication.


An exciting voyage on the Pulaski steamship, suddenly turns into a nightmarish tragedy. On board the ship, are Lilly and Augusta, two women trapped by their societal obligations and expectations.

Thrown into a life or death situation, the women come to a point of reckoning… yet only one of them would make it home to Savannah..

One hundred and eighty years later, the discovery of the sunken Pulaski steamship, once dubbed the ‘Titanic of the South’, gives Everly Winthrop, a professor, a chance to curate the Pulaski exhibit for a museum, providing her with a much needed lifeline.

Since the loss of her best friend, Everly's been riddled with guilt, going through the motions of life, unable to pull herself out a deep depression. As a museum curator, Everly dives into the history of the Pulaski- both figuratively and literally.

I loved the premise of this novel and of course the setting. Savannah is such a storied location the city nearly always steals the show.

I have learned, by now, that when dealing with a dual timeline story, the historical elements are the heart and soul of the novel, nearly always overpowering the contemporary elements in terms of depth.

This book is no exception to that rule, although, I felt the historical portions were not as frequent or fleshed out, as I would have liked.

The author obviously did her homework, though, creating a very vivid picture of the ship, the horrifying disaster, and the struggle for survival.

The mystery of the Pulaski is so interesting it easily makes Lilly and Augusta’s part of the story the most heartbreaking, compelling, revealing, and riveting!

That said, it would have been incredibly hard for Everly to compete with that level of intensity, but her research is what helps to bring the history alive in her contemporary setting.

Still, Everly’s emotions were often palpable, beginning with the heaviness of her spirit, then progressing to her slow building excitement about the museum project, which leads to her eventual reawakening to life and living, which was a wonderful transformation to witness. I loved the way the past blended into the present and was a source of inspiration to Everly.

The book also takes a look at how people cope with what comes after, once they've managed to survive something monumental, still living, seemingly by fate, when others do not. It is a thought provoking topic, as not everyone who survives will go on to live productive or exemplary lives.

Overall, this was just the kind of historical fiction I have been craving. I learned something about a historical event I was not familiar with, and the storyline gave me some psychological elements to chew on. It is always nice to feel one has learned something new. It seems to me that the Pulaski steamship doesn't pop up in historical fiction too often- if ever, which is part of the reason it captivated me, I'm sure. I also really liked the characters, and watching them develop as a fascinating, historical mystery unfolded.

Overall, this was an interesting, memorable and lovely story, all around.



Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of sixteen novels and podcast host. She is the recipient of The Christy Award — A 2019 Winner “Book of the Year”; The Harper Lee Distinguished Writer of the Year for 2020 and the Alabama Library Association Book of the Year for 2019. She is the co-host and co-creator of the popular weekly online 'Friends, and Fiction' live web show and podcast. Patti is also a contributor to the weekly life lesson essay column for Parade Magazine.  A full-time author and mother of three children, she now resides in both Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband.

Friday, May 21, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Blood Sisters by Jane Corry- Feature and Review


From the bestselling author of My Husband's Wife, a new thriller featuring three girls, one accident, and a lifetime of lies.Three little girls set off to school one sunny morning. Within an hour, one of them is dead. 

Fifteen years later, Kitty can't speak and has no memory of the accident that's to blame. She lives in an institution, unlikely ever to leave. But that doesn't keep her from being frightened when she encounters an eerily familiar face. 

Art teacher Alison looks fine on the surface. But the surface is a lie. She's struggling to make ends meet and to forget the past. When a teaching job at a prison opens up, she takes it, despite her fears. Maybe this is her chance to set things right. Then she starts to receive alarming notes; next, her classroom erupts in violence.

Meanwhile, someone is watching both Kitty and Alison. Someone who never forgot what happened that day. Someone who wants revenge. And only another life will do. . .



 Blood SistersBlood Sisters by Jane Corry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry is a 2018 Pamela Dorman Books publication.

Squeaky clean school shoes
Shoulder bags bobbing
Blonde plaits flopping
Twopairs of feet. One slightly larger.
‘Come on. We’re going to be late.’
Nearly there. Almost safe.
Pavement edge.
Another pair of feet.
A scream.
Blood seeping on the ground.
Spreading and spreading.

A tragic accident left Kitty with severe brain-damage and her older sister, Alison physically and emotionally scarred.

Years pass, and Kitty remains institutionalized, unable to remember anything about the accident, locked inside herself, unable to communicate with anyone. Alison has no close relationships, barely makes ends meet, but has taken up Kitty’s passion for art. In dire need of more funds, Alison applies for a job at a prison where she would teach art to the inmates. Little did she know what the ramifications of that fateful decision would be…

This is a very ingenious psychological thriller. The pacing is a little slow at first, with only a few interesting developments that almost had me sighing in boredom for a while. I also found myself balking at the improbability of some of the situations presented to me. But I had the feeling I should play along, and would be glad I stuck around for the ending of this one. I’m glad I followed my instincts!!

This is a very well written novel- twisty, sinister, and almost darkly humorous in some ways. It is just the type of book this genre, which is in danger of becoming a parody of itself, desperately needs. I’d go so far as to say this book is one of the most unique psychological thrillers I’ve read this year.

If you know me, you have heard me complain long and loud about seeing the twist coming or guessing whodunit too early in the story, and with psychological thrillers, in particular, the plots being too similar- almost interchangeable. But, that didn’t happen with this novel- not even close.

Corry lulled me into complacency ,at first, with the deceptive pacing, but I vastly underestimated her skills, and found myself taken by surprise time and time again. The plot is much more intricate than it appears on the surface. The story is a very cleverly woven web of suspense that caught me off guard and kept me that way until the bitter end. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated and respected the author for giving my brain a real workout. I turned the last page nodding my head with approval, with a wry smile on my face, because she fooled me-she got me good, especially with that last dollop of relish on top. Ordinarily, I'd complain about that too, but the understated quality of the book kept the twist coming at just the right intervals so that it was never in danger of being too over the top. Very well done!





Jane Corry is a writer and journalist who has written regularly for numerous newspapers and magazines including The Daily Telegraph Weekend section, the Mail on Sunday and Woman. She has spent time working as the writer-in-residence of a high security prison for men- an experience that helped inspire My Husband's Wife, her début thriller. 'I love twists and turns that keep the reader guessing until the very end! My husband says I'm a nightmare to watch dramas with as I love to work out who did it before the final revelation!'

Jane runs regular writing workshops and speaks at literary festivals all over the world, including The Women's Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy. Until her recent move to Devon, she was a tutor in creative writing at Oxford University. She is also an associate member of the Royal Literary Fund. 

Many of Jane's ideas come during her morning dog-jog along the beach followed by a dip in her wetsuit. (She's an all-year-round swimmer provided the sea isn't dangerous.) Jane also loves tennis, walking, reading, yoga, the 'Quiet' train carriage (a great 'office' for writing) and her family. She's still coming to terms with being an empty-nester but makes up for it with lots of long-distance nagging! Jane's second husband was a bachelor family friend who is also Godfather to her children. He makes her laugh every day although they can't agree on how to load the dishwasher!

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz- Feature and Review


Forced into retirement, Evan Smoak gets an urgent request for help from someone he didn't even suspect existed.

As a boy, Evan Smoak was pulled out of a foster home and trained in an off-the-books operation known as the Orphan Program. He was a government assassin, perhaps the best, known to a few insiders as Orphan X. He eventually broke with the Program and adopted a new name – The Nowhere Man―and a new mission, helping the most desperate in their times of trouble. But the highest power in the country has made him a tempting offer - in exchange for an unofficial pardon, he must stop his clandestine activities as The Nowhere Man. Now Evan has to do the one thing he’s least equipped to do—live a normal life.

But then he gets a call for help from the one person he never expected. A woman claiming to have given him up for adoption, a woman he never knew—his mother. Her unlikely request: help Andrew Duran—a man whose life has gone off the rails, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, bringing him to the deadly attention of very powerful figures. Now a brutal brother & sister assassination team are after him and with no one to turn to, and no safe place to hide, Evan is Duran’s only option. But when the hidden cabal catches on to what Evan is doing, everything he’s fought for is on the line—including his own life.



Prodigal Son (Orphan X, #6)Prodigal Son by Gregg Andrew Hurwitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz is a 2021 Minotaur Books publication.

Just when I thought I was out…

Evan is trying to seize the day! He has finally been given the chance to live a normal life, after retiring the “NOWHEREMAN” hotline and receiving a pardon from the powers that be.

Then…. He gets a shocking phone call from someone he never thought he would meet…

Risking his freedom, he agrees to the request to help Andrew Duran, a man who is the target of a pair of assassins only because he was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Naturally, once Evan steps in, he draws unwelcome attention, and the race is on… again.

Evan found 'normalcy' was a little like a double edged sword. There is still the part of him that yearns to utilize his expert training, to continue to help people, craving the adrenaline and action, while the other part of him is enjoying his freedom, the feeling of a burden lifted, relishing the opportunity to live a different sort of life. It’s a conflict he’s wrestled with for a long time.

He doesn’t get much of a chance to adjust to civilian life, if you will, when he’s stunned by a new and startling revelation.

Knowing the risks, Evan can't seem to help himself, especially under the circumstances. Whoever is after Andrew, means serious business...

As usual the action is non-stop, and intense! Despite that, there is always, always, a moment or two of reflections and deep thought, as Evan ponders the two sides of humanity and his representation of that duality.

“Evan’s training had taught him to cover every operational contingency, but the feat of laying bare one’s heart seemed rife with greater dangers yet."

By contrast the Joey/Evan relationship continues to provide enormous entertainment, and some super sharp, witty, and poignant dialogue. I love it when they work together!! I know, I’ve said that before, they really do make a great team.

Now that Evan has been plunged back into his old life, it looks as if his two realities will continue to jockey for position over his life….

Provided he still has a life to live!!

Another outstanding installment in a series that continues to knock my socks off! I do hope book seven is on its way soon!!



GREGG HURWITZ is the New York Times #1 internationally bestselling author of twenty thrillers including OUT OF THE DARK (January 2019). His novels have won numerous literary awards and have been published in thirty languages. Additionally, he's written screenplays and television scripts for many of the major studios and networks. Gregg lives with his two Rhodesian ridgebacks in Los Angeles, where he continues to play soccer, frequently injuring himse

Friday, May 14, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Cemetery Road by Greg Iles- Feature and Review


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

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

“An ambitious stand-alone thriller that is both an absorbing crime story and an in-depth exploration of grief, betrayal and corruption… Iles’s latest calls to mind the late, great Southern novelist Pat Conroy. Like Conroy, Iles writes with passion, intensity and absolute commitment.”    —  Washington Post 

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

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

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



Cemetery RoadCemetery Road by Greg Iles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cemetery Road by Greg Iles is a 2019 William Morrow publication.

Small town corruption, family tragedies, betrayals, and murder-

In other words- quintessential Greg Iles.

In this standalone novel, award winning journalist, Marshall McEwan, returns home to Bienville, Mississippi to be closer to his parents after his estranged father is diagnosed with Parkinson’s. At least that’s what he tells himself. Deep in his heart, however, he acknowledges an ulterior motive- reuniting with his first love- a woman named Jet, who just happens to be married to his best friend.

But when Buck Ferris, a man who had a strong influence on Marshall, is found dead, Marshall is convinced foul play is at hand. But who would want to kill Buck and why?

Well, Buck may have made a discovery that could derail the proposed installation of a paper mill, which would breathe new life into the slowly dying town of Bienville. A lot is at stake, and the town’s powerful ‘Poker Club’ will make sure the Chinese investors aren’t scared off, which means Buck might have been collateral damage.

As Marshall digs deeper into the circumstances of Buck’s death, the Poker Club members do what they do best- make threats, intimidate, bully, and blackmail, and maybe even murder, anyone who stands in their way- and Marshall and all his dark secrets is in their crosshairs.

Cemetery Road is not just a suspenseful thriller, with all its many twists and turns, and layers of deceptions. It is also a stellar piece of southern fiction, with Gothic elements that only the south can lay claim to.

The characters are flawed- every single one of them- some more than others, and Marshall, no saint himself, is forced to stare his demons in the face, to make eye contact with them, as everything he thought he knew wavers and fades like a mirage in the desert.

Under scrutiny is the moral compromises made in the name of capitalism, the mythology of our youth, the hope of recapturing a lost opportunity, while trying to do what is right for all concerned. For Marshall, it is more personal, perhaps, as he is also coping with deeply embedded grief and carrying a heavy burden of guilt bestowed upon him by his embittered father.

However, he is also trying to save his father's newspaper, cover his own butt, and protect the women he loves.

I often found myself on the edge of my seat, as Marshall survives one major event after another by the seat of his pants, and as the shock waves reverberate relentlessly. It was hard to put the book down for any length of time.

At the end of the day, Iles proves, yet again, his intimate knowledge of the old southern realities, still prevalent and still thriving. But, at the end of the day, his characters, though bruised and bleeding, may finally shake off the ghosts of the past, each in his or her own way, while southern style justice continues to work in the most mysterious of ways.






Greg Iles was born in Germany in 1960. He grew up in Natchez, Mississippi, and graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1983. He was active in a band called "Frankly Scarlet", but quit after realizing that the touring lifestyle was not conducive with his family life. Once no longer busy with the band, he turned his attention to writing.

Greg's novels have been translated into various languages and are published in more than 20 countries. In addition to his popular novels, he wrote the original script for the movie 24 Hours (later renamed Trapped).

When not writing, Greg spends some of his time playing music. He's a member of "The Rock Bottom Remainders", which includes other authors (Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Stephen King, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Roy Blount, Jr., Matt Groening, Kathi Kamen Goldmark, and James McBride).

Greg still lives in Natchez, Mississippi, with his wife and has three children.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Summer of Lost and Found by Mary Alice Monroe- Feature and Review


The coming of spring usually means renewal, but for Linnea Rutledge, it begins a season of challenge. Linnea faces another layoff, this time from the aquarium she adores. For her—and for her family—finances, emotions, and health teeter on the brink. To complicate matters, her new love interest, Gordon, struggles to return to the Isle of Palms from England. Meanwhile, her old flame, John, turns up from California and is quarantining next door. She tries to ignore him, but when he sends her plaintive notes in the form of paper airplanes, old sparks ignite. When Gordon at last reaches the island, Linnea wonders—is it possible to love two men at the same time?

Love in the time of COVID-19 proves challenging, at times humorous, and ever changing. Relationships are redefined, friendships made and broken, and marriages tested. As the weeks turn to months, and another sea turtle season comes to a close, Linnea learns there are more meaningful lessons during this summer than opportunities lost: that summer is a time of wonder, and that the exotic lives in our own backyards. In The Summer of Lost and Found, Linnea and the Rutledge family continue to face their challenges with the strength, faith, and commitment that has inspired fans for decades.

Mary Alice Monroe once again delves into the complexities of family relationships and brings her signature “sensitive and true” (Dorothea Benton Frank, New York Times bestselling author) storytelling to this poignant and timely novel of love, courage, and resilience.




The Summer of Lost and FoundThe Summer of Lost and Found by Mary Alice Monroe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Summer of Lost and Found by Mary Alice Monroe is a 2021 Gallery Books publication.

Good old-fashioned southern comfort!

The Coronavirus has the whole country is its grip, that includes the Rutgledge family.

Because of the virus, the aquarium is closed, so Linnea has been laid off. Because of the financial hit, she's temporarily moved into the beach house- rent free.

Sadly, her boyfriend, Gordon, is stuck in England and can’t travel to the US because of the virus lockdowns, and what’s worse, her former lover, John, is back in town, quarantining at his mother’s house.

Linnea really wishes she could avoid John, but that turns out to be next to impossible, forcing her lingering feelings for him to resurface.

Despite the challenges she faces, Linnea has family and friends to lean on as she navigates her tumultuous feelings for both, Gordon and John. Faced with a difficult choice, Linnea ponders her future, while carving her own path towards personal independence.

It’s not summer without an installment in the ‘Beach House’ series by Mary Alice Monroe!!

This is the first novel I’ve read, miraculously, that incorporated Covid into the plot, making it a part of the landscape the characters had to navigate.

The sobering challenges of job loss, financial strain, family distance, quarantines, and sickness proved that the Rutledge clan still has the temerity to rise to any and all occasions. The characters make mistakes, but as always, they grow stronger through adversity.

Linnea’s personal journey is now the main focus of the series, as Cara moves into more of a secondary character role. I really loved the way Linnea came to understand how she needed to proceed with her personal life. I'm not sure what others will make of her decision, but I thought she did the right thing.

There were, as always, laughter and tears, and heartwarming moments as these characters lives continue to evolve over time. I always look forward, with eager anticipation, to catching up with these beloved characters, both the younger and older generations of the family, the turtles, and the charming beach house that serves as an anchor in challenging times…

Overall, I’m sure writing a book set during the early days of the pandemic, and dealing with some transitional character development, must have been daunting. MAM did a fabulous job with integrating the changes and giving voice to the fears we faced during 2020, spoken through the strong southern Rutledge women, and their commitment to each other, their family, and to their own true selves as well.



Mary Alice Monroe is published by Gallery Books and Aladdin Books, Simon & Schuster. Her agent is Faye Bender of The Book Group.

Monroe lives with her family on Isle of Palms, a barrier island off Charleston, South Carolina. For additional information, go to www.maryalicemonroe.com.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Missing and Endangered by J.A. Jance- Feature and Review


Cochise County Sheriff Joanna Brady’s professional and personal lives collide when her college-age daughter is involved in a missing persons case in this evocative and atmospheric mystery in J. A. Jance’s New York Times bestselling suspense series, set in the beautiful desert country of the American Southwest.

When Jennifer Brady returns to Northern Arizona University for her sophomore year, she quickly becomes a big sister to her new roommate, Beth Rankin, a brilliant yet sheltered sixteen-year-old freshman. For a homeschooled Beth, college is her first taste of both freedom and unfettered access to the internet, and Jenny is concerned that she is too naive.

With Beth at war with her parents, Jenny asks to invite Beth home for Christmas, and Sheriff Joanna Brady says yes. After all, what could go wrong? Within hours, however, Joanna’s department is sucked into a complex officer-involved shooting that places two vulnerable young children in jeopardy. When Beth disappears while visiting over Christmas vacation, Joanna finds herself in a case fraught with landmines. With her own daughter’s well-being at stake, the seasoned sheriff knows there’s no room for the slightest mistake as hope ticks away for a fragile young girl who has gone missing and endangered.



Missing and Endangered (Joanna Brady #19)Missing and Endangered by J.A. Jance
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Missing and Endangered by J.A. Jance is a 2021 William Morrow publication.

Sheriff Brady- dependable, as ever!

Jennifer Brady’s college roommate has gone missing. Quickly becoming proactive, Jennifer calls her mother for advice and help.

Meanwhile, one of Joanna’s officers was shot in the line of duty. The case becomes more complicated when two young children get caught in the crossfire.

This story allows Jennifer to share the spotlight with her mother. I enjoyed this thread because of the spotlight it shines on the continual exploitation of young people on the internet by sexual predators.

The main case, though, is the officer involved shooting. This case highlights child abuse and neglect, various criminal activities, and of course murder. Elements of this thread are heartbreaking. Joanna’s tenderness towards the young victims was especially poignant.

Overall, this is another solid addition to the series, and I really enjoyed it.



Judith Ann Jance is the top 10 New York Times bestselling author of the Joanna Brady series. Born in South Dakota and brought up in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington and Tucson, Arizona.